Mahuta shows what she really thinks about local government democracy and UN treaties

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta – who has vowed to remove the public poll option when councils vote to create Māori wards – is not necessarily being guided by Labour policy when she tampers with local authority governance systems.

Abolishing referendums on Māori wards was not listed as a priority in the 2020 Labour Manifesto. But the manifesto did pledge:

Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.” (p.23)

Hmm. Full participation of the locals, huh?

But last week Mahuta – dealing with another matter on her local government patch – signalled she will be replacing the elected Tauranga City Council with a commission she will appoint.

“I have been closely watching the conduct of the Council for a number of months. I have grown increasingly concerned at the governance issues, and the impact this has on Tauranga ratepayers and significant investment in the region. The Council was given the opportunity to address the concerns, but has demonstrated that more direct action is needed.”

Tauranga City Council was given 10 working days to respond to the Minister’s letter of intention. Its response “will be considered before a final decision is made”. Continue reading “Mahuta shows what she really thinks about local government democracy and UN treaties”

Mahuta plugs the progress of Maori at powhiri for our big APEC year

A rich mix of fresh pronouncements from the Beehive includes the delivery of an election promise to improve the wellbeing of workers with more sick leave.  Yes, this may adversely affect the wellbeing of their employers, who will be obliged to do the paying.  But this has been partly offset by a sop which extends by 10 months the rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold by 10 months.

Ministers have also advised the people who employ them (we, the people, dear reader) of:

  • The government’s intention to enable drug users and pill poppers to check on the quality of the stuff that gives them their buzz;
  • The government’s giving more protection to consumers who borrow money (at the same time as it is amassing a record-high public debt to be repaid by all consumers who pay taxes);  
  • Plans to make the public sector carbon neutral by 2025, starting with the phasing out of the largest and most active coal boilers;   
  • A bill to keep an election promise to have a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000. The new rate will apply from 1 April 2021.

Oh – and then there’s the speech delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta to APEC big-wigs, although it seems to have been pitched to resonate with a Maori audience as much as with an international one.    

The speech was delivered at a pōwhiri on Wellington’s waterfront where the local tribe, Te Atiawa, and several government ministers welcomed representatives from the other 20 APEC economies.

Mahuta  described APEC as a hugely important international event and said APEC 2021 (NZ will be the host) would be one of the largest ongoing virtual events in the world, with more than 300 meetings conducted across New Zealand.  

The pōwhiri was one of the few physical events of New Zealand’s APEC virtual host year. The first virtual APEC 2021 meeting, the Informal Senior Officials Meeting, will be held on 9 December.

Mahuta briefly brought history into considerations and attempted to make it relevant to the experience of other APEC countries:  

“It is significant to note that around 700 years ago, our ocean-navigating Māori ancestors or tūpuna traversed the vast Pacific Ocean, using the signs they observed in the stars and ocean currents to travel south to ultimately arrive here in Aotearoa. I hazard a guess that they would have stopped off at many of your homelands across the Pacific along the way to rest, recuperate and re-stock supplies for the long journey ahead.”

She mentioned the inclusiveness and environmental sustainability that have become potent  components of policy-making under our caring prime minister. 

“We seek to promote trade and economic growth that is inclusive, especially as it relates to women and indigenous peoples, to ensure APEC makes full use of the untapped economic potential of these and a number of other groups. We will also focus on sustainability, not only in response to environmental realities such as climate change, but also to facilitate a green economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The spirit of “partnership” was not overlooked:  

“APEC New Zealand Officials are working in partnership with the local tangata whenua, Te Atiawa Iwi, to ensure that we maintain our Māori cultural integrity in the way that we welcome, host and farewell our manuwhiri, our guests.”

Then global challenges were addressed (albeit briefly):

“As you may well recognise these are challenging and uncertain times. A global pandemic has cause us to be caught in the same storm and while we are experiencing the impact of this storm very differently collectively we know we must get through the other side.

“Responding to COVID-19 will be top of mind for New Zealand, and we will be looking to use a number of mechanisms to facilitate an effective, long-lasting economic response to the crisis as we set out a ‘new normal’ approach to support our resilience.

“Following the biggest economic shock in 90 years, we will focus on rebuilding confidence in the multilateral trading system. An effective, functioning and rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organisation at its centre, underpins APEC’s work to support our economies to grow together and be cognisant of the challenge before us. Promoting indigenous collaboration to broaden the diversity of our approach, and the consequent benefits to women and young people is also important.”

