Govt invites ideas on freshwater farm plans but irked cockies are unlikely to cancel their protest plans

One ministerial announcement which invites farmers and growers to engage in consultations on fresh water matters seems to have been issued a tad late to mollify angry farmers.  It coincided with news that a farmer group is planning a protest against what it describes as unworkable government regulations and interference in farmers’ lives – and interference in the work of the country’s biggest export sector.

Another announcement reflected concerns in the Beehive to mollify stressed operators in the tourism industry, no longer the country’s biggest earner of overseas revenue since it was crippled by the closing of borders to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Beehive policy-makers have figured they can’t do much to compensate flagging businesses for the billions of dollars lost when overseas visitors stopped coming here – but hey.

There IS something a “be kind” government can do.  It can chip in $4.5 million to give them peace of mind – of sorts – by dealing with their mental wellbeing.

In the farm sector, Groundswell NZ is organising ‘A Howl of a Protest’ in 47 towns and cities tomorrow.

Co-founder Laurie Paterson said the “ute tax” was one of their beefs but farmers were unhappy, too, with the bureaucratic approach to the national policy statement for fresh water management.

He referenced the work of a catchment group which helped clean up the Pomahaka River in Otago.

“Eight years ago that was the worst river in Otago for quality and now, because the local people have bought into it, set up their own catchment group, all the things are in the green.

“Instead of setting up great bureaucracies to run these things we need to just let local people work with the regional councils to get the right results.”

No doubt to pacify the primary sector, the government is inviting farmers and growers to provide practical ideas

… to help develop high-quality and workable freshwater farm plans, in line with its freshwater goals.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker have released  consultation documents for freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion low slope maps.

As for the stressed tourism operators, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has announced details of how they and their communities can access the help announced in May as part of the government’s $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan.

“Agreements have now been put in place with District Health Boards in the lower South Island to deliver this crucial support to regional communities,” Stuart Nash said.

“The $4.5 million investment allows DHBs to provide support in Kaikōura (Canterbury DHB), Mackenzie District (South Canterbury DHB), Queenstown Lakes and Fiordland (Southern DHB), and Westland (West Coast DHB).

“The DHBs will provide a range of mental well-being services and initiatives at a local level. They will work with communities to decide what’s needed and how it’s delivered.

“Businesses, workers and their families in our tourism destinations are facing challenges from border closures designed to keep New Zealand safe. The support in the Tourism Communities Plan allows decisions about wellbeing resources and services to be made by those at the heart of the communities themselves.” 

Fair to say, the government does recognise it’s not enough to provide help only for stress, anxiety, depression and what-have-you.

Nash said work on further business support initiatives in the five communities is progressing, and more information about eligibility criteria is available.

Latest from the Beehive

Social welfare

Government Initiatives Contribute to Fall in Benefit Numbers

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has welcomed the release of the June quarter Benefit Statistics which show benefit numbers fell 11,193 over the June quarter.  There were 354,744 people receiving a Main Benefit, with 110,790 people receiving a Job Seeker Work Ready Benefit.

Most of the fall in numbers comes from people moving off benefits and into employment.  Around 31,240 people left a benefit for a job, the second highest number of people finding work since records began, Sepuloni said.

More information can be found here: https://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/statistics/benefit/index.html

And more information on the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs can be found here: https://www.mtfj.co.nz/our-work/community-recovery-programme/

Tourism

Tourism support package continues rollout

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has announced details of how tourism operators and communities can access the help announced in May as part of the government’s $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan.

Agreements have been put in place with District Health Boards in the lower South Island to deliver this crucial support to regional communities.

The $4.5 million investment allows DHBs to provide support in Kaikōura (Canterbury DHB), Mackenzie District (South Canterbury DHB), Queenstown Lakes and Fiordland (Southern DHB), and Westland (West Coast DHB).

Work on further business support initiatives in the five communities is progressing, and more information about eligibility criteria is available.

More information is available on the Tourism Recovery section of the MBIE website.

The business support initiatives are:

  • $10 million Business Advisory Support fund (up to $5,000 per business) to enable businesses to receive expert advice and support such as changing target market, or scaling their business.
  • $10 million in grants for businesses to implement business advice
    (up to $5,000 per business).
  • $49 million Tourism Kick-start Fund, to contribute towards existing tourism businesses scaling back up for the return of international visitors. The grant will be calculated based on two weeks of pre-COVID revenue set at two weeks of average revenue for 2019.

