Unemployment insurance scheme (a Labour election promise) has made it to the drawing board

The last of a bundle of Budget Day announcements was a joint statement from the Government, Business NZ and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, telling us they are  jointly designing a Social Unemployment Insurance scheme.  

Finance Minister Grant Robertson likened the proposed scheme to the ACC for accidents, cushioning the impact of a job loss.

It would support workers to retain about 80 per cent of their income for a period after they lose their jobs and delivers on a commitment in Labour’s manifesto.

We expected much more comment and/or analysis than we found for this significant new initiative (although maybe we did not look hard enough).

A guest writer on The Spinoff focussed on “The problem with social unemployment insurance”.  Arguments for and against are presented today in a better balanced article on Stuff.

The Budget Day blast of benefit boosts and other goodies (and don’t forget the borrowing) seems to have exhausted the Beehive press gang.  Only two statements had emerged since then when we began work on this post.

Economic and Regional Envelopment Minister Stuart Nash grabbed an opportunity to do a bit of Shane Jones-style braying at the opening of a Surf Rescue Base at Pāpāmoa (the press statement had him opening a “new” surf rescue base, raising the question of how many old ones he has opened).

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins seemed chuffed that more people than showed up in an earlier survey have put their hands up for the Covid-19 vaccine. He also gave a progress report which illustrated how many Kiwis (around 90 per cent) have not been given their Covid shots, although some of these seem determined to stay well clear of the vaccinators. Continue reading “Unemployment insurance scheme (a Labour election promise) has made it to the drawing board”

Water and the co-governing numbers caper in which 68,000 Ngai Tahu might carry the same clout as 750,000 South Islanders

The news media hastened to air Ngai Tahu’s prompt rebuttal of Opposition leader Judith Collins claim that the Government would be giving the tribe an ownership stake in the South Island’s water and water assets.

It has not been so hasty to clearly explain the implications of what Ngai Tahu does want.

Collins referred to a document which – she said – meant South Island water services would be co-owned by Ngai Tahu and the Government.

Not so, was the prompt and tart rebuttal from the tribe and from central and local government leaders.

Co-governance maybe, co-ownership no.

But what does co-governance mean for the administrative structure?

At first blush, vital questions of democratic governance and accountability are raised.

In a press statement from Hobson’s Choice (not published by news media or posted by Scoop or Voxy) the implications are simply spelled out.

  • One lot of co-governors would represent Ngai Tahu, a tribal business entity that claims the affiliation of 68,000 people,
  • The other lot would represent 23 councils which “may represent 750,000 people”.

If you prefer to use 2018 census figures, they show Maori comprise 110,301 (10%) of a total South Island population of 1,104,531

The 23 local authorities, by the way, serve ALL of the people who live within their boundaries.

The tribe’s political ambitions are no secret – they are reflected in a claim in the High Court, reported on the Ngai Tahu website in an article headed Enough is enough – why Ngāi Tahu is suing the Crown over its waterways.

 In a legal first, Ngāi Tahu has lodged a statement of claim in the High Court seeking recognition of rangatiratanga over its awa and moana, to address the ongoing degradation caused by the environmental mismanagement. 

 According to the article:

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as the representative body of Ngāi Tahu, and 15 tribal leaders, are asking the courts to make declarations that we have rangatiratanga over the wai māori (freshwater) of our takiwā, and that the Crown should engage with us to jointly design a better system to manage and care for our precious waterways.

Rangatiratanga is not ownership. Owning something means using it however you like.

Rangatiratanga as a concept and a practice encompasses rights, responsibilities and obligations. And that includes the obligation to do what we can to stop the continued degradation of our freshwater systems.

And:

We are seeking to have the Government work and co-operate with us to design a better system for water management, one that protects our environment, while still ensuring wai māori for food production and development.

In her press statement, Collins said the Government was advancing plans to transfer 50 per cent of publicly-owned water assets in the South Island to Ngāi Tahu ownership.

She referenced a Department of Internal Affairs document which (she contended) presented the Government’s preferred option for Three Waters reform to 23 mayors and South Island iwi.

The proposal was to consolidate all water infrastructure across the South Island into one organisation.

This new Mainland water agency, which would assume ownership of all water assets and some council debt, was designed to be 50 per cent owned by Ngāi Tahu.

This would mean councils that had invested ratepayer money in pipes, wastewater and drinking water facilities for decades would have these assets taken away.

This is yet another example of Labour adopting a view that the Treaty of Waitangi promises ‘dual-governance’ of core government services like drinking water, health and local government, Ms Collins says.

