Green flip-flop on waka jumping riles NZ First

There may be a bit of payback with the Green party support of a National MP bill repealing the waka jumping bill that they supported in 2018 due to ‘honouring the coalition agreement’.

NZ First aren’t happy, saying the Greens can’t be trusted, but there’s a large dollop of pot calling kettle black there.

NZ First and Labour made a commitment in their coalition agreement:

Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

From the Labour-Green agreement:

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such agreements to be complied with.

Because of this Greens voted for the bill in 2018 despite opposing it. But they are now supporting a repeal of the members’ bill currently before Parliament – ELECTORAL (INTEGRITY REPEAL) AMENDMENT BILL

Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National):

I haven’t canvassed other political parties, and I acknowledge that Labour advanced the legislation I’m attempting to repeal early in 2018, but I’m certainly hoping all members will give careful consideration to this bill, because this bill attempts to actually put integrity back into our electoral system. It’s about improving the integrity of our system.

To become a member of Parliament isn’t easy, and having got here, whether you come as an Independent—which is a very fraught way—or you come as a member of Parliament, you come with a conscience. You come with a responsibility to form an opinion on issues and to speak with your conscience, if you’re a list MP, or, if you’re an electorate MP, to speak with a conscience that represents the people that elected you to this House. Though this bill is about allowing MPs to exercise that conscience, it’s about not coming to this Parliament to simply be—as some members of Parliament have described in the past—cannon fodder, or a puppet to a political party.

Now, we all know the history of this legislation that I’m attempting to change today. It was the price of the current Government—the Labour – New Zealand First – Green Government—doing a deal with New Zealand First, and I know why he needs that sort of control. History tells us.

I want to just, in conclusion, in my last couple of minutes, note for the House the number of times dissension has actually been significant and relevant to the New Zealand parliamentary process. I can think myself, long before I was here, of Marilyn Waring, in 1984. She threatened to cross the floor, and caused the well-known snap election that caused the end of the Muldoon era. Jim Anderton, a loyal member of the Labour Party, until he argued that the Labour Party had left him and his principles, so he set up The Alliance party. Dame Tariana Turia, one of the most respected members of Parliament I’ve had the privilege of working with, didn’t agree with the Labour Party. She said so, walked out, and started her own party—the Māori Party—which made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s democracy.

And Mr Peters himself, a member of the National caucus, disagreed with National, walked out, formed his own party, and no one can argue that it hasn’t been a significant contributor to New Zealand politics over that time.

So there will be robust debate around this bill. I certainly hope the Green Party will be careful with its contribution and will deliberate carefully, because I note as I read their contributions last time that they were never comfortable with being forced into the position of supporting this legislation.

Greg O’Connor and Peeni Henare both spoke, saying the Labour would oppose the bill.

Then Tracey Martin from NZ First spoke:

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First): Kia ora, Madam Speaker. I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to oppose the bill. What we are seeing, and the New Zealand public needs to understand, is this is a personal vendetta by two members who feel that they have been personally slighted some 20-odd years ago. That is what this is about. And the member’s bill ballot has finally provided them with an opportunity to take a dig.

The New Zealand First Party does not believe that this is how this House should be used, for personal vendettas. The purpose of the original bill—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: And what you hear, ladies and gentlemen, is the sense of entitlement that wafts away from Mr Carter and Mr Smith. They believe that they are elected and once they are elected, even if they choose to deny the platform upon which they were elected, that you must suffer them.

And I say to the Green Party: there is a time and a place to stand up and keep one’s word. There is a time and a place to acknowledge commitments made and stick with them, and I’ll be interested to see later tonight whether the Green Party has the integrity to vote their word, as opposed to deciding in the final days of a Parliament that they don’t need a relationship any more, going forward, that they don’t need to keep an agreement or a word given, and we will see what the Green Party does with regard to their integrity. We do not support the bill.

Chloe Swarbrick spoke for the Greens:

Everybody has stood up tonight and given pretty high and mighty speeches. There’s been a lot of talk about principle, but the fact of the matter is, is not all too many people have actually acknowledged the machinations behind the scenes here tonight, and that is politics. The Parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand is, as I think most in this House would be aware, one of the most whipped in the world. What that means is that even though we have heard some speeches from members of the Opposition about the importance of things like freedom of speech, you’ve still had a speech from one of your departing members today who spoke to the fact that they had to vote against what they felt was their conscience in coming forward with a caucus position.

There’s also the case, as was noted by members on this side of the House, the fact of the matter that we have a very tribalist system. I think all of us have seen just how ugly that can get. That adversarial system has produced some of the worst behaviour in this place. But on top of that it has resulted in some very archaic first past the post thinking, particularly in what the major parties see and characterise as safe seats. I think that’s a great example, actually, of the flaws of our present adversarial system.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Greens from speeches of both the Opposition and governing parties tonight. I think that it’s really important that we are deeply clear…

And that the Opposition doesn’t heckle me right now, because the Greens will honour our 20 year position on voting on this legislation tonight in much the same way that we honoured the coalition agreements and voting for the legislation that originally put it into place…

So, maybe politics would be a whole lot better if politicians stop talking about themselves as we are tonight. If politicians want a code of conduct, as we’re talking about, and how we treat each other, particularly within our parties, then perhaps we could best start by all signing up to the recommendations of the Francis review. The Greens commend this bill to the House.

