A billion or half more trees

National MP Simon Bridges has accused the Government of halving it’s tree planting plan. Yesterday a press release from Simon Bridges: So, half as many trees then?

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

Included in the Labour-NZ first coalition agreement:

Coalition Priorities

In this parliamentary term, New Zealand First has a number of priorities to progress which Labour will support alongside its policy programme. These include the following goals:

Regional Economic Development and Primary Industries

  • $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including:
    • Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

That implies a Government Fund for a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

From the Speech from the Throne:

The New Zealand Forestry Service will be re-established and located in regional New Zealand. This government is committed to a new planting programme, planting 100 million trees a year to reach a billion more trees in ten years.

That says “a new planting programme”.

But news reports had made it clear the plan was to double existing tree planting numbers.

Newshub on 25 October: Revealed: Shane Jones Minister for 100 million trees, $1 billion regional fund

Shane Jones will be the Minister responsible for spending $1 billion a year on New Zealand’s regions.

Newshub has also learned that Jones will also be in charge of the new Forestry Service, which will plant 100 million trees a year – with the goal of planting a billion over 10 years.

It is understood that about 50 million trees are already planted in New Zealand each year, meaning the new Government’s planting will double that.

That clearly says doubling to 100 million trees a year, or to 1 billion trees in total.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show on Wednesday the fund will help grow the regions.

“Labour went to the election with a $200 million fund. NZ First came to us and made the case strongly for greater regional investment, particularly around infrastructure. So this fund will include, for instance, a number of regional rail projects,” she said.

“It will include an extensive planting regime for forestry. Our intention is to double the amount of planting that goes on in forestry right now.”

A clear statement of intent to double the number of trees currently being planted.

Ardern responded to Bridges accusations yesterday – 1 billion-tree aim ‘always a joint goal’

But Ardern told reporters yesterday the Government was never going to plant 1 billion trees on its own.

“We’ve always been really clear. We see a role for the Forestry Service to work alongside those in the private sector to ensure we’re supporting the planting of those trees.”

She pointed to Air New Zealand’s announcement on Tuesday to work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund tree-planting over up to 15,000ha in return for carbon benefits.

“Overall our goal is a billion trees being planted. It would be splitting hairs trying to decipher whether or not that [tree] was solely Government [or] solely private sector … this is a collaborative approach.”

Labour and NZ First may be guilty of not being absolutely clear about their intent on tree planting in their agreement and in the Speech from the Throne, but it seems clear from other reports that they intended to double plantings to 100 million a year.

I think to most people both half a billion and a billion trees is a lot, and they won’t care (if they notice) whether it is a doubling of planting or additional.

Bridges needs to be careful he doesn’t inherit the ‘barking at every passing car’ syndrome.

On this he looks a bit pedantic and guilty of petty nitpicking.

‘Recession likely’, or not

Different views on the likelihood of a recession.

Forbes: New Zealand, An Economic Success Story, Loses Its Way

On September 23, the people of New Zealand elected 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern as prime minister, the youngest prime minister in New Zealand’s history. Ardern has brought youthful energy to New Zealand politics, but her scary rhetoric during the campaign (like calling capitalism a “blatant failure”) has some people wondering if she will take the country back to the bad old days of the 70s and early 80s.

One of Ardern’s first acts as prime minister was to ban foreign ownership of residential real estate; New Zealand has, by anyone’s measure, one of the biggest housing bubbles in the world. Banning foreign ownership of property sets the country up for a possible real estate crash.

Ardern also opposes high levels of immigration, along with her coalition partner, Winston Peters. It is set to drop dramatically. Immigration, especially skilled immigration, has been a big contributor to economic growth over the years.

It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern’s term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies in the world. It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being.

Jared Dillian is the author of All the Evil of This World, and the editor of the 10th Man newsletter for Mauldin Economics.

Liam Dann (NZH): What Recession? Local economists pick good growth

The verdicts are in and despite what Forbes contributor Jared Dillian says, there are no economists picking a recession for Jacinda Ardern’s Government.

Most of New Zealand and Australia’s major economics teams have now reassessed their economic forecasts to factor in the effect of the new Government.

The loose consensus – bearing in mind no two economists ever agree – seems to be that GDP growth is going to be less flash than previously expected next year.

But it’s not crashing through the floor either. Growth forecasts between 2.4 per cent and 3.2 per cent for 2018 still look pretty good by international standards.

Apart from a few random think pieces though – written by offshore commentators who can’t quite believe New Zealand changed Government with the accounts in such good shape – most of the economic and financial community still seems pretty relaxed about the new regime.

It’s very early days to see what the Government will do, and what the economy will do.

And as far as the economy is concerned, it is most at risk from overseas influences.

Fiscal fight continued

Steven Joyce continues to push Minister of Finance Grant Robertson on expected net debt in relation to Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan. Joyce had been widely criticised for suggesting their was an eleven billion dollar hole in the plan. Robertson was adamant Labour’s plan was sound and accused Joyce was scaremongering.

Yesterday from Stuff: Economists see Government debt rising billions more than Labour’s plan

In Opposition Labour laid out a fiscal plan which would borrow around $11 billion more than National had proposed, but still cut debt as a share of the total economic output from 24 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

The plan formed a major point of contention during the election campaign, as National finance spokesman Steven Joyce was widely mocked for his claim that Robertson’s plan had a major “fiscal hole”.

But bank economists, who monitor the likely issuance of government bonds, are warning of pressure for Treasury to borrow billions more than Labour had signalled because of new spending promises.

The fiscal situation continually changes, but there was always a likelihood that spending would increase due to coalition bargaining.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie

ANZ has forecast that Labour will borrow $13 billion more than Treasury’s pre-election fiscal update maintained the former Government would over the next four years, although around $3b of that would go to the NZ Super Fund. This would see net Crown debt at 23 per cent of gross domestic product, 3 percentage points higher than Labour’s plan.

Outgoing ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the estimates for new spending were “conservative”, including an assumption that the new $1b a year regional development fund would come entirely from existing budgets.

“[S]pending pressures are all headed one way – and a lot depends on the economy holding up.”

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert

BNZ has also indicated it expects borrowing to be stronger than Labour had flagged. Strategist Jason Wong said the half year economic and fiscal update would probably show “in the order of” an additional $2b-$3b a year in bond issuance in the coming years.

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert said the figures were hard to determine so early in the term, but borrowing “could amount to a number of billion dollars” more than Labour had outlined.

“Some of this is taking place in a little bit of a vacuum still, because we’ve heard a lot of policies but it’s still a little unclear which ones have been confirmed confirmed, as opposed to just strongly proposed,” Ebert said.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley

However ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley now forecasts that unemployment will eventually fall to 3.9 per cent by 2021, while wage growth would gradually rise to 2.8 per cent by early 2020, on the back of both lower migration and plans to hike the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021.

Tuffley said based on its forecasts, and the assumption that Labour was able to stick to its spending plans, ASB was forecasting borrowing would be $1b higher than Robertson had signalled.

“Any slippage in [spending plans] will mean more debt issuance,” Tuffley said.

Joyce questioned Robertson about that in in Question Time yesterday, joining a patsy (question 1):

Tamati Coffey: What objective does the Minister have for core Crown net debt?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As indicated during the Speech from the Throne, the Government is committed to reducing net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years. Progress towards this will be set out by the Government during the usual Budget reporting cycle to the House, starting with the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, before Christmas.

Hon Steven Joyce: Has he seen amongst those reports the economic forecast from ANZ chief economist, Cameron Bagrie, who calculates that the Minister , in fact, won’t be able to meet his own Budget responsibility rule No. 2, to keep net debt below 20 percent of GDP, even with some rather heroic spending assumptions?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have seen those reports and I disagree with them.

Then in question 3:

Transcript (slightly edited):


3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm core Crown net debt was $59.5 billion at 30 June 2017, and that it is his intention as Minister of Finance to increase net debt to $67.6 billion by 2022, as laid out in Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm that at 30 June 2017 net core Crown debt was $59.48 billion. I can further confirm that it is this Government’s policy to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years. As the member knows, the exact dollar amount of debt in each year will be determined by the Budget process.

Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a question written down on notice, and I don’t believe the Minister of Finance answered the second part of the question. He talked about something about 20 percent of GDP, but he didn’t actually answer yes or no to whether it was his intention to increase net debt to $67.6 billion by 2022.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Speaking to the point of order, I’m not sure if the member heard the last part of my answer, where I did specifically address the question of what the exact dollar amount might be.

Hon Steven Joyce: He didn’t answer the question. Nobody is any the wiser as to whether, actually, he will allow net debt to get to $67.6 billion by 2022, as laid out in Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, Speakers’ rulings are pretty clear in this area. I think somewhere around page 171 is the ruling that members cannot demand a yes/no answer, and I’m just about confident enough that the former Minister of Finance understands that these figures might be affected by growth figures.

Hon Steven Joyce: Sorry to prolong things, Mr Speaker, but actually it is possible to say whether it will be higher or lower or about that figure. It is a question on notice—it’s not a supplementary question—and I do think that the Minister of Finance could be a bit more specific as to that number, given that prior to a certain date in September he was actually accusing people of showing an affront to democracy for—

Mr SPEAKER: OK—[Interruption] All right, OK. I think where I’m going to leave it is that I might be slightly more liberal, as long as they are direct, on the supplementaries, if the member wants to drill down that way.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister confirm that the pre-election fiscal update forecasts net debt to reduce to $56.2 billion by 2022, meaning that his forecast of $67.6 billion is over $11 billion higher than in the pre-election fiscal update?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that those were the numbers in the pre-election fiscal update. What we have discovered is that those numbers did not take account of the need for increased spending in education capital expenditure, health capital expenditure, or a range of other areas.

Hon Steven Joyce: Is the Minister then saying that, actually, he expects to increase debt significantly higher than $67.6 billion because of his concerns about the matters he raised in the previous answer?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The commitment of this Government has been that we will reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP. The member well knows, from having prepared a Budget himself and being beside someone else who’s prepared Budgets, that the exact dollar figures for debt are never decided until later in the Budget process.

Hon Steven Joyce: Why doesn’t he agree with the ANZ analysis of 7 November that concludes net debt will be billions of dollars higher than he has forecast, and that he will breach his own Budget responsibility rule number 2 to reduce net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years, particularly as he’s just told the House—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member’s finished his question.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Because nothing that I have seen, in terms of the advice I’ve got to this point, would point to that, and because this Government is committed to reducing debt as a percentage of GDP—20 percent—within five years of taking office.

Hon Steven Joyce: If he doesn’t like the ANZ’s commentary, does he agree with the comments from the Bank of New Zealand on Monday, who stated that Labour’s election campaign budget was just too tight to be credible; if not, what does he think the BNZ has got wrong?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What this Government has committed to is a set of Budget responsibility rules, and we will work within those. We made commitments before the election to address the social deficits in health, in education, and in infrastructure, and we will do that. I make no apology for having a slower debt track than that Government if it means that we build affordable houses, contribute to superannuation, and invest in our regions.

Hon Steven Joyce: Just to be clear, does he commit to meeting all the Government’s promises, including those in his coalition agreement and his agreement for confidence and supply with the Green Party, and also the Speech from the Throne, while increasing net debt by only $11 billion, from what it was going to be, over the next five years?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I absolutely stand by those Government commitments and the Budget responsibility rules that we have put forward.

Hon Steven Joyce: Does he commit to meeting all the Government’s promises, including those in those coalition agreements from the Speech from the Throne, not in relation to a percentage of GDP but by increasing net debt by no more than $11 billion relative to the pre-election fiscal update over the next five years? A very specific question.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The final exact dollar figures, as the member well knows from the Budgets he’s been involved in, will be decided later in the Budget process, but we remain 100 percent committed to our goal of reducing net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years.


No doubt there will be continuing questioning on Government spending and deficits.

20 Goals for ‘a Green Government’

We don’t actually have ‘a Green Government’, we have a coalition government comprising Labour and NZ First, supported in Confidence & Supply by the Green Party. Quibbling over, here are 20 Green goals.

This is what we are going to achieve

  1. A net zero emissions economy by 2050
  2. Better, more affordable buses and trains, and safer walking and cycling
  3. 100% renewable electricity by 2035
  4. $100 million Green Investment Fund for low-carbon industries
  5. Reduce water pollution and support sustainable farming
  6. Help nature thrive and reduce the extinction risk for threatened plants and wildlife
  7. Active progress towards healthy, swimmable rivers for people and fish
  8. Investigate establishment of a Taranaki whale sanctuary
  9. Significant reduction of waste to landfill by 2020
  10. Support families and people who need help and lift children out of poverty
  11. Schools supporting children with special needs and learning difficulties
  12. Significant progress to eliminate the gender pay gap
  13. A warm, dry, secure home, whether you rent or own
  14. Affordable homes and rent-to-own programmes
  15. Affordable tertiary education to reduce financial hardship for students
  16. Timely and high quality mental health services and free counselling for under-25s
  17. Honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the country’s founding document
  18. Fund and support the refugee family reunificiation scheme
  19. Treat drugs as a health issue and hold a referendum on the personal use of cannabis
  20. Increase public access and transparency of official information

That is what Greens hope to achieve – time will tell what happens when Green idealism meets Government realism.

Some of those 20 goals shouldn’t be difficult, like the vague “Better, more affordable buses and trains, and safer walking and cycling” – but it will be important that cars and trucks aren’t dumped on too much.

Some are laudable, like “Increase public access and transparency of official information” – the test will be whether the Government can keep moving in this direction, or whether it tends to resist as tends to happen.

Some will be near impossible to achieve completely, like “A warm, dry, secure home, whether you rent or own” and “Affordable homes”.

And some of it is subjective, like “Affordable tertiary education to reduce financial hardship for students” – different students have different needs and wants.

It will be interesting to check out Green government progress after three years.

Comments on these goals at The Standard.

The Green Party goals in government

 

Tracking progress of the new Government

Stuff has launched a website to try to keep track of what the new Government is doing.

They explain The First Draft: Tracking the start of a Government

Jacinda Ardern has been anointed the world’s 13th most powerful woman.

Construction of a motorway has been scrapped.

Students are enrolling for free tertiary education next year and foreigners have a couple of months left to buy existing New Zealand homes.

In the rush of the modern news cycle, it can be difficult to decipher the really important stuff. Or to review the progress of a Government over any given week, let alone month or year.

Stuff is experimenting with a new platform to try to untangle the muddle. Today, we’re launching The First Draft, a project tracking the early days of the Ardern administration.

The concept is simple: we’ll highlight key events with short pieces of analysis, fact-checking and data-based reporting. The posts will only be available to view via The First Draft. You’ll be able to scroll back over a preview of every post to simply review some of the most important developments.

The First Draft link:

 

Government should have done more on climate change

A decision was released today in the case that Sarah Thomson took against the previous Government  alleging they had taken inadequate action over climate change.

Stuff:  High Court says previous National Government should have done more on climate change targets

Justice Jillian Mallon released her decision on Thursday after Waikato law student Sarah Thomson took former Environment Minister Paula Bennett to court in June over alleged inadequate action to address emissions targets.

The High Court dismissed the judicial review. But in her written decision, Justice Mallon acknowledged that when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth assessment reports in 2014, the Government failed to undertake a satisfactory review of its 2050 emissions targets.

“However this cause of action has been overtaken by subsequent events,” Justice Mallon said.

Because National lost power at the last election, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s new Labour-led government had already announced its intention to set a new 2050 target, court-ordered relief was ruled unnecessary.

Government lawyers had argued the court was not in a position to make a judgement on the government’s target setting, because they could not comprehend the many economic and social implications. But Justice Mallon did not agree.

One of Thomson’s lawyers said on Thursday this was hugely significant, because it emphasised that all future decisions that were made in this area were susceptible for review by the courts.

“Notwithstanding the complex nature of these decisions, the courts retain a crucial oversight role to ensure that the decisions meet minimum standards of lawfulness and rationality.”

Should the Court be able to stipulate which policies a Government should implement, and to what degree?

On two other actions, which related to the 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) emissions targets, Justice Mallon was not convinced the minister made any error for which the court could intervene.

“The international framework has been followed. It has not been demonstrated the NDC decision was outside the minister’s power under this framework,” she said.

“That is not to say another minister would have assessed the appropriate 2030 target in the same way and reached the same decision. Nor does it prevent New Zealand from doing more between now and 2030 than contemplated in its NDC decision.

“The international process envisages review and demonstrated progression by developed countries including New Zealand. Quite apart from the international process, New Zealand remains free to review its 2030 target (or any other target) as it considers appropriate.

“The community has elected a new Government and it is for that new Government to weigh the competing factors and to reach a view about the appropriate targets going forward. For these reasons the application for judicial review is dismissed.”

So the Judge has left it up to the incoming Government.

Sarah Thomson said the ball was now in newly-minted Minister for Climate Change James Shaw’s court to ensure targets were changed quickly.

“This is something we can’t waste time on.”

I have serious reservations about using courts for what is effectively political activism.

Will this be a one off? Or will it encourage others to try to force the Government’s hand?

Grant Robertson on The Nation

New Minister of Finance Grant Robertson was interviewed on The Nation this morning. From @TheNationNZ:

“We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility, but that can’t be an end in itself.”

He says he’s absolutely confident the Labour-NZF govt can meet its budget responsibility rules.

The Govt will be an active one – will partner with the regions, rather than meddling.

Robertson says the govt wants to invest in the long term – it’s not just about the numbers on the sheet but living standard.

He says the regional development fund is an opportunity to correct under-investment in areas like Northland. It will be a “rigorous” process based on the best projects.

Robertson says there’s a lot more work to do to understand where Auckland’s port would be best placed.

He says Labour was heading in the same direction on the min wage as NZF – $20 by 2020 was NZF policy.

The Tax Working Group will be appointed before the end of the year.

He will always make sure the most vulnerable in society are protected.

As Sports Minister, he says he’s looking forward to a conversation with about pay equity.

Interview: Grant Robertson

There wasn’t much of substance in that going by the summary.

Newshub: Finance Minister Grant Robertson won’t cut ‘core’ spending if economy tanks

New Finance Minister Grant Robertson is backing up Jacinda Ardern’s view the economy has been a “blatant failure” when it comes to helping New Zealand’s most vulnerable.

Mr Robertson told The Nation on Saturday the “days of a hands-off, laissez-faire Government hoping for the best for New Zealand are over”.

“What Jacinda Ardern has said is if you’ve got the world’s worst homelessness, then the form of capitalism that we’ve seen in New Zealand isn’t working for those people – and I would agree with that,” he said.

“That’s the foundation principle of the Labour Party… we believe in the fact there is an obligation on Government to help ensure fairness, to make sure everybody gets a chance to achieve their potential.”

To fix it, he says Labour will lead an “active” Government “that partners in the regions with local government, with business, with iwi”. But he appears to want to avoid the ‘nanny state’ accusations that plagued Labour’s last administration under Helen Clark.

“That’s a different thing entirely from meddling and telling people what to do. We actually want to listen.”

“I came into politics to make sure that we provided better opportunities for New Zealanders, that we protected our most vulnerable. There are certain areas of spending that we must do to be a decent society, to care for other people. I would never compromise on that.”

He praised the National-led Government for continuing to spend during the global financial crisis.

“They made sure those core areas of spending carried on – that’s what responsible Governments do.”

Mr Robertson is confident Mr Peters’ “dark days” won’t happen.

“I don’t think we’re going to need to have that conversation.”

Winston Peters can’t be too concerned about the prospects for our economy either, given that his focus is overseas as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he has negotiated $1b per year finding for Regional Development.

It’s very early days for Robertson – he has been Minister of Finance for two days – so we will have to wait and see how well he manages New Zealand’s finances. His past experience is largely irrelevant. He has time preparing for the role in Opposition, now he has the opportunity to pout into practice what he and Labour think will will work.

New PM, Government to be sworn in today

Jacinda Ardern will be sworn in as Prime Minister today, along with the Ministers from the Labour, NZ First and Green parties who will make up the new government.

They have big plans, but the also have big challenges, as any government has – especially a government made up of parties who haven’t been in power for nine years, or in the case of the Greens, ever.

Of the 31 ministers and under-secretaries just Winston Peters, David Parker, Damien O’Connor and Shane Jones have previous ministerial, and along with Ron Mark, government experience.

Ardern has exceeded expectations and was been impressive in the way she stepped up at short notice to take over the Labour leadership less than three months ago and ran a creditable campaign. She successfully led Labour’s negotiations that set up the incoming government. And she has done a good job of making her ministerial appointments.

Now she has three years of harder work and challenges. We will have to wait and see if she is up to it.

The incoming ministers except perhaps Peters and Parker will all have bigger jobs and challenges than they have had before. There will no doubt be mixed performances and results but as with Ardern there’s no way of knowing in advance who will step up and who might stumble.

I’m comfortable with most of the policies that have been announced. The last government was moving in the direction of dealing with some, like housing, inequality, child ‘poverty’, climate change and transport, but the incoming government is more ambitious on all of those issues.

This is generally a good thing and I think generally supported by the public, so long as they don’t try too much too quickly. They will need be prepared for and able to deal with unintended consequences and unexpected events and surprises.

Something that never seems adequately dealt with is Health, which will be an important and difficult thing to deal with. There are ever-growing demands of an ageing population and growing costs of treatments and drugs. There are also unexpected increases in mental health issues to try to manage better.

One of the biggest challenges will be faced by soon to be Minister of Finance Grant Robertson. He takes over with the advantage of a reasonably healthy economy, but with ambitious plans he will have to manage the spending well, or he and the government could come unstuck.

A mini-budget may be required to kick things off, otherwise we may have to wait until next May to see how his management of competing demands and pressures is, but it might take until his second budget inn 2019 to get a proper indication of whether he has things under control adequately.

I’ll be waiting and observing before making judgement on Ardern’s and the Ministers’ performances individually, and also collectively.

 

Criminal Cases Review Commission

A surprise inclusion in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement was under Law and Order:

Establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission

This is very good news. National had refused to do it, saying it wasn’t necessary – as Justice Minister both Judith Collins and Amy Adams refused to consider a review commission.

That was disappointing and perhaps odd given that Review body ‘could save NZ millions’.

Where did this come from? It’s not something NZ First campaigned on as far as I’m aware, and I can’t find it in their policies. But they had issued a media release on it a year ago, in October 2016:

Criminal Cases Review Commission Needed

New Zealand First will establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission as soon as it is in a position to do so, says Justice Spokesperson Denis O’Rourke.

“In too many cases in recent years the safety of convictions for serious crimes have been called into question, and ad hoc associations of supporters of those convicted have sought to find ways of having those cases reviewed.

“This is very difficult and very expensive, and as a result the success of such associations in achieving a review often depends on how much money they raise and how much fuss they can make. That is not the way these matters should be dealt with in a modern and effective justice system.

“The government’s refusal to put a permanent commission in place to review appropriate cases is regrettable and demonstrates a lack of commitment to ensure a just and effective system for review.

Yes, that has been very disappointing.

“The Bain and Teina Pora cases have been the most prominent in recent years, and in April 2015 Brian Rudman in the NZ Herald called for a Commission of Inquiry into the conviction of Peter Ellis in the notorious Christchurch Creche affair. This was also rejected by the government. Currently there are other cases where a review may be justified.

“New Zealand should establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) along the lines of the UK one set up in their Criminal Appeal Act 1995. The twelfth report to the House of Commons on that Commission for the year 2014-15, concluded that “the CCRC is performing reasonably well, with areas for improvement identified” and “the Commission needs to be given the resources and the powers it requires to do perform its job effectively”.

“The report recorded that the CCRC had achieved a 70% success rate of its referrals and recommended additional powers concerning access to official documents and other material and to information held by private bodies, which could assist in investigations. The report also made a major recommendation “that the CCRC take advantage of its unique position and develop a formal system for feeding back into the criminal justice system on the causes of miscarriages of justice”.

“It is therefore obvious that New Zealand could and should use the UK legislation and experience to inform similar legislation for a Criminal Cases Review Commission here. Such a Commission should have the power to investigate cases on its own initiative, or when referred to it by the Attorney-General or by resolution of parliament in response to a petition.

“The Commission would be empowered to refer cases for reconsideration to the Court of Appeal, the grounds for doing so being the same as in section 13 of the UK Act, where the Commission “considers that there is a real possibility that the conviction, verdict, finding or sentence would not be upheld were the reference to be made”.

I posted about it in June last year: Criminal Cases Review Commission

From the New Zealand Police Conduct Association: Criminal Cases Review Commission

Jacinda Ardern supported one as Labour’s Justice Spokesperson in June 2015: Pora case a case to learn from

Conformation that Teina Pora will receive $2.5million from the Crown for more than 20 years of wrongful imprisonment does not fix the flaws in our system that led to this miscarriage of justice, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“The result today, and the decision by the Privy Council last year to quash Teina Pora’s convictions, came about only after a legal team volunteered thousands of hours to his case.

“Minister Amy Adams claims the end result proves the system worked. That is incorrect. Justice must be timely.

“This case is further proof that we need an Independent Criminal Case Review Commission – a mechanism to look at cases like this, and refer them back to the Appeal Court.

Back in 2013 before he became leader Andrew Little also called for a review commission: Labour calls for body to investigate miscarriages of justice

The Labour Party is calling for an independent review commission to be set up, as further information comes to light suggesting a possible miscarriage of justice in the Teina Pora case.

Labour’s justice spokesperson Andrew Little says information revealed in a TV3 investigation shows police officers had doubts about Pora’s responsibility for the crime.

He says in such cases further investigations need to be carried out by an impartial body.

Mr Little says this country needs a standing commission independent of the police, judiciary or Ministry of Justice to look at instances of miscarriage of justice, along the lines of the United Kingdom’s criminal cases review commision.

He says work looking into setting up a such a body by the previous Labour-led government needs to be continued to ensure public confidence in the justice system.

So the last Labour Government had done preliminary work on setting one up.

It’s curious how this ended up in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement given that it isn’t listed as an NZ First policy and I can not remember and can find no sign of Winston Peters or NZ First or Labour campaigning on it, but regardless of how it got there it is a welcome inclusion.

 

A big day for the incoming Government

The incoming Government is due to be sworn in on Thursday, but that’s largely procedural. In practical terms today is important as they will make public the Labour-NZ First and Labour-Green governing agreements.

This should detail the mix of policies and priorities that have been decided on, and will set the scene for the intent of the new government.

Portfolios will also be announced. It will be interesting to see who gets what, especially what responsibilities are given to the four incoming NZ First ministers and three Green ministers (their first since they have been in parliament, as well as one under-secretary appointment for each of the two smaller parties.

This is another big test for incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. How the media reacts and how then public reacts will point to how she will kick off in the big job.

How party activists react will also be of interest – how supportive they are, or how disappointed they are that their pet policies have been set aside.