Waitangi – inclusion, protest and handouts

It is to be expected that there there will be some sort of protests and attention seeking leading up to or on Waitangi Day. That is sort of a tradition. If there are protests the media will be on to them – they can sometimes dominate coverage, even though they are only a small part of proceedings.

Inclusiveness has been promoted in the form of earpieces for politicians so they can hear translations of speeches (presumably the ones spoken in Māori).

NZ Herald: Changes for official powhiri at Waitangi

For the first time, politicians and dignitaries will be given earpieces to hear the translated words of their hosts during the official welcome to Waitangi next week.

The powhiri was until recently held at Ti Tii Marae. It was moved over concerns the event had become a “circus” and moved to Te Whare Runanga on the upper marae at the Treaty Grounds.

The idea was that of Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, who has also introduced changes to the way the powhiri on February 5 is conducted.

“We’re trying to build on the good atmosphere that was generated last year, and the idea is to return dignity and decorum to proceedings,” Davis told the Weekend Herald.

“In previous years, whoever was the government would go on and be bolstered by officials and CEs and there’d be a big jostle for position, and the Opposition was just left to fend for themselves at a later powhiri.”

All parties had agreed to go on as one group this year for one parliamentary powhiri.

“We’ve organised the simultaneous translation earpieces for everybody. It’s about being inclusive and I think it’s the way New Zealand needs to head, where everybody understands what everyone’s saying so we don’t talk past each other,” said Davis.

“It’s a small thing but I think it means a lot to those people who in the past felt excluded. We want to celebrate New Zealand’s day, and it all started here in Waitangi.”

John Key stopped going to Waitangi events after 2015, and Bill English chose not to go while national leader, but Simon Bridges has decided to attend.

“I think every leader has to make their own decision. For me, it’s my first opportunity as leader to do it. I’m really keen to and I’m looking forward to it. It’s our country’s day. The Treaty of Waitangi is so clearly part of the fabric of New Zealand and it recognises the special place of Māori in our bicultural foundations.”

Jacinda Ardern will be leading a large Labour delegation, with most of their MPs attending. Last year she was the first female prime minister to speak during the powhiri, where she said:

“When we return in one year, in three years, I ask you to ask us what we have done for you”.

This year she and Shane Jones have announced $100 million investment to support Māori landowners and drive regional growth

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest up to $100 million to help unlock the economic potential of whenua Māori and build prosperity in our regions, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones have announced today.

“An integral part of any inclusive and successful regional economic development strategy lies with supporting Māori landowners to create new opportunities that will lift incomes and the wellbeing of our regions,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Access to capital remains a challenge for Māori landowners as the special status of their land means commercial banks are less willing to lend to them. I’m pleased that through the PGF, we’re in a unique position to be able to support these landowners.

“Funding will enable Māori to access the capital required to progress projects which are investment-ready and will ultimately support moves towards higher-value land use.”

“I’m proud we’re able to make this announcement today, which is a vital step in creating greater prosperity around New Zealand,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and other ministers joined the Prime Minister at Otamatea Marae in the Kaipara district to make the announcement.

“Supporting Māori economic development is a key focus of the Provincial Growth Fund.  That’s because lifting the productivity of Māori land will have enormous benefits for regional economies and it is an opportunity we cannot afford to ignore,” Shane Jones said

And Labour cannot afford not to promote Government handouts.

Also Investing to kick-start key infrastructure in Kaipara

The Government will help pave the way for future economic growth in Kaipara with a $20.39m investment from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to strengthen the district’s transport infrastructure and food and horticulture sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones made the announcement at Otamatea Marae in Kaipara today.

”There has been a long history of underinvestment in Northland, particularly in infrastructure. The Government is absolutely committed to investing in the public services and infrastructure that make our country and communities strong,” Jacinda Ardern said.

On the inclusive front, Don Brash gets to have a say at Waitangi again: Hobson’s Pledge spokesman Don Brash to speak at Waitangi

Former politician Don Brash has been invited to speak at the lower marae at Waitangi, where he was once pelted with mud by protesters angry at his infamous Orewa speech.

Brash, who was at the time the National Party leader, was hit in the face as he spoke to reporters at Waitangi in 2004, just a few days after the speech to Orewa Rotarians in which he railed against special treatment of Māori.

He is now spokesman for Hobson’s Pledge, a group which campaigns against racial separatism or favouritism under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Also: Destiny Church leader Bishop Brian Tamaki to speak at Waitangi event

A battle of the Bishops is shaping up at Waitangi this week between Destiny Church’s Bishop Brian Tamaki and Te Tai Tokerau Anglican Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu who will be holding services at the same time at different locations.

