Mahuta welcomes report which portends the local authority reforms (and Treaty partnerships) she seems keen to promote

The announcement we were expecting yesterday came later in the day, but not from the PM.  Rather, it came from Ayesha Verrall, Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation, who said government and businesses are working together to pilot the use of rapid antigen testing in workplaces.

But readers who believe that all citizens in a democracy should have the same entitlements and voting rights and the same ability to hold to account the people who govern us should look beyond Covid to another threat.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has welcomed the interim report on the Future for Local Government Review.

In her press statement, she says

“.. our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve to be fit for the future.” 

You could say it has been fast evolving already (or eroding, perhaps) on Mahuta’s watch in the local government portfolio. She has been instrumental in

  • removing the rights of citizens to challenge electoral arrangements which displease them, such as the introduction of Maori wards by local council;  and
  • pushing on with the highly contentious Three Waters reforms, which include arrangements for Maori to become co-governors (unaccountable to the majority of citizens) of four new water-administering authorities.

Continue reading “Mahuta welcomes report which portends the local authority reforms (and Treaty partnerships) she seems keen to promote”

The govt has changed direction on Covid-19 – and today Ardern’s ministers are waltzing into global and transport issues

Just two weeks ago the prime minister was standing in the Beehive theatrette to tell the country the government was still aiming to return to zero cases.   This week she was promising a phased end to Covid restrictions in Auckland, under a three-step plan, which moves away from the current elimination strategy.    

She acknowledged the elimination strategy was coming to an end, saying it had served New Zealand well.

Since then, the PM has said Cabinet has agreed to the use of vaccine certificates in New Zealand as a tool in high-risk settings including large events and the government is consulting on their use in places like hospitality.

According to Stuff, Ardern today will announce plans to roll out Covid testing much more widely, on the strength of a report from Professor David Murdoch, of Otago University, who leads the Government’s testing advisory group.

Ardern is reported to have said his work will form the basis of “a new rigorous testing regime that will be central to our strategy to control the virus” over coming months. 

And about time, too, ACT leader David Seymour huffed: Continue reading “The govt has changed direction on Covid-19 – and today Ardern’s ministers are waltzing into global and transport issues”

More govt money for recreation, conservation and vaccination – too bad about the lift in interest rates

More than $17 million in government spending (by our count) was declared in two of the latest batch of ministerial announcements.  The costs involved in other announcements weren’t mentioned in the press statements.

Grant Robertson exchanged his Finance hat (a portfolio requiring him to maintain some sort of fiscal discipline) for his Sport and Recreation hat to announce the Government is providing $5.3 million to assist sport and recreation organisations in the Auckland region financially affected by the latest lockdown.

Compensation for government decisions to severely constrain economic activity in the Auckland region, in other words

We imagined Robertson would have been preoccupied with examining the ramifications of the Reserve Bank decision to raise the official cash rate to 0.5 per cent today.

His political opponents most certainly were making a noise about it.

National’s Shadow Treasurer Andrew Bayly said the Government’s failure to rollout the vaccine and prepare our Covid defences had resulted in the Reserve Bank having to make this decision in the middle of lockdown, even though it is “incredibly risky for the economy”.

He said:

“Obviously, the Reserve Bank has seen that the cost of living is rising too quickly, and its hand has been forced. This has been exacerbated by huge amounts of wasteful, untargeted spending from the Government on matters entirely unrelated to the Covid response.”

Fair to say, Robertson’s handout of money was related to the Covid response.  Continue reading “More govt money for recreation, conservation and vaccination – too bad about the lift in interest rates”

MIQueue – bringing Kiwis together

Scattered across time zones, united in desperation, Jacinda’s team of 25,000 hunched over PCs and phones on Tuesday to secure one of the coveted 3,700 rooms (more or less) for returning New Zealanders.  The two hours or so it took to work down the electronic queue were an opportunity to catch up on international coverage of the government’s acknowledgement that Covid elimination was not going to work. 

Continue reading “MIQueue – bringing Kiwis together”

Our electoral system is to be subjected to a sweeping review – but the Maori seats are in no danger of being brushed away

The Parliamentary seats put aside especially for Maori – they provided Labour with five MPs at the 2020 general election – are among the issues that are off limits during something described by RNZ as “a sweeping review of the country’s electoral laws”.

It will include voting age, the three-year term, party funding and the “coat-tailing” rule.

But the government has been careful to ensure the seven Maori electorates (although it  lost two of them to the Maori Party at the last general election) aren’t swept away during this clean-up of our electoral system.

As Faafoi explained without the hint of a blush, the review will not consider changes to Māori seats, local elections, changing from the MMP system, or fundamental constitutional changes such as becoming a republic or having an upper house.

Moreover, he said some rule changes – he described these as “targeted” ones, such as changes to the Maori roll and the transparency of political donations – would be introduced ahead of the 2023 election.

So what’s he up to? Continue reading “Our electoral system is to be subjected to a sweeping review – but the Maori seats are in no danger of being brushed away”

The Treaty gives government a tonic to deal to family violence – but science is called on to deal with Myrtle rust

Vaccine announcements have dominated news from the Beehive over the past few days, but while the vaccine deals to Covid,  the Treaty of Waitangi has been prescribed to deal to family violence.

ACC minister Carmel Sepuloni announced the ACC is investing $44.9 million over four years to establish “a fit-for-purpose sexual violence primary prevention system”.

