Don’t change law, enforce it

27/05/2021

Neil Miller Taxpayers’ Union analyst says electoral laws should be enforced, not changed:

Faced with a steadily growing number of electoral finance investigations by the Serious Fraud Office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stared kindly into the camera and intoned, “we should be looking at the way our regime works. Clearly, it’s not currently, so let’s do something about that.”

The Taxpayers’ Union could not agree more that we should “do something about that.” However, the “something” is not to change the rules again or argue they are unclear (which they are not). The real “something” is to actually enforce the law. These prosecutions are proof that the regime is finally starting to work.

It is a terrible look for the Prime Minister to suggest that the electoral finance law needs to be changed so soon after her party has been charged. National was charged – the law was fine. New Zealand First was charged – the law was fine. Labour is charged and their ally the Māori Party is under investigation – the law is not working and needs to be changed. That is Banana Republic behaviour.

The law that worked for other parties now doesn’t work for Labour and its ally? Banana Republic behaviour indeed.

Of course, all parties are presumed innocent until found guilty of course, and all have pleaded innocence in relation to the charges.

Prime Minister, the problem is not the regime or the system – it is how politicians try to constantly push the boundaries of the system. They do it because it often works, there are rarely any consequences of note, and, if there are, they come long after the election affected by the activity in question. By the time any judgment is made most voters, if they were even aware of it, will have forgotten about the issue.

National and Labour are well established parties with teams constantly working on the minutiae of election finances. There are no excuses. The Māori Party is alleged to have missed deadlines for declarations which seems to be a cut and dried issue. Either they did, or they did not. There is no room for interpretation.

There is no hope of taxpayers ever seeing a cent paid back from New Zealand First – sorry, the completely separate New Zealand First Foundation – now that the organisation is essentially moribund. If Winston Peters wants to come back, he will likely disband New Zealand First (and its debts), then create the First New Zealand Party with Rt Hon Winston Peters as the leader.

Advance New Zealand’s Billy TK can plausibly plead ignorance – there is plenty of evidence of that in his public comments. His co-leader, Jami-Lee Ross, much less so. In fact, what Labour is being charged with (hiding the identity of donors and the size of the donations) is – allegedly – known in Wellington as “the JLR shuffle”.

We do need to do something and that is to support the Serious Fraud Office finally enforcing the existing laws. Parliament has not done it, the Police have shown no interest in doing it, and the Electoral Commission cannot enforce them.

All power to the Serious Fraud Office.

If anything needs changes it’s to give the Electoral Commission the power, and any necessary funding, to police the law and the ability to deal with transgressions during the pre-election period before voting starts.


Nat’s SFO announcement happy coincidence

30/09/2020

National is promising to do more to stamp out corruption:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The SFO has no further comment.

The announcement comes just in time.

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

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

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

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

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

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


SFO has 2 days

28/09/2020

The Serious Fraud Office said it would make a decision on the New Zealand First Foundation before the election.

That was in April when the election was to be held last month.

Our EasyVote papers have arrived and early voting starts on Saturday.

Overseas voting begins on Wednesday.

That gives the SFO two days to make public its decision.

If recent polls reflect what will happen at the polls, New Zealand First won’t be in parliament anyway.

But whether or not they are, voters should know what the decision is before voting starts.

If that isn’t possible the SFO should at least give us an update on progress and when a decision will be announced.


Time for SFO update

10/09/2020

In April the Serious Fraud Office said it was on track to make a call before this year’s election on whether to lay charges in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation.

. . . In a rare statement today, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which normally gives little away, laid out its timetable for the investigation, which has faced challenges because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“The SFO’s pre-lockdown timetable for the investigation in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation would see us completing the investigation before the September election date,” director Julie Read said.

“At this stage, we are progressing the investigation under the current lockdown restrictions and are still on track to complete it within that timeframe.”

However the logistical challenges of the lockdown meant the SFO could not set an exact date.

“Our actual completion date will be dependent upon our ability to conduct certain interviews as well as other tasks which can only be completed at lower alert levels and the cooperation of those who hold information relevant to our investigation.” . . 

Had the election still been on the original date of September 19 early voting would already have started.

Since the election was postponed by a month, early voting will now start on October 3.

That’s only 3 1/2 weeks away.

It’s time the SFO gave an update on its investigations and when it is likely to announce whether or not any charges will be laid.


