Govt invests in robotics to help harvest the asparagus crop but the Nats are grouching about problems in the pork industry

A flow of Covid-related announcements from The Beehive was interrupted by news of a Government investment in robotics.

The Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) is contributing $2.6 million to a $5 million project to develop a commercial-scale autonomous robotic asparagus harvester.  

Project partner Robotics Plus Limited (RPL) will build on a prototype asparagus harvesting robot developed by Waikato University researchers, and the New Zealand Asparagus Council will develop a marketing proposition for exporting the asparagus.

 All other Beehive announcements (when Point of Order checked this morning) related to Covid-19.

The best of those told us more Pfizer is on the way.

Another welcome decision related to driver licences, Warrants of Fitness (WoFs), Certificates of Fitness (CoFs), vehicle licences (‘regos’) and licence endorsements that expired on or after 21 July 2021.  Their validity has been extended until 30 November. Continue reading “Govt invests in robotics to help harvest the asparagus crop but the Nats are grouching about problems in the pork industry”

Woods reminds us she still has science among her ministerial jobs – and she dishes out $244m in grants for good measure

A big hurrah, today, for the first statement from Megan Woods as Research, Science and Innovation Minister since – let’s see.  Oh yes:  June 1.

On that occasion she announced Project Tāwhaki, a special partnership with two rūnanga in Canterbury that would

“…  rejuvenate a nationally unique environment, honour deep cultural relationships, and provide amazing opportunities to tap into the multi-billion dollar aerospace economy.”

Kaitōrete Limited and the Crown had entered into a Joint Venture partnership to purchase critical parcels of land (1,000 hectares) near Banks Peninsula. The Crown  contributed $16 million to secure the land. The Crown and the Rūnanga would each own 50 percent shares in the land and project. Continue reading “Woods reminds us she still has science among her ministerial jobs – and she dishes out $244m in grants for good measure”

It’s all about reducing inequities -and so Maori wellbeing is a big consideration in research funding and hospital administration

The Government has dished out public money on two fronts in its mission to reduce inequitable outcomes in health statistics.

On one front, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Andrew Little joined a ceremony to bless the site and workers for Phase Two of the redevelopment of the Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa yesterday,

The Government has invested $14 million in a project intended

“… to help the Northland District Health Board address inequitable health outcomes for Māori, by making services easier to access for communities,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“It is unacceptable that the place you live should determine the sort of healthcare get.”

Does this mean the Point of Order team can move to Stewart Island and be assured of the same health services that are being provided for the people of Kawakawa?

Oh, and let’s note that the local district health board in the Far North is being shunted aside for this development.  Continue reading “It’s all about reducing inequities -and so Maori wellbeing is a big consideration in research funding and hospital administration”

Oh, look – we can’t find any mention of “ISIS” in PM’s press statement on bringing woman and her children back from Turkey

The Turks don’t want her, after she crossed the border into that country from Syria.

The Aussies don’t want her, even though her family moved to Australia when she was six and she grew up there before departing for Syria in 2014 on an Australian passport. They cancelled her citizenship.

But she had dual citizenship and – we are told – New Zealand is unable to remove citizenship from a person and leave them stateless.

Unable?  Or morally disinclined to leave them stateless?

And would a government less committed to wellbeing and kindliness make the same decision?

Never mind.  In the upshot, the decision has been made and the woman and her family will be coming to live in this country.

Should we be worried?

The word “ISIS” did not appear in the PM’s press statement,  which was blandly headed Cabinet accepts Turkish authorities’ request for the managed return of three NZ citizens.

Nor was the woman named.   Continue reading “Oh, look – we can’t find any mention of “ISIS” in PM’s press statement on bringing woman and her children back from Turkey”

Wood is proving adept at steering major initiatives through Cabinet – but winning public approval for them will be more challenging

Transport Minister  Michael Wood  is  winning  a  reputation  for  his  bold political  initiatives. They  include, for  example,  the  announcement  of a second Auckland  harbour  bridge crossing  (but  only  for  cyclists and walkers, costing an estimated $780m).

Then came  a  “feebate”  scheme  to  hasten  the  transition  to electric  vehicles.

And earlier  there  had  been  a  move to “review”  the  Light  Rail project  in  Auckland, the  commitment  to which  had   proved a  political disaster  for Wood’s  predecessor, Phil  Twyford.

Wood  may  regard  himself  as  the  chosen  one,  enjoying  the  favours  of  his  political  seniors.  Certainly  he  appears to  have a gift  for  steering  his  initiatives  through Cabinet.

But to what effect for the political fortunes of the government?

The harbour  bridge for strollers and cyclists  drew a  spectacular  response,  coming  as it did when  Prime  Minister Jacinda  Ardern was  pointing  out  the government  was “strapped  for  cash” and  could  not meet  the  nurses’ demands  for a higher  wage rise  than the 1.38%  offered  by their  state  employers. Continue reading “Wood is proving adept at steering major initiatives through Cabinet – but winning public approval for them will be more challenging”

How to get pedallers and walkers off the Auckland Harbour Bridge – by giving them their own bridge (and it will only cost $685m)

Once upon a time Aucklanders were musing on the merits of  a private-sector proposal aimed at satisfying the demands from the  lycra lobby for a tolled pedestrian and cycle path across Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Orewa-based Hopper Developments – with pioneering projects such as canal housing and marina schemes at Pauanui, Whitianga and Marsden Pt under its belt – had signed a heads of agreement to work with a walking and cycling charitable trust on a $16 million pathway over the bridge.

