$484k per job yet there’s a worker shortage

December 9, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund gets a lot of publicity but the results are a long way from matching the rhetoric:

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions. . . 

Roads? We’re paying higher fuel taxes but that money is going on public transport in Auckland not much-needed upgrades to roads in the provinces.

And the bus and rail not roads policy is costing jobs as businesses finishing roading  projects have no more work ahead of them.

Rail? That’s a very limited option that doesn’t go very far from routes taken by State Highway 1.

While politicians squabble over whether enough jobs are being created in the regions, the PGF is managing to create well-paid jobs here in Wellington.

The unit in charge of the fund’s doubled in size over the past year. There are now 116 employees. And 71 of them earn a salary of more than $100,000.

That’s around one job in Wellington for fewer than 20, full and part time in the provinces.

David Farrar calls the number of jobs created pitiful:

By comparison in 2016/17 there were 137,000 new jobs created which was 66 new jobs every working hour.

So Shane Jones has spent $300 million over two years and created what was basically one day of job growth under National!

New and growing businesses creating more jobs ought to be applauded, but in some areas the problem isn’t no jobs, it’s a shortage of workers for the jobs in already established businesses.

Employers in dairying, horticulture and hospitality are struggling to find staff willing and able to fill their vacancies.

The provinces would get more value from initiatives that would provide employable workers than they’re getting from the money scattered through the PGF.


H is for

November 19, 2019

When Labour, NZ First and the Green Party were in opposition they were very critical of National’s Cabinet Clubs through which people paid to attend meals at which senior politicians spoke.

Their criticism has dried up now they’re in government and Labour is charging $1500 for a lunch with Jacinda Ardern who happens to be Prime Minister but will be acting as Labour leader.

Running a political party and election campaigns costs a lot of money. It can be easier to get a sum like this from a few people than it is to raise a similar amount from a lot more people in much smaller amounts.

Anyone who thinks a politician can be bought for $1500 (minus the GST that will have to be paid), or even a lot more, has a very jaundiced view of the world and politicians.

I don’t have any concerns about this method of fundraising. I do have concerns about those who suggest state funding of political parties as an alternative.

And I’m not impressed with the hypocrisy from those who criticised National for raising funds this way but are saying nothing now it’s their end of the political spectrum doing it.

On the subject of hypocrisy, the Veteran  has spotted another large dose of it in Northland:

It appears that Labour has disregarded my quite inspired and well meaning advice that if  ‘they’ want to see Winston First back in parliament then they should have Kevin Davis go List only giving the Jones boy a clear run at the Te Tai Tokerau seat which he would win at a canter …

the prodigal son returning and all of that. I can report that Labour’s well respected Willow Jean Prime has been told she’s going to have to take one for the team and confine her campaigning to anywhere but Northland … Chatham Islands perhaps. . .

Labour did that to allow Winston Peters to win the Northland by-election.

That he wasn’t able to hold it at the next election ought to be a lesson for Northland voters who think another NZ First MP would be any better for them than the party’s leader was.

They should also learn from Southland, the West Coast and Taranaki where this government’s policies are doing far more harm than can be mitigated by dollops of money from the provincial slush fund.


Threats & hypocrisy

October 2, 2019

Fresh from a gentle slap on the wrist from the Prime Minister for his vote-for-us-or-else comments, Shane Jones was threatening utu:

Shane Jones has a stern word of warning for foreign-owned forestry companies looking to undermine him: “Political utu is a dish best served cold”.

He said the people who tried to undermine him would learn this lesson closer to the next election. 

Is he not expecting to be a minister closer to the election that he thinks thinks he can say something then his role prevents him from saying now?

Jones made the remarks after he was publicly rebuked by the Prime Minister for trying to solicit votes for NZ First at the Northland Forestry Awards. . . 

But now Jones is firing back. He wants the attendees to know he’s aware of who they are, and their relationship to the National Party. 

“They were playing a dangerous game,” Jones said.

“I know them. A handful work for international forestry companies,” he said. 

“It is wrong for overseas-owned forestry companies to have their staff briefing the media and using the same language as the National Party against me.” . . .

This is appalling for any MP, let alone a Minister, and what makes it worse is the hypocrisy.

His one billion trees policy is encouraging forestry and, while making it all but impossible for foreigners to buy land for farming, the government he’s part of is making it easier for them to buy farms to plant in trees for forestry.

