Christchurch hospital funding debacle

Nine to ten years after the Christchurch earthquakes things are looking dire for Christchurch and Canterbury health care.

Stuff: Staff shortage at $525 million dollar yet-to-open Christchurch hospital

A decision not to open parts of Christchurch Hospital’s new emergency department (ED) due to financial constraints has been labelled “beyond embarrassing”.

Stuff: New Christchurch Hospital car park expected to be 1000 short of what is needed

A new car park being planned for Christchurch Hospital is expected to provide a further 450 spaces – still almost 1000 short of what experts feel is needed.

Years of inadequate facilities around the central city hospital have seen staff threatened with fines for parking on nearby Hagley Park, medics camping out in their cars to secure spots and nursing staff attacked at night during lengthy walks back to where they have parked.

RNZ: Christchurch hospital staff upset by delays to opening of children’s units

Dr Clare Doocey is upset that hospital emergency care for children in Christchurch will not be moving into a brand new, purpose-built facility.

The new $500m Hagley hospital block has been built with dedicated units for children within the emergency department and intensive care.

But financial troubles at the DHB mean children will still in most cases have to be treated alongside adults, with three units at the block set to be mostly unstaffed.

RNZ: Warning Christchurch Hospital funding woes will put pressure on ICU and elective surgery

The head of intensive care at Christchurch Hospital is warning some surgery for children and adults will have to be put off because of funding woes.

The Canterbury District Health Board says it is not reducing any services.

However, it has run out of money to fully operate three units at its brand new Hagley block.

One of the three services being curtailed is Canterbury’s first-ever dedicated children’s intensive care unit (ICU) (in addition, a specialised children’s unit in the Emergency Department, and an Emergency Observation unit for all ages also face unexpected constraints).

ODT/RNZ: Management exodus: What’s going on at the Canterbury DHB?

There have been five shock resignations from the top levels at the Canterbury and West Coast DHB in just one month.

The Detail talks to former Press reporter Oliver Lewis about the reasons behind the executive management resignations and why the rest of New Zealand should care.

The first to go was the chief people officer Michael Frampton in July, but this month the exodus really started.

In three consecutive days from August 3, the DHB’s planning, funding and decision support executive director Carolyn Gullery, chief executive David Meates and the chief financial officer Justine White, all resigned.

Last Friday the chief medical officer Sue Nightingale – who’s the leader of the region’s Covid-19 response – quit.

“I don’t really know if you can look at that and say that is a coincidence,” says Lewis.

“As the senior doctor’s union has pointed out, it looks more like an implosion and there has been…serious concerns about the relationship between the board and the executive management team.”

ODT: Departing CDHB boss given guard of honour outside hospital

Outgoing Canterbury and West Coast district health board boss David Meates was given a guard of honour by Christchurch Hospital staff today.

Meates resigned as chief executive last month, triggering an outpouring of tributes. Staff applauded him again today as he walked out of the CDHB offices.

He has been chief executive of the CDHB since 2009, and led the region’s health response to both the earthquakes and the March 15 terrorist attack.

He has also clashed with Ministry of Health officials to advocate over funding and facilities. It is a tumultuous period for the CDHB, which is under pressure to address its mounting deficit that reached roughly $180 million in 2019-20.

A number of ‘shovel ready’ funding decisions “made in haste” and “not high quality”

Greens are in damage control and leader leader James Shaw continues to copy flak for his decision to approve a $11.7 million grant to a private green school, which is contrary to longstanding Green Party policy (see Greens under fire for $11m private school funding).

But in an apparent attempt in trying to mitigate “creating a mess right at this time at the start of an election campaign” Shaw has said that a number of decisions made were “made in haste” and “not high quality”.

Stuff: James Shaw apologises for school decision, saying he wouldn’t do it again

He said that the speed of the process had resulted in some poor decisions.

“I have to say I’m unimpressed with the whole decision-making process,” Shaw said, referencing the speed with which decisions were made.

“There were a number of decisions that weren’t high quality decisions, that were made in haste to support the country during a crisis,” he said.

