Foreign investors buy $2.1b of NZ assets in five months, but…

It pays to read past the headline and opening paragraph.

Newstalk ZB (NZH) report: Foreign investors snap up $2.1b of NZ assets in five months

Foreigners got consent to buy $2.1 billion of New Zealand assets classed as rural, sensitive or worth $100m-plus in the first five months of the year.

But this is ‘a sharp decline’.

The Overseas Investment Office has just released its list of decisions made between January and May, and the figures show a sharp decline from the $4.6b recorded over the same period last year.

And:

It’s also worth noting that New Zealand has survived and thrived on foreign investment for two hundred years.

World poverty

Many people claim or believe that poverty its a either an unresolved problem or a growing problem, but statistics show that it has improved substantially.

From HumanProgress: Five Graphs that Will Change Your Mind About Poverty

In 1820, more than 90 per cent of the world population lived on less than $2 a day and more than 80 per cent lived on less than $1 a day (adjusted for inflation and differences in purchasing power). By 2015, less than 10 per cent of people lived on less than $1.90 a day, the World Bank’s current official definition of extreme poverty.

Not only has the percentage of people living in poverty declined, but the number of people in poverty has fallen as well – despite massive population growth. There are also more people alive who are not in penury than there have ever been. From 1820 to 2015, the number of people in extreme poverty fell from over a billion to 700 million, while the number of people better off than that rose from a mere 60 million to 6.6 billion.

Globally, poverty is about a quarter of what it was in 1990. And the graph below from Johan Norberg’s excellent book, Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, illustrates how the decline of extreme poverty has raised living standards and brought about other tangible improvements. As poverty has lessened, so have child mortality, illiteracy, and even pollution in wealthy countries – all are now less than half of what they were in 1990. Hunger has also become much rarer.

If progress continues on its current trajectory, the Brookings Institution estimated in 2013 that extreme poverty (this time defined as living on $1.25 a day, again adjusted for inflation and differences in purchasing power) will all but vanish by 2030, affecting only 5 per cent of the global population. This is what they considered to be the “baseline” or most likely scenario. In the best-case scenario, they predicted that by 2030 poverty will decrease to a truly negligible level, affecting only 1.4 per cent of the planet’s population.

This is a measure of significant or extreme poverty.

Debate over poverty in New Zealand has risen over the last few years, but i think this is a different degree of poverty – many people are not as well off as they perhaps they should be in a modern society, but even here dire living conditions are uncommon.

And – have the claims of poverty been less prominent since the Labour led Government came to power? I don’t think the situation of the country’s poor people has changed markedly, but the focus seems to have faded away.

However here is still plenty that can and should be done to improve the living conditions and prospects for the poorest people in New Zealand.

Dunedin decline

Dunedin has been in decline relative to cities up north for a long time. The 1980s and 1990s gutted the public service out of the city and it has struggled since.

Most major industry has gone. Freezing works are no more, Fisher & Paykel, which took over Shacklocks in the 1950s, shut their factory in 2008. Several years ago Hillside Workshops were shut down, and the Cadbury chocolate factory is set to close next year.

There are two things keeping the city from major decline – tertiary education, chiefly University of Otago (the oldest university in New Zealand, established in 1871),  and tourism, largely due to the growth in cruise ship visits.

The current city council, led by mayor Dave Cull, seems more intent on creating a green cycling city than on economic development. Whole blocks of car parks are being removed and replaced with barely used cycle lanes, with many more proposed.

The city has a reputation for being unfriendly to development. I have heard that developers don’t even try to set up in the city.

Several years ago a major waterfront hotel was proposed. It was slapped down by public opposition and regressive city planning practices because it was deemed to be too big,

Another major hotel development was proposed last year and has applied for consent, but it looks like that will also be slapped down.

ODT: Decline hotel consent: report

A planning report is recommending consent for Dunedin’s latest five-star hotel be declined.

The report, made public late this afternoon, has cited the hotel’s height, visual dominance of surrounding heritage buildings and shading impact as key reasons to decline consent.

A planning report is recommending consent for Dunedin’s latest five-star hotel be declined. The report, made public late this afternoon, has cited the hotel’s height, visual dominance of surrounding heritage buildings and shading impact as key reasons to decline consent.

Too big too. Probably not enough cycle parks.

The recommendation to the panel of independent commissioners came in a report by independent consultant Nigel Bryce, ahead of the public hearing beginning on July 31.

I expect there will be a lot of submissions in opposition, this will be cited as majority public opposition, and the project will be dumped.

There  has been a practice in Dunedin of small lobby groups stacking submission processes and claiming majority support for their opposition to development. They can do this as part of the democratic process, but it is not a democratic measure as they claim.

Recently:

Despite an extra $100,000 of spending approved this week, the Dunedin City Council scraped in under its self-imposed 3% target for rates rises for the next financial year.

The council approved a budget that will see ratepayers asked for an extra 2.99% for 2017-18.

That’s again higher than inflation.

Mr Cull said some people had reservations about the annual plan process, which featured feedback meetings rather than formal submissions this year, before full submissions are brought back for the long-term plan next year.