 


Open and transparent?

September 30, 2019

When Jacinda Ardern declared hers would be an open and transparent government this probably wasn’t what she was meaning:

Controversial Cabinet Minister Shane Jones told a forestry awards ceremony they needed to vote for him or miss out on the billions he’s handing out for provincial growth, it has been alleged.

One person present labelled Jones’ comments as an inducement to “bribery” and another thought the minister – responsible for forestry and the $3 billion provincial growth fund – was “buying votes”.

But Jones says New Zealand can expect him to remind it over the next 12 months that votes for New Zealand First are needed to ensure it continues to fulfil promises in its coalition agreement with Labour.

“When you get a retail politician like myself – a son of the north – you’ve never going to take the politics out of the politicians.” . .

There’s politics and there’s politicking and then there’s blatant vote-for-us-or-else which looks very close to bribery.

Another person who paid close attention to Jones’ speech said he was angry and shocked at the political approach.

“Some of the things he said I didn’t particularly like. [It was] he had this big pot of gold so make sure you keep voting for me. There were direct comments along those lines.”

A third person who objected to Jones’ comment said it detracted from the intent of the evening, which was to celebrate excellence in forestry.

“It should never have been a political rally, which is what he made it. He was saying ‘if you don’t vote for me, you won’t get any share of the billion dollars’. He said you’ve only got a few months of me here, so you’d better vote.

“It’s just bribery. I thought that was pretty disgusting.”

Another person present said: “It wasn’t a political forum. He didn’t do himself any good. He just made a complete idiot of himself.”

Those interviewed did not want to be named, citing the influence of Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund and concerns speaking openly could have a personal and financial impact. 

Whether it was meant as a threat or not, these people have not only interpreted what Jones said as vote-for-us-or-else, they’re scared about the consequences of speaking out.

What he said is bad enough. That he said it so openly is worse. It shows that he thinks he’s immune from any censor by both his leader and the Prime Minister that ought to follow this behavior but won’t.

Reacting to the Herald piece, Taxpayers’ Union Spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“This is truely banana republic stuff.  A Minister telling an industry sector that they need to pony up with support, or else lose taxpayer funded lavish.”

”It is shocking, and belongs in Namibia, not New Zealand.”

“Even for Shane Jones this is breathtakingly shameless.  This not only sours the reputation of the current Government, it sours the reputation of our whole political establishment.  It is pork barrel politics in its true meaning.”

“Taxpayers are relying on the Prime Minister to prevent Shane Jones dragging us down the transparency indexes.  Now is the time for her to show whether she demands western democracy standards of her Ministers, or whether her junior coalition partner wields the true power and can do what they like with public funds.”

Sadly the junior coalition partner does wield the true power and its members not only can and do do what they like with public funds, at least one is open that they’re vote-buying with them.


Rural round-up

September 26, 2019

Trees don’t pay tax. Government’s Action for Healthy Waterways discussion document a massive subsidy for tree planting:

Environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green says the government’s policy document on waterways will provide a massive subsidy for forestry.

Spokesman, Andy Scott said the problem was it would make sheep and beef farming less economic thereby encouraging farmers to walk away and sell their land for trees.

“Modelling suggesting 68% of dry stock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted to forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations will send a chill through the entire sheep and beef industry,” Andy Scott said. . .

Time for a ‘cup of tea’ over trees policy:

Minister Jones Needs Assurance That His ‘Trees Fund Branching Out’ Doesn’t End up as a Knot According to 50 Shades of Green.

Conservation Group 50 Shades of Green supports Minister Jones in his efforts to put the right tree in the right place.

It also supports Iwi initiatives to regenerate native bush.

What it doesn’t support is easy access for foreign investors and carbon speculators to plant good farmland in trees for no other reason than to claim carbon credits. . .

Millions poured to ensure mānuka honey is a NZ only product  – Yvette McCullough:

The government is allocating nearly $6 million to a campaign to stop Australian beekeepers marketing their products as “mānuka” honey.

The Mānuka Honey Appellation Society is being granted $5.7 million through the Provincial Growth Fund, including a $1.7 million loan, to help in its bid to secure international property rights.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones accused Australian honey producers of trying to steal what was indigenous to New Zealand. . .

