The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor kicked off our day with the cheering news that New Zealand and the UK have committed to accelerating their free trade agreement negotiations with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle this August.

This compensated for the news that the first day’s play on the scheduled first day of the cricket test between the Black Caps and India had been abandoned.

“We’ve held constructive and productive discussions towards the conclusion of a high-quality and comprehensive FTA that will support sustainable and inclusive trade, and help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID,” Damien O’Connor said.

He will leave the UK on Monday morning for Brussels where he will meet with his trade counterpart to advance NZ’s FTA negotiations with the European Union.

His good news landed in our in tray on World Albatross Day but the news from the Beehive for the endangered Antipodean albatross was ominous. 

Their numbers are declining at an alarming rate.

Albatrosses feed on fish near the surface, making them vulnerable to being caught on fishing lines or in nets.

Acting Conversation Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government has a plan aiming to reduce domestic bycatch to zero and is funding a wider roll-out of cameras on inshore fishing vessels. Continue reading “The omens look good for exporters wanting a better deal from FTA with the UK – but not so good for endangered albatross”

Belarus pays penalty for ignoring concerns about its electoral and human rights record – NZ bans its leaders from travelling here

New Zealand has imposed travel bans on 50 individuals associated with the Lukashenko regime in Belarus elections.  Among those in the naughty books are the President and key members of his Administration, the Electoral Commission, the police and other security forces.

This will show ‘em we mean business, if they can’t or won’t clean up their act on the international human rights front.

On the sea front, up to 300 inshore commercial fishing vessels are to be fitted with on-board cameras by 2024 as part of the Government’s commitment to protect the natural marine environment.  The cost:  it  is expected to be $68 million over the next four years.

The news many people had been anxiously awaiting – not the anti-vaxxers, of course – is a rough timetable for rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine.

Then came Justice Minister Kris Faafoi’s announcement of a review of New Zealand’s 66-year-old adoption laws. Continue reading “Belarus pays penalty for ignoring concerns about its electoral and human rights record – NZ bans its leaders from travelling here”

Team NZ’s rejection of public funding offer means around $100m won’t be sunk into America’s Cup defence

It’s full steam ahead for the economy, according to the latest GDP statistics and a  Finance Minister who eagerly drew attention to the new data.

Our farm industries, generally, are doing nicely, too, thank you, in spite of head winds which include a growing raft of government regulations.

But prospects of the America’s Cup being defended in this country are in the doldrums.  That’s bad news for yachting buffs (but great news for taxpayers).

GDP increased 1.6% in the first three months of 2021, much better than the Treasury forecast of a modest decline of 0.2% in May’s Budget or (with the benefit of more recent data) economic commentators’ forecast of an increase less than 1%.

Internationally, the OECD average was 0.3%.

The economy was 2.4% above where it was in the March quarter last year.

A measure of the strength of the food and fibres sector – or rather, a measure of the government’s confidence in the sector – can be discerned from two reports released at Fieldays in Mystery Creek. Continue reading “Team NZ’s rejection of public funding offer means around $100m won’t be sunk into America’s Cup defence”

Cleaning up Christchurch earthquake insurance mess “proactively” could cost the govt (or taxpayers) $313 million

Earthquakes, climate change and terrorism were embraced in press statements that flowed from the Beehive yesterday.

We learned that cleaning up an insurance mess related to the Christchurch earthquakes – it’s being done through a “proactive package” for some Southern Response policyholders – could cost $313 million if all eligible claimants apply.

Another announcement tells us about an initiative to meet the government’s climate change targets:  state agencies which are required to apply Government Procurement Rules must follow the advice in a new Procurement Guide when deciding about new buildings with an estimated value of $9 million or over.

The new Procurement Guide reflects the government’s goal to transition to a carbon neutral public service.

The private sector is being encouraged to follow the guidance for new projects, too.

And then there’s the speech by the PM to a conference on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which is being held in Christchurch over two days this week.

He Whenua Taurikura (the name given to it) will become an annual conference

“ .. promoting public conversation, understanding and research on radicalisation. It will look at ways to challenge hate-motivated extremist ideologies and to discuss priorities to address issues of terrorism and violent extremism”.