Labour under SFO investigation

14/07/2020

The Serious Fraud Office has announced it is investigating the Labour Party over donations in 2017:

The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation over donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.

The SFO said in a statement this afternoon that it is presently conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding matters.

A fifth matter that the agency investigated relating to electoral funding is now before the courts.

“We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest,” the SFO”s director Julie Read said.

In the interests of transparency and consistency, the SFO announced the commencement of all these investigations, she said.

However, the SFO said it had no further comment to make on the Labour Party investigation.

The department’s ongoing investigations include one into the New Zealand First Foundation and two other separate investigations into Auckland Council and Christchurch City Council mayoral electoral funding.

The fifth relates to donations paid to the National Party, which has led to criminal charges Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross and three other businessmen.

The SFO has not laid charges against the National Party, its staff or members but that distinction might be lost on anyone not into the minutiae of the case against Ross and the three businessmen.

The Serious Fraud Office says it is on track to make a call before this year’s election on whether to lay charges in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party. . . 

David Farrar says the charges probably result from an art auction:

If I am correct that this is what the is investigating, then it will come down to whether Labour valued the artworks fairly. That determines who get listed as the donor.

Let’s say a painting went for $25,000. Now if the painting is worth $20,000 normally then the artist is deemed to have made a $20,000 donation and the bidder a $5,000 donation as they paid $25,000 for something worth $20,000.

And only donations over $15,000 get the identity published, so the person who paid $25,000 for it, has their identity hidden.

But what if the painting wasn’t really worth $20,000. Let’s say that is a nominal value but in reality it is only worth $7,000. Then the donor has made an effective donation of $18,000 and should have been disclosed. . . 

Having Labour, the NZ First Foundation, two former Labour MPs who are now mayors and donors to the National Party under investigation isn’t ideal. But it’s better than suspected transgressions of Electoral Law and political donations being swept under the carpet.

However, even political tragics might be tempted to say a plague on all their houses and calls are already being made for public funding of political parties.

That is not the answer to the problem of breaking the law.

The answer is good law that people follow with good processes for ensuring they do and strong consequences if they don’t.


Keep that door shut

26/05/2020

One of the questions National leader Todd Muller has been asked is will he open the door to New Zealand First?

His answer is that the decision was made by caucus and it hasn’t changed.

Nor should it.

The door was closed for very good reasons, not least of which is NZ First’s leader Winston Peters can’t be trusted.

Before the last election he gave the usual spiel about waiting until after people had voted then began negotiations with both National and Labour, even though he was serving legal papers on two of National’s most senior MPS – Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.

That was showing bad faith to both voters and National.

Since then he’s had his day in court, dropped the case against the MPs, lost the case against the Ministry of Social Development but has announced he’s appealing that decision.

Since then the Serious Fraud Office has begun investigating donations to the New Zealand First Foundation and its relationship with the party.

Since then he’s continued to act the way he always does, which is to put his own interests, and that of his party, first regardless of what’s best for the government of which he’s a part, or the country.

He simply can’t be trusted.

Shutting the door to NZ First gave people who want a National-led government a very clear message – if that’s what they want they’d be wasting their votes if they give them to NZ First.

Opening the door will suggest to them they could get a National-led government by voting for NZ First.

Much has been made of National’s rating in last weeks two polls, there’s been only passing reference to NZ First’s support which was well below the 5% required to stay in parliament without an electorate.

With a new leader and refreshed caucus, National’s support will climb again.

With the same old leader and same tiresome antics, there’s a very good chance that NZ First’s won’t.

National got a poll-bounce when it shut the door on NZ First earlier this year. Opening it would send the wrong signal to voters, and help NZ First at National’s expense.

The door was firmly shut months ago and it must stay shut.


Honest people keep rules

20/02/2020

Serious Fraud Office investigations into political donations has prompted the inevitable calls for taxpayer funding of political parties.

The arguments the Taxpayers’ Union made against that six years ago still stand:

. . . “Politicians having to justify their work to supporters, members, and donors is healthy. Public funding would give a huge advantage to the established political parties. It professionalises politics and stamps on the grass roots.”

“The vast majority of donations made to political parties are small. That is a good thing. It means politicians and party bosses are accountable to many.”

