Buzz from the Beehive – and a fly in the ointment for Tweaker Coffey’s plans to rattle Rotorua’s voting arrangements

Alerted by press statements from National and ACT (here and here), Point of Order wondered if the  Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill had been mentioned on the Beehive website yesterday.

It hadn’t.   Since our previous report on the activities of our ministers, just two press statements had been posted.

One advised us of the Government-financed rebuild of the Rangiriri Pa Trenches complex in Waikato, the first project completed from a special regional economic development fund for sites of cultural significance. The other was a Statement on Cooperation in Agriculture between Japan and New Zealand.

The Attorney-General’s advice has been  sent to Parliament’s Maori Affairs Committee, which is chaired by list MP Tamati Coffey, and can be found on the Parliamentary website here.

It more than somewhat challenges the thinking of the Government’s Tweakocrats and Sophistocrats by stating (more or less) that in terms of complying with this country’s Bill of Rights, the Rotorua bill is a crock.

Among other things, it says:

In a representative democracy, it is important to maintain approximately the same level of representation for everyone. The proposed arrangements in the Bill would make the number of council members for the Māori ward disproportionately higher than the number of council members for the general ward in comparison to their respective populations. As the disadvantaged group is those on the General roll, changing representation arrangements away from proportional representation therefore creates a disadvantage for non-Māori as they cannot in future elect to change rolls.

And:

This proposed arrangement detracts from the key constitutional principle of equal representation in a representative democracy. I consider that there must be strong reasons to depart from this fundamental constitutional principle and, accordingly, to justify the limit on the right to freedom from discrimination. Departures from the Local Electoral Act may also have broader constitutional impacts and need to be carefully considered. Arrangements like these, if replicated across other local bodies could result in significant impacts, which may be better considered in full by central government and Parliament.

This (we imagine) will be of interest to Coffey not only because he is chairman of the select committee but also because he is the bill’s sponsor.

Another good reason for ditching the bill – of course – is that the recently published Local Government Commission’s determination for Rotorua offers a more equitable representation arrangement for that city.

More than a week after politely asking Coffey whether the bill will proceed on the strength of that determination , we have yet to hear from him.

Latest from the Beehive

23 APRIL 2022

Rangiriri Pa trench rebuild shines a light on our shared histories

The shared nineteenth-century histories of Aotearoa-New Zealand have come to life with the official opening today of one of the most culturally significant sites of the 1860s New Zealand Wars.

 Statement on Cooperation in Agriculture between Japan and New Zealand

Japan and New Zealand’s strong partnership is built on a long tradition of official and industry engagement, underpinned by our natural complementarities and strong business relationships.

Regenerative agriculture will get funding for research by scientists – dealing with family violence brings Maori lore into play

Monitoring the ministers

Science has been to the fore in Point of Order’s considerations in recent days and it’s been high in Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s considerations, too.

The Government is backing two new research projects to investigate the impacts of “regenerative farming” practices.  This is a contentious issue in science circles, raising questions about  definitions and about the need for zealous champions of regenerative farming to base their arguments on New Zealand science, not on science results from countries with different conditions and farming methods.

O’Connor announced the government is contributing $2.8 million to a $3.85 million five-year project involving AgResearch with co-investment by Synlait Milk and Danone.   This aims to understand how to measure and manage soil health to boost environmental and economic performance on New Zealand farms.

The second project sees the Government contributing $2.2 million to a five-year research project aimed at boosting New Zealand farm yields by attracting beneficial insects to farms using specifically designed native planting.

On another sector front, the government is reporting on the outcomes of money invested in the past:  the construction sector is now the fourth biggest employer in the country and infrastructure activity is forecast to reach $11.2 billion in 2026.

The Minister for Building and Construction Poto Williams highlighted those points while saying the National Construction Pipeline Report 2021 released today shows the construction sector has held up well during the COVID-19 pandemic and the future outlook is positive. Continue reading “Regenerative agriculture will get funding for research by scientists – dealing with family violence brings Maori lore into play”

Opposition MPs demand answers about Covid border breach – they seem coy, however, about Treaty-based local govt reform ideas

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor seems to be earning his keep on his overseas travels.  He and his Irish counterpart have just signed a statement to re-affirm the agricultural cooperation partnership between Ireland and New Zealand.

