Had the money dried up for drought forecasting after runanga were given millions for conservation work?

Two announcements from the office of Kiripatu Allan give us a good idea of the government’s spending priorities.

Our understanding of those priorities is enhanced when we compare Allan’s announcements with the government’s investment in a project aimed to developing a new drought  forecasting tool.

“Improved forecasting will alleviate some of the financial and mental burden that drought puts on farmers and growers. It will also make our primary industries more resilient, productive and sustainable,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said of this development.

As Minister for Emergency Management, Kiri Allan says the government will contribute towards a Mayoral Relief Fund to support those most affected by the fires in Waiharara in the Far North.

A few days later, as Minister for Conservation, she announced a boost in funding for six Jobs for Nature initiatives across Canterbury.  These range from establishing coastline trapping in Kaikōura, to setting up a native plant nursery, restoration planting at Lyttelton harbour, and increasing pest control across Banks Peninsula and Christchurch.

The contribution to the wellbeing of the people affected by the Far North fire amounted to $200,000.

The investment in improved drought forecasting is $200,000.

The investments in conservation projects amount to “over $12.64 million”. Continue reading “Had the money dried up for drought forecasting after runanga were given millions for conservation work?”

Sepuloni tackles a matter of gender imbalance – but do women really want a bigger share of payments from the ACC?

 Monitoring the Ministers

We suspect women don’t aspire to gain equality with men in all measures of gender disparities.

Prison musters provide an obvious example.

In September this year males accounted for 94.3% of the prison population. 

This clearly means women were far behind with just 5.7% – and that percentage was lower than the 7% recorded in September 2018.

Elsewhere in our criminal justice system, changes to help women are being effected through the passage of the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill, which will:

  • entitle sexual violence complainants to use alternative ways of giving evidence, including by pre-recording their cross-examination evidence in appropriate cases;
  • ensure evidence about a complainant’s past sex life is off limits, unless it is clearly highly relevant; and
  • require judges to talk to the jury to dispel any misconceptions relating to sexual violence (often called ‘rape myths’) that might be brought into a case.

Mind you, Justice  Minister Kris Faafoi dispelled any impression there is a gender bias in the  legislation.  It includes changes to benefit all witnesses, not just those in sexual cases, he said. Continue reading “Sepuloni tackles a matter of gender imbalance – but do women really want a bigger share of payments from the ACC?”

Govt rushes freedom-crimping measures past close scrutiny – ministers then go spending big bucks to tackle Covid-19

Latest from the Beehive

Fresh from the legislative outrage of rushing the “traffic lights” bill through Parliament, the government poured $504.1 million earlier today into initiatives to help Kiwis deal with Covid-19 in its latest responses to the reality that Covid-19 is something we must learn to live with.

That was the sum when Point of Order first checked the Beehive website this morning.

By the time we were wrapping up this post an announcement from Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall had increased this by almost $1 billion on measures for testing, contact tracing and case investigation

Quicker testing will be among the consequences.

“Delta is here, so we are ensuring we have the tools in place to support the transition to the new framework, and to help minimise the spread of COVID-19,” Ayesha Verrall said.

Yep.  The government has waved the flag of surrender in its efforts to beat the virus and has changed the rules for trying to constrain its spread.

Most controversially,  this is being done by constraining Kiwis freedoms – if they have not been vaccinated – under legislation which has been passed in indecent haste.  Continue reading “Govt rushes freedom-crimping measures past close scrutiny – ministers then go spending big bucks to tackle Covid-19”

Govt aims to keep “three strike” criminals out of the cooler but has increasingly warmed to making race a factor in research funding

Latest from the Beehive

The Government is running hot and cold on crime – in the eyes of its political opponents, at least.  One consequence will be keeping more offenders from being banged up in the coooler for too long.

Less ambivalently, it is turning up the heat in its efforts to tackle the country’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions change while non-Maori and non-Pacifika applicants are feeling the chill when funding is distributed by the Health Research Council. 

On the law and order front, Police Minister Poto Williams is crowing about a Police operation which resulted in the seizure of more than 50 kilograms of cocaine, and $300,000 in cash, cocaine and cryptocurrency wallets.

Is the cocaine in the weight reference the same as the cocaine in the dollar-value reference? It is unclear.

Nine people were arrested. Continue reading “Govt aims to keep “three strike” criminals out of the cooler but has increasingly warmed to making race a factor in research funding”

Govt to give ‘most vulnerable’ countries $1.3bn to deal with climate change, but how will the recipients be identified?

Latest from the Beehive

Fresh from a weekend of hoopla and incentives (or palpable bribery) to lift the country’s Covid vaccination numbers, the Government turned to another great threat to our wellbeing and is splashing out on helping some countries deal with climate change.

It has committed $1.3 billion over four years “to support countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change”.

At least 50 per cent of the funding will go to the Pacific as it adapts to the impacts of climate change.

