“The Govt was afraid of the political backlash if it left Auckland in lockdown”

It looked to me like the Government was something like “afraid of the political backlash if it left Auckland in lockdown”, and appeasing Auckland is part of the reason for keeping the rest of the country in level 2 when there is no Covid cases anywhere else apart from a handful in Tokoroa.

But I don’t think the Government “is now letting the rest of NZ do it’s dirty work for it”.

Response from the rest of the country has been mixed.

Stuff: Auckland visitors welcomed back to Queenstown and Christchurch

Queenstown businesses say they are thrilled to welcome Auckland visitors back to the region after a quiet few weeks.

Air New Zealand had seven direct flights scheduled to land in Queenstown on Monday bringing thousands of visitors to the region.

Aucklanders rushed to book holidays in the resort following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that level-three lockdown, which prevented domestic travel from the city, would be lifted on Monday.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said the arrival of Aucklanders back in Queenstown was fantastic, from an economic point of view.

“Auckland is our largest single market by a country mile, and we definitely need to keep our economy going as hard as we can.

“It’s great to see them here,” he said.

Some Aucklanders headed for Christchurch where Marissa Palmer, 34, said a small number of people were not following social distancing rules at Auckland Airport.

“They’re just simple rules … it’s not rocket science,” she said.

Simple rules? I’m not clear on what the current rules are.

Restrictions of people from Auckland like above Taupo running race example are obviously happening, and there are a lot of concerns about a surge in internal travel from Auckland around the country.

Actually Jacinda Ardern has asked Aucklanders not to attend mass gatherings elsewhere in the country, but in some cases this seems to be being ignored.

NZH: Aucklanders heading to Queenstown for tech conference

A conference being held in Queenstown this week includes at least one Aucklander as a guest, despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for people from the city to avoid mass gatherings.

It comes amid concern of Covid-19 spreading from Auckland, and with memories fresh of a significant cluster — linked to 39 cases — emerging from the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown in March.

The Morgo conference is being held at the Heritage Hotel on Thursday and Friday.

Having Aucklanders attending the conference appears to directly contravene Ardern’s plea on Sunday calling for people from the city to avoid mass gatherings.

“Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it is not in Auckland,” she said.

NZH: Aucklanders shouldn’t be going to Queenstown for conferences – Chris Hipkins

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is not comfortable with Aucklanders travelling to conferences in Queenstown and has called on the city’s residents to “do the right thing”.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is not comfortable with Aucklanders travelling to conferences in Queenstown and has called on the city’s residents to “do the right thing”.

“We are asking Aucklanders to continue to take their alert level restrictions with them.”

Aren’t we more or less at the same alert level throughout New Zealand now?

It’s quite confusing with all of the country at alert level 2 but with some special sub-rules for Auckland.

The alert level restrictions in Auckland meant people should not be attending gatherings of more than 10 people in the city, he said.

“So if Aucklanders are travelling to other parts of the country the same rules should apply.”

The Government was asking for “goodwill” from Aucklanders, he said.

“We are asking for Aucklanders to play their part as they have done over the last three weeks in keeping the country safe.

“There is never going to be a 100 per cent enforceable system when it comes to these types of restrictions so we are asking people to do the right thing.”

It has been shown already that people bending and breaking rules will happen, so it’s a concern if the Government is relying on appeals to the public rather than rules.

This looks messy.

Daily update with Level 2 details

Alert Level 2 restrictions announced (but not in force yet):

  • Businesses can restart for staff and customers if they’re able to do so safely.
  • Bubbles can cease
  • Domestic travel recommences
  • Schools and early learning centres can open
    Distance learning will be available for those unable to attend school, for example where people are self-isolating.
  • Gatherings both indoors and outdoors are limited to 100 people
  • Public places reopen
  • Sport and recreation comes back on-stream, including professional sports competitions
  • Home gatherings must be kept small
  • Hospitality must follow the three S’s – seated, separated, single-server

Alert Level 2 will see significantly more activity open up across the country requiring New Zealanders to play it safe and remain vigilant so the virus doesn’t bounce back, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“In a nutshell, Level 2 is a safer normal designed to get as many people back to work as possible and the economy back up and running in a safe way, made possible only by our collective actions at Levels 4 and 3 to beat the virus and break the chain of transmission.

