Ombudsman report – significant breaches by Oranga Tamariki ‘uplifting’ babies

Following revelations by Newsroom in June 2019 the Ombudsman investigated the Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children), and in a report to Parliament “the ministry used its most extreme powers as a routine way to remove babies” from mothers.

Newsroom: An orchestrated litany of uplifts

The inquiry, by the Office of the Ombudsman, is the fourth following Newsroom’s revelations in June last year of an attempted ‘uplift’ by Oranga Tamariki of a newborn boy at Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

It looked back two years before that June 2019 case and in 74 of the 74 cases of baby removals it inspected, the ministry had applied to the Family Court for the draconian ‘without notice’ orders to take babies from parents. 

All 74 cases.

The ‘without notice’ provision is supposed to be the final option in cases of urgency where a baby is at serious risk and all other options have been tried.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier’s report presents a litany of failure by Oranga Tamariki, saying in three quarters of the cases the ministry had more than 60 days to prepare for the baby’s arrival, hold meetings with whānau and iwi, seek ministry legal officer input, consult with hospitals and hold Family Group Conferences but did not do so.

He accepts applications were made because ministry staff had serious concerns for pēpi (babies), but it was essential staff understood and followed the law. Instead, OT failed its obligations under New Zealand and international law.

Boshier flatly declares the Oranga Tamariki decision making practices in the two years covered by his inquiry to be “unreasonable”.

“The evidence I have considered did not demonstrate that the ministry consistently met the objects and principles of the Act and the obligations under international law.”

From the report Foreword:

In May 2019, approximately halfway through the Ministry’s five-year transformation programme, Newsroom published a story about an attempt by the Ministry to remove a newborn pēpi from their young mother. The video documentary that later accompanied the original written article gave rise to public dismay and a questioning of the Ministry’s policies and practices.

The Government expressed confidence in the actions of the Ministry, yet media reports of further examples continued.

That confidence appears to have been misplaced.

My investigation found that the Ministry was usually aware of the pregnancy and reported concerns for a significant period before the birth of pēpi. In 77 percent of the cases I examined, the Ministry had 60 working days or more to assess and explore options, and to develop plans to ensure the safety of pēpi. However, the Ministry did not consistently utilise the available tools and mechanisms, such as hui ā-whānau and FGCs, to engage early with parents and whānau.

The Ministry also did not use that window of opportunity to plan early with professionals and external parties. In most of the cases, the Ministry did not meet the formal timeframe for completing its assessments. I also found variable use of the key checks and balances, such as referrals to Care and Protection Resource Panels, use of the Child and Family Consult, professionals meetings, completion of the Ministry’s assessment tool (Tuituia) and professional supervision.

The outcome is that in many cases decisions were being made late and without expert advice or independent scrutiny, and, most concerningly, without whānau involvement.

Key findings:

  • I found that urgency was created through the Ministry’s inaction and lack of capacity to follow processes in a timely and effective way. As a consequence, parents were disadvantaged—first, by not having an opportunity to respond to the allegations or challenge the information relied upon by the Ministry before their pēpi were removed, and second, by having to challenge orders after they were made, and when the parents were vulnerable because they were either heavily pregnant or had just given birth.
  • I found that the rights of disabled parents were not visible in either policy or practice. All the cases I reviewed required a disability rights-based response from the Ministry but this did not occur. That is a significant breach of the Disability Convention.
  • In terms of the Ministry’s practices relating to the physical removal of newborn pēpi, my investigation also found there was late or limited planning and engagement with parents and whānau and other external professionals.
  • I also found limited support was offered to mothers who wished to breastfeed.
  • Finally, I am not satisfied that, when the removal was executed by the Ministry, it provided parents and whānau with the opportunity for ngākau maharatanga me te ngākau aroha; a period of ‘quality time’ that reflects consideration, empathy, sympathy and love.
  • In addition, the Ministry did not ensure that the parents and whānau had their support people present. Nor did it provide them with clear information on next steps. There was also no support offered to parents and whānau to deal with the trauma and grief of child removal, or to help their healing.

This is strong criticism of Oranga Tamariki – Newsroom says the report is ‘scathing’ and is a ‘damning inquiry’.

In a Beehive media release Minister for Children – Subsequent children legislation to change – Tracey Martin downplayed the problems.

“There are times when children need to go into care for their safety – the safety and care of children must always be paramount,” Minister Martin said. “But we all know that the best thing for children is that they are safe and loved at home. Interpretation of the current law has meant that some children may have been unnecessarily traumatised and kept apart from their parents.”

Minister Martin said the Government will remove the provisions covering cases where a parent had a previous child permanently taken into care but will retain those for subsequent children where a parent has a conviction for the murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a child in their care.