But let’s dip into that “proactive package”.  What’s it all about?

The Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, David Clark, harked back to December when he announced what he calls  “a proactive package” for Southern Response Earthquake claimants who settled their claims before October 2014.

This was a response to a court  judgment in relation to Karl and Alison Dodds and offers a top-up payment to other customers in a similar situation.

Southern Response – of course – is the state-owned earthquake insurance settlement company and was responsible for settling claims by AMI policyholders after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

The court found Southern Response had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct that misrepresented the Dodds’ insurance entitlements.

The insurer had produced two differing detailed repair/rebuild assessments, which outlined the costs of rebuilding or repairing their home, and only showed them one that did not include some costs.

The package announced by the government will affect some policyholders who are potentially part of the Ross Class Action.

Based on actuarial advice, Southern Response is including a cost of $242.5 million in its accounts, reflecting an estimate of around 75 percent take-up of the package.

Earthquake insurance

Cost of Government Southern Response proactive package released

The Government has announced the proactive package for some Southern Response policyholders could cost $313 million if all those eligible apply.

 The package will affect some policyholders who are potentially part of the Ross Class Action, Southern Response has applied to the court for confirmation that it can communicate with those policyholders about the package. This application is still making its way through the court.

Southern Response has been working with its actuaries to estimate payments likely to be made under the approved package.

“We are now in a position to release the cost estimate of the full package,” David Clark said.

Based on actuarial advice, Southern Response is including a cost of $242.5 million in its accounts, reflecting an estimate of around 75 percent take-up of the package.

State building projects

New support to reduce emissions from public building and construction projects

Government agencies are getting guidance on how to reduce carbon emissions generated by construction of new buildings.

The new Procurement Guide will help government agencies, private sector suppliers, designers, and construction and industry representatives to make the right decisions.

Agencies that are required to apply Government Procurement Rules must now apply the Procurement Guide to decisions about new buildings with an estimated value of $9 million or over.

Government agencies must now clearly record decisions about the way they choose design options. If they choose a design that is not the lowest possible carbon option to meet their project brief they must identify the reason for this, and have the decision signed off by their Chief Executive.

The new Procurement Guide reflects the government’s goal to transition to a carbon neutral public service.

The procurement practices of public service agencies have the power to influence decisions by private and community sectors when it comes to carbon-neutral and low-emission technologies, the press statement says .

And the new guide is in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Commission’s final report issued last week.

The Guide to Reducing Carbon Emissions in Building and Construction is available online here:

Terrorism

He Whenua Taurikura: New Zealand’s first Hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism

The Prime Minister has opened New Zealand’s first hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which is being held in Christchurch over two days.

The conference is a response to one of the recommendations from the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.

“He Whenua Taurikura, ‘a country at peace’, will look at how we can all contribute to making our country more inclusive and safe,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The Lead Coordination Minister for the Government’s Response to The Royal Commission’s Report into the Terrorist Attack on the Christchurch Mosques, Andrew Little, said the conference will help develop options for the National Centre of Excellence, which will focus on generating research and public discussion to prevent and counter violent extremism, understand diversity and promote social cohesion.

“Our goal is for New Zealand to be a safe country where everyone feels they belong, where all cultures and human rights are valued and celebrated, and where everyone can participate and contribute.”

Speech to inaugural Countering Terrorism Hui

This is the  PM’s speech to the survivors and family of the Shuhadah, along with representatives from our communities, academia, members of civil society, and those from the private sector, NGOs and public sector.

Verrall draws attention to elder abuse today while the PM apologises for crackdown on Polynesians 40 years ago

We are paying special attention today to comments submitted for publication on the Point of Order blog.

The reason:  our writers are in the “veteran” category, as journalists, and accordingly feel entitled to make the most of today being World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Fawning comments will be accepted with relish.  Anything unduly harsh will be forwarded to the appropriate authorities.

But we do acknowledge that finding critical comments in our in-tray is not as traumatic as being physically or psychologically abused.

Thus we recognise that we are unlikely to be the intended beneficiaries of a new campaign intended to alert the public to elder abuse and to encourage people to protect older New Zealanders.