Whether the countries that will benefit rank among the “most vulnerable countries” depends on which list you consult.

Point of Order asked Google to tell us which countries are most vulnerable to climate change.

Top of the list of about 178 million responses was an article which referenced the results of the Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Continue reading “Govt to give ‘most vulnerable’ countries $1.3bn to deal with climate change, but how will the recipients be identified?”

Relaxed visa rules – a portent (perhaps) of importing teachers and health workers to replace those who eschew vaccination

The big moment came as we had hoped, roughly this time yesterday, and the PM delivered her news on Cabinet’s review of alert level settings in Auckland, Waikato and Northland.  Chris Hipkins, the Minister in charge of the response to Covid-19, then announced the Cabinet’s decisions to make vaccination mandatory for large parts of the education and health workforce.

The news from the PM was disappointing for Aucklanders.  Their level-3 Covid restrictions have been extended for another week and students will not return to class next Monday

Waikato and Northland became subject to tentative plans to be lowered to from level 3 – to level 2 – from 11.59pm on Thursday.

Then Hipkins announced a toughening of the vaccination regimen:

  • High-risk workers in the health and disability sector must be fully vaccinated by 1 December and receive their first dose by 30 October
  • School and early learning staff and support people who have contact with children and students to be fully vaccinated by 1 January, 2022, and receive their first dose by 15 November.

Continue reading “Relaxed visa rules – a portent (perhaps) of importing teachers and health workers to replace those who eschew vaccination”

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”

Allan spends for the future, Little hires more advisers and Shaw sets out a time line for emissions reductions

The reassuring headline on a press statement from the Minister of Conservation said Projects create benefits into the future.

Ah – a forward-looking government, obviously.

The spending of $12,997,000 of public money on the projects listed in the press statement, accordingly, has been calculated to generate future benefits.  But come to think of it, in what other direction could the benefits be created?  Benefits into the past?

Elsewhere in the Beehive, Andrew Little was adding to the small army of advisors he is building within one of his portfolios.

He is adding four members to the outfit named Kāpuia, the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques.

The group is made up of 32 members from across New Zealand, including affected family survivors and witnesses, representative communities, civil society, local government and the private sector.

Before long this group will be as big as the SIS workforce, we uncharitably mused at Point of Order, although a check with the SIS’s 2020 annual report showed this was somewhat fanciful: as of 30 June 2020 the NZSIS had 366.5 full time equivalent staff.

Little’s advisory team nevertheless is bigger than the Ardern Cabinet, which has 20 ministers. Continue reading “Allan spends for the future, Little hires more advisers and Shaw sets out a time line for emissions reductions”

Damien O’Connor appoints trade advisory group – this one is much smaller than the predecessor appointed by Parker

Oh look – another advisory group to keep its minister and the public up with the play on trade policy matters.

As our Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor has appointed a Trade for All Ministerial Advisory Group “to help chart the course for New Zealand trade policy”.

This group’s establishment follows on from the work completed by the Trade for All Advisory Board in 2019.

The difference is that the earlier group – appointed in 2018, when David Parker had the portfolio – comprised 23 members.  The new group comprises 13 members, which is good for the budget no matter what else it might accomplish.

Its announcement was included among the latest Beehive press releases:

Latest from the Beehive

The discovery of rare, long-tail bats/pekapeka near Franz Josef for the first time in decades is exciting proof that the Government’s Jobs for Nature and predator free programmes are getting results, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.

Significant progress is being made on new infrastructure at Mt Aspiring College for present and future students and teachers, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor has appointed a Trade for All Ministerial Advisory Group to help chart the course for New Zealand trade policy. Continue reading “Damien O’Connor appoints trade advisory group – this one is much smaller than the predecessor appointed by Parker”

Was that the Nashing of teeth we heard, as Amazon announced our sweeteners weren’t enough to keep Tolkien blockbuster in NZ?

While the PM and her team were setting out their programme to reconnect us with the rest of the world, Amazon was advising the government of its plans to pull the plug  – both from our film-making facilities and from the government’s generous subsidies.

And whereas yesterday’s “Latest from the Beehive” posts included two speeches and a press statement on (eventually) the reopening of our borders, today’s posts include news of the Government’s response to Amazon’s withdrawal.

Amazon’s decision was reported more than 12 hours ago by The Guardian (which wasn’t necessarily the first to break the news).

Amazon has made the surprise decision to move production of its $1bn-plus Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, rejecting tens of millions of dollars in incentives to shoot the TV show in the same location as the blockbuster films.

And:

The government was informed of Amazon’s decision to pull out of New Zealand on Thursday. The economic development minister Stuart Nash said it was disappointing, especially for the local film industry.

Maybe our disinclination to reconnect with the world just yet was a factor in Amazon’s decision to disconnect.

The Guardian says:

One additional factor is the strict Covid policies that continue to operate in New Zealand, which Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, said would mean the country’s borders would effectively remain closed until the end of the year.

