Quotes of the month

August 1, 2020

Nearly every day….I get a random stranger go out of their way to walk up to me in the street and say ‘I want to let you know I’m very grateful for what you do’. So at some point you decide do you want to listen to the one negative person, or 50 positive people?.’ – Paula Bennett

Homeowners in Kelburn who like the idea that we lead the world in banning plastic bags (we don’t) and seeing statues of Captain Cook replaced with Pohutukawa trees are going to spill their almond milk at the prospect of paying an annual two per cent tax on their unrealised capital gains. Wealthy Green voters, I am willing to wager, prefer looking good to doing good.Damien Grant

Let’s understand that dying is an intrinsic part of life. Let’s talk about what end-of-life care actually is and strengthen, extend and improve what we already have in our palliative care. Such care is a commitment, one we need to make. Euthanasia is an avoidance of this commitment. – Serena Jones

Without food, there is no life. The trick is to produce it in ways that also yield rich soils, thriving forests, healthy waterways and flourishing communities. As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment pointed out 10 years ago, in tackling climate change, it’s vital to avoid perverse incentives and bad ecological outcomes. he farmers are right. At present, the incentives in the ETS are perverse, and they’re taking us in the wrong direction. It needs to be fixed before it’s too late. – Dame Anne Salmond

 Don’t jack up taxes during an economic crisis. Don’t add to the burden. Give us a break. What’s the better alternative? Blitz the low-quality spending and accelerate economic growth to generate the revenue to deal to the debt. – Mike Yardley

If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.” – J.K. Rowling

When transgender women and women are indistinguishable, women are unable to access the rights they would have if they were distinctive. . . Yet being tolerant of transgender women does not mean that one loses the ability to defend the rights of women who were born female. . . The main reason for this silence, as I see it, is the twisted logic of identity politics and its adherents. This ideology promotes a worldview that is wholly based on power structures and relationships. All of society is viewed through the prism of oppressors and oppressed. The ideology focuses on traits, such as race, gender or sexual orientation, some of which are deemed unalterable, others a matter of personal choice. Yet individual agency is generally devalued, to the benefit of collective identities that are increasingly ideologically fixed. An individual has less and less room to carve out room for her own views within each collective. A matrix has formed where those who have a higher number of marginalized traits rank higher on the victimhood ladder; their “truth” therefore counts more. – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

More funding does not address the issues of choice, accountability, value for money, and individual and community needs.Brooke van Velden

If your test is, it doesn’t matter whether someone is nice to the Labour Party, it matters if they are nice to the waiter, then Judith Collins is a very nice person. – Ben Thomas

Collins does not deal in ambiguity and nor is she likely to deliver it.Liam Hehir

You can’t be focussed on New Zealanders when you’re busy playing politics.One of the things I’ve learned over the years is you only ever learn from your mistakes, you don’t learn from your successes. The National Party is very focussed on not repeating any mistakes.” – Judith Collins

Elections are the means by which the Government has legitimacy and power; not minor inconveniences on the path to Covid-19 recovery.Henry Cooke

Collins, like Muldoon, speaks to a New Zealand that sees itself above class and race. She imagines a country where the language of political correctness has no place and anyone who works hard can get ahead. Don’t underestimate how many New Zealanders share that vision. – Josh Van Veen

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative. – Bari Weiss

To me, the point of a strong economy is to enable New Zealanders to do the most basic things in life well. A strong economy improves our chances of finding satisfying and well-paying work so that we can look after ourselves and our families – the most fundamental task each of us have. A society based on the assumption that its average citizen can’t or shouldn’t be expected to look after themselves and their families is doomed. – Paul Goldsmith

Here we had intimations at least that the prim, prissy, prudish neo-Puritanism, the Woke-Fascism unleashed on the nation by the Marxist Jacinda Ardern might have met its match. – Lindsay Perigo

She is creating a climate of terror designed to keep people cowed and bowed. It’s cynical, and I believe she was acting in the best interest of the country in the beginning, and now it’s become almost a mania. – Kerre McIvor

National’s approach to infrastructure is simple: Make decisions, get projects funded and commissioned, and then get them delivered, at least a couple of years before they are expected to be needed. That is the approach that transformed the economies of Asia from the 1960s.Judith Collins

It wasn’t that long ago when much of the global elite had conclusively decided that climate change was our world’s top priority. Then came a massive sideswiping by a global pandemic, of which we have only seen the first wave, along with an equally massive global recession. It serves as a timely reminder that an alarmism that cultivates one fear over others serves society poorly. – Bjorn Lomborg

I have no doubt that in the ranks of both main Parties there are numerous MPs with a strong Green personal agenda. If the Greens see a Parliamentary role then that should be to go into coalition with any majority Party so as to push their agenda. The indisputable fact is they’re frauds. – Sir Bob Jones 

A wealth tax is far more punitive than a capital gains tax, since rather than being raised on profits after an asset is sold, it must be found each year by people who may be asset rich but cash poor. It would become an unaffordable burden on many New Zealanders, especially those who are retired. – Dr Muriel Newman

