Let’s see what Andrew Little prescribes to remedy structural weaknesses in NZ’s health system

One  of the biggest  challenges  facing the  Ardern  government  is in  public health.   New Zealand  may have  escaped the  pressures heaped on other  health  systems by the Covid-19 pandemic but  its  health service has had  its problems, not  least those  exposed  in the  first  report from Heather Simpson and her team   and subsequently in  the Simpson-Roche report revealing deficiencies in  handling  aspects of the response to Covid-19

Both  of  those reports underlined  structural weaknesses  within  the system,  not  only in the  district  health  boards,  but in the  Ministry of  Health.  To  repair  them  would be  a  singular challenge  for any minister. It is  notable  the Prime  Minister  nominated Andrew Little  as the  one  with  the  know-how  to get to grips  with  those particular headaches.

But even with the skills he has, reforming  district  health boards will be a severe test for Little. Some of  them are under enormous financial stress  while others  are  failing to provide  the  full range  of  services  in a  timely manner.  And  let’s not forget the  government  has  yet  to make  significant  progress  in overcoming  the deficiencies  it has  acknowledged in the country’s mental  health services.

Beyond  that  there  are  other pressing  challenges  in health, for example  with diabetes. Continue reading “Let’s see what Andrew Little prescribes to remedy structural weaknesses in NZ’s health system”

Twyford has something to celebrate, but the hard yards were put in on disarmament long before he was given the portfolio

It’s great to hear Phil Twyford celebrating a success.  Not a personal ministerial success, it’s fair to say, but a success nevertheless related to arms control.

The arms on which Twyford is focused,  it should be noted, will make quite a mess if they are triggered.  They tend to be nuclear ones.

Police Minister Poto Williams is similarly focused on arms control.

The arms in this case are not in the same big-bang league as those embraced by Twyford’s portfolio, but their potential to kill is plain enough and inevitably they became a political issue in the aftermath of the mosque massacre in Christchurch last year.

Williams yesterday announced the next steps in the Government’s firearms reform programme, a three-month amnesty aims to remove further firearms and arms items that were prohibited and restricted through the Arms Legislation Act 2020.

The Government has allocated $15.5 million for compensation and administrative costs.

Among other new announcements – Continue reading “Twyford has something to celebrate, but the hard yards were put in on disarmament long before he was given the portfolio”

Covid-19 border defences: pre-departure testing is extended (except for passengers from some countries)

The Point of Order Ministers on a Mission Monitor has flickered only fleetingly for much of the month.  More than once, the minister to trigger it has been David Parker, who set it off again yesterday with an announcement that shows how he has been spending our money.

He welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay Conservation Cadets – Tauira Mahi programme in Tauranga, a project supported by a grant of $3.5 million.  It is part of the Government’s Jobs for Nature scheme launched in the 2020 Budget to boost employment, protect and enhance the environment while accelerating the recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

Speaking of the virus, it’s the job of COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to deal with the threat of a new strain sneaking through our protective defences.  And today he has announced the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands.

The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday 25 January. Continue reading “Covid-19 border defences: pre-departure testing is extended (except for passengers from some countries)”

The PM announces a relaxation of border controls – but only Cook Islanders will be able to benefit

Our kindly PM registered her return to work as leader of the nation with yet another statement on the Beehive website, the second in two days (following her appointment of Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council on Wednesday).

It’s great to know we don’t have to check with Twitter to learn what her government is doing and/or what she thinks about the big issues of the day.

More fascinating, her press statement – at first blush – seemed to conflict with an announcement on Tuesday from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

This advised us that the Government is putting in place a new set of measures to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants.

Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future, and we must respond strongly to the evolving situation,” said Chris Hipkins.

“New Zealand is currently in a very fortunate position with no community cases – let alone of new variant types – but we take nothing for granted.

“That’s why we continue to take action, with very specific steps to further strengthen our response at the air border.” Continue reading “The PM announces a relaxation of border controls – but only Cook Islanders will be able to benefit”

Seymour is saying the most as the pollies thrust and parry on the pros and cons of Covid policies

The tightening of the border to keep new strains of Covid-19 at bay and demands to hasten the Covid-19 vaccination programme have dominated political debate – at least insofar as press statements provide a measure – in recent days.

Opposition parties have been much busier than the government – or have made much more noise – by releasing several statements on Covid-19 issues since Sunday.

But one of those, posted on both the Scoop and Voxy websites on 11 January in the name of National’s Chris Bishop, perhaps should be discounted because it is a repetition of a statement he released on December 28:

“The announcement today that from early next year all returnees from the UK and US will require pre-departure testing is a sound decision and one that the National Party has been calling for since August when we proposed a Border Protection Agency, National’s Covid-19 Recovery spokesperson Chris Bishop.