The official Waitangi Day Anglican service is held at 10am at Te Whare Rūnanga on the Treaty Grounds.

At the same time, Tamaki will be speaking at Te Tii Marae. He is bringing with him around 2000 supporters, many of them the Tu Tangata Riders.

Reuben Taipari, who has organised the forum tent at Te Tii, where speakers including Don Brash will appear this year, said he had invited Tamaki to speak there but the invitation had been declined.

“Now that the forum’s full, of course, I think he regrets that he’s not participating. So his idea is to call up his own facility and attract all the attention over there. And I’m sure that he’ll get some. So good luck to him.

So there should be plenty for the media to report on.

Waitangi Day is on Wednesday. It is a big day for Māori in the far north, and also for politicians. There will be other less prominent events around the country.

 

Greenpeace versus Shane Jones on fishing prosecution and NZ First donors

Shane Jones has always seemed to be an embarrassment waiting to happen for the Government.  He has already ventured into iffy territory for a minister, for example his public attacks on Air New Zealand.

Now he has dived into a dispute with Greenpeace over party donations, which involves a prosecution of a subsidiary  of Talleys, a company that Jones has financial and social links to (Winston Peters also).

NZ Herald: NZ First MP Shane Jones accuses Greenpeace of deliberately tarnishing NZ’s reputation for donations

Quite a confusing headline.

NZ First MP Shane Jones has fired a shot across Greenpeace’s bow, accusing the organisation of deliberately tarnishing New Zealand’s international fishing reputation just to fundraise.

But Greenpeace’s New Zealand Executive Director Russel Norman fired back, saying Jones was trying to distract the public from the fact he has accepted donations from fishing company Talley’s.

Norman said this should preclude him from contributing to fisheries policies.

The war of words erupted after a Greenpeace press release implied Jones should be withdrawn from any debate around fisheries because of donations he had received from Talley’s.

Financial links between Talleys and NZ First have been known for a long time, as has Winston Peters support for commercial fishing.

“Incidentally, Talley’s is the same company that donated heavily to the campaign of Shane Jones, who has emerged as the de facto Minister of Fisheries in the current Government.”

Norman said it would appear from the outside that Jones was having “quite a big influence on fisheries policies”.

Jones said he had received donations from the company but they were in compliance with Parliament’s rules on donations.

He said Norman was using “politically lurid language,” which was “all part of their [Greenpeace’s] process to fundraise.

“Incidentally, Talley’s is the same company that donated heavily to the campaign of Shane Jones, who has emerged as the de facto Minister of Fisheries in the current Government.”

Speaking to the Herald, Norman said it would appear from the outside that Jones was having “quite a big influence on fisheries policies”.

Jones said he had received donations from the company but they were in compliance with Parliament’s rules on donations.

He said Norman was using “politically lurid language,” which was “all part of their [Greenpeace’s] process to fundraise”.

“Greenpeace has a track record of misinformation and exaggeration.

“It’s extraordinary that the Greenpeace’s Australian spokesman Russel Norman is ranting in such a way to damage the good name of New Zealand. Greenpeace has a track record of misinformation and exaggeration.

“It’s extraordinary that the Greenpeace’s Australian spokesman Russel Norman is ranting in such a way to damage the good name of New Zealand.”

One could suggest similar about Jones ranting.

Norman said this “obviously was not” his intention and said it was just a distraction from the fact an Amaltal fishing vessel was caught doing bottom trawls in a protected area of the Tasman Sea.

Amaltal is a subsidiary of fishing company Talley’s.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said MPI had initiated a prosecution against Amaltal, as well as the person who was the master of the vessel at the time of the incident.

Both are facing charges under the Fisheries Act, the spokeswoman said.

In its own statement, Amaltal confirmed one of its fishing vessels had inadvertently fished in an unauthorised area of the Tasman Sea in May last year.

But Jones has defended Amaltal.

Jones said this was a “mere technical issue which would be ironed out when common sense prevails”.

A follow up from Newshub: Shane Jones in hot water over support for Talley’s accused of illegal fishing

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is being accused of breaching parliamentary rules by appearing to support a fishing company that’s facing prosecution for illegal fishing.

New Zealand First MP Mr Jones described the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)’s case against agribusiness company Talley’s as a “technical issue” – when the Cabinet rules warn ministers against commenting on active cases.

But Mr Jones is now facing criticism for getting too close to the Talley’s case, calling it a “mere technical issue which would be ironed out when common sense prevails”.

On Friday he changed tact: “They are highly technical matters… and no doubt the court will be possessed of all the information.”

Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said it’s “completely unacceptable for a Cabinet minister to intervene in an active court case where the Crown is taking Talley’s to court for environmental damage”.

The Amaltal Apollo, a vessel owned by a subsidiary of Talley’s, is facing 14 charges for fishing in protected waters in the Tasman Sea.

And Cabinet rules clearly state: “Ministers do not comment on or involve themselves in the investigation of offences or the decision as to whether a person should be prosecuted.”

“I think there’s no question that Jones has breached the Cabinet Manual, which is the rules that govern the behaviour of Ministers,” Mr Norman said.

It does look like quite questionable comment on a current investigation by Jones.

Talley’s donated $10,000 to Mr Jones’ 2017 campaign. And while Mr Jones accepts that, and that he’s mates with Talley’s boss, Sir Peter Talley, he says it doesn’t mean anything.

Instead, he’s blaming Greenpeace for spreading what he calls “misinformation”.

There seems to be some fairly solid information here that suggests that Jones is again an embarrassment to the Government.

Mr Jones has previously been chair of Sealords and held top positions within Māori and Pacific fishery organisations.

He makes no secret of his continued close relationships with the big commercial fishing companies.

It’ll be up to the Prime Minister to decide whether Mr Jones has overstepped the mark and breached the rules in this case.

Due to Labour’s reliance on NZ First for support will Jacinda Ardern do anything about it? Probably not in public at least, or nothing more than a slap over the wrist with a wet bait fish.

Goldsmith versus Jones on the Provincial Development Fund

Paul Goldsmith, National’s Spokesperson for Economic and Regional Development, has been nagging away at Shane Jones, the minister in charge of the Provincial Development Fund.

In Parliament last Wednesday:

Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the National Business Review that we have to make sure that “We’ve got enough nephs or if necessary a few Melanesians to help plant the trees.”, what proportion of any new forestry jobs does he expect to be filled by Melanesians, presumably by the way of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, well, from Melanesia we already draw a host of RSE workers and policy is being looked at, but the preference is to get the proverbial nephs off the couch. It is proving to be a challenge as a consequence of the last nine years of Kaikohe, Kaitāia, Gisborne, Hastings, and a whole host of other places—and I would remind the member that $50 million was put aside by his Government and not a single neph got off any couch, because they never spent any of that money.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was what proportion and he made no reference to anything like that.

SPEAKER: Right, I think the Minister can have another go.

Hon SHANE JONES: In terms of proportions between workers that may or may not come from Melanesia and the nephs, such a policy is under active consideration.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the fame of this visionary policy has been so far-reaching that countries in the Pacific and Pacific Islands are now mustering their workforce to assist the member in the implementation of his plan?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Come off it. What a load of rubbish.

1 News: Shane Jones forced to correct answers after failing to disclose 61 meetings

National’s Paul Goldsmith said the slip was of concern as he controlled the $3b provincial growth fund.

Press releases from Goldsmith:

Jones’ forestry jobs cost at least $485k apiece

Shane Jones could hire the Prime Minister to work on his tree-planting schemes – and she’d get a pay rise – based on the fuzzy economics of the Provincial Growth Fund.

More questions than answers in $140m spend-up

The Government’s travelling caravan of grants and soft loans is continuing to the West Coast tomorrow with the bequeathing of $140 million of taxpayer funds that raises more questions than answers.

Last night Goldsmith and Jones were put up for a debate on Q+A last night – Is the Govt’s billion dollar provincial fund the best way to boost regional economies?

Jones is responsible for dishing out $3 billion over the current term, so it is important he is held to account. Goldsmith’s nagging is a good way to do this – he doesn’t seek attention as much as some politicians, but his nagging keeps forcing Jones to explain what he is up to.

Nation: Shane Jones on Provincial Growth Fund spending

NZ Herald:  Shane Jones announces suite of regional funding worth more than $80m

More than $80 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund will boost rural broadband, expand a driver-training centre near Fielding, and look into building a new freight hub near Palmerston North.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in the Manawatū-Whanganui today to announce a number of new initiatives, most of which are for Manawatū-Whanganui region.

About half of the funding – $40m – will be used for a new regional freight hub near Palmerston North, a key staging point for domestic, imported and exported freight in the Lower North Island.