Increasingly throwing money at dysfunctional families provides no assurance parents will suddenly become better budgeters, or not simply spend more on harmful behaviours. Gambling and substance abuse don’t just hurt the parent. They hurt the child directly (damage in the womb, physical abuse or neglect under the influence) not to mention indirectly through parental role-modelling that normalizes bad behaviours, especially violence, to their children.-  Lindsay Mitchell

My warning, however, would be that it’d be dangerous for National to become a conservatives’ party rather than a party with conservatives in it. It’s better to share power in a party that governs more often than not than it is to be the dominant force in a party that reliably gets 35% of the vote. . . The National Party is not an ideological movement. It is a political framework that allows members unified by their opposition to state socialism to pursue their various goals incrementally and co-operatively. Nobody ever gets everything they want but that’s a fact of life. – Liam Hehir

And that defines the New Zealand First dilemma. They must now campaign on the basis that they were part of a Government so they can’t credibly attack it, but they were not a big enough part to have a major influence. Richard Harman

We think it’s very important that we have everybody involved in it (planning). But I think it’s really important too is that consultation actually should be consultation, not the farce we have at the moment where everybody gets a say, and nobody gets the answer. –  Judith Collins

For me every day is now what they refer to as ‘Blursday’ because I really wouldn’t know. – Melina Schamroth

Properly funded end of life care is what needs to happen before, in my opinion, we push the nuclear button on the option of euthanasia. – Maggie Barry

It is about this time in the election cycle that the media starts crying out for policy. They want to know exactly what a party will do if elected. The problem for parties has always been that the amount of effort that goes into writing an election policy is not reflected in the amount of consideration given to it by voters. – Brigitte Morton

Laying hundreds off is no different to laying one off if you’re that one. And the reason this will play into the way we vote is because the halcyon days of the lock down are well past, and we have moved on with the inevitable, what next scenario. . .If The Warehouse, having taken the wage subsidy, can still lay off the numbers they are, and they’re far from the only ones, how many more join that queue come September 1st? And how many of those jobless quite rightly ask themselves whether teddy bears in windows, closed borders and a tanked economy with no real answer outside welfare is really worth voting for. – Mike Hosking

Hypocrisy is a normal but irritating aspect of human behaviour. We’re all hypocrites to some extent, but true hypocrites are almost admirable in their chutzpah because, unlike hypocrites who are caught doing what they try to hide, real hypocrites are outraged by vices which they themselves do in public. Their hypocrisy is so blatant that, after a while, nobody notices – it fades into the background like muzak in a shopping centre. – Roger Franklin

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.  – Michael Shellenberger

Peters can only win if voters see only his crafted image and ignore the reality of who he really is. But once the tricks become obvious – when the threadbare curtain concealing him is pulled back – the show man can no longer pass himself off as the Wizard of Oz. – Andrea Vance

By any measure it is the coming together of the narcissist and the plain wacky coated in self-delusion. – The Veteran

A strong economy improves our chances of finding satisfying and well-paying work so that we can look after ourselves and our families – the most fundamental task each of us have.
A society based on the assumption that its average citizen can’t or shouldn’t be expected to look after themselves and their families is doomed.  
Paul Goldsmith

Just think about it, when you step into a polling booth on September 19 you will be a bit like a practising Catholic going into a cathedral, dipping your fingers into the holy water font and blessing yourself.

After you’ve washed your hands with the sanitiser, you’ll bow over the ballot paper in the booth and be reminded how lucky you are to be alive.  – Barry Soper

Those on welfare don’t need sympathy. They need to be backed, encouraged, and supported to plan their future and see a path off welfare dependency. . . . I have always believed the answers to long-term dependency, child abuse, and neglect, and violence are in our communities. There is no programme that a politician or a bureaucrat can design that will solve these complex issues – Paula Bennett

Money is currently being thrown around but with no accountability. We have to be bold, brave. How can throwing millions and millions of dollars around and hoping some gets to those that need it most, through Government agencies and community organisations, and yet watching more people in despair be OK. – Paula Bennett

I’m far from perfect, and I know that, but my intent, my heart, my integrity has meant that I have slept well. This place is brutal. It will pick up the spade and bury you if you let it. It is relentless, but we sign up knowing that. So I went hard and full-on. For me to have not made a difference and not given it everything I’ve got would’ve been wasted time. So I end this chapter half the size but twice the woman thanks to this experience.  – Paula Bennett

Why is it through the toughest moments of our lives we learn the most, we feel the most, we have the greatest power to contribute and experience beauty? Through COVID, we saw this. Through fear, desperation, and hardship, heroes emerged. Teachers taught children from their living rooms while supporting their own families. Nurses, doctors, and checkout operators had the courage to turn up even when they were petrified. The lesson is: character and courage emerge out of trauma and hardship. The question for any generation of political leaders is: have we had the courage and character to step up and solve the hard economic and social issues of our time?  – Nikki Kaye

