If some more is good . . .

25/11/2020

The Helen Clark Foundation and Institute for Economic Research are calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

. . . Institute deputy chief executive Todd Krieble told Mike Hosking the industry needs a reset.

“Now’s the time for change because it’s cheap to borrow and we can’t continue to rely on on low wage migrant workers to fuel the economy.”

Krieble says employers need to be thinking of how to retain staff and improve overall performance.

He says investing in people will provide more output and increased efficiency.

It was Labour policy to increase the minimum wage faster. This report goes further, wanting it to be raised to the living wage.

. . . Krieble said lifting the minimum wage to the level of the living wage of $22.10 would boost productivity.

Why stop there? If some more pay is good wouldn’t much more be better?

“It would encourage investment from employers in skills, either technical skills or soft skills, and it would help employees to hang around.” . . .

Not necessarily, especially now which is not the time to be adding costs to businesses:

A sharp boost to the minimum wage would see fewer jobs created as businesses struggle under a tidal wave of government-imposed costs, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

The Helen Clark Foundation has today called for wealth to be ‘pre-distributed’ through a sharp increase of the minimum wage to boost productivity.

“Sadly this will have the opposite effect. It will be especially hard on small businesses still struggling from debt taken on during the Covid-19 lockdowns,” Mr McClay says.

“Businesses need policies that will help them grow the economy and create jobs, not greater costs that will slow the job market.”

MBIE forecasted that 6500 jobs would be lost when the minimum wage was last increased. As employment costs increase, businesses find it hard to afford to replace workers who leave. This in turn slows job creation – a lagging indicator for unemployment.

The way to help businesses pay people more is through better rules, less red tape and lower costs. This in turn leads to job creation and wage growth,” Mr McClay says.

“The Government is proposing to increase the minimum wage quickly, double sick leave, impose another public holiday and reintroduce 1970s-style collective bargaining at a cost or more than $2.8b per year on Kiwi businesses at a time when they can least afford it.

“Now is the time for the Government to reduce costs on businesses and make it easier for them to create jobs, not make it harder for them to pay their bills.”

Businesses expect modest increases in the minimum wage but steep rises are counter-productive.

They are  much more likely to lead to investment in technology which reduces the need for people rather than in their staff and to make it much harder for people who are younger, unskilled, inexperienced or with any other disadvantage to find work.


Will supermarket investigation look at govt role?

18/11/2020

Did the last government’s investigation into petrol prices achieve anything? Will this government’s investigation into supermarket prices achieve anything?:

Supermarkets will be subjected to a year-long “market study” by the Commerce Commission to see if they are offering consumers fair prices and their suppliers a fair deal.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark announced the study into the $21 billion groceries industry would get under way this week, making good on a promise in Labour’s election manifesto.

New Zealand has only two big supermarket chain owners: Countdown, and Foodstuffs which owns the New World and Pak ’n Save brands.

“Groceries are one of our most regular expenses, so we want to make sure pricing is fair,” Clark said. . .

On the subject of fair, will the review look at the government’s in role in adding costs?

The Commerce Commission inquiry into supermarkets must look at the Government’s role in price increases, National’s Commerce and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“During the lockdown the Government refused to allow local butchers or fruit and vege shops to open, effectively handing a duopoly to large supermarket chains.

Worse they didn’t learn from the mistake they made during the national lockdown and allow these businesses to operate safely during the Auckland lockdown.

Through its term the Government has continued to add more costs onto businesses through fuel tax increases and sharp increases to the minimum wage. It has now said it will hike costs on businesses by doubling sick leave, imposing 1970s-style employment laws and adding another public holiday at a cost to Kiwi businesses of $2.8b per year.

“These cost increases added by the Government will inevitably mean fewer jobs and higher prices for consumers.

“About $2.8 billion of extra costs are about to be served onto businesses and this will flow through to higher prices to consumers.

These costs imposed by the government will put upward pressure on the price of goods and services at every link in the food chain.

We support consumers paying a fair price for their groceries, and the Government has a role to play in this.

“Rather than waiting a year for the inquiry, the Government can do something to help consumers and every single business in New Zealand now by finding ways to reduce costs on them, not piling more on.

“Lowering costs to businesses will lead to greater affordability for consumers, that’s where the Government’s focus should be.”

The review probably won’t look at the anti-competitive behaviour enabled by the RMA, and the planning and building regulations which add delays and costs to new businesses setting up and existing ones expanding.

Then there’s GST. Our system is simple, and it should not be made more complex by making food exempt, but the tax does add 15% to every grocery bill.

However, there is one area over which the government has direct control which ought to change but it is one the review is unlikely to look at – the hardline environmental policies that add costs and reduce production.

If all the factors over which the government has control are going to be overlooked or ignored, regardless of what the review finds, just like the petrol price investigation, it will achieve nothing that makes a difference to prices.

 


Labour policies could add $2.8 billion costs to business

28/09/2020

Labour policies will add up to $2.8 billion in costs to businesses:

“Jacinda Ardern needs to front up and explain to New Zealanders how much Labour’s policies will hurt the New Zealand, economy National’s Economic Development spokesperson,” Todd McClay says.

“Labour have not shown New Zealand any costing of the economic impact from their recent policy announcements.

“The cost of their policies might not show up in the government’s books, but they will be paid by all New Zealanders – through fewer jobs, lower wage increases and a decline in economic growth.

“So far, Labour has committed to lifting the minimum wage; increasing sick leave requirements; creating another public holiday; and less flexible working agreements.

This won’t only add costs to businesses it will reduce productivity which is already too low.

“The total cost of Labour’s policies could be as much as $2.8 billion per year for New Zealand businesses. What does Labour say the costs are?

“Business NZ said an employee’s absence is currently estimated to cost about $1000 per employee, or $1.8 billion across the economy, will Labour’s policy on sick leave double this?

“Based on previous MBIE estimates of minimum wage increases, raising the minimum wage to $20 will likely cost the economy around $280 million per year.

“An additional public holiday could cost as much as $700 million in extra costs for businesses, based on average wages and the size of the New Zealand workforce.

“The solutions businesses need to grow New Zealand out of our current recession is help with paying the bills, not even higher bills due to Labour’s costly policies.

“New Zealand needs to know what the impact of these policies will be on our weak economy. These policies have consequences.

“Time for some answers.”

These added costs imposed on businesses show Labour is building a barrier to economic recovery:

With businesses failing and unemployment rapidly increasing, Labour’s plans are like throwing petrol on a bonfire, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Nearly 100,000 small businesses have had to borrow $1.6 billion from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) just to cover their cashflow under Labour.

“Grant Robertson thinks he can continue to pile costs on businesses while ignoring the real and disastrous impact. Repaying this debt will be even more difficult with Labour’s agenda to raise the cost of doing business.

“Labour’s announcements of a higher minimum wage, a new public holiday and an increased sick leave could cost the economy $2.8 billion per annum.

“These are not small costs that can be easily absorbed. They amount to over $1000 per employee.

“Despite prompting from National on Friday, Labour has been unable to make a case as to why these policies will be good for our weakened economy.

“Labour’s plans will also lead to higher power prices for businesses of over 30 per cent for industrial users.

“Labour’s idea that $5 billion to $10 billion could be spent on a pumped hydro scheme in Central Otago without raising power prices has been described by electricity company executives as ‘dreamland’.

“Labour need to front up with their assessment of the impact these policies are having on the economy.

“These higher costs will affect Kiwis through fewer jobs, lower pay rises and a smaller economy.

“National will create an environment where businesses can grow and prosper. We’re supporting businesses with $10,000 to hire new staff and provide modern, flexible working practices.

“We will work with businesses, not against them, to create more jobs and higher incomes for Kiwis and their families.”

Some commentators say there is little difference between National and Labour.

In some matters they are right, but not when it comes to the economy.

Labour plans to add costs and complexity which will make it more expensive and difficult to employ people and add other costs to business.

In stark contrast National plans to cut red tape and taxes. This will make it easier to employ people and for businesses to invest in themselves and grow.

National is focusing on what matters, Labour has lesser priorities:


National’s refreshed responsibilities

25/05/2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

Amy Adams, who had announced her retirement, is staying on with responsibility for Covid-19 Recovery.

Judith Collins:  Economic Development, Regional Development, is Shadow Attorney-General and takes on Pike River Re-entry.

Paul Goldsmith keeps Finance and has responsibility for the Earthquake Commission.

Gerry Brownlee: Foreign Affairs, Disarmament; GCSB; NZSIS and Shadow Leader of House.

Michael Woodhouse keeps Health, is  Deputy Shadow Leader of the House and Associate Finance

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

Scott Simpson:  Environment, Climate Change and Planning (RMA reform)

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

Shane Reti: Tertiary Skills and Employment,  Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Health

Melissa Lee: Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Data and Cybersecurity

Andrew Bayly:  Revenue, Commerce, State Owned Enterprises and Associate Finance

Alfred Ngaro: Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary, and Children and Disability Issues

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

Matt King: Regional Development (North Island), Associate Transport

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

Maureen Pugh: Consumer Affairs, Regional Development (South Island), West Coast Issues

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

At the time of the announcement SImon Bridges was considering his future, he nas subsequently announced he will stay on in parliament and contest the Tauranga seat again.


Cash spray BAU

02/12/2019

What does it say about a party when a keynote speech on infrastructure offers nothing more than funding for school maintenance?

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson have cancelled billions of dollars of infrastructure projects whilst dressing up business as usual school maintenance grants as infrastructure investment, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Kiwis deserve the roads, transport and education infrastructure that National was delivering, not spin from a weak and wasteful government that’s failing to deliver on its promises.

“Today’s education announcement is less than it’s wasted on 300 plus government working groups and committees.   

“This Labour-led Government’s poor economic policies have slowed New Zealand down and on its watch, New Zealand’s infrastructure plans are in disarray.

“Labour inherited a strong economy with GDP growth around four per cent. Latest ANZ and ASB forecasts predict a drop to two per cent at a cost of $1.7 billion in lost revenue each year.

“At the same time this Government has wasted billions on failing policies and isn’t delivering on the things that matter to hardworking Kiwi families.

“Our economy is slowing because of Labour’s failure to deliver. A complete stall in infrastructure spend and $400 million of business as usual school repairs and maintenance just won’t cut it.”

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams describes the announcement as  a lazy attempt to buy votes, rather than better educations:

“This announcement appears more targeted at parents’ votes, than fixing run down schools, and you only need look at which schools get what to figure that out.”

“What a lazy and pathetic policy. A brand new school gets the same dollop of cash as a school with buildings from the 1950s.  No school gets more than $400,000, but none less than $50,000. Ultimately that approach means those schools which desperately need redevelopment get less.”

“Instead of asking officials which schools need what, the Labour Party has cooked up an ‘every school gets cash’ policy for the PM’s big speech. This is the sort of stuff you’d expect from an unorganised opposition, not a Party in Government.”

It is because Labour was disorganised in opposition it delivers this sort of stuff in government.

“If this is indicative of Labour’s big spending plans, spraying taxpayer cash, instead of micro targeting so taxpayer money goes to where it is most needed, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars are going to go down the drain.”

If a government that inherited a very healthy economy has to borrow to fund maintenance it has its spending priorities wrong.

Borrowing for infrastructure investment when interest rates are so low isn’t wrong per se, but if the government is borrowing to spend on infrastructure it ought to be investing in new projects not on-going maintenance.

Maintenance is business as usual (BAU), it’s shouldn’t be the recipient of a cash spray, but then spraying cash is BAU for this government.


Nathan Guy to retire

30/07/2019

Former National Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy will retire from politics at next year’s election.

Mr Guy became an MP in 2005 and a Minister in 2009. He has held the Otaki seat since 2008 and will have served 15 years in Parliament by next year’s General Election.