Besides, whoever the funder is, there will have to be rules and where there’s rules there will be honest ones who keep them and dishonest ones who will break them.

The furor over alleged funding impropriety has also led to calls for full disclosure of every donation.

That is unnecessary.

People who donate to all sorts of causes, political or not, choose to do so anonymously for a variety of reasons including not wanting to show off their generosity.

A charitable trust of which I am a trustee has received a $20,000 donation this week and a $10,000 donation a couple of weeks ago. The donors in both cases prefer to keep their philanthropy quiet.

Charitable donations are different from political ones, but the right to privacy for donors of smaller amounts still stands.

If politicians can be bought for the amounts under the threshold for disclosure, it’s the politicians who are wrong not the threshold.

That said, the SFO investigations provide grounds for a look at current rules governing behavior of political parties including the powers and capacity the Electoral Commission has to initiate investigations and deal with complaints.

Election after election there are complaints that one party or another has breached the rules and election after election nothing is resolved until well after polling day.

If the commission had much stronger teeth and the capacity to investigate and, should it be necessary, act expediently

It might not stop the dishonest bending or breaking the rules but it would increase the chance of them being caught, should it be likely to influence an election, caught in time to ensure voters are informed before they vote.


Politics of appeasement

17/02/2020

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wondering what Labour and the Green Party think about New Zealand First and its leader?  Are they staying true to their values and promises, or have they adopted the standards and values of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters?

Keep wondering because, as Henry Cooke writes,  their silence is deafening:

. . .  there’s a difference between leeway for jokes and leeway for seriously unbecoming behaviour. And the prime minister has slipped this week from the usual kind of space people give Winston to be Winston into plain supplicancy.

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong. . .

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Sometimes this waiting game is both useful and sensible – politicians shouldn’t talk too much about murder trials before they finish.

But in this case it makes no sense. . . .

. . .there are ways of commenting on things without alleging criminal conduct. It is the lifeblood of adversarial politics.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. . .

Later last week it wasn’t just the donations saga on which she wasn’t commenting.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

Because of this shifting story, there is a muddle over exactly how involved NZ First and Peters are, a muddle that would best be sorted out by Ardern demanding a fuller explanation from Peters. Any level of involvement in this kind of tactic – clearly designed to intimidate journalists – is worth condemning, and you can bet that, if Ardern was in Opposition, she would manage it.

Instead she’s not commenting, saying it is a “matter for NZ First”, while her office notes that she speaks about ministerial decisions and comments, not about things said as party leader. 

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

And it’s not just Labour which is staying silent.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine. . .

John Armstrong has a similar view:

Rarely has the current prime minister looked quite so feeble as was evident during yet another turbulent week for her pockmarked, patchwork Administration.

It was another week which witnessed Winston Peters at his frustrating, selfish, perfidious and domineering worst.

In a perfect world, it would have been a week which ended with him having been relieved of the title of Deputy Prime Minister, if only temporarily.

So damning was the verdict of the Electoral Commission on the propriety of the activities of the highly-secretive New Zealand First Foundation that any other minister finding themselves on the receiving end of such a judgement would have been stood down forthwith.

That verdict on its own is a damning indictment. Once it it became public that the commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing of his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Peters, however, has clearly concluded that he is somehow exempt from the rules covering the disclosure of the source of political donations.

The arrogance is breathtaking — especially from someone who has previously suffered the ignominy of being censured by his parliamentary colleagues. . . 

Given that track record, Peters is beyond being shamed.

He might be beyond being shamed, has that rubbed off on the other parties in government?

Just witness the outrageousness of the New Zealand First Foundation, the leaked records of which have revealed its purpose had been to accept donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from some of the country’s wealthiest individuals without having to disclose their names.

Ardern’s problem is that Peters is Deputy Prime Minister. She cannot wash her hands of him no matter how embarrassing his statements and actions might be for her or the wider Labour Party they might be. Neither can she sit blithely to one side and pretend that Peters’ very obvious agenda to undermine the Electoral Commission is not happening.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters — and not just to remind him of his constitutional obligations.

Failure to do so makes her look weak. In dragging her down, he is dragging Labour down too.

She’s letting the party be dragged down lest Peters brings the whole government down, even though Simon Bridges’ announcement National own’t work with NZ First should it be in a position to do so after the next election leaves it, like the Greens, the choice of going with Labour or sitting or sitting on the cross benches.