The National Party has been a strong force in New Zealand politics because of its values of freedom and personal responsibility—a place where social conservatives and social liberals can work for the common good. As a party, we are at our best when there is balance. That is when we are truly representative of this great nation. – Nikki Kaye

To the parliamentarians: I’ve always said I believe there are two types of parliamentarians in this place. Those that are in it for themselves and those that are in it for the country. Be the latter. Be brave and have courage. Don’t leave anything in the tank. – Nikki Kaye

In my three years as justice Minister, it very quickly became clear to me that the best thing we could do to reduce crime was to intervene many, many years before the offenders ever turn up in court. That was the basis of my absolute adoption of the importance of social investment as championed by Sir Bill English. Yes, it’s early intervention but it’s so much more and involves radical change to our delivery models if we’re going to make progress on the hard intergenerational issues.  – Amy Adams

Colleagues, the jobs we hold matter. They matter so much more than any one of us. We need good people to want to step into this arena, and we need them to do it for the best of reasons. I worry that increasingly the scorn and the vitriol that is heaped on politicians—often fairly—discourages those good people from stepping up. These jobs are tough. The life is brutal, and the public will never really see the hours, the stress, the impossibility of the perfection that is required, and the impact that life in the public eye has on our families. While you are here in your political role, it is your life. Friends, family, and our health get what’s left over, and often that’s not much. But this job deserves that level of devotion. – Amy Adams

If I have any advice for those who follow me, it would be pretty simple: do the right thing and let the politics take care of itself. Be brave, stand up on the divisive issues, and never lose sight of the difference you get to make in the time that we are here. – Amy Adams

I had the privilege of sharing a breakfast with Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time. Neither of us were into cold pastries or cold meat, so she ordered toast. I thought, “What are we going to put on this toast?” She said, “Don’t worry, Nathan. I’ve got it in hand.”, reached down—”Craft peanut butter. Vegemite.” We had a great discussion. The Anzac bond is incredibly strong. – Nathan Guy

It’s easy to sit on the side lines and criticise. It’s a lot more difficult to stand up and be counted. – Nathan Guy

While everyone is in recession it is a wee bit difficult to believe that we are going to be out of it. . . . We are heading into massive deficits. Households will tend to buckle down in the face of that and eventually government will have to tighten up as well. One of the things about this recession is the way it cuts across your usual categories of who is hit and who isn’t. Get ready for a long haul.- Sir Bill English

You should be concerned about systems that randomly allocate public resource to businesses under pressure. – Sir Bill English

 


Power for the south

July 13, 2020

Love many fat royal people today.

That’s the mnemonic by which I can still recall sixth form geography’s lesson on the six factors which affect the location of industry – labour, market, finance, raw materials, power and transport.

When it comes to power, the market in New Zealand is distorted by averaging of transmission costs across the country. That is one of the major reasons Rio Tinto has decided to close the Tiwai aluminium smelter next year and Richard Harman points out it is Auckland votes that did the damage:

. . .Opposition from the city, and particularly its business community, to proposals, put up in 2016 to change the way consumers paid for the transmission component of power pricing killed off what could have been a $20 million cost-saving for the smelter.

That might have been enough to save it. Rio Tinto’s loss on the smelter last year was $46 million. . . 

NZAS has argued that it is forced to pay for investment in the country’s power supply network that has no relevance to it, such as upgrades in the North Island when it is based at Bluff.

In 2017 a company press statement said NZAS paid  around nine per cent of Transpower’s transmission charges to consumers, “including paying towards the $1.3 billion spent on upgrading the grid in the upper North Island since 2004 without receiving any additional benefit to its business.”

“When it comes to transmission charges, we believe you should pay for what you use,” said then-CEO   Gretta Stephens.

“This isn’t what is happening now, so we are committed to working with the Electricity Authority and Transpower to achieve a more sustainable method of pricing transmission services.”

Stephens was therefore ready to endorse an Electricity Authority proposal in May 2017 to radically overhaul the transmission pricing regime and essentially make it a user-pays system. The further a consumer was from their power generator; the more they would be likely to pay.

The smelter uses only about 40km of Transpower lines because the main transmission lines from Meridian’s Manapouri power station to the northern outskirts of Invercargill are owned by Meridian.

The total length of all transmission lines owned by Transpower is 12,000km.

So in proposing that this imbalance be addressed, NZAS, told the Electricity Authority in 2017 the smelter had been located in its current position to allow for port access and to minimise the need for transmission.

“Auckland, by comparison, grew organically because of the natural advantages the location has for residential living,” the company said. “These advantages did not include nearby economic energy resources.

“As a result, considerable expense has been, and continues to be, applied to transporting electricity to Auckland.

“Because of these characteristics, the economic cost of providing transmission services for NZAS is considerably lower than the economic cost of transmission to Auckland”.

Southern individuals and businesses have been and are continuing to subsidise those in the north.

