831 new frontline Police officers in financial year

A record number of Police officers were trained in the 2018/19 financial year with 831 new front line officers deployed around the country. Since the Coalition Government was formed there have been 1,367 new recruits have graduated.  Some of those will have been planned under the previous government, but the new government has boosted those numbers.

This looks to be well on it’s way to fulfilling a commitment made in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:

Law and order

  • Strive towards adding 1800 new Police officers over three years and commit to a serious
    focus on combatting organised crime and drugs.

Government: Greatest number of new Police in a single year

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of 78 new constables means a total of 831 new frontline Police have been deployed to communities around the country during the 2018/19 financial year.

“The previous highest number of new Police in one financial year occurred 21 years ago when 683 officers graduated during 1997/98,” says Mr Nash.

“Since the Coalition Government was formed 1,367 new recruits have graduated from the Police College at Porirua and from two innovative training wings in Auckland.

“The Wellbeing Budget contains more than $260 million in new initiatives for Police. Thanks to this new investment, Police can strengthen controls on the use of firearms. They will be able to take the most dangerous weapons out of circulation and begin the next stage of reforms to reduce the risk of firearms falling into the wrong hands.”

The new initiatives for Police include:

  • $168 million for payments and administration of the gun buyback scheme;
  • $41.8 million to tackle family violence;
  • $5.86 million for victim video statements;
  • $37.19 million to provide all emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance) with state of the art new digital communications capabilities and to ensure the integrity of the current system in the interim;
  • $8.778 million for other initiatives across the wider justice sector, such as mental health, addiction and alcohol and drug programmes.

“In addition we are making a substantial investment of $455 million in frontline mental health services. Police officers have been under pressure because a lack of health resources meant they were the first line of response to mental health needs. Improving mental health care is one of our long-term challenges,” Mr Nash says.

The boost in mental health services has taken longer to implement, but it should take pressure off police resources, and will hopefully reduce crime committed by people with mental health issues.

Digital services tax proposals to target multinationals

The avoidance of paying tax by multinational companies is well known, but an effective solution is difficult to come up with. The Government has proposed two options.


Ensuring multinationals pay their fair share of tax

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash today proposed two broad options to ensure offshore digital companies no longer enjoy tax breaks which are not available to local businesses.

“Our number one preference remains an internationally agreed solution through the OECD,” says Mr Robertson. “However if the OECD cannot make sufficient progress this year we need an interim solution. Other nations have already taken this step.”

“The UK has announced it will introduce a two percent DST from April 2020. Austria, the Czech Republic, France, India, Italy and Spain have also enacted or announced DSTs.

“We need to protect our economy and the integrity of our tax system. Modern business practices, digitalisation in particular, mean that a company can be significantly involved in the economic life of a country without paying tax on income or turnover.

“Multinational companies like social media platforms and e-commerce sites generate income through cross-border digital services rather than face-to-face retail,” says Mr Robertson.

The DST outlined in a discussion document released today would apply to:

  • platforms which facilitate the sale of goods or services between people, such as Uber and Airbnb and eBay;
  • social media platforms like Facebook;
  • content sharing sites like YouTube and Instagram; and
  • companies which provide search engines and sell data about users.

“A DST would be narrowly targeted at certain highly digitalised business models. It would not apply to sales of goods or services, but to digital platforms who depend on a base of users for income from advertising or data.

“The value of cross-border digital services in New Zealand is estimated to be around $2.7 billion. The estimated revenue of a DST is between $30 million and $80 million, depending on the design,” Grant Robertson said.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash says the Tax Working Group concluded New Zealand should continue to participate in the OECD discussions but also stand ready to implement a DST if a critical mass of other countries move in that direction.

“The OECD is seeking approval for its digital economy work programme from the G20 group of large economies at a meeting in late June. The progress made at the OECD to date has not been sufficient to allay the concerns of several countries, who have announced or introduced DSTs as unilateral interim measures.

“Any DST in New Zealand would be an interim measure. The Government would look to repeal it if and when the OECD’s international solution was implemented,” says Mr Nash.

The two options are:

  • Changing the current international income tax rules, to allow more taxation in market countries.  This option is currently being discussed by the OECD and the G20 group of large economies.
  •  Applying a separate DST of three per cent to certain revenues earned by highly digitalised multinationals operating in New Zealand. The discussion document seeks feedback on how a DST might work in practice.

