The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor kicked off our day with the cheering news that New Zealand and the UK have committed to accelerating their free trade agreement negotiations with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle this August.

This compensated for the news that the first day’s play on the scheduled first day of the cricket test between the Black Caps and India had been abandoned.

“We’ve held constructive and productive discussions towards the conclusion of a high-quality and comprehensive FTA that will support sustainable and inclusive trade, and help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID,” Damien O’Connor said.

He will leave the UK on Monday morning for Brussels where he will meet with his trade counterpart to advance NZ’s FTA negotiations with the European Union.

His good news landed in our in tray on World Albatross Day but the news from the Beehive for the endangered Antipodean albatross was ominous. 

Their numbers are declining at an alarming rate.

Albatrosses feed on fish near the surface, making them vulnerable to being caught on fishing lines or in nets.

Acting Conversation Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government has a plan aiming to reduce domestic bycatch to zero and is funding a wider roll-out of cameras on inshore fishing vessels. Continue reading “The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross”

Belarus pays penalty for ignoring concerns about its electoral and human rights record – NZ bans its leaders from travelling here

New Zealand has imposed travel bans on 50 individuals associated with the Lukashenko regime in Belarus elections.  Among those in the naughty books are the President and key members of his Administration, the Electoral Commission, the police and other security forces.

This will show ‘em we mean business, if they can’t or won’t clean up their act on the international human rights front.

On the sea front, up to 300 inshore commercial fishing vessels are to be fitted with on-board cameras by 2024 as part of the Government’s commitment to protect the natural marine environment.  The cost:  it  is expected to be $68 million over the next four years.

The news many people had been anxiously awaiting – not the anti-vaxxers, of course – is a rough timetable for rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine.

Then came Justice Minister Kris Faafoi’s announcement of a review of New Zealand’s 66-year-old adoption laws. Continue reading “Belarus pays penalty for ignoring concerns about its electoral and human rights record – NZ bans its leaders from travelling here”

Look who’s singing the farm sector’s praises – none other than the Minister whose environmental rules constrain them

Labour ministers  are   beating  the farming  drum  (as never before).

On  stage  at  the Fieldays at   Mystery Creek, one of  the  first  out of the block (given the  absence  of Agriculture  Minister  Damien O’Connor  negotiating  free  trade  in London with the UK)  was  Oceans  and  Fisheries Minister David  Parker. 

He  was  singing  the  praises of  the  sector,  which  might have come  as a  surprise  to  many  within the  farming  industry,  who  have found  the strictures  he has delivered from his Environment  portfolio  rather  hard  to  digest.

Parker   used  the  Fieldays platform to  talk up  the sector which  he  declared had performed remarkably well in the face of Covid-19.

“NZ’s farmers, growers, fishers, processors, makers, and crafters have risen to the challenges that 2021 has presented”.

Farming exports are forecast to hit a record $49.1bn, up 3.4% over the next year, and The Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report says by June 2025 the sector’s exports are forecast to reach $53.1bn. Continue reading “Look who’s singing the farm sector’s praises – none other than the Minister whose environmental rules constrain them”

Team NZ’s rejection of public funding offer means around $100m won’t be sunk into America’s Cup defence

It’s full steam ahead for the economy, according to the latest GDP statistics and a  Finance Minister who eagerly drew attention to the new data.

Our farm industries, generally, are doing nicely, too, thank you, in spite of head winds which include a growing raft of government regulations.

But prospects of the America’s Cup being defended in this country are in the doldrums.  That’s bad news for yachting buffs (but great news for taxpayers).

GDP increased 1.6% in the first three months of 2021, much better than the Treasury forecast of a modest decline of 0.2% in May’s Budget or (with the benefit of more recent data) economic commentators’ forecast of an increase less than 1%.

Internationally, the OECD average was 0.3%.

The economy was 2.4% above where it was in the March quarter last year.

A measure of the strength of the food and fibres sector – or rather, a measure of the government’s confidence in the sector – can be discerned from two reports released at Fieldays in Mystery Creek. Continue reading “Team NZ’s rejection of public funding offer means around $100m won’t be sunk into America’s Cup defence”

How morale among our food producers is flagging in the face of Covid fatigue and Ardern’s regulatory agenda

KPMG’s global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot​,  reports morale in  NZ’s farming  industries has slumped over the past year, with industry leaders struggling under the pressure.

“We could sense anger during our conversations, particularly in relation to the labour shortages the sector faces”.

Proudfoot is the  author of  the  KPMG “Agribusiness Agenda” , delivered at a   breakfast session at the opening  day  of  the  Fieldays,   billed  as the  largest agricultural event  in  the  southern  hemisphere.