The Electricity Authority then produced a new transmission pricing proposal which would have seen NZAS’s transmission costs drop by 34 per cent to $40 million a year. But to help pay for that, the Authority proposed increasing the transmission costs to Vector, the former Auckland Electric Power Board, by 44 per cent or $50 a household a year.

There was an immediate uproar. . . 

The uproar came from a much bigger voting block than the one in the south and the north won.

Steven Joyce is one northerner who understands this:

Nearly 5 per cent of the Southland workforce will likely lose their jobs — a massive body blow. For Aucklanders having difficulty comprehending what that means, a shock of a similar magnitude in that city would be 40,000 people losing their jobs at once.

The Finance Minister is conveniently trying to hide behind the skirts of Bill English, reminding everyone that Bill said “no more” to Rio Tinto after 2013, and as current minister he’s just sticking with the line. It’s weird how trapped he feels by an 8-year-old decision.

If it helps at all, the Bill English I know wouldn’t have handed out $10 million to a bungy jumping company in Queenstown. If desperate times warrant that much being handed to a single private tourism company, or a ludicrous $280m to support New Zealand Post, Southlanders will legitimately ask why not $30 or $50 million for 2600 jobs in their region?

A very good question and if the smelter was in Northland does anyone doubt that it would get the money?

The smelter has as good a case as the tourism or film sectors, and a considerably better case than what has become a glorified courier company. The international market for aluminium has crashed as a result of Covid-19 decimating the car- and plane-making industries.

More egregiously, the electricity for this and other Southland businesses comes from just up the road at Manapouri, yet Southland is made to pay to have power circulated around the rest of the country. The request for help is more a case for stopping an unfair levy than for a fresh subsidy. Southland is not the only region, and aluminium not the only regional industry that is up against it. . . 

Some people see a silver lining in the smelter closure in the potential for cheaper power. But the electricity the smelter uses is generated in Southland, upgrading transmission lines to get it to the northern North Island would cost many millions of dollars.

If those costs were averaged over the country it would be rubbing very expensive salt into the wounds the smelter closure will inflict on Southland, its labour force and economy.

But it’s not only Southland that is facing big jobs losses.

The Marsden Point refinery bankrolls a similar proportion of high-paying jobs in Northland, and the refining company is making near-identical noises about closure.

Meanwhile, Taranaki is continuing to come to grips with the Government’s pre-Covid oil and gas exploration ban placing an artificial sunset on its biggest industry, and associated companies like Methanex and the ammonia urea plant.

Outside of heavy industry, the Covid-19 border controls have put on ice a series of other sectors that normally contribute to New Zealand’s wealth and jobs.

The $5 billion we earn annually from international education is dwindling to nearly nothing — and that leaves schools, universities and other providers short $1b a year for tuition fees alone.

Tourism limps along on one domestic cylinder, which sparks up in the school holidays but is insufficient to sustain many of the companies reliant on it.

The tech companies that succeed in the world despite our isolated location are wondering how long they can operate from their New Zealand base while being physically cut off from their customers.

And the foresters are suffering from whiplash, feeling alternately loved and loathed, sometimes almost in the same press release, as the Government has somehow got itself to the point where it will decide when forests are planted and where they can be sold. No wonder politicians were belatedly cuddling up to the farmers this week. Food is in danger of becoming our only export sector, so let’s call a truce in the regulatory hostilities and pretend all that talk about the need to diversify away from agriculture was just a bad dream.

The more other export industries falter, the more important agriculture becomes.

Which brings us to the bigger problem that the smelter closure underlines. Exactly how do we plan to make money to pay off this huge debt the Government is running up on our behalf?

How will we fill the massive hole in our exports left by tourism, education, aluminium and oil and gas? And exactly how do we plan to magic up 2600 replacement high-paying jobs in Southland?

Our economic response to Covid-19 is looking ridiculously haphazard. If the Government likes you, you get a bucket of money. If they don’t, then tough luck.

We first need a level playing field, and then we need to focus on increasing the competitiveness of all our businesses. We also need, to paraphrase a certain Australian Prime Minister, to get out from under the duvet and start re-engaging with the safer parts of the world again.

Right now we are being way too cavalier with our whole economic fabric. We could wake up and find whole regions permanently crippled — the ultimate irony for a Government that claims to “champion the regions”.

And, given that our biggest power consumers will have gone, and taken with them their outsized contributions to the costs of the electricity grid, we may not even have cheap power to make us feel better.

Taking big electricity users out of the market won’t make power cheaper. If the big users who contribute most to the energy companies’ coffers go, the cost will be spread across fewer, smaller users including households.

Given the fall in the price of aluminum, even a lower power price probably wouldn’t save the smelter.

But the smelter’s closure should provide the impetus to stop the southern subsidising of the north’s power.

Finding new businesses to soak up the people left unemployed when the smelter closed won’t be easy.

But it could be less difficult if everyone paid the actual cost of getting power which would make Southland much more attractive than Auckland to any enterprises where electricity costs were significant.