“The Government is committed to future-proofing the tax system to ensure it can handle changes to how people work and how business is done,” Mr Nash says.

“The significance of the digital economy is only going to grow over the coming decades. We need to keep adapting to ensure multinationals who do business here are paying their fair share of tax.

“We’ve passed legislation to collect GST on remote services, and to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax if they have a physical presence in New Zealand, and we have legislation before parliament to ensure we collect GST on low-value imported goods,” says Mr Nash.

The discussion document can be found at taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz. Consultation closes on 18 July 2019.

 

Drug driver testing consultation by Government

Last week National MP Nick Smith tried to get a members’ bill trying to address drug driving fast tracked in Parliament.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill to be set down as the first members’ order of the day on the next members’ day on 22 May.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard intervened himself (an unusual move from the Speaker who is supposed to be neutral), and when Smith reacted in response sent Smith from Parliament. This escalated when Smith over-reacted and was then officially ‘named’ by the Speaker and copped a 1 day ban from Parliament.

See Nick Smith named and suspended from Parliament for “grossly disorderly conduct”

This week the Government decided to do something about drug driver testing themselves.


Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

Plans for public consultation on options to improve the drug driver testing process have been announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Julie Anne Genter said: “While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for Police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process.   For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.

“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. Consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” says Stuart Nash.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this.  However Police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs
  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested
  • what drugs should be tested for
  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by Police.

Ministry of Transport:  Drug Driving

Changes to the drug driver testing and enforcement system in New Zealand

The Government is considering making changes to New Zealand’s drug driver testing and enforcement regime. Research shows that many illicit and prescription drugs have the potential to impair driving, and studies show that New Zealanders are using those drugs and driving.

Addressing drug impaired driving is an important objective if we are to make our roads safer – since 2013, the number of road deaths in New Zealand has increased by nearly 50 percent. Drug driving is making an increasing contribution to this statistic.

The Government has decided that it is time to reconsider our approach to drug driving and the public should be involved in that conversation.

A Discussion Document has been developed to facilitate a conversation about possible approaches to improving our drug driving system. The consultation seeks feedback about:

  • How we can be better at detecting drug drivers and deterring drug driving?
  • The circumstances in which drivers should be tested for drugs?
  • How to decide which drugs to test for?
  • What evidence is required to establish a drug driving offence?
  • How we should deal with people caught drug driving?

Download the Discussion Document [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Consultation process

The Ministry requests written submissions and they must arrive by 5.00 pm Friday 28 June 2019 to be considered. Submissions can be forwarded to the Ministry at:

drugdrivingconsultation@transport.govt.nz

Also:

Bridges tries to keep tax debate going

When Jacinda Ardern announced that the Government was ditching any change to a Capital Gains Tax, and also that she was dropping any CGT plans while she remained leader, some (notably Michael Cullen) claimed that that neutered Simon Bridges and any tax debate in next year’s election campaign.

But Bridges is trying to keep the tax discussion going. He has gone as far as putting a a bill into the member’s ballot that would index tax brackets to inflation. This would avoid the bracket creep that harmed Labour’s re-election chances in 2008 when the Clark/Cullen government list to John Key and National – but Bill English also let bracket creep erode take home pays through their nine years in office.

National went into last election with legislation already in place to adjust tax rates and brackets, but lost power, and the Labour led government reversed those adjustments.

The Spinoff – The Bulletin: Bridges pushes for bigger focus on tax debate

As Stuff’s Henry Cooke points out, under the member’s ballot it almost certain not to pass if it gets pulled out, “but would force the Government parties to vote against an effective tax cut.” National has signalled they intend to campaign on the issue, which means that if it does come out there will be a voting record of that come election time. If Labour in turn opt to campaign on any of the other, non CGT recommendations from the Tax Working Group, that would set the terms of the debate on ground that National would be comfortable with.

The policy would result in the loss of about $650 million a year in tax revenue, according to Mr Bridges’ figures, reports the NZ Herald. When the policy has come up, finance minister Grant Robertson has often pointed to that figure as money that will have to be cut from elsewhere. And while the Budget Responsibility Rules are in place – vocally hated as they are by those who want bigger investments in social services – it’s difficult to argue that the government is currently over-spending.

A point of clarification – as people go up tax brackets, they only pay higher rates on their income above the previous threshold. So while the percentage of people earning above the 33% rate for incomes of $70,000 up has risen (11% of earners in 2011 to 17% in 2016) those people are only paying 33% on what they make on top of the $70,000. Even for those in that bracket, income earned at lower thresholds gets taxed at a lower rate.

How the tax rates and brackets work is poorly understood.

The current Government has passed legislation that they have promoted as An end to unnecessary secondary tax

Workers who are paying too much tax because of incorrect secondary tax codes are in line for relief with the passage of legislation through Parliament late last night.

The Taxation (Annual Rates for 2018-19, Modernising Tax Administration, and Remedial Matters) Bill passed its third reading and will come into effect on 1 April.

“We promised to eliminate unnecessary secondary tax for workers with more than one job. We are delivering on that promise,” says Revenue Minister Stuart Nash.

But this is quite misleading. Secondary tax rates (there are several) won’t change. Workers who paid secondary tax will continue to pay secondary tax, and their tax for a year will be no different.

All this does is encourage IRD to advise employees through the tax year if their secondary tax rate is appropriate to their level of earnings or not.

“The changes mean Inland Revenue will more closely monitor the tax paid by wage and salary earners through the year. If it appears the worker is being over taxed, Inland Revenue will suggest a more suitable PAYE tax code tailored to that worker.

“Till now the tax on the second job has often seemed too high. These changes ensure wage and salary earners are only paying the tax they should. Just under 600,000 secondary tax codes are used every year.”

Again this is misleading. The end of year tax calculation which determines how much tax you pay in a year remains exactly the same.

All this change does is attempts to tax more accurately through the year. It will reduce the chances of underpaying or overpaying (it can work both ways) interim tax via secondary tax rates, that is all. The end result will be exactly the same.

Secondary tax is a system designed to prevent employees from getting big tax bills at the end of the tax year. People who earn variable amounts in different jobs will always have a greater chance of inaccuracy through the year, regardless of this change.

New firearm legislation introduced to Parliament

Announced yesterday:  Tighter gun laws to enhance public safety


Police Minister Stuart Nash has introduced legislation changing firearms laws to improve public safety following the Christchurch terror attacks.

“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack will be banned,” Mr Nash says. “Owning a gun is a privilege not a right. Too many people have legal access to semi-automatic firearms which are capable of causing significant harm.”

“The attack exposed considerable weaknesses in our laws. The firearms, magazines and parts used by the terrorist were purchased lawfully and modified into MSSAs due to legal loopholes. Our priority is to enhance public safety and wellbeing by urgent changes to the law.

“It is important to reiterate the legislation introduced today is not directed at law-abiding firearms owners who have legitimate uses for their guns. Our actions are instead directed at making sure this never happens again,” Mr Nash says.

The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill will:

  • Ban semi-automatic weapons and military style semi-automatics (MSSAs)
  • Ban parts, magazines and ammunition which can be used to assemble a prohibited firearm or convert a lower-powered firearm into a semi-automatic
  • Ban pump action shotguns with more than a five shot capacity
  • Ban semi-automatic shotguns with a capacity to hold a detachable magazine, or with an internal magazine capable of holding more than five cartridges
  • Exempt some semi-automatic firearms, such as .22 calibres and shotguns, which have limited ammunition capacity
  • Create tougher penalties and introduce new offences
  • Create new definitions of prohibited firearms, prohibited magazines, prohibited parts and prohibited ammunition
  • Establish an amnesty for firearms owners who take steps to hand over unlawful weapons, parts, magazines and ammunition to Police by 30 September 2019

“The misuse of semi-automatic weapons has caused death and injury at our places of worship. It has left a nationwide legacy of harm, pain and grief,” Mr Nash says.

“The men, women and children who died and suffered injuries at the mosques now have their own legacy. We will tighten gun laws to improve the safety and security of all New Zealanders. Their memory is our responsibility.

“The Arms Amendment Bill will have its first reading tomorrow, and be referred to a Select Committee for a swift public submissions process. It will return to Parliament next week to pass through its remaining stages. It is intended to come into force on 12 April, the day after the Royal Assent.

“Further announcements are due shortly on the administration and parameters of the buyback scheme,” Mr Nash says.

Questions and Answers

What are the new prohibitions?

  • Prohibited firearms include semi-automatics and MSSAs; and shotguns with detachable magazines or internal magazines which hold more than five rounds.
  • Prohibited magazines include those holding more than 5 cartridges for a shotgun; more than ten cartridges for a .22 calibre rimfire weapon; and any other magazine capable of holding more than ten cartridges.
  • Prohibited parts include any component of a prohibited firearm, or any component that can enable a firearm to be used as a semi-automatic or fully automatic weapon. Examples could include bump stocks, free-standing pistol grips and silencers.
  • Prohibited ammunition will include certain types of military ammunition as defined by the Governor General through Order in Council. Examples could include armour piercing ammunition.

Are any semi-automatic firearms exempted from the changes?

  • A small number of firearms owners have a legitimate use for weapons with a larger capacity. Semi-automatic firearms which are commonly used for hunting, pest control, stock management on farms, and duck shooting will not be affected. These are:
  • Semi-automatic .22 calibre rimfire firearms with a magazine which holds no more than ten rounds
  • Semi-automatic and pump action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine which holds no more than five rounds

What about licensed owners who have a professional reason for having a semi-automatic or another prohibited firearm?

  • There will be exemptions for specially licensed dealers, bona fide collectors, museum curators and firearms used during dramatic productions, as there are now. They must take steps to disable the weapon and follow other guidelines around security and safety.
  • Authorised pest controllers governed by s.100 of the Biosecurity Act may be permitted by Police to own a semi-automatic
  • There are exemptions for Police and Defence Force personnel.
  • There is no exemption for international sporting competitions. Further advice is needed and it may be considered as part of the second Arms Amendment Bill which is likely later this year

What are the new penalties and offences?

  • maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment:

using a prohibited firearm to resist arrest

  • maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment:

unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in a public place

presenting a prohibited firearm at another person

carrying a prohibited firearm with criminal intent

possessing a prohibited firearm while committing any offence that has a maximum penalty of 3 years or more

  • maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment:

importing a prohibited item

unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm

supplying or selling a prohibited firearm or magazine

intentionally using a prohibited part to assemble or convert a firearm into a prohibited weapon

  • maximum penalty of 2 years:

possessing a prohibited part or magazine

supplying or selling a prohibited part

How does the amnesty work?

The amnesty means firearms owners who now inadvertently possess a prohibited weapon, magazine, part, or ammunition can hand it over to Police or a licensed dealer without fear of being penalised. Any other firearm, magazine, parts and ammunition not affected by the ban can also be handed over.

Around 200 firearms have already been handed over.

More than 1400 calls have been made to the dedicated Police line 0800 311311

Around 900 online web forms have been filled in at www.police.govt.nz

How will the buyback work?

Police and the Treasury are working on the details of the buyback. The underlying principle is that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid. It will take into account the age and type of weapon, and the market value. It is estimated it will cost between $100 million and $200 million.

What measures are likely to be included in the next Arms Amendment Bill, later in 2019?

Several issues require more analysis and advice from Police, other government agencies and affected groups. This will take time to get right. These include:

  • A register of firearms
  • Licensing of firearms owners and the Police vetting process for a ‘fit and proper person’
  • The Police inspection and monitoring regime, such as rules around storage of firearms

Labour response to Tax Working Group final report

Jacinda Ardern not ‘ruling anything in or out’ after capital gains tax recommended by Working Group

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won’t commit to any tax reform despite the Tax Working Group report released today recommended a comprehensive capital gains tax.

It’s hardly comprehensive – it is more comprehensive than the current tax on property for developers and speculators, but the recommendations have some significant exclusions.

“We’re going to give the public a little bit of time, we’re going to take a little bit of time to form some consensus around the Government’s response,” she said.

“As you can see in the report there are some areas where everyone agrees, and there are some areas where the group did not, it’s our opportunity as government to go away, take a little bit of time, build some consensus and then come back to the public.”

“We are not ruling anything in or out at this stage.”

But Minister of Finance Grant Robertson and Minister of Revenue Stuart Nash have fronted for the Government  – here is their official response:


Government response to Tax Working Group report

The Coalition Government will take a measured response to the final report of the Tax Working Group (TWG), Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash said today.

“We welcome the release of the report and thank Sir Michael Cullen and the TWG for their hard work,” the Ministers say.

“The independent report finds that overall our tax system is clear and simple but there is room for improvement. There is some unfairness that we need to address. We will work through ways to do this to make the system fairer and more balanced,” says Mr Robertson.

