A doubling of our vaccine supply (but there’s a long way to go) and a blow to illicit drug dealing (despite cut to the Police budget)

One Beehive statement alerted us to the numbers game in the Government’s Covid vaccination programme.   The latest consignments of the vaccine will double the total number of Pfizer doses this country has received this year to more than 1,900,000 – enough to fully vaccinate almost 1 million Kiwis. 

Mmm. This is not as reassuring as the government might think.

It means four-fifths of the population remain (or will remain) unvaccinated, including the very many who aren’t rabid anti-vaxxers and who are anxious to be protected against the virus.

Just one group –  Group 3 – comprises more than 1 million people and will take time to work through. It comprises everyone over the age of 65 and people with disabilities and some underlying health conditions

So far, the Government has fully vaccinated over a quarter of a million people.

Another statement alerted us to the existence of an outfit called the Independent Children’s Monitor, which does a different job than the Children’s Commissioner.

Then there was the statement from Police Minister Poto Williams which seemed calculated to erase memories of a Budget which reduced the appropriation for the Police. 

The international bust of crime gangs in several countries, including New Zealand, provided a pretext for braying about her Government putting a record number of Police on the frontline with a specific focus on organised crime.

This was a bit rich, less than a month after Budget 2021 enabled National’s Police spokesman Simeon Brown to criticise the trimming of the Police Budget by around $90 million

“ … despite record growth in gang membership.”

Operation Trojan Shield involved  more than 300 officers in this country executing 37 search warrants across the North Island.

Illegal firearms, methamphetamine, cannabis, and more than an estimated $1 million in cash was recovered.

Police have arrested 35 individuals and laid over 900 charges.

“This international operation, led by the FBI and co-ordinated with the DEA, AFP, Europol and numerous other law enforcement partners from more than a dozen countries, is testament to the hard work of Police officers and the relationships they have built with their international colleagues,” Poto Williams said.

Williams popped up later in the day with another announcement, to tell us the Construction Contracts (Retention Money) Amendment Bill – which provides greater financial protection for subcontractors – has passed its first reading. 

 Latest from the Beehive

  • Building legislation

Government takes action to improve protections for subcontractors

The Construction Contracts (Retention Money) Amendment Bill, providing greater financial protection for subcontractors, has passed its first reading. 

The Bill amends the retention provisions in the Construction Contracts Act 2002 to provide increased confidence and transparency for subcontractors that retention money they are owed is safe.

It includes provisions to protect retention money owed to subcontractors in the event of a business failure and to ensure retention money withheld is responsibly managed.

The Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee will soon call for public submissions on the Bill.   

  • Vaccination programme

1 million more Pfizer doses to arrive in July

Pfizer has scheduled delivery of an estimated 1 million doses of vaccine to New Zealand “during July”, COVID1-9 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

These consignments will double the total number of Pfizer doses New Zealand has received this year to more than 1,900,000 – enough to fully vaccinate almost 1 million Kiwis. 

“This is great news and reassuring to see our vaccine supply ramping up. It shows our plan for what is the biggest and most complex logistical undertaking ever by the health system is on track.

“The doses will arrive in weekly drops, ramping up in quantity from mid July as we start to move to the wider population roll out.

“The drops will enable us to continue vaccinating Groups 1,2, and 3, while giving us the certainty needed to start the general population rollout as planned.

Reassured?

But the PM told RNZ this morning there had been “a little bit of anxiety” about vaccine delivery in June and July.

Chris Hipkins said around 20,000 doses a day were currently being administered and the Pfizer deliveries throughout July will enable this to increase significantly.

At the peak of the programme in August and September the Government expects to be administering 50,000 doses per day.

  • Burgeoning bureaucracy

Long-term home of the Independent Children’s Monitor identified  

The Independent Children’s Monitor (Te Mana Whakamaru Tamariki Motuhake), now  located within the Ministry of Social Development, will become its own departmental agency within Government.

This office is charged with overseeing the Oranga Tamariki System including the Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018 (NCS Regulations).  Its website says: 

We monitor the system of State care, not individual children, to ensure the agencies that look after our tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) are doing what they need to, to enable them to reach their potential and thrive.

The Monitor will now be set up as a new departmental agency, responsible for monitoring the Oranga Tamariki system, hosted by the Education Review Office (ERO), and led by its own Chief Executive who will be a Statutory Officer. 