And:

“ … Labour has now decided the Treaty requires separate systems of governance and fifty-fifty ownership of resources with iwi, and it is making these changes before having a national conversation about whether this is actually what the Treaty decrees.”

Her comments were denounced by Ngai Tahu as “deceptive” and by Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins, who said they were aimed at creating “fear and division”.

There had been no discussion of Ngai Tahu co-ownership of water assets, “but even if there was, it wouldn’t be worth beating the drum and fear-mongering over”, Hawkins said.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, chairman of a group representing Otago and Southland’s 10 city, district and regional councils in discussing the reforms, said it was “imperative we stick to the facts”.

“To come out and say it’s co-ownership or co-governance, it’s way too early to make calls like that.”

But if if it’s not co-ownership or co-governance, what are we talking about?

Cadogan did not explain what was being discussed – apparently because he does not know.

He did acknowledge the reforms were the biggest issue facing local government for at least a generation, and involved crucial issues of democracy and councils’ future liabilities, as well as Ngai Tahu’s role.

But he said councils remained “woefully short on detail” about what was being proposed, and he had called a meeting on May 28 with Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, who has ministerial responsibility for the reforms, Ngai Tahu and Department of Internal Affairs officials to address that.

Dr Te Maire Tau, co-chairman of Ngai Tahu freshwater governance group Te Kura Taka Pini, said

“Ngai Tahu wants to design the structure of the new entity with the Crown, and share governance responsibilities.

“The tribe has a huge interest in the water infrastructure in the South Island. We’re like the rest of South Island communities, particularly because we’re rural, and we fundamentally don’t have clean drinking water.”

Co-governance would provide a safeguard against any future government that wanted to privatise the waters assets that were being transferred from councils, he said.

The PM was terse when asked in Parliament why the Department of Internal Affairs had presented “as a preferred option to 23 South Island mayors and iwi a document proposing co-ownership of South Island drinking water”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: They did not.

She was nudged to tell a bit more.

Hon Judith Collins: Is the Prime Minister now telling the House that this document here, that was presented to 23 mayors and iwi and says, “Owners are the Canterbury councils and Ngāi Tahu, who are responsible for appointing representatives to the JGG.”—is that not what it says?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m happy to correct the member. I’m advised that that piece of work was commissioned by Ngāi Tahu. It was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and it is not something that Ngāi Tahu or, of course, the Government, who did not commission it, have been pursuing.

Hon Judith Collins: So when the Prime Minister is now telling the House that this document is the fault of Ngāi Tahu, is she now saying it was not presented by the Department of Internal Affairs at the hui that were being conducted by it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m actually rejecting the content of the question. I’m advised that it was commissioned by Ngāi Tahu. It’s not a question of blame.

Hon Judith Collins: Who presented the document to the 23 South Island mayors and iwi?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It was prepared and commissioned by PwC. It has not been pursued, I’m advised, by either Ngāi Tahu or, indeed, by the Government.

The PM did rule out joint ownership of water infrastructure in the South Island between Ngāi Tahu and councils, as suggested in the document Collins had brandished. 

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Public ownership has always been a bottom line, so not only have we ruled that out; Ngāi Tahu have ruled it out.

But the co-ownership issue remains to be sorted out, apparently.

David Seymour: Will the Prime Minister rule out co-governance of water infrastructure between Ngāi Tahu and councils, as also suggested in this document, under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have been very clear on ownership structure. When it comes to the issue of governance of water services, the Government, local government—and, yes, alongside local government there has been good engagement with iwi, and local government themselves have been driving that, too. Those decisions are yet to be made, but we are very clear on ownership.

Collins attempted to pin down the PM on the meaning of co-governance.

Fat chance.

Hon Judith Collins: What does the Prime Minister believe is co-governance of drinking water in the South Island?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Ultimately, this has all been driven by the fact that in Havelock North we had people who got extraordinarily sick, and some who died, as a result of us not having consistent provision around either water regulation, making sure that regulations are upheld, or that our water infrastructure is sufficient. Currently, we have over the next 30 to 40 years $120 billion to $185 billion worth of investment required in infrastructure. What we are starting is a discussion with local government around how we deal with that significant infrastructure gap and investment when currently $1.5 billion, or $45 billion over the next 30 years, is how much local government is likely to invest. That is the problem we’re trying to address, and I would welcome the member’s engagement on that issue.

But when did the discussion start and who has been involved?

A DIA report on consultations on the Three Waters Reform Programme says that between September and October 2020, members of the Three Waters Reform Team and Taumata Arowai conducted a series of hui to engage with iwi, hapū and Māori throughout the country.