Martin didn’t specifically mention the Ombudsman report, which I think is a remarkable avoidance, but did refer to “a review of the provisions this year found that they are not always effective, and can have a negative impact on children, parents and whānau.”

“The review showed that change to the law is needed,” the Minister said.

Amended operational policy and guidance will ensure robust assessments of safety and wellbeing when younger siblings come to the notice of Oranga Tamariki. New monitoring and reporting for subsequent children will also support better oversight of social work practice and monitor changes over time. Interim guidance will also be developed to support social work practice between now and when the partial repeal takes effect.

“Oranga Tamariki will also do further work on developing supports for parents and whānau who have had a child permanently removed from their care,” Minister Martin said.

This will be focused on reducing the risk of possible future children requiring care or protection, maintaining the best possible relationship with their children in care and supporting them with the associated grief, loss and trauma.

The timing of changes to operational policy and practice, monitoring and reporting, and potential changes to support for parents and whānau, will be aligned with the passing of an Amendment Bill to partially repeal the subsequent children provisions. The work to support this is being done now so that the Amendment Bill can be introduced to the House next year, and once passed, the changes can be implemented together.

This from Stuff seems to have pre-empted the report, in part making excuses and downplaying the problems – Tracey Martin on uplift controversy: Oranga Tamariki ‘believed the child was in danger’:

Oranga Tamariki minister Tracey Martin is to scrap Children’s Teams, small task forces set up to stop at-risk children from falling into state care.

The move comes as the Government tries to wrestle back control of the narrative in an explosive debate over the number of Māori children taken into care.

Hundreds of protesters rallied at Parliament on Tuesday, calling for a halt to Government uplifts of Māori babies. Protests were also held in other cities.

Martin said the “emotive” language used by organisers Hands off our Tamariki wasn’t helpful.

I hope she finds the report from the Ombudsman a lot more helpful.

The full report from the Ombudsman:

A Matter of Urgency:

Investigation Report into policies, practices and procedures for the removal of newborn pēpi by Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children

Green flip-flop on waka jumping riles NZ First

There may be a bit of payback with the Green party support of a National MP bill repealing the waka jumping bill that they supported in 2018 due to ‘honouring the coalition agreement’.

NZ First aren’t happy, saying the Greens can’t be trusted, but there’s a large dollop of pot calling kettle black there.

NZ First and Labour made a commitment in their coalition agreement:

Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

From the Labour-Green agreement:

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such agreements to be complied with.

Because of this Greens voted for the bill in 2018 despite opposing it. But they are now supporting a repeal of the members’ bill currently before Parliament – ELECTORAL (INTEGRITY REPEAL) AMENDMENT BILL

Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National):

I haven’t canvassed other political parties, and I acknowledge that Labour advanced the legislation I’m attempting to repeal early in 2018, but I’m certainly hoping all members will give careful consideration to this bill, because this bill attempts to actually put integrity back into our electoral system. It’s about improving the integrity of our system.

To become a member of Parliament isn’t easy, and having got here, whether you come as an Independent—which is a very fraught way—or you come as a member of Parliament, you come with a conscience. You come with a responsibility to form an opinion on issues and to speak with your conscience, if you’re a list MP, or, if you’re an electorate MP, to speak with a conscience that represents the people that elected you to this House. Though this bill is about allowing MPs to exercise that conscience, it’s about not coming to this Parliament to simply be—as some members of Parliament have described in the past—cannon fodder, or a puppet to a political party.

Now, we all know the history of this legislation that I’m attempting to change today. It was the price of the current Government—the Labour – New Zealand First – Green Government—doing a deal with New Zealand First, and I know why he needs that sort of control. History tells us.

I want to just, in conclusion, in my last couple of minutes, note for the House the number of times dissension has actually been significant and relevant to the New Zealand parliamentary process. I can think myself, long before I was here, of Marilyn Waring, in 1984. She threatened to cross the floor, and caused the well-known snap election that caused the end of the Muldoon era. Jim Anderton, a loyal member of the Labour Party, until he argued that the Labour Party had left him and his principles, so he set up The Alliance party. Dame Tariana Turia, one of the most respected members of Parliament I’ve had the privilege of working with, didn’t agree with the Labour Party. She said so, walked out, and started her own party—the Māori Party—which made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s democracy.

And Mr Peters himself, a member of the National caucus, disagreed with National, walked out, formed his own party, and no one can argue that it hasn’t been a significant contributor to New Zealand politics over that time.

So there will be robust debate around this bill. I certainly hope the Green Party will be careful with its contribution and will deliberate carefully, because I note as I read their contributions last time that they were never comfortable with being forced into the position of supporting this legislation.

