Govt is open about NZ’s science relationship with China – but a ministerial statement on defence relationship is hard to find

Buzz from the Beehive

The Government is coy about some aspects of its relationship with China – and with the United States.

Earlier this month, the PM spent a hectic  23 hours in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, where he responded to the superpower security deal just struck between the United States and PNG by saying New Zealand did not support the “militarisation of the Pacific”.

He also said “having a military presence doesn’t necessarily signify militarisation”.

Foreign Affairs analyst Geoffrey Miller commented: Continue reading “Govt is open about NZ’s science relationship with China – but a ministerial statement on defence relationship is hard to find”

Champion of mātauranga Māori dabbles with a myth: European navigators didn’t fear sailing too close to the Earth’s edge

Dave Armstrong, a columnist for state-subsidised Stuff, went out to bat for mātauranga Māori this week and to remonstrate with Richard Dawkins, the renowned British biologist, science communicator and atheist.

During his recent New Zealand tour, Dawkins had written an article for The Spectator about our government’s decision for Māori “Ways of Knowing” (mātauranga Māori) to have equal standing with “western’ science” in our education curriculum.

Armstrong challenged the renowned scientist’s critique:

Dawkins calls this “ludicrous policy… adolescent virtue-signalling”. Is this a reasonable point or a God-like delusion from an arrogant overseas scientist with little local knowledge?

The columnist’s riposte has not been informed by the concerns of New Zealand scientists and academics about the place of mātauranga Māori in the science classroom, some of them cogently contained in a recent open letter to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

Mind you, Armstrong may well be unaware of the thrust of that letter. Stuff – and other mainstream media – have made no mention of it, perhaps because they needed the space to bring us news about Meghan and Harry.  Continue reading “Champion of mātauranga Māori dabbles with a myth: European navigators didn’t fear sailing too close to the Earth’s edge”

Graham Adams: Hipkins’ stealth revolution in education

  • Graham Adams writes – 

The PM’s tenure as Minister of Education has given NZ school students a racialised and unbalanced curriculum.

Even if Chris Hipkins is no longer the Prime Minister after October’s election, his legacy will be locked in for some time.

Chances are it won’t be on account of his role as Prime Minister over the next seven months — or his time as Minister of Police, Minister for Covid-19 Response, Minister for the Public Service, or his brief period as Minister of Health.

It will mainly be the result of his five years as Minister of Education.

Hipkins may, in fact, not even have been the principal architect of the stealthy revolution that has occurred on his watch but it will be seen as his legacy nevertheless because formal power over the education portfolio rested with him from 2017 until he became Prime Minister in January.

Over those years, Hipkins and his ministry have given the nation’s schoolchildren a radical (“decolonised”) history curriculum, which teachers throughout the country have begun implementing this term. “Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories” is now compulsory for schools from Years 1-10, with the subject optional in Years 11-13.

Verrall – hurrah – sees merit in exposing our researchers to Western science through a European Union programme

Buzz  from the Beehive

The latest  announcements on the Beehive website include news from Research, Science and innovation Minister Ayesha Verrall which – refreshingly – suggests the Government recognises our scientists and researchers might benefit from exposure to something that too often is demonised as “Western science”.

Don’t count on Verrall stepping back from the policy of incorporating mātauranga Mauri in science teaching, funding and practice.

But she has announced:

Horizon Europe opens world of opportunities for New Zealand researchers

New Zealand researchers and organisations can now apply to Pillar Two of Horizon Europe, the European Union’s (EU) largest ever research and innovation programme, on equal terms as researchers from the EU.

Other posts on the website tell us: Continue reading “Verrall – hurrah – sees merit in exposing our researchers to Western science through a European Union programme”

Professor Elizabeth Rata et al: Open Letter to the PM

Professor Elizabeth Rata, a sociologist of education and a professor in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, is the Corresponding Signatory of this open letter to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

She is one of four academics from three universities who have signed the letter, dated 8 February 2023. 

The letter has been included in an article by Professor Jerry Coyne (which featured in a Point of Order post) headed Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics. 

The academics wrote: 

Dear Prime Minister Hipkins,

We, the undersigned, draw your attention to two major problems in the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Refresh policy and in the associated NCEA qualification reforms. These problems were created during your tenure as Minister of Education and can only be solved by calling an immediate halt to the radical initiatives causing the problems. Because the matter is of such urgency, this letter is an open one and will be made public.

The first problem is the fundamental change to the purpose of New Zealand education contained in the Curriculum Refresh document, Te Mātaiaho: The Refreshed New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for Testing, September 2022.

The second problem is an effect of the first. It is the insertion into the curriculum of traditional knowledge, or mātauranga Māori, as equivalent to science. Continue reading “Professor Elizabeth Rata et al: Open Letter to the PM”

How the Treaty of Waitangi is determining the direction in which state-funded science will be taken (or dragged back?)

Buzz from the Beehive

We have come – or gone – a long way, in the past two decades. In which direction is open to discussion.  

