Maggie Barry bullying claims, Sarah Downie claims local support

Two controversial National MPs get a mention at NZ Herald today.

Maggie Barry bullying claims: Staffers from three government departments raised concerns while she was minister

Staff from three government departments who worked with MP Maggie Barry raised concerns about her behaviour during her time as a minister – and at least one also complained to the head of the public service.

Confirmation of the complaints from government staff about Barry’s conduct follow bullying allegations made by her electorate staff last year.

Last week, the Auditor General asked the Parliamentary Service to re-investigate the claims of unlawful political work.

This week, the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Social Development and Ministry for Culture and Heritage – all which had workers seconded to Barry’s Parliamentary office – confirmed to the Weekend Herald they also had staff raise concerns about Barry’s conduct.

Additionally, the State Services Commission (SSC) revealed concerns were raised with its office in respect of Barry during her time as a minister, too.

Details of all the complaints will be kept secret, however, despite requests they be made available under the Official Information Act as part of the Weekend Herald‘s investigation into the alleged bullying.

In a statement released yesterday, a spokesperson for Barry said she was never made aware of any formal complaints against her by any government department staff seconded to her Beehive office.

“In the three years she was a Minister, concerns may have been raised and discussed but they did not progress to any formal complaints process,” the statement said.

“No one chose to pursue any concerns and there were no formal complaints which is why Maggie Barry not made aware of them.”

I am not a fan of Barry, She seems to have fixed views on things, and gets abrasive with people with alternate views.

Noted – Maggie Barry: Bias and bullying in the euthanasia debate?

Anyone who has followed the Justice select committee hearings into David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Billor the debate around assisted dying generally will probably not be surprised that Maggie Barry — a staunch opponent of a law change — has been accused of bullying by three former parliamentary staff.

In September, former intensive care specialist and assisted dying campaigner Dr Jack Havill called for her to resign as deputy chair of the committee on the grounds she was “disparaging to submitters” who argued in favour of the bill.

Barry’s abrasive and rude behaviour when discussing assisted dying is not confined to select committee hearings, according to David Speary, who wrote to the North Shore Times in late September:

“Do not be dismissive of Jack Havill’s or Bets Blake’s claim about Maggie Barry’s attitude at the End of Life Choice hearings. I attended a ‘Community Conversation’ held by the [Catholic] church in Devonport earlier in this year, and was flabbergasted at Ms Barry’s actions.

“She was defending the Catholic church’s opposition to the bill against a lady from the End of Life Choice Society. She interrupted the EoLC speaker and, when it was her time, completely dominated the rest of the meeting. The chairman could hardly give anybody else a chance.

And Sarah Dowie is working in her electorate – National MP Sarah Dowie says Invercargill locals have backed her over Jami-Lee Ross saga

Embattled National MP Sarah Dowie says she’s had “nothing but support and encouragement” from her constituency and is refusing to lie low while police probe her alleged communications with ex-lover Jami-Lee Ross.

After a brief hiatus from the public glare, Dowie has been actively campaigning in the country’s southernmost electorate over the past month, covering hundreds of kilometres in her conspicuous National Party blue car with her photograph emblazoned on its side.

She has been a vocal critic of the vocational education reforms, with a local newspaper today running a prominent column where Dowie blasted the Government for needlessly putting the future of a successfully-run Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) “up in the air”.

And today, she also launched a petition keep the Riverton horse race track open.

peaking to the Herald after today’s public meeting, before getting in a taxi to attend a Stand Up for SIT protest across town, Dowie said locals have been understanding ever since her affair with Ross was exposed.

“In all fairness, I’ve been well-received,” said the mother-of-two who is understood to have separated from husband, former Otago cricketer Mark Billcliff.

“There’s been a lot of comment that Invercargill electorate is a very conservative electorate. But you want to know something? If you’re talking about conservatism, then you’re also talking about people who understand that everyone’s human.

“I’ve had nothing but support and encouragement with me running on all of these issues.”.

Those who don’t support her may be more likely to talk behind her back.

Asked whether police have spoken to her, she refused to comment.