Greg O’Connor and Peeni Henare both spoke, saying the Labour would oppose the bill.

Then Tracey Martin from NZ First spoke:

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First): Kia ora, Madam Speaker. I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to oppose the bill. What we are seeing, and the New Zealand public needs to understand, is this is a personal vendetta by two members who feel that they have been personally slighted some 20-odd years ago. That is what this is about. And the member’s bill ballot has finally provided them with an opportunity to take a dig.

The New Zealand First Party does not believe that this is how this House should be used, for personal vendettas. The purpose of the original bill—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: And what you hear, ladies and gentlemen, is the sense of entitlement that wafts away from Mr Carter and Mr Smith. They believe that they are elected and once they are elected, even if they choose to deny the platform upon which they were elected, that you must suffer them.

And I say to the Green Party: there is a time and a place to stand up and keep one’s word. There is a time and a place to acknowledge commitments made and stick with them, and I’ll be interested to see later tonight whether the Green Party has the integrity to vote their word, as opposed to deciding in the final days of a Parliament that they don’t need a relationship any more, going forward, that they don’t need to keep an agreement or a word given, and we will see what the Green Party does with regard to their integrity. We do not support the bill.

Chloe Swarbrick spoke for the Greens:

Everybody has stood up tonight and given pretty high and mighty speeches. There’s been a lot of talk about principle, but the fact of the matter is, is not all too many people have actually acknowledged the machinations behind the scenes here tonight, and that is politics. The Parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand is, as I think most in this House would be aware, one of the most whipped in the world. What that means is that even though we have heard some speeches from members of the Opposition about the importance of things like freedom of speech, you’ve still had a speech from one of your departing members today who spoke to the fact that they had to vote against what they felt was their conscience in coming forward with a caucus position.

There’s also the case, as was noted by members on this side of the House, the fact of the matter that we have a very tribalist system. I think all of us have seen just how ugly that can get. That adversarial system has produced some of the worst behaviour in this place. But on top of that it has resulted in some very archaic first past the post thinking, particularly in what the major parties see and characterise as safe seats. I think that’s a great example, actually, of the flaws of our present adversarial system.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Greens from speeches of both the Opposition and governing parties tonight. I think that it’s really important that we are deeply clear…

And that the Opposition doesn’t heckle me right now, because the Greens will honour our 20 year position on voting on this legislation tonight in much the same way that we honoured the coalition agreements and voting for the legislation that originally put it into place…

So, maybe politics would be a whole lot better if politicians stop talking about themselves as we are tonight. If politicians want a code of conduct, as we’re talking about, and how we treat each other, particularly within our parties, then perhaps we could best start by all signing up to the recommendations of the Francis review. The Greens commend this bill to the House.

A party vote was called for on the question,That the Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill be read a first time.

Ayes 64

New Zealand National 54; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.

Noes 55

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9.

Bill read a first time.

Outside of Parliament it was leaders James Shaw and Winston Peters clashing.

Just over two years ago Parliament passed the controversial waka-jumping legislation after the Green Party voted in favour of something they’d spent decades opposing.

RNZ: James Shaw and Winston Peters go head to head over waka-jumping

The Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill was born out of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition deal.

It requires MPs who quit, or are expelled from a political party, to leave Parliament then and there.

The Greens hate the bill and think it is anti-democratic and draconian but co-leader James Shaw begrudgingly gave his party’s support to it in 2018.

In a complete reversal, the Greens last night threw their support behind a bill to repeal it, enraging New Zealand First.

There may be some utu in this as well as the greens going back to their principles – NZ First have not honoured their coalition agreement in opposing Green policies.

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

Polls suggest voters trust NZ First (and Peters in particular) less than the Greens.

Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

Both parties are fighting for their political lives. Greens are polling just over the threshold, NZ First well under. Having spats like this may raise their profiles but it probably won’t raise their chances of surviving the election.

Newshub Nation – Clark, polls, NZ First-Green relationship

Australian Minister Dutton joins list of prominent people with Covid-19

Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton has been hospitalised with Covid-19, joining a growing list of prominent people confirmed to have the coronavirus.

Dutton was recently in Washington where New Zealand minister Tracey Martin sat beside him for 90 minutes but that is thought to be long enough go to be safe for her.

Despite this I think it would be prudent of Martin to avoid any chance of spreading the virus through the New Zealand Government and Parliament (unless it’s too late).

Ivanka Trump also met with Dutton.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has tested positive for Covid-19, with both her and her Prime Minister husband going into isolation for 14 days. There are now 160 presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada – but the number of prominent people catching the virus makes me wonder whether confirmed cases are the tip of the virus iceberg.