He  believes  NZ’s role in a global “food renaissance” could be hampered by Covid-19 fatigue and sweeping regulatory changes.

That  presents   a  huge  challenge  for  any  government – particularly  one  that  has  been   perceived to be no  friend  to farmers. Yet Prime  Minister  Jacinda  Ardern put  on a  bold  front  when she  and  several  of  her  ministers appeared  at  Mystery  Creek.

Only  a cynic  would  suspect  she sees  an  opportunity  to  sustain  the strength  of  Labour’s  resurgent  vote  among  rural  communities  at  the  last election. Continue reading “How morale among our food producers is flagging in the face of Covid fatigue and Ardern’s regulatory agenda”

Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies

We have had the chance to scan the new Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade agreement and – if Trade Minister Damien O’Connor can negotiate similar terms for us – the prospects look hearteningly good for NZ.

Beef and sheep meat tariffs on Australian exports to the UK will be eliminated after 10 years. Sugar tariffs will be removed after eight years, and dairy tariffs after five years.

Short and medium grain milled rice will get immediate duty-free access once the FTA is in place.

During the countdown to tariff-free trade, Australian producers will gain incremental access to the British market.  Beef producers gain immediate access to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes (rising to 110,000 tonnes a  year in a decade).  With sugar exports, producers have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 80,000 tonnes, rising by 20,000 tonnes each year.

Dairy farmers will also have access during the transition period to a duty-free quota for cheese of 24,000 tonnes. This will rise to 48,000 tonnes by year five. Continue reading “Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies”

Cleaning up Christchurch earthquake insurance mess “proactively” could cost the govt (or taxpayers) $313 million

Earthquakes, climate change and terrorism were embraced in press statements that flowed from the Beehive yesterday.

We learned that cleaning up an insurance mess related to the Christchurch earthquakes – it’s being done through a “proactive package” for some Southern Response policyholders – could cost $313 million if all eligible claimants apply.

Another announcement tells us about an initiative to meet the government’s climate change targets:  state agencies which are required to apply Government Procurement Rules must follow the advice in a new Procurement Guide when deciding about new buildings with an estimated value of $9 million or over.

The new Procurement Guide reflects the government’s goal to transition to a carbon neutral public service.

The private sector is being encouraged to follow the guidance for new projects, too.

And then there’s the speech by the PM to a conference on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which is being held in Christchurch over two days this week.

He Whenua Taurikura (the name given to it) will become an annual conference

“ .. promoting public conversation, understanding and research on radicalisation. It will look at ways to challenge hate-motivated extremist ideologies and to discuss priorities to address issues of terrorism and violent extremism”.

But let’s dip into that “proactive package”.  What’s it all about?

The Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, David Clark, harked back to December when he announced what he calls  “a proactive package” for Southern Response Earthquake claimants who settled their claims before October 2014.

This was a response to a court  judgment in relation to Karl and Alison Dodds and offers a top-up payment to other customers in a similar situation.

Southern Response – of course – is the state-owned earthquake insurance settlement company and was responsible for settling claims by AMI policyholders after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

The court found Southern Response had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct that misrepresented the Dodds’ insurance entitlements.

The insurer had produced two differing detailed repair/rebuild assessments, which outlined the costs of rebuilding or repairing their home, and only showed them one that did not include some costs.

The package announced by the government will affect some policyholders who are potentially part of the Ross Class Action.

Based on actuarial advice, Southern Response is including a cost of $242.5 million in its accounts, reflecting an estimate of around 75 percent take-up of the package.

Earthquake insurance

Cost of Government Southern Response proactive package released

The Government has announced the proactive package for some Southern Response policyholders could cost $313 million if all those eligible apply.

 The package will affect some policyholders who are potentially part of the Ross Class Action, Southern Response has applied to the court for confirmation that it can communicate with those policyholders about the package. This application is still making its way through the court.

Southern Response has been working with its actuaries to estimate payments likely to be made under the approved package.

“We are now in a position to release the cost estimate of the full package,” David Clark said.

Based on actuarial advice, Southern Response is including a cost of $242.5 million in its accounts, reflecting an estimate of around 75 percent take-up of the package.

State building projects

New support to reduce emissions from public building and construction projects

Government agencies are getting guidance on how to reduce carbon emissions generated by construction of new buildings.

The new Procurement Guide will help government agencies, private sector suppliers, designers, and construction and industry representatives to make the right decisions.

Agencies that are required to apply Government Procurement Rules must now apply the Procurement Guide to decisions about new buildings with an estimated value of $9 million or over.

Government agencies must now clearly record decisions about the way they choose design options. If they choose a design that is not the lowest possible carbon option to meet their project brief they must identify the reason for this, and have the decision signed off by their Chief Executive.