“I have been extremely fortunate during my time in Parliament and am proud of the work I have done in my Otaki electorate as well as for New Zealand as a whole,” Mr Guy says.

“My number one priority has been to support the people of Kāpiti and Horowhenua, and it’s been a pleasure to have helped thousands of constituents with their wide-ranging issues. I’ve also enjoyed the interactions had with locals at weekend markets, special events, in the streets or on the side-line.

Mr Guy says highlights include winning the Otaki seat and being a Minister for nearly nine years.

He won the seat from Labour’s Darren Hughes.

“During this time I’ve worked with six Mayors, seen huge growth and development in the electorate and had wonderful staff supporting me at my offices in Paraparaumu and Levin.

He served as Minister of Primary Industries, Internal Affairs, Immigration, Veterans’ Affairs, Civil Defence and Racing in the John Key and Bill English-led National Governments, and has also been Associate Minister of Transport, Associate Primary Industries, Associate Justice, and Associate Economic Development.

“As Primary Industries Minister I am proud of my work leading the Government’s response to a blackmail 1080 threat to infant formula, that kept overseas markets open and ended in a successful prosecution

“I have, and will continue to be a strong supporter of rural communities, especially as Minister through adverse events like the dairy downturn, prolonged North Canterbury drought, earthquakes and floods. I advocated hard for water storage projects and helped secure funding for a variety of projects including Central Plains stages one and two.”

Mr Guy believes National can win the 2020 General Election because of the talented, hard-working group of MPs who are focussed on delivering policies that will make a difference to New Zealanders.

He has made the announcement now to give National time to select a new candidate that will continue to work hard to represent the people of Otaki.

“My family has been amazing in their support over the years, and it will be a big change especially for my children who have only ever known their dad as an MP.

“I’m excited about what the future may hold and want to thank the people of Horowhenua and Kāpiti for their support. I will always advocate for the region I’m so proud to call home.”

I have always found Nathan very approachable and there is no doubting his commitment to and advocacy for the primary sector.

The announcement says he’s retiring from politics, that’s not the same as retiring.

He is a farmer and will have plenty of other opportunities should he choose to pursue them.

National leader Simon Bridges has announced a minor reshuffle in the wake of Nathan’s announcement.

Nathan has been a champion for rural New Zealand. As a farmer and a businessman, he understood more than most what the sector needed and he delivered for them.

“Today I am announcing that his portfolios of Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Safety will be picked up by Todd Muller. He will also keep his Forestry portfolio. Todd is a hardworking and high performing MP who is deserving of a promotion. I have no doubt that Todd will hold this Government to account on behalf of rural New Zealand.

“The Climate Change portfolio will be picked up by Scott Simpson, which will tie in well with his work as our Environment spokesperson. Scott is passionate about the environment and leads our Bluegreens team. Scott will continue our pragmatic approach to climate and environmental issues.

“The Workplace Relations and Safety portfolio will go to Todd McClay, which will fit well with his work as our Economic Development spokesperson. With business confidence already at record lows, New Zealand businesses cannot afford this Government’s radical industrial law reforms.

“National is the strongest team in New Zealand politics. Today’s reshuffle shows that we are brimming with talent and have the best people to hold this shambolic Government to account.”

All three are well-suited to these portfolios.


Surpluses at risk

07/08/2018

Treasury is warning the government that forecast surpluses are at risk:

. . . It pointed out the latest set of indicators painted a mixed picture of the economy with wages continuing to grow strongly while retail spending weakened.

It said the slump in business sentiment, a cooling housing market and fears of a trade war could knock the economy and the tax take.

If that happened, the government might be forced to curb its spending plans, Treasury said.

The government keeps saying it’s business-friendly but its actions don’t match its words.

Damien Grant writes about the risk policies like the 10 days leave for victims of domestic pose for your business:

We, the business people of this land, are those who create wealth, build roads and dispense antibiotics at 3am. We are responsible for making the payroll, collecting the State’s revenue and satisfying the tyrannical demands of customers.

We are not responsible for solving this country’s problem with domestic violence. At least, we should not be. When we employ someone we are obliged, by law, to give them 10 paid public holidays in addition to 20 annual leave days and up to five sick days. On average, one day in eight, a Kiwi worker can have off on full pay.

Apparently this isn’t enough.

The Domestic Violence-Victims Protection Bill passed this week. Now an employer, who has the misfortune to employ someone impacted by domestic violence, must gift this person another 10 days paid leave.

Forever.

That’s like providing another whole year’s statutory holiday entitlement for any employee who qualifies.

It does not matter if the employee wasn’t the victim, so long as they were impacted by the violence. Nor does it matter if this crime happened decades before they began working for their current employer.

What employer would question someone’s claim to have been affected?

Once you can prove that you have been a victim of domestic violence you are, forever, entitled to be compensated by those whose only mistake was to offer you a job and you cannot contract out of this right. Which means some employers will quietly avoid employing staff they suspect will seek this new entitlement, limiting the employment options for victims of domestic violence. . . 

National was criticised for not supporting the legislation but it was right to be cautious:

When the bill first came up at Parliament it had a strong National Party backing, but following a select committee process in which amendments were made to reduce an employer’s say in the matter, the party got cold feet.

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that was mostly because of the impact it could have on small-to-medium sized businesses which, he said, could end up in arbitration or strained for time or finance.

“There’s often a second- or third-order effect, and we have to be careful that we understand what those effects may be. At the moment we feel this bill could have an adverse outcome so we’re being very cautious and very careful with it.” . . 

Domestic violence is a scourge but imposing extra costs and uncertainty on all businesses isn’t the solution, especially when, as Kerre McIvoer writes, it won’t help domestic abuse victims: 

I fail to see how this new provision for victims of abuse will save any lives whatsoever.

Every single victim of domestic abuse who has phoned me on talkback over the years has said they were so ashamed and embarrassed by their situation, they couldn’t bring themselves to let friends or family know what was going on behind closed doors. Particularly the men.

