“We desperately need sensible drug law reform.”

Chloe Swarbrick:

We saw exactly what was foretold by Green MP Kevin Hague. We have seen the proliferation of psychoactive substances and their harm increase as a result of a lack of regulation. The chemicals have got nastier and cheaper to produce and throw together.

“We are going to be seeing a significant increase in harm” , former MP warned in 2014 when Parliament revoked interim licences for Psychoactive Substances, forcing the issue underground. Sadly, Kevin was right. We desperately need sensible drug law reform.

CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Green): E Te Māngai, tēnā koe. Tēnā koutou e Te Whare. I rise tonight to speak to the Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill. To begin with, I would like to acknowledge the sponsor of this bill, Simeon Brown, who I’ve met with about the contents of this bill to discuss my concerns. My concerns are perhaps best summarised, in a nutshell, in reference to the point made by the Hon Nick Smith about how this bill represents a practical measure to combat drug use and drug abuse, addiction, and harms. To that point, I would say that practical measures work. This bill will not work. This piece of legislation is contrary to all of the evidence, to every piece of advice that we know with regard to how we tackle drug harm that is currently rippling through our communities.

I want to acknowledge, to begin with, the loss of lives that have been experienced in communities throughout this country: the sons and daughters that have been mentioned, but so too those who are homeless and jobless and amongst the most vulnerable in our society, which the research and evidence and coroners’ reports show are typically the users of these synthetics.

I think that all politicians, fundamentally, want the same thing here. We want reduced harm, we want safer communities, and we want investment in solutions that will actually work. So I think it makes a whole lot of sense to unpack how we got here and into this mess to begin with. In the early 2010s, synthetic substances began to emerge on the market, and what Parliament found is that we could not legislate to keep up with emerging substances by using the flawed model of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. In 2011, the Law Commission provided a deeply comprehensive report on the efficacy of that Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, and it recommended a complete repeal and replacement of the legislation, which was simply not working to reduce harm. It also recommended new regulations for emerging substances.

In 2013, the Psychoactive Substances Act, which this amendment would change, was passed unanimously in this House. It was heralded internationally as a world first to provide sensible regulation for new psychoactive substances, but that optimism quickly dwindled. It contained a provision in its original sections for the interim licensing of products that hadn’t yet been reported or complained about, but in May 2014, after the problem became visible as a result of the regulations that were imposed around that interim licensing, such as where they could be sold, politicians responded to moral panic and all parties at the time, except for the 14 Green MPs in the House, voted for those interim licences to be revoked. Speaking to that knee-jerk revocation of those licences, Kevin Hague, who is a former Green MP and health spokesperson, on the third reading of that Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill warned about what would happen, and I quote: “Prohibition takes supply out of the hands of regulated, controlled retailers and instead puts that supply into the hands of criminal gangs or other illicit suppliers. Unfortunately, what that means is … the drug dealer on the street [or] in the alleyway behind the shop[s] at Naenae and the drug dealer in the tinny house are not subject to [the] same controls. Those people supplying the demand … will not go away as a result of [a] bill [that] tonight will not be checking … for their ID or for proof of age. We should expect that supply to people under age will increase as a result of this bill. Those people will not be making a distinction between those products that are low risk and those products that are high risk. We should expect that the supply of products that are high risk will increase as a result of this bill. Those people, those illicit drug dealers, will, in addition to having a range of psychoactive substances—those currently legal and … illegal—have, in another pocket, … drugs like methamphetamine. So the product of this bill will be that … demand, which will not go away [will actually be increased]. We are going to [see] a significant increase in harm.” And what did we see? We saw exactly what was foretold by Green MP Kevin Hague. We have seen the proliferation of psychoactive substances and their harm increase as a result of a lack of regulation. The chemicals have got nastier and cheaper to produce and throw together.

I want to quote here from a user from west Auckland who was interviewed by Vice Media, who stated, and I quote, “You get all these people addicted, like actually [expletive] addicted, and then you just take it away and [you] make it illegal? Of course it’s gonna go underground, and people are gonna start making [expletive] that is harmful.”