Major dairy producer unveils $30m expansion:

When a group of dairy families opened Idaho Milk Products a decade ago, the company faced a murky future at best.

The $80 million facility began churning out cream and protein during a recession, at a time of painfully low milk prices.

“These dairy families risked everything,” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said. “They rolled the dice, put everything on the line that their families had built for generations.”

Ten years and a $30 million plant expansion later, it looks like the gamble is paying off. . .

Welsh dairy farmers plan to blockade lorries of ‘cheap’ Irish beef :

Farmers in Wales are planning to disrupt Irish trucks carrying beef from entering Wales via the Port of Holyhead.

The blockade is planned for Friday 27 September.

According to North Wales Live, the protest is a result of farmer complaints that “prices are down £150-£200 (€170-€ 226) on this time last year, blaming the slump on imports” coupled with the uncertainty of Brexit.

Farmers are urged to make a stand against “rock-bottom beef prices and ‘subsidised’ Irish beef imports.”. . .

 


Stardust dulls in sunlight

August 7, 2019

A Prime Minister who is well regarded overseas is good for a small country.

But being well regarded overseas isn’t good enough. A Prime Minister has to earn, and keep, approval at home and the stardust that settled on Jacinda Ardern early in her leadership is dulling under the sunlight of scrutiny.

There is no doubt she is a good communicator, compassionate and likable. As Matthew Hooton told Sky New Australia, she would be a good princess or president without power, but she is a hopeless Prime Minister.

But, but, but what about the way she handled the aftermath of the mosque shootings?

There is no question she did that well but that’s the New Zealand way. Other recent Prime Ministers, Bill English, John Key (who did at least as well after the Canterbury earthquakes) and Helen Clark would have reacted with similar compassion.

But those Prime Ministers also delivered, and this one is failing to. Matthew Hooton, again, on the year of delivery:

. . . For those still committed to reality-based politics, Ardern’s “year of delivery” is as credible as her earlier promise to be “transformational”.

KiwiBuild, the Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund handing out only 3 per cent of the money Shane Jones has paraded are the most risible. . .

He goes on to list more failures and there are plenty of them.

He isn’t alone in his criticisms and that’s not surprising for people on the right of the political spectrum but even the very left blog The Standard is saying it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania:

Despite the babies and the engagements, maybe it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania.

Let’s not bother with the criminal waste of tax on hundreds of working groups, existing to successfully suppressing oppositional opinion through co-option.

Oranga Tamariki has got three investigations underway for removing children, and is being kicked all over the park by the media. Cue another year of paralysis by analysis. . . 

. . .  it’s a very partial leadership. It’s not ‘transformational’, it’s not the year of delivery. What is this government?

This is the weakest leadership on policy of any government since the last term of Holyoake, 60 years ago. That’s on Ardern.

It’s time, since we are now getting emails to volunteer and donate money on their behalf for the next election, to expect more from Jacinda Ardern.

Coming from the left that’s damning.

But wait there’s more. Her interview this morning with Mike Hosking was a train wreck which Steve Braunias dissects:

O the joys and woes of being Prime Minister! One minute you’re swaying your hips for the cameras in the lovely warmth of Tokelau while the world gazes with adoration at your picture on the cover of Vogue, as chosen and commissioned by Her Royal Highness Meghan Markle the Princess of Trans-Atlantica; the next minute you’re back in New Zealand, there’s a serious sex scandal rocking the Labour Party, the cops have gone feral at Ihumātao, the weather’s gone all to hell – and worst of all, you’re stuck on the phone for your regular Tuesday morning convo with Mike Hosking.

It’s paramount that the Prime Minister keeps her cool and shows every sign of being at ease and in control when she makes media appearances. There is but one emoji to maintain: the one with a smiley face, round and yellow and all good, expressing the optimum vibe of inane happiness. . . 

But good cheer and happiness was entirely absent during Ardern’s 10-minute interview with The Hosker on Newstalk ZB this morning. Her appearance was an emoji trainwreck, and it crashed every time that the Prime Minister called the ZB talkback host by his first name.

She said it 11 times. . .

He goes on to give an emojiological analysis of those 11 times.

It’s behind the paywall and it’s worth paying for, here’s a taste:

The interview which prompted this is here.

There was no stardust dazzling and personality sparkling there and even had there been it is no longer enough.