“The matter is with my lawyer and it would be inappropriate to make any further comment,” she said.

That seems to be standard advice for National MPs being investigated by the police.

Dowie hosted National’s education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye at today’s public meeting.

During her talk, Kaye praised Dowie for her hard work on the ground in opposing Labour’s education reform plans.

“This province is under assault right now. And it is purely because of this ideology that everything has to be centralised,” Dowie told the gathering.

“We need to retain our community spirit down here. Stay with us. I’m parochial.”

She has a lot of work to do in her political life, and probably also in her personal life.

 

The dangers of crying ‘bully’

Bullying can be crappy, horrible, terrible, debilitating. Sometimes it is clear cut and obvious, but it can also be subjective, and bullying can easily be perceived as such when it is closer to over-expressive leadership, and even of being a justified bollocking.

Listener (Noted):  Maggie Barry and the dangers of crying ‘bully’

It was easy to applaud the advent of #MeToo. The felling of atrocious tyrants, such as movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the drunken, groping New Zealand legal titans who were revealed as serial sex pests, was long overdue. There has been a welcome global consciousness-raising.

There has been overdue attention given to despicable behaviour.

But as this era of atonement for workplace bullying matures, its fine print is proving divisive. The recent inquiry into police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha’s conduct and allegations against MP Maggie Barry show a lot of on-the-job conflict is rather more nuanced and debatable than the headline #MeToo cases.

I don’t know how nuanced either of those situations was, but they are certainly debatable, especially with the absence of much evidence.

Haumaha’s career was called into question because three staff in his unit didn’t like the way he spoke to them. A QC’s enquiry has found no evidence of bullying, but a robust leadership style. Barry stands accused of bullying two former staff by such actions as swearing in front of them, teasing them and saying disparaging things about other people.

As far as I’m aware the jury is still out in both these cases.

It’s straightforward to diagnose such things as violence, threats, groping and sexual extortion as abusive. The older #MeToo grows, the more amazed we’ll be in retrospect about how much of it society has tolerated and excused.

But, speaking tersely, swearing, bantering, tantrums, sniping behind colleagues’ backs – are these necessarily bullying? They’re generally undesirable, and in quantity can become abusive, but in occasional doses, such behaviour is normal and human.

If people are going to start informing on each other, or as with Barry, covertly taping for such transgressions, we risk creating another form of workplace danger: a low-trust environment.

Worse than that – it risks over-embellished accusations, hit jobs and revenge attacks.

The allegations against Barry seem well short of the sort of mistreatment #MeToo was conceived to root out.

As for personal remarks, such as Barry’s likening a staffer’s attire to that seen in The Great Gatsby, one person’s affectionate teasing is another’s hectoring sarcasm. We cannot reform human nature. Teasing, and even its ruder cousin, banter, is often a sign of deep affection and a way of signalling mutual trust. A little gossip can be team-building. These things can morph into bullying, but are we seriously considering outlawing them as inherently dangerous?

Banter one day could be perceived as bullying the next, depending on the mood and the situation. Too much ‘banter’ can become bullying.

Parliament’s timely inquiry into its bullying is justified by the serious transgressions of MP Jami-Lee Ross and former minister Meka Whaitiri. But there’s a danger of our getting to the stage where just crying “bully!” is enough to blight someone’s career, and for that suspension of doubt to be misused out of spite. Not all workplace interactions can be positive and nurturing. High-pressure situations cannot always be gentled with pleases and thankyous. And it’s not abusive to tell a staffer their work isn’t good enough.

It’s easier (and human) to allege bullying than concede and accept ‘I was crap’.

Workplace safety can surely be protected without outlawing many manifestations of the human personality, or holding that feeling slighted is proof of abuse. We need simply to treat others as we’d like to be treated, and have the wit and empathy to notice if our tone or humour isn’t well received.

Sometimes relationships turn to crap, in workplaces as well as in homes.  It is easy for for behaviour that had once been acceptable to become intolerable.

All of us can at times overstep the banter line.