I wonder if Shaw will elaborate on which of the other funding decisions have not been high quality.

More from Shaw on the private school decision:

The grant to the Green School in Taranaki from the $3 billion “shovel-ready” projects fund was made alongside ministers from other parties, and in his capacity as associate finance minister, rather than Green co-leader, but Shaw told members that wasn’t good enough.

“I want to apologise to you and the wider Green Party whānau for creating a mess right at this time at the start of an election campaign”.

“I want to apologise for the decision itself. If I was in the same position again I wouldn’t make the same decision”.

I’m sure he wouldn’t make the same decision knowing what a hypocrisy mess he has created for the Greens.

“We are working to fix it,” Shaw said.

“We entered this in good faith, we can’t simply say we’d dump it. It would ultimately be unfair to the other side and be exposed to legal risk”.

Nevertheless, members were told there would be a wider public apology and “resolution” sometime next week.

It would certainly be unfair to withdraw funding already decided on.

But what other sort of fix or resolution is possible? Labour are not offering any help.

Newshub: Multi-million dollar funding for private Green School in Taranaki going ahead despite backlash

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday the funding was not something he would have prioritised for the education sector and said the funding for Green School was something the Greens wanted.  

“Ultimately, that was something the Green Party advocated quite strongly for and so it was one of their wins, if you like, out of the shovel-ready projects area. It’s not necessarily a project that I would’ve prioritised.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed on Friday the funding will still go ahead despite the backlash because he believes the Government should keep its word.  

“I can understand that there are people who perhaps don’t like it or would rather the decision was changed. But I think the Government’s got to act in good faith here with an applicant and so I’ve got no intention to do that,” Robertson said. 

Robertson said the funding was signed off as part of 150 shovel-ready projects the Government approved to help stimulate the economy. He said the funding is separate from the funding that goes to the education sector.

 I wonder how many of those 150 signed off projects are not high quality in addition to Shaw’s big mistake?

More on Shaw’s decision.

Luke Malpass (Stuff): Hypocrisy, thy colour is Green

Hypocrisy, thy colour is Green.

Or, perhaps more specifically, thy name is James Shaw.

It’s almost a quarter of the money set aside for the Climate Change Commission that Shaw specifically mentioned in his 2019 Budget speech.

The leader of the Green Party, which purports publicly to be the party of the downtrodden and dispossessed, has inadvertently revealed itself for what many think it actually is – a party that mostly serves well-heeled Kiwis in secure and well-paid employment that care about the environment, climate change and want to go cycling and tramping on the weekend.

Stuff understands that the school’s proposal for funding was originally rejected by both the Treasury and the Cabinet committee of the Government’s economic development ministers.

The school incident shows Shaw is just as prepared as NZ First is to wring money out of the Government for pet projects. Now, even worse, Shaw is trying to get the Government to revoke the cash it has already committed to the school. Talk about principles.

It is almost inexplicable that Shaw thought this was a good idea on political grounds, or justifiable on equity grounds. Even the idea that this “creates jobs” also looks dubious. At best, it substitutes one set of jobs for another, as much of the employment will be temporary and go to builders and contractors.

This decision will be an albatross around Shaw’s neck for the rest of his career, which has been carefully built around being an unthreatening, pragmatic Green with integrity.

It’s going be tough for the Greens to keep their support above the 5% threshold after this faux pas from the hapless Shaw.

Trump announces US will cut funding to WHO

Trump seems to have changed his mind again, just announcing that the US will at least temporarily cut funding to the World Health Organisation.

Fox News: Trump announces US will halt funding to World Health Organization over coronavirus response

President Trump announced at the White House coronavirus press briefing in the Rose Garden on Tuesday that the United States will immediately halt all funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.”

“We have deep concerns over whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said, accusing the WHO of failing to adequately keep the international community apprised of the threat of the coronavirus.

“The WHO failed in this duty, and must be held accountable,” Trump said. He added that the WHO had ignored “credible information” in December 2019 that the virus could be transmitted from human to human.

