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?”

Belarus pays penalty for ignoring concerns about its electoral and human rights record – NZ bans its leaders from travelling here

New Zealand has imposed travel bans on 50 individuals associated with the Lukashenko regime in Belarus elections.  Among those in the naughty books are the President and key members of his Administration, the Electoral Commission, the police and other security forces.

This will show ‘em we mean business, if they can’t or won’t clean up their act on the international human rights front.

On the sea front, up to 300 inshore commercial fishing vessels are to be fitted with on-board cameras by 2024 as part of the Government’s commitment to protect the natural marine environment.  The cost:  it  is expected to be $68 million over the next four years.

The news many people had been anxiously awaiting – not the anti-vaxxers, of course – is a rough timetable for rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine.

Then came Justice Minister Kris Faafoi’s announcement of a review of New Zealand’s 66-year-old adoption laws. Continue reading “Belarus pays penalty for ignoring concerns about its electoral and human rights record – NZ bans its leaders from travelling here”

Covid-19 gets into most Beehive spin these days, including the Catalist Market, climate change and predator eradication

While small- and medium-sized enterprises (and many others) were grappling with the massive implications of the Climate Change Commission’s report, more agreeable news has emerged from the Beehive.

The government has granted a licence to a new share trading market, Catalist Markets Ltd, which has been described as a stock exchange for smaller companies.  It is expected to provide a simpler and more affordable ‘stepping stone’ for SMEs to raise capital.

Catalist​ chief executive Colin Magee told Stuff the NZX was only economic for larger companies, not the high-potential smaller companies Catalist would be trying to attract with an initial value of $6million to $60m.

In the first five years Catalist was aiming to get up to 200 companies, Magee said.

In time, he hoped, a portion of some KiwiSaver funds would be invested in shares in companies on the Catalist market. Continue reading “Covid-19 gets into most Beehive spin these days, including the Catalist Market, climate change and predator eradication”

A doubling of our vaccine supply (but there’s a long way to go) and a blow to illicit drug dealing (despite cut to the Police budget)

One Beehive statement alerted us to the numbers game in the Government’s Covid vaccination programme.   The latest consignments of the vaccine will double the total number of Pfizer doses this country has received this year to more than 1,900,000 – enough to fully vaccinate almost 1 million Kiwis. 

Mmm. This is not as reassuring as the government might think.

It means four-fifths of the population remain (or will remain) unvaccinated, including the very many who aren’t rabid anti-vaxxers and who are anxious to be protected against the virus.

Just one group –  Group 3 – comprises more than 1 million people and will take time to work through. It comprises everyone over the age of 65 and people with disabilities and some underlying health conditions

So far, the Government has fully vaccinated over a quarter of a million people.

Another statement alerted us to the existence of an outfit called the Independent Children’s Monitor, which does a different job than the Children’s Commissioner.

Then there was the statement from Police Minister Poto Williams which seemed calculated to erase memories of a Budget which reduced the appropriation for the Police. 

The international bust of crime gangs in several countries, including New Zealand, provided a pretext for braying about her Government putting a record number of Police on the frontline with a specific focus on organised crime.

This was a bit rich, less than a month after Budget 2021 enabled National’s Police spokesman Simeon Brown to criticise the trimming of the Police Budget by around $90 million

“ … despite record growth in gang membership.”

Operation Trojan Shield involved  more than 300 officers in this country executing 37 search warrants across the North Island.

Illegal firearms, methamphetamine, cannabis, and more than an estimated $1 million in cash was recovered.

Police have arrested 35 individuals and laid over 900 charges.

“This international operation, led by the FBI and co-ordinated with the DEA, AFP, Europol and numerous other law enforcement partners from more than a dozen countries, is testament to the hard work of Police officers and the relationships they have built with their international colleagues,” Poto Williams said.

Williams popped up later in the day with another announcement, to tell us the Construction Contracts (Retention Money) Amendment Bill – which provides greater financial protection for subcontractors – has passed its first reading. 

 Latest from the Beehive

  • Building legislation

Government takes action to improve protections for subcontractors

The Construction Contracts (Retention Money) Amendment Bill, providing greater financial protection for subcontractors, has passed its first reading. 

The Bill amends the retention provisions in the Construction Contracts Act 2002 to provide increased confidence and transparency for subcontractors that retention money they are owed is safe.

It includes provisions to protect retention money owed to subcontractors in the event of a business failure and to ensure retention money withheld is responsibly managed.

The Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee will soon call for public submissions on the Bill.   

  • Vaccination programme

1 million more Pfizer doses to arrive in July

Pfizer has scheduled delivery of an estimated 1 million doses of vaccine to New Zealand “during July”, COVID1-9 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

These consignments will double the total number of Pfizer doses New Zealand has received this year to more than 1,900,000 – enough to fully vaccinate almost 1 million Kiwis. 

“This is great news and reassuring to see our vaccine supply ramping up. It shows our plan for what is the biggest and most complex logistical undertaking ever by the health system is on track.

“The doses will arrive in weekly drops, ramping up in quantity from mid July as we start to move to the wider population roll out.