This would have made more sense late last year but not early this year, because “early next year” now refers to early 2022.  Moreover, Point of Order could find no government announcement about returnees from the UK and US on January 11 to trigger Bishop’s remarks. Continue reading “Seymour is saying the most as the pollies thrust and parry on the pros and cons of Covid policies”

Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period

Funding of $63 million to help keep New Zealanders safe in the water was the subject of the last item of Beehive news we posted before Christmas.  To kick off 2021, the welfare of tongue-tied infants, digitally disadvantaged oldies and fastidious prison inmates (many of them gang members) was high on the government’s agenda for official statements.

The tightening of our  border controls to keep all of us safe from virulent new strains of Covid-19 was the subject of two press releases.

And three ministers (including the PM) took time out to congratulate  Kiwis awarded New Year gongs.

Oh – and let’s not forget that Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, on Christmas Day,  welcomed the agreement reached by the United Kingdom and the European Union on their future post-Brexit relationship.

While Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis issued just one statement, he was kept busy over several days dealing with something he called “the prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison”.

The “event” involved 16 belligerent blokes rioting for six days at Waikeria Prison, lighting fires, throwing debris at Department of Corrections staff, and destroying something called the top jail. Continue reading “Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period”

Tauranga councillors fail to persuade Mahuta she should allow them to stay in their elected posts

The citizens of Tauranga have been given another heads-up about losing their democracy – Nanaia Mahuta, who enthuses about upholding democracy as Minister of Foreign Affairs, has affirmed she intends appointing a commission to replace the dysfunctional Tauranga City Council.

Less controversially she announced New Zealand is providing an initial package of support to Fiji as it assesses the damage from Tropical Cyclone Yasa.

She didn’t mention the cost, but big bucks were involved in another Beehive announcement.  Fresh funding of $1.12 billion – which implies borrowing a sum of that magnitude – will support the COVID-19 health response and quarantine facilities for a further 18 months.

Among other announcements: Continue reading “Tauranga councillors fail to persuade Mahuta she should allow them to stay in their elected posts”

Phil fronts up for action on nuclear disarmament while colleagues prepare our Covid-19 defences during the summer

Our attention has been drawn to the former Minister in charge of Kiwibuild taking action – of sorts – as Minister in charge of governmental efforts to secure us against the threat of nuclear war.

We were alerted by an announcement that Pacific nations  came together yesterday under the auspices of the Treaty of Rarotonga “to ramp up diplomatic efforts for nuclear disarmament”.

The statement came from Phil Twyford as Disarmament and Arms Control Minister after he had taken part in a virtual inaugural meeting of Treaty parties.  He described the Treaty of Rarotonga as the Pacific’s nuclear-free zone and a useful region-wide platform for pushing the anti-nuclear cause.

Comforting news came, too, from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who said the Government is putting in place support for affected businesses in case there is a resurgence of COVID-19.

More generally, COVID-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins outlined extensive All of Government planning in the event of a community case of COVID-19 during the holiday period.

Readers with an interest in the country’s economic wellbeing, meanwhile, were cheered by the latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report which forecasts food and fibre export revenue of more than $47.5 billion for the year ending June 2021, and a record $49.2 billion the following year.

Among other statements: Continue reading “Phil fronts up for action on nuclear disarmament while colleagues prepare our Covid-19 defences during the summer”

Boost for traders: PACER Plus takes effect at the same time as Govt extends its airfreight scheme

Statements from the office of Phil Twyford, before we have read them, are apt to engender a sense of foreboding:  which government programme has been slowed down this time?

But a weekend statement from Twyford, as Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, welcomed “the entry into force of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus)”.

PACER Plus would be instrumental in supporting Pacific economies

“ …  to rebuild from the devastating impacts of COVID-19,” Phil Twyford said. 

“The Agreement provides opportunities for goods and services produced in the region to be sold within the Pacific and globally, thereby using trade as an engine of economic growth and sustainable development,”

Other news from the Beehive tells us: Continue reading “Boost for traders: PACER Plus takes effect at the same time as Govt extends its airfreight scheme”

Covid: an endgame taking shape?

Things are moving fast on Covid, perhaps faster than we realise.  But as Europe painfully grinds its way through a second lockdown, it’s easy to miss this.

First of all, it’s more of a lockdown-lite this time.  Policy is more nuanced and – although most people are too polite to say – has more or less converged on a Swedish approach.

Secondly, the second wave so far looks less deadly. Excess mortality is considerably below the levels of earlier in the year. And while the institutional response hardly rates as an exemplar, there are plenty of signs of successful adaptation, of government policy certainly and, perhaps more importantly, of individual and business behaviour.

Continue reading “Covid: an endgame taking shape?”