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”
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”
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.
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”
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)”