“On Monday, May 11, we will make a decision on whether to move, taking into consideration the best data and advice we can, recognising the impact of restrictions, and ensuring we don’t put at risk all of the gains we have made.

“We need to balance the risk of the virus bouncing back against the strong desire to get the economy moving again.

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/alert-level-2-restrictions-announced

Internal tourism will be ok as long as other rules are complied with – no large groups allowed.

Details:  Alert Level 2


Dr Ashley Bloomfield with the daily numbers.

1 new confirmed case (household contact of a known cluster), total now 1,489

1,332 recovered (89% of cases)

2 people in hospital, no further deaths (total still 21).

A record number of tests yesterday 7,323 – total now 168,023

Dr Bloomfield says the initial review of exemptions has been completed, and found that all decisions had been made correctly in terms of process and findings, but if they were made again under the updated process and findings from the recent High Court case some would be allowed. As a result one person has been able to leave quarantine.

The “updated process and findings” are what has been determined by the High Court.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

Businesses can restart for staff and customers, and services can be provided, but still consider if you have to be there in person. Flexibility but basic hygiene requirements are needed.

Cafes, restaurants and bars can reopen but social distancing with number limiting and cleaning etc required.

  • People must be seated, maximum number 100 in one place
  • People must be separated – social distancing required
  • Each table must have a single table server.

Contact tracing will be important with recording of who is in premises.

Hairdressers and beauty provides will need PPE gear.

Gatherings – maximum of 100 inside, but outdoor gatherings will be also be limited to 100 (last time on level 2 it was 500).

Weddings, religious services and funerals will be able to resume with the 100 maximum limit.

The same for public places like museums and markets, also pools. Clubs will be able to start up again.

Professional sport will be able to resume on a domestic level. No stadium crowds but sport can be played.

You no longer need to stick to the bubble, you will be able to visit family and friends, but advised to keep numbers small. More details ‘in the coming days’.

Moving around the country – travel is ok but what you do when you get there is important and must comply with the other rules.

“At alert level 2 playing it safe means two metres from strangers, but in your workplace or places where you’re around people you know or people we can contact trace later, we can live with less.”

Education – schools and early learning services can reopen. Some children will remain at home if at risk of Covid.

If there is a case identified at a school it will immediately shut down for 72 hours until things are assessed.

Schools will reopen on the Monday following the shift down to level 2.

Mothers Day this Sunday – still at Level 3 so only remote contact.

“Level 2 is now our new normal” (when we get there).

These details to be confirmed via official information when available online.

Questions, no Government answers on KiwiSaver fossil fuels ban

The ban on default Kiwisaver accounts investing in fossil fuels that was announced yesterday remains vague, with the Government making unsupported claims and saying they will provide details later.

So it looks more like yesterday was more campaign PR exercise than solid plan.

I wonder if the Green Party are hoping that the details can wait until after this year’s election – and hoping they don’t have to worry about being vetoed by NZ First. Notably their were three Ministers involved in the announcement, Kris Faafoi and Grant Robertson (both Labour) and James Shaw (Greens). The elephant wasn’t in that room, but is trying to get re-elected in a pivotal role.

Newsroom asks more than Three questions about the KiwiSaver fossil fuels ban

The reason the Government is making its announcement now is the terms of the nine existing default providers expire in June 2021, and the newly-announced rules will apply to anyone wanting to run a default fund after that.

So the actual rules may not be clear until next year.

A vague claim in the Beehive promotion of the policy seems misleading: “In 2017, the $47 billion NZ Superannuation Fund adopted a climate change investment strategy that resulted in it removing more than $3 billion worth of stocks that exceed thresholds for either emissions intensity or fossil fuel reserves, without negatively affecting performance. So we know that moving away from investments in fossil fuels doesn’t have to mean lower returns.”

Newsroom:

Perhaps the highest-profile model – and the one quoted in the Government’s release – is the NZ Super Fund. But that fund, while putting considerable store on its Climate Change Investment Strategy and its carbon exclusion methodology, is proudly not fossil fuel-free.

…what the announcement doesn’t mention is the Super Fund has kept the top performing emitters in its portfolio. “Stocks in the top quartile of the “Carbon Emissions” score – reflecting less risk due to better management than their peers with respect to climate issues – have been retained in the portfolio,” Super Fund spokesman Conor Roberts says.

So this sounds like prudent investing – getting out of risky fossil fuel companies but keeping investments in “top performing emitters”.

Question 1: How do you define investment in fossil fuels production? Which companies fall into the category of banned investments?

Some are pretty straightforward. Oil companies Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil are presumably out. But what about NZ petrol distributor and retailer Z Energy?

What about ANZ, BNZ or Westpac, with their huge loans to Australian mining companies? As one commentator put it to Newsroom: “A decent whack of KiwiSaver funds are going to Australia and if you are investing in Australian banks you are knee deep in fossil fuels.”

Then there are the huge international funds. Warren Buffett’s mega-fund management company Berkshire Hathaway has an energy division that owns a number of coal-fired power stations

What about companies that are huge users of (and therefore encouragers of) fossil fuels production? Toyota or Volkswagen, the world’s largest producers of fossil fuel-driven cars; Fonterra, whose coal-fired milk processing plants make it one of the country’s top CO2 emitters; Air NZ, whose search for alternative fuel sources hasn’t come to much so far.

That’s a question I have already asked. It’s an important one that hasn’t come close to being answered yet.

There’s no definition of “fossil fuel production” in the Government’s press release. There’s also no information on whether the Government is going to give default KiwiSaver providers guidance on what exactly it means by “excluding investment in fossil fuels”.

When Newsroom asked  Kris Faafoi’s office for clarification, spokesman Peter Stevens told us only: “The Government will provide more detail on the threshold and definition of the exclusion before calling for tenders, as part of the process to appoint new KiwiSaver default providers.”

That sounds like next year, after the election.

As one KiwiSaver provider, who didn’t want to be named, told Newsroom. “Is the Government deliberately leaving it open, or are they going to come back later and tell providers they actually had a more specific idea how this is going to be interpreted?”

It’s not even clear whether it will be defined by the Government.

Question 2: What evidence does the Government have that its fossil fuels-free strategy won’t harm the financial performance of New Zealanders’ retirement savings?

Faafoi: ““It also makes sense for the funds themselves given that there is a risk of investing in stranded assets as the world moves to reduce emissions.”

And: “So we know moving away from investments in fossil fuels doesn’t have to mean lower returns.”

Which is only vaguely reassuring, particularly given the fact the Super Fund made a calculated decision not to get out of fossil fuels entirely – see above.

The Government appears to be assuming that it knows better than KiwiSaver fund managers what investment strategy is right for their fund in terms of risks and returns.

Which coincides with their climate change mitigation ideals.

“I’m not convinced government should be the arbiter on where the best returns can be generated in a portfolio,” one KiwiSaver manager told Newsroom. “If the objective of KiwiSaver is to make as much return for investors as possible, then fund manager should have freedom where they invest.”

But what would they know about investing, especially compared to politicians who have experience in investing in their own interests.

Question 3: Isn’t shareholder activism one way to produce positive change? But that means you have to be a shareholder.

…these days there’s another argument increasingly being heard in the investment community.

Why investing in coal mines could (maybe) be ‘responsible investment’.

Berridge argued that investors, particularly large ones, should be engaging actively and openly with companies whose products, activities or business models they are concerned about.

“If you are an investor in a ‘bad’ company and you vote for change, you have a chance to make a difference,” Berridge told me. “But if you invest just in ‘good’ companies, there is an argument your vote makes no difference.

“For an individual looking at a KiwiSaver fund, for example, there is an argument that choosing a provider or a fund which feels good is not helping things. It’s the weakest method of trying to make a difference.”

The move by the New Zealand Government to ban investments in fossil fuel companies risks being counterproductive, another KiwiSaver manager told Newsroom.

“There is a real danger we are shooting ourselves in the foot here. If our voices aren’t heard at the board table there’s a risk that progress towards emissions reduction goals could be slower.”

Maybe the Government is planning on forcing companies to change so shareholders won’t have to. Again that’s  questionable interference by the Government.

Waters are muddied still further by the fact that some companies that are heavy producers or users of fossil fuels are also putting a lot of money into trying to move towards renewable energy. Majority Finnish government-owned oil company Neste is also one of the largest producers of renewable diesel in the world.

Companies heavily involved in fossil fuels have plenty of incentive to diversify into clean energy alternatives to position themselves well for the future. If they lose investors they may be less able to do that.

With the lack of details yesterday’s announcement was more of a Labour-Green PR exercise than a definitive plan. They will probably use it in their campaigning this year. We re unlikely to know what their new investment rules will actually mean for people who invest via Kiwisaver.

 

 

Immigration rules discriminatory

An item on Sunday raised ‘serious serious questions’ about NZ’s refugee policy, which has a special rule that requires that refugees from Africa and the Middle East must have family in New Zealand to qualify. And the Minister of Immigration agrees that it is a discriminatory rule and says that Cabinet is reviewing the rule.

1 News: Is it racist? ‘Very serious questions’ raised about fairness of NZ’s refugee policy

New Zealand’s refugee policy is discriminating against vulnerable people from Africa and the Middle East, a TVNZ Sunday investigation has found.
In 2009, the then-National Government introduced the “family link” policy, requiring refugees from Africa and the Middle East to have an existing family connection to New Zealand.

The “family link” rule doesn’t apply to refugees from the Asia-Pacific or the Americas.

While some Middle Eastern refugees have been brought in under emergency intakes, including from Syria, the main refugee quota has been heavily affected by this policy.

New Zealand has been unable to meet its refugee targets for Africa and the Middle East over the past decade.
Refugee leaders and community organisations told Sunday that the policy is racist and unfair.

The “family link” policy has been criticised by Amnesty International and World Vision. Both organisations say they have lobbied the Government, asking for a change in the policy. Those efforts have been unsuccessful.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt told Sunday that he would be “very disappointed if different rules were being applied to refugees from different geographic regions without very good reasons for such an approach”.

In a statement, the UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – told TVNZ that refugee laws should be applied “without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin”.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway refused to be interviewed, saying that the issue is before Cabinet and he hopes to make an announcement later in the year.

However on Monday Lees-Galloway responded – Immigration Minister agrees Middle East, Africa refugees rules are discriminatory

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the rules were inherited from the previous government and were being reviewed.

He told Morning Report the official advice he has received was clear about the difficulties with the current quota system.

“They told me that it’s difficult to source sufficient numbers of people to meet the targets that were set by the previous government with that policy in place.

“And that is something that we will need to take into consideration if we want to change the proportion of people that we take from various regions from around the world.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said quota rules run for three years and a government decision about the next three years was “imminent”.

I don’t buy the three year rule claim. Governments change rules when they want to.

It is good that the clear discrimination is being reviewed – but I presume it will require agreement from NZ First to change.

 

Rules of the game

Rule 1 of the political/blogging game – there are no rules. But that doesn’t mean it has to operate like the wild west.

Some blogs like to play dirty. One in particular likes to brag about playing dirty and has said a number of times that dirty is they only way worth playing. That blog has also been whining a lot about being cut out of the loop and ignored. And whine about others playing dirty. So they try more dirt. Hypocrites and poor  learners.

Robust debate is encouraged here. Challenging crap from others is encouraged here. That will mean some people will get their noses out of joint and react badly.

It’s important to not lower to their level. Keep to facts and fair opinion.

They insist on the dirty way -they are trying to antagonise and inflame and smear. They have trouble dealing with it when they are politely confronted.

I’m insisting on keeping it decent here. It’s possible, and overall far more effective – to argue reasonably when you argue strongly.

In the heat of discussions things will inevitably get a bit messy at times. We can cut a bit of slack on that usually.

But calculated and deliberate dirt is not welcome here. If that’s your game please disgrace yourself somewhere else.

There’s no rules of the game here. But we should all apply human decency in what we do.

If you get overheated and say anything here you regret then do the decent thing and retract, apologise, or whatever you think is appropriate. If you want to withdraw what you’ve said get in touch and I’ll edit for you.

Keep reasonable alongside robust, and don’t do the dirt here that others do elsewhere.