“The overall findings confirm that there is no need for a major overhaul of the system,” says Mr Nash. “Our response will preserve the key principles of our existing broad-based low-rate tax system. In the words of the Prime Minister, we will not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

As the Working Group has said, the Government is not bound to accept all the recommendations it put forward. There are options to accept some, and/or to phase or sequence aspects of the packages proposed by the Group. Both Ministers said it was highly unlikely all recommendations will need to be implemented.

“We will seek technical advice on addressing the unfair and unbalanced elements identified by the TWG and make further announcements in April on any measures to enhance the fairness and integrity of the tax system,” Mr Nash said.

“Our aim is to ensure the system is fair for families and businesses and that it offers balance across the wider economy,” Mr Robertson says.

“We look forward to discussing the recommendations with our Coalition and Confidence and Supply partners as we work to find consensus on the best overall package. We will work to get the balance right,” he says.

“I am also happy to reaffirm the commitment made when the TWG was established that no changes arising from the report will be implemented this term. We also set out some clear bottom lines. In particular, the family home, increases to income tax and GST, and an inheritance tax are off limits and this remains the case,” says Mr Robertson.

Mr Nash also confirmed that tax reform initiatives separate to the work of the TWG will continue in the meantime. “We remain vigilant to ways the current tax system fails to address global economic and social forces which affect economic activity. These deficiencies are being acted on through our existing programme of reform.”

The Ministers noted that the Coalition Government has already moved to restore fairness and balance through a series of business-as-usual reforms:

  • Digital Economy. As announced earlier this week we are taking steps to ensure companies in the digital economy who do business across borders pay their fair share of tax. A discussion document on the options for a design of a digital services tax will be released in May, and we continue to work with other countries for a global solution;
  • Multinationals. The aggressive tax planning of some multinational companies who do business here has been tackled through the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) legislation which came into force in 2018;
  • Bright line test. The previous Government’s bright-line test that determines whether you pay tax on residential property investments sold within two years of purchase was extended by this Government to include those sold within five years;
  • Ring fenced losses. Losses on residential investment properties are to be ring-fenced, to remove the ability of property investors to pay less tax on other income;
  • Research and Development. We are encouraging innovation and investment by business with a package of R&D tax incentives that come into force from 1 April 2019;
  • GST on offshore suppliers. Domestic retailers will finally be on a level playing field with foreign companies who sell low value goods into NZ and don’t collect GST;
  • Double Tax Agreements. The ability to detect and prevent tax evasion involving taxpayers who operate in both NZ and offshore jurisdictions is enhanced by DTAs. We have updated the DTA with Hong Kong, a major financial centre in Asia. Updated DTAs with China, Korea and Fiji are also on the Government work programme;
  • Hidden economy and tax evasion. We increased the ability of IR to go after tax cheats, especially in the hidden economy, with more funding for compliance and enforcement;
  • IR Business Transformation. The BT programme of modernisation within IR makes it easier to eliminate punitive secondary tax for those who hold down more than one job, and to automate tax refunds each year;
  • Families Package. Measures in the Families Package targeted low and middle income families including changes to Working for Families;
  • Business Advisory Council and Small Business Council. The PM’s Business Advisory Council and the Small Business Council have been tasked to come up with a strategic approach to supporting business across central agencies.

Timeline:
Ministers expect to release the Government’s full response to the Report in April 2019 following detailed discussions with officials and consultation between Government parties.

As previously indicated, it is the Government’s intention to pass any legislation to implement any policy changes arising from the report before the end of the Parliamentary term. No policy measures would come into force until 1 April 2021 – giving New Zealanders the chance to vote on any decisions made by the Government.

 

 

Nash supports Clark on compassionate approach to addiction, but cannabis company collapses

Agreeing with Helen Clark, Police Minister Stuart Nash promotes “A more restorative, compassionate and health-focussed approach to addiction, rather than treating all addicts as criminals, is, in my view, the only way we are going to deal effectively with the problem.”

But the lure of cannabis as a money maker has already had a casualty as a cannabis company fails.

Road deaths dominate Beehive news

With the Government in holiday mode there is not much information coming out of the Beehive ‘latest news’ at this time of year, apart from releases on the rod toll.

Provisional figure for 2018 road deaths

Police Minister Stuart Nash has extended his sympathies to the families and friends of the 380 people who died in vehicle accidents during 2018.