This  differed from a proposal by Transport Agency consultants, rejected by the agency’s board in 2008, for separate paths to be cantilevered at road level off each edge of the bridge for up to $43 million.

The SkyPath project since then has become, first, a privately funded project underwritten by the Auckland Council, and then a project to be paid for by taxpayers – and the costs have burgeoned.

Today we learn of plans for a $685 million dedicated cycle bridge to replace SkyPath, proudly announced by Infrastructure and Transport Minister  Michael Wood.

That statement was followed by another announcement that Continue reading “How to get pedallers and walkers off the Auckland Harbour Bridge – by giving them their own bridge (and it will only cost $685m)”

After a flurry of wellbeing initiatives for Kiwis, the Govt lifts the wellbeing (and profit hopes, presumably) of Amazon movie-makers

The screen industry – or some of its more well-heeled operators – today learned the government is keen to improve its wellbeing.  This followed several blasts  of Beehive trumpeting about initiatives to improve the wellbeing and wellness of we Kiwis.

The announcements yesterday included the heartening news that the Government’s COVID-19 response has meant a record number of people moved off a Benefit and into employment in the March Quarter, with 32,880 moving into work in the first three months of 2021.

We further learned that

  • More children will be able to access mental wellbeing support with the Government expansion of Mana Ake services to five new District Health Board areas.
  • New measures are being proposed to accelerate progress towards becoming a smokefree nation by 2025.
  • Aupito Williams Sio announced Pacific people in New Zealand will be better supported with new mental health and addiction services rolling out across the Auckland and Wellington regions. 

This somewhat suggests Pacific people in the Auckland and Wellington regions will be better supported with new mental health and addiction services, rather than Pacific people across New Zealand.

But hey.  This was a press statement, right? Continue reading “After a flurry of wellbeing initiatives for Kiwis, the Govt lifts the wellbeing (and profit hopes, presumably) of Amazon movie-makers”

Robertson is comforted about the state of the economy while his colleagues get on with spending borrowed money

The first highlighted item – in a press statement from Finance Minister Grant Robertson after the release of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update – is that the economy is doing better than forecast.

Similarly, Robertson today was taking comfort from better-than-forecast GDP figures which show GDP fell 12.2% in the June quarter from March and plunged the economy into recession.

“This result was better than the Treasury forecast of 16% released yesterday and at the lower end of other commentators’ expectations,” Grant Robertson said.

Next in descending order on his list of highlights from the PREFU yesterday were the expectation unemployment would peak at 7.8%, down from 9.8% forecast in the Budget; year-to-June accounts showed tax revenue, debt and OBEGAL better than forecast; global forecasts have been downgraded because of COVID-19 uncertainties; and “balanced plan to support critical public services, manage debt and reduce the deficit caused by COVID-19” (his balanced plan, we presume).

 Further down, we learn something about the debt that is being amassed:  Continue reading “Robertson is comforted about the state of the economy while his colleagues get on with spending borrowed money”

Mandatory liquor warnings and a military posting to Tonga make a change from redistributing NZ’s wealth

Latest from the Beehive

Damien O’Connor, as Food Safety Minister, has moved into the business of dispensing advice rather than redistributing millions of dollars.   Or rather, he intends requiring the liquor industry to dispense the advice by putting pregnancy warning labels on alcohol products.

New Zealand shares a Food Standards system with Australia and this mandatory labelling was agreed at a meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.

The official communique by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation can be found here.

We aren’t sure if Ron Mark, as Minister of Defence,  gets too many chances to dole out millions of dollars to businesses, local authorities or community groups deemed worthy of funding.  But he has lined up a comfortable overseas posting for someone within his ministerial bailiwick.

He announced yesterday that New Zealand is deepening its Defence relationships in the Pacific by establishing a resident Defence Adviser in the Kingdom of Tonga. Continue reading “Mandatory liquor warnings and a military posting to Tonga make a change from redistributing NZ’s wealth”

We strike a blow against the Herald paywall by bringing Phil’s article to a wider audience

The Spinoff’s daily newsletter to subscribers today reports an interesting note of feedback from a reader yesterday.  At issue was the NZ Herald putting comment pieces by politicians behind the paywall.

Reader John told The Spinoff it “seems antidemocratic” to do so, in referring to this piece by Phil Twyford being blocked.

According to the headline, Twyford contended his government was spending more on roading projects while prioritising safety.

But non-subscribers would have to cough up to read beyond the Minister’s first few sentences.

At Point of Order we wondered if we could skirt the paywall by asking the Minister’s press secretaries for a copy of the article.

No problem.  A copy could be found on the Minister’s Facebook page, we were advised – but here was a copy for us –   Continue reading “We strike a blow against the Herald paywall by bringing Phil’s article to a wider audience”