Most abuse is committed by someone close to the victim, often by a family member or a caregiver. Continue reading “Verrall draws attention to elder abuse today while the PM apologises for crackdown on Polynesians 40 years ago”

Consultations begin on proposals to penalise some vehicle owners and to rewrite matters of public record

Various consultations were triggered in weekend announcements from the Beehive, among them a consultation on government proposals to hasten the public’s purchase of low-emission vehicles to help meet New Zealand’s 2050 carbon neutral target (and – of course – “to create jobs to support the economic recovery”).

Among the proposals are rebates for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, to start on July 1 with up to $8,625 for new vehicles and $3,450 for used.

Sounds good – and that’s no doubt what the spin doctors intended.

To pay for this, imported cars with high emissions will cost extra from January next year.

Ah – and there’s the catch. 

The Automobile Association reckons Kiwis will pay roughly a $3000 penalty for their favourite utes from 2022 under the new rules.

The penalty under the Clean Car Discount package will apply to the likes of the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger – two of the top selling cars – and will come into effect in January 2022.

Another set of consultations has started on a Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development (GPS-HUD), which will support the long-term direction of New Zealand’s housing and urban development system.

The Government’s climate change policies and aspirations come into play here, too.

And so does the government’s acquiescing to the yearning among some Maori for their own programmes, shaped and administered by Maori for Maori, helping to create an “us” and “them” society. Continue reading “Consultations begin on proposals to penalise some vehicle owners and to rewrite matters of public record”

Not enough GPs: Our Health Minister is on the case but we will have to wait to hear what he intends prescribing

The latest Beehive news of most interest to business people is the detail of Trade Minister Damien O’Connor’s trip to London, Paris and Brussels to try to hasten progress on free trade negotiations.

But the matter of concern to everybody – at least, it’s a matter that is likely to affect everybody at some point in their lives – can be found in a speech delivered by Health Minister Andrew Little.

Addressing the Medical Association General Practitioners’ Conference, Little focused on GP shortages, rising levels of medical workforce burnout, a funding model that has not been reviewed for some time, and more and more people coming through the doctors’ doors with increasingly complicated health conditions.

Little recalled recently outlining his vision of a national health service for New Zealand

 …  that focuses on treating people before they get so sick they have to be sent to hospital, that strips away unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication… 

It would be … Continue reading “Not enough GPs: Our Health Minister is on the case but we will have to wait to hear what he intends prescribing”

APEC leaders learn about waka and Aucklanders hear it cost $30m to encourage walking and cycling on just one street

We confess to being bemused by some of the latest Beehive announcements and pronouncements.

Auckland became a harbour of waka, in the PM’s remarks to APEC leaders who – we suspect – might not know what a waka looks like.

Then there are moves afoot to protect us – from what?

To protect us from what we might read, view or hear, it transpires.

Less puzzling was news of Government tax proposals that – it is sure – will dampen investor demand for existing houses and so bring down house prices.

“The proposals we are releasing today will help to achieve that goal,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.  

His confidence is admirable.

Oh, and we learned how much it has cost – $30 million – to widen the footpaths of Karangahape Road and reduce the roadway to discourage emission-spewing motor vehicles by establishing cycle paths.

Nurses, meanwhile, are bridling against their  pay … Continue reading “APEC leaders learn about waka and Aucklanders hear it cost $30m to encourage walking and cycling on just one street”

Covid-19 gets into most Beehive spin these days, including the Catalist Market, climate change and predator eradication

While small- and medium-sized enterprises (and many others) were grappling with the massive implications of the Climate Change Commission’s report, more agreeable news has emerged from the Beehive.

The government has granted a licence to a new share trading market, Catalist Markets Ltd, which has been described as a stock exchange for smaller companies.  It is expected to provide a simpler and more affordable ‘stepping stone’ for SMEs to raise capital.

Catalist​ chief executive Colin Magee told Stuff the NZX was only economic for larger companies, not the high-potential smaller companies Catalist would be trying to attract with an initial value of $6million to $60m.

In the first five years Catalist was aiming to get up to 200 companies, Magee said.

In time, he hoped, a portion of some KiwiSaver funds would be invested in shares in companies on the Catalist market. Continue reading “Covid-19 gets into most Beehive spin these days, including the Catalist Market, climate change and predator eradication”

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.