He hasn’t got a lot of options. It would seem to be an opportune time to remind him of that. He is hardly in a position to pull down the Government.

That makes Ardern’s failure to talk tough appear even more pathetic. . . 

And not for the first time. remember Clare Cullen and Iain Lees-Galloway?

The bizarre chain of events which unfolded on Thursday only reinforced the case for Peters losing the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

The revelation that he was party to the covert photographing and filming of journalists whose investigations of the New Zealand First Foundation have uncovered much to embarrass him and his party is a clear breach of the provisions in the Cabinet Manual covering the conduct expected of ministers of the crown.

To quote that handbook: “At all times, ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional”. . .

Andrea Vance has more to say about snooping on  journalists:

No doubt Peters’ supporters are enjoying the irony of publishing paparazzi-style photographs of the reporters digging dirt on their party

For reasons that are unfathomable to me, New Zealand tends to minimise Peters more outrageous behaviour. But he is no lovable rogue – and this is straight-up intimidation.

Protecting the identity of journalists’ sources is an essential part of media freedom.

The threat of surveillance is chilling. It can have an intimidating and traumatising effect. . .

We might be a troublesome and unlovable bunch, but good journalism and a free press is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  

This attack on Shand and Espiner’s privacy is an attack on the public’s right to know about who is secretly funding their Government partner. 

Both Labour and the Greens must acknowledge that and condemn it, if we are to believe their exhortations New Zealand politics should be transparent and fair.

Both Labour and the Greens are forced into silence or at best mealy-mouthed muttering over New Zealand Firsts and Peters because they daren’t face up to him lest he pulls the pin that blows up the government.

Ever since the coalition was formed they’ve pandered to him, exercising politics of appeasement, having to make material concessions, several of which have been contrary to their principles and values.

They’ve swallowed so many dead rats they must suffer from permanent indigestion.

One of MMP’s big weaknesses is that it allows the tail to wag the dog. Peters and his party aren’t just wagging the other two parties they have forced them to roll over and accept not just policies that are contrary to their principles and they’re now, by refusing to condemn it,  accepting behaviour that is too.

Many commentators have questioned the values and standards of NZ First and its leader. Labour and Greens are day by day being more tainted by association and exposing their own values and standards to questions too.


Collins resigns from cabinet

30/08/2014

Judith Collins has resigned from cabinet but will continue to campaign for re-election in the  Papakura electorate which she holds with a solid majority.

Ms Collins resignation from cabinet followed the emergence of an email from Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater to PR operative Carrick Graham and others.

The email implies that after (then) SFO boss Adam Feeley briefed Ms Collins, information was leake to Mr Slater then, via Mr Graham, was passed on to the subject of an SFO investigation.

Prime Minister John Key said he had accepted the resignation of Ms Collins followed the receipt of new information that raises allegations about Ms Collins’ conduct as a Minister.

“The relationship between a Minister and their Chief Executive is vital, and goes right to the heart of a trusted, effective government,” Mr Key said.

“This new information suggests Ms Collins may have been engaged in discussions with a blogger in 2011 aimed at undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office. Ms Collins was the Minister responsible for the SFO at the time.

Mr Key released an email which had been recently been provided to his office (see below).

“I have spoken with Ms Collins about the matters in the email, and she strongly denies any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on her part,” he said. . .

Ms Collins released a statement at midday saying, “A new allegation has come to light from an email conversation from 2011 between Cameron Slater and others suggesting I was undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office,” she said in a statement.

“I was not party to this email or discussion and have only today been made aware of it.

“I strongly denied the claim and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour.

“I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

“I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.” . . .

What someone says about someone else, in an email or anywhere else, is only hearsay and not proof of wrong-doing by them.

But the allegations are serious enough to justify an inquiry and it is appropriate that she resigns from cabinet while it is carried out.

 

 


Rural round-up

22/10/2013

SFO confirms preliminary Zespri investigation:

 (BusinessDesk) – The Serious Fraud Office has confirmed it’s looking at legislated export marketing monopolist Zespri International, though is being tight-lipped on any further details.

The white-collar crime investigator has opened a preliminary investigation, but won’t say what it’s looking at or indicating what powers the SFO has to compel Zespri to release information.