A party vote was called for on the question,That the Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill be read a first time.

Ayes 64

New Zealand National 54; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.

Noes 55

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9.

Bill read a first time.

Outside of Parliament it was leaders James Shaw and Winston Peters clashing.

Just over two years ago Parliament passed the controversial waka-jumping legislation after the Green Party voted in favour of something they’d spent decades opposing.

RNZ: James Shaw and Winston Peters go head to head over waka-jumping

The Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill was born out of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition deal.

It requires MPs who quit, or are expelled from a political party, to leave Parliament then and there.

The Greens hate the bill and think it is anti-democratic and draconian but co-leader James Shaw begrudgingly gave his party’s support to it in 2018.

In a complete reversal, the Greens last night threw their support behind a bill to repeal it, enraging New Zealand First.

There may be some utu in this as well as the greens going back to their principles – NZ First have not honoured their coalition agreement in opposing Green policies.

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

Polls suggest voters trust NZ First (and Peters in particular) less than the Greens.

Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

Both parties are fighting for their political lives. Greens are polling just over the threshold, NZ First well under. Having spats like this may raise their profiles but it probably won’t raise their chances of surviving the election.

Green Party – ‘Think ahead’

The Green leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson have been given a chance to promote their campaign in The Nation this morning.

Greens and NZ First clash

NZ First and the Greens clashed yesterday, indicating the nearing of the election campaign and reflecting the precarious position of both parties in the polls. Both are fighting for survival in Parliament.

After spending two years trying to show they can work productively together in Government, they are now desperate to differentiate from each other and from Labour.

Winston Peters is in full on attack mode against all parties and the media and anyone he doesn’t think will vote NZ First. In a speech yesterday morning he launched into the Greens, and James Shaw responded.

RNZ: ‘Gloves are off’ for NZ First and Greens leaders in unofficial election campaign

The unofficial campaign has well and truly kicked off with the party leaders taking the gloves off and going at each other at Parliament today.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has described New Zealand First as a force of chaos, while Winston Peters has warned any future Labour-Greens government would be a nightmare.

It was Peters who started the war of words at a breakfast speech in Wellington this morning.

“If you want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don’t get the nightmare government I know you’re going to get, then I suggest you party vote New Zealand First,” he said.

Shaw was happy to respond.

“Well, I think that the nightmare that he’s got is that he’s not going to be back in Parliament.”

Shaw is known to be quite measured when New Zealand First pulls the pin on policies or puts a spanner in the works, but with the campaign unofficially under way he’s ramping up his own rhetoric.

“My experience of working with New Zealand First as a party in government is that rather than a force of moderation, they’re a force of chaos,” he said.

Tensions through the term are simply being allowed to come out publicly now they don’t have to worry about keeping the Government together.

In the last year or so alone, New Zealand First has put the brakes or the kaibosh on a number of Green Party policies.

New Zealand First has also been obstructive when it comes to cameras on fishing boats and outright blocked the capital gains tax.

Despite all that, Shaw said it was not New Zealand First’s leader he had an issue with, but its wider organisation.

He said things had “always been polite and it’s always been professional,” between the two, but not so much with the wider party and staff.

Asked if Peters’ staff deliberately interfered after a deal has been done between the leaders, Shaw was very clear.

“There’s definitely interference, yes that’s right, and it’s not always clear where it’s coming from.”

And it’s not just the Greens Peters is attacking. The current popularity of Labour is a problem for him.

Peters used his speech this morning to not only boast about the policies his party had stopped, but also to warn about the so-called “stupid ideas” the Greens and Labour still have.

“If you think a red-green government is safe for you then you’re in cloud cuckoo land. They know everything about how to spend your money, and not one idea about how to make some.

“They say they want to get close to you, they’re right, so they can put their hand down the side of your body and into your wallet.”

He said the last three years had been a headache due to the ministers sitting at the Cabinet table alongside him.

“I’ve never had three years so difficult, trying to manage circumstances when you’re surrounded by plain inexperience.”

Peters was happy to repeat the comments on his way into Question Time today, saying he stood by everything he said to the business audience.

Jacinda Ardern is trying to stay above the fray.

“Look, I put it down to an election period. You can also find many comments from the deputy prime minister talking about what we’ve managed to achieve as a government, which I’ve got the sense he’s been proud of,” she said.

All Ardern needs to do is as little as possible apart from stay out of trouble.

It could be an interesting campaign, especially if they have leaders’ debates with all party leaders.

Newshub Nation – Clark, polls, NZ First-Green relationship

Government crumbling?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to have been keeping a deliberate distance from the handling of Covid isolation and quarantining, and from most other things that are currently besetting her Government. But questions are being asked.

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responds to claims Government ‘tearing itself apart’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is shrugging off criticism that her Government is “tearing itself apart,” after New Zealand First killed any hope that light rail in Auckland would get underway this term.

