PGF alchemists turn $$$ into water to beat the Northland drought

Shane Jones was back in his Northland home patch during the week to announce the serving of another dollop of public money from the Provincial Growth Fund.   It was not the first allocation of PGF funding to benefit the region this year.

This time the PGF will allocate up to $2 million to set up temporary water supplies in drought-stricken Kaikohe and Kaitaia.

Just three weeks ago Jones and Deputy PM Winston Peters were in the Far North to announce the provision of up to $12.7 million “to make Northland more resilient in the face of extreme weather”.

At that time the NZ First ministerial twosome also announced the PGF will pump $4 million into upgrading the Dargaville pontoon and a $109.7 million investment into regional rail to revitalise train services across the Northland region.

The latest PGF allocation is a response to severe water shortages in parts of the region.  Town water supply is at risk, particularly in Kaikohe and Kaitaia, if there is no significant rain in the next few weeks. Continue reading “PGF alchemists turn $$$ into water to beat the Northland drought”

Pundits peddle opposing views on how PM should deal with Peters – but voters perhaps have other concerns

How voters react to the headlines generated by NZ First’s  latest financial  shenanigans may  (or  may not) determine  the outcome  on  September  19.

The most recent Colmar Brunton poll had NZ First down at  3%, so  some  commentators   are  already  writing  off   the party’s chances of  survival.

But the real question, as some authorities see it, is whether  Labour  will  suffer   collateral  damage  from  the fallout,  if the Serious Fraud Office probe into  the  operations of the  NZ  First  Foundation  ends  up  in court  action.  It could be  uncomfortable  all round for the coalition if  the  SFO’s  investigation  leads to charges which a court  ultimately  finds proven. Continue reading “Pundits peddle opposing views on how PM should deal with Peters – but voters perhaps have other concerns”

How the management of monetary policy (and other RBNZ activities) are being steeped in Maori mythology

Acculturation – the cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture or a merging of cultures – is increasingly evident in this country’s public agencies.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has not escaped the process.  In July 2018, soon after Adrian Orr became the governor, the Otago Daily Times reported the new  head of the country’s august central bank was planning to shift the mindset of the institution towards better embracing the rich cultural diversity of the country.

Since he had taken up the post (the ODT reported)

… phrases like tikanga Maori and te reo have begun to feature prominently on its priority list.


Under his watch, the bank’s Statement of Intent, where it sets out its strategic objectives to the Government for the next four years, highlights its intent to embed  te reo and tikanga Maori into the culture of the bank. Continue reading “How the management of monetary policy (and other RBNZ activities) are being steeped in Maori mythology”

Govt takes the credit for record drug seizures – but let’s not forget where Customs’ new patrol boat came from

Ministers love to bray about the seizing of illegal drugs.

Customs statistics on seizures last year – albeit “preliminary” statistics – therefore were irresistible to Customs Minister Jenny Salesa.  They gave her a platform to remind us of her existence as a Minister while acknowledging the work of her officials.

Her statement said:

Customs’ preliminary statistics for 2019 show it made 2,613 separate drug seizures of various class A, B and C drugs at the New Zealand border, adding up to 2,577 kilograms, 505 litres, and over 342,000 items such as pills or tablets.

The illegal drugs were seized at the New Zealand border by Customs and overseas by Customs’ international border partners before the drugs could be sent to our shores.

But who was given the lion’s share of the credit for these seizures?

The statement was headed Coalition Govt’s investment in Customs nets record drugs haul: 3 tonnes stopped at borders in 2019.

The first paragraph amplified the notion that the government deserves all the credit for this law-and-order accomplishment:

The Coalition Government’s investment in a strong border and disrupting transnational organised crime produced record results for stopping drugs in 2019, says Minister of Customs Jenny Salesa.

And further down in the statement:

Jenny Salesa says the record haul by Customs is down to the Coalition Government’s record investment in the agency to fight crime at our own border with 49 extra new operational staff since 2016/17, and 97 ‘Ship-to-Shore’ Customs officials working to stop drugs before they are sent from overseas destinations.

“We have given Customs the cash injection they needed to boost their capabilities, plus disrupt more criminal networks offshore to stop illegal drugs before they even leave the export country. These overseas seizures are increasing year on year.”

“In Budget 2018 we committed an extra $58.1 million over four years to disrupt drug smuggling networks, including $3.9 million for capital like detection technology and surveillance equipment. That investment is paying off because we’re stopping more drugs at our border.”

Thanks to additional funding, Customs has also been working smarter through offshore collaboration with law enforcement agencies in Australia, the Pacific, the US and further abroad to stop the drug traffickers’ products and ingredients before they can leave overseas ports and airports. Our support has meant Customs has been able to hire almost 100 extra staff in the Ship to Shore project.”