Mahuta declared she was heartened by the progress made by New Zealand since this country last hosted APEC in 1999. 

But her measure of New Zealand’s progress  – dare we suggest it? – was somewhat narrowly focused on the achievements of one racial group: 

“In 1999, Māori were largely invisible in New Zealand’s hosting and were mostly reduced to ceremonial and cultural roles. However, we are determined that for APEC21, Māori will play a more prominent and meaningful role in New Zealand’s hosting. I anticipate this approach may assist broader opportunities for indigenous peoples and economies to connect in more meaningful ways.

“Over the last twenty years the Māori economy and asset base has grown exponentially enhanced further by Treaty Settlements, which have provided an economic base for our people. Today, the Māori economy is valued at around $50 billion and represents six per cent of New Zealand’s total asset base. The Māori economy includes a range of authorities, businesses, and SME employers who self-identify as Māori.

“From 2010 to 2018, Māori enterprises have increased in number by over 30 percent and employee count by 50 percent. However, the general consensus is that further diversification of the Māori asset base is required to ensure resilience in the long-term.  We are starting to see this across the Māori economy with Māori businesses branching out into new investment areas including geothermal, digital, education, and housing.

“With the Māori economy in such a solid position, we have an excellent opportunity to diversify the benefits our trade policy and within APEC over the next twenty years.”

And the progress – was there any? – of the national economy?

We may suppose MFAT officials or Mahuta’s speech writer reckoned it wasn’t worth mentioning.   

But Mahuta did acknowledge that indigenous recognition can be a sensitive subject and that the New Zealand experience is not uniformly replicated across the Asia-Pacific.

She offered this country’s help in changing their ways of doing things:   

“We are willing to share our experience and offer support to assist economies to enable the greater participation of indigenous communities in trade and economic activity, including through APEC. Economic inclusion such as this approach will contribute to greater equity and opportunity for indigenous peoples and can contribute to greater social cohesion and stability in our region”

Wrapping up her speech, Mahuta told the locally based APEC economy representatives that, because of the virtual nature of NZ’s host year, they would play an even more important connecting role between NZ officials and their home agencies.

She told New Zealand government officials they had an enormous task ahead as they prepared proposals, meeting papers, statements, projects and events during the year, all while ensuring a strong New Zealand sense of manaakitanga, hospitality.

And last but by no means least she addressed tangata whenua, Te Atiawa Iwi, and Māori organisation partners, saying 

“ … you are our Treaty partner and represent Māori cultural and economic interests in APEC and what we strive to achieve across these economies.”

In conclusion, she drew on the wisdom of her ancestor Tāwhio who said;

“Ki te kotahi te kākaho ka whati, ki te kapuia e kore e whati.

” ‘When a reed stands alone it can be easily broken, but bound in unison it stands firm, joined together, and is unbreakable!’

“That is the intent of APEC 21 that we Join, Work and Grow Together.

“No reira, Turuturu Whakawhitia mau a kia tina! Haumi e, hui e, tāiki e! Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou. Tēnā tātou katoa!”

Among the signals we pick up from this, diplomats and APEC representatives who want to understand everything Ardern’s second-term ministers tell them should get to grips with te reo fast – or recruit local staff who can do the translating for them. 

 Latest from the Beehive

2 DECEMBER 2020

Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025

  • Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025
  • Immediate focus on phasing out largest and most active coal boilers

Government fulfils election undertaking on new top tax rate

The Government will today keep its election promise to put in place a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000.

Sir Robert Martin re-elected to UN Committee

New Zealand welcomes the news that Sir Robert Martin has been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, says Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni.

New rules to protect Kiwis from unaffordable loans

The Government is making sure all consumers who borrow money get the same protections, regardless of where they get their loans.

1 DECEMBER 2020

New visitor attraction to boost tourism

The opening of the first major new tourism attraction since the global outbreak of COVID-19 closed borders to international travellers will provide a welcome boost to visitor numbers in our largest city, says Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

Govt moves on drug checking to keep young New Zealanders safer this summer

The Government will pass time limited legislation to give legal certainty to drug checking services, so they can carry out their work to keep New Zealanders safer this summer at festivals without fear of prosecution, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

Public Service Commissioner reappointed

Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins announced today that Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes CNZM has been reappointed for three years.