“This is an MMP Government,” Ardern said this afternoon.

“This just happens to be one [area] where we were unable to form a consensus.”

Greens co-leader James Shaw said NZ First’s light rail moves were a “slap in the face of Aucklanders”.

But he insisted the policy was not dead.

Ardern admitted she was frustrated that the project won’t get underway before the election.

“That was a policy that we campaigned on that we have worked really hard on because we believe it will make a difference to congestion issues in Auckland.”

Light Rail was the first big policy announced by Ardern when she took over leadership of Labour leading into the 2017 election.

Labour made a commitment to the Greens in their governing agreement:

Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland.

But Ardern has not been able to prevent NZ First from delaying and then cancelling the project.

Stuff: James Shaw says NZ First are breaching their coalition agreement by axing light rail plan

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says NZ First are breaching their coalition agreement with Labour by axing Auckland light rail this term.

In some of his harshest ever words against the party, Shaw said NZ First’s killing off of Auckland light rail this term was a “slap in the face of Aucklanders” and breached the coaliton agreement between Labour and NZ First.

He also refused to say whether he would go into Government with NZ First again.

This is unusually strong words from Shaw, but the survival of his party is at real risk.

NZ First leader Winston Peterssaid it was his reading of the clause that his party would act in good faith with the Greens, but did not actually bind his agreement to theirs.

“It asks us to act in good faith using our best information to make judgements on matters,” Peters said.

Pushed on this point Peters asked that the reporter go to the Human Rights Commission to get an interpretation of the clause.

Good faith and Winston Peters? he is also fighting for political survival and is well known to put his interests first, his party isn’t referred to as Winston First for nothing.

He said NZ First had killed off the plans as it was worried about cost blowouts.

That’s from someone who, along with Shane Jones, are doling out billions to regions whiling claiming as much credit for themselves.

1 News Morning Briefing June 25: Ardern denies coalition is crumbling

Ms Ardern says hers is an MMP Government and “this just happens to be one [area] where we were unable to form a consensus”.

One of a growing number of ‘areas’.

Meanwhile, NZ First has also left business owners frustrated after putting the brakes on proposed changes to commercial leases, forcing Labour to turn to National for support for the bill.

NZ First leader Winston Peters denies he’s blocking the changes, saying, “We’re just making sure the policy is a sound, commercial proposition in fairness to the contractual laws in New Zealand.”

Peters is blocking changes on a number of things at least until the election.

The Spinoff  The Bulletin: Will the three-party government survive the term?

After several days of frantically knifing each other at parliament, you’d be forgiven for thinking the coalition government is on the verge of collapse. The highest profile incident was the news that the process on deciding how to get light rail in Auckland is now off the table…

As if to underline their independence from the wider coalition, NZ First have inflicted several more quick defeats on their frenemies this week. They’ve refused to support the proposal for hate speech laws. They put the brakes on proposed changes to commercial leases, in the wake of Covid-19. They stalled changes to how rape trials operate, based on concerns raised by defence lawyers. In each case, the party put up reasons for their opposition. But the cumulative effect of a barrage of similar stories creates the impression that they’re no longer interested in allowing anything else through before the election.

What’s driving all of this? Politik’s Richard Harman is particularly well informed on these matters, and has speculated that what we’re seeing right now is revenge from NZ First around one of their key projects – the movement of Auckland port operations to Whangārei – not making the speedy progress that they would have liked to see. Among the snubs in this area, the report noted that a proposal to build a floating dry dock in the north was not part of the recently announced list of 11 shovel-ready projects.

Peters reacting out of spite? Surely not.

Could all of this actually bring the government down? It’s not impossible that we’ll see an early election, even if it is deeply unlikely.

I think it is unlikely. Even if the Government collapsed now it would seem pointless bringing the election forward by a few weeks – it is currently three months away.

Peters should be very wary of bringing down another Government, he has a reputation for not going the distance and another failure would not be helpful for his re-election chances.

But an ongoing train wreck won’t help either.


RNZ: Casualties of the coalition government continue to grow

Labour and Green MPs have given up hiding their growing frustrations with New Zealand First vetoing their flagship policies.

Once again the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Greens has taken a hit.

Justice Minister Andrew Little hasn’t had a good run negotiating with New Zealand First in the past.

While he’d work with them again, he also said “I might change the ground rules”.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw is less forgiving that yet another policy in the Greens’ confidence and supply agreement with Labour has been placed on the backburner.

“I have faith in the Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement with Labour, yes. I don’t have faith that New Zealand First are able to uphold their own coalition agreement.

“Their coalition agreement says that they will act in good faith to ensure all other agreements can be complied with,” he said.

But NZ First Leader Winston Peters brushed off the accusation.

“We’ve acted in good faith but the Greens’ three hours ago were telling you they’re responsible, and then two hours later they had an epiphany and now they’re saying we’re breaching some kind of agreement to which we were never a part.”

Sounds like a dysfunctional government.

James Shaw: “I think people look at us as the reliable government partner”

The Greens has generally been a low profile support party in the current Government, overshadowed by the high profile of Jacinda Ardern and the bargaining power of NZ First.

With an election coming up they are trying to differentiate themselves from Labour and promote themselves as a successful and worthwhile part of Government.

Their priority must be to make the 5% threshold and survive in Parliament. Co-leader Marama Davidson is standing in the Tāmaki Makaurau and is promoting her chances – Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson will run hard for a Māori seat – but she must be an outside chance there.

If they survive the election their next priority must be to negotiate as a coalition partner with Labour, and they will be hoping without NZ First in the picture, to give them more negotiating power and some say in Cabinet (this term they are outside Cabinet).

Stuff: Portrait of Green leader James Shaw: ‘Labour wasted its political capital’

Shaw was selected as male co-leader in May 2015. He’d been an MP for just eight months, and even in the helter-skelter world of New Zealand politics, the victory was a shock. His main rival was genial senior MP Kevin Hague.

Shaw admitted his corporate background put him at a disadvantage in a party of radicals and nonconformists. With neat suits and a clean-cut style, he seemed an unlikely partner to anarchist-turned-firebrand politician Metiria Turei.

Shaw still seems to have detractors amongst Green supporters.

Within just over two years, Shaw would be the Green’s sole leader. Turei was forced to resign, weeks out from the election, after confessing to benefit and electoral fraud. Their polling slumped dramatically.

Shaw was left to shepherd the party through the rest of the campaign, the bitter internal fall-out over Turei’s disclosure and highly-charged negotiations to join the Labour-led Government.

Support for the Greens is still half what it was before the Turei tumult, almost continuously in the threshold danger zone.

“The second most stressful was the seven weeks leading up to those negotiations: like, you’re the front man while the Greens are in danger of never returning to Parliament.”

The negotiations were “really tough,” he says.“We weren’t prepared for them.”

Nothing could really prepare a party for post-election negotiations, but like Labour the Greens were probably not expecting to be in negotiating positions even a month before the election.

There is an enduring perception the Greens have yielded much to Winston Peters and, despite securing only 24,000 votes fewer than NZ First, have significantly less clout.

“We’re not [achieving everything we wanted],” Shaw conceded. “But neither is anybody else. Right? If you went through the NZ First coalition agreement, or the Labour Party manifesto, or even a speech from the throne, there’s stuff that we all haven’t got done.

There is a justified perception that the Greens are by far the weakest of the parties in Government. They were no match for Winston’s negotiating experience and Labour’s acquiescence to Winston in largely calling the shots after the election.

And as Greens had ruled out negotiating with National they had to pretty take what they were given from Labour and allowed by NZ First.

“The new narrative that irritates me is that we only got 95 percent of what we were asking for, therefore it’s a total failure. It drives me up the wall.”

I haven’t heard that narrative. A common perception is that they got nowhere near 95% of what they asked for – unless they were asking for bugger all.

And many in the party seem to have negative perceptions.

From the outset, Shaw’s centrist, corporate style has rubbed against the party’s more radical members.

When he compromises, they see the white flag of surrender. Some members chafed against budget responsibility rules, which set targets for lowering government debt and spending, and were eventually dumped by members.

Last year, candidate Jack McDonald upstaged Shaw at the annual conference by quitting and complaining about a “centrist drift”. Former high-profile MP Sue Bradford penned a piece lamenting the loss of the party’s radical, anti-establishment streak. Outgoing MP Gareth Hughes said the Government had not been transformational.

In April, a rump of about 100 members tried to oust Shaw, Minister Eugenie Sage and MP Chlöe Swarbrick by placing them far down the party’s list.

At mention of the ‘Green Left’ faction, Shaw slowly rolls his eyes.

“When you’ve spent 16 years in Opposition, you get so used to that. One of the challenges we’ve had is trying to shift to thinking like a party of Government, not a party of Opposition.

“We’ve got a very strong anarchist tradition. There’s still a lot of people around who used to be members of the McGillicuddy Serious Party. I think you have to honour that.

Turei was in the McGillicuddy Serious Party, but that’s quarter of a century ago. Most of the unrest and dissatisfaction seems to be coming from Green supporters that were not born then, or were very young.

He appears cautious, but Shaw says he’s picking the right battles: especially when it comes to unnatural bedfellows NZ First.

It’s not obvious what battles they have won against NZ First. And they seem to have lost significant battles.

There was surprise when the Greens recently voted, under urgency, for warrantless search powers for police contained in new Covid-19 emergency laws.

Eyebrows were also raised when Shaw defended a controversial memo from the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern telling ministers they had “no real need to defend” decisions made during the health crisis.

It looks like hypocrisy from a party who railed against the expansion of surveillance powers in Opposition, and have campaigned for transparency in Government. Shaw is resigned to, if not embracing, the cynical realities of holding power.

He talks of “tempered radicalism”.

“You hold onto your radical values and principles. And you work with the system that you are in, whether you like that system or not, to change it from within.

“Tempered radicalism” risks looking like letting values and principles slip with little gained.

NZ First slowed and ultimately diluted some of the Government’s flagship climate change policies. A capital gains tax – originally a Greens policy – was dropped in part due to Peters’ resistance.

Timidity on welfare reform can also be put down to his reluctance. And the Greens were also reluctantly forced to vote for their waka-jumping legislation, which allowed leaders to expel MPs from Parliament, boxed in by their confidence and supply agreement.

This doesn’t look radical at all – and it seems to annoy the hell out of green radicals.

While NZ First will position themselves as a ‘handbrake’ on radical reform, the Greens election campaign will centre on pushing the Government to go “further and faster”.

There is a long pause before Shaw, 47, answers a question about how he’s changed over the last five years. He rubs his face, deep in thought.

“It’s so hard to answer because this place is so intense and you don’t get a lot of time for personal reflection.

“Finding the path of least resistance. There’s that horrendous phrase about politics being the art of the possible, which can be read two ways.

“You can do things, it’s a really expansive notion. And there are some moments where we have changed things.

“And then there are others where you can only do what is possible. Maybe moving from naivety to experience is being able to live in both those worlds at the same time.”

Will this approach attract more votes? It’s hard to say at this stage.

Co-leader Davidson is the number one ranked Green, and she will likely become more prominent in the election campaign. She may please the more radical side of the Greens, but she may not do well attracting more moderate potential Green voters. It’s going to be a big challenge.

“Even when I was elected as co-leader, that bloody clip of people dancing around the maypole at the 1990-something [conference], that was the intro. That was the thing that I most wanted to change.

“I knew the way to do that wasn’t by public relations. It was by getting into government and just demonstrating that our policies are good for people and actually kind of sensible.

“And I think we have. I think people look at us as the reliable government partner.”

Can Davidson do that?

The most recent polls for the Greens:

  • Newshub/Reid Research: 5.6%, 5.5%
  • 1 News/Colmar Brunton: 5.0%, 4.7%
  • Roy Morgan Research: 7%, 7%
  • UMR Research: 5%, 4%
  • Curia: 7%, 9%

I think that the greens should be able to get back in, but are unlikely to do much if any better than their 6.3% in the 2017 election.

Reforms and funding announced aimed at cleaning up waterways

The Government has announced $700m of funding and a range of regulations aimed at cleaning up waterways. This will particularly affect farming.


Cleaning up our rivers and lakes

Primary sector and other groups will be financially assisted with the implementation of the new clean water standards through a $700 million fund that will create jobs in riparian and wetland planting, removing sediments and other initiatives to prevent farm run off entering waterways.

  • Setting higher health standards at swimming spots
  • Requiring urban waterways to be cleaned up and new protections for urban streams
  • Putting controls on higher-risk farm practices such as winter grazing and feed lots
  • Setting stricter controls on nitrogen pollution and new bottom lines on other measures of waterway health
  • Ensuring faster council planning
  • Requiring mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans
  • These actions will be supported by $700m of funding

Environment Minister David Parker: “Our environmental reputation is the thing that underpins our biggest export earners – tourism and agriculture. It’s time for us to invest in cleaning up our water in order to protect the economic value add it brings.”

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the package will help to increase the value of our primary exports.

“Our high-value overseas consumers want greater assurances that the food and fibre they buy is produced in a sustainable way. Clean water and sustainable farming is entwined with the economic success of the sector, it isn’t one or the other,” Damien O’Connor said.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw welcomed the reforms and said they were the strongest protections a government has ever put in place for waterways.

The measures announced today, will stop the state of our rivers, lakes and wetlands getting worse, make a significant improvement in five years and return them to health in a generation.

Farmers in New Zealand appreciate the value of high quality water and many have done a huge amount of work to improve their practices over the last 20 years or more.

The changes apply equally to rural and urban waterways, and include specific controls on covering urban streams.

The measures include:

  • Using Te Mana o te Wai as our guiding principle, which prioritises the health of the waterway, then the needs of people and then commercial needs
  • Cleaning up our rivers and lakes
  • Setting higher health standards at swimming spots
  • Requiring urban waterways to be cleaned up and new protections for urban streams
  • Putting controls on high risk farm practices such as winter grazing and feed lots
  • Setting stricter controls on nitrogen pollution and new bottom lines on other measures of waterway health
  • Ensuring faster council planning
  • Requiring mandatory and enforceable farm environment plan
  • The package contains rapid action to stop things getting worse in the short term including controls on high risk farming practices such as winter grazing and feed lots.”
  • There will be lower e.Coli levels where – and when – people swim.
  • There will be a strengthened bottom line for nitrogen toxicity, to provide better protection for 95 per cent of freshwater species, up from 80 per cent under the previous national policy statement.
  • There will also be a cap per hectare on the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, excluding vegetable growers. It will be set initially at 190 kgs/hectare/year with a review by 2023. Fertiliser use increased seven fold between 1990 and 2018.
  • Dairy farmers will be required to report annually to councils the quantity of nitrogen applied per hectare as synthetic fertiliser. Fertiliser companies will have to report on sales to ensure the overall level of use is heading in the right direction.
  • The primary sector, iwi/Māori, local government and their communities will be supported in implementing the package through the investment of more than $700 million from Budget 2020 for predominately freshwater-related activity.
  • Funding will be used to support actions like installing mini wetlands, removing sediment, riparian planting, helping farmers with stock exclusion and developing farm plans, stabilising river banks and providing for fish passage.
  • Rising nitrate levels in drinking water from aquifers has been an increasing concern in recent years. A Ministry of Health-led taskforce is assessing whether New Zealand research is needed into links between nitrate levels and human health impacts and is due to report later this year.
  • Expert specialist advisory groups helped develop the proposals, and we received over 17,500 submissions on the plan we outlined in 2019 – that’s more than any other public consultation process the Ministry for the Environment has run.
  • Concerns expressed by submitters and the primary sector, as well as the impact of COVID-19, have been taken into account. Further in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits has given us a clearer picture of the overall economic effects.
  • Key changes include a longer timeline for farmers on some of the requirements and a decision not to implement a national bottom line for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) at this stage, although current levels will have to be maintained or improved. Existing permanent fences are not required to be moved via regulation.
  • The primary sector will play a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19. So the Government has reduced the cost and impact on them from the proposals put out for consultation last year, without compromising major environmental benefits.
  • New Zealand’s future wellbeing, including the wellbeing of our rural communities, depends on an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and generates high value for its people.
  • For the longer term, there will be a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) to achieve permanent improvements and uphold Te Mana o te Wai. A new freshwater planning process will speed up the process of getting the NPS into force around the country.
  • To complement these actions, farm plans will be rolled out over time starting with higher-risk catchments and can be made mandatory and enforceable.
  • The Government will work with the agriculture sector to ensure it gets to a space where future generations have the kind of water that they deserve, that they want, and that this country needs. Efforts to achieve high quality water will be rewarded by greater value for our produce.
  • With mātauranga Māori – or Māori principles – for water management as the guide, the Government has developed a clear, robust and enforceable set of policies that will mean all New Zealanders can enjoy and benefit from healthy rivers and clean, safe water for decades to come.

Other changes include:

  • Delaying consideration of a DIN national bottom line (maximum level) for 12 months, to allow time for a thorough review of its environmental and economic implications.
  • Where fences are required they must be a minimum of 3 metres from a waterway, but permanent fences will not need to move to comply with riparian setback requirements, although freshwater farm plans and regional rules may require more than this.
  • Developing mandatory and enforceable freshwater farm plan regimes and phasing their introduction over a longer timeframe.
  • Removal of commercial vegetable growing from the interim intensification rules

The key legislative and regulatory changes are:

  • Amendment to the Resource Management Act to deliver faster regional water plans
  • A National Environmental Standard to hold the line by controlling riskier practices
  • A National Policy Statement based on Te Mana o te Wai sets new bottomlines for swimmability and water health measures
  • Stock exclusion regulations and water take measurement
  • Mandatory and enforceable farm plans

Divisive Green reaction to Muller leadership

On of the quiet achievements of new National leader Todd Muller is his work with Minister of the Environment James Shaw in the Zero Carbon Bill. From Wikipedia:

During his time in Opposition he was given the task of working with the Government on its Zero Carbon Bill. National ended up supporting the bill, with some caveats. Muller’s work on the bill earned him respect from across the House.

In his first speech as leader Muller said:

I’m not interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.

I’m about ideas that get results.

He has already shown that in practice with the Zero Carbon Bill collaboration (as did Shaw).

I think it’s fair to say that Muller’s leadership and some of his aims contrast somewhat with his predecessor Simon bridges.

But just after Muller took over the leadership the Green Party of Aotearoa new Zealand campaign manager (Matthew Thomas) emailed:

Same old, same old!

I wanted to share with you my biggest concern about the future of Aotearoa: that changing National’s leadership won’t change their political position and they will keep their same failed policies.

That is why, regardless of the National’s leadership, we have a job to do – keep thinking ahead – and pushing for policies that bring us together. 

We will continue to push our bold plans to build a future where the government does more, faster, to protect our planet and make sure everyone is treated equally regardless of their age, gender or postcode.

By changing their leadership, we risk National doubling down on their detrimental policies while deflecting from their failures. We can’t let this happen. We’ve worked hard to undo their broken systems but still have so much more to do.

I would have thought that Muller’s leadership increased the chances of more collaboration, for the mutual benefit of the Greens and National – and for the good of the Government and the country.

Of course the email was playing to a Green audience and also included the usual pleas for more donations.

But not all Green supporters are vehemently and blindly opposed to working with National. Some would even be happy to see a National-green coalition.

I guess the campaign director has to rustle up badly needed campaign funds, and may see more opportunities from Greens who seem to hate parties with alternative policies and priorities.

But as much as the Greens need funds, they also need votes, for their survival. They need votes from people who would prefer a more cooperative Parliament, and not one divided into ‘them’ versus ‘us’.