Jones also announced funding across the food and beverage, digital connectivity and tourism sectors in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, including:

• $2.8m to expand the National Driver Training Centre based at Manfeild, near Feilding, to train 700 drivers and machine operators annually
• A $400,000 investment to fund the first stage of an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport
• $100,000 to investigate FoodHQs development to assist food exporters
• $100,000 to assess alternative land utilisation choices in the Tararua District
• $98,000 towards Kaitahi Food & Innovation Factory
• $95,000 towards establishing an education, training and employment programme at the former site of Turakina Māori Girls’ College
• $60,000 towards the Tararua Tourism & Trails Strategy
• $50,000 to investigate education to employment pathways within Horowhenua

The projects are subject to funding contracts that will include a range of agreed commercial arrangements, targets, milestones and deliverables.

Bungle over tree planting in Northland, seedlings mulched, money wasted

Minister of Planting Lots of Trees, Shane Jones, has admitted there has been a stuff up in a planned planting of 1.2 million pine trees in Northland. Only 200,000 seedlings could be planted as most of the land was not sufficiently prepared for the planting. Some seedlings were redistributed, but many were mulched at a cost of $160,000.

This is particularly embarrassing because in May this project was promoted as the first of a billion trees to be planted.

Stuff:  Forestry projects get Government boost

Northland forestry projects which will create jobs and sustainable developments have been given a helping hand by the Government.

Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) and the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust have signed a joint venture agreement to plant and manage around 3,600 hectares of pine trees on the trust’s land. Up to 465 hectares of mānuka will also be planted, which would provide work experience for young people.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime and Forestry Minister were among those gathered at a symbolic tree planting ceremony on May 31.

Ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Forestry Minister Shane Jones, and MP Willow-Jean Prime planted a pine tree to acknowledge the announcement on May 31, which marked the first joint venture in the Government’s plan to plant one billion trees.

But this week (ODT) Billion trees bungle: Land unfit for planting

Forestry officials working on the Government’s flagship One Billion Trees plan ordered more than one million pine seedlings for a block of land so choked with scrub and weeds planting couldn’t go ahead.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones told the New Zealand Herald “ambition” and “enthusiasm” had a part to play in planting delays which struck the $32 million inaugural joint venture on the Far North forestry block.

(RNZ): Local iwi takes blame for $160k tree planting botch-up

The local iwi have taken responsibility after about 400,000 seedlings bought by the government to plant in Northland went to waste after the land was too wild to plant on.

Ngāti Hine has put its hand up with the trust chair, Pita Tipene, saying he’s ultimately responsible.

“What the taxpayer and the government can be assured of is that the total number of hectares over the years will be planted as planned.

“It’s just that we made a little bit of a blue in 2018 in being over zealous in our planning.”

Mr Tipene said it’s not the end of the world because the land will still be there next year and it will be ready to be planted – albeit it later than the government hoped for.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the cost to the taxpayer was about $160,000.

A deal was done between the Crown and the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust in the Far North earlier this year and 1.2 million seedlings were bought to be planted.

Mr Jones said only 200,000 seedlings were successfully planted because the land wasn’t up to scratch.

“Well the land is untamed land, it’s wild, and obviously the analysis that was done on the ground was a lot more ambitious in terms of what could be delivered upon,” he said.

It looks like they (Jones, the Government and Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust) rushed into this without being properly prepared, or were too optimistic that they could manage this scale of planting so quickly.

Jones wanted greater power to push projects past bureaucratic delays, but this suggests he needs more checks on his recklessness with large amounts of taxpayer money.

Shane Jones admits failure to disclose meetings

The handing out of large amounts of money through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be scrutinised by the Opposition, especially with Shane Jones involved. And as Minister in charge Jones has had to admit ‘a slip-up’ in not disclosing 61 meetings, including some with people who have an interest in the Fund.

RNZ: Shane Jones fails to disclose 61 meetings

Shane Jones has had to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after he failed to disclose meetings he had earlier this year.

Some of those were with people who have an interest in the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Jones, the regional economic development minister, said he took full responsibility for the muck-up which he put down to a transcription error from his outlook diary.

One transcription error missed 61 meetings?

National MP Paul Goldsmith uses weekly written parliamentary questions to ask Mr Jones who he meets with and what for.

He said this slip-up by the minister seriously concerned him, because it was not one or two meetings he missed, but 61.

And, he said, a number of those meetings were to do with the $3 billion of public money Mr Jones had responsibility for.

“What’s made me nervous, is that we regularly ask who he meets with and you can understand that a minister would make the occasional mistake. But what we saw here was 61 meetings which he hadn’t initially declared, which he is now declaring.”

The forgotten meetings include a number with regional and sector representative groups, like Kiwifruit New Zealand and Whakatōhea Mussels.

There are dinners and site visits with local mayors, tourism groups and business representatives, as well as regular catch-ups with Mr Jones’ own ministerial colleagues.

There was also a meeting with the former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who now has interests in an Iwi forestry project which has received a financial injection from Provincial Growth Fund.

It can’t have just been a transcription error, because a number of written questions have not been answered accurately.

Mr Jones said he has received approximately 3000 written questions from National since he became a minister, the majority of which had been answered accurately.

“This figure represents one percent, so in the bigger scheme of things it’s small fry. But the moment that the office uncovered that some of the meetings had been miscast, then we let [them] know.”

It isn’t small fry if the Minister isn’t meeting his responsibility to disclose meetings.

And Jones is likely to remain under scrutiny.

Also today from RNZ – ‘It’s murky’: Questions over use of Provincial Growth Fund

National wants answers as to why the Economic Development Minister is giving out cash to a private trust it says is set to make a killing off it.

A newsletter sent out by the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, which has secured $6 million of Provincial Growth Fund money for a second round of pine planting on land in Northland, suggests trust benefactors are getting an exceptionally good deal which is “far superior to previous arrangements”.

It said the specifics of the deal were commercially sensitive, but “the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial [sic].”

The newsletter also reveals the deal will require a third round of planting by the Crown.

“The Forestry Right with the Crown is for one rotation only and it includes the requirement for the Crown to plant a third rotation at its cost which will then be owned 100 percent by the Trust,” the newsletter said.

National’s economic development spokesperson Paul Goldmith said that proved serious financial gain for a private trust – which went directly against the core principles of the Provincial Growth Fund.

“We’ve been asking the minister and the ministry for the business cases, clarity about what is actually being purchased, what the performance indicators are before they get the money – and they’ve refused to give us that information so far.

“It’s murky, it’s been lacking in transparency and the basic principles of good governance.”

Mr Goldsmith also pointed out one of the trustees was former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who he suggested lobbied the minister, Shane Jones, for the money.

But, Mr Paraone said he was appalled that the National Party had sunk so low as to accuse him of soliciting Crown cash.

“I was not part of the discussions as to whether or not Ngati Hine should lobby the minister and I don’t believe that they did,” he said.

“I had no part in the signing of the deal, or determining what the deal should be, other than to attend the actual planting of the first tree.”

Mr Paraone asked how far National was willing to take this argument.

Local governments and groups in the provinces are queueing up for government handouts for projects. This is understandable. Provincial areas have been run down and neglected by successive governments for several decades.

But there are risks of favouritism, money for mates, and poor investments, so scrutiny is important. And the Minister for Regional Economic Development should be aware that the need for transparency – including full disclosure – is important as the credibility of the fund and also the credibility of the Government is at stake.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed the sheer volume of written questions from the opposition could impact accuracy of answers.

Why should it impact on accuracy? Good ministerial records should be kept, and accurate responses should be expected.

There is an issue with the volume of questions being asked, and  that may well impact in response times, but accuracy should be a standard expectation. So that’s an odd position for the Prime Minister to take.

1 News: Shane Jones says it’s a ‘happy coincidence’ his home region is getting the lion’s share of fund he’s in charge of

Northland is getting the most funding from the provincial growth fund that has $1 billion to spend.

A happy coincidence for those getting the money. Northland was badly in need of regional development, but funds handed out should be prudent decisions.

Perhaps it’s also a happy coincidence for the Shane Jones and NZ First re-election chances.

The Fund seems to have been a means for NZ First to fund some of their policies without needing ton get specific budget allocations – like this: Shane Jones earmarks $2.2 million of Provincial Growth Fund for 250,000 native trees

Ardern should be wary of Jones and the Fund, and she should be demanding that everything is transparent and above board – if she is able to demand anything of NZ First. Otherwise (and perhaps inevitably) Jones is an embarrassment waiting to happen for her Government.

Goldsmith isn’t an attention seeking MP, but he is tenacious, and is a good person to be maintaining the scrutiny of the Jones Fund.

NZ First 2018 convention

Stuff: “Just over 200 members were gathered at Tauranga Racecourse for the party’s annual conference.”

So far at least there is not much detail on the NZ First website about the convention they are having this weekend, apart from notices about it.

Convention & AGM 2018 – Tauranga

On behalf of the Board of Directors I would like to invite you all to the 2018 Convention & AGM to be held at the Tauranga Racecourse on the 29th and 30th of September. The Convention and AGM is New Zealand First’s largest gathering and networking event of the year. It will be a pleasure to see you all again as we mark an important milestone in our Party’s history – 25 years.

