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, look – a trough for creative and cultural Kiwis (but ethnicity considerations might curb a rush of applications)

Latest from the Beehive – 

One of the less challenging jobs for a Minister of the Crown is dipping into a trough within his ministerial gift and hoping for favourable headlines by dishing out grants.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford – who has fallen short of counting Kiwbuild and Auckland light rail among his political triumphs – proved to be a dab hand at distributing money from the Creative and Cultural Events Incubator trough at the weekend.

Four Māori and Pasifika events will receive up to $100,000 each in funding.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, had the similarly unchallenging task of announcing the inaugural launch of Kiribati Language Week as part of the 2020 Pacific Language Weeks programme.

The government – or rather, taxpayers – will provide “resourcing support” to the Kiribati community in New Zealand to help them run their language week activities for the first time. Continue reading “Oh, look – a trough for creative and cultural Kiwis (but ethnicity considerations might curb a rush of applications)”

How “responsibility” is being redefined on Ardern’s watch – first at the top, and now at ministerial level

The Ardern  government, adding  a  fresh  policy  pile-up to  the heap  it  has  accumulated,  has been  busy re-defining   the  core   principle  of   ministerial  responsibility.

Health  Minister   David   Clark   has   joined   Transport  Minister  Phil  Twyford   in  the  “look, no hands”  brigade,   as he  shrugs  off   responsibility   for   failing  to  ensure  the government’s   strict border  protocols   as  agreed   by  Cabinet   were  implemented.

And  Twyford, adding the failure to deliver Labour’s  key  2017 election pledge to  build   Auckland’s  light  rail  by 2021  to  his  KiwiBuild  performance,  must still be laughing  as he   draws  his  ministerial  salary  and looks  forward to  another term,  after being  promoted  to  number four on   Labour’s list.

The  consequence  is  headlines  such as “Phil Twford, Minister of   embarrassing failures”  and  “David Clark throws  Ashley Bloomfield  under a  bus,  while Bloomfield looks on”.

Not   quite  the sort   Labour   will cherish  as  it  goes  into a general election  campaign.

Point  of  Order, in an earlier  post,  noted   what  is  emerging  in  NZ as  a redefinition  of   leadership:  Ardern  is   there to lead,  not to take  responsibility.  This defies    all  previous conventions in a  parliamentary   democracy.

This  is  now being refined  for  ministers, too.   They  are there   to  get  Cabinet sign-off  on measures,  but not to take  responsibility  when  a programme is not fulfilled. Continue reading “How “responsibility” is being redefined on Ardern’s watch – first at the top, and now at ministerial level”

A fast-track environmental test to short-circuit the RMA is welcome but fast-track projects should pass a business test, too

The government  is to  short-circuit  the   unwieldy  and  time-wasting  Resource Management Act  to fast-track   projects  it likes to call  “shovel-ready”  as  a  major  element  of its plan to get the economy up and running  again.

Environment Minister  David Parker  says:

We went hard and early to beat the virus and now we’re doing the same to get the economy moving too. The success of our health response gives us a head start on the world to get our economy moving again and this fast tracking process will allow our economic recovery to accelerate”

In effect  the government  is   recognising  the RMA  legislation is  obsolescent, a  block to   economic  progress.  As  ACT’s  David Seymour pointed out, the 900-page RMA is the single biggest impediment to progress, and to housing affordability in particular.

In  accepting that the consenting and approval processes previously  used don’t provide the speed and certainty  needed now in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19,  Parker  says environmental safeguards remain.  The resource consent applications for these projects will be processed by an Expert Consenting Panel.

But this is  the  telling  line in  Parker’s  announcement: Continue reading “A fast-track environmental test to short-circuit the RMA is welcome but fast-track projects should pass a business test, too”

An open aviation market is worth revisiting while we consider the merits of an Anzac bubble

There’s mounting enthusiasm in both Anzac countries to create a Trans-Tasman bubble linking both for air travel and tourism.

Why not?

Those  familiar  with history  say  the two countries should go a step further and re-invent the famous open market which was killed by the then Australian Transport Minister, Laurie Brereton, back  on October  23, 1994?

Reincarnated, this might serve both countries well  at this critical  point  for their economies.

In the early 1990s, both Canberra and Wellington envisaged a single market where the airlines of each country could fly freely to and within the other.  The idea had its genesis with the late Sir Peter Abeles when he chaired TNT, the former Australian multi-model transport giant.

Sir Peter was joint chairman, with Rupert Murdoch, owner of the vast News media empire, of Ansett Australia. He took advantage of NZ deregulation to launch Ansett NZ in 1987 but soon realised the only way it would ever become commercially viable would be to link Ansett operations in both countries.

This ran foul of the current air services agreements between each country. Continue reading “An open aviation market is worth revisiting while we consider the merits of an Anzac bubble”

Restoring the Ministry of Works may be the answer to recovery challenges when the lock-down is lifted

Based on the experience of Kiwibuild, wiseacres chortle at the prospect of another Ministry of Works to design and build New Zealand infrastructure from highways and motorways to airports, power stations and railways.

