Survey explains polls

21/12/2022

An online survey isn’t a scientific poll, but the majority opinion on four big government policies provide a reason why it’s sinking in real polls.

This would be spending far, far too much money fixing something that isn’t broken.

Taking assets from councils which own them, creating four layers of expensive bureaucracy, adding co-governance of five waters . . .  All very good reasons to vote for a National-led government that will repeal and replace this badly flawed policy.

The Spinoff says this should be first off Labour’s to-do list:

. . . The scheme is huge, costing an estimated $3.5 billion each year. Administration of the scheme alone is estimated at $500 million per annum. This bill is to be funded by a 1.39 percent tax increase on wages, matched by an equal levy on employers. As Inland Revenue has advised, most of the employer levy will eventually be passed on to workers via reduced wage increases, reducing strained family incomes by nearly 3 percent in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. 

A lot of people, including the self-employed, many migrants, and some precarious workers, will not be eligible. For those who are, the scheme sounds generous – anyone who loses their job because of redundancy or illness will qualify for 80 percent of their lost wages for up to six months. That in itself is a problem because it sets up a two-tier welfare system with higher rates – one might think of it as Koru club welfare for insurance recipients, compared to other beneficiaries in cattle class. . . 

It’s an expensive scheme that will give most to people who need it least and least help to those who need it most.

 

 

The government got rid of the legislation outlawing blasphemy and now wants to replace it with one protecting religion.

All these policies are deeply flawed and the survey shows they are also deeply unpopular.

 


Rural round-up

12/12/2022

Sequestration rules will change – Keith Woodford:

Government foreshadows new ETS sequestration categories but then creates yet another communication muddle

The Government’s on-farm sequestration policy appeared to have taken a big step forward with a media release from the Government on 30 November, apparently timed to coincide with the National Field Days at Mystery Creek. However, precisely where the step has landed is not clear.

The media statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office included statements from Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern, Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

A key reason why things are less than clear is that once again the Government’s communications messed up in a big way. Remarkably, there were two different versions of the media release. One of these was released to media by Andrew Campbell in his role as Chief Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. This was the version I was working with when I first drafted this article. The other version is what can currently be found here at the Government’s official Beehive website (beehive.govt.nz) . .

Beef, sheep meat prices tipped to fall as belts tighten off-shore :

Prices for New Zealand beef and sheep meat are expected to soften further in 2023 as people tighten their spending.

Rabobank’s Global Animal Protein Outlook 2022, Deciding How to Grow Amid Challenges and Opportunities, said high input costs were also expected to remain prevalent next year, potentially causing margin pressure for some businesses.

Agricultural analyst Genevieve Steven said sheep meat prices were likely to decrease more significantly than beef.

“Significant economic challenges in New Zealand’s main export markets – China, Europe and the US – are expected to reduce demand for New Zealand’s sheep meat exports, leading to softer sheepmeat prices. . . 

 

Ultimate three waters bill reveal impact on councils – Jonathan Milne :

Up to 74 rural communities will be allowed to take ownership of water supplies owned by councils, in the final tranche of Three Waters legislation introduced to Parliament last night.

The decision will spark further debate: on the one hand, many in provincial New Zealand have been angry at losing control of their local water infrastructure; on the other hand, this solution is effective privatisation of water supplies on a small scale.

The law change is contained in the final Three Waters bills, introduced to Parliament on Thursday evening. Credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has been analysing the proposed model, and its analysts spoke with Newsroom.

Their confidence that no local authority will suffer a credit rating downgrade has now waned, but they say they won’t be able to make a final determination until next year’s election decides the fate of Labour’s water reforms. . . 

Maori forestry experts working to unlock $16bn value :

A group of Māori forestry specialists and other experts have met this week in Rotorua to develop the forestry practice which will be key to unlocking more than $16 billion in value for the Māori economy.

The group, brought together by Te Taumata (Māori Forestry Landowners) and funded exclusively by Māori forestry interests, is working to establish a best practice model for permanent transitional forest management.

Te Taumata (Māori Forestry Landowners) chair Chris Karamea Insley says, despite promising to act in partnership with Māori in a hui led by the late Sir Dr. Toby Curtis on the development of the best practice model, the Government has been dragging its feet.

Mr Insley says despite reaching an agreement with Ministers Stuart Nash and James Shaw at the specially convened hui in Wellington in June this year to establish and fund a technical working group in partnership, the Government has since stonewalled any attempts to make progress. . . 

The importance of traceability NAIT compliance essential tool for the M Bovis eradication programme :

Farmers who don’t keep accurate NAIT records put others at risk and can hinder efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, says M. bovis programme director Simon Andrew.

There are currently six Active Confirmed properties with M. bovis infection and a Controlled Area Notice (CAN) in place for the Wakanui area in Mid-Canterbury – Full announcement: Extra measures to target pocket of M. bovis infection.

Mr Andrew said most of the infected properties would be cleared by early next year and eradication remained on-track, but it was vital all farmers used NAIT properly.

“In our tracing work, we have identified some poor NAIT practices, which is disappointing. . . 

Otis Oat Milk announces Plant Research NZ as recipient of the 1 fund :

An oat breeding programme led by Plant Research (NZ) Ltd is the inaugural recipient of research funds from New Zealand producer, Otis Oat Mi!k.

Established last year, The 1% Fund captures one percent of the plant-based milk maker’s total sales to fund New Zealand projects and initiatives that make oats a viable and exciting farming alternative.

Otis co-founder Chris Wilkie says the sustainability initiative was established to help New Zealand farmers diversify their operations by supporting them to grow oats.

He says Plant Research was awarded the monies to support an established oat breeding programme ensuring New Zealand-grown oats remain nutritionally superior to other varieties in the world and to maximise land use by way of increased oats per hectare. . . 


Strike two

09/12/2022

Another day, another Cabinet Manual breach:

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s failure to consult Justice Minister Kiri Allan over entrenchment is another breach of the Cabinet Manual and the Prime Minister should sack her, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

“Questioned in Parliament this afternoon, Ms Allan disclosed that Ms Mahuta did not consult her about the entrenchment provision in the Three Waters Bill that Parliament adopted during the committee of the whole house stage.

“The Cabinet Manual makes clear at section 5.14 that Ministers are required to consult the Minister of Justice on ‘all proposals affecting constitutional arrangements’. Ms Mahuta manifestly failed to do this, instead cooking up constitutional chicanery with the Greens and leaving her Ministerial colleagues in the dark.

If she hadn’t been in parliament so long this might have been excused as ignorance.

Instead, given how she has bulldozed Five Waters from the start, it looks much more like arrogance.

“Ms Mahuta first failed to uphold a clear Cabinet minute opposing entrenching sections of the Three Waters Bill and it’s now clear she failed to even talk to the Minister responsible for New Zealand’s constitution as well.

“Ms Allan has also been asleep at the wheel during this debacle. She told Parliament this afternoon that she didn’t remember when she first learned that Parliament had entrenched a section of the Three Waters Bill.

“Ms Allan said she first became aware of Ministry of Justice advice against entrenchment on the 28th of November – which was the day Cabinet considered what had happened in the House a few days prior.

“This is a constitutional cluster of epic proportions and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needs to show some leadership and hold someone accountable for this debacle.”

Strike one was the failure to abide by the requirement to adhere to Cabinet decisions.

This is strike two against the Cabinet Manual.

How many more strikes will it take before she’s sacked?


Why hasn’t she been sacked?