I also want to speak to the experience of the CEO of Lifewise, Moira Lawler, who is one of the providers of the Housing First model, which is often celebrated by many in this House as a perfect way to tackle homelessness by way of wraparound services. Moira, in relation to the synthetics crisis, stated, and I quote, “[We] had one of our whānau arrested and charged with dealing and one of the things the police said [which] really stuck [in my mind] was that their unit was full of coins. You don’t make your fortune dealing synthetics … [but] People use it because it’s all they can afford.”

We’ve also had the police submit on this bill, saying that they are not going to arrest their way out of it. We have had ample evidence, as has been quoted by previous speakers, such as from the likes of Massey’s SHORE & Whariki—the research centre—which states “Experience from overseas is that increasing penalties for drug trafficking increases convictions and prisoner numbers while [having only] a minimal impact on drug prices and availability.”

In 2017, when media reported that at least seven people had died from synthetic usage, former Prime Minister Bill English said it was an issue of personal responsibility and denied Government intervention was needed. That death toll from synthetic use rose to 25 in 2017, and now to 45 in 2018, and I am glad that the National Party has now changed their position from labelling this an issue of personal responsibility, because that is far too often an abdication of political responsibility.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well, support the bill—support the bill.

CHLÖE SWARBRICK: Political responsibility, Dr Nick Smith, looks like the boldness to do what works.

On Monday of this week, I was at the opening of the harm reduction conference in Christchurch. It was timed to commemorate 30 years of needle exchange in New Zealand, which was introduced in 1987 by health Minister Dr Michael Bassett in the Lange Government. Due to that policy 30 years ago, New Zealand has a prevalence of HIV among those who inject drugs in New Zealand of 0.2 percent compared to 13 percent internationally. At the bill’s introduction, Dr Michael Bassett stated “I do not think it is possible to have a perfect solution when the position is … a balance of awfulness.”

No one here is saying that drugs are cool or fun; what we are saying is that they exist and we have to deal with that. We have to reduce harm, and if we want to do something, why do we not do something that works? This entire system is broken, and we have known it for a very long time. We have known it because the evidence and the advice provided to politicians shows—[Interruption]

ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! Order!

CHLÖE SWARBRICK: —that increasing penalties will not reduce drug accessibility—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Two years is inadequate.

ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order, Mr Smith.

CHLÖE SWARBRICK: —or affordability. We must treat drugs as a health issue, and that looks like taking them out of the shadows and providing regulation.

When people imagine regulation, they think of a free-for-all. They think of chaos. They think of bringing the issue into the light. But what we have right now in the shadows is chaos. Anybody anywhere in New Zealand who wants drugs can access them. Drug dealers, as was stated by Kevin Hague, are not checking ID, nor are they checking the safeness of the substances that they are flicking off. We know that arresting these dealers is only going to result in further dealers popping up, because the evidence shows it. So if we want to do something that works, we have to follow the evidence.

 

There’s still a Government somewhere

Jami-Lee Ross has dominated the news over the last couple of days and that looks set to continue. However there is a Government still. I have had to go looking for news about them.

The Honourable Dame Annette King will attend the 12th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Leaders’ Summit as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy in Brussels this week (18-19 October).

Small Business Minister Stuart Nash is encouraging the Australian and New Zealand public to provide feedback on a joint electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing) initiative that will save businesses time and money.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Anthony Simpson as Ambassador to Italy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Matthew Hawkins as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

The Film Industry Working Group has reported back today, providing recommendations on restoring collective bargaining rights to film production workers, says the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway.

Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced the third and final agreement in principle has been reached for new air ambulance services that will be safer, better and firmly focused on patients.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today announced that the Department of Conservation (DOC) will close 21 tracks across kauri land to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback.

Racing Minister Winston Peters has announced the next steps to promote new investment in the horse bloodstock industry.

Government late addressing teacher shortages

The Government is suddenly trying to address severe teacher shortages.