We need to be careful we don’t overstep the line of acceptable behaviour into dumping on anything someone else says they don’t like.

This is a particular problem in politics where it is common to exaggerate things for devious political motives.

We should expect reasonable and professional behaviour from our MPs and public servants, but we should also not cry ‘bully’ when it isn’t justified.

If we get too picky and too sensitive and too intolerant of normal human behaviour then we will take our eye off the important ball – the serious cases of harassment and assault and bullying that deserve proper investigation, and condemnation when proven.

Maggie Barry bullying accusations continue

An ex-employee of Maggie Barry is continuing his campaign against Barry.

I must admit I am struggling to not be turned off by all of this, but there are I guess some important issues being raised, like:

  • bullying by MPs
  • accusations of bullying being prosecuted by media
  • ex-staff going public
  • what actually constitutes workplace or MP office bullying

RNZ are giving all this quite an airing this morning with an interview of the ex-staffer who claims to have been bullied, but also a statement from another staffer who has quite a different experience.

Maggie Barry accused of bullying staff

Another MP has been accused of bullying, this time National’s Maggie Barry. she disputes the allegations. This further puts the spotlight on the pressures of being an MP, and whether some MPs abuse their power. There will always be an unavoidable power imbalance, but the important thing is that that is not abused.

NZ Herald: Former staff accuse National MP Maggie Barry of bullying

National MP Maggie Barry has been twice investigated over bullying claims this year – including accusations she expected staff to do political party work on taxpayer time, which would be unlawful.

The Weekend Herald can reveal two employees in Barry’s four-person office have accused her of bullying since May – one in a personal grievance complaint, and the other during the investigation of that complaint.

Barry concedes there were issues raised by former staff, but they were resolved “by mutual agreement” and “there was no finding that bullying or harassment had occurred”.

And she is backed up by a different former staff member who said she never saw any bullying behaviour from Barry, though she added that everyone has different ideas about what constitutes bullying.

I think that is an important point. One person could feel ‘bullied’ in a situation that another person sees as a normal type of employer/employee relationship.

Here different employees have different views on how things happened.

The Weekend Herald has obtained documents which show that during its investigations in August this year, Parliamentary Service heard allegations that Barry:

• swore and yelled at staff;
• called an employee “stupid”;
• used derogatory terms about other elected officials, which made staff uncomfortable;
• referred to people with mental health issues using offensive terms like “nutter”;
• discussed her employees’ sexuality in the workplace;
• expected staff would do work for the National Party during office hours, which they felt unable to refuse while knowing it was wrong, because they were scared.

One staffer told investigators he believed there was a huge power imbalance and that Barry was “terrifying” and could “destroy my career”.

When questioned by Parliamentary Service in August, Barry denied all of the allegations.

“In particular, she disputes the claims regarding her attitude and comments attributed regarding people with mental health issues,” the investigation notes from her interview read.

“[She says] she does not use profanities and doesn’t swear or behave inappropriately… MB absolutely refutes that she expects staff to complete party work during work time.”

However, the Weekend Herald has heard recordings which appear to show Barry swearing in a work context, and others where she appears to call a local board member “barking”, one a “waste of space”, and another “a duplicitous piece of shite”.

Again, some people may see ‘colourful language’ as acceptable, others may think otherwise.

It has also seen messages from Barry – who rarely used email but instead spoke into the voice-to-text function on her phone – appearing to request political work be completed during office hours.

Examples included writing her column “Maggie’s Messenger”, where she encouraged people to vote for Northcote MP Dan Bidois, and completing a “Super Blues” brochure for an over-60s National Party conference.

A former staffer who came forward to the Weekend Herald told Parliamentary Service that, during some weeks, up to half his work was party work. Parliamentary rules strictly stipulate party work is not part of support staff’s job.

According to her interview with investigators, Barry knew it was against the rules.

But in a different recording obtained by the Weekend Herald, Barry said the opposite to the staffer the day he was due to give evidence for his co-worker’s personal grievance case.

In it she said writing brochures on office time was “legitimate”, while acknowledging the investigators would not be impressed if they found out.

