If water storage is good . . .?

April 10, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest up to $18.5 million in water storage to unlock land use potential in the Mid North, Regional Economic Development.

“Up to $18.5 million will be invested to help investigate and, if feasible, construct community-scale water storage and use options in Kaipara and Mid North,” Shane Jones said.

“This project is the largest PGF investment to date in water storage. Regional Economic Development Ministers backed the proposal because of the real opportunities that ensuring a more reliable water supply could bring to the region – up to $150m in increased horticulture earnings per year and up to 1150 jobs created.

“The region is vulnerable to droughts and floods, so better access to water will give landowners greater options to utilise their land, develop new markets and maintain and grow a skilled workforce.

“This project is relatively small in scale, compared to proposed water projects in the past, and enjoys wide support from local government. It will alleviate pressure on surface and groundwater resources, and will reduce sedimentation, a key water quality issue for the region, as land use shifts towards horticulture.

“It will also mean better access to water for use on Māori-owned land – the development of which is a key objective for the PGF.” . . 

New Zealand has plenty of water, the problem is it doesn’t fall and flow evenly or conveniently where and when it’s needed.

Those of a very dark green persuasion say that’s nature’s way and we have to accept it.

Those with more moderate views say that water storage is the most environmentally friendly way to harness nature’s bounty – storing water when there’s more than enough, to use when there’s too little.

The economic and social benefits of this are clear – a reliable water supply provides insurance against the financial and human costs of droughts. There are also environmental benefits – the ability to maintain minimum flows in waterways which improves their health and that of the flora and fauna that live in them.

This is why the previous government provided funding for water storage. This government stopped that but is using the PGF to do it instead.

While supporting water storage, I have reservations about this funding.

Successful irrigation projects are driven from the water-users up, not the government down.

I also have a question – if water storage is good in Northland, why isn’t it good in other parts of the country which would have received government help under the previous government but won’t under this one?


Rural round-up

March 20, 2019

Trees pose big risk to farmland – Richard Rennie:

While a canopy of brick and tile subdivisions threatens farmland in flatter areas near the country’s major cities it is a canopy of trees that represents a greater threat to the sheep and beef industry’s capacity over coming years.

Land Squeeze Dinkus 1

The Government’s bold 50,000ha a year tree-planting policy for a low-carbon economy is the second part of the pincer that has pastoral New Zealand squeezed between urban land demand on the flats and forestry expectations on the hill country.

While farmers and growers on flatter country might face the challenge of urban sprawl, Beef + Lamb NZ policy-makers are more preoccupied with the impact millions of hectares of extra forest planting could have on the sector’s capacity, its insight manager Jeremy Baker says.

B+LNZ has welcomed Forestry Minister Shane Jones’ billion trees initiative, if done the right way with the right trees.  . . 

Migrant workers the backbone of the dairy industry, doing the work Kiwis won’t – Pat Deavoll:

Navdeep Singh has worked on dairy farms in New Zealand since 2007. Originally from India, he came to New Zealand in 2006 to study tourism at Lincoln University but gave away the course to go dairying.

“I started at the bottom and worked my way up to become a contract milker,” he says.

“I don’t want to go back to India where you can work, but you won’t get anywhere.” . . 

Another milestone looms for Roland Smith

Shearing giant Rowland Smith moved to the brink of a 150th open final win when he claimed the Waimarino Shears title for an 8th time in nine years on Saturday.

It was win number 149 for the 32-year-old Hawke’s Bay shearer who is in his 13th season of open-class shearing and who, after a successful breeze through the lowers grades, had his first open victory in January 2008 at Kaikohe.

He has had 14 wins in a row since starting the new year with a win at Wairoa on January 19, including gaining a place in this year’s World Championships by winning a 6th Golden Shears open title. . .

Action group think is paying dividends:

Like-minded farmers working together to improve their businesses’ productivity and profitability is paying dividends, Southland sheep farmer Pete Thomson, who’s part of a Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Group, says.

He is one of nine Southland farm businesses that have got together under the RMPP Action Network, a proven model for supporting small groups of farmers to turn ideas into on-farm action.

“It can get lonely out there as a farmer and this opportunity is exciting. . .

The Nelson family business that’s turning feijoas into a year-round treat – Amy Ridout:

When feijoa season begins, and trees buckle under the weight of the green fruit, the country grabs a spoon and feasts. And then, the feijoas are gone, and we’re left waiting for the next season.

Unless you can track down a packet of Little Beauties, that is. With his two sons, Ian Wastney’s Moutere operation dries and packages feijoa, kiwifruit and boysenberries, so we can enjoy the fruit year round.

The small factory is set in the heart of a 10 hectare feijoa orchard in Tasman, the largest in the South Island, Wastney says.  . . 

Ag’s $100b goal will work, but it needs more than farmers – Andrew Marshall:

Despite the odds, farmers can easily achieve Australia’s lofty ambition of reaching a $100 billion agricultural production goal by 2030.

