The kids will be at school – so let’s check what the speed limit is just now and be sure we know when we can legally quicken the pace

The wellbeing of our young ones is high in considerations in the Beehive today. More bureaucracy comes into it, too, at first glimpse.

The Government is proposing “to make it easier” for local communities to set safe speed limits around schools to help kids get to and from school safely

But much speed-management planning will be required which (we imagine) can only mean more paper work.

Improved wellbeing would be the aim of other new initiatives – 

  • To make our borders even safer, the Government has created a new ‘very high risk country’ category that (it claims) will significantly reduce the number of infected people flying to New Zealand. The new category kicks in from 11.59pm on 28 April. Countries have initially been designated very high risk where there have been more than 50 cases of COVID-19 per 1000 arrivals to New Zealand from those countries in 2021, and where there are more than 15 travellers on average per month. India, Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan now meet that threshold.
  • Housing Minister Megan Woods has opened a 167 unit apartment in Auckland’s Glen Eden and 83 transitional homes in Ōtahuhu.

Fair to say, the improved wellbeing of Kiwis -all of us or some of us – to some extent is the aim of other statements:  Continue reading “The kids will be at school – so let’s check what the speed limit is just now and be sure we know when we can legally quicken the pace”

Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded

There was an international flavour to two of the new statements from the Beehive and a cosmic flavour to a third, when we checked earlier in the day.  But the most ominous announcement, signalling big changes in the offing very close to home, emerged from the office of Nanaia Mahuta, as Minister of Local Government.

She advised us – or warned us, maybe – she has appointed a team to review our local government arrangements.

She mentioned the evolution of local democracy.

Evolution?  Or further erosion?

One outcome could be a quickening of the pace of change that already has weakened citizens’ right to decide who should govern them and their ability to hold their governors to account for their performance at three-yearly elections.

On the international front, we learned – Continue reading “Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded”

The dragons-and-taniwha speech isn’t being quickly forgotten – and Mahuta is getting support from some Aussies on Five Eyes

It’s the speech that keeps on giving.

This gives the lie to advice we were given on the art of delivering a memorable speech: an audience remembers best the first five minutes of a speech and the last five.

In the case of Nanaia Mahuta’s dragons-and-taniwha speech, at Point of Order we reckoned only a few of the audience would have understood the first five minutes and most wouldn’t have been awake to hear the last.

If they did stay awake (we reasoned) they would have struggled to comprehend some chunks between the introduction in te reo and the “thank you” with which the speech ended.

For example:

Pacific Connections – Ngā Taniwha nō Te Moana nui a Kiwa

I want to briefly go back to the whanaungatanga New Zealand has to the Pacific. In many respects one could surmise that we share common Taniwha.

How many members of the audience speak te reo?

Some impenetrable stuff was reported by news media for the edification of those who weren’t in the audience.

Here’s something from the Dom-Post, for example, Continue reading “The dragons-and-taniwha speech isn’t being quickly forgotten – and Mahuta is getting support from some Aussies on Five Eyes”

Centralisation is prescribed for our health system – but funding is an issue and see what has happened in transport and education

Health  Minister  Andrew  Little  says   the reforms the  government has  announced this week will  mean for the  first time  New Zealand will  have  “a  truly national  health  system”.

The  new  system  will consist  of  a  national  health  organisation,  a  Maori health authority,  and a  new  public  health authority to  centralise  public  health  work. The  Ministry of  Health  will remain  in  over-arching  control.

It  is  a  major  structural  reform, going even  further  than the  raft of initiatives proposed in the Heather Simpson  report.

So  will  Andrew  Little  be  top of  the  pops, the  only  minister (so far) in the  Ardern  government to deliver  a  radical new policy  to  reform  a  key  government  service?

Initial  reactions  seemed  highly  in favour.  The  Dominion-Post’s headline ran “Overhaul of  DHBs Welcomed”.  The NZ  Herald  was  even  more  vivid  in  its  imagery:  “The  faces  of  failure”, it  shouted, “Health overhaul  to end ‘postcode lottery’  comes too  late  for  these  loved ones”.