Treating illegal drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one was a factor too, the Minister noted.

Jenny Salesa says Customs’ focus on disrupting the supply of illegal drugs from reaching communities is part of the Government’s health-based approach.

“Our Coalition Government is putting more resources into addiction, detoxification and residential care services for New Zealanders who are struggling with drug and alcohol issues. For this to be effective, it’s important for our law enforcement agencies like Customs to reduce the supply of drugs like meth as much as possible, and take a hard line against the organised criminal groups that push these products.”

The extra money for Customs to target drug smugglers was announced not on Salesa’s watch, however, but was included in the Ardern’s government’s first budget in 2018 when Meka Whaitiri was the minister.

She announced at that time:

“Budget 2018 invests $54.2 million of operating funding over four years to significantly enhance Customs’ capabilities to attack these criminal networks from all angles. This includes an additional 127 Customs staff, both here and overseas.

“New initiatives will disrupt international drug-smuggling networks early in the supply chain by making seizures offshore, while also boosting onshore capabilities through more maritime patrols, frontline resources and community engagement.  

“A further $3.9 million in capital will bolster our maritime and frontline work with new rigid-hull inflatable boats, mobile x-ray vans, and vehicles and kennels for Customs’ detector-dog teams.

“We will also hit organised crime in the pocket by targeting the cross-border flow of criminal proceeds, slashing their profits and preventing re-investment in further criminal activity.”

But the overall Customs budget hasn’t changed greatly since the Ardern government took over in 2017.

The Key government’s last budget, in 2017-18, appropriated $216.2 million for Customs.

This was 0.23 per cent of a total appropriation of $94.6 billion.

The total appropriation in the 2019/20 budget was 17 per cent higher than in the Nats’ last budget at $110.8bn.

The increase in the appropriation for Customs was a  more modest 11.8%, lifting it to $241.7m.  This amounted to 0.22 per cent of the total appropriation, a tiny tad less than Customs share of the total in 2017/18.

We must suppose savings are being made in other areas of Customs – efficiencies, too, all going well – to explain the grunt being invested in frustrating drug criminals.

But not all the crime-busting can be attributed to a change of government.

In  January 2018 Whaitiri said she was

 … delighted to announce that the new state- of-the-art patrol vessel, Hawk V, officially started work today following a commissioning ceremony at the Port of Auckland.

“The world-class patrol vessel has been purpose-built to boost Customs’ ability to identify risk, and carry out enforcement now and into the future,” says Ms Whaitiri.

Designed by Teknicraft in Auckland and built by Q-West in Whanganui, Hawk V is an 18.6 metre long, foil supported, aluminium catamaran. Equipped with the latest technology, the new vessel has the ability to monitor comings and goings over a much greater sea area than her predecessors, and at a much faster pace of around 40 knots.

Primarily based in Auckland, Hawk V will be operated by a crew of four Customs officers with specialist maritime expertise. The Hawk can be deployed to other regions.

But the Nats can take credit for this initiative.

Nicky Wagner was the Customs Minister who announced in 2016 her department  would be getting a new patrol boat, a world-class vessel that would reinforce and enhance the protection of New Zealand’s maritime border.

It would be locally-designed, purpose-built, and equipped with state-of-the-art electronics.

Wagner said the new vessel would boost Customs’ capabilities to identify risk and carry out enforcement work beyond our territorial waters.

No doubt it played a role in the statistics that prompted Salesa to put out a law-and-order statement and pump up her government’s accomplishments.

When “hate” tweets are not a crime – but disproportionate action by the cops impedes a tweeter’s freedoms

The boundaries of free speech were at issue in two recent court cases, one in Britain, the other in New Zealand.

In the British case, a judge ruled that the police response to an ex-officer’s tweets (allegedly transphobic) was a “disproportionate interference” with his right to freedom of expression.

The judge said:

“In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”

In the New Zealand case, the judge was spared the need to rule in favour of …

  • Businessman Sir Bob Jones, who wrote in a newspaper column that Waitangi Day should be replaced with Māori Gratitude Day and Māori bring Pākehā breakfast in bed; or
  • Film-maker Renae Maihi, who said in evidence she recognised Sir Bob was not seriously calling for Māori to bring breakfast in bed.   She nevertheless had responded by gathering signatures for a petition which called for Sir Bob’s knighthood to be stripped and described him as racist and an author of hate speech.

Sir Bob said the petition defamed him.

The defence argued that joking doesn’t diffuse racism. Continue reading “When “hate” tweets are not a crime – but disproportionate action by the cops impedes a tweeter’s freedoms”

Climate change policy is not stable – something has to break

Pretty much everything has a breaking point.  The only questions are where, when and how.  Might it be coming soon with climate change policy?