CBC: No need for Trudeau to be tested, despite wife’s COVID-19 diagnosis, experts say

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t need to be tested for COVID-19 — even though his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was diagnosed with the disease — if he isn’t showing any symptoms, experts say.

“Certainly for people asymptomatic, we do not recommend testing,” said Colin Lee, a specialist in public health and infectious disease. “But I could certainly see that people in position of power may want testing. And that might happen. But it’s certainly not the medical and public health recommendation.”

Seems odd not to take the precaution – and to test whether people without symptoms could be carrying the virus. At least PM Trudeau is taking precautions by going into isolation.

Al Jazeera: Bolsonaro aide who met Trump tests positive for coronavirus

A Brazilian government official who attended an official meeting at Donald Trump’s resort in Florida on Saturday and posted a photo of himself standing next to the United States president has tested positive for coronavirus, Brazilian officials said on Thursday.

In the photo posted on his Instagram account, Fabio Wajngarten, the communication secretary of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, is standing next to Trump wearing a “Make Brazil great again” cap. Vice President Mike Pence was next to Trump.

“Let’s put it this way: I’m not concerned,” Trump told reporters while meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office.

He said he had heard about the aide’s exposure but that “we did nothing very unusual”.

Trump may not have the virus, but this shows how easily it could spread around world leaders. The US hasn’t closed their borders to Brazil.

I expect health experts will be looking at where these people caught the virus from, and how it is being spread.

Hello Magazine: Celebrities affected by coronavirus: from Tom Hanks to Robbie Williams

Hollywood couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson shared the news on Thursday that they had both tested positive for coronavirus. Taking to Instagram, Tom shared a photo of himself and Rita together in Australia, where they are currently in self-isolation, writing: “Hello folks. @ritawilson and I want to thank everyone here Down Under who are taking such good care of us. We have COVID-19 and are in isolation so we do not spread it to anyone else.”

Robbie Williams is also in Australia at the moment, where he was due to perform a one-off show. However, the Angels singer has been forced to cancel his gig after the Australian government announced that all gatherings of more than 500 people should not go ahead.

Production of hit Netflix show Riverdale has shut down after a member of the team was exposed to COVID-19. The decision was made after a crew member came into contact with someone who had tested positive for co

On Friday, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand remained at five. It seems inevitable this number will increase.

Many events have been affected. The New Zealand versus Australia one day cricket match in Sydney last night was played in an empty stadium. The Highlanders rugby team will be playing in an empty stadium in Buenos Aires. The Pasfika event scheduled for Auckland this weekend was cancelled.

Surprisingly the mosque attack anniversary event scheduled for Christchurch seems to be still going ahead, but scaled down:

This may change before tomorrow.

The cancellation list is growing around the world. RNZ – Covid-19: Cancelled, crowdless and closed

Cancelled/postponed in New Zealand

  • Auckland’s Pasifika Festival has been cancelled amid concerns about the risk of the virus being transmitted to the Pacific Islands by festival attendees
  • One of the biggest surf events seen in New Zealand, the Corona Piha Pro, has been postponed, with The World Surf League deciding to postpone all events in March.
  • Two rock bands have postponed concerts in Auckland – Deftones were set to perform at Trusts Arena on Sunday and My Chemical Romance at Western Springs later this month.

Cancelled/postponed/closed around the world

These include:

  • The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled after a McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Basketball and hockey fans in North America will miss out on games, with both the NBA and the NHL suspending their seasons.
  • The US PGA Tour has cancelled The Players Championship and all tour events for the next few weeks.
  • The massive E3 video game conference in Los Angeles has been canned, and American music festival South by Southwest has also been cancelled. The Coachella Festival, due to be held next month, has been put off until October.
  • There will be no Broadway shows in New York for the rest of the month, while Disney has closed its Disneyland and Disneyworld theme parks in California and Florida, as well as several others around the globe.
  • The ATP has suspended its professional men’s tennis tour for six weeks, and the world figure skating championships have been cancelled.
  • Several blockbuster movies have had their release dates pushed back as filmgoers stay away from the cinema, including the latest Fast and Furious instalment – pushed back by 11 months – and new James Bond movie No Time To Die, which has been delayed until November.
  • The Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are closed until end of March, while New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is temporarily closing all three of its locations in the city. All Smithsonian museums in Washington DC and New York City will close from Saturday.
  • Qatar has announced the closure of all cinemas, theatres, gyms, play areas and museums.