“It’s how the world goes around,” she said. “You know the lay of the land.”

I think that politicians have been bending this rule for a long time. I know it has happened, but I don’t know how common it has been.

When questioned by the Weekend Herald yesterday, Barry said Parliamentary Service had looked into allegations from former staff.

“The allegations were vigorously denied and disputed and were thoroughly investigated by Parliamentary Service. There was no finding that bullying or harassment had occurred.

“The issues have all been resolved professionally and by mutual agreement. I have wished the employees concerned well and so I am surprised to see they are being repeated in a partial, selective and incomplete way.”

She said she had “constructive and positive employee relationships”, and may refer the recordings of her to police.

Secret recordings of MPs (and staff as per Todd Barclay) seems to be a trend, and a worrying one.

At the time, leader Simon Bridges said he didn’t believe there was an environment of abuse and power within the party. Barry also spoke out, saying bullying behaviour had “no place” in National.

The former staffer who spoke to the Weekend Herald said hearing that had made him feel sick.

“When you’re the subject of bullying investigations it takes gall to claim that Jami-Lee Ross was a one-off, that there are no other bullies that the party is aware of,” he said.

But the staffer said the final straw for going public was when he saw his former job advertised and feeling “awful” that the next person would go through the same experiences he had.

“I just couldn’t take it. Parliamentary Service as an employer has an obligation to ensure its staff are safe. They can’t guarantee that if they recruit someone to work for Maggie,” he claimed.

He said Parliamentary Service clearly knew about Barry’s behaviour – his manager from the service had even warned him during his induction Barry could be a difficult boss.

When he later complained to the manager that he was having trouble, he says he was told to document any inappropriate behaviour – which is why he had the recordings.

Ok, maybe appropriate, especially if something serious was revealed.

The former staffer supportive of Barry, who did not want her name published, said that Barry could be “firm”, but had never seen anything resembling bullying from Barry – though she added that everyone had different definitions.

“On different days, people have different sensitivities, and people have different lines of what they can and can’t tolerate.”

She was surprised when the personal grievance case surfaced and the other former staffer stopped coming to work.

“It came as a huge shock to me that that particular person didn’t step into the office again. I was blindsided. I was told not to contact him by Parliamentary Service. I had no idea.”

She also said that new staff members sometimes mistook parliamentary work for party work, and it often took time to realise what material, for example, should and should not carry a National Party logo.

Clare Curran was exposed in Parliament this week when it was revealed one of her electorate staff gave material to Work & Income offices that had Labour logos on it.

One thing is obvious – MPs and their workplace practices are suddenly under a lot of scrutiny.

A big day for Simon Bridges

Yesterday was an awful day for Simon Bridges, and for the National Opposition, but I actually think Bridges handled the mess reasonably well, stepping up in difficult circumstances, showing he may have some leadership abilities after all. To me he came across ok at his media conference, speaking better than normal – having to speak off the cuff on important matters, and no lame scripted platitudes nor his normal boilerplate criticism of the government.

There were signs of solid support from other National MPs like Judith Collins and Maggie Barry. I can imagine most if not all National MPs being very pissed off at what Jami-Lee Ross had inflicted on them, their party, and on their prospects in the next election. It was a possible sign of real solidarity rather than feigned fawning.

How Bridges handles today may determine whether he survives as National leader or dives irrecoverably.

The National caucus will meet to consider what to do about Ross over what now looks like his very likely leaking of Bridges’ expenses (the original offence), him almost certainly being the MP who sent messages asking for the inquiry to be called off because of mental health pressures (was that real or was it a desperate attempt to escape exposure), and his very clear deliberate damaging of Bridges and the National party yesterday.

Bridges also referred to other matters:

I also discussed with Jami-Lee other matters concerning his conduct that have come to my attention and suggest, together with the leak, a pattern.

MP Maggie Barry gave more of an indication what this referred to:

What a disloyal disgrace this flawed & isolated individual has become. Having now read the PWC report I personally believe the unpleasant & bullying pattern of behaviour of Jami Lee Ross has no place in an otherwise united National Caucus under our leader Simon Bridges.