Southland has the labour, a variety or raw materials, good transport options and finance is reasonably mobile. It might be further from many markets but much cheaper power could well compensate for that.

So much power is generated in the south, far less will be needed down here without the smelter. This is an opportunity to ensure it stays here and southerners get lower prices to benefit households and the businesses that could soak up at least some of the workers left jobless when the smelter closes.

But what’s the chances of cheaper electric power for the south when political power is in the north?


Rural round-up

June 16, 2020

Faltering forestry risks NZ’s climate strategy – Marty Verry:

Global headwinds are lining up against New Zealand’s number one climate change mitigation strategy – the one billion trees policy. The coming weeks will tell if the Government has given up or is committed to making that policy a success by backing it with its procurement.

But first let us recap on what is at stake. The country’s plan is to use trees to sequester carbon dioxide over the next 30 years while it finds ways to reduce emissions from our other main pollutant sources: transport, buildings, energy and agriculture. If the forestry strategy fails, we will need a more aggressive approach to meeting carbon zero by 2050 – something consultancy EY calculated in 2018 would cost the country $30 billion. New Zealand cannot afford to add that to the $60b Covid tab, so the forestry strategy simply must succeed.

So let’s look at the prospects for forestry. For New Zealand, the battle ground is China. Like it or not, it takes 80 per cent of our log exports. All our logs are in that basket, you could say. . .

Federated Farmers wants migrant workers on Govt’s COVID exemption ‘A-list’ :

Auckland officials are emphasising the economic benefits of letting in America’s Cup crews, but farmers feel they’re being left off the ‘A-list’. 

The Government has granted border exemptions to cup challengers American Magic and INEOS Team UK, each bringing a couple of hundred crew and staff into the country. 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says they’ll face the same 14-day quarantine rules as New Zealand citizens at the border, to prevent one of them inadvertently bringing in COVID-19.  . . 

Visa uncertainty threatens farm crisis – Richard Harman:

The Government is considering extending temporary work visas due to expire over the next few months so that essential businesses do not lose semi-skilled workers.

But there are big questions about why it won’t announce that it is doing so. POLITIK understands that around 70,000 temporary work visas are due to expire by the end of September.

But following representations from the dairy and aged care sectors POLITIK understands the Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway favours an extension of six to 12 months for many of the workers. . . 

Why is it taking so long to install fishing cameras? :

“Cameras are all about transparency. They’re all about public accountability and providing proof that the industry – as they state – have nothing to hide. Now if they have nothing to hide, why aren’t we seeing cameras on some of these big boats?”

That’s the question Newshub reporter Michael Morrah has been trying to solve since National decided they were a good idea and promised to introduce them in 2016.

But their introduction has been pushed back again and again, often quietly.

National’s primary industries minister Nathan Guy was attacked by the then Labour opposition over them; but just a few months after Labour came into office and “the whole idea around accountability and transparency is put on the backburner”, Morrah says. . . 

 

Horticulture NZ says New Zealand needs more water storage schemes like Northland:

HortNZ says New Zealand needs more water storage schemes like the one just announced for Northland.

‘New Zealand is not really short of water, it is short of water capture and storage,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

‘People and plants need water – that’s a basic fact. For years, we have known that our climate is changing – droughts are getting more severe – however, red tape and a lack of capital has seen most parts of New Zealand slow to do anything practical about the situation. . . 

New trial could lead to breeding of low methane-emitting cows – James Fyfe:

A trial is underway in the Waikato to see if there is a link between cows’ genetics and how much methane they produce.

If such a link is found, it could mean it’s possible for farmers to fight climate change by specifically breeding cows that emit less methane.

The trial, involving dairy breeding bulls, is being run by Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and CRV Ambreed, which between them sire 90 percent of the country’s dairy herd through their artificial breeding bulls. . . 

NZ Food Heroes campaign takes off:

Thousands of free-range chooks have been able to keep on laying rather than getting laid off due to lockdown. It’s just one of the heart-warming stories shared in the ‘NZ Food Heroes’ campaign.

From baking to business models – nominations for the NZ Food Heroes Awardare flooding in. Diverse in nature, the entries all reflect the Kiwi brand of innovation and community spirit that has flourished during the COVID-19 crisis ensuring New Zealand has access to fresh, local produce.

Nominee Olliff Farm north of Auckland faced a dilemma. With 95 per cent of their pasture eggs supplying high-end Auckland restaurants and cafes in normal times, lockdown restrictions presented a complete loss of business income. . . 

Fonterra’s Asia Pacific market gets creative in lockdown :

Fonterra’s Asia Pacific market is living proof of the adage “necessity is the mother of invention” Judith Swales says.

Fonterra’s CEO for Asia Pacific told The Country Early Edition’s Rowena Duncum that Covid-19 restrictions had forced the co-op to rethink its approach to customers.

“Our teams have adapted really quickly and they’ve done a lot of great work. It’s about how we adapt to customers and consumers” Swales said.