08/12/2022

Three Five Waters has been badly handled from the very start. Why hasn’t the Minister responsible for the entrenchment debacle been sacked?

Nanaia Mahuta’s open defiance of Cabinet rules shows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lost control of her Cabinet, Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon says.

“Cabinet agreed on May 30 ‘that the [Water Services Entities] Bill should not entrench the privatisation provisions in the Bill’. Despite ruling out entrenchment of any form or threshold, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta openly defied the Prime Minister and forcefully backed the entrenchment clause in the House two weeks ago.

“In that speech, Ms Mahuta led the charge for the Government, claiming a ‘moral obligation’ of those opposed to privatisation to support entrenchment of the provision. Labour then unanimously voted for it.

“But Cabinet opposed any form or threshold of entrenchment, not just one requiring 75 per cent support. Therefore, the Minister’s claim that her efforts to entrench aspects of the Bill with a 60 per cent threshold is somehow different, is nonsense.

Jacinda Ardern called it novel. That too is nonsense.

“The Cabinet Manual is clear. It says, “once Cabinet makes a decision, Ministers must support it, regardless of their personal views”. Yet despite breaching the Cabinet Manual and openly defying her colleagues and the Prime Minister, Ms Mahuta remains a Minister.

“Three Waters is a debacle. Not only is the Government confiscating assets from community ownership, but in an effort to rush it through urgency, the responsible Minister tried to sneak in unconstitutional and undemocratic entrenchment provisions against Cabinet guidelines.

“For a Minister to openly defy a Cabinet decision, shows that the Prime Minister has lost control of her Cabinet.

“It’s time for Jacinda Ardern to show some leadership, hold Ms Mahuta accountable, and sack her.”

If this has happened under any recent Prime Minister – Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley –  the Minister would no longer be a Minister so why hasn’t she been sacked?

That Mahuta still has her job makes it look like either she has a hold over Ardern, or Ardern is too weak to sack her.

Neither is acceptable and neither would have been the case for any other recent PM.


Look over there – a Royal Commission

06/12/2022

Last week wasn’t the government’s finest.

It was forced into belatedly admitting it wasn’t doing enough to combat crime.

It was then forced into retracting the entrenchment clause from its Three Five Waters legislation and Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson had an appalling interview.

But now look over there, it’s announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry  into its Covid Response:

After first calling for a Royal Commission into the Government’s response to Covid-19 more than a year ago, National welcomes today’s announcement, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“Covid-19 has affected every New Zealander and changed almost every aspect of our way of life over the last three years. It is imperative that there is a deep and comprehensive review of the health and economic impacts of the Government’s response.

“Parliament granted the Government extraordinary powers to respond to the pandemic. Late vaccines, late RAT tests and Kiwis stranded offshore should all be part of the inquiry, as should legal advice that the Attorney General would not release and redirection of Covid-19 funds for non-Covid-19 purposes.

“National is disappointed that other parties weren’t consulted on the membership of the inquiry or the terms of reference, which appear to be limited. We also note that a separate independent economic inquiry is still needed to paint the full picture of the effects that Covid-19 had.

It’s churlish not to consult other parties, and an economic inquiry is essential, including the Reserve Bank’s money printing.

“It is critical that this inquiry is wide-ranging, independent and gets to the heart of the major decisions, actions and inactions of the Government.

“New Zealand has a history of comprehensive Royal Commissions for significant matters of public concern, such as the Christchurch terror attack and the Pike River disaster.

“Given this history, and the extraordinary impact of Covid-19 on New Zealand, it is right that a Covid-19 Royal Commission is established.”

Establishing a Royal Commission is the right call, albeit a belated one, oh so conveniently timed to divert attention from other debacles of the government’s making.

It won’t report back until 2024 when another government will be in power but its research and deliberations will be well underway before next year’s election.

That won’t allow much time for a new government to widen the commission’s scope.

But at least, if it’s a National-led one in power, it won’t be tempted to dissemble about any shortcomings that are identified in the response, and will make a plan that learns from all that was wrong with this government’s response.

Only then if, or as is more likely when, another pandemic strikes the country will be better prepared, handles it better and doesn’t repeat mistakes.


There’s another question

05/12/2022

It took a week from the first accusations of constitutional outrage, but the government finally did the right thing yesterday :

The entrenchment clause in the Three Waters legislation that sparked outcry has been labelled a mistake by Leader of the House Chris Hipkins and will be removed.

Hipkins announced the backdown today after lawyers labelled the provision undemocratic last week. . . 

“It was a mistake to put the entrenchment clause in and the Government will fix the issue as soon as the House resumes on Tuesday. . .

The mistake is being rectified but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the whole saga, one of which is who knew what about the entrenchment clause in the Five Waters legislation? :

Labour’s top brass somehow missed the memo at their caucus meeting last week that the Three Waters amendment they were backing was a constitutional bear trap.

The prime minister, the attorney-general and other senior ministers were present when Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta put forward the Greens’ controversial 60 percent entrenchment provision.

The question remains whether they were inattentive, or the proposal put forward was either undersold, or simply unclear. . . 

There is another question – were they attentive and supported it anyway?

There was a storm of criticism after Labour and the Greens passed an amendment during the committee stages of the Water Services Entity Bill under urgency, entrenching an anti-privatisation clause at 60 percent; this means any future government would have to muster at least that level of support to repeal it.

The problem is that goes against legal advice the Three Waters legislation did not meet the constitutional bar for using entrenchment, which is reserved for matters of electoral law. The amendment could create a precedent, paving the way for this government, or those in the future, to entrench laws they felt strongly about.

There are still questions around whether or not Ardern and other senior ministers specifically knew Labour’s vote would be cast in support of the Green MP Eugenie Sage’s proposal for an achievable 60 percent entrenchment clause, given the fact the red flags had already been raised – including at Cabinet.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins, in charge of running the parliamentary agenda and business of the House, said he “was not aware until after the fact”.

When asked on Monday if she knew an amendment with a 60 percent threshold was going to the House, Ardern did not directly answer the question.

“I know there was discussion around 75 percent, the level of awareness, I could not tell you around the lower threshold.”

When pressed further, Ardern said “the principle of entrenchment has generally attracted a 75 percent threshold… everyone in Labour was very aware of that”.

“What would have been happening in real time is you had both an entrenchment position but a different threshold.” . . 

That avoids the question about real time at the caucus meeting where the entrenchment position with a different threshold was discussed.

One possibility is, despite Mahuta raising it in caucus, the detail offered was not enough to alert MPs and senior ministers present the proposal was for 60 percent and therefore able to pass, as opposed to the original 75 percent.

It’s a Minister’s responsibility to give enough detail to ensure colleagues understand what is being proposed.

If she didn’t, it’s a sackable offence. If she did then the caucus, including The Attorney General, Leader of the House and Prime Minister knew exactly what was being proposed.

Ardern was asked about this again on Thursday in Hamilton. She confirmed she was at the caucus meeting, but added she had “already discussed and pointed out that entrenchment is generally understood to be a threshold of 75 percent”.

When asked about the caucus’s view on the proposal and whether there was any dissent, Ardern said “conversations in caucus are kept in caucus” but reiterated Labour’s position of wanting to ensure a “public asset like water is absolutely protected from privatisation”.

“Entrenchment is commonly understood to be a super majority, 75 percent, what came before Parliament was a more novel approach,” she said. 

That doesn’t answer the question and leaves open the possibility that she knew what was being proposed and supported it.