The new Procurement Guide reflects the government’s goal to transition to a carbon neutral public service.

The procurement practices of public service agencies have the power to influence decisions by private and community sectors when it comes to carbon-neutral and low-emission technologies, the press statement says .

And the new guide is in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Commission’s final report issued last week.

The Guide to Reducing Carbon Emissions in Building and Construction is available online here:

Terrorism

He Whenua Taurikura: New Zealand’s first Hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism

The Prime Minister has opened New Zealand’s first hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which is being held in Christchurch over two days.

The conference is a response to one of the recommendations from the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.

“He Whenua Taurikura, ‘a country at peace’, will look at how we can all contribute to making our country more inclusive and safe,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The Lead Coordination Minister for the Government’s Response to The Royal Commission’s Report into the Terrorist Attack on the Christchurch Mosques, Andrew Little, said the conference will help develop options for the National Centre of Excellence, which will focus on generating research and public discussion to prevent and counter violent extremism, understand diversity and promote social cohesion.

“Our goal is for New Zealand to be a safe country where everyone feels they belong, where all cultures and human rights are valued and celebrated, and where everyone can participate and contribute.”

Speech to inaugural Countering Terrorism Hui

This is the  PM’s speech to the survivors and family of the Shuhadah, along with representatives from our communities, academia, members of civil society, and those from the private sector, NGOs and public sector.

Verrall draws attention to elder abuse today while the PM apologises for crackdown on Polynesians 40 years ago

We are paying special attention today to comments submitted for publication on the Point of Order blog.

The reason:  our writers are in the “veteran” category, as journalists, and accordingly feel entitled to make the most of today being World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Fawning comments will be accepted with relish.  Anything unduly harsh will be forwarded to the appropriate authorities.

But we do acknowledge that finding critical comments in our in-tray is not as traumatic as being physically or psychologically abused.

Thus we recognise that we are unlikely to be the intended beneficiaries of a new campaign intended to alert the public to elder abuse and to encourage people to protect older New Zealanders.

Most abuse is committed by someone close to the victim, often by a family member or a caregiver. Continue reading “Verrall draws attention to elder abuse today while the PM apologises for crackdown on Polynesians 40 years ago”

Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue

Trade minister Damien O’Connor dines with his UK counterpart Liz Truss tomorrow  to begin the heavy-lifting on a NZ-UK free trade agreement.

The early signs are ominous.  Ozzie PM Scott Morrison managed to attend part of the G7 meeting in Cornwell where Australia’s FTA agreement was raised with the UK’s Boris Johnson.

Morrison says he’s waiting for ‘the right deal’ before the UK-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) is finalised, and the UK is eager to launch its post-Brexit economy by securing free trade agreements covering 80% of its trade within the next three years.

The UK Department for International Trade believes a trade deal could secure an additional £900 million ($1.6 billion) in exports to Australia.

In 2019-20, two-way goods and services trade was valued at $36.7 billion, making the UK Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Morrison hopes to finalise the FTA tomorrow if certain issues can be dealt with.

But elements of the Australian FTA have created alarm within the UK. The National Farmers’ Union publicly begged for tariffs to remain on Australian beef and sheep.

NFU president Minette Batters says a tariff-free trade deal with Australia will jeopardise UK farming and could cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK.

There are several challenges for NZ.  It’s just as well, therefore, that O’Connor is accompanied by NZ trade supremo Vangelis Vitaly, a recognised world authority on trade policy.  Continue reading “Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue”

Wood is proving adept at steering major initiatives through Cabinet – but winning public approval for them will be more challenging

Transport Minister  Michael Wood  is  winning  a  reputation  for  his  bold political  initiatives. They  include, for  example,  the  announcement  of a second Auckland  harbour  bridge crossing  (but  only  for  cyclists and walkers, costing an estimated $780m).

Then came  a  “feebate”  scheme  to  hasten  the  transition  to electric  vehicles.

And earlier  there  had  been  a  move to “review”  the  Light  Rail project  in  Auckland, the  commitment  to which  had   proved a  political disaster  for Wood’s  predecessor, Phil  Twyford.

Wood  may  regard  himself  as  the  chosen  one,  enjoying  the  favours  of  his  political  seniors.  Certainly  he  appears to  have a gift  for  steering  his  initiatives  through Cabinet.

But to what effect for the political fortunes of the government?

The harbour  bridge for strollers and cyclists  drew a  spectacular  response,  coming  as it did when  Prime  Minister Jacinda  Ardern was  pointing  out  the government  was “strapped  for  cash” and  could  not meet  the  nurses’ demands  for a higher  wage rise  than the 1.38%  offered  by their  state  employers. Continue reading “Wood is proving adept at steering major initiatives through Cabinet – but winning public approval for them will be more challenging”