The notion of asking for help was anathema to them and abusers know that. Despite the fact that it’s the abusers who should be feeling shame, they are master manipulators.

So the concept of someone who has been knocked about, emotionally and physically, being able to find it within themselves to approach their boss and come clean about their domestic situation seems unlikely.

And it’s not just the financial burden for small- to medium-sized employers that’s most concerning – what about the health and safety ramifications?

If one of their employees tells them they are living with a violent partner then begs them not to tell anyone, and later that employee ends up dead, will the employer be held liable for not divulging that their staffer was at risk? . . 

I absolutely agree that our domestic violence stats are a source of shame and our violent homes are a breeding ground for future offenders. But I really don’t think Logie’s bill is the answer.

And while I don’t have a solution, I would suggest that others do. When Counties Manukau police attend a violent domestic situation, they give it a couple of days to allow all parties to cool off, then go into the home with trained counsellors and try to work out the root of the problem.

The children are asked their opinion – it’s a holistic, wrap-around approach to domestic abuse which gives the people involved the chance to save themselves and their family.

Putting money and energy into that sort of initiative makes a whole lot more sense to me than making businesses cough up 10 days extra leave.

Business is risky.

The more costs and uncertainty the government imposes on businesses, the more risky they become. The more risky businesses become, the less likely they are to invest, the less secure existing jobs become and the less likely new ones will be created.

Less business investment, fewer hours for existing employees and fewer new jobs for would-be workers all result in less tax paid, that means lower surpluses and that in turn constrains government’s ability to fund existing and new initiatives.


Rural round-up

04/07/2017

Rare birds flourish in Canterbury cows’ paddocks – Conan Young:

A colony of 300 critically endangered birds has found an unlikely place to nest – in the middle of a paddock full of dairy cows.

The discovery was made late last year – black billed gulls building their nests on the Canterbury farm and then successfully raising their chicks, oblivious to the cows grazing nearby and the odd shower from a pivot irrigator.

Ornithologists were amazed to see the birds nesting in an area they had not been seen in for three years.

Last year’s unusual discovery was revealed on Thursday at a seminar organised by Braid – a group dedicated to saving the South Island’s braided rivers and the creatures that live there. . .

Common pesticides can harm bees, but the jury is still out on a global ban – Phil Lester:

Some of the world’s most widely used pesticides can be harmful to bees, according to the first large-scale studies aimed at measuring the impact of compounds called neonicotinoids on bees’ health. But the effects vary widely between different compounds and different countries, suggesting that more regional research will be needed to clarify the exact scale of the problem.

Neonicotinoids, which are typically coated onto seeds before planting rather than being sprayed onto crop plants, were developed with the aim of harming only those animals that eat the plants. But they are also found in the pollen and nectar of treated plants, potentially affecting beneficial organisms like bees. . . 

South Devon cattle ticket to world – Sally Rae:

South Devon cattle have taken Allanton farmer Brian Thomson all over the world.

And what he has discovered is that the breed, which originates from the southwest of England, adapts to whatever environment it is farmed in.

Mr Thomson recently stepped down as the president of the World South Devon Association after a three-year term.

He has been to every triennial world conference since 2005, seeing the breed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States and South Africa. . . 

McClay announces FTA negotiations with Pacific Alliance:

Trade Minister Todd McClay has announced the launch of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru and says better market access and lower tariffs will be of real value to New Zealand exporters.

“This is a big win in the fight for better access for New Zealanders to important overseas markets. We’ve worked hard for trade talks with the Pacific Alliance over the last two years and today’s announcement will be welcome news for our exporters,” Mr McClay says. . . 

Fonterra Global Foodservice Takes Supreme ExportNZ Award:

Fonterra Global Foodservice has taken out the supreme award for the 2017 Air New Zealand Cargo ExportNZ Awards for Auckland and Waikato regions.

Judges were impressed with the $1.6 billion foodservice business (which is 80% exports) and growing at around 20% per annum, returning strong margins and true added value to the dairy industry and New Zealand. In tonight’s awards, it also won the Westpac Exporter of the Year (export revenue over $25 million) category. . . 

Supreme Award for Fonterra at 2017 ExportNZ Awards:

Winning the Supreme Award at the 2017 ExportNZ Awards for Auckland and Waikato is recognition the Co-operative’s product innovation is meeting changing customer expectations, says Fonterra Chairman John Wilson.

At an event in Auckland last night, ExportNZ Auckland and Waikato (divisions of the Employers and Manufacturers Association) gave their top award to Fonterra Foodservice after the Co-op earlier won the Westpac Exporter of the Year (total sales over $25 million) category. There were 25 finalists across seven categories of the awards, sponsored by Air New Zealand Cargo. . . 

Bayer Auckland/Northern Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 announced:

Congratulations to Tim Adams from Obsidian who became the Bayer Auckland/Northern Young Viticulturist of the Year for the second year in a row on Friday 30 June at Goldie Estate.

Congratulations also goes to Jake Dromgool from The Landing in Kerikeri who came second and to Nick Pett from Cable Bay who came third.

The Auckland/Northern region was added to the Young Viticulturist of the Year competition last year and now in its second year the competition has grown already with seven contestants taking part.  . . 


Cabinet changes

18/12/2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.


Rural round-up

03/04/2016

Study shows agri-foods big benefit to economy:

A new study has found the New Zealand agri-food sector contributes around one fifth of the country’s GDP.

The study by the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University aimed to measure the sector’s economic impact and to analyse how the sector could continue to grow to support the well-being of New Zealanders.

One of the authors, Professor Caroline Saunders said the study had exploded a myth about agriculture’s contribution to the economy. . .

Rural women juggle work and home – Kate Taylor:

The first meeting of the day for three Hawke’s Bay agri-business women is with each other as they wait for the school bus. It must count as a business meeting… they share each other’s business cards.

There’s a twinkle in the eyes of Ravensdown agri-manager Caroline Kirk, Kells Wool buyer Maureen Chaffey and Lean Meats/Atkins Ranch livestock manager Karen Atkins as they joke about multitasking.