If she really didn’t know, or understand, Tracy Watkins says the saga goes against the no surprises policy:

There is no possible right explanation for how a contentious entrenchment clause came to be slipped into Labour’s controversial Three Waters legislation under the cover of urgency, and with so little debate even the Opposition didn’t notice.

Either the Government knew what was happening – which is bad – or they didn’t, which is even worse.

If Three Waters was already emblematic of much that many voters don’t like about the government, the entrenchment debacle – the clause has been panned as undemocratic, and unconstitutional – has only likely solidified opinions. . . 

Add openness and transparency to the long list of not-achieved by them.

The official line appears to be that the clause was cooked up by a Green MP and the Local Government Minister and inserted without the knowledge of just about everyone, including the prime minister, Cabinet, caucus and an army of Government advisers.

This beggars belief from a government that has taken the “no surprises” rule to such extreme lengths that even the most inconsequential Official Information Act requests are required to be sent to ministers’ desks as a deliberate stalling tactic.

But if true – if it really is believable for an MP and a minister to fly solo on what legal experts are calling a “dangerous constitutional precedent” – what on earth does that tell us about the state of decision-making in the Beehive?

Is anyone even in charge any more?

What also beggars belief is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s explanation that “it’s not something I would necessarily be aware of”.

If a hotly contentious clause in a deeply unpopular piece of legislation isn’t exactly what the no surprises rule is supposed to cover, what is?

If it was a surprise when it was on the agenda of a caucus meeting that Ardern chaired, she should sack the responsible Minister and also question her own behaviour and control of her caucus.

If it wasn’t a surprise she’s lying.

Either way it raises questions of why this happened.

Astute Left wing commentator Josie Pagani perfectly summed up Labour’s current state of mind: “People with different ideas are wrong. The Government is righteous, opponents are bad.”

So rather than admit it might be out of step with public opinion on Three Waters, or gangs, or crime, or the parlous state of the health system, or the cost of living, the Government plays political games, and does things like plant mini hand grenades for its opponents, should they happen to get into office.

There’s a name for that – third-termitis, which is when ministers get too arrogant, when there are too many political sideshows and the Government starts blaming the messenger rather than the message for its slide in the polls.

Is this a sign it’s come early?

Labour has belatedly admitted its mistake over this clause but is still pushing ahead with the legislation and Fran O’Sullivan points out it’s concerning that it has taken this debacle to get major legal attention on the Bill:

. . . This is a consequential piece of work. Not only does it entrench what many councils see as the legislative “theft” of water infrastructure assets built over many years through ratepayer levies, but — and this is another egregious aspect — it hands considerable power to Māori iwi regulators to make what are essentially proprietorial calls over the use of that water.

None of this has been appropriately debated, let alone discussed through a national conversation which probes the real extent of co-governance and indeed the engineering which exposes those four new regional water entities to financial risk.

The Government has simply resorted to its legislative might to push these reforms through — buying off council resistance with a $2 billion support package called Better Off funding which is a sweetener for the effective loss of their assets. . . 

Franks Ogilvie gave a legal opinion contradicting the government’s assertion that councils will still own their assets.

The Water Users’ Group is seeking a judicial review of Three Five Waters.

. . . We want stop the Government proceeding with Three Waters. In particular, the parts of the scheme that would see water infrastructure removed from Councils, and therefore ratepayer control, and the co-governance model that is proposed for the four new entities.

We need to know if our Courts think that Minister Mahuta’s references to pan-Maori treaty interests are justified in law. We need to know if our Courts think such interests can require or justify taking rate-payer funded infrastructure and turning it into a source of patronage for a tribal elite.

We want the Court to go back to first principles and make sure the Treaty is interpreted consistently with the rules of law. We want the Court to say there is no legitimate legal basis for the proposed co-governance model or any part of the Three Waters scheme that purports to carve out a greater role for Māori than the general public. . . 

They are waiting for a date for the court appearance, Given the government’s move to pass the legislation this year, it might be too late, even if it isn’t they might lose so what then?

If the Court concludes that Treaty interests do justify putting water infrastructure paid for by ratepayers into bizarre new corporations under the effective control of Māori nominees outside democratic dismissal, New Zealanders will know that the remedy can’t come from Court cases. We’ll know unambiguously that it is idle to look to lawyers and the Courts for protection our inherited rule of law traditions. The remedy will have to come from elections to our sovereign Parliament.

Polls show the majority of people oppose the policy. If the government continues to bulldoze it through the only way to undo the damage is to vote for a National-led government next year.

National and Act have both pledged to repeal the legislation and work with councils to develop policy to replace it.


Who’s in charge?

30/11/2022

Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins both say they knew nothing about entrenching a clause in the Three Five Waters legislation until after it was done:

. . . Remarks from Ardern and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins on Monday made it clear that there were mixed levels of knowledge of the amendment among Labour’s leadership, despite Labour voting in support of the amendment.

“The last I had heard was for a 75 per cent entrenchment which would have failed with only Labour and the Greens supporting it,” Ardern said.

“I wasn’t aware until after the fact that that had been lowered to 60 per cent – I wasn’t in the House when it happened,” Hipkins said. . . 

That begs the question who did know?:

. . . Nanaia Mahuta as the responsible minister, however, knew exactly what was going on.

“We know that while this particular SOP [supplementary order paper] may not pass the constitutional threshold, there is a moral obligation of people who believe that privatisation should not occur to support that particular SOP,” she told the House at the time. . . 

That begs another question: why, when it was such a controversial move, that conflicted with official advice and set a very dangerous precedent, didn’t she tell her leader?

Given that she didn’t, why not and what are the repercussions?

Can you imagine what former Prime Ministers Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger  . . . would have said and done had a Minister slipped a sly and anti-democratic move into any  Bill, let alone legislation that is so unpopular?

The current PM has said and done nothing publicly to indicate that she’s doing anything at all to haul Mahuta back and she’s dissembling over the debacle:

The Prime Minister is deliberately dissembling over the Three Waters entrenchment debacle and should simply admit Labour’s mistake and fix it, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

“After constitutional law experts publicly admonished Labour for its use of an unconstitutional entrenchment provision in the Three Waters legislation, the Prime Minister should have admitted the mistake and said Labour would fix it.

“Instead, Jacinda Ardern not only attempted to confuse the issue, but she also attempted to make it one for Parliament’s Business Committee.

“The Business Committee has nothing to do with this. It is Labour and the Greens’ mistake, and they need to fix it.

“Entrenchment should only be used for constitutional matters, and only after careful thought and debate, not during a rushed process like this was.

“The Prime Minister needs to stop the dissembling. She is misleading the public, and protecting Labour Ministers and Members who created this problem.

“Labour should refer the Water Services Entities Bill back to Parliament to remove the offensive entrenchment provision.

“The fact that Ms Ardern and Mr Hipkins claim they were not aware of the provisions is a further sign that the Three Waters legislation has been a rushed, sloppy process. Not only are they not across the legislation, but they are also clearly not in control of their caucus, which voted for the Green Party’s proposal in the first place.

“Labour could resolve the issue quickly. Instead, it seems determined to deny it has made a mistake in the legislation which would set a dangerous precedent and undermine New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.”

The lack of any action against the Minister and the dissembling over the debacle begs another question: who’s in charge?

It looks more and more that it is Mahuta and her Maori caucus colleagues and that they hold disproportionate power in government.


Mandate makes a difference

29/11/2022

Eugenie Sage tried to justify her move to entrench part of the Three Five Waters legislation by referring back to National ignoring a referendum.

She ignores a very important point.

National campaigned on the partial privatisation of a few state assets, won the election and so had a mandate to carry out that policy.

