Pharmac should brace for a dose of medicine to perk up its Treaty performance and (all going well) lift Maori health outcomes

Monitoring the Ministers

A raft of appointments has been  announced over the past 24 hours – an ambassador to Turkey, a consul-general to Guangzhou, a chair for KiwiRail, a deputy inspector-general of intelligence and security and an advisory panel for the same outfit. 

Oh – and remember Clare Curran? The former Labour Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media has landed a job on the board of a Crown company, Network for Learning (N4L).       

In other announcements, the government joined the disabled community in marking and celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall congratulated Covid testing teams around New Zealand for reaching the five million tests milestone.

Another big health-related statement came from Health Minister Andrew Little, who said care for the sickest New Zealanders is getting a major boost from the government, with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on expanding intensive care-type services.

As the country shifts to the traffic-light system, he said (somewhat ominously)

“… we need to make sure we can cope with the unexpected.”

Cabinet has earmarked $100 million of capital funding from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to accelerate these intensive care unit projects.  Another $544 million of operational funding is available to fund ongoing costs like staffing.

But Point of Order was drawn to another of Little’s press statements, issued to accompany his release of an interim report by an independent panel reviewing the national pharmaceuticals-buying agency Pharmac. Continue reading “Pharmac should brace for a dose of medicine to perk up its Treaty performance and (all going well) lift Maori health outcomes”

Port of Tauranga handles near-record import surges but red tape is slowing progress with expansion plans

As New Zealand’s largest port, Port of Tauranga is  playing a vital  role in keeping cargo moving throughout the global disruption and local upheavals caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  And  it  has  ambitious  plans, which  would  strengthen   its  key  place  in  NZ’s  transport  system.

Fortunately  for our export industries,  the  port  overcame the  effects  of  the pandemic’s impact on the international supply chain which  included extensive shipping delays, service cancellations, scarcity of supply and volume volatility.  This has led to congestion in the container terminal and at its MetroPort facility in Auckland.

The situation was at times exacerbated at times by operational challenges at Ports of Auckland, particularly in the first half of the financial year.

While  there  were 106 fewer container vessel visits between September 2020 and June 2021, the average cargo exchange per container vessel increased 21.7% due to the reduced vessel frequency and shippers maximising available capacity. Continue reading “Port of Tauranga handles near-record import surges but red tape is slowing progress with expansion plans”

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”

Help is promised for Southland after Rio Tinto pulls plug but money more immediately will be pumped into West Coast rail

Latest from the Beehive –

Northland was missing from the regions to benefit from government announcements in the past 24 or so hours.  Southland, on the other hand, is being promised government support for its economy in the aftermath of Rio Tinto’s decision to close its operations at Tiwai Point.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson pledged:

“As we have done in Taranaki, we will support a just transition to more job opportunities. We know the strengths of Southland and we want to build on them in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing. There is also an opportunity to support other energy intensive projects like green hydrogen and data centres.”

But the only figure in the joint press statement with a dollar sign in front related to a sum of money the government expects Rio Tinoto to cough up.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said she wanted to make clear that

“ … the Government expects Rio Tinto to meet their obligations for clean-up of the site (an estimated $256 million) and do the right thing on the dross.” .

Good luck with that. Continue reading “Help is promised for Southland after Rio Tinto pulls plug but money more immediately will be pumped into West Coast rail”

Faster broadband comes to Rātana – and now they are better connected to the world than many people in the capital

The Jones boy is back in the business of making good-news announcements about the Provincial Growth Fund, rather than being asked to explain his role in one of hundreds of applications made by business people keen to slurp a few million from the $3 billion trough.

Today our Regional Development Minister is braying about log trains being about to run between Wairoa and Napier following PPF investment to reopen the rail line.

The Government invested $6.2 million to reopen the mothballed rail line which was closed after significant storm damage in 2012.

“With PGF support the rail line has been rebuilt and KiwiRail has established a road-rail log yard in Wairoa. On Sunday the first loaded log train will leave Wairoa for the Port of Napier,” Shane Jones said today.

“Export log volumes in the Hawke’s Bay region are predicted to reach 3.3 million tonnes per annum in the next few years and remain at high levels until the mid-2030s. The harvest growth around Wairoa is part of that picture. Continue reading “Faster broadband comes to Rātana – and now they are better connected to the world than many people in the capital”

POAL – Aucklanders (not the government) should decide its future

Barrie Saunders writes…

One of the 1984-90 Lange-Douglas government’s most successful reforms is now at serious risk, because of a self-serving political campaign by NZ First, aided and abetted by others driving their own agendas.

In 1988 the Port Companies Act came into operation, which commercialised New Zealand’s ports and required them to operate as a “successful business”.   At the same time the failed New Zealand Ports Authority was disbanded and harbour regulatory functions were left with local government.

The reforms worked extraordinarily well as the port companies became very efficient and cost-effective.  Some including the ports of Auckland, Tauranga, Timaru, Napier, Lyttelton and Bluff, ended up at various stages with private shareholdings, but the local authorities typically held the majority of shares, and some partially privatised were later bought back.  Undoubtedly the private shareholding improved the performance of port companies. Continue reading “POAL – Aucklanders (not the government) should decide its future”

Marae at Parihaka Pa to get better broadband while engineering projects are pampered down south

Fresh from sprinkling fairy dust in Taranaki – or rather, redistributing taxpayers’ hard-earned money – Shane Jones headed south and announced a plethora of handouts and investments in Otago.

The three marae in the historic Parihaka Pa complex in Taranaki were the beneficiaries of the first of the latest handouts from the Provincial Growth Fund.  They have been upgraded to high speed broadband with PGF support *.

It has taken a while, but this much-denounced colonisation thing at last is showing glimpses of having a positive side.

Down south, Jones pumped a much bigger sum – almost $20 million – into re-establishing KiwiRail’s Hillside workshop and  almost $8 million into a raft of engineering projects.

Oh, and with a billion trees in mind presumably, $63,000 will be spent on supporting eight 17 and 18 year olds to enter careers in forestry.

And then there’s a $10 million spend “to establish Otago as the centre of New Zealand’s creative digital industry over the next ten years … ”  ** 

But what does this intervention by central government do for the aspirations of other regions which might hope to become the centre of the country’s creative digital industry?

The announcements were all registered by the Point of Order Trough Monitor, which reports: Continue reading “Marae at Parihaka Pa to get better broadband while engineering projects are pampered down south”

Good for Northlanders – but how about the rest of taxpayers?

Hosannas for one of the latest handouts from the so-called Provincial Growth Fund – a $94.8m “investment” to bring up to operational standard a 54km section of the Northland rail line – were muted, not surprisingly.

NZ’s state-owned KiwiRail, which racked up a $235m loss in the 2018 year, and a $197m loss the year before that, looks as if it will be saddled with yet more loss-making services – but Deputy PM Winston Peters justifies the investment on the grounds the rail line to Whangarei would otherwise become “unsafe” and have to close within 5 years.

Continue reading “Good for Northlanders – but how about the rest of taxpayers?”

Value-add is sidelined while Jones enthuses about railways and export logs

Just as we anticipated, Shane Jones left the Kapiti Coast yesterday and crossed the Rimutakas to distribute more largesse from the Provincial Growth Fund in the Wairarapa.

He did not travel by train (so far as we know), but he spoke as Associate Minister of Transport to extol the virtues of rail transport and explained why PGF goodies were being invested in KiwiRail and rail hubs.

He also spoke as Minister of Forestry to enthuse about trees and the economic potential of logging.

Logging?

Yep. Value-add seemed to have been forgotten – the talk was about humping logs to ports by rail for shipping overseas.

Perhaps that’s why he wasn’t wearing his Regional Economic Development hat.  Economic development calls for doing something more than chopping trees down and sending logs to China. Continue reading “Value-add is sidelined while Jones enthuses about railways and export logs”

We await KiwiRail’s explaining the benefits of two systems on the Main Trunk Line…

Point of Order  was lamenting  in   an earlier post  how the taxpayer has to  suck  up  the  $35m   cost of the  of the  Ardern-Peters  government’s decision  to  retain  electric  locos,  soon  to be  refurbished,  on the  Main Trunk  Line  between  Hamilton and Palmerston North.

This in  effect was a reversal of  the decision taken  two years  ago to  ditch the  North Island  electric locos  and  replace them with diesel-powered engines.

What Point of Order  failed to mention in that  earlier  post  is that the  latest batch of KiwiRail’s new DL class diesel-electric locomotives has arrived at the Port of Tauranga. Continue reading “We await KiwiRail’s explaining the benefits of two systems on the Main Trunk Line…”