But there’s no joking when they talk about the support of their parents or in-laws and their other half to do what they do.

The trio live down a five kilometre no-exit road in the farming district of Raukawa, south west of Hastings.  Every morning at 7.45am they drive to the school bus corner then drive out to work. They laugh about covering all the bases with farmers with their fertiliser, wool and meat. . . 

Hurunui Water Project gets $520,000 boost:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed new funding of $520,000 for the Hurunui Water Project centred around Hawarden in North Canterbury.

“A reliable source of water in this very dry part of the country has major potential to increase production, grow exports and create jobs,” says Mr Guy.

The funding comes from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Irrigation Acceleration Fund and will help refine the scheme layout and scope the comprehensive work programme. This will help them deliver on Stage 1 in which 10,000-15,000 hectares will be irrigated.

“Once complete the full scheme has the potential to irrigate 35,000 hectares of land. Around 70% of that land will be used for sheep and beef production, with the other 30% being for arable, dairy and other uses.” . . 

Fitch sees milk price recovery beyond 2016 – Fiona Rotherham:

Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings said continued growth in European milk production to ramp up exports will further delay a recovery in global milk prices until beyond the end of this year.

The supply growth has been compounded by weak demand, mainly due to subdued Chinese demand and a Russian embargo on major Western dairy exporters.

Average prices on the GlobalDairyTrade auction fell by around 38 percent in 2014/15 and around 20 percent in the 2015/16 season to mid-March. . . 

Top Dairy Operation Wins Supreme Title In 2016 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

A well-managed dairy and forestry farm owned by Parininihi ki Waitotara (PKW) is the Supreme winner of the 2016 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The award was presented to PKW Farms LP, farm manager Matt Kelbrick and farm supervisor Roger Landers at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 31 (2016). The team behind PKW’s No.2 Farm in the Ohangai district also collected the Massey University Innovation Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

PKW is a Taranaki-based Maori Incorporation that owns 20,000ha of dairy land and a range of other business interests, including crayfishing, forestry and commercial property. . . 

Fish and seafood trade could double under TPP:

The benefits to New Zealand’s fishing and seafood industry will be very significant once all tariffs are eliminated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Trade Minister Todd McClay told a Nelson Chamber of Commerce audience that the region, the home of Australasia’s largest fishing port, that he believes the agreement will enable the industry to double its exports to one billion dollars.

“Last year, we exported $581 million in fish and seafood into TPP countries. . .

Farmers Are Awesome's photo.


Rural round-up

01/04/2016

Nutritional Sales Underpin Half Year Underlying Profit of $12.3 Million:

Synlait has reported an underlying net profit after tax (NPAT) of $12.3 million for the first half of the 2016 financial year (HY16).

In contrast to $0.4 million in HY15, this improved performance is primarily the result of increased nutritional sales in canned infant formula.

“We’re glad to deliver a solid result for the first half of FY16. Our significant investment in customer and product development, people, plant and operating systems in recent years is beginning to transform our earnings,” said Chairman Graeme Milne. . . 

European market conditions depress Westland’s payout prediction:

Global market conditions for dairy products point to at least two more seasons of low milk payouts in New Zealand, Westland Milk Products told shareholders today as the co-operative revised its predicted payout for the 2015-16 season to $3.90 – $4.00 per kilogramme of milk solids, down from last month’s prediction of $4.00 – $4.10.

Westland CEO Rod Quin said the major driver of the revised payout remains the global oversupply of milk, compounded by the ongoing high availability and aggressive approach by the European dairy market.

Quin and Westland Chair Matt O’Regan have recently returned from Europe where they met with customers, farmers, processors, traders and industry advocates. . . 

Fonterra makes best of a bad job – Allan Barber:

The PR spin has been pretty active signalling a much improved half yearly result which was duly delivered this morning. The company confirmed a 40 cent dividend for the full year with the interim dividend being paid next month as usual and the final dividend being paid in two tranches in May and August instead of October.

This improvement in cash flow will do something, but not a lot, to comfort farmers labouring under a debt burden. Unfortunately it will do absolutely nothing to support sharemilkers who will have to rely on their share of the milk payout. Predictions for the rest of 2016 are notable for their conservatism, probably in recognition of a disappointing track record when forecasting the extent of the current downturn. . . 

Fonterra’s six-month results – good news but some underlying issues – Keith Woodford:

As expected, Fonterra has announced a greatly enhanced six-month profit for the period ending 31 January 2016. The profit of $409 million (NPAT; i.e. net profit after finance costs and tax) is up 123% from the same period in the previous year.

The expected full year profit of 45-55c per share implies an annual profit of about $800 million compared to $506 million for the full year 2014/15.

These figures are all very much in line with expectations . The reason for this is that when milk prices to farmers are low, then Fonterra has low input costs. Accordingly, there is more scope for corporate profit. . . 

Keep sharing the load by talking about it:

No matter which branch of farming you are in, you will face tough times, says Nelson farmer and Horticulture NZ President Julian Raine. When that happens, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

Speaking to the Farming Show’s Jamie Mackay as part of the Getting Through Adversity radio series, Julian said that even with the best planning, erratic weather events can cause mayhem. Jamie suggested that growing fruit crops is arguably one of the riskiest pursuits in farming: “One adverse event at the wrong time and suddenly your whole crop is wiped out. If you are a sheep farmer, for example, you at least have lambing spread over three weeks, or if you are dairy your risk is spread over nine months of milking.” . . 

Meat exporters ready to reap benefits of TPP:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement eliminates all tariffs on beef into our biggest market, the United States, within five years of coming into force.

Trade Minister Todd McClay, speaking at the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce this morning, says New Zealand exported meat products worth over $2.8 billion to TPP countries in 2015 and the gains once TPP comes into force will be significant.

“Our beef into Japan currently attracts a 38.5 per cent tariff. That has made it extraordinarily hard for our exporters to compete with other countries with lower tariffs. . . 