NZ Herald:  Overseas teacher recruitment drive doubles

The Government has more than doubled its target for recruiting overseas teachers to fill a shortfall of 850 teachers next year.

Only three weeks after the Ministry of Education announced a target of recruiting 400 overseas teachers by the start of next year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has raised the target for 2019 to 900.

He has allocated an extra $10.5 million, on top of $29.5m earmarked last December, for a package of measures including:

• More overseas relocation grants of up to $5000 for immigrants and $7000 for returning Kiwis, plus $3000 to cover the school’s recruitment costs.

A new grant to encourage schools to employ newly graduated NZ teachers. At present only 80 per cent of new graduates get teaching jobs despite the teacher shortage.

• Expanding the current short-term policy of free refresher courses for teachers returning to teach after an absence so it can also be used by overseas teachers to meet certification requirements with the Teaching Council. Teachers required to repeat or re-sit aspects of the programme will also have their fees waived.

• Changes to the criteria to enable more schools to appoint unregistered teachers as teachers with “limited authority to teach” in a specified subject or area.

• Additional funding for agencies to process more overseas teacher applications.

Hipkins said new analysis by the Ministry of Education showed that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers would be needed in 2019 to meet a rising level of demand, driven mainly by a forecast growth in the number of students in schools.

NZ Herald: Schools doubt new goal of recruiting 900 overseas teachers

Schools say a new package to recruit more teachers is too late for the next school year and won’t be able to attract the target of 900 overseas teachers.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new grants “will be targeted where there are shortages of teachers in some subjects and locations”.

However Auckland Secondary School Principals Association chairman Richard Dykes said eligibility criteria for the new grant would not be available until November, which would be too late to have much impact on recruitment for the new school year.

“It’s great to see the Government doing something, but it’s really frustrating that it’s taken until this late in the year to do it, because the impact is going to be very limited,” he said.

“It would have been extremely useful in July when I was busy trying to get skilled teachers to come into Auckland.

“To say I’m not going to find out about this until November is just not good enough, for goodness sake! It’s too late.”

It does seem ridiculously late in the year to try and get more teachers from overseas.

Chris Hipkins on Q+A last night:

 

Ardern left two taxes out of ‘fleeced’ fuel price claim

Earlier this week, when Jacinda Ardern said she thought motorists were being ‘fleeced’ by fuel companies, she left two taxes out of her calculations.

Stuff:  Auckland fuel tax and new excise tax left out of PM’s petrol tax calculations

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s calculation of how much extra tax Kiwis are paying at the petrol pump on Monday did not include the recent excise tax or Auckland’s Regional Fuel tax.

At a press conference on Monday, Ardern said consumers were being “fleeced” at the petrol pump, blaming this on the increased margins of petrol companies.

Between October 27, 2017 and September 28 this year, petrol prices have risen 39c, according to MBIE data – Ardern said just 6.8c of that increase was due to “taxes and levies.”

That 6.8c increase is made up of a 1.77c increase in Emissions Trading Scheme (EST) taxes and 5.04c of GST over the same period, MBIE data shows.

But the 10c a litre Auckland Regional Fuel Tax and 3.5c a litre fuel excise tax, introduced on September 30, were not included in the “taxes and levies” side of Ardern’s equation.

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said her comments were “based on the most accurate information Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had compiled at that time.”

In a statement to the Herald, an MBIE’s spokeswoman said: “current methodology does not accommodate regional prices or regional fuel taxes” in their fuel price calculations.

“Auckland City has recently introduced a regional fuel tax that will increase fuel prices in the Auckland region. Our current methodology does not accommodate regional prices or regional fuel taxes. We are developing a new methodology to replace our existing methodology that will include regional retail price differences in its measure.”

As for the 3.5c excise tax – that came into effect on September 30 and the MBIE data Ardern was referring to was taken from between September21-28, meaning it was not included in MBIE’s data either.

So Ardern could claim that sort of technically she was correct based on MBIE’s way of stating fuel taxes but it does look either sloppy or disingenuous.