But he said the council had engaged with the public well, and arrived at a figure under the 3% limit.

It was pleasing to keep faith with the community, and keep that promise, he said.

So they set an above inflation target and applaud themselves when they achieve it.

And the mayor has said that they could rise more next year.

ODT: Rates rise on the table: Cull

Rates rises are always on the table, it’s a matter of how big a rise. And they could get bigger.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says he would consider a rates rise of more than 3% next year, if the community signals it supports more spending.

Mr Cull said in The Interview the city did need to keep rates affordable.

The council has had a self-imposed 3% maximum increase for the past few years.

Yeah, right. From the council website:

However, he said: “We are already easily the cheapest city in the country and in the lower quartile of councils all around the country for rates.”

And Dunedin is one of the most poorly performing cities business-wise.

If the city wanted to “stand still” and maintain services, that close to 3% rise would continue, as that was the inflationary pressure on the council.

“If you want extra we’re going to have to spend some more.”

Asked if he would accept a rate increase higher than 3%, Mr Cull said he would.

The community, however needed to consider the value of what it would get for the cost involved, in next year’s long-term plan.

So the aim seems to be to get public acceptance – or at lest the perception of public acceptance via lobby groups – of increasing rates.

While rejecting major developments for the city. The only big goals seem to be cycleways and spending, therefore higher rates for residents, because the city keeps losing businesses and therefore business rates.

If, as is quite likely, education delivery changes in an Internet world and the University loses out then the city will not just struggle to keep up, it will decline even further.

And this is the latest council news: Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull’s defamation lawsuit settled for $50k

A Dunedin councillor has settled for $50,000 after taking defamation action against Mayor Dave Cull.

Councillor Lee Vandervis confirmed he settled the case because of legal delays and spiralling costs, but it comes without an apology.

The case was sparked by a heated exchange in December 2015. The mayor ejected the outspoken councillor from a council meeting after Vandervis claimed he paid a backhander to secure a council contract in the 1980s.

Council’s insurers felt that making a payment of $50,000 to Vandervis to cover his costs to date would be much less expensive for them than a successful court outcome.

Dunedin has lost it’s fire while the mayor and councillors burn each other.

Benefit numbers continue decline

Stuff reports that Beneficiary numbers fall again: Government – quoting a media release from Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

They also quote Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni claiming “no evidence” there are “more people in sufficient paid employment”, and “you see increasing numbers of people who are out on the street begging” – but she provides no evidence.

Tolley’s media release:

BENEFIT FIGURES CONTINUE STRONG DECLINE

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley welcomes today’s release of benefit figures which show year-on-year benefit numbers continue to track downwards.

Key numbers:

  • 309,145 people on benefit at the end of the December 2014 quarter
  • 12,700 fewer people than last year
  • The lowest December quarter since 2008 and the third consecutive quarter (June, September, December) with such record lows
  • Numbers on the Jobseeker Support benefit have decreased by over 5,500 since last year and have been consistently declining since 2010, even as the overall working age population has increased.
  • 5,300 fewer people on the Sole Parent Support benefit compared to last year, a drop of 6.8 per cent

Tolley concludes:

“This Government’s welfare reforms are continuing to support New Zealanders into work. The reductions we’re now seeing will mean fewer people on benefit in the years to come which means we’re going to see healthier, more prosperous households.” Mrs Tolley says.

The Government sees getting people off benefits and into paid work as one of the best ways of reducing poverty.

Percentage of working age population on main benefits:

  • December 2009 – 13.0%
  • December 2013 – 11.8%
  • December 2014 – 11.2%

One of the most significant reasons for children in hardship/poverty is sole parents on benefits.

A lack of jobs is an obvious issue, but the job market is growing. Low wage levels for many is also an issue.

There is also a lack of suitable job skills and qualifications amongst the unemployed and sole parents, they tend to be under-educated and unskilled.

There are a number of Government initiated programmes aimed at improving employable skills but it is challenging motivating, educating and upskilling those remaining on benefits.

Ministry of Social Development source: Quarterly benefit factsheets available now

Welfare Reform

On 15 July 2013, the Welfare Reform changes came into place. New Zealand’s welfare system has changed to one that better recognises and supports people’s work potential. It focuses on what people can do to achieve a better future for themselves and their families. Three new benefits replace most of the previous benefits: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and Supported Living Payment.

All main benefits – December 2014

Five year trends:

Main benefit numbers in December 2014 were lower than in December 2009. Changes in benefit numbers over this period largely reflect changes in economic conditions.

The proportion of the working-age population who were receiving a main benefit at the end of December increased between 2009 and 2010, but has decreased over the last four years. The main driver for this pattern has been changes in economic conditions.

Jobseeker Support (JS), Sole Parent Support (SPS), Supported Living Payment (SLP)

Other includes Emergency Maintenance Allowance (EMA), Emergency Benefit (EB), Jobseeker Student Hardship (JSSH) , Widow’s Benefit Overseas (WBO) and YP/YPP.