This week there was disarray in the Australian Liberal and National party coalition over the costs of climate change policy.  This was one of the issues which helped sink Malcolm Turnbull’s premiership.  It’s significant because political parties have a big incentive to hide the washing of their dirty linen, certainly until they have agreed an electorally marketable compromise.

And in the UK, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have been hinting that they might bring forward to 2032 the proposed date to ban the sale of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. Continue reading “Climate change policy is not stable – something has to break”

Finance Minister puts on his arts hat to invite applications for funding from a culture trough

Taxpayers were called on to cough up $87,994 million in the 2019 Budget, accounting for much of the $120,984m which the Treasury estimated would be collected in government revenue this financial year.

In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said:

So, today in this first Wellbeing Budget, we are measuring and focussing on what
New Zealanders value – the health of our people and our environment, the strengths of our communities and the prosperity of our nation. Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life.

This week, Robertson sounded a hog call for oinkers to gather around a trough he cares for as associate minister of arts, culture and heritage.

He was inviting us– or some of us – to get our snouts into a $7 million swill titled the Regional Culture and Heritage Fund.  

Employment Minister Willie Jackson, meanwhile, was dishing out money from another trough, the He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR) scheme.

How much?

Jackson didn’t give a firm figure in his press statement, but the headline on it said “over $1 million”. Continue reading “Finance Minister puts on his arts hat to invite applications for funding from a culture trough”

Pulling the FM plug on the Concert programme was a matter for Parliament to decide

This post by TOM FREWEN is one of two being published on Point of Order today on the restructuring of state broadcasting and the fate of RNZ’s Concert programme.   

Tom is a journalist and broadcaster who has worked for both commercial and publicly funded media. He reported on the NZ House of Representatives for 22 years, starting the Today/Week in Parliament programmes in 1994, and he established Mediawatch on RNZ, fronted first by Russell Brown and now by Colin Peacock.   

There was never any need for the QC trio, hired by local orchestras to fight RNZ’s plan to turf Concert off its high-quality FM frequency, to go past the first of the three legs of their proposed legal action.

That was the claim that RNZ was in breach of the Radiocommunications Act 1989 which, together with the Broadcasting Act of the same year, provides the legislated foundations for the broadcasting system established by the Fourth Labour government 31 years ago.

Section 174 of the Radiocommunications Act entitles RNZ to use “certain frequencies” for “the operation of four services including “the service known as the FM Concert Programme”. Section 175 specifies the conditions of the licences relating to the FM Concert Programme and National Radio

RNZ’s chief executive, Paul Thompson, assured Lisa Owen on Checkpoint on Tuesday this week that legal advice had been obtained when they hatched what they call their “strategy” to become more relevant to younger people. Continue reading “Pulling the FM plug on the Concert programme was a matter for Parliament to decide”

The TVNZ–RNZ merger – is this another broadcasting train wreck? 

This post by BARRIE SAUNDERS is one of two being published on Point of Order today on the restructuring of state broadcasting and the fate of RNZ’s Concert programme.   

In the 1970s Barrie worked for the NZBC, ABC, UPITN, NBR and the BBC, he  was a director of TVNZ from 2011-2017, and he listens via the internet to the ABC, BBC and other public radio.   

The RNZ Concert programme train wreck is but a prelude to what is likely if the proposed RNZ-TVNZ merger goes ahead.

The Government has asked PWC to flesh out a plan that doesn’t stack up.  But we can be 100% confident that PWC will find the proposed merger is viable when they report to the government in mid-year.   Consultants rarely produce reports that customer don’t like and – unlike the private sector – this one will be taxpayer underwritten.  And we all know what that means.

In a small democracy and economy, I accept there is a case for a publicly owned broadcaster.  But it should exist alongside a thriving private media, which at present is in deep trouble as foreign digital media hoover up most of the digital advertising, without providing any real NZ content. Continue reading “The TVNZ–RNZ merger – is this another broadcasting train wreck? “

Sanders wins in New Hampshire – but Bloomberg shapes up as the candidate to beat Trump

It’s a long time to November and Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary has only muddied the waters for the Democrats.  As expected, Senator Bernie Sanders, from neighbouring Vermont, won with around 26% of the vote, but this was way down from 2016 when he slaughtered Hillary Clinton.

With around 95% of precincts reporting, turnout in New Hampshire overtook both 2016 and 2008 Democratic contests. Around 292,000 votes were counted, compared with 288,672 in 2008 and 254,780 in 2016

The real shocks were multiple. First, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was close on his heels with 24.4%.  Then, from nowhere Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar hauled in 19.8% of the vote while early high-flyers Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren couldn’t even make 10%. Continue reading “Sanders wins in New Hampshire – but Bloomberg shapes up as the candidate to beat Trump”