Simon Bridges is trying to bark at an expensively fuelled passing car.

National Leader Simon Bridges said the Prime Minister has got this “badly wrong,” and has made a “staggering mistake.”

Bridges said in trying to defend her new fuel taxes, Ardern has shown “she doesn’t even know how much they are costing New Zealanders.”

Or doesn’t want motorists to know,

“The Prime Minister has been trying to blame fuel companies but a key driver of petrol prices is her Government’s higher taxes.”

But it has been pointed out (fairly) that Bridges didn’t bark until the shady figures were pointed out.

Overdue restrictions on loan sharks

Loan sharks ripping off vulnerable people, creating hopeless debt traps, are finally being regulated. This has been a problem for years.


Government crackdown on loan sharks

  • Cap on total interest and fees charged
  • Stiff penalties for loan sharks who break rules
  • ‘Fit and proper person’ test for lenders, door-to-door salespeople and truck shops

The Government is introducing tough new measures to protect people from loan sharks and truck shops, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced today.

“This Government is committed to making New Zealand the best place to raise a child,” Jacinda Ardern said. “To do that we must stop families becoming trapped in the appalling debt spirals and poverty that result from onerous lending and payback terms.

“These new measures will halt the very worst of those preying on vulnerable and desperate people while enabling borrowing that meets their needs in an affordable way.

“They will protect families through capping the total interest and fees charged loans, introducing tougher penalties for irresponsible lending, and raising the bar for consumer lenders to register as a Financial Service Provider,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The announcement was made at the Vaiola Pl Budgeting Service in Mangere, where the Prime Minister and Minister Faafoi met with people affected by predatory lending as well as budget and financial advice providers.

“The 2015 amendments to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) did not go far enough in protecting our most vulnerable consumers from loan sharks,” Kris Faafoi said.

“The introduction of an interest and fees cap on high-cost loans will prevent people from accumulating large debt from a single small loan. For example, if you borrow $500 you will never have to pay back more than $1,000 in total, including all fees and interest.

“The changes also lift the level of professionalism across the industry, by requiring directors and chief executives of lenders offering consumer credit contracts to pass a ‘fit and proper person’ test in order to register as a Financial Service Provider.

“Any lenders breaching the responsible lender principles will face stiff new penalties of fines up to $600,000 under the strengthened enforcement provisions in the CCCFA.

“We listened to consumer advocates and the finance sector’s feedback and will also be seeking increased resources for enforcement and monitoring to ensure lenders who break the law are detected and stopped,” Kris Faafoi said.

The Government is also tackling predatory behaviour by truck shops and others who sell door-to-door on credit or other deferred payment, by requiring all mobile traders to pass the ‘fit and proper person’ test.

The law will also be strengthened to give consumers clearer powers when asking uninvited salespeople to leave their premises, including by strengthening the legal status of ‘do not knock’ stickers, he said.

The new measures will come into effect from 2020, subject to Parliamentary timeframes.

More information on the Review of the CCCFA is available here.


People should be responsible to an extent to their own financial predicaments, especially when they borrow money they can’t afford to pay back, to but exorbitantly priced convenience goods.

But businesses that loan money also have a responsibility to not be predatory, to not engage in impossible to service financial agreements.

‘But the changes won’t take effect until 2020’ is questionable – another urgent problem with a delayed response. Does it really need to take that long to sort out a shitty situation?

Grant Robertson rejects ‘spending spree’

Yesterday the Government announced a much larger than expected surplus of $5.5 billion ($2.4 billion more than forecast)- see Government announces strong surplus.

James Shaw called on a big spend up:

Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw is calling on the Government to use the money from its “extremely healthy” books to invest in New Zealand’s public sector.

“What good is a surplus if you have people living in cars or garages – that makes no sense,” he told the Herald.

“Frankly, a surplus is inefficient if you don’t use it.”

Shaw said the Government should be using that money to invest in New Zealand’s “massive infrastructure deficit”.