Labour didn’t campaign on Three Five Waters.

She also tries to justify the move by saying the entrenchment clause responds to public submissions.

That justification also holds no water because tens of thousands of submissions weren’t even considered because they came via a Taxpayers’ Union tool, even though many were personalised; and the overwhelming number of submissions against the legislation were ignored.

The entrenchment is a constitutional outrage, the policy is a very expensive mistake and no attempts to justify either can make them right.


Admission of defeat

29/11/2022

Labour could have reversed the entrenchment clause in the Three Five Waters BIll.

Instead it’s referring it to parliament’s Business Committee.

Labour is in the early stages of a backdown on its controversial decision to entrench parts of the Three Waters legislation – a move constitutional experts said set a “dangerous precedent”.

The move came as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins admitted to not being aware that a fresh move to entrench a part of the bill had been put until after it was passed. Official advice provided to Local Government minister Nanaia Mahuta more than a year ago warned that even Labour’s original entrenchment proposal could be constitutionally damaging.

Ardern said Cabinet considered the issue of the entrenchment clause on Monday and resolved to kick the matter back to Parliament’s Business Committee – a cross-party group of MPs that discuss the running of Parliament. . . 

This will ensure the matter stays in the news for longer giving the many critics even more ammunition against the whole proposal.

Labour dug itself a hole over this from the start and has kept on digging in spite of overwhelming opposition from the councils which own the assets the government plans to take and the majority of people in several polls.

Why, instead of slowing the whole process down and trying to take councils and the public with it, is it bulldozing it through under urgency and why did it try to entrench some parts of the legislation?

Could it be an admission of defeat?

Could it be that it knows it can’t win next year and is trying to get as much done, and done as soon as it can and in such a way as to make it harder for the new National-led government to undo it?

Fortunately the undoing will be possible and Stephen Franks has helpfully drafted a way it could be done.

It’s just a pity that even more millions of dollars will be wasted on the bulldozing before that can happen.


Bulldozing democracy

28/11/2022

Labour has gone to great lengths to counter accusations they are taking assets from councils.

They keep telling us all, that councils will still own their assets.

A legal opinion from Franks Ogilvie states that is wrong:

Ministers have repeatedly asserted that Councils will have “ownership” of the four new “entities” (actually bespoke statutory corporations) to take over three waters assets under Minister Mahuta’s scheme. The Water Services Entities Bill (the “Bill”)contains statements that Councils will “co-own” the corporations in “shares” to be allocated to them. In this opinion the assertions that Councils will share ownership are referred to as the “Claims”.

The claims are false, misleading and deceptive. The Councils will have none of the bundle of rights that define and are conferred by ownership in any sense familiar to lawyers, or understood as the common significance of ownership. Councils are expressly denied the rights of possession, control, derivation of benefits, and disposition that are the defining attributes of ownership. . . 

In spite of this, the government keeps telling us that councils will still own the assets.

However, by entrenching the clause in the Water Services Entities Bill (the one that was about Three Waters and is now about Five Waters), that stops the entities being sold, it loses that argument.

If the councils still own the assets whose business is it if they wanted to sell them?

Its theirs, their ratepayers’ and residents’ business, not the government’s.

If it’s not the business of councils, ratepayers and residents, but the government’s, the government admitting that councils won’t continue to own their assets.

That is an important issue, but not as important as the government’s entrenching the clause and thereby attempting to bind future government’s to a partisan and deeply unpopular measure.

Entrenchment has until now been for constitutional matters. Requiring a super majority for them is a democratic safeguard.

Entrenching a highly contentious and politically partisan measure like this is an attempt to bind future government’s to the current one’s will and that is the antithesis of democracy.

Law professor Andrew Geddis explains what happens when MPs entrench legislation and why it matters and concludes :

. . . The point being, what happened on Wednesday was a potentially momentous broadening out of an existing wrinkle in our system of parliamentary governance. Since 1956, our law has said that some key bits of our electoral system are so at risk of partisan gaming that we can’t trust a bare majority of MPs to decide them. Now, the amended three waters legislation also says that there is a basic policy issue that is so overwhelmingly important as to justify today’s MPs placing handcuffs on tomorrow’s MPs when dealing with it.

If that is indeed the case, what other sorts of issues might a supermajority of MPs think rise to that level? And, in this brave new world, what happens to our system of parliamentary law-making, based as it is on the assumption that the view of the current majority is always subject to revision by the future’s?

David Farrar has a few suggestions for policies past governments could have entrenched and  future government could entrench.

There would be an uproar if a future National-led government attempted to entrench these or any other partisan policies which illustrates just how dangerous the precedent Labour, aided by the Greens whose MP Eugenie Sage moved the Supplementary Order Paper to include entrenchment.

There is an uproar on social media, and the issue was discussed on NewsTalkZB yesterday afternoon it ought to be making headlines everywhere.

Labour has been bulldozing Five Waters with no concern for democracy from the start but until now there was the knowledge that a change of government could easily repeal the legislation and replace it with something far, far better in proper consultation with the councils which own the assets.

Entrenching the clause has made that a bit harder and shown how little regard Labour and the Greens have for democracy.

Garrick Tremain says it all:


Disdain for democracy

27/11/2022

Three Waters was bad, Five Waters is worse and a sneaky addition has made it worse still:

The Government has been caught sneaking a rarely-used legal provision into the proposed Three Waters legislation which will make it harder for Parliament to overturn, National Justice Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith and Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts say.

This week, while Parliament sat under urgency pushing legislation through, Labour and the Greens added a provision that means once Three Waters becomes law, it would take 60 per cent of MPs to overturn it, instead of a simple majority which applies to almost every law passed, except for a few constitutional matters.

That is a very high threshold.

Applying it to non-constitutional matters sets a very dangerous precedent that any future government could follow.

“Entrenched provisions are used rarely in New Zealand for good reason and until now they have been reserved for core constitutional issues like parts of the Electoral Act,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Labour and the Greens have now colluded to entrench in law a contentious policy position, without any real debate and while the House was sitting under urgency.

“Entrenched provisions in law should be reserved for matters largely above politics, and when used they should be subject to careful scrutiny and debate. The exact opposite has happened in this case.

“As constitutional lawyer Dr Dean Knight has said, “this is unusual and doesn’t sit well with our current constitutional traditions… it’s regrettable this significant constitutional development only came to light in committee of the whole stage and was not subject to scrutiny and public submission”.

“The passing of this SOP sets a very dangerous precedent. If a National Government had passed a provision like this over, say, for example, the three strikes sentencing regime, Labour and the Greens would be outraged,” Mr Goldsmith says.

Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts said Labour has used the veil of urgency to ram through an unconstitutional clause to block future changes to a broken bill, which National will repeal and replace.

“Labour and the Greens need to immediately walk this move back. When the House resumes in December, National will move to recommit the Water Services Entities Bill back to the committee of the Whole House Stage to excise this unconstitutional and undemocratic clause. We urge the government to vote for it and for cool heads to prevail.”

The headline to this media release calls it skulduggery.

It is also constitutionally dodgy.

It’s a very dangerous game that could be played by future governments.

Three Five Waters has steamrolled over democracy and democratic conventions from the start.

From the lies in the advertisements, through reversing the promise that councils wouldn’t be compelled to be part of the scheme and not even looking at  tens of thousands of submissions to this.

Labour has the numbers to push the legislation through and given its disregard for even the most reasonable attempts to dilute the damage it’s inflicting with this legislation, it will.