If Shaw approved of the tone of this email I’d be quite disappointed. he should see a new National leader as a an opportunity for more gains, not an excuse to promote greater division.

Claytons denial from Ministers about the PM gag memo

A curious Claytons denial from two Ministers about the memo sent out by the Prime Minister’s office s that directed them not to have interviews or answer questions about the Friday dump of documents.

Both James Shaw and David Clark said they didn’t personally receive the email, but the news reports clearly stated that the memo was sent to Ministerial offices.  Ministers don’t personally deal with a lot of email. Ministerial staff also manage what interviews Ministers do, and deal with Ministerial statements.

James Shaw was asked on The Nation on Saturday:

“It seems that the Government wants to be transparent by dumping all these documents on Friday afternoon, yet there’s been a directive from the Prime Minister not to talk to the media about it. Did you get that memo, is that the kind of politics you want to play?”

Shaw began his response somewhat awkwardly:

A Ah um I I personally didn’t.  Um my understanding is that that went out to agencies…

Ministers don’t personally deal with a lot of correspondence including emails. They have staff for that. And the news of the memo didn’t say the memo was sent to Ministers: 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.

Clearly this states “sent to Beehive staff “.

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

“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.”

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

It looks a bit like another memo may have been sent out with another ‘key message’ directive. On Sunday Minister of Health David Clark had a similar response: David Clark rejects idea Government ministers were gagged following COVID-19 document dump

Dr Clark said he didn’t receive the leaked email and only heard about it once the media reported it.

As with Shaw that doesn’t rule out his office receiving the email. Clark also made the point that he was ‘fronting up’:

At a press conference on Sunday morning where he announced increases to Pharmac’s funding, Dr David Clark said he was fronting media and answering questions on the documents “right now” and he’d also answered additional questions in interviews on Saturday.

“I’m comfortable and confident talking about the release of materials [about] the advice that the Government had received. As a Government, we’ve been transparent about the decisions we’ve made,”

Clark hardly ever sounds confident talking to media, including at this time. And his announcement of the Pharmac funding could have been timed and staged to try to contradict the directives from the memo.  It was a pre-budget announcement, they are typically done as part of the Government budget PR strategy.

One of the memo talking points was “”Evidence shows our decisions were the right ones”.  Clark had a similar response but worded differently.

“I think overaching all of this is the results, and um and you know they speak for themselves…that suggests that going hard and going early was the right strategy”.

Back to Shaw at Newshub: James Shaw defends gag on ministers talking about COVID-19 documents

A Ah um I I personally didn’t.  Um my understanding is that that went out to agencies ah and that is because it is really important in a time of crisis that the Government speaks with one voice, and the prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been that voice, and I think it’s appropriate she continues to be that voice..

So Shaw defended the intent of the memo – that Ardern is ‘the voice’.

Asked: “So ok, so Ministers can’t talk about their respective areas and it all has to come from the Prime Minister, are you happy with that?”

A very hesitant response from Shaw – a common sign of thinking through what one should say in advance:

“Um, well I am talking about climate change Simon, I’ve been talking about climate change the entire time…

A similar response to Clark, saying he is talking about his portfolio.

Asked “Ok, but in terms of the way of operating are you happy with that, for other ministers as well, you’re buying into that?”

“Well like I said, ah I think it is entirely appropriate at a time of national crisis, the scale of which we haven’t seen since the  great depression and World War 2, that the Government speaks with one voice, I don’t think that there’s anything strange about that at all.”

Again he defends the aim of the memo, for Ministers to avoid talking about the Covid response and contents of document dump apart from with suggested phrases.

It could be a tough campaign for the Greens if they can’t claim any credit for the handling of Covid. Wil they really be happy for Ardern to attract all the votes for that?

Clark and Shaw may be technically correct that they didn’t personally receive the gag email, but they both made similar denials that aren’t really denials.


From NZ Herald:

Former MP Peter Dunne said today that email was a sign this Government was no different from any others in practising 9th floor “grubby” tactics.

While the PM’s office has called the email “clumsy”, Dunne told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking “that doesn’t hide the fact they see themselves as bullet-proof, ‘we don’t need to explain, everyone loves us’.”

“People have not seen [Jacinda Ardern] a control freak before… this reveals the reality. It also acknowledges the fact this is a Cabinet with some mighty weak links, probably more than average.”


More from Stuff:  Beehive scrambled to contain email telling ministers to ‘dismiss’ questions about Covid-19 response

The prime minister’s office now says the email — which was provided to press gallery journalists hours after the Government publicly released hundreds of Cabinet papers — was a “clumsy instruction”.

Stuff can reveal the Beehive asked public servants to delete the email, after it was wrongly sent beyond parliament’s walls.

The email from Rob Carr, a senior ministerial adviser to the prime minister, was sent to the staff of Government ministers and to staff at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) who had worked on making public the documents.

A spokesman for the prime minister on Sunday said it was an error to send the email to public servants, due to the political messaging it contained, however it was “simply intended to be a heads-up” that the documents were being made public.

Again clearly sent to the staff of Ministers, so the Ministers denying receiving it personally are correct but misleading by major omission.

