Commissioner on climate change: “At the global level, I think it’s very grave’

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, released a report this week recommending a re-think on how greenhouse gases are treated.  He said we were depending too much on planting trees.

He was interviewed on Newshub nation yesterday, where he said on the scale of our warming emergency: “At the global level, I think it’s very grave”.

I don’t think this sort of over-dramatics from Newshub Nation helps a reasoned debate on climate change:

Transcript of the interview between Emma Jollif and Simon Upton:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, released a report this week recommending a re-think on how greenhouse gases are treated. He said we were depending too much on planting trees to offset emissions – particularly carbon dioxide. I spoke to Simon Upton and began by asking him about the UN’s warning we only have twelve years to avoid climate catastrophe.

Simon Upton: Okay, the Paris Agreement talks about the second half of the century to reach a balance between sources and sinks, and that’s really what I’m aiming at. If you could do better than that, fine. In fact, Paris talks about well below 1.5, I think that is an extraordinary stretch. But, yes, of course, there is urgency, but the reality is that it takes time to put investment into these new technologies to build entirely new systems.

If it’s only farmers who can offset the emissions using the trees, where’s the incentive for farmers to actually reduce their emissions, because that’s ultimately what we’ve got to do, isn’t it?

No, no, farmers do have to reduce their emissions. And my report’s quite clear on that. We can’t leave agricultural greenhouse gases where they are either. There has to be a reduction. And I am not one of those people who say, ‘Well, look, let’s plant some trees, and you don’t have to worry about agriculture.’ We do.

I think the two fit together nicely, but the government would need to develop a mechanism similar to the Emissions Trading Scheme that we have for fossil carbon. It would need something similar in the agricultural space.

This month Air New Zealand, Contact, Genesis and Z established a forest portfolio to sequester carbon and help meet their targets under the ETS. Isn’t that at odds with what you’re suggesting?

Look, what they’ve done is perfectly rational in the world that currently operates. Forest sinks are available. They’ve been on the table for the last 25 years. And so what they’re trying to do is to purchase a future supply of units that they can surrender. So they see the carbon price going up, so if they can plant some forest today, they can get some units.

And in the future, they can hand over those units and say, ‘We’ve met our obligation.’ So they’re doing a perfectly rational thing. The question I would ask is, whether that is actually the best thing for them to be spending money on?

Wouldn’t it be better, maybe, to be spending money on reducing emissions? Or if they can’t, then they’re going to have to pay the full price. And that will be passed on to consumers.

How would you describe the scale of our warming emergency?

At the global level, I think it’s very grave. I have not seen anything comforting, either about what will happen with climate or, to be honest, what will happen in terms of the human response. I think it’s a very significant problem, and it’s going to affect us probably in ways that we haven’t thought about. People say we need to adapt, and adaptation is going to mean being resilient, being in a position to cope with the unexpected.

I’d really make this point — this economy, more than most developed economies, is absolutely reliant on what nature provides, in terms of ecosystem services; we are reliant on what comes from the ocean, we’re reliant on what comes from the land.

And so it’s very much in our interests that we can hang on to the best of what we’ve got there. Because we’re not Singapore, we’re not all living in buildings doing work virtually on things; we’re actually out there in the environment. And if that environment is no longer as friendly as it was, we are going to be severely hit.

Newshub Nation – Simon Bridges on CGT and other tax questions

Will Michael Cullen front up on Nation next? (for $1k a day).

Is our tax system fair as it stands? Fair to whom? It’s a bit of an impossible question.

Phil Twyford on the new Housing and Urban Development Authority

The new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) is going to have broad powers including being able to ignore existing council designations, amend or write its own by-laws and grant its own resource consent, and councils will have no veto power. “It’s going to be a tooled-up agency that can cut through the red tape” – Minister Phil Twyford.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that dismays some councils.


There will be ‘no change’ for Housing NZ tenants under the new Housing and Urban Development Authority

It is a shame that HUDA needs to be given extraordinary powers like this, other than making the Resource Management act fit for purpose.

More from and interview with Twyford on Nation yesterday:

  • Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says the new Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUDA) will act “in partnership” with local iwi, councils and the private sector. “We’re creating a really joined-up one-stop shop that can sit alongside the council and unlock these big developments and allow us to crack into it with pace and scale.”
  • Mr Twyford said while the agency will also contain Housing New Zealand subsidiary HLC, becoming the Government’s primary provider for housing, there would be no change for HNZ tenants. “There will be no significant difference for those people. I want to reassure them that their rent, their tenancy arrangements, their houses – that’s not going to change at all.”
  • The HUDA will have broad powers, including being able to ignore existing council designations, amend or write its own by-laws and grant its own resource consent, and councils will have no veto power. “It’s going to be a tooled-up agency that can cut through the red tape,” said Mr Twyford.
  • He said land use regulation and the rules that govern development projects had been solely in the hands of councils and that was “not working”. “We have to change things, and we’re putting central government in there to work alongside councils.”
  • He said he hoped the authority will mean developments could go “from concept to building within 12 months”.
  • Mr Twyford said the HUDA will have a $100 million injection to get it started but will also have access to Kiwibuild and Housing NZ Funds, because state homes and Kiwibuild funds would be part of the projects.
  • The HUDA will also have the power of forced acquisition, where private land owners can be can be forced to sell to make way for a development – but the minister says the powers are just “in the back pocket”. “I don’t think it’s likely at all that someone’s private property or their house will be acquired for one of these projects.”
  • Mr Twyford said the cost of Kiwibuild had not been underestimated, and he would not be asking for more funds in the next budget. He said the point of the $2 billion fund was to be “recycled over and over”.
  • He said victims of the meth testing debacle would soon be compensated. “Every tenant who has come forward and has their eligibility for payment under the scheme we set up, we will get their payments [to them] before Christmas.” He said Housing New Zealand was proactively working with MSD to try and track down people eligible for compensation who haven’t yet come forward.
  • He said those who had been unfairly kicked out of homes were being prioritised on the HNZ waiting list. “People should not be living in cars. And my advice is that Housing New Zealand is doing everything it can to make sure that people who were affected in that way, that that situation is put right.”

Full interview transcript at Scoop.

Winston Peters refuses to back up phone claims and denials re Wally Haumaha

In Parliament this week National MP Chris Bishop accuses Winston Peters of Wally Haumaha contact

Today I can also reveal that Winston Peters rang Wally Haumaha after the inquiry into his appointment was announced. He gave him assurances, or words to that effect, that things would be OK. That is deeply, wildly inappropriate. Mr Peters needs to explain who invited him to the marae, why he rang Wally Haumaha to assure him that things would be OK despite an inquiry into his appointment, and why he thinks Mr Haumaha should stay in the role while he is subject to two separate investigations, with a third on the way.

Peters denied this (Stuff) – Wally Haumaha phone call claims: Winston Peters says he doesn’t use landline

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says his phone records clear him of making a call to under-fire top cop Wally Haumaha – but he can’t explain how he got hold of them.

Neither the Parliamentary Service nor the Department of Internal Affairs received a request to provide the records on Wednesday.

In a press release issued to deny claims made by National MP Chris Bishop, Peters said: “I have not called nor had any reason to call Mr Haumaha since the controversy. My office has checked all my phone records since the inquiry was announced. No such call was made.”

When pressed by Stuff on Thursday about how he got the records so quickly, he said: “Got my staff to get it… I can’t tell you how. I trust my staff.”

Peters says he doesn’t use a landline phone.

Asked if he could have used another phone, he replied: “Oh, what went down down to a telephone booth you mean? To the best of my memory, no such thing happened and I got my staff to check it out, just to be safe.”

Later, a spokesman for Peters clarified to Stuff:

“The phone bills get sent to the office each month and are readily accessible. The bills itemise calls made and received…We then asked around for Mr Haumaha’s phone number (so we knew what we were looking for) and cross checked that way.”

Peters was asked for clarification on Newshub Nation this morning:

Lisa Owen: National alleged in parliament that you rang deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha to reassure him aftter an inquiry was launched into his appointment and the circumstances of that employment. You say that your office checked your phone records and there was not call. So I just want to be clear, does that include any and every phone that you could have used to make the call, and was there any other contact using any other means with Mr Haumaha from you?

Winston Peters: I can’t, I can’t believe, I can’t believe you’re wasting my or your viewership’s time. Mr Bishop said he had a revelation, and if he’s got a revelation why hasn’t he shown you that? That’s what a revelation means. No, he made a vile allegation, couldn’t prove it, and now you’re asking me questions about it.

Lisa Owen: Yeah well you could clear it up. Yes or no, have they checked all your phones if you have had contact with Wally Haumaha…

Winston Peters: No, I’ll, no I’ll clear it up by going, no Lisa, we’ll go to the original source who promised all you journalists a revelation. What was that revelation?

Lisa Owen: But you would know who would best know whether you’ve spoken to Wally Haumaha, you, do you not want to give a clear answer…

Winston Peters: That’s, that’s not the way our society, our democracy or our standards of law works. You just can’t make baseless allegations without putting up the facts. he hasn’t, and why aren’t you talking to him about that and not wasting my time?

Funny and highly ironic.

Peters has made a political career out of making allegations, and a number of times not delivered any evidence, but instead demanded that the media or the police investigate and find evidence for him. They usually haven’t obliged.

The way our democracy and our media are supposed to work is that journalists ask questions to hold politicians to account.

Peters has already tried a denial, and when held to account on that has switched to refusing to answer a simple but comprehensive question.

He could make a clear statement that he made no such call, but by refusing to do that leaves people to make their own conclusions.

I think that it is reasonable to see this as Peters trying to avoid being called out for making a call to Haumaha, and then being caught out trying to fabricate a denial.

And i think it is fair to ask and investigate how close peters and NZ First were to Haumaha and to his appointment, which raises valid questions about their involvement in setting up the inquiry.

More of the Peters interview:

Jacinda Ardern interview on the Nation

An interview with Jacinda Ardern will be on Newshub Nation this morning. I think she has already left for a visit to the US and United nations, so I presume this is a pre-recorded interview.

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to the United Nations, Lisa Owen sat down with to ask who holds the power in her Government and whether Labour will campaign with its current partners in the next election

I’ve got more important things to do this morning. I’ll post details of then interview later in the day.

“We need to be honest about the descriptors…” – yeah, right. Most political journalists pointedly still refer to it as a ‘Labour-led government’ but Ardern and Labour MPs go out of their way to avoud saying that.

“I’ve many many times called us the purest form of MMP government that we’ve ever had” – repeating nonsense doesn’t stop it from being ridiculous nonsense.

Lisa Owen: In your year as Prime Minister have you at any point misled the public?

Jacinda Ardern: “I certainly, ah, I certainly set out to never mislead the public. Wil I make mistakes? Yes, but never is that my intention.”

Lisa Owen: And you haven’t misled the public in your year in the top job.

Jacinda Ardern: “It is never my intention, ah you know, I’m never going to say I’m not fallible and make the odd mistake, but i never set out to mislead”.

Even if she never sets out to paint a less than fully open and transparent picture, she has been caught out not being fully open and transparent and she has not done a god job of rectifying mistakes if that’s what they are.


Bridges steps up after Ardern drops out of Newshub Nation

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern pulled out of two scheduled interviews, citing ‘a diary problem’.

Newshub:  Prime Minister pulls out of Newshub Nation and Q+A weekend appearances

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her planned appearances on both Newshub Nation and TVNZ’s Q+A this weekend, saying there was an issue with her diary.

Ms Ardern’s chief press secretary told Newshub Nation on Wednesday the Prime Minister would not be appearing on the show because he got the date of the interview wrong.

“There’s been bit of a diary issue in my team. There’s no question I remain very much available for any issue of the day,” Ms Ardern said on Thursday.