The only way to undo the damage and get a government with far higher regard for democracy is to vote this lot out next year.


Five Waters – where’s the outrage?

21/11/2022

It started with Three Waters but Graham Adams points out it’s it’s now Five Waters :

Thomas Cranmer notes it’s goes even further to Five Waters and a park:

Mike Hosking calls it a stinker of a policy:

Given all this, Bruce Cotterill is right to ask where is the outrage?

. . . Even without knowing the contents of the revised bill, haste is something we should be concerned about. It’s a pace of activity that is usually reserved for matters that the Government wants dealt with immediately; either because it is vital for the national interest or it is so unpalatable that they want to shut down the debate as quickly as possible. It would seem that the latter was their only justification. 

I’m told by a highly regarded former MP that for a matter of this nature, it’s a pace that is unusually rushed, and in the context of Parliament’s rules, technically inappropriate.

Not that we can do too much about that. Let’s face it, this Government has been in an “inappropriate” hurry on Three Waters from the start. Despite the changes not yet being signed into law, they have already recruited a heap of people and leased high-quality and expensive office space in Auckland at least and possibly elsewhere. Every step has been action ahead of the democratic process. . . 

They process has been appalling. From the advertisements telling us how bad our water was, when it wasn’t, saying it would be voluntary for councils to opt in, when it isn’t, saying they’d listen, when they didn’t to the truncated select committee process and Friday’s late afternoon document dump with the addition of two more waters plus parks and reserves.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the Three Waters legislation is about the management of freshwater, wastewater and stormwater. However, as result of the select committee’s most recent rewrite, it’s no longer just about Three Waters. You see, they’ve added a couple of new categories. Hydro, the water that flows through New Zealand’s world class and sustainable electricity system is one.

Oh, and they also added another category. Coastal. That’s right folks, the seabed and foreshore is back in play. This time, with the highly controversial and undemocratic co-governance proposals locked in.

And finally, just for good measure, they’ve also seen fit to include, at the eleventh hour, an option to include parks and reserves. Parks and reserves currently owned and operated by the ratepayers through the councils that represent them.

New Zealanders should be upset or even angry. We’re not though. We either don’t know about the changes being proposed, don’t understand what’s going on, or don’t care. I deeply suspect that, if Kiwis understood what was happening we would care very much. . . 

A lot of people I’ve talked to do know what’s happening but don’t know what to do about it when the government is determined to steamroller the legislation through.

We should be ropable that this is happening. And we should be stomping mad that neither of our top-rating TV news channels ran the story of the bill’s passing on their 6pm bulletins on Thursday evening. What the hell is going on here NZ?

This is major constitutional reform, involving the deliberate confiscation of assets from ratepayers and the councils that represent them, to a government and a policy that will be controlled by iwi-based or tribal interests. The consultation process around it has been minimal and most of us would say what little consultation has occurred has been ignored.

The French would have people marching in the streets and tractors blocking the freeways if this was occurring in their country. Not us. Let’s just sit back and let it happen! . . .

If a policy this bad was being promoted by a National-led government the left would be marching in the streets.

Why’s no-one up in arms now? Labour supporters don’t usually march against their own, and people on the right are much less likely to protest.

Despite not mentioning it during the 2020 election campaign, the new majority Labour government hit the ground running immediately after the election and launched a plan that would see the Government taking control of the infrastructure and services that deliver all three water assets – drinking water, wastewater and stormwater.

Despite the fact that, in most parts of the country, our fresh water is among the best in the world, they used a single event in Havelock North a few years ago as an example of what could occur if reform didn’t happen quickly.

Has anyone seen any data showing that our water is anywhere near as bas as the government is trying to make us think it is?

Has the government bothered to look at any other answers to the problems that exist in some areas?

Has anyone got any idea how much we’ll be paying for our water once they impose this overly-bureaucratic system on us?

Their plan was accompanied by a very expensive and highly misleading advertising campaign telling us that we would have brown sludge coming out of the taps unless the Government took control of the water assets from the councils.

Organisations like The Taxpayers’ Union and Democracy NZ have funded court action which asserts that the minister and her government have acted illegally. That court action is ongoing. Farmers and business owners have banners out the length of the country asking the powers that be to “Stop 3 Waters”.

And yet, despite ever-increasing opposition from a wide cross-section of New Zealanders, the Government has pressed on with its plans. Centralisation of water assets, they say, will occur, just like the already unsuccessful centralisation efforts in Health and Tertiary Education.

Most of us don’t have daily interactions with the health and tertiary education systems. All but a very few of us depend on the safe delivery of fresh water and proper dispersal of waste water many times, every day.

As a result, we have the latest steps, as outlined above, that will see Three Waters expanded to Five Waters and maybe even a few Parks.

So we see, finally, after all this time, what Three Waters has been about all along. It’s not about brown sludge coming out of your taps. In fact, it’s not about water at all. It’s about an asset grab of not only the water assets we thought, but also for a slice of our hydro schemes and for the highly contentious foreshore and seabed. By the time the third and final reading comes around, you can bet that the country’s parkland will no longer be an option. It will be included.

Perhaps the inclusion of the foreshore and the parkland will get us animated and angry.

We should be staggered that this legislation, delivering major constitutional change, is sleepwalking its way through Parliament via an aggressive majority government, while it appears that there is nothing that opposition politicians can do about it.

You see, unless New Zealanders do something, I’m guessing that the third and final reading will go much like the second reading this week. A few opposition politicians putting up a brave fight against the tyrannical majority before quietly leaving the stage defeated and deflated.

By the time next year’s election campaign is run, Three Waters final reading will have been completed and this most extraordinary and controversial series of changes will have become law. The assets will be operated by undemocratic Government-appointed boards, and the councils that paid for them will be left out of pocket, and we, the people, will be one step closer to losing our collective democratic voice. Despite overwhelming opposition, Three Waters will be law.

It would be tempting to throw in the towel. And yet, despite everything that has happened, Three Waters should continue to be a central election issue in 2023. Those parties currently in opposition must run a campaign to totally repeal this legislation and if elected they must do so promptly.

And we may as well brace ourselves for it now. Taking things away from people is always much harder than giving them out. Repealing this law will be messy and disruptive and difficult. But it must happen.

That’s why we have elections. When governments become this corrupt, they and the laws they created must go.

National and Act have both been very clear they will repeal the Three (now Five) Waters legislation and replace it with a better system in proper consultation with the councils that own the infrastructure.

If we don’t want this dreadful, racist policy we have to vote Labour out and the only way to do that is to vote for a National-led government.

Doing that means voting for National, which is my preference, or Act.

Any other vote will not guarantee a change of government or will be a wasted vote.


Making bad worse

14/11/2022

The government is still not listening on Three Waters:

Despite overwhelming opposition to its Three Waters reforms, the Government has failed to use the opportunity to listen and make material changes to the Bill, National’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts says.

“The Government has not made any significant changes to improve its broken Three Waters model.

“The Bill that has come back to Select Committee today shows Labour still isn’t listening.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta gave assurances that they would consider the alternative Three Waters model proposed by the Auckland, Christchurch and Waimakariri mayors.

“I lodged a motion in select committee last week to extend our deliberations in order to properly consider the mayors’ proposal, but Labour MPs used their majority to block the motion – ensuring the Bill would be sent back to the House without adequately considering the new proposal.

“It shows that Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta’s promises of consideration and open dialogue with mayors about their alternatives are just talk. Labour has no intention of making any real changes to their reforms.