“Zespri has not been contacted by the Serious Fraud Office and has no details of the scope or substance of an investigation,” it said in an emailed statement. “Zespri will cooperate with any investigation the Serious Fraud Office may undertake.”

Kiwi Kids Lap Up Fonterra Milk for Schools:

The numbers are in – more than 1000 schools around New Zealand are now enjoying the taste of dairy every school day thanks to Fonterra’s Milk for Schools.

From Southland to Northland, the programme has moved full steam ahead rolling out in eleven regions and reached Auckland today.

Fonterra Chief Executive Officer, Theo Spierings, said over the past five months there has been significant community support for the national rollout.

“Milk is one of the most nutritious foods there is and we want to do what we can to make sure Kiwi kids grow up drinking it every day,” said Mr Spierings. . .

Fonterra investigated over creating lake of buttermilk

The Waikato Regional Council is looking into the dumping of a milk by-product near Taupo by dairy giant Fonterra.

An unknown quantity of buttermilk has been disposed into a lake for storage at an Atiamuri farm, as the dairy giant struggles to keep up with record milk production.

Waikato Regional Council spokesman Rob Dragten says the council is looking into issues around authorisation, but says there’s no immediate threat to the environment. . .

New kids on the block take out Rural Women NZ Journalism Award:

The joint winners of this year’s Rural Women NZ Journalism award are Sarah Perriam and Tony Glynn of Rural Media.

The Rural Women award was one of twelve awards for rural journalism and photography presented at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists’ annual dinner in Wellington on Friday evening.

“Our award sets out to encourage journalism that recognises the important contribution women make either to the farming sector or to rural communities,” says Rural Women NZ national president, Liz Evans. “We congratulate Sarah and Tony, who are offering a fresh approach to producing and sharing stories about rural life, through video as well as broadcast TV.”

Sarah Perriam works on the production side, while Tony Glynn directs, acts and presents programmes for Rural Media, under its Rural TV banner. Their aim is to make rural folk ‘way more famous’. . .

Farmax offers farmers the power of bespoke pasture growth forecasts:

Farmax is the first company to offer sheep, beef and dairy farmers the ability to harness the power of the industry’s newly launched Pasture Growth Forecaster database at a more detailed level.

Farmax has launched a service called My Forecast where farmers provide the address of their property to get customised short-, medium- and long-term pasture growth forecasts specific to their own farming operation.

Farmax General Manager, Gavin McEwen said “To maximise pasture usage, farmers not only require accurate measures of current pasture cover, they also need accurate forecasts. Farmax’s My Forecast service is a powerful tool for assisting with feed planning and budgeting decisions.” . . .

 Farming for the Future….NZ is not supporting Innovation by Leading Farmers – Pasture to Profit:

 Craige & Roz MacKenzie, are the Canterbury Farm Environment Award winners 2013. Very deserving winners….Congratulations.
The MacKenzie family (including daughter Jemma) are one of the most innovative, creative, Push-The-Boundaries, Farm & Research businesses I’ve ever seen. 
 
GreenvalePastures Ltd Facebook page
Andy MacFarlane (MacFarlane Rural Business) last week chaired a very successful Ballance Farm Environment Award fieldday at Greenvale Pastures farm near Methven in Canterbury, New Zealand.
 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The Regional Winners . . .
Rotorua to host International Forest Safety Summit on 26 & 27th November:

The past 12 months has seen forestry in the media spotlight to two main reasons – both good and bad. Since the global financial crisis hit, forest products exports, led by log exports, have proven once again to be counter-cyclical. While other industries have suffered, forest production has soared to record levels. With the record high log out-turn, from both the small and large forests up and down the country, has come a tragic toll in worker deaths. Heightened awareness driven by the Pike River mine disaster has brought a change in public attitudes to workplace risks. Safety improvement is now top-of-mind for everyone in the forest industry. While serious harm accident numbers and deaths remain much higher in farming than forestry, it is the public perception of workplace risk, underpinned by an well-funded union media campaign of self-interest, that has changed a lot of attitudes towards people working in the bush.

These combined issues have resulted in a focus by the key players in the New Zealand forest industry to drive an in-depth review of forest workplace safety. . .