Still going ahead (so far)

  • The WOMAD music festival is going ahead at Brooklands Park in New Plymouth this weekend, although organisers are asking people who feel unwell to stay home as part of their plans to mitigate the effects of the virus.
  • The St Patrick’s Parade on Queen Street in central Auckland is set to start at midday tomorrow, while the Irish Music and Dance Festival will be held outside Auckland Town Hall, from 12:30pm – 3:30pm.
  • Despite organisers admitting a delay of one or two years would be the “most feasible” option if the Tokyo Olympics can’t be held this year, the games are still set to take place.
  • Commemorations to make the 15 March mosque terror attacks are still set to take place in Christchurch on Sunday.
  • While Pasifika has been cancelled, the Auckland secondary schools’ dance festival Polyfest starts next week, running from from Wednesday to Saturday.

The situation is changing daily, with increasing numbers of cancellations and restrictions.

Back to the beginning First Covid-19 case happened in November, China government records show

The first case of someone suffering from Covid-19 can be traced back to 17 November, according to media reports on unpublished Chinese government data.

The report, in the South China Morning Post, said Chinese authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus last year and who came under medical surveillance, and the earliest case was 17 November – weeks before authorities announced the emergence of the new virus.

The data obtained by the Post, which the Guardian has not been able to verify, said a 55-year-old from Hubei province could have been the first person to contract Covid-19. For about one month after that date there were one to five new cases reported each day, the report said, and by 20 December there were 60 confirmed cases.


RNZ – Covid-19: how to protect yourself and others:

The Ministry of Health says the WHO pandemic declaration does not change anything for New Zealand which is already following a pandemic plan. The ministry’s key message is to stay home if you are ill.

“The most fundamental thing that every New Zealand citizen and other person in this country can do is to make sure that if they are unwell they do not go out and they do not put others at risk, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on 12 March.

Doctors and the ministry are telling people who have symptoms not to just turn up at the GP or hospital emergency department, but to phone ahead or ring Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Covid-19:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath.
  • tiredness

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing are a sign of possible pneumonia and require immediate medical attention.

Other symptoms may also be present:

  • Aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion and/or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea

Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have Covid-19 as some are similar to a cold or flu. It’s not certain how long symptoms take to appear after a person has been infected, but WHO assessments suggest it is 2-10 days.

The World Health Organisation’s reports have shown 80 percent of those infected only a mild illness, 14 percent experience more severe disease, and 5 percent become critically ill.

How is coronavirus spread?

Coronavirus can spread from person to person, by personal contact when droplets from someone who is infected coughs and sneezes.

Droplets containing the virus also settle on surrounding surfaces. Studies suggest they may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days, the WHO says. You can catch the disease by contact with a surface that has the viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

WHO expert Dr Bruce Aylward said 10 percent of people who come in contact with an infected person contract the virus. An early WHO report analysing about 50,000 cases from China suggested the virus was unlikely to spread from people who are not showing symptoms.

How to avoid catching and spreading Covid-19

Good hygiene, regularly washing and thoroughly drying your hands, and other simple steps can help stop the spread, the Ministry of Health says.

To reduce your chance of being infected or spreading the virus:

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Stay at least 1 metre away from someone who is coughing or sneezing,
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, sharing cups or food with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.

– Sources: MoH and WHO

What to do if you may have been exposed

People have been advised NOT to turn up to a doctor’s office or hospital if they are showing symptoms, but to instead call Healthline 0800 358 5453 (or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453).

If you may have been exposed to Covid-19 you should isolate yourself for 14 days.

If you have returned from countries subject to New Zealand travel restrictions you should to isolate yourself for 14 days. Read more from the Ministry of Health on which countries have restrictions and what type of restrictions they are.

 

Poll – replacement NZ First leader (plus more donations drip feeding)

At this stage there is no indication that Winston Peters will step down as Deputy Prime Minister pending the SFO investigation into how the NZ First Foundation has been dealing with donations. Peters has both distanced himself saying he has nothing to do with the foundation, but has also said he knows the foundation has bone nothing wrong and has been doing all the media releases and interviews in relation to the issue.

And there is no indication that Winston Peters is ready to step down as leader of NZ First or to retire from politics. He doesn’t exactly look like an energizer bunny but politically he just keeps on going (with the occasional top up of voter energy after things have gone flat).

But regardless, Newshub decided to do some polling on a replacement NZ First leader – Who Kiwis think should be NZ First leader if Winston Peters stands down

In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, voters were asked for their thoughts on who should take over if Peters ever stands down as New Zealand First leader.

Thee results are quite mixed.