Ongoing market challenges weigh on New Zealand farmers, with confidence close to 10-year low:

The significant and persisting challenges in market conditions continue to weigh heavily on the nation’s farmers, with New Zealand’s rural confidence at the second lowest level recorded in the past 10 years, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

Completed earlier this month, the survey found more than half of farmers surveyed (53 per cent) had a pessimistic outlook on the agricultural economy over the coming 12 months. This was significantly up from 30 per cent with that view in the previous survey, in late 2015. . . 

Dairy downturn: councils prepare to tighten belts:

Councils in rural areas might be forced to cut spending if the dairy downturn lasts for a long time, Local Government New Zealand head Lawrence Yule says.

A Westpac-McDermott Miller regional economic survey has shown big falls in confidence in major dairy areas including Waikato, Taranaki, and Southland.

Mr Yule said the businesses in many rural towns were already hunkering down as farmers tightened their spending, and that could spread. . .

NZX to teach farmers about new milk contract:

NZX expects to receive regulatory approval for the new fresh milk futures and options product within two weeks.

Chief executive Tim Bennett said there was a demand for the fresh milk contracts product after Fonterra scrapped its guaranteed milk price product for the upcoming season. . . 

NZ helping to restore Fiji’s dairy sector after Winston:

The New Zealand government says it will help restore Fiji’s dairy industry which is losing thousands of litres of milk and was devastated as a result of last month’s cyclone.

New Zealand announced additional aid to help Fiji’s recovery on Wednesday.

A lot of that money is going into the continuing infrastructure rebuild led by the New Zealand Defence Force. . . 

Helensville Farmers First To Claim Supreme Title In Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

“Environmental champions” Richard and Dianne Kidd are Supreme winners of the inaugural Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 30 (2016), the Helensville couple was also presented with the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and the Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with QEII National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

BFEA judges described Whenuanui Farm, the Kidd family’s 376ha sheep, beef and forestry unit, as “a show piece farm on the edge of Auckland city”. . . .

From paddock to packet: The family behind NZ’s most successful independent chips – Ryan Bridge:

You’re about to meet a family of potato farmers who beat the odds to grow one of the country’s most successful independent chip businesses.

The Bowans are from Timaru and not only do they grow spuds, they transport them to their own factory and make the chips too.

Together they are Heartland Potato Chips.

It all started when Raymond Bowan decided to grow his own potatoes as a teenager. His son James Bowan has taken over running the family potato farm and unlike his old man, he doesn’t do it by hand anymore, there’s a flash piece of kit to help. . . 

Food development facility opportunity for creative entrepreneurs:

Those looking to be innovative with their food are wanted at the FoodSouth food development pilot plant on the Lincoln campus, but there are no Heston Blumenthal creations on the menu.

The final part of a national food innovation network, the facility provides three purpose-built independent food safe development spaces along with a variety of processing equipment — an extruder, ovens, dryers, enrober, mixers, and a mobile product development kitchen among them.

It enables businesses to develop product prototypes for market validation, trial new equipment, carry out scale-up trial work and sample manufacture in 20L to 200L batch sizes, conduct process development and improvement, and validate quality systems. . . 

It’s in the family for new A&P Association President:

Sheep and beef farmer Warrick James has been elected as President of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association for 2016 at the Annual General Meeting at Riccarton Park Racecourse on 30 March.

Based in Central Canterbury near Glentunnel, Mr James was confirmed as President of the 154th Canterbury A&P Show in front of outgoing President Nicky Hutchinson and Association Members.

“It means a lot to be President of the Canterbury A&P Association. We host the largest and most prestigious Show in the country – it really is the pinnacle of the A&P movement. Having been involved from a young age with my family and seeing my own children take part over the years just makes this even more special.” . . .

Trio spread cheer on woolshed tour – Suzette Howe:

At a time when life’s a bit tough for rural communities, a trio of Kiwi performers are setting off on a woolshed tour to boost morale. 

They’re coming armed with their own stage curtain, a bar and plenty of laughs.

Over the next five weeks the talented ladies will transform more than 20 working wool sheds into live stages the length of the South Island.

They’re travelling by horse truck, carting hundreds of chairs, a bar, and full production set.

Farmer Georgie Harper says it’s hard to say no when the performance is brought to you. . . 

Itinerary and booking information at The Woolshed Tour.


Rural round-up

05/02/2016

Demand pushes ewes up to $200 – Annette Scott:

A shortage of sheep and recent pasture growth has seen ewe prices skyrocket against all odds at the South Island ewe fairs this past week.

With the dismal state of lamb prices and the dry start to summer, ewe fairs were not expected to fire this season.  

“I don’t know where the confidence is coming from. The processing companies are certainly not giving much confidence,” PGG Wrightson south Canterbury livestock manager Joe Higgins said. . . 

Pressure on NZ’s farmland discussed – John Gibb:

The challenge of achieving sustainability and growing pressure on New Zealand’s rural landscape were highlighted during a national geography conference at the University of Otago yesterday.

New Zealand Geographical Society president Emeritus Prof Harvey Perkins, of Auckland University, and Prof Eric Pawson, of Canterbury University, gave a joint keynote presentation on New Zealand ‘‘going global”.

They also focused on ‘‘the tensions of rapidly shifting external relationships and the remaking of domestic rural landscapes”. . . 

Fonterra Introduces Market-Linked Price for Organic Milk:

The success of Fonterra’s organic business has prompted the Co-operative to introduce an independent organic milk price linked to market returns for organic products.

From June 2016, organic milk payments will reflect the performance of the organics business. Organic farmers currently receive a fixed premium together with the conventional Farmgate Milk Price for their organic milk supply. Organic farmers can choose to move to the new payment approach or stay under the existing payment system. . . 

TPP will help remove regulatory barriers:

The main benefit for the deer industry from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will be the ability to challenge any potentially unfair regulations imposed by importing countries.