I think that Bridges and National caucus have no option but to dump Ross from the caucus, on his behaviour yesterday alone.

How Bridges manages this publicly will show his mettle as a leader. If he is as decisive as he is able to be it may end up enhancing his leadership prospects.

There are limits. Ross cannot be removed as an electorate MP by anyone but himself or the voters at the next election. He could continue to spit the dummy, causing ongoing problems for Bridges, but his credibility is wrecked and if Bridges does ok handling it then he may build his leadership mana.

From what I’ve seen so far I don’t think the stuff yesterday about donations is a big deal. MPs and parties (plural) fiddle their donations, usually within lax rules, and generally the public don’t care much.

Yesterday looked more like an attempted hit job on Bridges. That may not harm him.

Ross also claimed to have a secret recording of Bridges “discussing with me an unlawful activity”. As Judith Collins said, he needs to “put up, or to shut up”. It also raises the question of whether making a secret recording is an unlawful activity itself. It is certainly political career ending action or threat.

Bridges has a chance of coming out of this ok, of actually looking like a leader. There will be difficulties and repercussions for National, but that’s what leaders have to deal with. If Bridges does it well his job may be more secure.

On the other hand if he fluffs it he will be toast.

So it’s a crucial day for Bridges and his leadership, and also for the National Party.

There’s an old saying in politics that goes something like ‘it’s not the original issue that causes the damage, it’s how it is handled’. The same could apply here.

I think voters know leaders will find themselves in difficult situations dealing with difficult people. That’s politics. The key here will be whether Bridges steps up as a leader to sort things out or not.

There were glimpses yesterday that this  could be the un-wimping of Bridges.

Extreme claims after to ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ campaign launch

David Seymour hopes his Member’s Bill on euthanasia will come up in Parliament for it’s first vote soon and has launched a campaign, but there has already been some ridiculous comments fro  National MPs Maggie Marry and Bill English.

NZH: Heated words from both sides as euthanasia vote nears

The first vote in Parliament on a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia is near but National MP Maggie Barry’s description of it as a “licence to kill’ and a disruption at Act leader David Seymour’s campaign launch in support of the bill showed how heated the issue will be.

That’s ridiculous from Barry. Bein an MP doesn’t give her a license to be stupid.

Seymour, whose bill was drawn from the ballot last term, launched the campaign at Parliament today alongside MPs from other parties, End of Life Choice’s Dr Jack Havill and Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales.

Seales unsuccessfully took the issue to the High Court after she was diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumour and died in 2015 soon after the High Court ruled it could not grant her wish and said it was up to Parliament to change the law.

The bill could get its first reading on Wednesday night or early next year.

The first reading of the End of Life Choice Bill is expected to be early next year and MPs will have a conscience vote on it.

Vickers, on a visit from New York, said Seales would have been delighted to see the legislation arrive at Parliament and urged MPs to support it.

“Obviously when she took the court case her ultimate goal was to get legislative change and this is the mechanism by which that happens. So she’d be very happy to see that this was going ahead.”

It has support from MPs in every party in Parliament.

It is a conscience vote for most MPs and those in support at the launch were Green leader James Shaw, National’s Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop, and Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway.

Nobody from NZ First was at the event and NZ First leader Winston Peters later said his party would support it at first reading but after that support would be conditional on whether a referendum was held on the issue. He said the public should decide – not 120 MPs.

His own ranks appeared split – MP Shane Jones said “I do not support euthanasia” but later clarified that did not mean he would not vote for it to be debated at select committee.

I don’t think it is a suitable issue for a referendum. MPs and parliament need to take responsibility for something like this.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would support the bill because she believed people should have choice.

“I will always look for safeguards in place to make sure no one is ever manipulated or left vulnerable. But I also support people having their own choice in those circumstances.”

Note that it is generally younger MPs in support of people making their own choices about their own lives.

National MP Maggie Barry was also vehemently opposed, saying it was a “licence to kill.” She said there were no protections for the disabled, the elderly or the vulnerable. “It would make us the most liberal country in the world to die.”