Pōwhiri marks the start of a critical year for APEC

New Zealand kicked off its APEC host year today, with a pōwhiri taking place on Wellington’s waterfront with local iwi Te Atiawa, and a number of Government ministers welcoming representatives from the other 20 APEC economies.

Speech at APEC 21 Opening Pōwhiri

Kei aku rangatira no ngātapito e whā o te ao huri noa, tātou e huihui mai nei. Tēnā rā kōutou katoa.

Government extends business debt relief to October 2021

To assist with the ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19, rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold have been extended by 10 months.

30 NOVEMBER 2020

Bill introduced to support workers with 10 days sick leave

The Government is delivering on a key commitment by introducing a Bill to Parliament to expand sick leave entitlements from five days to ten days a year, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood announced today.

Progress on pay equity for DHB staff

Today’s initial agreement between DHBs and the PSA on pay equity for clerical and administration staff is an important step toward better, fairer pay for this crucial and largely female workforce, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

 

“The Economist” puts spotlight on Ardern and Mahuta – now let’s watch them strut their stuff on the world stage

When a  Labour  government  in New Zealand is the  subject of a page of commentary  in the London-based The  Economist,  you  know  it is on a  roll.  And  the  Ardern    government   has  won  its  place  in  history  through its performance  in winning a  second term so decisively.

Not  only that, but the  Prime  Minister  herself has made her  own mark  on the  international  stage.

The  Economist   is  impressed  with  NZ  legalising  assisted dying, among other progressive steps,   and  is  impressed that  NZ’s  new  foreign minister,  Nanaia  Mahuta, sports a  Maori tattoo  known as  a moko kauae  on her lips  and chin.

It reports Mahuta  as being part  of the  most diverse cabinet in NZ’s history, appointed by Ardern,  following a thumping re-election for  the prime minister and the Labour  Party  she  leads. Ethnically,  almost half the  20  members   are  not white and include five Maori.  There  are eight women, two of whom are lesbians,  with young  children and the  first  openly gay  deputy  prime minister, Grant Robertson. Continue reading ““The Economist” puts spotlight on Ardern and Mahuta – now let’s watch them strut their stuff on the world stage”

Biden and our PM are keen to talk: climate change (rather than the weather) and Covid-19 will be on the agenda

PM Jacinda Adern will call president-elect Joe Biden shortly. Both are keen to talk and the agenda will be broad. She will probably focus on climate change and his undertaking to return America to the Paris accords. With the coronavirus still raging in the US (yesterday the US passed 10 million infections) she may be able to share some of NZ’s experiences.

In her recent statements the PM has shown a strong interest in the US-NZ relationship, picking up where Winston Peters left off. There’s also a not-so-subtle indication that she will focus on the core relationships – the US, UK, EU, Australia and major Asian capitals –  leaving the new foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, minding the rest.

Biden was here in 2016 and he knows the territory. His easy affability will engage with Ardern’s positivity and general friendliness. Like the PM on her election and her pledge to govern for all New Zealanders, Biden, in his first major speech, said he planned to do the same for all Americans. Continue reading “Biden and our PM are keen to talk: climate change (rather than the weather) and Covid-19 will be on the agenda”

Mahuta and Henare – key appointments which show NZ no longer should be regarded as a European outpost

Diplomatic eyebrows were raised when PM Jacinda Ardern named Nanaia Mahuta as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She  is the  first  woman  to  hold   the  portfolio  and  she  got  the   job   ahead   of   more  highly ranked  figures  including Andrew  Little  and  David  Parker,  who  were  understood  to  be  interested  in steering  policy in this  field.

Mahuta’s only international experience seems to have been as associate trade minister in the previous government but Beehive insiders say David Parker – as Minister of Trade and Export Growth – was loath to let anything of substance out of his reach  in that field.  In the past three years every press statement in this portfolio was released in Parker’s name except for a few released in the name of Damien O’Connor as Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth.  We found none released in Mahuta’s name, although she did issue some trade-related statements as Minister for Maori Development.