“Regulatory barriers can sometimes do more to impede trade than tariffs and quotas. Under the TPP, there will be an independent disputes mechanism that will allow our exporters to appeal regulations in importing countries they believe are unjustified or unfair,” says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Dan Coup. . . 

Red meat sector welcomes signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement:

The signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement today in Auckland is a significant step towards reducing the amount of tariff and non-tariff barriers on New Zealand red meat exports, according to the Chairmen of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Trade Minister Todd McClay signed the TPP Agreement today with the 11 member countries, including from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. . . 

He’s farming again after drought – Alan Williams:

David Hyde is a happy farmer who credits his positive attitude for coming through the north Canterbury drought still loving being on the land. He told Alan Williams how he coped by adapting his usual farming practices to meet the challenges.  

David Hyde says he can start farming again after January rain ended the severe and long-running drought on his Scargill Valley farm in north Canterbury.  

The lucerne that had browned off by late last year has raced away in the last few weeks and will soon be cut for balage – something not normally expected in early February in north Canterbury. . . 

Horticulture Welcomes TPP Signing:

New Zealand’s peak body for commercial fruit and vegetable growers, Horticulture New Zealand, has welcomed the official New Zealand signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement today.

Horticulture is New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner, sending fresh and processed products to more than 120 countries, valued at more than $2.5 billion every year.

The estimated saving for nine key product lines (kiwifruit, apples, avocado, buttercup squash, capsicum, cherries, onions, potatoes and vegetable juices) is just over $25 million a year for the growers now exporting these products to Japan, the USA and Vietnam. . . 

Kiwifruit winner in TPP Agreement:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will generate significant value for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and Zespri welcomes the signing of the Agreement today in Auckland.

Zespri Chief Executive Lain Jager explains the TPP will eliminate tariffs on kiwifruit exports into all 12 Asia-Pacific nations when it comes into force, with the biggest impact to be seen in Japan.

In 2014, the industry paid over $15 million in tariffs into Japan which is Zespri’s largest country market . . 

World’s largest fruit trade show shines spotlight on Kiwi ingenuity.

The world’s fresh produce industry is gathering in Berlin this February to showcase its wares as well as discussing global trends in fruit and vegetable production and consumption.

Among them will be New Zealand’s leading horticultural producers and the creators of some world-leading Kiwi technology.

Fruit Logistica 2016 is a trade fair with a global scope. It provides an excellent opportunity for growers and equipment manufacturers to get in front of the European market, which takes over half a billion dollars of our horticultural exports every year. This year’s exhibitors include Zespri, Plant & Food Research, Wyma, BBC Technologies and Compac. . . 

Exciting Mānuka honey scheme launched:

A new initiative to boost the mānuka honey industry in Northland and provide educational and employment opportunities has been launched today at Northland College by Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, Education Minister Hekia Parata and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The Mānuka Planting Initiative at Northland College is part of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan which was launched this morning.

Mr Flavell, who is also the Associate Economic Development Minister, says the initiative will help prepare and upskill unemployed adults living in Kaikohe. . . 

Aotearoa Fisheries appoints new directors to Sealord:

Aotearoa Fisheries Limited is making changes to its appointed directors to Sealord Group Limited in order to have a complete alignment of its appointees with its own board. Aotearoa Fisheries owns 50% of Sealord on behalf of all Māori, and as such appoints half of the Sealord board of directors.

As part of the recent Maori Fisheries Act review Iwi expressed a strong desire for the Aotearoa Fisheries Limited appointed Sealord directors to come directly from the Aotearoa Fisheries Limited Board. Aotearoa Fisheries Limited Chairman Whaimutu Dewes said these changes will give effect to this desire. . . 

Dairy Awards Entrants in the Spotlight:

Entrants in the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are being put through their paces, as judges deliberate who the first regional winners will be.

Judging is currently underway in the 11 regional competitions of the 2016 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of Year competitions.

More than 450 people entered the awards, with the first of the regional winners to be announced in Taranaki on March 4. . . 

Brancott Estate and BlueChilli seek the next big idea in wine tech:

Brancott Estate revolutionised the wine industry when they pioneered Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1975. Now they are looking for the next pioneer in the wine industry with the announcement of winexplorer, an innovation challenge designed to revolutionise the way wine is enjoyed.

“When we decided to plant Sauvignon Blanc vines in Marlborough in 1975, we created one of the world’s most popular wine styles and turned New Zealand into one of the world’s premier wine growing regions. Now we are looking to change the wine world again by identifying ideas that will fundamentally change the way people enjoy wine.” says Patrick Materman, Brancott Estate Chief Winemaker and a winexplorer judge.

“Whether it’s an idea about how people choose what wine to drink, or how they share that wine with their friends, if it’s big, bold and revolutionary, then we want to hear it.” . . 

Wine Flight to take off:

More than 60 of the world’s most influential wine media, trade and sommeliers will enjoy a unique “Wine Flight” today thanks to Air New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Two Air New Zealand Q300 aircraft are scheduled to take off from Blenheim this afternoon and cruise at 11,000ft, taking in spectacular views of some of New Zealand’s best known wine regions, including Marlborough, Nelson, Martinborough/Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.

On board the VIP passengers will enjoy wines from some of the regions they’re flying over, including a Nelson Albariño, a Martinborough Pinot Noir and a Hawke’s Bay Syrah. . . 


Minor ministerial changes

21/01/2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced some minor changes to his ministerial line-up which includes the reinstatement of Peter Dunne as a Minister outside Cabinet.

Internal Affairs and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain, who has announced his intention to retire from Parliament at the upcoming general election, will be resigning from the Ministry.

Peter Dunne will be appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Conservation. Mr Dunne will be a Minister outside Cabinet as he was prior to his resignation in June last year.

Michael Woodhouse will be promoted to the vacancy in Cabinet, and will retain all of his current responsibilities.

Paula Bennett picks up the role of Minister of Local Government, in addition to her current portfolio responsibilities.