The prospect was raised in a Newsroom report which said:

Ministers are rushing to prevent the country’s construction sector hollowing out under coronavirus lockdown. 

However, they’ve also admitted the state’s role in construction will massively expand in a way unheard of in several generations. That could include turning Crown Infrastructure Partners into a new Ministry of Works-style government department.

And:

Answering questions on whether the Ministry of Works would be revived at the end of the country’s Covid-19 recovery Twyford said he “wouldn’t want to rule out that more hands-on approach”, and Jones said he was strongly in favour of it.

The quotes came from Transport Minister Phil Twyford (previously associated with a failure to meet Kiwibuild targets)  and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones (who will be judged, among other things, on his success in meeting the billion  trees target).

Before the idea of a new Ministry of Works is judged on the strength of those ministers’ connection with it, let’s reflect on how it actually operated.
Continue reading “Restoring the Ministry of Works may be the answer to recovery challenges when the lock-down is lifted”

SPVs are hailed as a way of funding infrastructure for housing – but will they be open to public scrutiny?

Readers who haven’t encountered the concept should brace to hear more about the use of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV).

An SPV is a legal entity created for a specific purpose, such as raising capital – the SPV then can be a funding structure, through which all investors (or investors under a given investment threshold) are pooled together into a single entity.

The NZ Productivity Commission last year said SPVs could help debt-burdened councils to supply the infrastructure needed to support housing development.

The idea is supported by the Auckland Business Chamber. 

Just before Christmas, the government introduced legislation to give effect to it.  The Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill establishes a framework for the establishment of SPVs to  fund infrastructure such as roads and sewers in “high-growth” councils.

Eric Crampton, chief economist at the New Zealand Initiative, described it as a linchpin of Phil Twyford’s vision for better-functioning housing markets. Continue reading “SPVs are hailed as a way of funding infrastructure for housing – but will they be open to public scrutiny?”

How taxpayers are pumping millions into the motel business to provide emergency housing

Blogger Lindsay Mitchell has used the Official Information Act to flush out data on emergency housing from the Ministry for Social Development.

The results have been posted under the heading Motel charges premium for emergency housing.

At long last MSD has updated OIA requests, Mitchell writes. Responses up to November 2019 are on-line

“ … and always make for interesting reading. For instance payments made to the Olive Tree Motel for emergency housing.”

Clients are granted an amount which is paid directly to the motel, Mitchell explains.

In the June 2019 quarter the motel was receiving $265 a night.

But nightly charges per unit range from $145 to $165 according to their website. Charges reduce for longer stays.

The response to another request reveals that over 600 accommodation providers  received emergency grants in the June 2019 quarter. Continue reading “How taxpayers are pumping millions into the motel business to provide emergency housing”

Another reason for providing more housing: innovation (an impressive amount of it, anyway) begins at home

The Government in July launched a new approach to industry policy,aimed at growing more innovative industries in New Zealand and lifting the productivity of our key sectors.

The rationale was that New Zealand has a strong economic foundation but productivity has continued to fall behind our main competitors.

To take advantage of the opportunities of the technological revolution the Government announced Industry Transformation Plans would  be developed for key sectors.

Industry Transformation Plans were to be sector-led and government-supported, involving partnership between government and the private sector.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website – 

The Government is committed to working with its partners to grow more innovative industries. Boosting productivity, including redirecting investment towards more productive sectors, is crucial if New Zealand is to lift the standard of living of all Kiwis, and this will be a key initiative for achieving this.

The initial priority sectors for developing Industry Transformation Plans are agritech, digital technologies, food and beverage, and forestry and wood processing. Over time, this could be expanded into other areas such as creative industries, tourism, aerospace, health technologies and renewable energy.

The fellow in charge, ministerially, is Phil Twyford, who took over from David Parker as Minister of Economic Development during a cabinet reshuffle in June. Continue reading “Another reason for providing more housing: innovation (an impressive amount of it, anyway) begins at home”

Labour said “let’s do this” in 2017, the “year of delivery” was 2019 – and next year voters might consider a fresh approach

 With  a general election  due  in  less  than  a  year,  party  strategists are   already  perusing  poll results  intently,  testing  political  trends and working on  how to  frame   the shape of the  campaign itself.

This  could  be  especially    difficult for   those in  the  Labour camp. The  problem   is the  long  list    of policies   unfufilled,  stacked  up    along   the   promise    of   the  2017  slogan:  “Let’s  Do This”.

Voters’  memories  are   short,   but  not  so   short  that  they won’t  recall Labour  was  going to  solve  the  housing “crisis”  with KiwiBuild,  eliminate  child  poverty,  make the tax system  fairer  with a capital  gains tax,  repair  the  “broken”  welfare  system,  and    “fix”  the health sector  after  “nine years of  neglect”.

As well,  there was  the  commitment  to  invest  in  public transport   rather than new   highways.

And  just  as  2019  began, Jacinda Ardern  in her role as  Prime  Minister   promised  it  would be the  “Year  of Delivery”   Continue reading “Labour said “let’s do this” in 2017, the “year of delivery” was 2019 – and next year voters might consider a fresh approach”