“The Government is intent on ploughing ahead with their highly-centralised, co-governed mega-entities, no matter how strong the public opposition is. Labour wants this Bill passed and out of the public eye as soon as possible.

“National would work with communities to develop solutions that work for them, instead of going from the top down. We will repeal Labour’s Three Waters disaster.”

This is another very good reason to vote for a National-led government next year.

The Taxpayers’ Union says the government is gaslighting us:

Nanaia Mahuta is gaslighting the more than 80,000 New Zealanders who took the time and effort to submit on her flawed Three Waters Bill, which will take community-owned water assets from councils and put them into the control of unaccountable and expensive entities.

Mahuta “thank[ed] the committee for its careful consideration of more than 80,000 submissions” and claims that “extensive changes have been proposed” in a statement published on the Beehive website and sent to media.

“The dishonesty of Ms Mahuta knows no bounds” says Taxpayers’ Union co-founder Jordan Williams. “This is gaslighting at its finest.”

“Far from ‘carefully listening’ to submitters, the Government majority on the Committee specifically blocked officials from reading, reviewing, and summarising the 68,661 submissions from our supporters.”

“First they made us print and deliver hard copy submissions – rather than accept by email – then they didn’t even bother to get officials to read or summarise them. The Committee even turned down our offer to use software to pull out unique points submitters made. In what world is that ‘listening’ to the public?”

I was one of the 68,661 who submitted using the TU’s template and I made sure that it wasn’t just a cut-and-paste-what-they-said. I took a lot of time to personalise my submission.

It was a waste of time for me and all those other submitters, and the TU staff who had to print and deliver hard copies. It was also a waste of paper when they weren’t even read.

“The number of submissions ranks this bill among the most submitted on in the history of our Parliament. But the Government majority cut short the time listening to submitters – travelling the country for just five days. As I told the Committee – it is pathetic that we can do better, getting out on the road for more than a month on a roadshow tour to listen to New Zealander’s concerns.”

Ms Mahuta also claims that ‘extensive changes have been proposed’. What nonsense. Rather than promote democratic accountability, the proposed changes actually double down. Te Mana o te Wai and Te Mana o te Wai statements will be even more powerful and tie the hands of the half of the ‘Regional Representative Groups’ who are accountable to elected councils. The Government has ‘listened’ to councils, so more council representatives can sit on the ‘Regional Representative Groups’ – but the 50/50 requirement for unaccountable iwi appointments remains the same.”

“One of the changes is for councils to have annual ‘shareholder meetings’. That in and of itself is dishonest misrepresentation – councils still won’t have any rights of ‘shareholders’ or ownership. There will be absolutely nothing to talk about, and certainly no control exercised.”

“We are glad to see the Green Party’s minority report making many of the same points as the Taxpayers’ Union. They say the councils should have the equivalent level of control to a council-controlled organisation, akin to WaterCare, and the C4LD proposal supported by the Taxpayers’ Union.”

“Ultimately, Three Waters will cost ratepayers with higher water costs, more bureaucracy, no local control, and less democracy. It needs to be stopped.”

The government keeps telling us rates will go up if Three Waters doesn’t go ahead. They conveniently ignore the extra costs that we’ll all pay for water because of the layers of bureaucracy they’re inflicting on us.

The only way to stop it is to vote out this government which is not only planning to confiscate water assets, it might also take over local parks and reserves:

Labour’s Three Waters reforms are now taking control of much more than local water assets, with the Government now eyeing up community parks and reserves, National’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts says.

“Provisions in the Water Service Entities Bill suggest that ownership of some community parks and reserves that link to the stormwater system, like Waitangi Park in Wellington, will be taken out of the hands of the local council and given to the mega water entities.

“These public spaces are crucial parts of community life. It’s where kids play rugby and soccer, families have picnics, and dog owners take their pets for a run-around.

Their control and management should be with communities, not co-governed and within unaccountable mega entities.

“The lack of clarity around what assets will and won’t be confiscated from community control is just another example of the incompetence of these broken reforms and how Labour can’t be trusted.

“National is calling on the Local Government Minister to rule out transferring any local parks and reserves to these new mega entities as part of its Three Waters reforms.”

It takes a special level of ignorance and arrogance to make a deeply unpopular, wastefully expensive and undemocratic proposal even worse, but that’s what the government is doing.

 

 


Squandering borrowed money

04/11/2022

How can the government justify this?

The Government has tapped some $70m of Covid Response and Recovery money to bolster the dwindling coffers of its Three Waters Reform Programme, including the purchase of ongoing policy and communications work, much of it done by consultants.

Cabinet redirected the unspent Covid-related funds in April this year, Cabinet documents show, despite an earlier promise by Finance Minister Grant Robertson to focus the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) funds specifically on meeting the direct costs of responding to Covid-19 and the economic recovery from it. . . 

Despite the CRRF’s Covid specificity, it has been used to cover a wide range of unrelated expenses including free school lunches and cameras on fishing boats. . . 

However in April this year, some $84.7m of the original Covid fund envelope remained unallocated and unspent.

Of that, Cabinet agreed to drawdown and redirect $72.3m to help cover considerable unfunded DIA Three Waters work including $21m for policy and communications work; $14.6m to increase iwi/Māori understanding of the changes and their capacity to contribute to them and $32.8m to cover councils’ costs in working with the “transition unit”, situated within DIA, to hand their assets over to create the proposed four new Water Services Entities. . . 

Spending $14.6m to increase iwi/Maori understanding? What is it that they need to understand that the rest of us don’t? How on earth could it cost so much? And who did the work? Let us hope it was no-one related to a minister.

The Covid fund was supposed to do what its name suggests – assist with the response to and recovery from the pandemic.

Using it for anything else is bad enough, that so much has been spent on propaganda to persuade people to support Three Waters makes it worse:

The Government’s decision to quietly raid the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund to gussy up its controversial Three Waters plan was sneaky and wasteful, National’s Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Today the New Zealand Herald revealed that in April this year Cabinet explicitly changed the rules for the Covid fund so that it could spend $70 million more on Three Waters costs, including millions on yet more public relations and policy advice from private contractors.

“The Government kept this move under wraps – a decision that shows contempt for taxpayers’ right to know how their money is being spent.

“This is a shocker. Finance Minister Grant Robertson is back to his old trick of using the Covid fund as a slush fund for the sneaky little projects he wants to keep off the books.

“Cabinet must have been desperate to throw more taxpayer funds at its doomed Three Waters pet project, but knew the wasteful spending wouldn’t survive normal public scrutiny. So, it came up with a dodgy work-around instead.

“The arrogance of the move is breath-taking, and makes a mockery of both the Budget process and the Public Finance Act.

“Prior to the Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Party coming to office, $70 million was considered a lot of money. Now, Labour throws it around like confetti.

“This misuse of Covid money was essentially a Hail Mary pass aimed at getting a doomed project over the line.

“The Office of the Auditor-General, which in May stated that there needed to be more transparency and reporting around the Covid fund, will no doubt be interested in the latest revelations.

“Grant Robertson must apologise for this sneaky use of taxpayer funding and commit to treating taxpayer funds with more respect in future.”

Squandering money on projects unrelated to the purpose for which it was originally intended is at the very least imprudent.

That the money is borrowed and will have to be repaid with interest makes it worse.

Apropos of squandering borrowed money, former Speaker Trevor Mallard is off to a diplomatic post in Ireland, leaving a $55,000 legal bill in his wake.

. . . This bill tops the $330,000 in legal fees taxpayers also had to cough up after Mallard falsely accused a Parliamentary staff member of rape. . . 

Has any other Speaker been so poor in the role and cost the country so much?


Three Waters gets worse

29/09/2022

Loss of local control, increased bureaucracy and higher costs are all good reasons to oppose the government’s Three Waters plans.

Thomas Cranmer has found another:

Deep within the Water Services Entities Bill is a mechanism that will have significant influence at the operating level of the structure – it is a mechanism that is only available to mana whenua. . . 

That mechanism is Te Mana o te Wai aspirations which the government has failed to explain clearly.

In truth, the Government cannot fully provide this explanation because to do so would call into question their assurances around co-governance and would highlight an inherent contradiction in the legislation. . .

Appropriately, given their controversial nature, the Te Mana o te Wai mechanism lies deep in the Water Services Entities Bill —in Subpart 3 of Part 4 of the Bill to be precise. Section 140 of the Bill simply states that “mana whenua whose rohe or takiwā includes a freshwater body in the service area of a water services entity may provide the entity with a Te Mana o te Wai statement for water services”. They can be provided by one or more iwi and can be reviewed and replaced by those iwi at any time. Once received, the board of the relevant water services entity has an obligation to engage with mana whenua and prepare a plan that sets out how it intends to give effect to that Te Mana o te Wai statement. And that is where it ends. The Bill is silent on what can (and cannot) be included in the statements and provides no guidance as to the outcomes that the statements are intended to achieve. In short, there are no limits to the scope of Te Mana o te Wai statements.

That sounds awfully like Treaty principals which are often used in spite of being difficult, if not impossible , to define.

The relevant water entity board must simply give effect to those statements “to the extent that it applies to the entity’s duties, functions, and powers”.

Their importance in the governance structure of Three Waters cannot be overstated. . . 

Moreover, the Bill sets out 6 objectives for the water services entities in section 11 and a further 7 ‘operating principles’ in section 13 – one of which is “to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai”. The principles are not set out in any order of priority and there is no mechanism for determining how to resolve any conflict that will inevitably arise between those principles. Requiring the boards of the water service entities to undertake a massive nationwide infrastructure upgrade whilst also satisfying the requirements of Te Mana o te Wai statements alongside their other statutory obligations seems to be an impossible task. However these reforms are so ideological in nature that issues of practicality cannot be allowed to dilute their potency.

Indeed Mahuta acknowledged the same in her June 2021 Cabinet paper:

“The tensions have been difficult to navigate … Notwithstanding the complexity, I consider that my reforms of the three waters system provide the opportunity for a step change in the way iwi/Maori rights and interests are recognised throughout the system.”

Few others outside Government or leadership of Maoridom have recognised the significance of the Te Mana o te Wai mechanism. One of the first to do so was the Mayor of Kaipara, Dr Jason Smith who has issued a number of warnings – all of which have been roundly ignored by the media. It’s no coincidence that Dr Smith was a member of the Government’s Independent Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of the Three Waters entities because you really need to be that close to the reforms to understand the details and nuance.

Certainly, no-one can appreciate the import of Te Mana o te Wai statements by reading the Bill alone which explains why they have failed to register on the public’s radar but they may do well to heed the warning given by Quintus Rufus Curtius in his history of Alexander the Great – altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi (the deepest rivers flow with least sound).

It’s not just people who aren’t Maori who will be excluded, Maori who don’t have an iwi or are disconnected from theirs will be too.

If you don’t think this is worrying, consider this:

A 91.75% majority vote to change Playcentre Aotearoa’s constitution has been overruled by some of the organisation’s roopu (governance bodies), Playcentre insiders have revealed.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said the nationwide vote on Saturday morning was designed to change the parent-led child care education organisation’s constitution to a “trust deed” so — among other issues —  more of the funding it received would go to local playcentres, rather than “98%” going to the administrative body, which operates a bulk-funding model.

In the vote, parents and employees at 366 of 400 playcentres voted yes in favour of change.

However, before any change could come into effect, a separate vote from  the organisation’s roopu needed to be considered.

The organisation’s six roopu are “governance bodies within Playcentre Aotearoa, consisting of whanau Maori, to give whanau Maori an equitable voice in Playcentre governance”, which require at least five of the six roopu to agree in order to achieve a consensus.

Four roopu voted in favour and two against, but  the two-thirds  majority was not enough to carry the change. . . 

If two people can contravene the will of 370 others at Playcentre, what hope is there of local control over water when co-governance and Te Mana o te Wai will be imposed on us if Three Waters becomes law?


75% of mayoral candidates opposed to Three Waters

21/09/2022

A super majority of mayoral candidates oppose Three Waters:

A survey of all 291 mayoral candidates reveals there’s little love for the government’s Three Waters reforms.

The ‘2022 Local Democracy Reporting mayoral candidate survey’ also shows that when it comes to this year’s rates rises, those standing in the cities are more unhappy about them than those in the provinces.

Of all the questions asked in the survey, including on climate change, Māori wards and rates, the one on Three Waters elicited the most clear cut response.

Asked if the reforms were the best way to achieve the investment that was sorely needed in water infrastructure in many regions, 75.3 percent said they were not. 

Comments attached to answers were often in caps or accompanied by exclamation marks, including this one from Whakatāne mayoral hopeful Lesley Immink.

“No – absolutely not! I do not have confidence in either the model, delivery of improved water infrastructure services or better value for money,” she said.

The opposition was even more stark comparing North Island to South Island candidates, with just two out of the 58 Mainland candidates (3.4 percent) backing the reforms. . . 

How can the government keep forcing its plan for Three Waters in the face of such opposition?

There is no doubt that there are issues with three waters but the government’s plan is not the right solution to problems which differ from council to council and which won’t be solved by increased bureaucracy and consequent costs.

Central government should set the standards, and audit to ensure they’re met but leave local councils to sort out solutions which work for them.

The government’s process has been undemocratic from the start and made worse by the committee’s refusal to consider the tens of thousands of submissions made through the Taxpayers’ Union.

The  Union was one of the small percentage of submitters permitted to make a verbal submission to the the select committee:


Two masters or forked tongues?

14/09/2022

One of the many blessings of living in the provinces is that people standing for our councils do so as individuals, not on party tickets.

That doesn’t mean councillors aren’t politically aligned but it does mean their loyalty, and stance on issues, isn’t dictated by a party.

The dangers of that are clear to see in Rotorua where the mayor, and former Labour MP, Steve Chadwick, doesn’t appear to have done all she could while the government has  fueled the housing crisis in the city.

Chris Milne writes of another example in  a tale of two cities:

A great mystery of 2022 is how it came to be that the Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt Mayors formed polar opposite views on Three Waters.

The two cities share the same water collection and treatment system, the same water management (Wellington Water), occupy the same valley and share the same cost structures.

Three public opinion polls in the two cities have revealed strong resident opposition to the Labour Government’s centralisation of water management, including 50% iwi control through co-governance.

So how is it that, despite public opposition in both cities, Mayor Wayne Guppy of Upper Hutt is opposed but Mayor Campbell Barry is not?

The answer is pretty straight-forward. In 2019 Cr Campbell Barry campaigned for the Hutt City mayoralty under a Labour ticket. What the public were never told is that the Labour Party exacts a high price from candidates who use their trademark. . . 

That price is a pledge to adhere to and implement Labour policy, irrespective of the wishes of the residents and ratepayers they are supposed to serve.

Labour’s constitution at the last council is quite clear on what is demanded of candidates:

R95: Any person accepting nomination as a Party candidate shall sign a pledge ….