Writing for The Independent Business Weekly on 22 January 2003, I noted how a localised Māori belief in a taniwha had obliged Transit New Zealand to stop work on a stretch of new expressway near Meremere for several weeks.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority was consulting people about ways to incorporate Māori spiritual values in a revised policy. The authority (according to newspaper reports at the time) might regard Māori spiritual concerns as sufficient reason for rejecting research applications for genetic research approvals, even if there was no physical biological risk.

A Biosecurity Council discussion document had set out a biosecurity strategy which called for the protection of land-based industries and the facilitation of exports and tourism as well as

… maintaining the relationship between Māori and their culture and traditions with ancestral lands, waters, sites, wahi tapu and taonga.

Responsiveness to Māori should recognise “the special nature of taonga,” the document explained, and it noted that Māori believed native plants and animals possessed spiritual qualities. Continue reading “How the Treaty of Waitangi is determining the direction in which state-funded science will be taken (or dragged back?)”

Unlike our leader, Joe Biden is a bloke and he is much older – but another big difference is that he is a Democrat

Point of Order’s attention was drawn to a post on The Standard headed Labour’s Ardern and Democrats’ Biden: Learnings.

Written under the pseudonym Advantage, the article kicks off:

For those fishing around for a progressive playbook in this fractious world, Biden and Ardern are pretty similar. But Biden appears to be turning the fortunes of the Democrats around, but Ardern is currently unrewarded. Is there anything to learn?

The author proceeds to check a few common fields, such as…

COVID 19 Action

Both Biden and Arden administrations successfully mobilised the largest free vaccination programme in the history of either New Zealand or the United States of America. Arguably the recalcitrance of Republican-controlled states and conservative media cost far more lives in the USA than any resistance in New Zealand. The Biden administration effort got over 75% of U.S. citizens fully vaccinated, and the New Zealand response and population-wide effect was even better.

Further comparisons are drawn under topics such as “guns” and “international leadership”.

Then the author looks into big divergences, including

The CHIPS and Science Act

President Biden signed this into law to accelerate semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. The policy focus is on bringing back manufacturing jobs from China to the United States and advance U.S.-led technological leadership. An equivalent for New Zealand would be to target key offshored manufacturing e.g., requiring Icebreaker, Fisher&Paykel Healthcare, Fonterra, and Fletcher Building to bring all their key ingredients and product lines and R&D back into New Zealand rather than being beholden to more fragile Chinese manufacturing and supply lines. One could only imagine the effect if they were required to as Biden has.

Ardern has been remarkably doctrinaire when it comes to industry protection and in-sourcing, and there’s plenty to learn as a very small and very narrow economy to vulnerability to China.

Point of Order looked in vain for something more when “science” was among the considerations.

In the US, the last time we checked, science is science is science.

In this country the Government is pouring millions of dollars into “science” education and projects that incorporate mātauranga Māori, which has a spiritual dimension.

Kiwiblog yesterday posted an article headed ACC funding lunar healing!

This was prompted by a Stuff report which noted:

A new programme designed to help Māori recover faster from injury is being piloted at the University of Auckland.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar says he hopes the pilot will be independently evaluated.

The Stuff report went on:

Named Ngākau Oho, the university and ACC programme aims to implement rongoā Māori (traditional healing practices) in mainstream healthcare systems in Aotearoa.

Rongoā Māori is the name of a number of traditional Māori healthcare practices and remedies to cure ailments and injuries.

Passed down through generations of whānau and hapū, rongoā Māori involves physical, mental, and spiritual therapy.

Ngākau Oho includes online and in-person wānanga on rongoā Māori, including the use of medicinal native plants, romiromi (body alignment), maramataka (relationships to the lunar calendar) meditation and mahi tinana (body movement).

Farrar wants to know why Māori are being treated as second class citizens who get lunar healing foisted on them, rather than therapy that actually is proven to work?

It is quite possible that certain plants will have medicinal benefits. Meditation and body alignment and movement can be useful also. I have no issue with those.

But to have the Government funding injury recovery based on the lunar calendar is akin to them funding astrology as careers advice.

 But back to The Standard and the article by Advantage.

The final item examined is…

Rescue Plan

All citizens like to think their government has a plan, and the first big one to come out of the Biden administration was simply the American Rescue Plan. This US$1.9 trillion rescue plan paid for the full vaccination programme, family debt relief with mailed cheques to most people, and a new child tax credit that led to the largest-ever one-year decrease in recorded U.S. child poverty.

The Ardern government has been renowned less for its plan for recovery per se than for Ardern’s own daily media briefings. It is s substitute of perpetual visibility for a durable plan. New Zealand’s government expenditure was as a proportion of GDP even greater than that of the United States, but the economic effects have been uneven with unemployment remaining low yet economic growth stagnating.

What hasn’t remained is a sense that the Ardern government is continuing to be guided by a plan, a plan with a visible public shape and direction.

