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”

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 spurns call from civic leaders to go with the flow – and go slow – with contentious Three Waters programme

A press statement we received from Nanaia Mahuta, speaking as Minister of Foreign Affairs, dealt with the findings of an independent review into New Zealand’s export controls system, which regulates the export of goods to foreign militaries, police forces or paramilitaries.

Produced by David Smol, a former Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the report calls for stiffer rules.

It found the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has managed the export of these goods in line with legislative requirements, but the design and implementation of the system falls short of contemporary best practice in several respects.

The review is available on the MFAT website.

But statements from Mahuta of much greater concern to our wellbeing are not to be found on the Beehive website. Rather, they are to be found in Hansard’s record of proceedings during Question Time in Parliament yesterday.  

She expressed an autocratic determination to press on with the Three Waters reforms, regardless of the strength of public and local authority opposition. Continue reading “Mahuta spurns call from civic leaders to go with the flow – and go slow – with contentious Three Waters programme”

Highway tolls looked like a Shaw thing, in the light of grim climate change report, but Wood was listening to the community

A toll, we imagined, might be introduced to discourage unnecessary motoring and reduce emissions on the new Ara Tūhono – Puhoi to Warkworth motorway north of Auckland.  And this, we supposed, would gel with the government’s aim of creating a carbon-neutral New Zealand.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – authored by thousands of scientists and reviewers from more than 100 countries, including New Zealand – provides a grim warning of the risk facing our children, our planet, and future generations, unless urgent action is taken.

It prompted a press statement from Climate Change Minister James Shaw in which he called for a collective effort involving every sector of the economy, every community, and almost every government agency and their Minister to avert a climate crisis.

But Transport Minister Michael Wood issued a statement, too, to say the new Ara Tūhono – Puhoi to Warkworth motorway will not be tolled when it opens next year. Continue reading “Highway tolls looked like a Shaw thing, in the light of grim climate change report, but Wood was listening to the community”

The problem with Australia’s opening plan is that it closes things

Australian PM Scott Morrison is under pressure from a Delta Covid outbreak that just won’t go away and a vaccination programme which – what shall we say – lacks urgency.  

So it’s the right time to bring out a bold long-term plan for re-integrating Australia into the modern world.

Continue reading “The problem with Australia’s opening plan is that it closes things”

Supermarkets should check the Treaty – it might entitle them to a place among the decision-makers who shape their future

The Commerce Commission’s draft report into the retail grocery sector is being welcomed by the government as “a major milestone”. It is providing ammunition for Opposition criticisms of government economic and commerce policies, too.

Commenting on the report, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said the draft findings indicate there are problems in the market and (did he need a special inquiry to find this out?) inform him

“… that New Zealanders would get better prices, ranges and quality if there was increased competition in the grocery sector.”

The Act response is here and the National response is here. 

But supermarket operators were not the only subjects of a statement from the Beehive which portends substantial regulation for some businesses.

The futures  of tourism operators – Ngai Tahu is among the big players – will be affected by plans to address visitor pressures and safety at Milford Sound.

The Milford Opportunities Project (MOP) Masterplan unveiled in Te Anau yesterday follows four years work by cross-agency representatives, mana whenua, commercial interests and the wider community.

The project now moves to stage 3 and a new governance structure will oversee the next steps.

A ministerial group covering Tourism, Transport and Conservation portfolios will oversee the formation of a new Establishment Board to be chaired by the leader of the expert MOP group, Dr Keith Turner. Continue reading “Supermarkets should check the Treaty – it might entitle them to a place among the decision-makers who shape their future”

While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)

The government was battling on several fronts yesterday, just a few weeks after Defence Minister Peeni Henare acknowledged a $20 billion spend-up on defence had become a casualty of budgetary measures to deal with Covid-19 and its consequences.

The Defence budget was now much tighter, and defence would look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with New Zealand First, he said.

No matter.  A well-armed defence force is not all we require to keep us safe, keep our enemies at bay, or fight the wars the government wants to wage.