Any time a member of the cast or crew left the country – roughly half the cast is from the UK – they would have to quarantine for 14 days and there are limits on how many people can leave the production at any given time.

It looks like a big setback the wellbeing for our film industry.

But Nash has gone on the front foot, as you can see from the most recent posting (at time of writing) of press releases on The Beehive website:

Latest from the Beehive

The Lord of the Rings season two

The New Zealand Government will no longer proceed with part of the deal to support the Lord of the Rings TV Series, following the decision by Amazon Studios to shift production of future seasons to the United Kingdom.

Other recent Beehive posts tell us …

Prison Kapa Haka a great success

After six weeks of performances across New Zealand prisons, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has congratulated Tongariro Prison as the overall winner of the 2021 Hōkai Rangi Whakataetae Kapa Haka.

 Opening comments for Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World Forum

Today we will be discussing some of the big questions facing us as we continue to protect New Zealanders against COVID-19, while at the same time preparing to gradually and safely reopen to the world.

Government sets out plan to reconnect New Zealanders to the world

The Government will use the second half of 2021 to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible and safely conduct a self-isolation trial for vaccinated New Zealanders in order to prepare for a phased resumption of quarantine-free travel, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

Speech to Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World Forum

I want to start by thanking Professor Skegg and your group of experts for the important scientific contribution you have made to this discussion and the Government’s decision making about reopening our borders.

Big tick for Taranaki taonga species

Projects aimed at protecting taonga species, including kiwi, kokako and hihi, are among a number of Taranaki-based initiatives receiving a boost through the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan says.

Community Housing Providers to get upfront funding to deliver new builds faster

Community Housing Providers (CHP) will now to be able to access up-front funding in the early stages of new build developments to help bring on more public housing at pace, the Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods has announced following a roundtable of CHP leaders in Wellington last night.

By now the government’s border-opening programme has become the subject of nation-wide discussion and debate through other media.

Point of Order today will focus, rather, on the announcement that the government will no longer proceed with part of the deal to support the Lord of the Rings TV Series.

That’ll show ’em, eh?

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said he was disappointed by the decision.

“Amazon Studios advised that post-production work on Season One will continue in New Zealand till June 2022. However, Season Two will be filmed in the UK as part of a strategy by the studio to expand its production space and consolidate its footprint in the UK.

“I am enormously proud of the New Zealand screen sector. The Amazon Studios’ decision in no way reflects the capabilities of our local film industry or the talents of the people who work in it. This is a multi-national company that has made a commercial choice.

“With Season One, the New Zealand screen sector has proven its reputation for offering a world-class workforce, globally competitive sound stages and post-production facilities, and a safe destination with outstanding scenery and friendly and welcoming people.”

Nash then got down to business:

“The previously agreed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Amazon Studios will no longer proceed in its current form. The five percent incentive previously offered on top of the standard 20 percent rebate for all international film productions is withdrawn.”

Amazon Studios – like every other international production – is eligible for a 20 per cent rebate on its qualifying production expenditure in this country, under the terms of the International Screen Production Grant.

Amazon Studios’ qualifying local expenditure is estimated to total around $663.74 million so it could potentially be eligible for a $132 million rebate under the 20 per cent rule.

“The international film sector is incredibly competitive and highly mobile. We have no regrets about giving this production our best shot with government support. However, we are disappointed for the local screen industry. Work will continue across government on ways to keep supporting the sector,” Stuart Nash said.

Which means work will continue to find other financial lures to bring the movie moguls to this country.

Now let’s check out The Guardian’s account of what has happened.

The newspaper  says Amazon, which four years ago paid $250m to secure the TV rights to JRR Tolkien’s works after founder Jeff Bezos demanded a Game of Thrones-style hit for its streaming service, chose to film the first series in New Zealand after competitive bids from around the world.

But whereas we Kiwis like to believe this country is the land of the Hobbit, the descendants of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien have other ideas:

It is understood that the Tolkien estate had been keen for the series to be shot in the UK, the land that inspired JRR Tolkien’s original books, although did not have any right to determine the TV production’s location.

Production will continue in New Zealand until June next year with the premiere of the first series, which has reportedly cost $465m, scheduled for 2 September next year.

The Guardian notes that the production has not been without controversy in New Zealand.

Earlier this year, the government had to defend its deal with Amazon Studios following criticism that it was ‘bending over backwards’ for one of the richest companies in the world, by offering it multimillion dollar rebates to bring its production to the country.

The UK offers attractive rebates for TV series that cost more than $1m an episode to shoot and is the home of many high-profile Amazon productions.

The New Zealand Film Commission chief executive David Strong said the Amazon production had employed nearly 2,000 New Zealanders.

“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed.”

 Strong said the Studio’s departure will open up avenues for other international productions to shoot in New Zealand.