The Convention weekend will be fun filled and energetic as make the big decisions that will define our party for the next 25 years. Since the last election New Zealand First has had a significant role in shaping the Government of our country and I am proud of the work the Rt Hon Winston Peters, our Ministers and our MPs have been doing.

Make the decision to join the other movers and shakers in our Party and if you have any issues please get in touch with our Convention organising team.

Yours thankfully,

Brent Catchpole

Leader’s Message

On 18 July, New Zealand First celebrates its 25th anniversary. No other new political
New Zealand First was formed to represent the views of New Zealanders concerned
about the economic and social direction of our country after the radical market
reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s. At our founding, we set out 15 Fundamental
Principles which guide us as we negotiate common-sense policy outcomes for the
betterment of our people and our country.

The 25 year milestone is a result of us remaining steadfast in our principles and
enthusiasm for a better New Zealand, whether we are in government, or on the
opposition benches.

Our record precedes us: free health care for our children, a more dignified life for our
elderly, workers receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, safer communities,
and many other achievements that have impacted lives of everyday New
Zealanders.

Today, our mission in Government is restoring lost capacity after nine years of
National neglect, regenerating regional New Zealand, the lifeblood of the country,
and putting the interests of all New Zealanders at the forefront of government
decision-making.

We could not have embarked on this mission without your support and contributions.
On the 29th and 30th of September, we will be holding our Annual Convention and
AGM in Tauranga. I urge you to join me, and my parliamentary colleagues, as we
celebrate our 25-year anniversary and look toward the future.

There is some coverage from Stuff. NZ First’s 25th birthday bash a chance to push right into the culture wars

Party conventions serve many purposes. The base of diehard supporters – who you need to enthuse so they can volunteer at the next election – have to be kept happy. But there are also a lot of TV cameras and mischievous journalists there – so the party must project itself as sensible, coherent, and able to win over any voters who have faded away since the election.

And while polling of NZ First between elections is notoriously bad, the party does need to win some votes back. Most of the recent public polls put it below the all-important five per cent threshold, and it seems most of the internal polling has it below there too, with the Greens still above the line. You can’t be the kingmaker if you are outside of Parliament, as Peters knows well from his stint in the wilderness after 2008.

Behind all the blustering there is one large question that faces NZ First: who does the party turn to when Peters finally retires? It could happen in a few years, it could happen in ten, but the MPs behind him have been maneuvering like it could happen tomorrow. Shane Jones has his billion dollar fund and high media profile, putting him solidly in the lead. But don’t count out the very charismatic Fletcher Tabuteau, who won the deputy leadership and will deliver a caucus report speech on Sunday morning, ahead of Peter’s speech in the afternoon. Sometimes a little bit of anonymity goes a long way.

NZ First conference takes aim at banks with several remits

NZ First members have voted for several remits aimed at the banking sector, including a $50m levy to keep banks open in small towns.

The remit seeks to levy $50m from the banking sector that was redistributed to banks as a subsidy to keep banks in small towns open and for longer hours.

Other remits aimed at promoting the Government’s use of New Zealand-owned banks, buying back shares of KiwiBank from the Super Fund and ACC were also passed with no opposition.

However, accepted policy remits from the conference have a long road to becoming actual Government policy, including the caucus policy committee of NZ First and Cabinet itself.

NZ Herald:  Boxer Joseph Parker surprise speaker at NZ First’s annual convention

Boxer Joseph Parker was the surprise speaker at New Zealand First’s annual convention in Tauranga today. What probably made it more surprising is that he is the nephew of National MP Judith Collins.

Parker played down any conflict though, saying he supported everyone.

“I feel like my aunty knows where my heart is. It’s just about going about there and saying something that we hope can inspire and motivate others and help others.”

Parker said he had a close relationship with Peters.

There will be more from the NZ First convention today, but I may not have time to post on it.

NZ First risks regional backlash against racetrack closures

Winston Peters has marketed himself as a champion of the regions, and Shane Jones has similarly promoted himself as such – see ‘Champion of Regions’: Jones holds true to title – with his billion dollar Provincial Growth Fund handouts.

But one of Winston’s biggest hobby horses (and possibly one of his biggest benefactors) is the racing industry. And he is now proposing a radical plan to close a lot of race tracks around the regions and centralise them in three big cities. This is both a clash NZ First priorities, and a risk of backlash.

RNZ: Plan to cut 20 race tracks ‘gamechanger for industry’

The racing industry is facing two choices, significant change or death, says Racing Minister Winston Peters.

Mr Peters has released an independent report by Australian racing expert, John Messara, that concludes the industry is in a state of “serious malaise”.

The report recommends include almost halving the number of tracks and outsourcing the TAB’s commercial activities to an international operator.