If funding was cut to every organisation or Government agency that got something wrong about Covid-19 at some time there would be little money or much done about it.  It’s unlikely trump will cut funding to the White House.

And cutting funding to a health organisation during a health crisis seems an odd approach, even if mistakes had been made.

In the meantime, Trump declared that the United States would undertake a 60-to-90 day investigation into why the “China-centric” WHO had caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus’ spread.

Trump seems intent on blaming others, and throwing in a “political correctness” snipe seems more aiming at an audience in an effort to shore up falling poll support than anything.

Also at the briefing, the president said plans to ease the national economic shutdown were being finalized, and that he would be “authorizing governors to reopen their states to reopen as they see fit.” At the same time, Trump made clear that he was not going to put “any pressure” on governors to reopen.

“We have to get our sports back,” Trump remarked. “I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old.”

Trump has had time to watch old baseball games on TV in between changing his mind about funding WHO and blaming others for Covid problems?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S. and a key member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, has said misinformation from China, repeated by the WHO, had affected U.S. response efforts.

Lack of good information from everywhere has been a problem, and countries are still learning as they go.

Trump may not be guilty of political correctness, but his PR has been poor at times. It’s not that long ago he was promoting business as usual by Easter and a ‘beautiful Easter Sunday’ – this spraying of ideas can’t help dealing with the virus.

Reuters: Trump’s May 1 target too optimistic for U.S. coronavirus reopening, adviser Fauci says

President Donald Trump’s May 1 target for restarting the economy is “overly optimistic,” his top infectious disease adviser said on Tuesday, after Trump and state governors clashed over who has the power to lift restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed many governors in saying that health officials must first be able to test for the virus quickly, isolate new cases and track down new infections before social-distancing restrictions can be eased safely.

Trump’s administration has recommended stay-at-home guidelines through the end of April, and the president has floated May 1 as a possible date to start reopening shuttered workplaces in some areas.

Fauci, who frequently appears with Trump at White House coronavirus briefings, has previously contradicted Trump on some issues, such as an unproven medical treatment promoted by the president. Trump on Sunday retweeted a message on Twitter from a conservative political figure calling for Fauci’s firing, but the president later denied plans to dismiss his adviser.

Trump, a Republican who before the pandemic had touted a vibrant U.S. economy as a pillar of his Nov. 3 re-election bid, lashed out at Democratic state governors, suggesting they were “mutineers,” after New York’s Andrew Cuomo said he would refuse any order by the president to reopen the economy too soon.

“If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Cuomo told CNN early in the day.

At a news conference later, Cuomo said Trump was “clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue” and that he did not want a partisan battle, but added, “We don’t have a king in this country, we have a Constitution and we elect the president.”

Trump could cut funding to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and he could cut funding to states – and the worrying thing is he thinks he has the power to do this and may try to if people disagree with him.

A president obsessed with being seen as not wrong, and with a record of lashing out at anyone who suggests he may not be right or may have not done the best he could have, could do anything, especially if the polls and criticisms continue to work against him.

Labour/Government spending on schools

In her Speech to the 2019 Labour Party Conference Jacinda Ardern gave details of plans provide money to all schools for maintenance.

…next year almost every single state school in New Zealand will receive a one-off payment of up to $400,000 to upgrade their classrooms and facilities.

This is the biggest cash injection for school maintenance in at least 25 years.

It will create jobs in every community in the country while helping to make our schools the special places they deserve to be.

Every school will get a payment of $693 per student, capped at a maximum of $400,000, while no school will get less than $50,000 regardless of how small their roll is.

@henrycooke: The funding maxes out at $400k per school but also has a $50k floor. This creates some wild ratios, eg: Auckland Grammar, with 2421 students, will receive the max of $400k – $165 per student. Papanui Junction School, roll of 7, will receive the minimum of $50k – $7k per kid.

Be it classroom upgrades or extensions, ensuring classrooms are warm and dry so our kids can learn, replacing coal boilers with new clean and energy efficient heating, improving play areas with resurfacing and landscaping, replacing roofing and guttering – this money is to ensure that the projects that schools have often had to defer can now get done.