The  message  was  clear:  good  riddance  to  the  district health boards (generally known as DHBs). Continue reading “Centralisation is prescribed for our health system – but funding is an issue and see what has happened in transport and education”

NZ to set up trade post in Fiji – but questions are raised about the confines of the “Pacific region”

Great – a statement from Damien O’Connor that won’t (or shouldn’t) frighten the horses or our allies. At least, not in terms of signalling a greater fondness for China  than for friends in the democratic West.   

It was a trade statement:  New Zealand will open a new Trade Commission in Fiji later this year, O’Connor announced as Minister of Trade and Export Growth. 

But his next sentence might have raised some eyebrows. 

“Fiji is New Zealand’s largest trading partner in the Pacific region”, Damien O’Connor said.

Really?

Some definition of terms was called for here.  

Some people would define the Pacific region to include the United States, China and Australia.

We imagine O’Connor was defining it to embrace only the island countries of the South Pacific (but referring to Pacific Islands Forum countries, let’s say. would oblige him to include Australia).

The announcement was one of three to emerge from the Beehive since the last time we checked. Continue reading “NZ to set up trade post in Fiji – but questions are raised about the confines of the “Pacific region””

The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta was  probably expecting  her speech this week  on New Zealand’s policy  towards  China  to be  widely  read, but not to have  produced  the  savage   reactions  it  did in some  quarters.

In our examination  of  the  speech, Point  of  Order  drew  attention  to how  Mahuta  had  delivered  a  poke  in the  eye  to  NZ’s  allies — and  sure  enough,  this  was  the feature   which got most  attention  across the  ditch.

At  home  the ACT  party was  fired  up by  praise  for the  speech  from  China.  It  found this approval,  coming from a communist dictatorship, as “deeply concerning”.

ACT’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Brooke van Velden says it’s hard to imagine how Nanaia Mahuta could fail harder than being praised by a communist dictatorship and shunned by  democratic allies.

She  noted international media are commenting that NZ has “broken with its Five Eyes partners as it pursues a closer alliance with China” and that “Five Eyes becomes four”. Continue reading “The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing”

The world is keen on our dairy products, which is great for our economy – but what happens when we start culling the cows?

Although  global  trading patterns  are still recovering from the  Covid  pandemic, the  positive  outcome   for  New Zealand   is  that  it  has  strengthened  demand for  the  kind of foodstuffs we produce.

In particular  the   dairy  trade is booming  and  though  the current  production season is beginning to tail off, Fonterra’s latest global dairy auction showed  demand, far  from  falling off, is  still  very  strong,  with  prices  for  whole  milk  powder   51%  higher  than at the  level they were at  this time  last  season.

Dairy products are the country’s largest commodity export and Fonterra estimates milk payments to its 10,000 farmer suppliers for this season would contribute about $11.5 billion to the economy.

The  encouraging  factor   for those  producers  is  that  there  is  every sign  the   high prices  being  earned  at  present  will  be  sustained  into  the  next  season.

Last month, Fonterra raised its forecast milk price for this season to between $7.30 and $7.90 kg/MS, with a mid-point of $7.60.  Some  analysts  are   forecasting $7.70 for this season, ahead of Fonterra’s mid-point.For next season, the  forecasts  range between $7.30   and  $7.50.

While the global dairy trade price index slipped 0.1% from the previous auction a fortnight ago, prices for whole milk powder, which has the most impact on what farmers are paid, gained 0.4% to an average US$4097 (NZ$5713) a tonne.

What  may  be  an irritant  for  the  industry, currency  movements  are  taking  some  of the  gloss  off the  prices  being earned.

With the rising Kiwi currency, the latest auction brought overall prices -2.0% lower in NZ dollars. The key WMP and SMP prices were virtually unchanged in US dollars. The best performer was cheddar cheese, up +1.2% in US dollars but even that was not enough to record a gain in NZD.

The   strong  market  is largely driven by China where a wealthier population and an increased focus on health and wellbeing after the Covid-19 pandemic is stoking demand for better nutrition.

North Asian buyers were back in force, taking up their usual positions as the major buyer.