Mr Nash has confirmed the provisional number of road deaths for 2018 has exceeded the annual toll for 2017, when 378 people lost their lives. It is the worst annual figure since 2009, when 384 people were killed.

The provisional figures show fatalities are made up of the following demographics:

  • 49 per cent were the driver of the vehicle and 24 per cent were passengers
  • 14 per cent were motorbike riders or pillion passengers
  • 11 per cent were pedestrians
  • Just over one per cent were cyclists
  • 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent were female
  • 28 per cent were in the sixty-plus age group
  • 14 per cent were children or teenagers
  • 13 per cent were aged between 20 and 24 years
  • 48 per cent died in crashes on the open road on state highways
  • The region with the largest share of fatalities was Waikato at 17 per cent; followed by Auckland and Canterbury with 14 per cent each; and Manawatu/Wanganui on 12 per cent

More information is on the Ministry of Transport website: https://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/

Two thirds of deaths were men. Motorbikes are relatively dangerous.

Waikato is the most dangerous region. Interesting to see the toll less in Auckland, although a lot of the roads in Auckland are either motorways with separated lanes or urban streets.

Curiously the Canterbury toll is high, but the Otago toll is low, with most deaths on State Highway 1 north and south of Dunedin.

This toll has since increased to 382 –Death in hospital lifts 2018 road toll (ODT) A man injured in a Nelson car crash last month has died – taking last year’s road toll up to 382.

Let’s make 2019 different and take care on our roads

After another tragic year on New Zealand roads, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter is emphasising Government’s commitment to improving the country’s road safety record.

“It is staggering and unnecessary loss of life – equivalent in scale to a major airline crash,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“It is yet another reminder of the need to make substantial improvements to road safety in New Zealand.

“Many deaths and serious injuries on our roads are preventable.”

‘Are preventable’ keeps getting trotted out with deaths – of course road deaths are ‘preventable’, if no one used cars, or if ten times as much was spent improving road safety. Banning motorbikes would prevent deaths, as would banning male drivers.

This Government is committed to reducing deaths and serious injuries through new thinking, more funding and prioritised action.

“The Government is investing $1.4 billion over three years to make urgent safety improvements across our high-risk roads. On high volume state highways New Zealanders can expect to see more improvements like life-saving median and side barriers and crash-preventing rumble strips.

“This year we will be consulting the public on a new road safety strategy and action plan to drive substantial improvements in road safety in New Zealand,” said Julie Anne Genter.

Road safety is a good thing to invest in. Accidents and deaths have a major impact on many people and families.

Too many people killed over Christmas

The official holiday period has ended with nine people tragically killed in crashes on New Zealand roads. This is three people fewer than the 12 who died last holiday season.

Much of the previous release was repeated.

More information http://www.transport.govt.nz/mot-resources/road-safety-resources/road-deaths/christmasnew-year-holiday-period-road-deaths/

Using roads or streets is one of the biggest risks we take in our lives. Because we travel so much it is easy to take safety for granted.

Unfortunately some deaths are caused by others at no fault of the victims – there is nothing much we can do about this but support Government expenditure on safety measures, and hope like hell it doesn’t happen to ourselves.

 

Tougher measures against drug dealing, police to go easier on users

The Government announced new measures to combat drug problems, especially synthetic drugs that have been causing a number of deaths. Two common ingredients of synthetics will be reclassified, making selling them punishable by up to life imprisonment, balanced with instructions to police to go easier on drug users.

Generally this is a big and welcome step forward, but it has a complication – it’s common for drug users to also sell drugs to finance their habit.

And Police have expressed concerns about what the changes will mean for them. They already use their discretion in dealing with drug users.

Beehive: Crackdown on synthetic drug dealers

I don’t know why they have chosen to focus just on the getting tough bit in their headline.

The Government is responding to increased drug-related deaths by cracking down on the suppliers of synthetic drugs while making it easier for those with addiction problems to get treatment, Health Minister Dr David Clark and Police Minister Stuart Nash have announced.

“Under current laws synthetics and other dangerous drugs are killing people and fuelling crime while dealers and manufacturers get rich. The current approach is failing to keep Kiwis safe and can’t be continued,” David Clark said.

“It’s time to do what will work. We need to go harder on the manufactures of dangerous drugs like synthetics, and treat the use of drugs as a health issue by removing barriers to people seeking help.”