Mr Peters said the racing industry was at a tipping point from which it won’t recover unless it took on on board all the reforms put forward by John Messara.

Officials will produce a Cabinet paper from the report’s 17 recommendations, which Mr Peters said was a chance to change the fortunes of the industry and push the reset button.

Mr Messara has proposed reducing the number of tracks from 48 to 28 and Mr Peters said that will have to be a reality if the industry wants to turn around its dwindling profits.

“Every region will retain a race track. There just won’t be the proliferation right now which in stark contrast to a big industry like New South Wales, has far more race tracks. It just doesn’t make any logical sense,” Mr Peters said.

What may be good for the racing industry may not be seen as good for the regions who lose their race tracks.

Taranaki will lose two out of three of its race tracks if the recommendations go ahead.

Taranaki Thoroughbred Racing board member and judge Ron Stanley said racing was getting incredibly more competitive and that required top facilities and cutting back the number of tracks.

“I think it’s a brave decision, we should have been doing it a few years ago. We’ve always had too many tracks”.

The towns who have tracks that may be closed may think differently.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry also backed the proposals which he described as a “gamechanger for the industry”.

“One of our biggest issues is we can’t spread the amount of money we have across 48 venues and improve the sport. So we need to consolidate our spending and make sure we’ve got a number of venues that have good race track surfaces and good customer facilities so that New Zealanders can enjoy the great things about New Zealand thoroughbred racing,” he said.

Centralisation in big cities has been a feature of the ‘neo-liberal’ reforms that Peters has been scathing of (for political purposes, I don’t know if he believes it).

But Peters is putting the racing industry ahead of the regions.

The Provincial Growth Fund will stump up the cash – expected to be about $15 million – for the tracks that Mr Messara has recommended building in Awapuni, Riccarton and Cambridge.

Mr Peters said taxpayers will accept that cost because racing “isn’t just about people turning up at the track in their Sunday best” – it’s about an industry that employs tens of thousands of people.

So he is championing an industry over people in the regions. He and the racing industry are going to pick winners and losers.

I’m not sure how well regional taxpayers and voters will accept that cost if it takes their tracks away.

“We will ensure that every region retains at least one track so there is racing there. And we will consult with the industry on these tracks that are to be closed. But we have to change, even if it is unpopular.”

Peters the prince of populism is prepared to push policies that may be unpopular in many regions – neo-liberal reforms of the racing industry means more to him for some reason.


And – it’s interesting to see how Peters intends using the Provincial Growth Fund to fund NZ First policies over and above what was negotiated in their Coalition Agreement.


ODT report on the winners and losers in the south in Seven race tracks face closure

In his report he recommended thoroughbred racing at Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Omakau, Winton and Gore should cease.

Mr Messara recommended Wingatui, Ashburton, Ascot Park, Cromwell, Waikouaiti and Riverton hold race meetings in the lower South Island.

Closing Oamaru, Timaru and Gore while retaining Waikouaiti seems odd. I arrived at the Waikouaiti races this January to find out they had been cancelled due to track conditions.


UPDATE:

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

Parliament – ‘anti-Māori’ and racism implications

The referencing of referencing family of MPs, plus hints of and MP being ‘anti-Māori,r arose in an exchange in Parliament today, in relation to the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Police Commissioner. There’s co clear conclusion (to me) but some interesting discussion.

It came out of this primary question:

8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government expect high standards from all Government departments and Ministers?

It starts at 2:36…

Chris Bishop: Does she have confidence in her Government’s professional independence from Mr Haumaha when her police Minister gives him a shout-out in his workout videos, her Deputy Prime Minister attended a celebration on a marae for his appointment as assistant commissioner, her foreign affairs under-secretary has whānau links to him, and he was previously announced as a candidate for New Zealand First?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I am going to go back to that question and not require but ask the member to think very carefully about rewording it. We have had a tradition in this House, wherever possible, of not including the actions of family members—certainly within question time. I’d ask the member to reflect on his question and, if he agrees with me that that is unhealthy, to rephrase it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely we have to have some accuracy in the questioning in this House. Mr Bishop began by talking about what, in effect, is an allegation of witness tampering. So the real issue, sir, for you to judge is: who is this witness who is being tampered that he talked about? The fact is the person is not a witness. The person may be a complainant, and there’s a huge difference. He’s putting the two together quite naively and mistakenly and getting away with it in the House when he should be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think if we had the degree of exactitude that the Deputy Prime Minister is advocating, we’d have quite a few members on both sides of the House who wouldn’t be able to answer or ask a single question. Mr Bishop—going back to where we were at.