Leisure and adventure tourism growth spurs backpacker lodge sale:

Capitalising on the growth of tourists’ passion for eco’ tourism, the Tailor-Made-Tekapo Backpackers is on the market for sale

The opening of two major new tourist attractions and the growing popularity of deep space star-gazing are being seen by a long-time South Island tourism operator as the ideal catalyst to retire from the business.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail which opened earlier this year in the Central South Island; the Tekapo Springs thermal resort, ice skating rink and snow park which opened in 2012; and Earth and Sky tours at Mt John Observatory, are jointly forecast to substantially increase visitor numbers to the Central South Island region.

The cycle trail is a 300 kilometre four-six day ride from Aoraki Mount Cook to Oamaru via the townships of Twizel, Omarama, Kurow and Lake Pukaki. . .


Hubbards to face charges – UPDATED

20/06/2011

“What would you have said if this had happened under a Labour government?” my farmer asked when news broke that Allan and Jean Hubbard were being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

I would have ranted and I would have been wrong. This is a matter for the law not politics.

There is no doubt the Hubbards did a lot of good for their community and the wider economy but there are very serious questions about whose money they used to do it, albeit for no personal financial gain.

In Counting the Cost Rebecca Macfie wrote:

If the Hubbards are indeed found to have committed fraud, their famously frugal lifestyle and commitment to charity – Hubbard estimates he has given away $200 million over the years – suggest they have not profited personally. But that’s irrelevant to the SFO: “Personal gain is not necessarily a requirement of fraud or theft,” says Feeley. “If I take $100 from you and say I am going to put it in the bank, whether I give it to the IHC or bet it at the race track, either way that would be a fraudulent act.”

A law unto himself, another Listener story by Macfie, provides a good background to the saga and if you enter Hubbard as a search term in the NBR the headlines tell a very sorry story.

Now the NBR reports D-Day for Hubbards?:

The Financial Markets Authority and the Serious Fraud Office were today set to lay charges in relation to a finance company, with speculation focused on Allan Hubbard’s Aorangi Securities and Hubbard Management Funds.

NBR was aware of last minute discussions between Mr Hubbard’s lawyer Mike Heron and the SFO over how the decision would be announced. A press release was due to be sent out by the regulators today.

It is a year and a day since the news first broke that the SFO was investigating the Hubbards.

It will have been a hard year for them – and for the people who trusted them with their money who will be lucky to get much, if any of it back among whom are the taxpayers who guaranteed deposits.

UPDATE: NBR reports: Hubbard to face 50 charges.


Neutron bomb or damp squib?

29/10/2008

Labour must be worried that the fallout from Winston Peters’ lobbying to appoint  Owen Glenn as honorary counsul to Monaco is reflecting badly on Helen Clark and endangering Labour’s chances of re-election.

Bill Ralston  said:

Over the past couple of weeks the polls showed an increasing trickle of voters dribbling back to NZ First as their memories of Peters’ embarrassments of the last few months began to fade in the glare of the election campaign. Their doubts will now be reawakened.

It is a bitter blow for Labour and Helen Clark. They had been counting on NZ First just cresting the 5% MMP barrier and effectively slamming the door on Key’s chances of forming a government.

The depth of their concern is evidenced by the release of their “neutron bomb”.

It’s an attempt to link John Key to the H-fee white collar crime.

But the Herald story is linked to one which quotes former Serious Fraud Office head Charles Sturt saying Key had nothing to do with the matter.

That suggests it’s a damp squib.


SFO – no NZ First fraud

10/10/2008

The Serious Fraud Office investigation has found that there was no fraud involved in the doantions to New Zealand First from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers.

However, Director Grant Lidell said other laws may have been broken.


Collision course

25/09/2008


Cullen no confidence in SFO?

18/09/2008

TV1 news has just reported that Michael Cullen refused to express confidence in the Serious Fraud Office after this afternoon’s privileges committee hearing into Winston Peters and the donation debacle.

Does that mean there’s a problem with the SFO performance or does it mean Cullen doesn’t like where their investigations into Peters and New Zealand First is taking them?

Update: Keeping Stock  explains the seriousness of this Cullen is Attorney General and one of the roles of that office is the responsibility for the SFO.

Matthew Hooton  is even blunter.


SFO or UFO?

02/09/2008


Clark’s world view explained

02/09/2008

Helen Clark attacked John Key and the Serious Fraud Office yesterday but it was very much a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

In other developments yesterday, Miss Clark claimed someone from one of the highest offices in the land – either the Serious Fraud Office, Crown Law or police – leaked details of the SFO investigation into NZ First to National.