The government is working with four existing regional organisations to act as lead entities to roll out the business support initiatives in the five South Island communities, as follows:

  • Queenstown Lakes District Council for Queenstown Lakes District
  • ChristchurchNZ for Kaikōura and Mackenzie Districts
  • Great South for Southland District

 Foreign affairs

NZ-PNG Sign Statement of Partnership

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape have signed the first-ever New Zealand – Papua New Guinea Statement of Partnership today.

During the virtual meeting the leaders discussed the APEC Informal Leaders’ Retreat tomorrow, strengthening Pacific regionalism and the COVID-19 situation in Papua New Guinea, including how New Zealand could continue to support the Government of Papua New Guinea’s COVID-19 response measures.

 Travel bubble

Further advice being sought on new cases in Victoria

The government is seeking further advice from public health officials following seven new positive cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.

In the meantime anyone with concerns about the potential of a pause to Quarantine Free Travel is being urged to organise to get home as soon as possible.

Ethnic communities

Christchurch Learning Community Hubs supporting ethnic families

Associate Minister of Education Jan Tinetti has released the report ‘Voices from the Ōtautahi’ on the Christchurch Learning Community Hubs.

These hubs, which help to connect schools and learning opportunities with members of Christchurch’s ethnic community, were established in Terms 3 and 4 of 2020 in response to requests from ethnic communities after the March 15 2019 terror attack.

From an initial 10-week pilot programme, seven Learning Community Hubs support 158 families across 18 ethnicities, including 270 early childhood and school aged children across Christchurch. The model will be rolled out in Auckland and Wellington later this year.

 Conservation

Hundreds more hands funded to work for nature

A $34 million allocation from the Jobs for Nature Community and Private Land Biodiversity funds administered by the Department of Conservation will support biodiversity protection through community-led projects and on private property, creating 579 full-time equivalent jobs.

The range of work being funded includes pest control and restoration planting, plant propagation, skill building and education initiatives.

Examples are a predator control project to create a biodiversity corridor between Lake Rotokare and Omoana in Taranaki, a marae-led project that aims to increase whio and kiwi numbers on the East Coast and a nationwide education and training programme to help hunters contribute to conservation outcomes.

The funding announced today supports 49 projects selected from more than 400 applications.

Full list of successful applicants: https://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/jobs-for-nature–mahi-mo-te-taiao/projects-funded-by-jobs-for-nature/

Covid-19 testing 

Saliva testing expansion for frontline border workers

All frontline border workers who are required to be regularly tested for COVID-19 will soon be able to choose regular saliva testing as a full replacement for nasopharyngeal testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

Saliva testing will be expanded as an option for all those on a regular testing cycle under the Required Testing Order. This will start with those on a 7-day testing cycle from mid-August, and be expanded over several months to include the rest of the estimated 13,000 estimated active border workers.

Ministry of Health advice is that saliva testing is an increasingly viable and reliable method for public health surveillance purposes.

A prototype to test the processes for regular saliva testing is under way in Canterbury.

 Fresh water

Government consults on freshwater farm plan

The Government is inviting farmers and growers to provide their practical ideas to help develop high-quality and workable freshwater farm plans, in line with its freshwater goals.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker have released the consultation documents for freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion low slope maps. Comment is being sought on a new, more accurate, mapping approach for stock exclusion that better reflects what farmers see on-the-ground.

These are part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. Public consultation with farmers, agricultural sector groups, iwi and Māori, councils, and environmental groups will run from 26 July – 12 September.

The discussion document is now available on the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries websites. The online submission forms will be available when the consultation opens on the week of 26 July on the Ministry for the Environment’s website in the have your say section.

Stock exclusion regulations – proposed changes

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/stock-exclusion-regulations-proposed-changes-to-the-low-slope-map

Freshwater farm plan regulations discussion document

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/freshwater-farm-plan-regulations-discussion-document

Freshwater farm plan regulations supporting document

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/freshwater-farm-plan-regulations-regulatory-impact-analysis

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