  • Ron Mark: 17.9%
  • Shane Jones: 14.5%
  • Tracey Martin: 13.8%
  • Fletcher Tabuteau: 3.6%

The three most popular are the three most prominent NZ First MPs. All are ministers. Jones is by far the most visible (he does a lot of attention seeking), but interesting to see Mark top the poll, as he has been a much more quiet worker.

Results from NZ First voters must be suspect as the sample must be quit small, with only 3.6% preferring the party in the poll.

  • Ron Mark: 34.4%
  • Shane Jones: 18.5%
  • Fletcher Tabuteau: 13.6%
  • Tracey Martin: 2.9%

So Jones doesn’t seem very popular even amongst the few NZ First voters polled. This doesn’t mean much, but it’s a bit interesting.

Peters has always been leader of NZ First, the Peters is sometimes referred to as Winston First.

Tracey Martin was chosen as deputy leader of NZ First on 14 February 2013.

Ron Mark challenged her and was selected to replace her on 3 July 2015.

Fletcher Tabuteau replaced Mark as leader on 27 February 2018.

Meanwhile Simon Bridges hasn’t ruled out working with Winston Peters forever:

It would be ridiculous making a commitment on this for future elections, so this means less than the replacement leader polling.


Meanwhile the donations story continues to drip feed, despite Peters saying he was slaying a complaint with the police over the ‘theft’ of information from the Foundation  he has nothing to do with.

RNZ: NZ First Foundation received tens of thousands of dollars from donors in horse racing industry

The New Zealand First Foundation has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from donors in the horse racing industry in payments which fall just below the $15,000.01 at which party donations are usually made public.

As racing minister, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has delivered significant benefits to the industry, including millions of dollars of government money spent on tax breaks and scrapping betting levies.

Records viewed by RNZ show one of the big donors was the Lindsay family. Brendan Lindsay sold the plastic storage container business Sistema for $660 million in late 2016 and a year later bought Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud.

Three lots of $15,000 were deposited into the bank account of the New Zealand First Foundation on 11 October, 2018, according to records viewed by RNZ.

One of the donations was in Brendan Lindsay’s own name and one was in the name of his wife, Jo Lindsay. There was a third deposit made that same day listed as Lindsay Invest Donation.

The year before – in the 2017 election year – Brendan Lindsay also donated $15,000. On the same day there is another deposit for $15,000 listed as Lindsay Trust Donation. Both were banked by the New Zealand First Foundation on 5 May, 2017.

Brendan Lindsay told RNZ, via email, that neither he nor his wife were aware of the Foundation.

Spreading payments between related people and entities all just below the disclosure threshold looks designed to avoid the law. Time will tell whether it is actually illegal or not, but can have an appearance of being deliberately deceitful.


 

Peters claims party financials legal, but no explanation of Foundation

Yesterday Winston Peters claimed that NZ First  has operated “within electoral laws” and that their financial arrangements using the NZ First Foundation are legal, but has given no explanation of how they have handled donations.

A media release:

Rt Winston Peters

Leader of New Zealand First

19 November 2019

Allegations raised this morning by Stuff Limited / Fairfax concern a party matter but I am confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years. Declarable donations were declared to the Electoral Commission.

Our system of democracy is based on the secrecy of the ballot and privacy of party memberships and donations within specified limits.

We look forward to discussing this matter with the Electoral Commission.

Their financials don’t just remain secret from the public. Newsroom: Peters under fire over ‘foundation’ loans

New Zealand First MP and former deputy leader Tracey Martin expressed ignorance about the reports, saying: “I don’t know anything about the New Zealand First Foundation.”

Asked whether she was concerned by the allegations, Martin said simply that they were “interesting”.

Remarkable that she knows nothing about the Foundation, presuming that she is telling the truth – (Peters has a history of making false claims and denials:

Peters would not comment on the allegations in detail when approached by media before New Zealand First’s caucus meeting this morning, but said he would put out a press statement later in the day to “put the record straight”.

“For 27 years we’ve obeyed the electoral law of this country, we’ve never deviated, the last time there was allegations like this was in 2008.

“There were three inquiries, the Serious Fraud Office, the police and the Electoral Commission – they all found us to be exonerated, we’re not going to have this again.”

But:

In 2008, Peters was indeed cleared by police, the SFO and Electoral Commission over allegations of fraud regarding a $100,000 payment from Owen Glenn to his lawyer Henry. However, he was formally censured by Parliament after its privileges committee said he had “knowingly provid[ed] false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests”.

The problem for Peters and NZ First doesn’t look like going way.

Newsroom: Peters allegations another political toothache for PM

Serious allegations about New Zealand First’s approach to electoral laws are some way from being established – but there is enough in the claims to concern both Jacinda Ardern and the public as a whole.