But this isn’t just about schools – it’s about jobs. And especially trades jobs.

We want schools to engage local builders, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, landscapers – this is an opportunity for work at a local level in every town and city in the country.

Now this is just the first part of our infrastructure package, and one element of our work to rebuild New Zealand.

And it will leave a visible mark on every school in the country.

Now I know that what happens to our school buildings is one thing but what happens within them matters even more.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

She also announced a Ministry of Education offer to pay all school support staff at least ‘the living wage’.

So I want to finish by acknowledging that on Friday, the Ministry of Education made a new offer to settle the school support staff collective agreement, which, if accepted, will see teacher aides and other support staff receive at least the living wage.

Today, I can also announce that we intend for the Ministry to extend the living wage offer to all non-teaching staff in schools including cleaners, caretakers, and grounds people.

A lot of people will like this expenditure, and many will benefit from it. It won’t do any harm for Labour’s election chances next year either.

Allegation of funding threat, Minister says comments ‘misconstrued’

In a select committee submission,Steve Glassey, founder of Animal Evac NZ, alleged that a Minister said that criticisms could threaten funding. The Minister, Damien O’Connor, says that his comments were misconstrued.

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): Threat allegation – PM did not expect minsters’ behaviour

The threat allegation centres on last month’s fires in the Nelson district and it was made in a Parliamentary select committee by Steve Glassy.

The article repeatedly misspells Glassey’s name.

After initially being rejected Glassy and his team were invited back by MPI to do their stuff as things got worse.

As it is, his organisation wanted to work on the National Disaster Resilience Strategy to put in place a better system in the future.

MPI Minister Damien O’Connor had a word in his ear, in the presence of a volunteer, that he should be more positive about how the system was working and in the same breath is alleged to have talked about future funding.

As he was driving away, Glassy’s insistent O’Connor leaned out a passenger window and told him that “you can’t go riding us and then come to us for funding.”

O’Connor was quite up front about his conversation with Glassy but seemed to dig himself deeper into the hole he was trying to extract himself from.

He told the animal rescuer it’s really important to be positive “when we’re trying to negotiate a better deal with him.”

Jacinda Ardern said it was “absolutely not” the behaviour she’d expect of a minister and if evidence was provided she’d be open to seeing it.

The Country (NZH): Animal Evac NZ head Steve Glassey says MPI had no plan to look after animals during Nelson fire

The head of an animal evacuation charity which helped rescue pets and stock during the recent Nelson fires says a Government Minister threatened to pull its funding if he didn’t “play the game”.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor confirmed it was he who had spoken to Animal Evac NZ founder Steve Glassey but said the conversation was misconstrued.

Glassey today criticised the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its response to the plight of animals stranded as people evacuated fire-hit areas during the Nelson fires earlier this year.

Glassey was making a submission to a committee of MPs today about the National Disaster Resilience Strategy.

“The Nelson fires repeated many of the major mistakes made in previous responses.

Despite the legal mandate for MPI to co-ordinate animal emergency plans, there was no animal management approved under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act in effect at the time of the fire,” Glassey told the governance and administration committee.

That may the more important aspect of this story, but the threat accusation has attracted more attention to it.

“We have had veiled threats from officials and even a Minister that if we continue to draw attention to such deficiencies, our chances of getting funding will be affected,” Glassey told the committee.

“Yet, this Government repeatedly says it’s prepared to be held to account.”

Asked by MPs what had been conveyed, Glassey said “basically, if we don’t play the game we won’t get funding”.

O’Connor confirmed to reporters he and Glassey had spoken but he made no such threat.

“Steve will always extrapolate things out. I said it’s really important to be positive when we’re trying to negotiate a better deal with him. I think Steve going around criticising MPI staff at every single opportunity when everyone is doing their best is not a very productive way forward.”

O’Connor said Glassey would misunderstand anything regardless of what was said.