The meetings had been attended by over 300 representatives from many different iwi, hapū and Māori organisations.

The meetings had highlighted many emerging issues that have the potential to impact iwi, hapū and Māori throughout the country.

The issues aired in the report “have been themed according to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi to reflect the matters as they relate to Māori as Treaty Partners”.

There was resounding support throughout the hui-ā-motu for a stronger partnership between tangata whenua and the Crown. Many attendees reflected, that if done well, this reform programme is an opportunity to develop/improve this relationship.

And:

DIA heard that it needs to ensure tangata whenua are embedded as Treaty Partners from the very start, including mana whenua representation at every table, on boards and anywhere decisions will be made. It is important DIA alongside iwi, hapū and Māori work through rights, interests and entity ownership and governance, so the Department can identify the roles and responsibilities of all, as Treaty Partners, at these levels.

 Yet at least one South Island mayor – along with most of the rest of the country, who have yet to be consulted – says he knows little about what is going on.

Something is shamefully wrong with the reform process and it most certainly is not democratic.  

Well, that puts Ruth’s beneficiary bashing to rights but borrowing has been boosted (by $100bn) to achieve this

The wellbeing of people today is being improved at the expense of the wellbeing  of taxpayers in the future.

That’s among the Budget observations by your team at Point of Order.

Net core Crown debt is forecast to increase by close to $100 billion by 2024/25, although it peaks as a share of GDP at 48% in 2022/23.

Umpteen announcements were made from the Beehive during the day and we note  Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s braying about the “righting of a wrong”.  This was a reference to the infamous benefit-slashing “Mother of all Budgets” presented by Ruth Richardson in the days of the Bolger government before MMP.

Are we supposed to believe this could not have been rectified – let’s say – when Labour was running things during the nine years of Helen Clark’s government, even though it was dependent on the support of minor parties? Continue reading “Well, that puts Ruth’s beneficiary bashing to rights but borrowing has been boosted (by $100bn) to achieve this”

$1.4bn budgeted for every Kiwi to be given Covid shots – and there’s more paid sick days for workers who fall ill

Budget eve news about the spending of $1.4 billion on the effort to vaccinate all New Zealanders against Covid-19 was accompanied by news of extra costs being heaped on employers by the extension of sick leave to their workers.

The Council of Trade Unions has expressed its delight at the second of those two announcements, dealing with the passage of legislation which lifts the minimum number days of paid sick leave to 10 days.

“Working people campaigned for this improvement to sick leave. COVID really showed us how important it is that people have the sick leave they need,” CTU President Richard Wagstaff said.

Another significant announcement focussed on the passage through its third reading of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (No 3), described as the final step in the Government’s reforms to our overseas investment rules.

It is intended to protect our “strategic assets” (the ones that remain in New Zealand ownership, presumably, depending on how these assets are defined) while ensuring there is no impediment to “low risk investments that will support our economic recovery”.

And finally, the PM and her Minister of Education presented the country’s highest-scoring students with awards of excellence at Parliament.

This was a heartening hint that the government can recognise merit and achievement, something we have come to doubt as it pushes positive discrimination policies intended to close various gaps it insists should be closed. Continue reading “$1.4bn budgeted for every Kiwi to be given Covid shots – and there’s more paid sick days for workers who fall ill”

Farmers may not get much from the Budget but prospects are looking good in export markets

The agriculture sector may not get the recognition it deserves in this year’s budget, nor much assistance along  the  road  to  reducing  methane emissions — but  at  least farmers  can take  satisfaction (as New Zealand  emerges into  the  post-Covid  era)  that  returns   for the  bulk of the  sector’s output  have  been  strong.  The prospects are that high prices for  most products will be  sustained  next season.

The latest  Global  Dairy Trade  auction this week saw prices  easing  slightly—but  for  the product  that bears  the  greatest influence  on Fonterra’s  farmgate milk price, whole milk powder, it is still 54%  higher  than  at this time  in the  previous season.

Analysts are confident it will stay around that  level next season.

The other encouraging sign for primary producers  is  that  prices  in the  meat  sector  are  buoyant.  This  week  Westpac lifted its farmgate lamb forecast to at least $8/kg, and sees it possibly rising to over $9. Continue reading “Farmers may not get much from the Budget but prospects are looking good in export markets”

Iwi were given voting rights on Hastings council committees in 2019 – and now the Maori voice is being amplified

Two years ago we reported on the Battle of Hastings, 2019. On one side, the stalwarts of democracy were intent on defending their concept of the best form of government for their district.  On the other side were the champions of attenuated lines of accountability between citizens and those who govern them.