RNZ’s Guyon Espiner opened a crack in the door with a piece asking important questions rather than providing answers about the foundation.

Now, Stuff’s Matt Shand has busted it down with an investigation alleging a concerted effort to cloak hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”.

Shand’s story suggests the donations were used to finance election campaigns, pay for legal advice, and even hiring Joseph Parker to speak at the party’s 2017 conference.

So far, Peters has done little to refute the substance of the article.

A press release he claimed would put the record straight amounted to little more than a dodge of the allegations, along with the tautological statement that “declarable donations were declared”.

To borrow another tautology, this is deja vu all over again for Peters.

In 2008, a cascade of claims about donations made to New Zealand First by wealthy businessmen such as Sir Robert Jones, Sir Owen Glenn and the Vela family – but concealed from the public – sparked numerous investigations and contributed to the ousting of the Labour-led government at that year’s election.

Over a decade later, Peters remains unrepentant and insists his name was unfairly dragged through the mud, noting that the police, Serious Fraud Office and Electoral Commission all decided against taking action.

But that is not the glowing exoneration he makes it out to be.

While SFO director Grant Liddell said there was no basis for laying fraud charges, he suggested there were unanswered questions about other possible electoral breaches – essentially punting the matter to the police and the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission’s final ruling on the matternoted that the party’s 2007 return was “materially false” but not illegal, as the party secretary had no intention to misstate or conceal the facts, while the 2005 and 2006 returns fell outside of the time limit for prosecution.

Party officials have been leaving the party because they have been put at risk over the financial transactions that they know little about.

It noted specifically that the decision was about the party secretary’s actions only, and not any other members of the party – such as Peters himself.

The police investigation also cleared the party secretary specifically, rather than New Zealand First as a whole.

So Peters claiming exoneration looks farcical, but typical.

Unravelling the claims seems set to take months, rather than days or weeks – and is yet another political toothache that Ardern would rather not be dealing with.

It may run well into election year. Ardern and Labour should be concerned after what happened in 2008.

Stuff: What NZ First slush fund was spent on: Campaign HQ, staff overtime, and a shredder

NZ First officials and MPs were kept in the dark while $38,000 was spent on campaign headquarters and staff overtime by the party’s political slush fund, the New Zealand First Foundation.

Expenses records for the foundation seen by Stuff show it collected more than $500,000 in donations from April 2017 to March 2019 that could be in breach of electoral donation laws, particularly if the foundation was paying party expenses.

Many of these apparent donations to the foundation do not appear on the party’s electoral returns.

Invoices, seen by Stuff, reveal the foundation spent $325,000 in about 18 months to March 2019 – with most of the money appearing to directly benefit the NZ First Party.

This included renting and furnishing the party’s campaign office for the 2017 election as well as advertising material, reimbursements for travel, internet bills, legal advice and consultancy work.

It does not appear this spending was declared to the Electoral Commission by the party.

Nor revealed to many in the party.

One former MP said that discovering details about the foundation “slush fund” undermined the work of NZ First’s volunteer fundraisers.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster said the accounts were disorganised and inaccurate when he took over the role in 2008.

“All of the accounts were all written in a A4 exercise book, like a child would use for school,” he said.

“It would be fair to say they were inaccurate.”

Forster said he had questioned the party’s income at meetings and he could not figure out where the money came from.

“A lot of people have given a lot to this party and they have been kept in the dark.”

In October 2019, Lester Gray resigned from his position as NZ First Party president after refusing to sign off on its financial statements.

Gray said in a letter to the NZ First board that he had not been shown documentation he requested and therefore could not sign off the returns.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 financial reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote to the  board.

“As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the party any longer.”

Former MPs say the financial reports and party expenses were never presented to members.

NZ First Party presidents – who are ostensibly in charge of the organisational wing of the party – are not welcome at caucus meetings.

While the NZ First constitution states that “the president has the right to attend any party meeting”, a party spokesman said it was a “longstanding convention since the inception of NZ First” that party presidents did not attend caucus.

NZ First are in disarray with ex MPs and officials apparently willing to break the secrecy.

I don’t think that denials and claims by Peters can be trusted.

And given that Peters appears to have maintained secrecy and control along with few cronies, I think the secret buck stops with him.

Stuff: Electoral Commission probes NZF

The Electoral Commission, which oversees electoral law, said it would contact the party this morning following revelations from Stuff around donations to the party’s foundation that were not declared to the commission.

“The documents being referred to in the media have not been shown to the Electoral Commission,” a spokeswoman said.

“We will be contacting NZ First and the New Zealand First Foundation to seek further information.”