That sounds like there could be some history in the relationship between O’Connor and Glassey.

He said Nelson was an emergency situation, Glassey had gone behind the cordon.

“He had created some chaos and some challenges for the police and for MPI. It wasn’t a very productive situation.”

So it seems to be more than aa bit of criticism that is causing friction.

MPI’s director of animal health and welfare Chris Rodwell said Animal Evac NZ was one of several agencies invited to help with the response to the fires, along with the SPCA, the Helping You Help Animals charity and Massey University’s veterinary emergency response team.

“Animal Evac does not receive funding from MPI, so there are no plans to cut funding. We look to find funding to support services in every response we are involved in, including this one,” Rodwell said in a statement.

Supporting agencies were advised that travel and accommodation costs would be picked up by the Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management group.

“It is up to them to seek reimbursement and we can facilitate this. In addition, charities involved are also able to apply to the mayoral fund,” Rodwell said.

Perhaps further clarification will be forthcoming.

Glassey had been closely involved with the SPCA for 30 years, but ‘stepped away’ in 2017 after two years heading the Wellington branch. See Research beckons Wellington SPCA chief as new structure rolled out

Taxpayers’ Union – advocates or activists?

The Taxpayers’ Union has been a controversial player in New Zealand politics, given those who are involved (from the right of politics).

Their self-description on Twitter:

We’re the voice for Kiwi taxpayers in the corridors of power. With  and our 36k members, we fight for Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency.

But the causes they promote or oppose suggests that their focus is rather narrower than “the voice for Kiwi taxpayers”.

Their reaction to this article suggests a certain sensitivity to criticism – Newsroom: Tobacco ties undermine Taxpayers’ Union

“Here at the Taxpayers’ Union, we are no defenders of ‘Big Tobacco’ or its lobbyists.”

Jordan Williams’ words, in the foreword to a 2016 report on the impact of tobacco taxes, have a certain irony in light of his organisation’s financial ties to British American Tobacco.

In many ways, news of the tobacco giant’s “corporate membership” of the Taxpayers’ Union (for an undisclosed annual fee) should come as little surprise.

Since its inception in 2013, Williams’ organisation has consistently opposed measures designed to regulate or reduce the use of tobacco, such as the plain packaging law and the annual increases to excise tax.

Add in its ‘Clear the Air’ campaign for lighter regulation of vaping and other e-cigarette products – a sector in which cigarette companies themselves now have a large stake – and the alignment of beliefs seems clear.

Does that mean that Williams and company are mere stooges for hire, on offer to the highest corporate bidder?

Not necessarily (although the group’s most vociferous critics would surely beg to differ).

Egregious lack of transparency

British American Tobacco may pay its dues to the Taxpayers’ Union not to ensure it would take the party line against tobacco controls, but because it already shared those views as a philosophically “free market” organisation.

And the group’s argument about the regressive impact of tobacco taxes – that they impact the poor disproportionately – is one which carries some weight.

There would be value to some voters in an organisation which lived up to the Taxpayers’ Union motto of “lower taxes, less waste, more transparency”.

However, it’s in the area of transparency where the organisation most egregiously fails.

None of the numerous press releases and reports on tobacco put out by the Taxpayers’ Union make even a passing reference to the group’s funding from a cigarette manufacturer.

A Taxpayers’ Union spokesman pooh-poohed the suggestion of disclosing conflicts of interest, claiming doing so would “distort people’s perceptions of our work” given its many donors.

That’s an argument that doesn’t hold water, given the high standards to which the organisation is willing to hold politicians (take its criticism of Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter for the awarding of transport contracts to her partner, despite her lack of involvement in the decision-making process).

The organisation’s spokesman suggested taxpayer-funded entities had to be held to “a special standard” – but surely a group seeking to enhance government transparency should be purer than pure.

They should practice what they preach on transparency.

Also apparent is their interest in issues that seem to be straying somewhat from the interests of “Kiwi taxpayers”.

A few days ago:

This sort of general anti-government stance is common from the Taxpayers’ Union.  They look more like activists with vested interests in certain political outcomes rather than general advocates for reducing Government costs. This probably doesn’t surprise any Kiwi taxpayers.

More important questions for National than ex-lover spat and personal revenge

The turning rogue of Jami-Lee Ross and the text of Sarah Dowie has been a big story for months now, but a part of the issue that has been largely overwhelmed by the social saga side is what this has exposed about the National Party. Some have recently written about this.

Graham Adams (Noted & Stuff) looks at and beyond Parliament’s star-crossed lovers who crossed each other, starting with Jami-Lee Ross’s maiden speech in Parliament 2011.

In his speech, Ross also quoted the school’s aim to produce “good and useful citizens”. Most people will conclude he isn’t good but he has certainly been useful already if you look beyond the narrow interests of the National Party to the wider interests of the nation.

Ross has given us insights into our political life that only an insider could know, including how donations are handled and how much influence some donors expect (or hope) to have over candidate selection in the National Party.

His disclosures about wealthy Chinese donors has also sparked increased interest in Professor Anne-Marie Brady’s research into how United Front activities run by those close to the Chinese Communist Party have infiltrated our political life.

And Ross could prove himself to be even more useful if he told us much, much more about how our politics are entwined with the push by the CCP to influence perceptions of China overseas and policy towards it.

For starters, he might enlighten us on the role of Dr Jian Yang — that mysterious figure in National’s caucus who was part of China’s intelligence community and a member of the Communist Party, and who refuses to speak to journalists (or at least English-speaking ones).

It would be entirely appropriate for Ross to perform this service, not least because in his speech he declared himself to be passionately opposed to socialism.

He should be very happy then to expose the deep links between National — the party purportedly of “individual freedom and choice” (number 4 on its list of values) — and the communist regime in China that is one of the most repressive and repugnant on the planet.

Some will think it’s the very least a man who professed in 2011 to be devoted to “individual freedom” and who in 2018 dedicated himself to exposing the “rot within the National Party” could do.

Fran O’Sullivan (NZ Herald): Bigger issues to deal with than emotive texts

There are more pertinent issues at play.

Despite the public front National has adopted on the donations issue, it has still not satisfactorily dealt with Ross’ claim that he was effectively asked to wash a $100,000 donation from Yikun Zhang by ensuring it was split into smaller amounts.

National Party apparatchiks denied there was a $100,000 donation. National Leader Simon Bridges said at the time a “large sum of money” came into the party from multiple sources through donations from Zhang and supporters through Ross’ electorate account in Botany in the first instance.

The issue here is one of “substance over form”.

Nor has Bridges dealt satisfactorily with the clear implication from the tapes that Ross leaked, of a prior conversation that suggested he favoured effectively trading positions for different ethnicities on National’s list, in return for donations.

These issues — which strike at the heart of democracy and business ethics — have been obscured in the general furore over Ross’ meltdown.

It is obvious that there is sufficient underlying truth to Ross’ claims on this score to have provoked senior National MPs to call for change.

Former Attorney-General and National MP Chris Finlayson was sufficiently exercised to use his valedictory speech in Parliament last year to say he was concerned over funding of political parties by non-nationals.

Finlayson called for both major parties to work together on party funding rules, saying it was his personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to political parties.

“Our political system belongs to New Zealanders and I don’t like the idea of foreigners funding it … we need to work together to ensure our democracy remains our democracy.”

The issue has also festered with the long-serving veteran National MP Nick Smith who revealed to the Herald this week he also wants reforms to ensure the integrity of the NZ electoral system.

If Ross is of a decent mind he would chalk up a minor victory on this score as having focused National MPs’ attention on behind-the-scenes dealing in their party.

National is not going to wash its dirty linen in public but the allegations their former party
whip raised are of sufficient merit for police to finalise that particular probe.

I don’t think we can rely on Ross being ‘of a decent mind’, he seems more intent on personal revenge.

And we can’t rely on the Police to do a decent investigation of political funding, they seem to prefer to avoid political investigations.