“New Zealand’s debt levels are well within what the international markets would deem to be prudent, interest rates are historically low and we have a massive infrastructure deficit; to me, that just all points in the direction of using that surplus for infrastructure investment in particular.”

That investment, he said, should come from both the surplus and the 2.1 per cent headroom the Government has before it reaches its 30 per cent spending limit – a combined total of $11.5 billion.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=12139642

But Minister of Finance Grant Robertson is trying to dampen down spending expectations.

Is this a one off result? Surely Treasury has adjusted it’s budget forecasts after this unexpected result.

Government announces strong surplus

The Government has announced a surplus nearly twice what was in the Treasury’s Budge 2018 surplus – this is good news for spending plans or debt reduction, but may also increase demands from state servants seeking large pay rises.

This gives the Government an opportunity to make some bold moves on things like child poverty, prisoner rehabilitation to reduce prison numbers, reducing violence, addressing drug abuse and related problems, and climate change.


Government books show surplus, falling net debt

A strong surplus and falling net debt reflect a growing economy and show the Coalition Government is managing the books responsibly, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The Crown financial statements for the year to 30 June 2018 are the first official check in on the Government’s commitment to run surpluses, pay down net debt and keep expenses under control.

“It’s important we run surpluses and pay down debt to make sure we are in a good position to deal with any rainy day. Economists have been warning about growing risks in the international economy, particularly due to rising trade protectionism, which we need to be well-placed to face in case this flows through to the New Zealand economy,” Grant Robertson said.

“The headline results today are ahead of the Treasury’s forecasts in Budget 2018. This was largely due to timing issues with Crown expenses, which will reverse out as that planned spending occurs early in the 2018/19 year. This means Budget 2018 spending and investment plans are on track.

“The books show we are meeting the Budget Responsibility Rules. A headline $5.5 billion surplus operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) is $2.4 billion above the Treasury’s Budget 2018 forecast.

“A number of factors contributed to this result being ahead of Budget 2018 expectations. A number of one-offs led to core Crown expenses coming in 1.4 percent below forecast at 30 June 2018. The Treasury says that this was largely due to timing issues, meaning much of this variance is set to reverse out in the 2018/19 accounts. Core Crown expenses were stable at 27.9 percent of GDP.

“A strong economy contributed to core Crown tax revenue coming in 0.9 percent higher than expected in the year to 30 June 2018. Corporate tax revenue was up, due to profits for both large and small businesses being higher than the Treasury had forecast at Budget 2018. This result indicates the strength of the growing economy.

“This underlying strength of New Zealand businesses saw the number of people in employment rise by 3.7 percent over the year, while average wages rose 3 percent. These numbers show that our economic fundamentals are strong.

“The financial statements also indicate the Coalition Government’s commitment to making the important infrastructure investments New Zealand needs to unlock the growth potential of our cities and regions. At the same time, we are making up for neglected investment in critical public services in recent years.

“Net capital investment of $5.9 billion in the year was the highest since 2009 and an increase of $2.2 billion from the previous year. This included investments in hospitals, schools and state highways, while also reflecting the Coalition Government’s move to resume contributions to the NZ Super Fund.

“We are committed to a balanced approach by adopting a responsible debt reduction track. At 30 June 2018, net core Crown debt was 19.9 percent of GDP, compared to the 20.8 percent forecast in Budget 2018.

“We remain committed to the Budget Responsibility Rule that net debt will be 20 percent of GDP in 2021/22. This gives us the space required to make the critical infrastructure investments that New Zealand needs, while still building a buffer,” Grant Robertson said.

Green involvement in water quality, rangatira and kaitiaki rights

Although Labour’s Environment Minister David Parker introduced Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality” this is a big deal for the Green Party, who ensured water quality would be addressed in their Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour.

Under ‘Sustainable Economy’:

5. Provide assistance to the agricultural sector to reduce biological emissions, improve water quality, and shift to more diverse and sustainable land use including more forestry

Under ‘Healthy Environment’:

7. Improve water quality and prioritise achieving healthy rivers, lakes and aquifers with stronger regulatory instruments, funding for freshwater enhancement and winding down Government support for irrigation.

a. The Resource Management Act will be better enforced.