I hope the measures will work better – they should – but it is not going to solve all drug problems.

The Government has today announced a suite of measures to tackle synthetic drugs. The measures include:

  • Classifying as Class A the main two synthetic drugs (5F-ADB and AMB-FUBINACA) that have been linked to recent deaths. This will give police the search and seizure powers they need crackdown on suppliers and manufacturers, who will also face tougher penalties – up to life imprisonment.
  • Creating a temporary drug classification category, C1, so new drugs can easily be brought under the Misuse of Drugs Act, giving police the search and seizure powers needed to interrupt supply – an important part of a health response.
  • Amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to specify in law that Police should use their discretion and not prosecute for possession and personal use where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial, or there is no public interest in a prosecution. This will apply to the use of all illegal drugs, so there is no perverse incentive created encouraging people to switch to a particular drug.
  • Allocate $16.6 million to boost community addiction treatment services, and provide communities with the support to provide emergency “surge” responses, when there is a spate of overdoses or deaths, for example.

“To be clear, this is not the full decriminalisation of drugs recommended by the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry. These are immediate steps we can take in response to the challenge we face with synthetics. We are considering the Inquiry’s recommendations separately,” Dr Clark said.

National have grizzled about it being a path to decriminalisation but given their lack of action through their 9 year term i feel like telling them to get stuffed.

Police targeting dealers

Police Minister Stuart Nash says frontline Police are targeting dealers and suppliers with an increased focus on organised crime and trans-national crime as a result of extra resourcing in Budget 2018.

“Misuse of drugs remains illegal and people should not be complacent about the risks of getting caught. Whether a drug user ends up getting Police diversion, goes through an alternative resolution process, or is referred for health treatment, they will still come to the notice of Police,” Stuart Nash said.

That’s fine, when a user isn’t also doing some dealing.

Police Association:  Police Association conditional support to drug initiatives

The Police Association supports the government’s move to go after the manufacturers and suppliers of lethal synthetic drugs.

Association President Chris Cahill says he is pleased to see a commitment to classification of two synthetic drugs as Class A, and the intention to create a temporary drug classification, C1, so new drugs can easily be brought under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The association supports a greater focus on treatment of drug addiction rather than prosecution. However, there is concern about some aspects of the government announcement.

“It has an air of drug reform on the fly, rather than a more considered debate and informed legislation. I am worried that by codifying Police discretion the government is potentially asking officers to be the spearhead of decriminalisation. If decriminalisation is what parliament wants, then that’s what the law should say,” Mr Cahill said.

Police officers already use discretion and follow very clear guidelines to determine whether a prosecution is appropriate for the particular person and whether a prosecution would be in the public interest.

“This is often a difficult decision, taking into account factors about the offender, the offence and the victim. Evidence of discretion-in-action is apparent in research from Massey University’s Dr Chris Wilkins which notes that apprehensions for cannabis use have declined by 70 per cent between 1994 and 2014, and about half of all arrests now result in warnings only,” Mr Cahill said.

“Now the government wants officers to apply that discretion when it comes to drug users who are suffering from addiction or mental health problems so, instead of going to court, they can undergo addiction treatment. However, we know the treatment facilities are just not available.

For this all to work it is critical that substantially more treatment facilities and options are made available.

Russell Brown has a good post on it –Just quietly, this is a big deal

Finding the actual nature of that balance has not been an easy matter, and both official and independent expert advice has been sought on how to manage it. But this is what they’re doing, per this morning’s announcement:

Amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to specify in law that Police should use their discretion and not prosecute for possession and personal use where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial, or there is no public interest in a prosecution. This will apply to the use of all illegal drugs, so there is no perverse incentive created encouraging people to switch to a particular drug.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Misuse of Drugs Act will be amended to guide Police discretion in such a way that the default will be to not prosecute personal use and possession of any illegal drug. The government is at pains to emphasise that this is not the full Portugal-style decriminalisation  repeatedly called for in last week’s Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, and you may even expect reform advocates to play it down a bit.

But it’s a really big deal.

If you are interest in these changes Russell’s whole post is worth reading.

More talk on ‘drug use is a health issue’ but where’s the action?

More talk but still a lack of action on drug abuse issues.

Minister of Police Stuart Nash talks some talk on addressing drug problems, but his Government is still failing to walk any meaningful walk on addressing urgent drug abuse issues.