The democrats were outnumbered and the Hastings District Council voted to fortify iwi influence by appointing four members of the Maori Joint Committee to the council’s four standing committees with voting rights.

Waatea News reported news of the vote under the heading Hastings to hear Māori voice.

This mischievously overlooked the full contents of a council press statement which noted: Continue reading “Iwi were given voting rights on Hastings council committees in 2019 – and now the Maori voice is being amplified”

Climate change crusaders press for a Budgetary assault on emissions and pests (but this might stall the Covid recovery)

Radio  NZ   is  reporting  that  climate  change  warriors have  low  expectations  the  budget  will  deliver what is  needed.  Climate lobby groups say that while the need for action to lower emissions and tackle climate change has never been greater, they doubt the government will step up.

It is being pitched as a Covid-19 recovery budget, as the world starts to emerge from 16 months focussed on battling the virus.

 Radio  NZ    quoted Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick as  saying the window for climate action was closing fast. 

“Forget 10 years to sort emissions it’s really only 18 months.  It’s this period last year and this year where governments are making investments, we’ve got to get that right – the pressure is on.” Continue reading “Climate change crusaders press for a Budgetary assault on emissions and pests (but this might stall the Covid recovery)”

Whoops – the Medicines Act needs to be remedied (and fast) after judge finds problem with the govt’s Covid vaccination programme

Two ministerial speeches have been posted on the Beehive website since Point of Order’s previous check on what the government is up to.

Not that it posts everything there, of course, and wading through a speech by David Clark on the government’s role in the digital economy is the heavy price we must pay for bringing you the latest from the Beehive on this blog.

But there are nuggets of hard news, too.

For example, the Minister of  Health rushed off to change the law after a High Court judge said:

“It is reasonably arguable that the decision to provisionally approve the vaccine for much wider use is problematic … “

The problem – it seems – relates to the powers of section 23 of the Medicines Act.

But the judge declined to grant interim orders stopping the vaccine rollout on the grounds that the repercussions “are too great, by some very considerable margin”.

Whatever the legalities, another statement from the  Beehive brought news that the 5000th vaccinator completing specialised training to administer the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine. Continue reading “Whoops – the Medicines Act needs to be remedied (and fast) after judge finds problem with the govt’s Covid vaccination programme”

Immigration reset (reflecting the govt’s tourism strategy) includes scheme to favour foreigners flush with dosh for investing here

The government has announced its preference for immigrants with money, much the same as its tourist industry strategy favours tourists with plenty of spending stuff.

This policy was contained in a lengthy rundown on immigration issues which emerged from the Beehive as “the immigration reset”.

The PM will be able to chat about this reset with her Australian counterpart soon.  A trans-Tasman leaders meeting  – in the Queenstown area, which is benefiting hugely from government initiatives to lift what are supposed to be its flagging fortunes – will be held at the end of the month.

We imagine the PM sought oodles of expert advice to enable her – if asked – to demonstrate the enormous contribution that flying two PMs with their entourages to Queenstown will make towards creating a carbon-free nation.

We say this because the other big statement of note in the past day or two came from Climate Change Minister James Shaw. He was chuffed that Budget 2021 helps deliver on the Government’s commitment to a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025. Continue reading “Immigration reset (reflecting the govt’s tourism strategy) includes scheme to favour foreigners flush with dosh for investing here”

A budget to keep the Jacinda bubble from bursting might blunt NZ’s productivity and spur Kiwis to better themselves in Oz

Finance  Minister  Grant  Robertson  won’t  want to do anything  to disturb  the  waves  of  euphoria  washing  over  New  Zealanders when  he  presents  the  budget  this  week.  The  country is  still basking    in  the  recognition accorded  the Prime  Minister  with  the  top spot in Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s greatest leaders.

The annual list, which was published on Friday,  praised Ardern’s leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as her “world-leading climate and gender-equity policies”.

Fortune magazine has been ranking and publishing top 50 world leader lists since 2014. Although Ardern has featured on it in the past, this is the first time she has been ranked  number  one.

Even  one-time National   supporters  line  up  in  the  queue   of  Ardern  worshippers.

So  Robertson   will  strive to  avoid  any  discordant  notes in  the  budget.  Yet  the  fact  is  that  the  NZ  economy,  though  it   has  survived the  Covid   pandemic  with  a  surprising  degree  of  success,  is  facing  many  challenges,  some  of  them  with  very  sharp  edges, as  it  moves  into  the  next  cycle. Continue reading “A budget to keep the Jacinda bubble from bursting might blunt NZ’s productivity and spur Kiwis to better themselves in Oz”