I can’t find much on this in the media, but Green co-leader Marama Davidson said this via email – not surprisingly and justifiably Greens see this as a win for them:


Our streams, rivers, and lakes are precious to all of us. Freshwater is the lifeblood of our communities. That’s why we’re pleased that today the Government is continuing work to deliver on the Green Party’s commitment to clean up our rivers so they’re clean and healthy for our kids and grandkids.

The Green Party have long championed cleaning up our waterways and protecting them from pollution.

Russel Norman spent a summer kayaking several awa highlighting the growing pollution. When National slashed the freshwater standards Catherine Delahunty toured the country to restore them, and last year we made rivers a priority in the 2017 election campaign.

Together, we’ve put cleaning up our rivers on the political agenda. And today, with the Greens at the heart of Government, we’re making tangible progress.

As part of our agreement with Labour, we’ve secured prioritising healthy rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

Because of that, today the Government is announcing:

  • A comprehensive work programme to clean up our most at-risk catchments
  • Strengthening the National Policy Statement on freshwater
  • A new environmental standard to protect water
  • Improvements to the RMA
  • Beginning work on catchment-by-catchment allocations

We’ve still got a long journey ahead to make our rivers healthy and safe to swim in. But, today’s announcement shows this government is flowing in the right direction.

However, a key area that we think needs strengthening is to properly recognise that Māori have rangatira and kaitiaki rights over water, as guaranteed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We’ll continue to push for this to be honoured.

Protecting the environment and recognising Māori rights go hand-in-hand.

Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality”

The quality of rain water in New Zealand is pretty much pristine, but after it falls and flows past our towns and through our farms and industries it deteriorates, sometimes to an alarming degree.

The is probably near universal support for improving the quality of water in our creeks and rivers, lakes, inlets and lagoons, and on our beaches.

Actually water quality does not need to be improved so much as degradation needs to be drastically reduced.

Aims are a bit vague – “promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years” – but should be widely supported.

Minister of the Environment David Parker:


Taking action to improve water quality

The Government today is announcing its next steps to improve the state of our waterways, promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years.

“Clean water is our birthright. Local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline. We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”

David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality. It also sets out a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.

“New Zealanders value our rivers and lakes. More than 80 per cent are committed to improving water quality for the benefit of future generations and they want central and local government, farmers and businesses to do more,” David Parker said at a function in Parliament to launch the new work programme.

“New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality – a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard.

“The rules will include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices. Our remaining wetlands and estuaries will be better protected.

“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas.”

“We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits,” David Parker said.

“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”

Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, said both Māori and the Crown are committed to Te Mana o te Wai.

“We are committed to a substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Māori land development.”

David Parker said the Government’s approach to solving these issues is engaging leading New Zealanders who care about our freshwater – environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, Regional Council experts and others.

“Already, we are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”

Alongside work to tackle climate change, reduce waste, and protect our natural biodiversity, today’s release of the freshwater work programme shows this Government is determined to protect our environment for future New Zealanders.

Damien O’Connor said New Zealanders all agree our natural resources must be used wisely.

“Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally-sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.

“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products. The workstreams set out today recognise the importance of accelerating this good work.”

The documents Essential Freshwater Agenda and Shared interests in Freshwater can be read on the Ministry for the Environment website at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/essential-freshwater-agenda

Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying options for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.

Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits; and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.

Decisions on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.

Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups; Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.


See also: Freshwater plan to explore Māori and Crown shared interests

The Government plan announced today to improve freshwater quality acknowledges that water quality cannot be addressed without a concurrent and substantive discussion with Māori, Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis said

Clark, Ardern shamefully lame not urgently addressing drug problems

Urgent action is required to address drug problems, like the prevalence of P (methamphetamine) and the growing problems with and deaths from synthetic drugs (not cannabis as some keep describing it as).

Instead the Minister of Health, David Clark, and the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, are shamefully lame.