“The drops will enable us to continue vaccinating Groups 1,2, and 3, while giving us the certainty needed to start the general population rollout as planned.

Reassured?

But the PM told RNZ this morning there had been “a little bit of anxiety” about vaccine delivery in June and July.

Chris Hipkins said around 20,000 doses a day were currently being administered and the Pfizer deliveries throughout July will enable this to increase significantly.

At the peak of the programme in August and September the Government expects to be administering 50,000 doses per day.

  • Burgeoning bureaucracy

Long-term home of the Independent Children’s Monitor identified  

The Independent Children’s Monitor (Te Mana Whakamaru Tamariki Motuhake), now  located within the Ministry of Social Development, will become its own departmental agency within Government.

This office is charged with overseeing the Oranga Tamariki System including the Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018 (NCS Regulations).  Its website says: 

We monitor the system of State care, not individual children, to ensure the agencies that look after our tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) are doing what they need to, to enable them to reach their potential and thrive.

The Monitor will now be set up as a new departmental agency, responsible for monitoring the Oranga Tamariki system, hosted by the Education Review Office (ERO), and led by its own Chief Executive who will be a Statutory Officer. 

The Children’s Commissioner will continue to monitor places where children and young people are detained under the Crimes of Torture Act (1989) and fulfil its other wide-ranging statutory obligations. These include advocating for the interests and rights and young people, and ensuring their views and voices are heard and acted on.

A Māori Advisory Group (of course) will be established and the Statutory Officer must have regard to the views of this Group. 

  • Animal welfare

Racing Integrity Board members announced

The wonderfully named Racing Integrity Board – established as an independent body under the Racing Industry Act 2020 – will be up and running from July 1 to ensure high standards of animal welfare, integrity and professionalism in the racing industry.

Racing Minister Grant Robertson has announced the appointments to the new Board:

  • Sir Bruce Robertson KNZM QC – Chair
  • Kristy McDonald ONZM QC
  • Penelope Mudford ONZM
  • Dr Patricia Pearce
  • Brent Williams.

Members have a combination of adjudication, senior governance and animal welfare expertise, with the experience to ensure compliance with the rules of racing, Robertson said.

The terms of appointment is 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2024.

  •  Law and order

Govt crackdown on organised crime continues

This alerted us to the major operation against multiple organised crime groups with international links that is expected to make a significant dent in drug harm and violent offending linked to organised crime networks.

Police Minister Poto Williams congratulated the Police for their role in Operation Trojan Shield and then proclaimed: 

“This Government is very clear that violent gangs and other criminals cannot continue to threaten, intimidate, and exploit our communities. Operation Trojan Shield highlights our commitment to disrupting organised crime and will have a major impact on organised crime syndicates in New Zealand and across the globe.

 “This Government has made it very clear – we will not tolerate organised crime and gangs. Just last month we announced our intention to amend the Proceeds of Crime legislation to ensure that those involved in organised crime would have to demonstrate their assets were obtained through legitimate means. If they can’t, their assets will be seized.

“This Government has put a record number of Police on the frontline with a specific focus on organised crime. This Government’s record investment in Police will include 700 additional investigators. This operation highlights the excellent impact these officers can have.

  • Work schemes

Enhanced Task Force Green Approved for Canterbury

Somewhere in the Beehive – we imagine – there is a button, probably a green one. And yesterday somebody pressed it, which explains the news that: 

The Government has activated Enhanced Taskforce Green (ETFG) in response to the Canterbury floods.

Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said $500,000 – the beneficence astounds us – will be made available to help with the clean-up.

Part of the Government’s response to supporting the recovery is making funding available so that local councils or other authorised agency can hire job seekers to help with the clean-up activities like clearing debris.

This funding will enable jobseekers to be employed to help clear debris, including trees and baleage plastic, clear fences and buildings, and support general clean-up.

Connecting rangatahi to the soil

A Jobs for Nature project to raise 480,000 native plants in nurseries across South Auckland will provide work for communities disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, Acting C

The Mana in Kaimahi project is being run by Te Whāngai Trust Board and will establish employment opportunities to help manage native plant nurseries throughout South Auckland.

Mana in Kaimahi uses a Matauranga Māori and Te Whare Tapa Wha framework and aims to address the need for green spaces in the targeted areas by training at risk youth through nature-based employment and training opportunities.

Up to 72 full time equivalent (FTE) are expected to be created over the project’s three years, with the goal of raising 480,000 native plants to be used for forestry revegetation, riparian planting, and urban landscaping.

The $2.5 million project will encompass the Panmure, Takanini, and South Auckland Te Whāngai Hub areas and has more than 23 project partners.

The Jobs for Nature programme is a $1.245 billion investment in the creation of thousands of nature-based jobs.

  • Land information

Roll out of high-resolution elevation mapping begins

The first tranche of mapping data from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF)-LiDAR project is now available to the public from Land Information New Zealand.

LiDAR data, which creates 3D baseline elevation information, will deliver multiple uses over the coming decades to councils and regional industries.