Extreme rhetoric.

However, National leader Bill English – a Catholic – said he did not support euthanasia and believed Seymour’s bill was worse than others that had come up because it lacked the necessary safeguards.

If it passes the first vote then suitable safeguards should come out of the committee stage.

In the lead up to the election, Bill English said it was wrong to link suicide and euthanasia ().

Today he said: “It’s going to be a bit tricky for Mr Seymour to answer the question as to why some suicides are good and some are bad.”

That’s a petty and pathetic comment from English.

End of Life Choice president Maryan Street urged MPs to at least let the bill go to select committee for submissions.

“That way they can find out what it is really about, the safeguards provided in it and the checks and balances to be followed. In those respects, it is similar to legislation in other jurisdictions around the world.”

She said there was strong public support for the move and MPs should consider that when weighing up their decision.

“We want people to have the confidence they have the choice to die well, not badly, at the end of a terminal illness or when they can no longer bear their irremediable condition. We want them to have a choice.”

I want to have a choice. I don’t want the Government and some MPs dictating what I can or can’t do with my own life.

I understand  that some people are against it – but they don’t have to speed up their own deaths.  It is aimed at being voluntary.

Ruataniwha wrangling to continue?

Conservation groups are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling that the Conservation Minister’s attempt to swap protected conservation land for farmland to make way for the Ruataniwha dam reservoir was not legally allowed, but the Government is threatening to change the law.  That hasn’t gone down well.

RNZ:  Ruataniwha dam: law-change plan branded arrogant

The government is arrogant if it thinks it can change the law to push through the Ruataniwha dam project, the Labour Party says.

Environment Minister Maggie Barry said the government would now consider legislating to ensure such land swaps could go ahead.

She said the government had long believed that under the conservation act it was allowed to swap a low value piece of conservation land for a piece of land with higher conservation values.

Labour’s Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said the conservation land being swapped for the irrigation scheme was not low quality.

“It’s a beautiful pristine area, looking down the valley, so giving that up for another piece of land … everybody knows it’s really swapping land so this dam could go ahead.”

Ms Whaitiri said it would be arrogant for the government to legislate to overturn the court’s ruling.

Green Party conservation spokesperson Mojo Mathers said the government wanted to destroy protected conservation land for its private developer mates.

She said it should just respect the court’s decision.

Threatening to legislate away a Supreme Court ruling does seem like arrogance – not a good thing to show in an election campaign.

Flooding conservation land to enable increased farm production is highly questionable with or without enabling legislation given clear signs production has reached unsustainable levels and natural waterways have been badly damaged as a result.

Video on demand to be censored?

The retiring Chief Censor seems to be bit peeved that the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why was available to view on demand without needing to be classified by the censor.

The Government say they are going to try to legislate to tighten things up on video  on demand, but I don’t know how it will work. Age restrictions would be futile. Slapping a rating on shows would barely make any difference if at all.

RNZ: Law to regulate video-on-demand likely later this year

The government says it hopes to introduce legislation to regulate video-on-demand broadcasting later this year.

The retiring Chief Censor, Andrew Jakk, has called for urgent action to regulate the new forms of broadcasting such as Netflix.

Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen recently said Netflix was able to circumvent the censorship office to air controversial show 13 Reasons Why, which showed a need for the law to be clarified.

The censor’s office classification of the show would come nearly a month after it was released.

I don’t follow this. Being an offshore provider of video I think that Netflix simply wasn’t required to have anything classified.  Or did they have to but didn’t need to wait until it was classified. That would be bizarre.

The government announced it would introduce legislation on the issue last August, but hasn’t yet done so.

The Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Maggie Barry, said the government intends to introduce the law change this year and refer it to a select committee.

She said the work had been complex, as the law needed to be future-proofed to allow for technological changes in the future.

Ms Barry said the new law would still exclude user-generated content and print media from regulation.

Print media are regulated by an industry body, the Press Council.

So user generated videos via Youtube, Facebook and many others will be excluded but commercial videos would have to be passed by the censor. Good luck with that.