At the latest auction, 99% of the whole milk powder on offer was sold. There were slight  downward movements  with both of the cream group products. That was  attributed  in part to  the extra volume of butter on offer.

Fonterra  indicated previously it is producing more butter to take  advantage of the  high return for it. That was  sensible,  with butter topping $US5,100  a  tonne.

Given the  outstanding  work  of  the  dairy  industry,  how    will  the  government  react  when  it   comes to   deal  with  the  Climate Change Commission’s  proposal  to  cut  dairy cow  numbers  by  15%?

Govt amputates the country’s 20 DHBs in its health restructuring but consults the Treaty to prescribe a balm for Maori

Health, health and health were the subjects of three ministerial posts  – two of them were speeches –  on the Beehive website this morning.

They spell out the government’s plans for comprehensively overhauling the country’s health system.

They also step up the pace in the government’s perturbing programme of creating an “us” and “them” racial divide.

In his speech, Health Minister Andrew Little says he is laying out “a plan to create a truly national public health service”. National, yes, but with a separatist component.

Little described it as a system that takes health services to the people who need them, no matter who they are or where they live, and which draws on the best of what we have now, but will enable doctors, nurses and other health workers to concentrate on patients “instead of battling bureaucracy”.

Then he insisted the restructuring “will reinforce Te Tiriti principles and obligations”.

Readers who check out the three articles of the Treaty for guidance on shaping a health system will be hard pressed to find what this should entail.

Little also brought the concept of a Treaty partnership into considerations:  he said the system must work in true partnership with Māori to improve services and achieve equitable health outcomes. Continue reading “Govt amputates the country’s 20 DHBs in its health restructuring but consults the Treaty to prescribe a balm for Maori”

Here’s hoping Transport Minister applies Transmission Gully lessons (and delays) to Light Rail project in Auckland

The Transmission Gully interim review has found serious flaws at the planning stage of the 27km highway, “undermining” the successful completion of the four-lane motorway north of Wellington, according to Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Transport Minister Michael Wood.

Grant Robertson said the review found the public-private partnership (PPP) established under the last National government lacked the proper rigour and consideration.

The review was focused on how the project was awarded for the agreed price, whether the price was realistic, and whether the risks then identified were appropriately considered.

When  announcing  the  review  in  August last  year,  the  government said Transmission Gully would open by September 2021 but will cost another $208m to build, taking  the  cost  to $1.25bn.  Originally the  project’s  cost  was put  at $850m,   but Covid lockdowns  set it spiralling upwards.

At  that point in 2020 the government was  said  to have   “slammed” the delays and increased costs.

But hey – remember  that  Phil  Twyford  had   already  had  three  years as  Transport  Minister  to  expedite  the  project .  Yet all he  did was  order  a  review. Continue reading “Here’s hoping Transport Minister applies Transmission Gully lessons (and delays) to Light Rail project in Auckland”

Yes, we impose sanctions (when the UN says we should) and will despatch an Orion to ensure they aren’t breached

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has had a busy two days.  Hard on the heels of echoing the title of a book edited by academic writer Manying Ip to headline an important policy speech, she was announcing the visit here this week of Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne for ministerial consultations.  

That should be a fun event, especially Mahuta’s explaining some of the Five Eyes stuff that emerged from her policy speech.

 This morning, she was  answering RNZ questions about easing back from the Five Eyes alliance.

Asked about what this would mean for situations like Uighur Muslims in China – which other nations have put sanctions in place over – Mahuta said:

“New Zealand doesn’t have a sanctions regime like those countries.

“We favour diplomacy that involves dialogue, which ensures we build multilateral support for the things we advocate on that will protect our values and our interests.”

Mahuta said New Zealand could impose travel bans but it was “really important” that the country upheld international “rules and norms and the institutions that support that and ensuring that when we act that we act with the support of the United Nations”.

 In other words, if we have properly grasped her explanation, sanctions will be applied only when the UN says we should – and when the UN says we should, the sanctions become compulsory. Continue reading “Yes, we impose sanctions (when the UN says we should) and will despatch an Orion to ensure they aren’t breached”