RNZ:  Synthetic drug compounds may be reclassified as Class A

Two of the most commonly used synthetic drugs could be reclassified as Class A, bringing them in line with heroin and cocaine.

Health Minister David Clark said the aim was to give the police greater powers to stop makers and sellers of the drug.

He said he would be asking his Cabinet colleagues to support reclassification of two compounds known as AMB-Fubinaca and 5F-ABD.

bad batch of synthetic drugs in Christchurch is suspected to be behind one death. The batch has also put 19 people in hospital over the last two weeks.

“Any death as a result of drug use is a tragedy, and my sympathies go to friends and family,” Dr Clark said.

The government was taking the synthetic drug problem seriously and was talking to service providers and drug users to identify areas of need, he said.

Urgent and drastic action is required, like right now, and Clark is talking to people and might take a tweak to Cabinet some time in the future. I don’t have a problem with enabling tougher sentences for pushing some drugs, but that is unlikely to dent the ongoing catastrophe that requires urgency.

A decision on reclassification under the Misuse of Drugs Act would be made in coming weeks.

“It’s important to acknowledge that reclassification is not a silver bullet. We need to treat drug abuse, including synthetic cannabis, as a health issue,” Dr Clark said.

It’s not cannabis. And this is hardly going to make a difference.

Drug laws need a complete overhaul, not just a tweak, says The Drug Foundation.

It said drug suppliers and users needed to be treated differently under the law, as suggested by the Law Commission in 2011.

This would stop addicts being penalised for what should be health issue, Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said.

“Unless the government reforms that law then its good intentions of going after the big guys doesn’t stop police from then also choosing to criminalise people who are using these drugs.”

Funding for drug addiction services also needed to double, he said.

Drug rehabilitation service provider What Ever It Takes Trust general manager Caroline Lampp said a reclassification of two synthetic drugs would help stop supply, but more help for addicts was crucial.

“There a big gap here in Hawke’s Bay and in other places around the before and after support,” she said.

Dr Clark agreed addiction services are underfunded, but said the government was waiting for the final report from the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry before increasing any funding.

Waiting. Waiting! While lives continue to be ruined, and people keep dying.

Last week in New York Ardern notably did not join Donald Trump’s continuation of the failed ‘war on drugs’.

Last night  saw Ardern spout some absolutely vague waffle on the drug problem last night on TV and now I can’t find it, such is it’s lack of importance in the news.

TVNZ has this online: Potent new batch of synthetic drugs turning users violent in Christchurch – ‘Every person is quite unpredictable’

Two more people have died from suspected synthetic drug overdoses in Christchurch in the last fortnight as the city grapples with a dangerous batch of the drugs.

Those on the front line say patients on synthetic cannabis are becoming more aggressive and turning on the people trying to help them.

St John’s Craig Downing told 1 NEWS about one of these violent incidents.

“Last Saturday night we were called to a case that the ambulance staff responded to.

“They attended to a person and whilst in the back of the ambulance that person, without provocation or warning, violently attacked one of my staff,” Mr Downing said.

“I’m extremely worried because we don’t know from one patient to the next what’s in this substance and as such every person is quite unpredictable.”

Others dealing with Christchurch’s less fortunate have also reported the new strain of synthetic cannabis causing issues.

“The latest batches are significantly more powerful than they’ve ever been, in fact up to 400 times the strength of THC which is really significant.

“From an addictive perspective one hit can get someone hooked on it,” Christchurch City Mission’s Matthew Mark says.

A paper is set to go to cabinet in the next few weeks with a plan on how to tackle the issue, including a possible law change.

‘Next few weeks’, ‘possible law change’. Hopeless.

Ardern appears in video of that item alongside Minister of Police Stuart Nash waffling a bit about what they might do.

I think that was the news item I heard Ardern speaking but it seems to have been expunged.

Clark, Ardern and the Government have been shamefully lame in their dealing with urgent drug abuse problems.

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick is putting them to shame (see next post) but is not making much impression on Ardern or her Government.