What about live streaming which is becoming more common?

Video is easily available from around the world from many sources, trying to censor some of it must be of very questionable effectiveness.

I don’t know how they’re going to deal with this so that it is effective and fair.

More ‘predator free’ responses

NZH: Conservation Minister Maggie Barry on the Government’s predator free policy

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay today about the devastation caused by introduced predators such as possums, stoats and rats and how New Zealand has no obligation to see these animals as part of our ecosystem.

New Zealand First’s Richard Prosser claims that the move has the potential to be the worst unintentional ecological blunder of modern times.

Audio

NZH: Anti-1080 groups: Plan is ‘ludicrous’

Ban 1080 Party president Bill Wallace, of Nelson, dismissed it as a pipe dream.

“But it’s justification for another 34 years of spreading 1080 in ever-greater quantities,” Wallace said.

He doubted private companies would want to be associated with a poisoning programme in which animals died “slow and tortured deaths”.

“This is just ludicrous,” 1080 activist Laurie Collins, of Buller, said. “They know they haven’t got a hope in hell.”

Farmers Against Ten Eighty spokeswoman Mary Molloy, of Hari Hari…

… said the ideal was laudable but not feasible.

West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb…

…welcomed the announcement.

He said it would mean a lot more aerial jobs on the Coast, with follow-up ground work, which would also create some employment opportunities.

In terms of the councils putting in $2 for every $1 of private money, he noted a lot of the work would be on Government land.

Federated Farmers spokesman for pest management Chris Allen…

…said it fully supported the target, although noting it would take billions of dollars to achieve eradication using current technologies.

“Federated Farmers want an assurance that the money will be made available to investigate new strategies and technologies,” Allen said.

More from Prosser…

New Zealand First said it had the potential to derail into the worst unintentional ecological blunder of modern times.

The party’s primary industries and outdoor recreation spokesman Richard Prosser said birds and lizards had coexisted alongside ferrets and stoats for more than 130 years, cats for 200 years, and rats for more than 800.

As much as one third of native bird life has been lost. Many bird species are now endangered, as are tuatara and other lizards.

“The rat is the preferred food of the stoat, which only switches to preying on birds when rat populations are depleted,” Prosser said.

The intention of eliminating rats was so unrealistic as to be “bordering on the irrational”.

Green Party list MP Kevin Hague…

…said the $28m the Government was initially investing was “a drop in the bucket”.

To make Stewart Island predator free would cost up to $25m alone. In addition, DOC’s funding had been reduced by some $56m a year on the last Labour government budget, he said.

NZH Editorial: Predator purge best hope for precious fauna

The ambitious public-private project carries risks, and the financial commitment is a long way shy of the costs estimated by the Auckland study. Reaching the target rests partly on technology which does not yet exist, though Conservation Minister Maggie Barry believes that a “scientific breakthrough” will emerge to eradicate at least one small mammalian predator from New Zealand by 2025, less than a decade away.

Destructive introduced mammals have been in New Zealand for centuries. Rats arrived as long ago as 700 years, and other unwelcome invasive species followed. As much as one third of native bird life has been lost. Kiwi are expected to vanish from the mainland within 50 years unless their decline is arrested.

For decades now, tens of millions of dollars have been invested in pest control programmes, yet the survival of many remaining species is uncertain and the presence of predators is still entrenched. The goal of wiping them out, even with more funding and the outlines of a co-ordinated plan, will be extremely hard to achieve. To keep what we’ve got, there is really no other option.

Press editorial: Predator-free NZ a worthy goal but will the Government’s scheme fly?

Thirty-four years is a long time. In 2050, if the trap slams shut on the last remaining stoat or rat in New Zealand, we can judge as an incredible success the pest-control strategy just announced by John Key’s National Government.

Pragmatically, though, that target is many, many years away. How many members of the Government will still be in Parliament then? And the $28 million being put by the Government into the scheme is a very small amount, roughly the same that was spent on the failed effort to change the flag.

The idea deserves support, not least because finally the Government has shown an interest in protecting, and improving, our environment.

