Buzz from the Beehive
Just two statements had been posted on the Beehive website, when we made our daily check this morning. This suggested the PM and her ministers were easing up on their workloads as Christmas Day nears.
But two more statements have been posted since then, one of them grandly headlined:
Open Government Fourth National Action Plan released
New Zealand’s Fourth National Action Plan under the Open Government Partnership was made public today.
This served to remind us of something we had forgotten, if ever we had taken much notice in the first place: there must have been First, Second and Third National Action Plans under the Open Government Partnership.
Whatever happened to them?
We were cheered to learn Chris Hipkins proclaim:
“Open government is about strengthening democracy, building trust and improving wellbeing. This Fourth Plan includes commitments that are designed to bring positive change for the people in New Zealand.”
Mind you, we don’t recall him going out to bat for democracy while Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and others in the government were promoting co-governance and supporting legislation to give Maori special electoral entitlements.
The plan Hipkins brandished today contains eight key commitments that have been developed in partnership with a range of people, communities, civil society organisations, Public Service agency officials and the Expert Advisory Panel members, and agreed to by Cabinet. These are:
- Adopt a community engagement tool
- Research deliberative processes for community engagement
- Establish an inclusive, multi-channel approach to the delivery of government information and services.
- Design and implement a National Counter Fraud and Corruption Strategy
- Increase transparency of beneficial ownership of companies and limited partnerships
- Improve Government Procurement Transparency
- Strengthen scrutiny of Official Information Act exemption clauses in legislation
- Improve transparency and accountability of algorithm use across government
New Zealand is a member of the Open Government Partnership, an agreement between 77 member nations to create more transparency and public participation in government – and to use new technologies to make governments more open and accountable.
Member nations undertake a new set of commitments through a National Action Plan every two years. While one Action Plan is being implemented, the next Action Plan is developed.
The other new statements posted on the Beehive website tell us ministers have been –
Welcoming a new global deal for nature
The COP15 summit in Montréal brought together parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, who after four years of negotiations, have agreed a turning point for nature, committing to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Appointing a Waka Kotahi Chair
The Minister of Transport Michael Wood has today announced the appointment of Dr Paul Reynolds as the Chair of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
Cautioning us to take steps to stay COVID-19 safe this summer
Make sure you’re prepared for if you get COVID-19 while on holiday so we can all enjoy a safe as summer, COVID-19 Response Minister Ayesha Verrall said.
New Zealand’s Covid settings will remain unchanged following a final review for the year.
This includes the retention of seven-day mandatory isolation for positive cases, in order to break the chain of transmission and keep cases and hospitalisations at a manageable level.
The Government continues to provide masks, RATs and vaccines “free” (which means taxpayers pick up the tab) from thousands of locations around the country.
RATs can be ordered from the online requestor site or over the phone, and masks and vaccines from your local pharmacy or through your GP.
Verrall gave a fascinating insight into her festive-season priorities:
“Making sure you’re up to date with your vaccines should be the first thing on your to-do list before Christmas.”
But the grouchy Greens were far from impressed, issuing a statement to say they are wondering if the Government signed off for the summer break before putting in place a COVID plan.
“Right now, the Government should be gearing up for a massive summer COVID communications campaign, not just sending out a media release and hoping for the best,” says Teanau Tuiono, Green Party spokesperson for the COVID-19 response.
“Over the last 12 months, we have moved away from collective public health messaging to messaging COVID as a matter of individual responsibility.”
We need to get back to clear public health messaging that makes clear that we have to work together to protect those around us, Tuiono said.
Over the last week alone, 42,740 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the community and 64 people have died. Nearly 600 people are in hospital with the virus.
“If this continues, it is going to put our health system under massive strain,” Tuiono said.
The Nats and ACT had their focus on other aspects of our wellbeing and the health of our finances.
ACT leader David Seymour did mention coughing, but not in a medical context.
“Feel like you’re coughing up more than ever to throw a summer BBQ or get the Christmas ham ready? ACT hears ya,” he said.
Compared to last summer the price of meat, poultry and fish had risen by 12 per cent, while fruit and vegetables has increased by 20 per cent.
He referenced data for the year ended November 2022 from Stats NZ which reported a 10.7 per cent annual increase in the price of food. In the past month alone prices had increased by 1.0 per cent.
Compared to last summer the price of meat, poultry and fish had risen by 12 per cent, while fruit and vegetables has increased by 20 per cent, he noted.
He referenced data for the year ended November 2022 from Stats NZ which reports a 10.7 per cent annual increase in the price of food. In the past month alone prices had increased by 1.0 per cent.
“When a food superpower like New Zealand has record food inflation, far higher than the CPI, we can definitively say inflation is a local problem, caused by Labour’s economic mismanagement.
National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson, Louise Upston, referenced new data which show a record sum of special needs grants was paid out to non-beneficiaries in 2021/22.
For the first time more than $100 million was spent helping people not receiving a main benefit to purchase basic items, representing an increase of 100 per cent in this expenditure under Labour’s watch, she said.
Grants for food alone had almost doubled since Labour came to power.
“With the new year just around the corner, rather than continuing to drag more people into the welfare system, New Zealanders deserve a real economic plan that enables them to stand on their own two feet and get ahead.”