As  a  politician  she has been   relatively  self-effacing, although in her  own  fields   she  is  said  to  be   thorough   and  careful.  but  Ardern  offered  a  powerful  rationale   for  Mahuta’s  elevation to  one of the  key  ministries, pointing to her aptitude  for  building  strong relationships.  She  might   also  have mentioned  that  Mahuta  listens  carefully to  her  advisers. Continue reading “Mahuta and Henare – key appointments which show NZ no longer should be regarded as a European outpost”

While we wait for Jones to further curry favours with our money, let’s check out this $40m investment in the Waikato’s wellbeing

We are sure we haven’t heard the last of Shane Jones and what remains of the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund from which he distributes big bucks to boost regional economies while hoping (we are sure) to be remembered fondly when people cast their votes.

But it wasn’t Jones who announced the Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura.    This news was delivered by Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford and (doing good things with public money for her home patch) Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta.  No doubt both ministers will be hoping this largess is translated into votes, particularly the Maori vote.

The inland port – a project in which Tainui Group Holdings is deeply immersed – will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato.

This development has been in the works for years, but access to both road and rail was crucial and the project is dependent on completion of the Waikato Expressway.

A big step forward was taken in February this year when Tainui Group Holdings and Port of Tauranga announced a 50:50 joint venture to establish the port, which was set to open by late 2021 at the same time as the final section of the Waikato Expressway. Continue reading “While we wait for Jones to further curry favours with our money, let’s check out this $40m investment in the Waikato’s wellbeing”

Oh, the relief – but exemption from rates to lift productivity will help only a select group of landowners

The government has found a way to resolve a Catch 22 challenge regarding unproductive Maori land.  To encourage development and increase productivity, it will exempt the land-owners from having to pay rates and will enable local authorities to wipe off rates arrears.

Alas, other owners of unproductive land should not expect similar exemptions from their rate-paying obligations.

The dilemma that is being resolved is that Maori owners of unused land get no income from the land and can’t settle the rates bill.

But they won’t take development plans to the local council because they might then be called on to cough up the money they owe.

The answer?

Exempt the non-productive land from council rates and allow councils to wipe off the debt. Continue reading “Oh, the relief – but exemption from rates to lift productivity will help only a select group of landowners”

Visual news: Minister prepares a sign-language statement to trumpet announcement about help for the hearing-impaired

The Ardern government – focused on promoting wellbeing and diversity – is obviously keen to ensure the beneficiaries of its spending decisions are not left oblivious to what it is doing for them.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin yesterday made one of the spending announcements that inevitably trigger the Point of Order Trough Monitor (which is programmed to alert us to government spending decisions but not to make value judgements about the worthiness of  those decisions).

In this case, the announcement related to increased funding of $9.9 million over the next four years to benefit children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

To ensure the target audience was informed of what has been decided, the press statement emerged from the Minister’s office in two forms.
Continue reading “Visual news: Minister prepares a sign-language statement to trumpet announcement about help for the hearing-impaired”

Goodies for Northland: the gravy train – and Shane – ride in again

Yesterday was Friday so Shane Jones and his bag(s) of goodies should have been in ….

Oh, yes.  Back on his home patch of Northland and (no surprise) he returned to distribute  money.

Meningitis was there, too, as a political rival , Whangarei MP Shane Reti, pointed out.

An agenda item for next week’s Northland District Health Board meeting confirms that there has been another case of Meningitis W in Northland, Reti said in a press statement. 

“This brings the total to two this year after a seven month old child contracted the disease earlier in the year. There were seven cases of Meningitis W in Northland last year and an outbreak was declared on 8 November, resulting in one death.”

Reti had “grave concerns” that meningitis would flare up again over winter.

He called for the Ministry of Health to release the thousands of unused meningitis vaccines “that are slowly expiring” and make them immediately available free of charge to all Northland children. Continue reading “Goodies for Northland: the gravy train – and Shane – ride in again”

Money is dished up for the war on plastics, development in Kapiti and the promotion of te reo

It’s been a bit quiet, on the Provincial Growth Fund front. We had supposed (a) Shane Jones needed a breather from ladelling out money up and down the country; (b) the PGF trough needed replenishing; or (c) a mix of both.

We were caught napping, therefore,when the Point of Order Trough Monitor was triggered by a flurry of announcements.

First, in tandem with Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage, he announced a $40 million allocation from the PGF for investment in projects to tackle waste. Officials are being despatched to look for suitable recipients.

Then Jones headed for Otaki where the good people of the Kapiti Coast learned they are in the money.  Or a few of them are and the money is modest.  Perhaps they are at the wrong end of the North Island. Continue reading “Money is dished up for the war on plastics, development in Kapiti and the promotion of te reo”