However, big changes are needed within their regional communities to make it really happen.

Modern farms can’t survive, let alone flourish, without supportive, well serviced, well populated and digitally connected rural towns backing them up, last week’s Outlook 2019 conference was told – repeatedly. . . 


Did you hear the union roar?

March 15, 2019

There was no surprise that Shane Jones replied to questions about a conflict of interest with bombast.

That is business as usual for him.

But threatening Hamish Rutherford, the journalist who broke the story, is a new and disturbing low:

There is a degree of rough and tumble in journalism and, if you’re going to give it out, you have to take it.

But this week vague claims were made which were quite troubling.

On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.

Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass. Much of the reaction has been fun. I never imagined I would have to explain those sort of cultural references to my parents, themselves avid RNZ listeners.  . .

But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.

It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.

This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.

Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.

After Question Time and an urgent debate, it still is not clear. Shane Jones did not use his privilege, but he could do, at any time. . . 

That politicians who resort to personal attack don’t usually have anything substantive to counter criticism will be little comfort.

This is an abuse of power, no more and no less and one which the union representing journalists ought to be condemning.

But did you hear the union roar? I haven’t heard, or read, so much as a whisper from E TŪ, which represents journalists, or any other union.

Nor have I come across anything but a mild that’s not appropriate from Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party which is supposed to stand up for workers.

If I’ve missed the union’s defence of a colleague and condemnation of his attacker, please correct me.

If there hasn’t been one, it is yet another example of unions putting politics before the people they purport to represent.

Disclosure: Hamish Rutherford’s parents are friends and I’ve known him for several years. I was an admirer of his work for the depth of his research, understanding of issues and non-partisan approach long before I met him.


If not sacking AG must investigate

March 11, 2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


Rural round-up

March 1, 2019

Govt warned over loaning WMP $10m :

The Government was warned that loaning Westland Milk Products $10 million may set a precedent to other companies that they could turn to the Government when they could not get a loan from the bank.

In a briefing to Finance Minister Grant Robertson in September last year, released on the Treasury’s website this afternoon, Treasury officials said the decision to loan Westland the money should be deferred.

Despite this, two months later Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that $9.9 million would be allocated to the South Island dairy co-op. . .

Fund farmers for the public benefits that come from their land – Mike Foley:

 Imagine if Australia’s private landholders, who manage half the country’s landmass, were investing significant funds into climate change reduction and environmental improvements.

That’s the scenario a cross-industry coalition of agricultural, forestry and environment groups are working towards, using the lead-up to the federal election to argue for policy change which could reimburse farmers for the public benefits delivered by their land management outcomes. . .

Fonterra’s milk-price news is soured by chairman’s critique of the company’s earning performance  – Point of Order:

At last a ray of sunlight into the country’s cowsheds: giant dairy co-op Fonterra has lifted its forecast farmgate milk price to $6.30-$6.60kg/MS, up from $6-$6.30, on the back of strong global demand.

The good news extends to next season, with ANZ economists predicting – because dairy commodity prices are improving more quickly than expected – the forecast for 2019-20 could go as high as $7.30kg/MS.

And there is something else Fonterra suppliers might get a bit of a glow from: the recognition by Fonterra’s top brass that the co-op has not been performing anywhere near where it should be. They’ll be looking for a sharp improvement, even if the co-op has a long way to go to match the achievements of smaller outfits like A2 Milk and Synlait. . . 

Fonterra Fund units hit record low – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Units in the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund hit a record low after the dairy cooperative cut its forecast earnings and said it won’t pay an interim dividend.

Fonterra downgraded its earnings forecast to 15-25 cents per share from a previous forecast of 25-35 cents per share, blaming the increased milk price which saw it hike the farmgate price to its supplier-shareholders.

The downgrade implies annual earnings of between $242-403 million in the year ending July, compared to the earlier projection of $403-564 million. . .

Fonterra to explore opportunities in complementary nutrition:

Fonterra has taken a stake in Motif Ingredients, a US-based food ingredients company that develops and commercialises bio-engineered animal and food ingredients. 

Fonterra joins Ginkgo Bioworks, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Louis Dreyfus Companies and Viking Global Investors.

Judith Swales, head of Fonterra’s Global Consumer and Foodservice business, says the move is part of the Co-operative’s commitment to its farmer-owners to stay at the forefront of innovation to understand and meet the changing preferences of consumers. While the terms will not be disclosed, Fonterra’s investment represents a minority stake in the business. . . 

Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust Launches “Ngā Māhuri o Ngāti Hine”:

Twenty young men from Kaikohe and Moerewa are set to start their journey in the Forestry Industry as trainees on the new Ngā Māhuri o Ngāti Hine Mānuka Plantation Training Program.

This is the first part of a 2yr program funded by the Billion Tree fund through Te Uru Rākau and supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries Economic Development Unit. Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust is partnering with Johnson Contractors LTD to deliver a “learn while you earn” approach to L2 Forestry Training.

Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust Chair, Pita Tipene says “Ngā Māhuri o Ngāti Hine means the saplings of Ngāti Hine; this is an industry training program which embodies the kaupapa of Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust Mission – He Ringa Ahuwhenua, He Hanga Mahi, to actively grow our assets. These akonga (learners) are our hapū and community assets”. . . 


$490,191 per job

February 5, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund, like KiwiBuild, has over promised and under delivered:

Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund has created just 54 jobs in its first year, making a mockery of the Government’s claim to be helping regional New Zealand, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Fund is all about maximising NZ First’s re-election chances in 2020 but the Prime Minister is fully on board, turning up in small towns supposedly with an open cheque book and a feel-good soundbite. Trouble is, it’s big on hot air and miniscule on substance.

“Despite all the hoopla, only 38 of the 135 announced projects have received funding and just 3.4 per cent of the funding has actually been paid out. That’s $26.6 million for 54 jobs, or the equivalent of $490,191 per job.

That money would employ a lot of teachers, nurses or police officers.

“That’s a dismal outcome considering the mountain of press releases, town hall meetings and hyperbole being rolled out by this Government. Mr Jones would have you believe he’s the saviour of the provinces but the only thing he seems intent on saving is his political career.

“The facts about the PGF are elusive and the Government hasn’t willingly disclosed what’s really going on. It has taken endless questioning by National to penetrate the layers of Government obfuscation.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ claims become more fanciful every time he speaks. Prior to Christmas he claimed 4000 jobs had been created as a direct result of the PGF. A day later that had jumped to 9000. In reality the Fund is as shambolic as KiwiBuild – an epic fail that has seen just 47 of 100,000 houses actually built.

“What’s worse is that the Government fails to understand the basics of employment, in terms of helping young, unemployed Maori in particular. Their job prospects have dimmed as a result of 90-day trials being dumped and the massive increase in the minimum wage.

“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions are just politics.”

The regions do need investment in some areas which are government business including infrastructure and health services.

It started by axing funding for roads and irrigation and has done nothing more for health services. Instead of helping, it is refusing to help Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, is funding SIT to take over Telford Farm Training Institute for only one year and is closing rural maternity centres.

Instead of investing money where there is genuine need it has allowed the PGF to give out money to projects at what looks like whim and, in many cases, without a proper business case.

It has also provided a serious disincentive to real and sustainable job creation in the private sector with the threat of so-called fair pay agreements that would take us back to the bad old days of the 1970s.


We lose if WTO not taken seriously

November 28, 2018

Could the Provincial Growth Fund threaten New Zealand’s free trade credentials?

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today confirmed that some Provincial Growth Fund expenditure may qualify as agricultural subsidies, meaning it would need to be reported to the World Trade Organisation, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Jones said he had sought advice from MFAT about the legitimacy of his spending. This would be the first time New Zealand has reported such subsidies to the WTO in 25 years.

“It would be incredibly embarrassing if the Government had to report this expenditure, especially given David Parker travelled to Europe in January seeking to limit the agricultural subsidies of other countries, and Jacinda Ardern’s recent trumpeting of free trade.

“Subsidies for agricultural products are tightly restricted under WTO rules and for good reason. They stand in the way of free and mutually-beneficial trade; they create inefficient domestic industries by coddling producers; and, they represent wasteful spending and require higher taxes to support them.

“The Fourth Labour Government scrapped all of New Zealand’s agricultural subsidies in the 1980s, resulting in more productive, profitable and innovative producers.

“In his typical, blustering fashion Jones said he had no intention of complying with the international trade body’s rules.

“NZ First has always harboured a deep desire to return us to the Fortress New Zealand of the 1970s.

“If Shane Jones is determined to continue making such payments, he’ll be sullying New Zealand’s international reputation as a free and open trading nation.

This exchange in question time yesterday doesn’t give any confidence that Jones is taking WTO requirements seriously:

David Seymour: Has the Minister had advice in any form that some of his provincial growth fund expenditure may have to be reported to the World Trade Organization as it qualifies as agricultural subsidies—the first time New Zealand would have reported such subsidies in 25 years?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. Naturally, advice has been sought from the foreign affairs department. However, given that the adjudication and the appeals of so-said international trade body are in a state of disarray, I’m not bothered by that at all.

Part of the pain of the ag-sag of the 80s was due to the axing of subsidies but I don’t know of any farmers who would want to go back to the bad old days when they were at the mercy of politicians and bureaucrats, focused on producing more rather than what markets wanted.

Free trade has made New Zealand stronger and protection from the WTO has helped when other countries have tried to use non-tariff barriers and other anti-trade measures against us.

As a small nation heavily dependent on trade, we need the WTO and the minister’s cavalier attitude to it and our reputation for free trade is yet another reason to question the PGF.

 


%d bloggers like this: