Britain’s dash for good government (or the difficulty of reversing bad government)

When three former prime ministers condemn a policy, you suspect it might be worth a closer look.

So it is with the announcement by Boris Johnson of a seemingly-innocuous machinery of government tweak – the merging of Britain’s Department for International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Continue reading “Britain’s dash for good government (or the difficulty of reversing bad government)”

Maori tribe raises questions about the millions invested by PGF in tourism project on Mt Taranaki

Many millions have been served from an array of government troughs in recent days. But questions are being raised about the millions pumped into one project – on Mt Taranaki – and we wonder if similar questions could well be raised about other funding decisions brought to the attention of the Point of Order Trough Monitor.

In recent days the government has announced –

  • It is pumping an extra $3 million into the Drought Recovery Advice Fund to support farmers and growers with professional advice to help them recover from this drought, and better prepare their farm businesses for any similar events in future.
  • It is providing a  boost of over $30.3 million for the Mana in Mahi – Strength in Work programme, to increase support and job opportunities for those most at risk in the labour market as the economy recovers from the impact of COVID 19.
  • It  is providing businesses with up to $16,000 to help pay the cost of each apprentice for the first two years. The apprenticeship support scheme, Apprenticeship Boost, is part of a wider government programme to keep apprentices in jobs and support employers to invest in new ones
  • It has established a programme to help foreign nationals in serious hardship.  The Assistance for Foreign Nationals impacted by COVID-19 Programme will provide temporary, in-kind assistance to eligible people to help meet basic needs such as food and accommodation.
  • It is providing a funding boost to Playcentre Aotearoa to help the organisation retain its 400 plus centres after the Covid-19 lockdown disrupted the flow of grants, donations and fundraising. The Government is making $3.7 million available to address its urgent funding issues and a further $500,000 will be available to assess the condition of playcentre facilities throughout the country.
  • It is investing (through the Provincial Growth Fund) nearly $17.87 million in the Te Ara Pounamu pathways project to support the roll out of state-of-the-art innovative digital technology to tell the West Coast’s unique cultural and historical stories, to Aotearoa New Zealand and the world.

Continue reading “Maori tribe raises questions about the millions invested by PGF in tourism project on Mt Taranaki”

Northland projects get a further boost from the PGF trough – and Jones hasn’t forgotten his forestry ambitions

New Zealand First ministers seem to be doing nicely, thank you, in demonstrating to the good people of Northland that they have the best interests of the local economy at heart.

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has recorded two fresh press releases announcing more millions of public monies headed north for projects already boosted by Provincial Growth Fund money in that part of the country.

Isn’t that the home patch for some New Zealand First leaders? We do believe it is.

The PGF late in 2018 provided $13.9m towards the construction of the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangarei.

And yesterday – hurrah! – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced an additional $4.5 million for the centre.

The Ministers said the art centre will house two galleries. The first will be only gallery outside of Austria to house a permanent display of artist Friedrich Hundertwasser’s art, worth millions of dollars. The Wairau Maori Art Gallery will become the national home to the best examples of contemporary Māori art.

“The art centre is estimated to bring in an economic benefit of $26 million to the region and more than 250,000 visitors to Whangarei annually, in line with the number of visitors the Hundertwasser toilets attract in Kawakawa,” Mr Jones said.  Continue reading “Northland projects get a further boost from the PGF trough – and Jones hasn’t forgotten his forestry ambitions”

A day later, the culture sector and farmers (some, anyway) get a second helping of public funding

 Just a day after announcing financial help for the culture community and for farmers, the Beehive brought news of even more money for those groups.

In the case of the farmers, mind you, the help is focused on just one region.  The Government is investing $844,000 in King Country River Care, a group that helps farmers to lift freshwater quality and farming practice.

This followed the announcement on Wednesday of a $700 million fund that will create jobs in riparian and wetland planting, removing sediments and other initiatives to prevent farm run off entering waterways. The fund is for the primary sector, iwi/Māori, local government and their communities.

The creative sector learned the government has set up a jobseekers programme and four new funds to help the arts and music industry recover from the blow of COVID-19.