R95(e): I will faithfully observe the Constitution and Policy of the Party and the policy of the party for the [Lower Hutt] district.

R95(f): If elected, I will vote … in accordance with the decisions [of the Labour ticket members].

And the following rule dictates that Labour candidates will support each other no matter what:

R95(c): I will wholeheartedly support the duly selected candidates of the Party in the [Lower Hutt] district.

And do note that the first Objective (R3) of the Labour Party is “to elect [candidates] for the purpose of giving effect to Party policy and principles”. Rule 152 says that “The Policy Platform is binding on … all Labour Party members elected to public office who describe their affiliation as “Labour” or “Labour Party” on the ballot. . . 

How can people who make this pledge also represent their communities as described in  Local Government New Zealand’s candidate’s guide (p8):

As an elected representative you are required to:
• represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers . . .

What happens when the interests of residents and ratepayers are not best served by Labour Party policy (p17)?

This begs the question: how can candidates keep the pledge they make to the Labour Party and the oath they are required to make when they are sworn in as councillors?

“I declare that I will faithfully and impartially, and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of (region, district, community) the powers, authorities and duties vested in or imposed upon, me as (mayor, chairperson or member) of the (local authority, local board, community board) by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 or any other Act.”

No-one can serve two masters which begs another two question: is it legal to require candidates to make, and abide by, the pledge to the party when that doesn’t always mean they will be abiding by their oath to represent the interests of residents and ratepayers and are those who make the pledge as candidates then speaking with forked tongues when they take the oath as councillors?


Meeting the candidates

12/09/2022

Why do people standing for public office not have some coaching in public speaking?

It was a question I often asked myself when working as a journalist and I asked it again on Wednesday at the Rotary Club of Oamaru’s Meet the Candidates forum.

The event was held to give the public a chance to listen to and question candidates for the Waitaki District Council and the Oamaru Licensing Trust.

Some of the candidates did themselves no favours by not either not speaking loudly enough or not using the microphone well enough to be heard clearly. Some too, didn’t understand the importance of making eye contact with the people they were addressing and some didn’t have much to say and didn’t say it well.

Two men are standing for mayor. The incumbent, Gary Kircher is being challenged by Paul Mutch.  I was planning to vote for Gary before I heard either of them speak and Paul’s support for the government’s Three Waters plan confirmed that.

None of the council candidates support the government’s Three Waters Plan. Most gave a straight no when asked if they did, a few said not in the current form. If applause form the audience can be relied on, most agreed with the opposition to the plan.

There was also unanimity from the candidates, and support from the audience, on the need for local solutions to local issues, summed up by one of the candidates, sitting councillor Jim Hopkins, who said the council is there to serve Waitaki, not Wellington.

Most of the audience were pensioners, most of the candidates were quite a bit younger.

Thirteen people are standing for six seats in the Oamaru ward and, judging from what I knew before the meeting and what they said at the meeting, the town is spoilt for choice.

I don’t get a vote in town but do have the choice of four candidates for two positions in the Corriedale ward.

The number of candidates standing, and the calibre of most, is good for democracy, and if the best get in will be good for the council and the District. But democracy not only needs a range of candidates, it needs people to vote and local body elections don’t usually get as much voter participation as they should.

Business South is holding a meet and greet with candidates next Tuesday, you can register for that here.

You can read the candidate profiles here.

P.S. – Apropos of today’s announcement on loosening Covid-19 restrictions, very, very few people at the meeting were wearing masks. Whatever the government decides, people have already made their own choices and the social licence for widespread use of masks has ended.


Rural round-up

05/09/2022

Feds call for halt to Three Waters – Jessica Marshall:

Federated Farmers has called for the controversial Three Waters Reform to be stopped before the legislation bill reaches its second reading.

In a submission to a parliamentary select committee, Federated Farmers expressed concerns about the Water Services Entities (WSE) Bill. If passed, the bill would establish four water services entities in place of more than 70 local authorities that manage the country’s water supplies, storm and waste water management systems.

Federated Farmers argues that the bill should not proceed to a second reading in Parliament.

“Many farmers are either self-suppliers or their water is supplied by private water schemes, meaning they should not be directly affected by the move to WSEs,” it says. . . 

Pastoral farming gets a lift from $26m for regenerative agriculture research but should scientists start by defining it? – Point of Order:

In   a  week  when the Ardern   government  achieved  one of the  biggest  stumbles of  the  modern  era,  with  its backdown over the  KiwiSaver  GST  move,  it  did record  one  positive  outcome   with  a  $26m  research  programme to prove to the world why New Zealand food and fibre should be always the number one choice.

That was the drum Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor   was  beating,  showing  again  he  is  one  of  the  few  Cabinet  Ministers  who  gets  a  pass mark  in his  field.

In  an era  when  climate  change warriors are  casting  doubt  on  New Zealand’s  farming industries, and  calling for the nation’s dairy herd to be culled, O’Connor  says he wants  to  enable farmers to make informed decisions on the financial and environmental benefits of adopting regenerative farming practices.

He said:

“The Government is backing a new $26.1m programme to undertake the most comprehensive study of pastoral farming in New Zealand.” . . . 

Afforestation still a concern :

Afforestation continues to have a negative impact on rural communities, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

The statement comes after the release of the B+LNZ Stock Number Survey which showed farmers adapting to challenging circumstances including drought, processing delays and Covid-19.

The report, published this week, also highlights the extent of farmland being converted to forestry.

B+LNZ Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt says that while the increase in farm sales into forestry is yet to lead to a significant reduction in stock numbers, it can be expected to soon. . . 

We’re feeling a bit down on the farm – Steve Wyn-Harris:

Red tape and weird weather are taking their toll on farmers’ spirits but baby boomer farmers have seen tough times before.

I started writing this column back in 1995 so it has spanned 27 years, which is a fair bit of my nearly 40-year farming career – and life, for that matter.

The 1990s were still tough farming years after the change and turmoil, not to mention low returns, of the late 1980s.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the pressure started coming off and instead of just fighting for financial survival here we started making progress with the improved returns. . . 

Deer industry on mission to challenge Russia’s edge in velvet exports :

Representatives from New Zealand’s deer industry are travelling to South Korea this month in a bid to boost velvet sales. 

South Korea is New Zealand’s biggest market for the product, consuming over half of what is produced, but exporters have to compete with well-established Russian products.

The markets manager at Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), Rhys Griffiths, said Russian exporters have an established stronghold in velvet imports into South Korea, where velvet is used in health products like herbal supplements and teas.

“When we look at the traditional medicine market where the Russians have historically dominated, if we kind of segment that out even further, we can look at the older Oriental medicine doctors and the older patients, they’re more attuned to Russian velvet,” he said. . . 

WA’s Wheatbelt Stocky Jarrad Hubbard aims to change negative perceptions of farming though social media – Olivia Di Iorio:

Jarrad Hubbard, a livestock agent in Western Australia, wants to shine a light on the agricultural industry through social media.

The self-proclaimed Wheatbelt Stocky’s Instagram page is full of images and videos of sheep and cattle across regional WA.

He says he shares insights into his life as a livestock agent in the hope of showing that those in the industry “take a lot of care and put a lot of love” into what they do.

In his first post in early 2019, Mr Hubbard wrote, “Whether you are involved or even opposed, I look forward to your input”. . . 

 


Govt U-turns on new tax

31/08/2022

NewsTalkZB has just announced breaking news: the government has done a u-turn on its decision to impose GST on KiwiSaver management fees.

Could Three Waters be next?


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