Commendably, the Government has set some interim goals to achieve by 2025, including having 1 million hectares where pests are suppressed or removed, and a scientific breakthrough capable of eradicating one small mammal predator. Such goals should help the strategy proceed on to and down the right track.

There have been successful public-private partnerships in the conservation sector. But do we really need a Crown entity to manage the process? Why not give the money instead to the beleaguered Department of Conservation, which has had millions of dollars cut out of its budgets for several years, to start the ball rolling?

 

Paddy’s flag crisis

Patrick Gower and Newshub seem to have concocted a flag crisis, claiming that the National Party is divided over it. It’s been obvious since the beginning and publicly known for months that National MPs have a variety of views on whether to change the flag or not.

Newshub ‘broke’ the news in dribs and drabs on Twitter.

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National MPs hold crisis meeting over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National Party leak about crisis meeting shows internal division over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 3m3 minutes ago
BREAKING – National Party leak shows numbers of MPs in support of flag change – and it is not good for John Key. More soon at Newshub

Newshub Breaking ‏@NewshubBreaking
#LEAKED: @maggiebarrynz’s emailed @NZNationalParty MPs urging them to join her for a meeting about a campaign to support changing the flag

Newshub ‏@NewshubNZ
.@patrickgowernz: Are @NZNationalParty MPs divided over @johnkeypm’s NZ flag change? http://bit.ly/249bIcI

That got a response:

Audrey Young ‏@audreyNZH
@NewshubNZ @patrickgowernz Yes, they are. See Isaac Davison’s poll on it. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11581277 …

That links to a January Herald article that details flag preferences of a number of MPs, including various preferences by National MPs.

After about twenty minutes Newshub linked to a news item:

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 24s24 seconds ago
National Party flag crisis meeting leak http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/leaked-nationals-flag-change-crisis-meeting-2016021714 …

This was initially very brief and was gradually added to.

Leaked: National’s flag change crisis meeting

Leaked National Party emails show its MPs are divided over John Key’s flag change and that a crisis meeting of MPs has been held to give the campaign a boost.

Of course key, Barry and other National MPs have denied there is any crisis, and it’s hard to see how it could be seen as a crisis.

An email obtained by Newshub shows that only 32 out of 59 National MPs were invited to a meeting about changing the flag today — meaning about 54 percent of Mr Key’s Caucus is in support.

It seems that most MPs were initially emailed and this email was to those who expressed an interest. Wow.

The email follows a Caucus meeting yesterday where the flag was discussed.d_maggie_email_17_02_new4

 

The meeting was later moved to Ms Barry’s office at the last minute.

d_maggie_2nd_email_17_02

(A 9.00 pm email for a 7.30 am meeting is hardly last minute).

Is it of public interest that some National MPs are having meetings about the flag? Slightly perhaps?

Is it a crisis? It’s very hard to see that. Ok, as Gower said on the 6 pm Newshub news it’s a bit newsy to political wonks that someone within the National caucus seems to have leaked him a couple of emails but he’s overdoing things somewhat.

The National caucus doesn’t even make any decision over the flag, MPs have no more voting power in the referendum than any of the rest of us.

Sure Key has a bit or a problem getting his flag change over the line with any sort of credibility. It was at best going to be close, neither he nor the flag panel have done great jobs, and opponents chose to make it a political shit fight rather than a genuine contest over flag change.

How can the National caucus be divided when there was never any claim or requirement for them to be united on the flag anyway?

Without a major shift in sentiment I think we will be stuck with drab old rag for another few decades at least, giving an important decision to people to decide has been hobbled by self interested parties and trashed by political activists. So those interested in a genuine democratic flag retention/selection opportunity have been shat on by those with political interests.

My take on this is that more direct democracy and power for the people is doomed due to the lack of responsibility and maturity of politicians and social media warriors.

People don’t deserve more power if they choose to trash opportunities to decide like adults like this.

The Herald have followed up Gower’s story with I don’t know what all this nonsense is about’ – John Key shoots down claims flag referendum is dividing caucus