The new Minister outside Cabinet will be Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, who will be appointed Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and Associate Minister of Local Government. Mr Lotu-liga is the MP for Maungakiekie and was first elected to Parliament 2008.

“I want to thank Chris Tremain for his work as a Minister, and previously as Senior Government Whip,” Mr Key says.

“Chris will be a real loss to the National caucus when he retires at the election and I wish him well for the future.

“I am pleased to welcome Peter Dunne back as a Minister. We have worked together well in the past, and United Future continues to be a valued partner in government.

“While 2013 brought its challenges, both Peter and I start this election year looking forward, not back.”

Mr Key also congratulated Mr Lotu-liga on his elevation to the Ministry.

“Sam has very strong ties with the Pasifika community and has represented their interests in caucus well.

“He is well placed to build on the work that Hekia Parata has done in this portfolio this past term.”

In other changes, Todd McClay will take up the role of Associate Tourism.

The Governor-General will swear in the new Ministers on Tuesday 28 January, prior to Parliament getting underway for the new year.

“The National-led Government’s strong Ministerial team will continue to take New Zealand forward and deliver on what we have promised,” Mr Key says.

Chris Tremain has done good work as a Minister but his decision to not contest this year’s election has provided an opportunity for promotion and re-jigging of some roles.


Firm on fraud frees up 1000 houses

19/08/2013

Housing New Zealand’s firm line on criminal offending and dishonesty has freed up 1000 houses since the Government changed its policy in 2008, Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith said.

“State houses are heavily subsidised by other taxpayers and tenants abuse this support when they are dishonest about their living situation or income, or use the home for criminal activity like drug manufacturing. We need to take a firm approach to such abuse to be fair to the vast bulk of honest tenants, to ensure public money is supporting improved social outcomes, and to ensure our state houses are available to those most in need of housing support,” Dr Smith says.

“Housing New Zealand expanded its fraud unit and started taking a firm approach on the change of Government in 2008. This has seen the number of tenancies terminated for fraud or criminal offending grow from 42 in 2008/09 to 292 in the year ending of 2012/13. A total of 1001 tenants have been evicted as a result of fraud investigations since the new approach was adopted.

“Housing New Zealand also takes a zero tolerance approach to state houses being used to manufacture and supply drugs. Four houses were used as meth labs in the 2012/13 year, as compared to seven in the previous year. It is an appalling breach of faith for tenants, generously provided with a home by other taxpayers, to then use that home to manufacture and peddle drugs. I am hopeful that the decline in the number of state houses being used as drug houses is a sign that the message of zero tolerance is getting through.

“The work by Housing New Zealand investigators resulted in 129 criminal convictions and the identification of $11 million of rent subsidies tenants were not entitled to.

“While the vast majority of Housing New Zealand’s 62,000 tenancies on income-related rent are in legitimate need of housing, a small minority are rorting the system. I make no apologies for the hard line taken to make sure state housing is freed up for those who actually need it.

“Housing New Zealand investigations for fraud arise from tenancy manager observations, anonymous tip-offs, information from other government agencies and inconsistent information from tenants themselves. 22 per cent of investigations result in no further action because of honest misunderstanding or mistake, insufficient information to prove dishonesty, or other exceptional circumstances that negated what appeared fraudulent.

“Housing support fraud will become more difficult with the Government’s social housing reforms that bring together the administration of financial support for housing and welfare. Many of the people defrauding Housing New Zealand were also committing benefit fraud and it makes sense for both sorts of financial assistance to be considered together.”

A thousand out of 62,000 is not a large number but state houses are supposed to be for those who need them, not those rorting the system or indulging in criminal behaviour.

Last week Victoria University accounting and commercial law associate professor Lisa Marriott said that Inland Revenue was more likely to write off unpaid tax than the Ministry of Social Development  was to write off welfare debts.

MSD would often keep welfare debts on its books, sometimes until people died or retired.

Tax debt totalled nearly $6 billion, while welfare debt was about $1b, she said.

“There appears to be no basis for treating debtors to the two government agencies differently,” Marriott said.

The study indicated tax debtors got off more lightly, she said.

Inland Revenue was more likely to negotiate with debtors and collect core tax, and write off penalties and interest, Marriott said. . .

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said those claims were misleading.

“The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has a duty to take care with taxpayer money. When they find evidence someone has fraudulently taken money they are not entitled to, they will prosecute, and make no apologies for that,” says Mr Borrows.

“To describe this as being particularly ‘punitive’ is simply wrong. It implies we should ignore welfare fraud, and shows a basic ignorance of the wide range of support MSD provides to New Zealanders.”

Mr Borrows singled out claims that more is spent chasing welfare fraud than tax fraud as demonstrably false.

“This year IRD has a budget of $142 million to enforce tax obligations. This is more than quadruple MSD’s collections and integrity services budget of $29.8 million.”

He also pointed to the use of penalties and interest to illustrate the different approaches taken by MSD and Inland Revenue.

“To focus on penalties and interest written off by Inland Revenue ignores the very different way IRD and MSD operate. Inland Revenue has a tough regime of penalties and interest, whereas MSD only uses penalties in rare cases where dishonest behaviour needs to be sanctioned by a criminal prosecution is not appropriate.

“The numbers clearly illustrate this. In 2011/12 MSD imposed around $144,000 of sanctions on 164 cases – a stark difference to the more than $600 million of penalties and interest IRD imposed in the same year.” . . .

Revenue Minister Todd McClay says there can be good reasons to write some tax off.

“Businesses that are finding it a little bit difficult to meet their obligations can stay in business and keep employing New Zealanders,” says Mr McClay.The Minister says comparisons between the two Ministries are unhelpful, partly because there are under half a million kiwis on benefits, but more than 7 million tax customers. . .

Fraud is fraud and taking other people’s money is wrong. But simple comparisons between the way the MSD and IRD treat debt is misleading.

The $1b written off by MSD will be a much larger percentage of benefit payments than the $6b written off by IRD is of tax payments.


%d bloggers like this: