The Government pissed off journalists at a bad time

Journalists and media have largely been supportive of Government efforts to deal with Covid-19, but as the general population gets restless under Level 3 restrictions and want to get back closer to normal living, journalists seem to have also changed their approach to coverage.

This shift was given a big boost with the Friday dump of Covid information, along with a leaked email telling Ministers to not give interviews or answer questions apart from using dished out patsy phrases.

The Government has two big challenges this coming week, trying to keep the population on-side with lockdown restrictions, and delivering a budget in extraordinary times. And they head into this period  with a suddenly more sceptical media openly questioning Government arrogance.

Derek Cheng (NZH): The gagging order from Jacinda Ardern’s office – cynical, arrogant and unnecessary

Controlling the message is critical, especially at a time of crisis, and the PM’s office has clearly tried to continue its tight control over the Government messaging.

It is a common communications strategy to release bad news late on a Friday, when newsrooms are emptier and people are more focused on weekend plans rather than the news.

With the gagging order, there is virtually no chance to ask a minister about anything in the documents for three days, and by the time Jacinda Ardern fronts on Monday afternoon, the nation will be firmly focused on whether we are moving to alert level 2.

And it’s not just the cynical timing. The “no real need to defend … we can dismiss” reeks of arrogance – the subtext is “we are above scrutiny” – and blatantly flouts Ardern’s cultivated reputation for openness and transparency.

It also undermines the access provided in the almost-daily press conferences that have taken place during alert levels 3 and 4.

Even if the information drop could not have happened before yesterday afternoon, ministers should be able to front.

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff):  Are these the first signs of third term arrogance from a first term government?

Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s budget this week will loom over generations to come; it’s no exaggeration to say its the most important budget in decades.

There will be intense debate about whether he has got it right; so it’s unfortunate that as we head into budget week the government is exhibiting premature signs of the affliction known as third-termitis.

That was most evident in the emergence of a leaked memo this week in which ministers’ offices were advised not to waste any time defending themselves to the media – not because they had anything much to hide but because (to paraphrase) people love us anyway, so why bother?

It’s the assumption behind that advice that is so alarming; it speaks of supreme confidence at the moment that this government can do no wrong in the eyes of the public.

So will this confidence and arrogance come out in the budget with opportunistic major changes in direction? There has been a lot of lobbying from idealists wanting to change the economic and political systems, and there has even been suggestions that Jacinda Ardern can change the world.

And Friday’s dump and email were not isolated reasons for media discord.

Given the scale of this crisis, and the extent to which it has touched every life, that is more important now than ever. The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, for instance, says 20,000 operations were cancelled and 60,000 specialist appointments parked. It will take more than a year to catch up, they say. Yet questions about how the Government will deal with this have largely been fobbed off.

There was another disturbing sight this week when Attorney General David Parker refused media interviews on the legality of the Covid lockdown, preferring instead to interview himself in a 42 minute long livestream on Facebook.

Did Parker take a leaf out of Trump’s playbook?

Facebook has become this government’s best friend; its shoulder shrug in response to questions about transparency and accessibility. But of course it’s also about controlling not just the message, but image, and the news agenda.

But as we come out of lock-down, and face up to the huge recovery mission ahead, fronting up to hard questions should not be optional.

If the Government tries to use the huge current economic and social disruption plus their current popularity after initially being widely seen to handle Covid-19 well here to lurch towards some sort of revolution they could find themselves quickly off-side with a public seemingly intent on getting back to normal ahead of the lowering of lockdown restrictions.

An obvious risk of a sudden rise to popularity on the back of unprecedented social and economic disruption is that that can become a fall just as quickly if the Government gets out of step with public sentiment.

One might think that Winston Peters would act as a check on starting a revolution via the budget (unless superannuants benefit). But it may be too late. He seems to have been sidelined by the big decision making clique now calling the shots in Government, and may have been already pressured into supporting changes due to popular support for the Government.

The confidence and arrogance of the Prime Minister and Ministers seems to be actively shutting themselves off from public contact via the media, and they already look to be rapidly getting out of touch.

The public supported them because the wanted the disruptions due to Covid to stop, and saw drastic action as necessary.

But now the public wants disruptions and changes to their normal ways of life to dissipate.

If the Government have decided to take some revolutionary steps in the budget next week they may find that the media are not so supportive as they have been over the past couple of months, and the public could easily rebel (there’s a mini-rebellion already happening against the restrictive level 3 lockdown).