The Children’s Commissioner will continue to monitor places where children and young people are detained under the Crimes of Torture Act (1989) and fulfil its other wide-ranging statutory obligations. These include advocating for the interests and rights and young people, and ensuring their views and voices are heard and acted on.

A Māori Advisory Group (of course) will be established and the Statutory Officer must have regard to the views of this Group. 

  • Animal welfare

Racing Integrity Board members announced

The wonderfully named Racing Integrity Board – established as an independent body under the Racing Industry Act 2020 – will be up and running from July 1 to ensure high standards of animal welfare, integrity and professionalism in the racing industry.

Racing Minister Grant Robertson has announced the appointments to the new Board:

  • Sir Bruce Robertson KNZM QC – Chair
  • Kristy McDonald ONZM QC
  • Penelope Mudford ONZM
  • Dr Patricia Pearce
  • Brent Williams.

Members have a combination of adjudication, senior governance and animal welfare expertise, with the experience to ensure compliance with the rules of racing, Robertson said.

The terms of appointment is 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2024.

  •  Law and order

Govt crackdown on organised crime continues

This alerted us to the major operation against multiple organised crime groups with international links that is expected to make a significant dent in drug harm and violent offending linked to organised crime networks.

Police Minister Poto Williams congratulated the Police for their role in Operation Trojan Shield and then proclaimed: 

“This Government is very clear that violent gangs and other criminals cannot continue to threaten, intimidate, and exploit our communities. Operation Trojan Shield highlights our commitment to disrupting organised crime and will have a major impact on organised crime syndicates in New Zealand and across the globe.

 “This Government has made it very clear – we will not tolerate organised crime and gangs. Just last month we announced our intention to amend the Proceeds of Crime legislation to ensure that those involved in organised crime would have to demonstrate their assets were obtained through legitimate means. If they can’t, their assets will be seized.

“This Government has put a record number of Police on the frontline with a specific focus on organised crime. This Government’s record investment in Police will include 700 additional investigators. This operation highlights the excellent impact these officers can have.

  • Work schemes

Enhanced Task Force Green Approved for Canterbury

Somewhere in the Beehive – we imagine – there is a button, probably a green one. And yesterday somebody pressed it, which explains the news that: 

The Government has activated Enhanced Taskforce Green (ETFG) in response to the Canterbury floods.

Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said $500,000 – the beneficence astounds us – will be made available to help with the clean-up.

Part of the Government’s response to supporting the recovery is making funding available so that local councils or other authorised agency can hire job seekers to help with the clean-up activities like clearing debris.

This funding will enable jobseekers to be employed to help clear debris, including trees and baleage plastic, clear fences and buildings, and support general clean-up.

Connecting rangatahi to the soil

A Jobs for Nature project to raise 480,000 native plants in nurseries across South Auckland will provide work for communities disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, Acting C

The Mana in Kaimahi project is being run by Te Whāngai Trust Board and will establish employment opportunities to help manage native plant nurseries throughout South Auckland.

Mana in Kaimahi uses a Matauranga Māori and Te Whare Tapa Wha framework and aims to address the need for green spaces in the targeted areas by training at risk youth through nature-based employment and training opportunities.

Up to 72 full time equivalent (FTE) are expected to be created over the project’s three years, with the goal of raising 480,000 native plants to be used for forestry revegetation, riparian planting, and urban landscaping.

The $2.5 million project will encompass the Panmure, Takanini, and South Auckland Te Whāngai Hub areas and has more than 23 project partners.

The Jobs for Nature programme is a $1.245 billion investment in the creation of thousands of nature-based jobs.

  • Land information

Roll out of high-resolution elevation mapping begins

The first tranche of mapping data from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF)-LiDAR project is now available to the public from Land Information New Zealand.

LiDAR data, which creates 3D baseline elevation information, will deliver multiple uses over the coming decades to councils and regional industries.

“This mapping information will greatly assist the likes of farmers, by providing detailed slope information to protect waterways, or councils addressing coastal inundation,” Damien O’Connor said.

The PGF-LiDAR project began in 2018 after the Government made co-funding from  Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit (previously known as the Provincial Development Unit) available over five years to support regions across New Zealand to obtain a baseline elevation dataset.

Ten regions sought funding from this initiative to carry out the data mapping, with the West Coast being the first region where this data has become available. Current LiDAR data coverage across the country sits at 20 per cent and is set to increase to 80 per cent once the project is complete.

This first dataset covers the Westport area of the West Coast, with more data expected to be released across the regions participating in the PGF-LiDAR project as the data becomes available.

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