Chris Bishop: Did the panel convened by the State Services Commission to interview the short-listed candidates for the job of the Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that Mr Haumaha be the preferred candidate for the job?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m not going to get into elements of an issue that is now being independently assessed by an independent inquirer.

Hon Paula Bennett: When the Prime Minister just previously said, as she did yesterday, that, actually, he cannot be either stood down or on garden leave because it would be the decision of the commissioner and that she can’t do it, is she aware that under section 13 of the Policing Act, the deputy commissioner’s role is a statutory appointment that holds office at the pleasure of the Governor-General on the advice of her, the Prime Minister, and that she has the power to act?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That includes them acting in that role of employment. What the member was asking about was whether I had the ability to stand someone down when there had been no formal process, and we’re undertaking an inquiry to ensure natural justice provisions apply, because the threshold test here is incredibly high. If the member is asking about gardening leave or temporary stand downs, that threshold, of course, is very different, and that is employment matter for the Commissioner of Police.

Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise an issue that is troubling a number of us on this side of the House: the regularity with which those of us who enjoy Māori ancestry—and I direct your attention to Speakers’ rulings 39/4-5. I accept in the roundhouse of politics it is tough, but I am particularly irked by the allegation that Mr Bishop made, enjoying private briefings from dissolute elements in the police force, that he has labelled those of us, essentially, by talking about Fletcher Tabuteau and Winston Peters, as somehow not passing the test of parliamentary probity. And I’d invite you to reflect on it, because it will lead to a substantial bout of disorder from the House. Now, I’m not suggesting that Mr Bishop is anti-Māori, and, quite frankly, I don’t care if he is, but it is an important principle, with the number of Māori in the House—whether they’re urban Māori or broader traditional Māori—that you contemplate that situation, because we’re not going to put up with it for one more day.

Hon Paula Bennett: As one of those Māori, there is actually also a convention that we express our conflicts of interest for our whānau and particularly when we are looking at making statutory appointments, and this side of the House has a right to question that.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, yes, I would have made the same point that the Hon Paula Bennett has made, because what Mr Jones is effectively doing is saying that if there is a statutory appointment that involves someone who identifies as being a Māori New Zealander, then that process can’t be questioned and nor can anything that would make the suitability of that person appropriate for that. But further than that, sir, you sat there while Mr Jones referred to another member of this House, effectively, as having some racial bias, and that’s a completely unacceptable thing for him to do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The allegation that someone is a cousin and therefore is biased in the choice of someone in a governmental job is so demonstrably false when the person doesn’t go to the lengths to describe how far removed that relationship might be. If he were Scottish or Māori, he might understand that this would include 7,500 people. But no such attempt is made. It’s the insinuation that because that relationship, distant though it might be, nevertheless corrupts the member’s mind in being impartial, and that’s unfair.

Mr SPEAKER: I am in a position to rule. Members may have forgotten that I intervened on Mr Bishop’s question and asked him to reword it, because I thought the tone of it was not consistent with the way that we have gone as a country over the last number of decades. He reflected on that and, despite the opportunity, decided not to repeat the question in that form and I want to thank him for that.

There are a lot of elements of judgment in this. I, of course, don’t want to indicate that people cannot be questioned where there are seen to be untoward influences and of course that is the case, but what I did indicate was that I thought it was particularly important where family matters are being brought into account that people are either very specific or very careful and not general in allegations.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Precedent in rulings in this House are very important, because they do guide the House. I’d ask that you have a look back through, I think, the mid-part of 2015 when a then prominent member of the Opposition, now a very, very prominent member of this House, was asking questions of a Minister of the then Government that related directly to a family member. Those questions were allowed, they stood, and they went on for quite some days. When you’ve gone back over those transcripts and perhaps reflected on the wisdom of the course of action taken by the prominent Opposition member, now a very prominent member of Parliament, could you perhaps bring down a ruling that brings all of these things together. I think the general allegation made against the Parliament by Mr Jones today that it is somehow racially selective to bring up an issue that relates to the appointment of a person who is of New Zealand Māori descent is a very, very backward step for this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: I don’t feel any need to bring back a considered ruling on it. I think the matter is pretty clear. Speaker’s ruling 41/1 makes it clear that people should avoid referring to MPs families in their private capacities. It is all right to refer to family members who have official roles, and that is a ruling of long standing. It is also all right where there is a clear intersection of the public business of an MP and a Minister and the actions of a family member, and that is an area of longstanding ruling where there is a suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on the part of a Minister in favour of a family member—that is the subject of questioning in the House and will always continue to be.