RadioLive: Drug use should be treated ‘as a health issue’ – Stuart Nash

So why the fuck doesn’t the Government take urgent action to do that?

Police Minister Stuart Nash is refusing to say whether he’s for or against ending marijuana prohibition, but appears to be leaning in favour.

“I’m not going to give you a yes or no, because I want to see what this looks like,” he told host Duncan Garner.

“I’ll weigh up the benefits and I’ll vote accordingly.”

But as long as there are sufficient social services in place to deal with the harmful effects of marijuana, Mr Nash appears to be in favour of legalisation.

But the Government seems to be dragging the chain on this – they opposed Chloe Swarbrick’s bill, their own bill is limited to medicinal use of cannabis and they are not exactly rushing on that, and while greens got a promise of a referendum on cannabis law before or at the next election there is no sign of action there.

Drug abuse is already a major health and crime and prison issue. people continue to die, lives continue to be ruined, and all Nash does is parrot ‘drugs should be treated as a health issue’.

“I was incredibly proud of Jacinda Ardern not to sign up to Donald Trump’s new war on drugs,” he added. “We need to treat this as a health issue – the police are doing this, we’re doing this as a society.”

But nowhere enough, and nowhere near urgently enough.

He said the police are already using discretion not to criminalise drug users – even those consuming hard drugs.

“We refuse to treat every single addict out there as a criminal. This is a health issue. An example – Operation Daydream, this is going after the meth dealers and suppliers. Police did that, they rounded them up.

“After that they went to all the addicts and instead of putting them in front of a judge, as they have done in the past, they put them in front of social services to help these people. That’s the sort of society we need to create.”

One approach has had some success. Newsroom: Addiction courts save millions in prison costs

With more than 10,000 people behind bars and total prison costs expected to top $1 billion next year, politicians are desperate for ways to rein in the corrections system.

The problems sometimes seem intractable, the financial and human costs ever-increasing.

But far from the halls of power and policy summits, one approach being employed to stop people offending and going back to prison has had some real success.

Grounded in evidence and criminal justice research, the country’s two Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) courts are tasked with handling one of the toughest, and most costly, cohort of offenders: recidivist criminals.

There is a clear pattern in the lives of this cohort. They commit crimes, go to prison, get released, and then start the cycle again.

In the AODT courts, the offenders also have an added layer of complexity – their offending has been clinically assessed as driven by their alcohol and/or drug addiction.

The two Auckland-based pilot courts, set up nearly seven years ago, have shown interesting results.

Great. So why not have more of this?

In an interview with Newsroom, Justice Minister Andrew Little is positive about the AODT courts, but says any expansion will not occur before a final impact evaluation. This is due to be completed next year.

An interim-evaluation took place four years ago, and showed positive progress.

“I have a personal and principled commitment to seeing more of this, but there is a commitment to doing a more formal evaluation of the court,” he says.

“That is underway. Following that, [will be] the basis for making my bid for more resourcing to see more of them.”

Little also alludes to the challenges of pushing for long-term change.

“This is the whole question in the broader criminal justice system. Treasury kind of weighs it every time. There might be greater resources needed at the front-end, but if that means that is resulting in fewer people going to prison, and we are still reducing the reoffending rate significantly and materially, then … that is the right place to put the resources rather than at the far end when it is kind of too late.”

However, for those who understand the improved outcomes achieved through AODT courts, waiting for another evaluation is a tough ask. Feedback from the recent Justice Summit in Wellington included queries around when other parts of New Zealand would have access to AODT courts.

As drink driving researcher Gerald Waters puts it: “I’ve also looked at all offending in New Zealand – 80 percent of crime is alcohol and drug related. It’s obvious that you shouldn’t be having drug court once a week – you should be having it six days a week with one day for normal crime”.

Like may things under the current Government, after making a big deal with what the achieved in their first 100 days – mostly initiating things that would take more time – Andrew Little ‘says any expansion will not occur before a final impact evaluation. This is due to be completed next year.’

In the meantime, drug use will be in part treated as a health issue, but will remain a large criminal and prison issue until they get off their inquiry laden arses and take urgent and comprehensive action.

Jacinda Ardern has promoted her Government as progressive – it may be, but it seems to be snail’s pace progress on things she and he ministers have claimed to be in need of urgent attention. This is very disappointing.