Unfortunately I think that much of the media is more interested in the personal lives of politicians becoming public fodder.

But a proper examination of funding methods and of possible Chinese influence in the National Party is where journalist attention should be focussed

‘Record investment’ in low emission vehicles, but still paltry

The Government has announced more funding in support of the use of ‘low emission’ (mostly electric) vehicles, but it is still paltry amounts. It may be a bit more than lip service but it is hardly going to launch us into a transport revolution.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods:  Record investment in low emissions vehicles announced

Low emission transport will receive a record boost totalling more than $11 million, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods announced today.

“Today I’m announcing the largest round of new funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund yet.

“Thirty one exciting new low emissions transport projects will share over $11 million of funding to help more Kiwis make use of new transport technology.

“This funding is made up of $4.3 million of government co-funding and $7.3 million of funds from the private sector. That’s a smart investment that means the maximum benefit for the taxpayers spend.

That’s $4.3 million of Government funding. It suggests that not a big priority is going alternative energy transport.

“This round of funding focuses on innovative projects that expand the use and possibilities of electric vehicles and other low emissions technology in the transport space. It’s about making new technology available to help Kiwis get around, lower our carbon emissions and contribute to our economy.

“From 100% electric campervans for tourists to hydrogen fuel cell powered buses at the Ports of Auckland to solar panel charged electric vehicles and trial of smart chargers in people’s homes, we’re backing new technologies that will make a difference.

“We’re also funding a further 34 new public charging spaces for electric vehicles right around New Zealand, including several at South Island tourism hot-spots. This is about creating a truly national infrastructure of EV charging so that all major trips around our country are available to EV users.

34 charging stations around the country is not a big boost – and it doesn’t solve all the problems of using EVs. A small increase in the number of charging stations will help a bit, but they are still few and scattered, and the range of EVs and the time required to charge them are still significant negatives.

“This is by far the biggest round of new projects delivered by the Fund. Each previous round has given the green light to between 14 and 18 projects. In total, the fund has committed $17.2 million in government funding to 93 projects. This is matched by over $45 million applicant funding.

Trying to talk up an underwhelming investment.

“Transport is responsible for about 18% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so one of the most effective ways for us to help tackle climate change is to transition our fossil-fuelled transport fleet to run on clean, renewable energy sources. By helping to roll out that technology to more people than ever, today’s announcement helps more Kiwis cut their transport emissions.

It will help a small number of Kiwis charge their vehicles.

The 31 projects are listed, ranging from tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand dollars. It is hardly going to encourage people to invest more in electric vehicles.

But I guess it’s something.

For more information about the fund, visit www.eeca.govt.nz/funding-and-support/low-emission-vehicles-contestable-fund/

For general information about EVs, see www.electricvehicles.govt.nz

 

More funding announced for rural road safety

While most Ministers are on holiday Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has been busy promoting road safety. Today she announced extra funding for rural state highways across Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui and the West Coast. This follows earlier programmes to improve roads in The original Safety Boost Programme which made improvements in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatū-Wanganui, Otago and Southland.

This looks timed to try to address road toll news over the holiday period and end of year.

Extra Boost for Rural Road Safety

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today announced an extension of the Government’s Safety Boost Programme to prevent deaths and serious injuries on rural New Zealand roads.

“The Boost Programme will target 11 rural State highways that might not have high levels of traffic but still have plenty of risks like sharp corners and narrow stretches,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“The Boost Programme includes simple safety upgrades that can be installed quickly over the summer period, such as rumble strips roadside safety barriers in high-risk locations, shoulder widening, and improved signage.

“Rumble strips can reduce fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42 percent. Shoulder widening at high risk sights can reduce serious crashes by up to 35 percent.

This summer’s Safety Boost is part of the $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme (SNP) – a collaborative, prioritised programme of proven safety improvements on high risk routes across New Zealand. The 670 kilometres of road upgrades in the Boost Programme is additional to the 870 kilometres of upgrades to high volume, high-risk State Highways in the SNP.