One example was a trend that had popped up in Korea – creating new recipes for the garlic cream cheese bun. . . 


Conspiracy censorship or . . .?

June 22, 2018

Speaker Trevor Mallard  ruled out an amendment from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill that would have made a controversial 106-house luxury development in Northland more attractive to wealthy overseas buyers.

The amendment that exempted Te Arai property development near Mangawhai from the consent provisions of the bill was inserted by the office of Associate Finance Minister David Parker, the minister in charge of the bill.

It was included in recommendations on the bill from the Labour-chaired Finance and Expenditure Committee.

That was despite concerns from National members of the committee that the inclusion of a private exemption for Te Arai development through an amendment to a public bill was inappropriate. . . 

Richard Harman wrote a comprehensive post at Politik yesterday explainging the background to this.

National’s Amy Adams questioned the minister about the issue yesterday:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption. . . 

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well. . . 

Later Matthew Hooton tweeted:

I read the column but if you click on the link now, it’s disappeared.

Is there a conspiracy, is it censorship is there really nothing to see or is there more to come?

 


Good for party not good for govt

June 15, 2018

In March Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Shane Jones calling for sacking of a board member was a step too far.

A few months later he can say what he likes:

He’s shared a personal opinion, it’s not government policy, and that’s the end of the story,” Ms Ardern told Newshub.

That might have been a personal opinion but it was also a political act and it’s not the end of the story.

Jones wasn’t invited to Fieldays as a private citizen or even an MP, he was invited because he’s a Minister and Ministers should not meddle in private businesses.

If he wants to comment on Fonterra and its board he should buy a farm, some cows and shares in the company.

And then he should still refrain from making personal attacks on board members.

But of course he was playing to the gallery.

RIchard Harman at Politik says it was a carefully calculated campaign by NZ FIrst to boost its poll ratings.

But what’s good for the party’s poll ratings is not good behaviour for a minister, good governance nor for the government.

Jones’s comments added fuel to the fire of concern already burning businesses.

They’ve made the Prime Minister look as if she can’t control her cabinet.

And they’ve added to concerns about what might happen when Jones’s leader Winston Peters is acting PM.

 


Casually wasting diplomatic capital

March 29, 2018

Is the government deliberately setting out to upset international friends?

It started with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s repeatedly sticking her nose into Australia’s affairs over Manus Island refugees.

She followed up by making the mistake of telling a story about Donald Trump mistaking her for Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s wife which she ought not to have shared.

Then came the reluctance by her and Foreign Minister Winston Peters to condemn Russia for the nerve agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

And now New Zealand is an international laughing stock over the PM’s claim we have no undeclared Russian spies here.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and foreign affairs minister, Winston Peters, say they would expel Russian spies from the country, if there were any.

More than 100 Russian diplomats alleged to be spies in western countries have been told to return to Moscow, in response to the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a former Russia/UK double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England on 4 March.

The New Zealand government has condemned the attack and supports the international action, but says there are no such “Russian intelligence agents” in the country. . . 

The ABC explains the difference between declared and undeclared spies:

. . . Spy is the conventional term for someone who gathers intelligence overseas, without letting their host country know what they are doing.

They often present themselves as diplomats and work out of embassies, alongside declared intelligence officers.

The difference between declared and undeclared intelligence officers is that the legitimate ones present their credentials to their host country and make it known they are there to make contact and to formally share mutually beneficial information.

Spies appear on an embassy’s list of diplomats, but they are involved in gathering other intelligence.

According to Ian Lincoln, a former diplomat who is now president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (New South Wales), spies have the same objectives as intelligence officers but use different methods, such as gathering intelligence through unofficial contacts, sometimes by finding a weakness in an individual.

John Blaxland, a professor of international security and intelligence studies, says undeclared intelligence officers pretend to comply with regular protocols, appearing at events and doing other things that make them look like regular diplomats, but on the side, they are carrying out a range of other activities. . . 

Richard Harman’s Politik morning e-newsletter says:

There has been no comment on whether any of the 16 staff with diplomatic status at the Russian Embassy [ in Wellington] may be undeclared intelligence officers — but it is a comparatively  large staff for a country which would seem to have only peripheral interests here..
In comparison’ Australia has 13; China 23 and the USA, 48. 

David Lange’s government burned off friends with its anti-nuclear policy but that was a matter of principle.

This government’s stand doesn’t look to be done on principle:

Whether or not we are seeing the emergence of a new Peters Doctrine is moot. We shall have to wait to see. But it’s curious that Labour has been dragged into this line of thinking.

It may be that Ardern & Co have an instinctive willingness to not necessarily fall in behind the great powers of the West. But is this really the time? Given the personalities in charge of what can be loosely called the West – especially President Donald Trump – there may well be a time quite soon when we want to play an independent hand. There may soon be issues where we want to stand apart from the US and other Western (or Five Eyes) allies on issues of real importance.