The key differences with Biden’s broad and very bold plans are the focus on costed benefits to citizens, the focus on strong guidance of the whole economy, and translating the legislative and policy wins into fresh political momentum.

Progressives have similarities, but Biden has a performance edge Ardern can learn from.

Here at Point of Order we were bursting to point out a fundamental difference between Biden and Ardern that was not addressed in Advantage’s article.

No, neither the age nor gender of the two leaders.

The big difference is that Biden is a Democrat.

In contrast, Ardern’s Government has been unabashedly undermining our  democracy and she resists efforts to have her declare her position on the basic principle that all citizens should have equal electoral rights.

On her watch, legislation has been passed to ensure some people are given preferential representation on a local authority by being exempted from the need to campaign for electoral support. Instead, they simply  appoint their representatives.

Not one Labour MP expressed misgivings at this anti-democratic arrangement.

Having determined who must be represented on a public authority, regardless of voter support, the Government is working on a process for excluding people, without gauging voter support.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti is seeking urgent advice about the conduct of school board elections, after a white supremacist, Philip Arps, announced he is standing for Te Aratai College’s board of trustees in Linwood, Christchurch.

Arps was sentenced to 21 months’ jail for sharing footage of the Christchurch terror attack. Tinetti wants guidance on the scope of a code of conduct that is being developed for school boards. She and her officials are also looking at eligibility.

If a government can distort the electoral process by barring one group of citizens from standing for  office today, it can further distort it by barring other groups it deems unworthy  from standing for office in the future.

Moreover, it is declaring parents unfit to decide for themselves who should sit on the boards that govern  the schools attended by their children.

After the system for electing school boards has been doctored – who will be next?



No, Prime Minister – those lunches are not free and they draw attention to shortcomings in the war against poverty

Buzz from the Beehive

It’s not the sort of accomplishment – some of us might think – that a Prime Minister would be proud to bray about.

The Government’s healthy lunches in school programme has ramped up to deliver a million free lunches to school kids every week.

The PM dished up these numbers:

  • Savings for a family with two children at school of up to $62 a week, over $2000 a year
  • Lunches now reaching 220,000 kids at 950 schools every school day
  • A million lunches delivered a week, over 63 million in total to date
  • 2,361 jobs created or retained

What should we make of this?

On the one hand, yes, it is noteworthy that the Government is delivering a million lunches to school kids every week.

But is it praiseworthy?

The PM calls them “free” lunches, opting for political patter that is apt to find favour with lefties. But free lunch

“… refers to a situation where there is no cost incurred by the individual receiving the goods or services being provided, but economists point out that even if something were truly free there is an opportunity cost in what is not taken.”

In this case, the critical question is: why must the government feed school children?

The answer can only reflect badly on the success (or otherwise) of its assault on poverty.

The Ardern Cabinet includes a Minister with the Child Poverty Reduction portfolio.

Ardern appointed herself to this job, presumably to underscore the importance she attaches to it.

Success  – we suggest – will be reflected in an announcement that significantly fewer “free” lunches are being served in our schools.

Government money meanwhile is being pumped into an array of initiatives, some of them unabashedly designed to help eligible people on the basis of race.  Continue reading “No, Prime Minister – those lunches are not free and they draw attention to shortcomings in the war against poverty”

Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing

This country’s relations with the Pacific were the subjects of two fresh statements from the Beehive and were mentioned in despatches from Washington, although nothing suggested Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta would be headed to look up our near neighbours any time soon.

Mahuta’s contribution was to announce the appointment of Don Higgins as the next Administrator of Tokelau.

“Aotearoa New Zealand is first and foremost a Pacific nation. We value the strong and enduring relationships that we have with countries throughout the region, and I know these will only continue to grow,” Nanaia Mahuta said. 

The Administrator’s role is to support the Tokelau Government to deliver quality public services to the people of Tokelau, and to help manage the relationship between our countries.

Higgins will also oversee New Zealand’s development assistance to Tokelau, which is focused on strengthening Tokelau’s resilience to climate change, and includes “major investments” in education, internet connectivity, and renewable energy. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing”

Buzz from the Beehive: Megan Woods signals no retreat from plans to incorporate mātauranga Māori in NZ science system

The news media have made much of the government’s firing a shot across the bows of the supermarket duopoly.

The Government has put supermarkets on notice that they must change at pace to increase competition and be prepared for regulation.

It will introduce an industry regulator, a mandatory code of conduct, compulsory unit pricing on groceries and more transparent loyalty schemes.

Not so much attention is likely to be paid to Megan Woods’ Cawthron Institute Centenary Speech, although it portends some key features to be incorporated in a shake-up of the country’s research, science and innovation sector.

Most contentiously, our Minister of Research, Science and Innovation signalled the government’s determination to further incorporate Mātauranga Māori in the country’s science system and to develop research priorities in a partnership with Māori. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Megan Woods signals no retreat from plans to incorporate mātauranga Māori in NZ science system”