Extra Safety Boost for Manawatu-Wanganui Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include five Manawatu-Wanganui roads:

  • SH56: Makerua (SH57) to Palmerston North
  • SH57: SH3 to SH56
  • SH3: Palmerston North to Ashhurst
  • SH4: Whanganui to Raetihi
  • SH54: SH3 to Feilding

Extra Safety Boost for West Coast Roads

This will include two West Coast roads:

  • SH6 and SH67: Murchison to Westport
  • SH7: Hanmer Springs to Reefton

Extra Safety Boost for Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include four Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay roads:

  • SH2: Wairoa to Gisborne
  • SH35: Gisborne to Tolaga Bay
  • SH2: Gisborne to Matawai
  • SH5: SH2 to Te Haroto.

This can’t be annual budget spending. It must either be from a general roading fund or from some roading related tax.

Foreign Affairs funding boosted by $1b with no clear plan

It was announced before this year’s budget that Foreign Affairs funding would be increased by nearly $1 billion, seen as a major policy win for Winston Peters (who is Minister of Foreign Affairs).

Documents obtained by Newsroom show that Treasury officials warned Peters’ ministry that there was no clear plan how the money would be spent – $1b foreign affairs boost against Treasury advice

Budget documents released by Treasury highlight the complex negotiations between Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, with discussions over the final dollar figure for MFAT funding going down to the wire.

A nearly $1 billion increase for foreign policy and international aid, including $715 million for New Zealand’s official development assistance (ODA) budget, was one of the Government’s major pre-Budget announcements.

However, Treasury documents show Peters initially wanted upwards of $1.5b, while Treasury recommended almost none of it be funded.

A Treasury briefing provided to Robertson in March ahead of his first Budget bilateral with Peters said the minister wanted an extra $1.2b over four years for the ODA budget.

He also wanted an extra $280m for MFAT’s capital budget, with the requested increase for operational spending redacted.

The ministry did not have a clear idea of the full cost of their capital projects or what strategic choices needed to be made, and was preparing on a long-term investment plan which would give the Government a better idea of what was needed.

The Treasury advice said a request for an extra 60 full-time staff was not backed up with evidence of its value, while there was a “weak strategic case” for reopening the Stockholm embassy, given the low level of trade links and the ability to manage the relationship within MFAT’s existing network.

Peters asked Minister of Finance for $1.5 billion and got nearly $1 billion.

After Robertson’s first meeting with Peters, he indicated to Treasury that he supported a “cash injection” for ODA, as well as funding some of MFAT’s cost pressures.

Treasury also recommended providing capital funding for the new Stockholm post and money for an additional 12 staff – some way short of the 60 Peters asked for and the 50 he eventually received.

Discussions over the final foreign affairs package came down to the wire, with an email sent on April 4, days before Robertson had to sign off on a final version of the Budget Cabinet paper, noting he was still locked in discussions with Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

A few days later, Robertson’s office contacted Treasury saying there had been a late agreement to move money out of the APEC hosting budget and put it towards the ODA funding.

This appears to show how much sway Peters had over Labour.

Peters said Treasury’s argument against the funding was “frankly not in the interests of our country”, given an effective 10-year funding freeze for MFAT.

“The underfunding had started to bite, undermining our ability to maintain New Zealand’s independence as an international actor projecting our distinct values.”

It was “shocking” that New Zealand’s ODA had dropped as a share of gross national income from 0.3 percent to 0.23 percent, Peters said, weakening the country’s hand in the Pacific “at the very time the region has become a more crowded and contested strategic space”.

There were funding pressures all over Government. NZ First managed to negotiate some major boosts in Foreign Affairs, plus the $1 billion per year for Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund.

Peters also got tax concessions for his friends in thoroughbred racing, and intends using the Provincial Growth Fund to boost racing further.

Greens got very little in comparison, albeit from a much weaker negotiating position and lacking negotiating experience.

Labour bumped a few things up, with major increases to Working for Families, the tertiary free fees scheme and Kiwibuild, but they had cited many other priorities like health, education, justice and prisons, and poverty, that have struggled with a lack of money.