So why waste your card playing it now? Why raise the eyebrows – and perhaps the ire – of our traditional friends over this case? New Zealand bases its foreign policy on the international rule of law, so when there is a global consensus that Russia has blatantly and murderously broken those rules, why would we not rush to stand alongside those protesting such an action? Surely this is an opportunity to earn show some solidarity with Britain, the US and others, given that down the track we may want to spend some diplomatic capital distancing ourselves from them.

It seems a careless, overly casual and unnecessary waste of diplomatic capital; one I suspect this government will soon regret.

If the government was acting on principle its words and actions might be understood.

But rather than principle, it looks like it’s fooling round with foreign policy, carelessly and casually wasting hard-won diplomatic capital.

In doing so it’s dangerously out of step with both security and trading partners in a time when the foreign and trading environments are anything but benign.


Will Marks be rolled?

February 22, 2018

There were no surprises when Winston Peters was re-elected leader of New Zealand First unopposed.

The man and the party are almost one and the same thing and there would be no question of dissension

But this morning’s Politik newsletter Richard Harman, who is usually well informed, suggests that Peters might be about to depose Ron Mark as deputy in favour of Fletcher Tabuteau.

The waka jumping legislation hasn’t been passed yet.

If Mark was sufficiently unhappy with show of no confidence in him he could leave the party and still stay in parliament.

That would mean he’d no longer be a minister though and he could well find that too high a price to pay no matter how upset he was.

 

 


NZ loses its way

November 22, 2017

For several years, New Zealand has received international attention and praise for its economic success.

Just a few weeks with a new government this commentary from Jared Dillian at Forbes is less than enthusiastic about its policies:

On September 23, the people of New Zealand elected 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern as prime minister, the youngest prime minister in New Zealand’s history. Ardern has brought youthful energy to New Zealand politics, but her scary rhetoric during the campaign (like calling capitalism a “blatant failure”) has some people wondering if she will take the country back to the bad old days of the 70s and early 80s.

New Zealand is a supply-side economic miracle. Not long ago, it was one of the most unfree economies that was not actually Communist in name. Most industry was nationalized, from telecommunications and transportation, to banks and hotels. There were strict capital controls and prohibitions on owning foreign assets. And of course punitively high tax rates, inflation, and extraordinary levels of government debt. . .

Those policies from the early 80s back are the ones which failed us.

The 1980s saw an enormous rollback in the size and scope of government, and the beginning of a supply-side revolution. Of course, economic liberalization was happening around the world at that time, but it was most dramatic in tiny New Zealand.

New Zealand enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, and leapfrogged to near the top of the economic freedom rankings, where it usually sits only behind Hong Kong and Singapore. It became one of the richest countries in the world. Part of New Zealand’s success was due to good central banking; the Reserve Bank of New Zealand was the first central bank in the world to institute a formal policy of inflation targeting, which other central banks have copied over the years, to everyone’s benefit. . . 

Inflation is theft. It steals the real value of money and it’s the poorest who are hit hardest by it.

It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern’s term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies in the world. It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being.

This government has taken down the welcome sign to immigrants and inwards investment.

Richard Harman at Politik reports the Government is to put the approval of overseas purchases of farmland on hold as it gets advice from officials on how to carry out its coalition agreement with NZ First to strengthen the Overseas Investment Act.

The hold is likely to affect tens of millions of dollars of property sales and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business transactions.

POLITIK understands that the sale of one large South Island property and the potential sale of an iconic Wanaka station along with two large North Island dairy properties are likely to be caught up in the move.

It was not clear from the comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday whether the hold will also apply to overseas business investments – but if that is the case, there are proposed takeovers in both the oil and gas and private hospital sectors that could be affected. . . 

The sale of Icebreaker  to VF Corporation which needs OIO approval as will the sale of carpet maker Godfrey Hirst to global flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries.

Uncertainty over the economy, the inflationary affect of a lower dollar and higher borrowing, and whether immigrants will be available to fill staff vacancies is denting business confidence.

Less confidence means businesses are less willing to take risks, including hiring more staff.

It’s very early days but if overseas investors are being warned off and local businesses are losing confidence, it’s a sign that New Zealand is losing its way.

 


Finlayson on Labour’s leadership history

July 8, 2013

Last week’s man-ban debacle has once again called into question Labour’s leadership, or lack of it.

Richard Harman gives an outline of how it happened:

Make no mistake this “Man Ban” furore has raised potentially fatal questions about David Shearer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Here at “The Nation” last week we got a front row view of just how dysfunctional the Shearer leadership machine is.

First up, it is mind boggling that it was left to Cameron Slater and his “Whaleoil” blog to reveal that the party was proposing to allow women-only  candidate selections as part of a bid to evenly balance its gender representation by 2017.

This proposal is part of the party’s Organisational Review which began work last year.

Its proposals have already surfaced at a national conference; at local LECs and at regional conferences.

They then went to the party’s Policy Council.