The Department of Conservation’s war is against predators and Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says the government is throwing $4 million into a project aimed at eradicating predators from the three main peninsulas in the Bay of Islands.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, in the vanguard of the war against the pandemic, has been freshly supplied to fortify our defences against Covid-19.  The largest shipment of the Pfizer vaccine to date has arrived in New Zealand two days ahead of schedule.

Doses are being delivered to vaccination centres around the country.

On the diplomatic front, Phil Twyford, our Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, addressed a bunch of diplomats to spell out the government’s position on disarmament and weapons control.

Success with this policy – the disarming of all foes and potential foes and a global declaration of a commitment to eternal world peace- obviously would enable the government to cut its Defence budget back to zero.

But as we learned from Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau, we have more to worry about than the firepower other countries might bring to bear against us. Continue reading “While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)”

Big Sister (and her ministers) take “an extraordinary step” by making it mandatory for some workers to be vaccinated

In Britain, an outfit called Big Brother Watch has been lobbying British MPs to vote against making double coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for people working in adult care homes.

It is arguing:

This is a seismic legal change and the crossing of the Rubicon for medical choice, medical confidentiality and bodily autonomy in England – vital components of the right to privacy.

And:

We have sent every MP our briefing, which warns against this unnecessary, dangerous and discriminatory plan.

In this country we must keep an eye on Big Sister, too.

She and her government have issued an amended Health Order which extends compulsory Covid jabs to private sector staff in jobs considered too high risk to be left unprotected.

This now includes aviation security staff working in managed isolation hotels.

According to a Radio New Zealand report, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was aware of the significance of what she had endorsed when she announced the new directive yesterday. Continue reading “Big Sister (and her ministers) take “an extraordinary step” by making it mandatory for some workers to be vaccinated”

Forcing folic acid into flour (unless it’s organic) may cost taxpayers $1.6m – upgrading rail infrastructure will cost much more

The mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid – a decision which is bound to trigger expressions of dismay in some quarters – is being introduced at an estimated $1.6 million cost to taxpayers.

A modest cost, perhaps, when stacked alongside the projected savings to the health budget, but it was recorded fairly well down the government’s press statement.

The  much bigger investment of $1.3 billion in rail infrastructure was similarly buried.

Other Beehive announcements advise us that –

  •  Public sector boards are now made up of 50.9 per cent women, up from 45.7 per cent in 2017.
  • Education Minister Chris Hipkins joined 54 newly appointed Workforce Development Council (WDC) members at a launch in Wellington.
  • The government’s ideas of a Treaty partnership are a critical considerations in its Emissions Reduction Plan.
  • Medsafe has granted provisional approval of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older.

The mandatory doctoring of the flour that is a key ingredient in bread-making will follow the government’s decision to approve the addition of the B vitamin, folic acid, to non-organic bread-making wheat flour to prevent spina bifida and similar conditions. Continue reading “Forcing folic acid into flour (unless it’s organic) may cost taxpayers $1.6m – upgrading rail infrastructure will cost much more”

Hipkins is chuffed as more vaccine arrives – but is he immune from Seymour’s needling about the doses required in the year ahead?

It was as if the cavalry had come galloping in:   Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins enthused that the largest shipment of Pfizer vaccines yet has arrived two days ahead of schedule.

The shipment of 150,000 doses touched down late in Auckland at the weekend.

Hipkins acknowledged how close the country had come to running out of the vaccine.  New Zealand had distributed nearly all of its supply of the Pfizer vaccine in storage, giving DHBs enough stock to last until Wednesday.

“The early arrival means no DHB will run out of vaccine. Teams have been working tirelessly to ensure vaccine doses have been getting to the right places to honour all existing appointments, and they’ve done a fantastic job.”

In another statement, this time as Minister of Education, Hipkins announced that yet another group of people was being exempt from the border rules that – we are led to believe – protect New Zealanders by carefully regulating who can come here and under what conditions.

The need for these rules being strictly applied becomes more acute when the vaccination programme is faltering. Continue reading “Hipkins is chuffed as more vaccine arrives – but is he immune from Seymour’s needling about the doses required in the year ahead?”