But it backfired when Miss Clark confirmed she knew about the SFO investigation ahead of her own admission about a conversation with billionaire expat Owen Glenn over his $100,000 donation to NZ First leader Winston Peters.

She knew about the conflict between Glenn’s and Peters’ evidence in February but only chose to admit it this week when she knew the SFO was about to launch an invesitgation then accuses Key of acting on leaks.

The Dim Post  has a theory on this:

At first glance the Prime Ministers allegation that the Serious Fraud Office is in league with the National Party – for which she has not a shred of proof – suggests that she has joined her former foreign minister for a stroll in the gloomy sunless woods of paranoid delusion. . .

I don’t think the PM is losing it – I think she’s partly throwing shit in the hope that some of it sticks but I also think Clark assumes that the SFO staff abuse their authority to empower their friends and destroy their enemies through leaks and political theater because that’s what she would do if she ran the department. The notion that these public servants carry out their investigations with integrity and diligence without turning them into a savage partisan farce is simply unimaginable to her.

No wonder she often appears bitter and disillusioned. She judges others by her own low standards and that must give her a very jaundiced view of the world.


Stepped, jumped or pushed?

29/08/2008

Helen Clark said Winston Peters has stepped down from his ministerial positions.

The wording allows him to retain what vestige of dignity he was still clinging to, but it doesn’t really matter if he stepped, jumped or was pushed. He could not have retained his roles while under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

However, as is typical of Peters, his stepping down raises more questions including: why did he ask Helen Clark to take over his portfolios and why did she accept?

Running the country ought to keep her busy enough without trying to be Minister of Foreign Affairs, Racing and Associate Senior Citizens.


On the verge of a trifecta

29/08/2008

Dene Mackenzie says that Winston Peters is on the verge of an unhappy trifecta:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters last night proved the old adage of be careful what you wish for, when the Serious Fraud Office took him at his word.

After Mr Peters dared the SFO to either lay charges against him or shut up and go away, SFO director Grant Liddell announced he would conduct an investigation into donations made to NZ First.

He would particularly investigate allegations that funds donated to the party by Sir Robert Jones and Vela family interests did not reach their intended destination.

Mr Peters had accused the SFO of “creeping around back doors”, dropping hints and providing media speculation but not finding any evidence of wrongdoing or illegality on his part.

“I am prepared to wait on the court steps for them and, if they don’t turn up, they can go away for ever,” he said.

Well, the SFO did turn up and Mr Peters now faces another major challenge to his political career.

There have already been plenty.

He has been sacked by two previous prime ministers and now, as Minister of Racing, he must know he is facing the trifecta.

Mr Peters will this morning meet Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is under increasing pressure to sack her minister or at least stand him down while the investigation is under way.

Other ministers have been “gone by lunchtime” for lesser offences.

Had any other MPs faced the allegations Peters does he’d have been the first to call for their resignations. He could have stepped down with dignity intact until the privileges committee and SFO investigations are completed. But because he refused to jump he’ll have to be pushed.

He will then be on familiar territory as the martyred outsider. He will still have some supporters who think he’s hard done by, but it’s the SFO not the court of public opinion which will decide his fate.


Will Clark cut the thread?

29/08/2008

Dene Mackenzie says Winston Peters’ political career hangs by a thread:

A visibly annoyed Miss Clark would not be drawn last night on what the future looked like for Mr Peters, even though she conceded to having previously stood down ministers under investigation.

“I don’t wish to make any further comment until I talk to Mr Peters.

“I haven’t had a discussion with Mr Peters.”

Ideally, she would like to have a face-to-face meeting with Mr Peters this morning and, ideally, she would like the issue completed before the election, Miss Clark said.

Mr Peters is unlikely to stand down voluntarily while the SFO investigation is under way, giving Miss Clark no alternative but to sack him.

Serious Fraud Office director Grant Liddell said there may be innocent and honest explanations for the matters to be investigated. But it’s not a matter of innocence or guilt, it’s simply that it is untenable to have a Minister of Foreign Affairs cling to his post while under investigation.

Miss Clark said a Bill to wind up the SFO would be put on hold until the investigation was completed.

We can be thankful for that because had it not been we’d have been in real banana republic territory.


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