“[The email] was more about not re-litigating the past, and it shouldn’t have been framed as dismissing … It was more a clumsy instruction.”

Sounds to me more like an embarrassing reveal of PM PR procedures.


Tim Watkins: Gagging Order Is Double Dumb: Disrespecting Public Sacrifice & Damaging Brand Ardern

With much power comes much responsibility. And the government has a phenomenal amount of power right now, in the midst of a pandemic that has seen public money propping up the national economy, parliament on furlough and public officials granted special powers. Which is why any talk of gagging leaves such a bad taste.

…All of which is why the gagging order delivered by the 9th floor to ministers on Friday stands out like a sore, distasteful thumb.

It’s dumb on a range of levels.

Morally – or perhaps constitutionally – the New Zealand public has allowed this government at this time extraordinary powers and deserves at the very least in return full and frank information from cabinet. They deserve respect for the sacrifices made, not dismissal. To tell political staff to “dismiss” the questions of journalists working to keep that public informed is deeply cynical and defensive. It’s bad enough in the normal sweep of events; in these troubled times it’s shameful.

New Zealanders haven’t stayed home and saved lives, loss their livelihoods, skipped funerals and put their lives on hold to have questions about how and why decisions are being made dismissed by those paid to serve them.

Second, it undermines the brand.

For Jacinda Ardern, its about being kind and open and different from all those other politicians who, well, aren’t. Through several crises now she has dissolved Labour’s reputation in Opposition for a lack of competence. But key to her political success is this sense that she is not just a power-monger, but a caring and sensible person who gets voters and can be trusted to act in our best interest, even with extraordinary powers.

So for emails to be coming out from her closest advisors implying her office doesn’t trust voters with full and frank disclosure and that those voters’ confidence in her is being taken for granted – banked and exploited – is damaging. Any way you slice it.

Watkins obviously not impressed.

 

Emissions and Freshwater reports from the Beehive this week

One topic continues to dominate our lives, the news and Government at the moment, but what else has come out of the Beehive this week? Not much. Just two other media releases, one on carbon emissions which is a bit out of date (2017-2018), and another on a the Freshwater 2020 report just released.

Emissions report shows progress, and the work ahead

New Zealand is making limited progress to reduce its emissions, but not nearly quickly enough, the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said today in response to the release of the latest annual inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases.

“The report gives us the most up to date picture of how much we still have to do to solve climate change. Narrowing the gap between where we are now, and where we need to be, is the difference between handing our children a better world, or more crises in the future.

Net emissions fell by 3 percent in 2018 compared to 2017 levels. Gross emissions in 2018 decreased by 1 percent on 2017 levels. However, between 1990 and 2018, gross emissions increased by 24 percent.

Over the same period economic growth increased by 3.2% so it is possible to do more and pollute less.

But this isn’t very up to date, it doesn’t include last year and of course there’s major disruption this year so it’s hard to know what will happen.

Measures introduced by this Government to help drive down emissions include the Zero Carbon Act; the creation of the Climate Change Commission; reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme; the first set of emissions budgets; billions of dollars invested in rail, light rail, buses, walking and cycling infrastructure; a Joint Action Plan for Primary Sector Emissions; the Billion Trees programme; and the end of new offshore fossil fuel exploration.

In 2018, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions comprised of 44 percent carbon dioxide, 43 per cent methane, 10 per cent nitrous oxide and 2 per cent fluorinated gases. The agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions at 48 percent and 41 percent respectively. Increases in emissions from dairy cattle and road transport remain the largest contributors to the growth in emissions since 1990.

The full inventory report and a snapshot here.

Freshwater report highlights need for continued efforts to protect and restore healthy waterways

Our Freshwater 2020, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, underlines the importance of government efforts to ensure healthy freshwater, protect native freshwater biodiversity, make land use more sustainable and combat climate change.

Environment Minister David Parker said the report will help inform the work already underway, to protect and restore waterways and the life in them.

The report highlights the inherent connection between people and the environment: our activities on land are having a negative effect on our freshwater ecosystems and the plants and animals that live in them.

Each catchment is different, so it is challenging to present a national picture of the state of our freshwater, but some conclusions are clear; our native freshwater species and ecosystems are under threat; water is polluted in urban, farming, and forestry areas; and the way we change water flows can have a range of impacts on freshwater ecosystems.

These issues combined, and with the impact of climate change, add up to significant pressure on our freshwater species and habitats.

David Parker said the Government has work underway to address the issues presented in the report.

He  noted that the Resource Management Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament, which will also benefit freshwater health and help mitigate climate change impacts.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said all the issues in the report are made worse by climate change and that is why this government is so determined to take strong action.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said the report highlighted the importance of law changes last year to protect native fish, and the work the Department of Conservation was leading to develop a new national biodiversity strategy.

“The freshwater report outlines well the pressures on native fish such as īnanga/whitebait and the importance of reducing sediment and nitrogen pollution and barriers to fish migration to ensure healthy fish populations,” said Eugenie Sage.

The Our Freshwater 2020 report is available here.