This is bound to be successful because it is based on the Treaty, a document signed in 1840 comprising just three articles.  But when interpreted by the Ardern governmnent,  this document holds the key to ridding us (apparently) of pretty well anything from warts to citizens’ rights to challenge local authorities’ race-based governance proposals.

And so:

“The new Te-Tiriti-informed primary prevention system announced today, will provide long-term, sustained investment and enhance our Government’s effort to prevent sexual violence.

“The package includes $11.715 million of targeted investment for kaupapa Māori approaches. It will enhance the primary prevention system in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Who provides the money?

Most of us, we imagine, although when it comes  to determining who should be given priority in the spending of this money, the government unabashedly brings race into calculations.

“As Treaty partners, ACC will prioritise Māori and partner with whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori communities,” Associate Minister for ACC Willie Jackson said. Continue reading “The Treaty gives government a tonic to deal to family violence – but science is called on to deal with Myrtle rust”

Let’s hope Mahuta takes note, as her Transport colleague pays heed to public opinion and abandons $785m cycle bridge project

ACT applauded the government for doing the right thing, by deciding to abandon plans for the $785 million Auckland cycle bridge. The Nats were cock-a-hoop at Transport Minister Michael Wood’s climbdown (but asked us to spare a thought for his humbling), whereas the Greens (no surprises here) focused on the implications for the planet.

For his part, Michael Wood presented the news not as a setback for himself or the government but as a triumph for democracy and the readiness of the government to pay heed to public opinion.

“The Government has listened to feedback from New Zealanders and has decided not to proceed with the standalone bridge component of the Northern Pathway project and reallocate the funding to other transport projects that reduce emissions and congestion including the Eastern busway, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today.

“The Government has both listened and acted, meaning that the Northern Pathway standalone bridge will not be going ahead,” Michael Wood said. Continue reading “Let’s hope Mahuta takes note, as her Transport colleague pays heed to public opinion and abandons $785m cycle bridge project”

Covid is now one problem among many 

Yesterday’s announcement that Australia will re-open its international border in November marked another step in the walk-away from zero Covid.

It’s harder in NZ to appreciate the extent to which this is happening.  In England and Wales, the most recent weekly statistics showed 850 deaths with a Covid linkage (although the fact that deaths were 2,000 above the seasonal average is perhaps of more concern).  But there seemed to be more interest in the latest slimming of Covid-bureaucracy to make it easier for Brits to travel.

Continue reading “Covid is now one problem among many “

Mahuta says there’s more talking to be done on three waters reforms – but let’s see if that means she is listening

A bemusing press statement  flowed this morning from the office of Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta on the highly contentious matter of “three waters reforms”.

Under these reforms, the country’s 67 local and regional councils’ drinking, waste and storm water assets would be taken over and administered by four large regional entities, each of which would include iwi leaders with extraordinary co-governing powers.

In return, the government would pay for billions of dollars’ worth of much-needed infrastructure and repairs.

But as the NZ Herald noted two days ago

“… mayors up and down the country are far from convinced, with major reservations about losing local control over such vital assets.”

That report said Mahuta may allow for more council influence in the contentious water reforms,

“… but still refuses to rule out changing the law to force councils to sign up.” Continue reading “Mahuta says there’s more talking to be done on three waters reforms – but let’s see if that means she is listening”

Govt has a senior moment – Verrall announces a pathway (but not too much money) to improve the lot of our older citizens

Amidst a spate of Covid-related announcements, and the third-reading passage of the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill to give enforcement agencies greater powers to protect us from terrorists,  the government has delivered good news – of sorts – for its older citizens.

Whoa.  Maybe we should call them (and ourselves, here at Point of Order)  “seniors”, because the announcement was made by Dr Ayesha Verrall in her capacity as Minister for Seniors.

We fondly recall Verrall being described – just after the 2020 general election – as an infectious diseases expert who

“ .. has been parachuted straight into Cabinet after only being elected last month. Indeed she will be sworn in as a minister before even being sworn in as an MP. New Zealand hasn’t had a first-term MP go straight into Cabinet since Steven Joyce joined John Key’s first Cabinet in 2008.”

Thus looking after our best interests (Point of Order speaks on behalf of all seniors here) was put in the hands of the least experienced Minister.

More interesting, those best interests were put in the hands of a minister of uncertain vintage, although we can confidently declare she is less than half the age of some oldies.

We say this because Wikipedia records Ayesha Jennifer Verrall being born in

1979/1980 (age 40–42)

Invercargill, New Zealand

The Southlanders on your Point of Order editorial team are surprised to find this element of flexibility in the birth records in the country’s southern-most city.

Whatever her exact age, our Minister for Seniors has launched the Better Later Life Action Plan at the virtual Vision for Ageing in Aotearoa conference.

The intention is to set out a pathway for a better future for older New Zealanders.

Mind you, this could be a crafty way of putting our ageing faculties to the test.  Try saying “Better Later Life Action Plan” rapidly three times after sinking a couple of G and Ts in the evening.

Verrall went on:

“Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua is our strategy for ensuring New Zealanders can lead valued, connected and fulfilling lives as they age.”

Commendable, we say. Continue reading “Govt has a senior moment – Verrall announces a pathway (but not too much money) to improve the lot of our older citizens”