“This was a simple diary issue.”

Justifiably that was views with some scepticism.

It’s the third time the Prime Minister has pulled out of a scheduled interview with Newshub Nation in the past year. The other interviews were planned for August and February.

The Government is dealing with fall-out from Clare Curran’s resignation, the inquiry into Meka Whaitiri allegedly assaulting a staff member, and apparent ructions over employment lawthe refugee quota and Crown-Maori relations.

Failing to front up leaves Ardern open to accusations of avoiding scrutiny when the going gets tough, again justifiably.

Pulling out of prime interviews tends to annoy media. Newshub have responded with:

National Party leader Simon Bridges will appear on Newshub Nation in Ms Ardern’s place.

Ardern and her spin machine can hardly complain about that.

That could be misleading, Bridges is not “currently polling at just ten percent”, unless Newshub have just done a new poll. The last Newshub,Reid Research poll was 17-24 May (9%) and the last 1 News/Colmar poll 28 July – 1 August (10%). A lot has happened in politics since then. Ardern returned as Prime Minister after the last of those two polls.

This is an opportunity for Bridges to take advantage of Ardrn’s absence, if he is capable of doing that.

Simon Bridges says he ‘doesn’t take it lightly’ that he is only polling around 10 percent as leader but says ultimately it’s the party vote that count.

He’s right, but will continue to be battered by low leadership polling.

He says he ‘doesn’t really think about’ the person who leaked his expense.

The questioning around polls, leadership and the leak were largely a pointless exercise.

Bridges stepped up as well as a damp blanket can.

Nation interview – Marama Davidson

Green co-leader is calling for an enforceable warrant of fitness for rental homes – a regime that will check out rental properties before they can take on tenants.

She said this policy hasn’t been costed, and it is Green policy so won’t necessarily get Government support.

When challenged on the apparent dominance of NZ First in policy achievements Davidson repeatedly rattles off Green achievements.

She says that the Greens always have been and remain a strong feminist party when challenged over her ‘c-word’ campaign – she seems to have learnt from that misstep and responded fairly well here.

Green candidate John Hart:

Interesting question from to about whether the Greens are an equal partner in Govt, based on NZ First and Green wins. So much depends on what each base wants, is willing to budge on, not just the number or $ value of policy wins.

But it would be fascinating to see an attempt at an objective metric

Nation: Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis on reducing prisoner numbers

I think it’s fair to say that Kelvin Davis has been quite disappointing in his public appearances as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Corrections.

He has taken part in this week’s Justice Summit, which has been trying to kick off discussions on how to reduce the currently surging prisoner numbers.

As Davis is also Minister for Crown/Māori Relations, and about half of male prisoners and a greater proportion of female prisoners are Maori, he has some work to do to try to address things.

Kelvin Davis (NZH): Letting prisoners vote brings them closer to society and takes them further from crime

Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis has spoken in favour of prisoners having the right to vote, saying it is an important part of reducing reoffending.

He said those who had been in prison were more likely to offend – and in doing so, create more victims of crime – if they were excluded from society.

I think there’s likely to be much more important factors than being able to vote.

Davis was a constant throughout the summit with his department, Corrections, coming in for greater scrutiny and criticism than others in the justice system.

He spent the two days speaking to attendees from the stage, listening to criticism from the floor and later seeking out critics to better understand their frustration.

For Davis, it is personal. Maori are far more likely than non-Maori to be victims of crime – and more likely to be revictimised.

Maori make up 15 per cent of the population but 51 per cent of the prison population – and half of those inmates are Ngapuhi, as is Davis.

“These are family, these are friends, these are whanaunga (relatives) of mine – I want my tribe to succeed in every way possible, culturally, socially, economically. We’re not going to do that by locking people up.”

The discussion about reforming the criminal justice system was easier with Maori, he said, because the disproportionate burden felt by Maori meant “they get it straight away”.
Justice statistics show Maori have 660 people per 100,000 in prison against New Zealand European numbers of 93 per 100,000.

Davis said: “It’s harder with other parts of the general population.”

Odd comments. It seems that Maori don’t get what they need to take ownwership of and responsibility for in order to reduce their high crime, imprisonment and recidivism rates.

Newshub Nation this morning: As the Government’s Criminal Justice Summit draws to a close, Lisa Owen asks Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis how he’ll achieve the bold target of reducing inmate numbers by 30 per cent in 15 years

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says the govt has reduced the prison population by 600 in six months – but he wants more ideas about how to reduce it further. It’s a good start he says.

Lisa Owen puts to Davis that the increase in police numbers will result in more prisoners – there’s an OIA saying that – Davis is emphasising the police taking a preventative approach.

Nation: Shane Jones on new “infrastructure entity”

‘Infrastructure entity’ is an odd description for a new layer of bureaucracy.

On Newshub Nation this morning:

This week Minister Shane Jones announced an independent commission to tackle New Zealand’s massive infrastructure deficit. Simon Shepherd asks him how the agency can avoid becoming another layer of bureaucracy

Beehive blurb:

New infrastructure entity to help drive economic growth and wellbeing

A new independent entity will be established so New Zealand gets the quality infrastructure investment it needs to improve long-term economic performance and social wellbeing, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced today.

Speaking at the annual Building Nations Symposium in Auckland, Shane Jones said the new entity would provide greater certainty to the industry and better advice to Ministers to ensure adequate, long-term planning and investment happens.

“When we first came into Government, it quickly became clear that we’re facing a major infrastructure deficit with no plan to tackle it. We’ve struggled to get a clear picture from officials of its scale, when it would hit us the worst and in which sectors.

“Treasury is currently unable to properly quantify the value of the deficit we’re facing – it doesn’t hold accurate or up-to-date information about all infrastructure projects across all sectors and advises that agencies themselves may not necessarily know the extent of their future capital needs.

“This is just not good enough. This Government has a firm eye on the future and not just the next few years. We’re determined to improve economic performance, and social and environmental wellbeing for generations to come and getting on top of our infrastructure challenge is key.

“That means ensuring New Zealand can make the timely and quality investments in vital infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, transport networks, water and electricity. And it means being open to innovative solutions to sourcing the capital we need.

“We’ve listened to industry and local government – they need greater visibility of our infrastructure needs. 

“This new entity will provide that certainty so we can make the right investments, in the right places and the right time.

“We’re already making a significant dent in our infrastructure deficit. Net capital spending in the next five years will be more than double that of the previous five years with the Government investing about $42 billion through to 2022.

“This is a good start, but we need to do better over the long term and I’m confident the new infrastructure entity will help us really sharpen our planning for the future.

“Treasury will now lead the development of the detailed policy working alongside key industries and I’ll report back to Cabinet early next year with options on how to structure the new organisation,” Shane Jones said.

It is anticipated the new infrastructure entity will be operational by late 2019.

That was quite a different Shane Jones to what we usually see in Parliament. He didn’t stray into flowery crap. It was a fairly forthright performance, saying what he wanted to do, saying what he couldn’t do because of limits imposed by government agreements (especially in the spending cap), he criticised past governments including his then Labour government under Helen Clark, and also (t an extent) praised National initiatives and cooperation.

Apparently the ‘infrastructure entity’ was a National policy that Jones has taken on.

Shane Jones says this infrastructure agency should provide “greater credibility, more certainty, more confidence” for the construction industry

“I’ve got zero patience for the iwi leaders group, I’m more interested in the Indians and the cowboys because they’re the ones who vote for me” – Shane Jones on consultation with Māori freshwater advisory group

Nation: Grant Robertson on the state of the economy

I think he easily met this target.

The Finance Minister says he shares some of the business community’s concerns, such as global trade tensions and their impact on our economy.

…strikes are the result of “nine years of frustration with previous government”

…says “we want our government agencies to have best practice procurement… we have put the word out to our Ministries that they should be abiding.