Stardust is no use without substance and personality doesn’t pay the bills.


Rural round-up

August 3, 2019

NZ Centre for Political Research: A sacrificial lamb – Dr Muriel Newman:

The PM’s plan is to put so much pressure on farmers that she will drive them out of business, just as occurred in the coal industry, and oil and gas.

In a speech to state sector workers and children in Melbourne, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described a period of economic turmoil in New Zealand: “Starting in 1984, through to the 1990s, we removed regulations that were said to hamper business, slashed subsidies, transformed the tax system, dramatically cut public spending … “

She questioned whether the reforms were really necessary, then added, “I was a child back then, but I remember clearly how society changed. I remember nothing of Rogernomics of course — I was five. But I do remember the human face.”. . .

Allan Barber challenges Shane Jones to consider the unintended consequences of his headlong rush into forestry, as well as to disclose where all these logs or added value timber will be sold – Allan Barber:

There’s an irony about the combination of the Provincial Growth Fund funded one billion trees programme, sheep and beef land being sold without needing Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval for conversion to forestry, the sharp fall in Chinese log prices, and Shane Jones ranting about log traders being intoxicated by high prices.

According to Jones, these log traders should have supported the domestic timber processing industry, although it’s not immediately obvious how domestic sales would have compensated for log exports to China which exceeded $3 billion over 12 months.

The history of tree planting, well before it was seen as essential for meeting greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) targets, is no different from any other commodity. After an exciting start too much of anything inevitably provokes indigestion; think oil, dairy, sheep meat, wool, angora, alpacas, logs – you name it, there is always a cycle; the world may even turn away from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc one day. China features strongly as a market which has a habit of dominating purchasing patterns, driving prices up before turning the tap off, although this was more of an issue when the state rigidly controlled all purchasing. . . 

Growers slam ‘very clunky’ process for claiming fuel tax rebates – Maja Burry:

Some growers say they are being left out of pocket by Auckland’s regional fuel tax because there is no simple way to claim back for on-farm vehicles and machinery.

The 11.5 cents-a-litre regional fuel tax was introduced last July to fund transport projects around the region. It is expected to raise $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.

A rebate system, overseen by the Transport Agency, is meant to help growers and farmers claim back for on-farm vehicles and machinery.

Brendan Balle of Pukekohe-based Balle Brothers helps run a family-owned market garden business which employs about 300 staff. . . 

Northland dairy farmers win top milk award for fifth year running –  Susan Botting:

Producing top-of-the-line milk from 6000-plus dairy herd milkings over five years has earned Far North dairy farmers Terrence and Suzanne Brocx a dairy industry acknowledgement.

The Puketi couple have this year won a Fonterra award acknowledging their top-of-the-line milk production — for a fifth consecutive year.

Milk from the 2018-19 dairy season on their Puketi and Ohaeawai farms has this winter been awarded a Fonterra gold standard “grade-free” quality award, adding to four previous annual awards of the same type. This means all of the milk produced on their two farms since 2014 has reached the dairy co-operative’s highest gold standard quality standards. . . 

Stink bug warning to importers:

Biosecurity New Zealand has sent a stark message to shippers, agents, and importers that imported cargo must meet new rules intended to keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of New Zealand.

“The importing industry needs to be aware that high-risk cargo that hasn’t been treated before arrival will not be allowed to come ashore in most instances,” says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Paul Hallett.

“The aim is to keep out a highly invasive pest that could devastate New Zealand’s horticulture industry if it established here.” 

Biosecurity New Zealand formally issued new import rules on 22 July. They require off-shore treatment of imported vehicles, machinery, and parts from 33 identified risk countries, and all sea containers from Italy during the stink bug season.

In the past, only uncontainerised vehicle cargo from risk countries required treatment before arriving in New Zealand. . . 

Hunters have their sites on a shareholding in a stunning high country shooting and fishing station:

Avid big-game hunters and trout anglers are being lined up as potential shareholders in a remote South Island high country partnership on the market for sale.

Shares are being sold in the land and buildings at the Miners Creek high-country station some 13 kilometres west of the Central Otago township of Ettrick.

The 513-hectare freehold property is located on the Mount Benger Range adjacent to the Department of Conservation’s Mount Benger Reserve. Combined, the two landholdings are home to red stags on its stark hills and brown trout in its pristine rivers. . . 


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