This is intended to support thousands of jobs with a $175 million package, a sum described as “a crucial economic boost to support the arts and creative sector”, which contributes nearly $11 billion a year to GDP, employs 90,000 people and supports the wellbeing of communities.

According to the details the government is offering: Continue reading “A day later, the culture sector and farmers (some, anyway) get a second helping of public funding”

Apollo Foods moves on to the second course – and is served a $2.9m helping from the PGF

Apollo Foods Limited, incorporated in 2013 and based in Hastings, has become one of the early beneficiaries of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) since its administrators were given new marching orders – or should we say serving orders?

Apollo Foods, at first blush, doesn’t seem desperately in need of a helping hand from taxpayers.

According to the New Zealand Food Innovation Network,

Job creation is already considerable – three employees have become 40 in only 18 months. Sales turnover, although domestic only, has grown rapidly to >$500K since launch in April 2018. Export interest is high from a range of markets, and all going well there may even be a container on the water before Christmas.

The article is undated and we are left to guess which Christmas has been mentioned.

Not long after its establishment, T&G Global, controlled by Germany’s BayWa, bought a half stake in the company in 2014 for $1 million before selling for an undisclosed sum in 2016.

Fonterra got a slice of the action two years ago when it invested an undisclosed sum in a new production line at a site capable of being used separately by both companies to produce dairy and fruit-based drinks.

The NZ Food Innovation Network site shows the company has not only learned how to find financial backing from corporate biggies like Fonterra and T&G Global.

It knows how to sniff out a publicly filled trough, too.

Operational investment has been big, with the capital investment circa. $20 million, supported by Callaghan Innovation from the project outset. 

The company has been nourished from the PGF, too.

Last year Apollo Foods was among a few Hawke’s Bay companies which were awarded more than $14 million from the fund.  Mind you, its portion of that particular feast was more like an appetiser – it amounted to $300,000 for a feasibility study into expansion of the facility.

At that time,  Parliamentary Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau said Hawke’s Bay had been earmarked as a priority region in terms of PGF investment to build on its farming and horticulture strengths, and provide employment opportunities and higher wages for locals.

When he announced a much bigger portion for Apollo Foods yesterday, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones declared the PGF will play a vital role in New Zealand’s post-COVID-19 recovery

“ … by creating jobs in shorter timeframes through at least $600 million being refocused on projects with more immediate economic benefits.”

This looks like a strong hint that money previously dished up from the PGF has failed to generate the promised jobs as fast as Jones would like.

Jones announced PGF funding of $7.5m for four projects “that will make a huge difference to regions recovering from the impacts of COVID-19.

  • $2.9 million for Apollo Foods Ltd in Hawke’s Bay for new technology and to upskill workers to increase productivity and capability.
  • $2.5 million for an upgrade to Raglan Wharf to increase berth numbers and improve access for commercial operators, recreational users, and customers visiting the retail and hospitality businesses that could operate there.
  • $1.86 million to redevelop the Westport waterfront with a pedestrian and cycle bridge from the town centre to the riverfront. This will provide greater access to another PGF-funded project, the Kawatiri Coastal trail, and will allow trail related businesses close access to the town centre.
  • $209,500 for Otago engineering firm Te Pari Products to buy equipment that will increase its capacity to supply the primary sector with quality livestock-handling equipment.

Yep, there are four projects on the list, so why have we focussed on Apollo Foods?

Because it was the first to be mentioned and (we confess) we don’t have Jones’ resources to closely examine every beneficiary.

Perhaps we should apply for a share of the lolly, to employ more staff to write about stuff thrown up by the Point of Order Trough Monitor.  

Davis has been even-handed (almost) in Budget help for tourism and Maori – but Peters boosted racing much more handsomely

We imagine Kelvin Davis is being hailed for his services to Maori through his portfolio as Minister of Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti but perhaps not so much for his services to tourism as Minister of Tourism.

At least, not when the headline numbers of handouts and help for Maori and for tourism are spotted.