Among the consequences, and building on bilateral dialogues held late in September, Irish agricultural officials and officials from our Ministry for Primary Industries will develop a joint cooperation agenda around the central mission of Advancing a Progressive International Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture.

But much more media attention has been paid to the announcement from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Northland’s move to Alert Level 3 restrictions

“… following recent information on the risk presented by the positive case initially tested in Whangarei earlier this week and confirmed in Auckland yesterday…”

That person is now in an Auckland Managed Isolation Quarantine facility.

“A public health investigation continues to identify close contacts and any potential locations of interest.”

But huge questions are being asked about how the unidentifed person was able to cross the border that is supposed to protect Northlanders from infectious Aucklanderss and Oppposition MPs are demanding more information Continue reading “Opposition MPs demand answers about Covid border breach – they seem coy, however, about Treaty-based local govt reform ideas”

UK-NZ free trade agreement looks likely to replicate Aussie deal, although Brits will be driving a hard bargain

With trade minister Damien O’Connor due in the northern hemisphere in September, London’s Daily Telegraph reports a free trade agreement between the UK and NZ is close.

Citing sources in the UK Department of international Trade, the newspaper says hopes are growing that a deal can be secured “within weeks.”  An announcement on New Zealand before the end of August is “highly possible” as discussions intensify.

 Australia’s agreement with the UK was settled in June.  The UK Government hopes to get it signed off by Boris Johnson and his counterpart Scott Morrison when the latter visits Britain in October for the Cop26 climate conference.

The Daily Telegraph’s source said trade secretary Liz Truss would be driving a hard bargain on key areas of interest.

“New Zealand will need to give us more on services, mobility and investment if they want a deal. If we have to go beyond then into September to get the best deal, then so be it.”

Any agreement  is likely to take a similar shape to Australia’s, which proposes a widespread liberalisation including staged removals of tariff quotas on agricultural exports which has drawn criticism from British farmers.

The Telegraph says the NZ FTA is expected to have a negligible effect on the UK’s GDP, with modelling by the trade department even indicating that an extensive deal could mildly reduce Britain’s national output.

Recent events have provided a potentially awkward backdrop for what may be the final weeks of talks.  Amazon last week announced that it would shift production of its highly anticipated Lord of the Rings TV series from New Zealand to the UK, in a major blow to the country’s creative and tourism industries, the paper said.

Yes, we could try to be world-beaters in tackling climate change, but the reason for wanting to set the pace is unclear

Ministers in the Ardern  government  are getting to grips  with  the  Climate Change  Commission report  which,  if  adopted  in  full, will  reshape the  NZ way of life. Some say if all the  recommendations  the  commission  has  framed  are  applied, it will put NZ in the  vanguard  of the  battle  against global warming.

Just  why this country should want to be  among  the  front-runners,  and  possibly  the first,  to  meet  its  commitment  under  the  Paris  agreement to reach zero carbon emissions   by 2050  is  not  exactly  clear.

Nor may  there  be any  deep  conviction  that  the  Ardern government has  the  capacity to deliver  the   most  appropriate  measures  to  meet  its  climate  targets, given  its  long  list  of  policy  failures  including  Kiwi  Build, wiping out homelessness, eliminating child  poverty, and improving mental health, not to  mention the  Covid  vaccination  rollout.

NZ’s CO2 emissions are considerably less than those in the US and Australia (which is among the highest in the world). Transport makes up 33% of NZ’s “long lived” gases. Continue reading “Yes, we could try to be world-beaters in tackling climate change, but the reason for wanting to set the pace is unclear”

Leading the world and saving it, too – but let’s brace for a drop in our standard of living (and wellbeing)

So  how  “transformational”  will  the   zero  carbon  legislation  prove to be?

Many  New Zealanders  have come to believe  global  warming  poses  a  real danger  to  their lives – but will the new legislation remove, or even lessen, the danger?

Under the legislation, agriculture   for the first time is brought into the emissions trading  scheme.  That’s won  support from Green lobbyists, but many  say it’s too little, too late –  “a  weak-ass  carbon  reform”.

On  the  other side,  the  criticism is  just as pointed.  There are  no tools to  measure  on-farm emissions and what  the  government proposes   could   shrivel  NZ’s growth rate  by  up to  $50bn   a year. Continue reading “Leading the world and saving it, too – but let’s brace for a drop in our standard of living (and wellbeing)”