Emergency measures in a crisis are generally supported. But using an emergency to undemocratically impose major changes may turn the tide against support for the current Government, and even Ardern.

Doublespeak document dump while schooling Ministers on avoiding accountability

Government Ministers have been instructed by the Prime Minister’s office to avoid interviews and questions over a large release of documents dumped on Friday afternoon. This manipulation and avoidance of openness was the only think proactive about what was headlined Proactive release

The Government did a release yesterday afternoon, with journalists complaining of a ‘Friday dump’ – a long used practice of dumping a lot of documents late in the week as Ministers head home for the weekend( and journalists would like to head home) to avoid scrutiny. The hope and intention is that media attention will have largely moved on by the following Monday.

The dump had a doublespeak headline – – journalists and opposition MPs have been asking for details of what had informed decisions made in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic for weeks.

Proactive (creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened) is the opposite of how this has been handled by the Government – except for their management of their Ministers

RNZ:  Ministers told to ‘dismiss’ interviews on Covid-19 documents – leaked memo

The prime minister’s office has directed all ministers not to give interviews on a Covid-19 document dump, saying there is “no real need to defend” themselves.

A leaked email, sent to Beehive staff today, directed them to issue only “brief written statements” in response to media queries about the documents.

“Do not put Minister up for any interviews on this,” it stated.

The directive stated that the government had no need to respond because of the overwhelming public support, and should instead “lead the changing conversation”.

“There’s no real need to defend. Because the public have confidence in what has been achieved and what the Govt is doing”.

“Instead we can dismiss.”

This is not surprising but very disappointing. The Government simply seems to think they can get away with stonewalling because they have the confidence of the public.

If the public feels stuffed around with the may dismiss support for the Government.

But doing this risks losing confidence fast, especially as the public increasingly looks forward to moving on from strict restrictions of lockdown, which will last another five days at least.

The directive also demonstrates a standard political PR tactic – provide glib talking points to use in lieu of decent answers.

The memo also included “key messages” for Ministers and staff to stick to in their written statements, including:

“No one had the luxury of time”

“Tough calls had to be made”

“Evidence shows our decisions were the right ones”

“The results speak for themselves”.

What they seem to be trying to get across here is that no matter how they managed the severe restrictions – whether they sought or followed the best advice, and whether they ignored warnings of possible illegality – can be swept under the carpet if the end result is acceptable to the general population.

One Court has already found that the Ministry of Health failed to allow for their own legal directive that allowed for compassionate grounds and exception circumstances in allowing people to visit dying relatives.

Two other courts have said that serious questions should be asked of the legality or otherwise of the lockdown restrictions, and a judicial review of the Ministry of Health directives is currently before the High Court.

But the Government seems intent on fobbing off questions and moving on because the public are happy enough.

If the Prime Minister and her Government continue to follow this carefully managed avoidance of openness, transparency and public accountability then the wheels could quickly fall off their popularity.

Jacinda Ardern is an accomplished communicator, doing particularly well when dealing with crises with unprepared speeches. But she is increasingly at risk of being seen as a glib, preachy politician who is little better than the rest of politicians who have earned a very low credibility rating.

I’m prepared to excuse some mistakes along the way in dealing with rapidly evolving health, economic and social crises, but I have a very low tolerance for being fed glib platitudes after the fact to try to avoid accountability.

Ardern may be better than the alternative at the moment, but she should understand that an aura of kindness can be smothered by a barrage of managed bullshit quite quickly, and she is heading in that direction.

Government release of documents relating to Covid-19 decisions

The Government have done a Friday data dump of documents they call Proactive Release, despite having being asked for information that informed their Covid-19 decision making for weeks.

At least it’s out there now – or at least everything they haven’t withheld.


Details of this release

This release includes the papers, minutes, and key advice for the decisions the Government has made relating to COVID-19 up to 17 April. Where a final decision has been made after 17 April this will be released in a further update.

A small number of documents and some parts of the released documents would not be appropriate to release and, if requested, would be withheld under the Official Information Act 1982 (the Act). Where this is the case, the relevant sections of the Act that would apply have been identified. Where information has been withheld, no public interest has been identified that would outweigh the reasons for withholding it.

Some information has been withheld in full, from this release in relation to the relevant section(s) of the Act:

  • Section 9(2)(f)(iv) — confidential advice
  • Section 9(2)(ba)(ii) — information provided to the Government under an obligation of confidence
  • Section 6(a) — international relations
  • Section 9(2)(j) — commercial negotiations.

High public approval of NZ Government handling of Covid-19 pandemic

Colmar Brunton polling shows strong public support for the Government handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 87% of people saying the approve or strongly approve, with only 9% disapproving.

A poll was done from 3-5 April after the Level 4 lockdown had started, and another has been done from 20-21 April, after the move to Level 3 lockdown was announced on Monday.

The latest poll: How much do you approve or disapprove of how your Government is responding to the Covid-19 pandemic?

  • Strongly approve 68% (up from 55%)
  • Somewhat approve 19% (down from 29%)
  • Total approve 87% (up from 84%)
  • Somewhat disapprove 5% (down from 6%
  • Strongly disapprove 3% (no change)
  • Total disapprove 8% (down from 9%)
  • Neither approve nor disapprove 4% (down from 6%)
  • Don’t know 1% (up from 0)

Colmar Brunton, Margin of error +/- 4%
The poll was conducted via 601 online interviews with New Zealanders over the age of 18 between April 20 and 21.

Stuff: The Government’s Covid-19 lockdown measures have overwhelming public support, according to a poll

Colmar Brunton pollster Edward Langley said New Zealand seemed to be seeing “something special” in the number of new Covid-19 cases each day.

“People feel there’s light there at the end of the tunnel which other nations haven’t seen”.

“I think we are seeing something special. We are setting aside our party political affiliations and we’re getting behind the Government”.

New Zealand support is much higher than G7 countries:

  • Average for G7 countries 50% support their Government (down from 54% two weeks ago)
  • Canada 74% support
  • France 43% (down from 61%)
  • USA 46% support (down from 52%)

France continues with a high death rate currently running at over 500 deaths per day.

USA has the highest total cases (866,148) and deaths (48,868). Deaths increased by 2,341 yesterday. Support there is dropping along with President Trumps approval (and he is publicly arguing with one of his top health officials again today).

Media start to question Government handling of Covid

The Government has been given fairly favourable by the media over their handling of the Covid pandemic (apart from sideshows like David Clark), but now seems to have changed to take on a more questioning role.

Gezza has noted:

1News at 6 tonite was interesting. They focussed most, I thought, for the first time on the various complaints & issues that are now coming to the fore, & in particular were critical of Jacinda’s response to a question at her briefing today when she told reporters that there are plenty of stocks of flu vaccinations, now widely available, & earlier this year than usual.

After being told that numerous GPs & patients are saying they cannot get enuf flu shots for their areas, 1News showed a 1-2 second clip of Jacinda dismissing those reports as untrue, saying simply that she “did not accept the premise of the question”.

In typical lamestream tv media fashion, we didn’t get to hear the reporter’s question or anything else but that one sentence, so we don’tbknow the full context. But they took a negative angle, the implication being that she was untruthful, spinning, or just wrong.”


They also reported on the government’s failure to cough up GP funding. And on the economic strife Sounds Air is (Phil Twyford said, however, that Cabinet is working on an assistance package for them).

This is the first time I’ve seen TV1 take a critical & negative slant to their reporting on Covid-19 & Jacinda. So it was quite noticeable I thought.

Stuff: Contact tracing system blamed for New Zealand remaining in Covid-19 lockdown

An under-resourced contact tracing system blamed for keeping New Zealand in lockdown has the capacity to investigate fewer than 200 coronavirus cases each day.

An audit of the system released on Monday showed that health officials tasked with interviewing and tracking the close contacts of people with Covid-19 had been swamped by fewer than 100 daily cases of the virus prior to New Zealand entering lockdown.

Stuff: Doctors say Government not coughing up ‘promised’ Covid-19 funding

The professional body for doctors has vowed to keep fighting the government for refusing to cough up “promised” Covid-19 funds.

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) insists it was told GPs would receive an extra $22m in government funding on top of $45m already allocated, to help ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared to rule out this payment – or that it even existed.

NZMA’s General Practitioner Council’s chairwoman Jan White told Stuff she wouldn’t accept that the funds were not coming and the association will keep trying to push its case for help.

Newsroom: Will pharmacies, GPs and dentists survive Covid-19?

Representatives of pharmacies, GPs, rest homes, dentists and disability support workers fronted the Epidemic Response Select Committee on Wednesday to warn they aren’t receiving the support they need from the Government. With decreased patronage and in increase in costs related to Covid-19 prevention, many healthcare businesses are worried they may go under.

Kate Baddock, chair of the New Zealand Medical Association, which represents all doctors, said that while medical students and hospital doctors had been affected by Covid-19, “very importantly, the greatest impact has been on general practice”.

Baddock said people had stopped going to the GP for fear of getting Covid-19 or because they didn’t want to burden their doctors. That has led to a serious gap in revenue for many practices, which supplement the capitation payments they receive from the Government with copayments from patients.

“For community pharmacies to continue performing their vital role for patients, it is critical to ensure that the sector has ongoing stability and financial sustainability during these extraordinary times and into the future,” Andrew Gaudin, CEO of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, told the select committee.

“Our community pharmacies have incurred significant costs to make their pharmacies safe for their staff and the public while also seeing their sales and prescriptions fall significantly,” Gaudin said.

“The disability sector entered the pandemic already in the midst of well-documented and longstanding funding shortfalls. In the current circumstances, the cost of ensuring that an essential service such as these continues to provide safe and quality support for disabled people is significant. Now we have a significant proportion of providers who are financially exposed,” New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Garth Bennie told the committee.

Dential practices are forbidden from engaging in non-essential work and must often secure their own PPE because they are generally not government-funded, New Zealand Dental Association president Katie Ayers told the select committee.

“The cost to purchase the PPE to treat just one patient is approximately $80. It’s not fair to expect patients to pay this surcharge on top of the fee for the emergency – ie, unplanned – treatment they require. Yet, dental practices cannot sustain this process either,” she said.

Some of these criticisms have come out of the Epidemic response Committee hearings (so the committee has been a worthwhile check on Government actions).

The Government and the Ministry of Health have been operating in a very challenging and rapidly evolving situation, but require scrutiny and where justified, criticism.

Tough times for many businesses and health care providers, and tough for the Government to deal with all of their problems, but they need to try to help as much as possible.

Taxpayers’ Union – Government subsidy more pressing than ideological purity

This is an interesting decision from the Taxpayers’ Union:  Statement On COVID-19 Wage Subsidy

As confirmed by the Government today, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is one of the many employers that have accepted the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy. This decision was made on the basis of our ethical obligations to staff during the government-mandated economic shutdown.

The decision to accept this subsidy was not as simple for us as for most organisations. Prior to COVID-19, we have stated on the record that we would never accept taxpayer funding. That commitment was, of course, made in a time few New Zealanders could possibly have anticipated COVID-19 and the ensuing economic situation.

After brief deliberation, the Taxpayers’ Union board determined the welfare of our employees to be a more pressing immediate concern than ideological purity.

Moreover, we support the Government’s strategy helping employers through the current crisis and we have not criticised any employer for taking this subsidy. It is important to distinguish between targeted corporate welfare, which we oppose, and across-the-board compensation for the effects of a government-mandated economic shutdown.

They are presumably as entitled to claim the subsidy as any other employer affected by the lockdown.

But they are using the wage subsidy so they can keep holding the Government to account and “to expose excessive and wasteful government spending”.

Ardern urges businesses to think ‘what next’ – but doesn’t say what or when

The Prime Minister is urging businesses to think about ‘what next’ for their business but at this stage many businesses don’t even have any idea when they might be able to start operating yet.

Except for some businesses who have already chosen no ‘what next’ in New Zealand, like the Bauer Media Group and Virgin Airline.

PM: Too early to tell if four weeks of lockdown is enough

Ardern said “intensive planning” was being done for whenever New Zealand moved out of lockdown, but the exact exit criteria was still being worked on.

When it was worked out she expected to publish it so businesses and Kiwis would know whether or not the country was likely to extend its four-week lockdown or end it.

“I do expect to be quite transparent around that, because people need to know what it is we’re looking for, and as we have been transparent with the alert levels as they stand,” Ardern said.

So the Government hasn’t worked out (or at least told us) what’s next yet.

But at the same PM urges businesses to think ‘what next’

Businesses should plan how they will operate in an environment where intensive contact tracing would be needed post-lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today.

The Government was working on additional guidance for the move to Level 3 to aid that, she said.

“What I would ask though is that it’s not Government alone that has a role to play in that.

“I ask all businesses to look at the alert level framework, think about how your business could successfully operate within each,” she said.

“We will need to, for many months to come, contact trace all New Zealanders who come into contact with one another and workplaces have a role to play in that.”

The Government has decided which businesses are essential enough to continue operating, but there is no obvious plan for phasing other businesses back into action, which businesses will be able to start up again under level 3, which may have to wait until level 2.

And there is not information on when restrictions may scale back apart from ‘wait and see’.

This is a very difficult time for businesses, and the self employed, and employees, with a huge amount of uncertainty.

All we know for sure is that some businesses are already closing up, some more won’t survive, some will choose to cease operations, and those that try to continue will be working in a very different business environment to what existed just two weeks ago.

Trying to keep a business afloat for a month with little or no business happening will be difficult enough for some. Trying to last 3 months or 6 months will obviously be a lot more difficult.

And there will be a vicious debt circle – as some businesses are unable to pay their bills this will impact on others who will have difficulty paying all their bills, let alone staff.

Without any idea of timeframes or how businesses will be allowed to operate some businesses will just say ‘too hard’, cut their losses and bail out for good.

Some will have no choice, especially those involved in travel and tourism who have bleak futures probably for a year or two.

If businesses are to seriously think about ‘what next’ the Government has to give them much clearer indications of what is going to be allowed and when, at least approximately.

 

Ardern and Government deserve praise for handling of Covid-19

We, New Zealand and the World, are facing unprecedented health and financial crises. There will be valid criticisms of the way things are handled in a rapidly changing situation, with over 10,000 deaths so far but potentially millions of fatalities from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Leaders and Governments are having to do their best in a very challenging environment.

People are uncertain and uneasy, understandably. There are valid fears for lives, for livelihoods, for life savings and for ways of life. Some New Zealanders will die, many will lose jobs lose earnings, lose part or all of their life savings. All of us will have to change the way we live, for months at least and probably for years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can be a very good communicator when she is well informed and not doing politics, and as she did dealing with last year’s mosque massacre and the Whakaari/White Island eruption, she has again risen to the occasion and I think is doing a very good job keeping us informed in an assuring manner. She excels at fronting crises.

It is hugely challenging getting the balance right between timely and appropriate actions, and over-reactions. I think the Government is largely getting things about right with it’s response to the virus, with the initial financial package, and with it’s messaging.

There were one or two communication missteps early on but they seem to have been resolved.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has done ok in a support role.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has managed finances prudently to date and seems well advised and is acting appropriately in the evolving crisis.

Minister of Health David Clark is not as good a communicator, seems to lack confidence (in a very difficult role) and can seem out of his depth a bit, but he is being covered by others.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is doing an extraordinary job with daily media conferences, calmly keeping us well informed. He is a huge asset.

I think if National were in Government they would be doing much the same things as our Labour-led Government are.  New Zealand is taking very similar measures to the right wing Australian Government. Times like this need expert advice and common sense, not political idealism.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has tried to get holding to account balanced with support of the Government in a crisis, but his communication skills and manner aren’t great (unfortunately grate would be closer to the mark). He has been overshadowed by finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith, who yesterday backed the Ait New Zealand support package announced by the Government, and also to an extent health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse.

Greens are doing their thing but are more working with their own constituencies and from the sidelines, publicly at least.

There are some in media and social media who haven’t been able to put politics and prejudices aside, and there are some who seem to think they have better information than the Government and are giving advice and demanding different actions. I trust our Government to be largely on top of things, and have confidence we are being well enough informed. I am resisting criticising and naming the petty and the pissy.

The Government won’t get everything exactly right (in retrospect at least), but I have confidence we have our Government and MPs are doing everything they can to deal with the huge challenges currently facing us. There is scope for valid and reasonable criticisms, but petty politics should be set aside.

We should trust our Prime Minister and our Government and our Opposition to inform us and do what they can for us. I think we have to.

I’m doing quite a bit of research and am following things closely, and I am confident we are being well informed and reasonably warned about what is likely to happen. There are many unknowns, but we have to trust our leaders and Government on this, while doing things for ourselves as well.

We have to work together in families and communities to support each other through this. More on that in the next post.

Covid-19 economic package announced

A substantial economic package was announced today to try to address major effects from the Covid-19 virus outbreak and measures. It has been widely commended as a very good attempt at dealing with an unquantifiable problem, with just a few whiners on blogs and social media and one opposition leader who again shows he has no clue how to deal appropriately with serious issue.


COVID-19: Economic Response Package

The $12.1 billion package is worth 4% of GDP, a larger plan than that implemented in response to the Global Financial Crisis and comparatively larger than relief packages announced to date in Australia, the UK and the US. The package is about protecting New Zealander’s health, protecting the vulnerable, protecting livelihoods, and ensuring the quickest recovery possible on all fronts.

“The Government is pulling out all the stops to protect the health of New Zealanders and the health of our economy,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Economic package to fight COVID-19

Supporting New Zealanders and businesses

The Coalition Government has gone hard with our health response, and now is going hard with our financial assistance. Our immediate goal is to support people and businesses as we weather the impact of COVID-19. We must then ready the economy to recover. The Coalition is united in doing everything we can to support New Zealand workers and businesses.

  • $500 million boost for health
  • $8.7 billion in support for businesses and jobs
  • $2.8 billion for income support and boosting consumer spending

$12.1 billion support for New Zealanders and business

Backing our health services

The best protection for our economy is getting the virus under control, which is why we are investing half a billion dollars in frontline health services to fight COVID-19. If we can manage the virus we can mitigate the damage to the economy. We will be investing in more health staff, more virus testing, more medicines, face masks, extra intensive care capacity and equipment at hospitals, and more money for GPs.

  • Dedicated $500 million fund to protect New Zealanders’ health
  • Nearly doubling resources for Public Health Units, specifically to increase capacity for contact tracing
  • $32 million for extra intensive care capacity and equipment at hospitals
  • $50 million in support for GPs and primary care, and $20 million to improve video conferencing and telehealth consultations
  • $20 million for more Healthline capacity

Backing our health services to combat COVID-19

 

Greeenpeace expects more from Government on environmental issues

People and organisations on the left have expressed dismay at the lack of progressive policies being implemented by the Government, which while including the Greens also has NZ First holding things back.

Greenpeace campaigner Genevieve Toop

  • What’s your short assessment on environmental action?

“The government took power riding on a wave of promises to tackle climate change and clean up our rivers. Early on in their tenure they took the kind of bold and decisive action required to do this. They banned new oil and gas exploration, slashed public subsidies to big irrigation and industrial dairy expansion and banned plastic bags.

“These decisions were great news for the environment and a demonstration of people power. They were a welcome reprieve from nine years of the National-led government which pushed for more oil exploration, incentivised industrial dairy expansion, slashed conservation funding, and let plastic pollution skyrocket.

“But since these decisions, the government’s visionary rhetoric has not been matched with the kind of transformational policy reform that is urgently needed. The government have begun to favour incremental change and in several instances they have let big polluters carry on business-as-usual.

“Austrian oil giant OMV is currently exploring for new oil and gas in our waters, a mega-dairy conversion is underway in the iconic Mackenzie Basin, the fishing industry is still bottom trawling 3000 tonnes of coral every year and there is still no backing for a solar revolution to help us get off our dependence on oil gas and coal and end imports of polluting SUVs.”

  • How does the government’s progress on environmental issues stack up?

“Ardern’s government have signalled a change in direction for New Zealand compared with the previous government. However, they have failed to match rhetoric with real action.

“Incremental and reformist policies cannot hope to create the systemic change needed to stem the tide of pollution and stop the ecological breakdown. Aside from the oil and gas exploration ban, this government have yet to step up to the plate with the visionary and transformational change needed.

“This is surprising given the obvious urgency of the climate crisis and the huge mandate for action that they have for example the recent climate strikes.”

  • Do you think the government pays enough attention to environmental issues?

“No. We are in the midst of a global climate emergency which is threatening all life on earth. A government that was taking this seriously would be devoting a sizeable chunk of Budget 2019 towards funding the transition towards a sustainable economy.

“Flagship policies should include a billion-dollar regenerative farming fund, massive investment in solar for schools, homes, public buildings and marae and a big boost for electric and public transport.”

  • What would you score the coalition out of 10 for its action on environmental issues?

“We’ll give them 5/10.”

On the OMV exploration, Green Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins is grumpy about them test drilling down our way.

OMV went through the normal processes necessary to get permission  to do this test drilling.