The Government will invest over $900 million in response to COVID-19 “to support our whānau, tamariki and all Māori so we can rebuild together”, Māori ministers (including Davis) announced.   [See update below]

Tourism gets a $400 million targeted Tourism Recovery Fund (but it also benefits from an extension of the Wage Subsidy Scheme and a domestic tourism campaign).

One commentator (if we heard correctly) drew attention to those numbers and noted that tourism was being short-changed with $400 million, compared with the $900 million being provided for Maori.

More obviously, tourism leaders could complain they have been short-changed compared with the racing industry. Continue reading “Davis has been even-handed (almost) in Budget help for tourism and Maori – but Peters boosted racing much more handsomely”

Tourism might win something from the Budget (as Racing already has done), but we will have to wait to learn how much

The big bucks – in pre-Budget announcements yesterday – went to health.  The headline number in this case was a record investment in district health boards of an extra $3.92 billion ($980 million a year) which Health Minister David Clark gloated was the biggest-ever increase in funding for the boards, as well as additional funding to deliver around 153,000 more surgeries and procedures, radiology scans and specialist appointments to help clear the COVID-19 backlog.

But when it comes to getting the biggest bang for your buck politically (they are our bucks, actually, on second thoughts), we reckon the day was won by Deputy Prime Minister and Racing Minister Winston Peters.  He delivered “a pre-Budget announcement on emergency support assistance for the New Zealand racing industry”.

The assistance amounts to a $50 million grant (which means handout) to be provided immediately for the Racing Industry Transition Agency, $26 million of it to enable  RITA to “honour its outstanding supplier payments”.

Peters couldn’t help but bray about this decision and his role in it: Continue reading “Tourism might win something from the Budget (as Racing already has done), but we will have to wait to learn how much”

Buzz from the Beehive – a lowering of the Covid-19 alert is signalled (along with a bill to provide the legal framework)

They seemed to be  busy, busy, busy in the Beehive yesterday (or some of them were),  using the flow of press statements as our measure.

But much of what emerged related to the same issue – the prospect that Covid-19 constraints on what we can do will be lowered to Level Two.

The PM said Cabinet on Monday will consider moving to the next stage of the Covid-19 response but cautioned that the virus has bounced back in some countries where restrictions have been relaxed. 

Her detailed statement emphasised the need to continue to playing it safe, noting that public health measures remain unchanged, the border remains closed except to Kiwis, and the government wants us to stick to the social distancing rules. But –  Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive – a lowering of the Covid-19 alert is signalled (along with a bill to provide the legal framework)”

Science Minister draws attention to a new trough (which now has more money in it than at the time of its establishment in March)

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has alerted us to a new trough, except our monitor obviously needs fine tuning because the trough is not quite as new as it seemed at first blush.

By the time it was announced yesterday by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, the fund had been up and going for several weeks and its administrators had been distributing generous servings from it.

It’s the COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund, aimed at the fast development of new products and services that could help to detect, diagnose, treat or prevent COVID-19, by supporting research and development, prototyping and pre-production activities.

But the puzzling aspect of the Minister’s statement is its acknowledgement that: Continue reading “Science Minister draws attention to a new trough (which now has more money in it than at the time of its establishment in March)”

Another dip into the PGF and – shazam! – here’s $2m for digital hubs and better connectivity

Five projects will receive $400,000 each for new hubs:

  • Gisborne, operated by Tairāwhiti Technology Trust
  • Katikati, operated by Western Bay of Plenty District Council
  • Te Kateretanga O Kura-Hau-Pō, operated by Horowhenua District Council
  • Woodville, operated by Tararua District Council
  • Murupara Regional Digital Hub, operated by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Manawa Trust

That adds up to $2 million and builds on the $3.6m already announced by the Government for eight other regional digital hubs in Northland, West Coast, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū/Whanganui/Horowhenua.

Jones dished up the goodies from a trough officially referred to as the PGF’s local digital connectivity funding package of $21m.

As well as establishing regional digital hubs, this package helps connect marae to the internet. Continue reading “Another dip into the PGF and – shazam! – here’s $2m for digital hubs and better connectivity”