“This mapping information will greatly assist the likes of farmers, by providing detailed slope information to protect waterways, or councils addressing coastal inundation,” Damien O’Connor said.

The PGF-LiDAR project began in 2018 after the Government made co-funding from  Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit (previously known as the Provincial Development Unit) available over five years to support regions across New Zealand to obtain a baseline elevation dataset.

Ten regions sought funding from this initiative to carry out the data mapping, with the West Coast being the first region where this data has become available. Current LiDAR data coverage across the country sits at 20 per cent and is set to increase to 80 per cent once the project is complete.

This first dataset covers the Westport area of the West Coast, with more data expected to be released across the regions participating in the PGF-LiDAR project as the data becomes available.

Award winners are being celebrated around NZ – but what about Queens Birthday Dishonours and a Snitch List?

The latest list of Queen’s Birthday honours, with a few knights and dames at the top and bigger numbers of lesser awards further down, was published today.  The most celebrated recipients and those with interesting stories to tell have quickly become the stuff of media headlines – former All Black Sir Wayne Shelford, for example (a chance to remind readers of his scrotum injury).

And Shirley Lanigan,nurse in the Hutt Valley who has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit after caring for everyone from survivors of the Wahine disaster, to sexual assault victims and even her own husband.

And Serviceman M, responsible for leading the ground recovery team after the 2019 Whakaari/White Island eruption, who has been recognised with a Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD). He cannot be named for security reasons but is a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) officer who has spent years dealing with bombs, explosives and highly volatile situations.

But we wonder if anyone has thought of a list of introducing a Queen’s Birthday Dishonours List, naming and shaming some of the nation’s not-so-worthy citizens.

Gilbert and Sullivan gave us the idea with their song about social offenders in The Mikado.

One component might be the Snitch List and a candidate for this – may we suggest? – would be the person who recorded the row between outgoing National MP Nick Smith and a staffer.

According to an RNZ report, this person was instrumental in Smith’s decision after 30 years to abruptly throw in the towel on his political career, citing the loss of the Nelson seat and a Parliamentary Service inquiry into a “verbal altercation” in his Wellington office. Continue reading “Award winners are being celebrated around NZ – but what about Queens Birthday Dishonours and a Snitch List?”

The PGF makes way for the RSPF – there’s not so much money and Maori projects will have the inside running

We haven’t had time to add up the sums involved, but the Government has made several announcements in the past 24 hours or so involving the spending or investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mind you, most of the population has been deemed ineligible on race grounds to benefit directly from some of that spending – you could say much of it.  But the government does insist that if Maori do well, we all do well, which means we will all benefit in the long run.

The aviation industry is one beneficiary where ethnicity (so far as we can tell) has not been a consideration in the government’s decision-making.  An additional $170 million is being provided for the Maintaining International Air Connectivity scheme to October 2021.

Another announcement – for regional grants and loans promised before the election – transforms the Provincial Growth Fund and continues its work in developing regional projects, but with less money and a new name, the Regional Strategic Partnership Fund.

Even so, there’s $200 million to be distributed to worthy causes (and Maori projects are being given the inside running).

Maori medium schools are the beneficiaries of $77 million in new capital and Maori communities are the beneficiaries of 15 initiatives to receive $2.8m of funding for renewable energy projects.  This is just a first helping:  in total $14 million will go to renewable energy projects for Māori housing over the next four years.

Our observations are that five of the fresh press statements from the Beehive can be characterised as  … Continue reading “The PGF makes way for the RSPF – there’s not so much money and Maori projects will have the inside running”

Unemployment insurance scheme (a Labour election promise) has made it to the drawing board

The last of a bundle of Budget Day announcements was a joint statement from the Government, Business NZ and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, telling us they are  jointly designing a Social Unemployment Insurance scheme.  

Finance Minister Grant Robertson likened the proposed scheme to the ACC for accidents, cushioning the impact of a job loss.

It would support workers to retain about 80 per cent of their income for a period after they lose their jobs and delivers on a commitment in Labour’s manifesto.

We expected much more comment and/or analysis than we found for this significant new initiative (although maybe we did not look hard enough).

A guest writer on The Spinoff focussed on “The problem with social unemployment insurance”.  Arguments for and against are presented today in a better balanced article on Stuff.

The Budget Day blast of benefit boosts and other goodies (and don’t forget the borrowing) seems to have exhausted the Beehive press gang.  Only two statements had emerged since then when we began work on this post.

Economic and Regional Envelopment Minister Stuart Nash grabbed an opportunity to do a bit of Shane Jones-style braying at the opening of a Surf Rescue Base at Pāpāmoa (the press statement had him opening a “new” surf rescue base, raising the question of how many old ones he has opened).

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins seemed chuffed that more people than showed up in an earlier survey have put their hands up for the Covid-19 vaccine. He also gave a progress report which illustrated how many Kiwis (around 90 per cent) have not been given their Covid shots, although some of these seem determined to stay well clear of the vaccinators. Continue reading “Unemployment insurance scheme (a Labour election promise) has made it to the drawing board”