Either Mr Shearer is so out of touch with what is happening inside his own party or alternatively — as one Labour source suggested to me over the weekend – he simply wasn’t listening.

But nor, apparently, were the rest of the caucus.

Or, and this is important, Mr Shearer’s media advisors.

On Friday, the chief press secretary was on a day off.

That about sums it up.

Such is the lack of urgency in the Leader of the Opposition’s office that his staff work appear to work public service hours. . .

He continues on the difficulty finding someone in labour to discuss the issue and concludes:

We now know that later on Friday an email went out to top Labour party officials advising them to shut up about the “Man Ban”.

Ms Moroney then appeared on “The Nation” with her compromise solution to the whole thing which she said she was going to put to the Caucus.

Surely the time for that was  at least a week ago before the original remit was sent out to the media.

But that would have required planning — and leadership.

We have not heard the last of this whole shambolic affair.

It’s yet another indication that Labour isn’t performing well in opposition and is therefore nowhere near ready to lead a government.

One solution to that is a leadership change and a couple of week’s ago Chris Finlayson helpfully provided a history lesson on that:

. . . One of the great questions of New Zealand history is: “Why is the Labour Party so disloyal to its leaders?”. Right through history, treachery has been the name of the game. Let us look at Arnold Nordmeyer, who provided sterling service to the Labour Party through the first and second Labour Governments. He was the MP for Ōāmaru, then the MP for Brooklyn, and then the MP for Island Bay. He was knifed by Norman Kirk. The rumblings against “Big Norm” started in the second year of his premiership, but he died before the conspirators could knife him.

Then there was my favourite Labour leader, Bill Rowling, a good and a decent man who, as Mr Mallard knows, used to live in Lohia Street, Khandallah. He was undermined by a less talented but more ruthless deputy. How often history doth repeat itself. David Lange was undermined by Mr Goff and his then ideological buddy Roger Douglas. Geoffrey Palmer was certainly an interesting person. He certainly was undermined by Helen Clark and by Mike Moore, but I have to admit that much of the undermining was done by Geoffrey just being Geoffrey.

Mike Moore was undermined by Helen Clark, who knifed him straight after the 1993 election, when Mike had gained an additional 16 seats for his party—that is loyalty for you. Helen Clark knew her history. She kept her enemies at bay, and I am not referring to just the Green Party. She saw off Annette King and Phil Goff in 1996, when they tried to knife her, and she went in 2008, before the daggers went in. Then from 2008 to 2011 we had that very angry Phil Goff, undermined from the very start by Mr Cunliffe—no wonder he is so foul-mouthed and cannot control his tongue.

I recognise that many of the names I have referred to—and I see Mr Robertson looking confused and bewildered—will be unknown to people like Mr Robertson, who have no knowledge of their party’s history, and so are doomed to relive it. It is like some kind of macabre Byzantine dance of killers. People cooperate to get rid of one leader, so that they can turn on the next one.

Then we have David Shearer, who, I think, is a very nice guy, a good and a decent man, a person who has done a lot of good overseas. But none of his dealings with central African dictatorships or Balkan civil wars could have prepared him for the leadership of the Labour Party. Poor David Shearer. He has run out of options. He has nowhere to turn. He cannot rely on his deputy and he cannot turn to his allies. I bet this morning he was reading the New Zealand Herald, looking longingly at seat 17A from Moscow to Havana.

Then we have David Shearer, who, I think, is a very nice guy, a good and a decent man, a person who has done a lot of good overseas. But none of his dealings with central African dictatorships or Balkan civil wars could have prepared him for the leadership of the Labour Party. Poor David Shearer. He has run out of options. He has nowhere to turn. He cannot rely on his deputy and he cannot turn to his allies. I bet this morning he was reading the New Zealand Herald, looking longingly at seat 17A from Moscow to Havana.

Mr Shearer has been quoted as saying that he was surprised by today’s results, but the trouble for Mr Shearer is he is simply too trusting. He is too trusting and too quick to trust people like Mr Robertson to recruit his staff to look after him. He is too quick to trust parties that are out to steal his vote. I imagine that Mr Shearer was delighted when Mr Peters shone that trademark smile and offered to work with Labour to attack the Government. I imagine he was delighted when Dr Russel Norman said: “Let me work with you to design a Stalinist energy policy, and maybe it would be a good idea if we both had a podium in the legislative chamber when we announce the speech, because it would give you more gravitas.” And now Mr Shearer is surprised that Mr Peters and Mr Norman are laughing all the way to the polling booth. In fact, he is so trusting that I have to say I really worry that the hundreds of thousands of dollars in his New York bank account are ripe for picking if a Nigerian scammer ever sends him an email. He would probably be really surprised and delighted to receive it. So what is the moral of the story? There is always a moral. I say this to the Labour Party, with the greatest of respect and affection: loyalty is what binds a party together. If you can’t trust your leader, you’re done.

And if the public can’t trust a party to run itself, we certainly can’t trust it to run the country.

If you prefer to watch and listen to the speech, the video is at the link above.


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