$150m to help youth transition from state care

In another pre-budget announcement the Government is putting $150 million to help youth who don’t have family support to transition into work.

RNZ: $150m package to help youth transition from state care

Young people transitioning from state care to independence will no longer be cut off from Government support when they turn 18.

A $150 million dollar transition support service announced today is intended as a safety net for 18-25 year olds who don’t have a family to fall back on.

Children’s Minister Tracey Martin said the new service would help some 3000 young people over the next four years.

“We know that young people leaving care often have high needs. By definition they’ve had a rough start – it is hard, it is traumatic for any child to be separated from their parents.

“The care experience young people involved in the design of the new service said that they felt lonely and isolated after their time in care and often didn’t know how to get the help that they needed.”

The minister said that young people who have left the state’s care and protection have in the past ended up with worse outcomes in nearly every key area including health, housing and incomes.

“Teenagers leaving care should have the right to expect what any young person would want – knowing there is someone to turn to if they need help; a warm bed to sleep in; some help and encouragement when it is needed.

“This service will provide that, both by allowing young people to stay longer with their caregivers and providing specialised transitions support workers whose job is to help this group.”

Oranga Tamariki has been tasked with building the service, which will employ 175 new specialist staff employed and make 60 supported accommodation facilities available by year four.

Twenty-five million dollars will go towards supporting young people live with their caregiver beyond the age of 18, and $9 million to help the transition from care to independence, up to the age of 25.

Young people were engaged with in the design of the transition service, which would largely be provided by NGOs, iwi and Māori organisations.

Making the investment now reduced the risk of personal cost to the young people and would help break the cycle of families needing state care.

Nearly 30 per cent of children in care have parents who had also been in care, Ms Martin said.

The new services include:

  • 175 new specialist transition support staff by year four providing day-to-day support to individual young people as they transition out of care
  • 60 supported accommodation places by year four for young people who need a stepping stone to make a successful transition to independent living
  • $25 million over four years to support arrangements for young people to continue to live with their caregiver beyond the age of 18
  • $9 million over four years to provide advice and assistance to individual young people transitioning from care to independence, up to the age of 25.

 

Minister for Children Tracey Martin on Oranga Tamariki taking newborn babies from mothers

Minister for Children Tracey Martin was interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning, and was asked about the jump in the number of newborn Maori babies being taken from their parents by Oranga Tamariki in the last three years.

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews Minister for Children Tracey Martin

Simon Shepherd: Minister for Children Tracey Martin, Thanks for your time this morning. So, we’ve seen this jump in the number of newborn Maori babies being taken from their parents in the last three years. Is that because it’s a directive from Oranga Tamariki to get involved earlier?

Tracey Martin: First of all – two things – between 2015 and 2017, certainly, there was an increase in the uplift of babies. Between 2017 and 2018, there’s been a decrease. In the Waikato, there’s been a decrease; in the Hawke’s Bay, there’s been an increase. So none of this is just a standard ‘we’re going in and picking up babies’, which is a little bit what is being portrayed across the media at the moment.

Okay. But there has been— I mean, let’s just talk about those figures. Maori babies in the first seven days, between 2015 and 2016 – 164 in those two years. Bring it forward, 2017, 2018 – 230. And that’s in the first seven days of a newborn. And in the first three months, there’s been a 33% increase.

Sure. And I would think that some of this is around the ‘subsequent baby’ situation, which was a piece inside the Oranga Tamariki legislation put in by the previous government. I believe that the intent of that insertion was appropriate – which means that what we’re talking about here is that the mum, the parents, have already had a child that has been removed due to neglect or violence or other issues, and then they now have another baby coming. So what the intent of that legislation was was – is the second child, the subsequent child, safe?

Okay. You talk about measurable outcomes in this legislation. So what are these measurable outcomes? Are you going to put targets in place to reduce the number of Maori in care?

I don’t like targets; that’s the first thing.

So that’s a no?

Yeah, because that says that there’s an acceptable level. I want to see a reduction of— And actually, something like 80% of the Maori children who are in the care of the Oranga Tamariki are living in whanau placements. So they’re not inside care and protection areas or anything like that. They are with whanau, but the CE still technically has legal guardianship rights over them.

Well, if you look at the statistics, 59% of children in care are Maori, and yet Maori are 15% of the population.

That’s right.

Would it not be a goal to say it would be actually representative of the population?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a wonderful goal for it to be representative of the population. But let’s be clear –Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills; Oranga Tamariki’s job is to protect children.

Okay, so, that case has been in the headlines, but I’ve talked to other social agencies, and they’ve given me an example of a 17-year-old who had a baby, went to have a shower after three hours and came back, and the baby had been taken.

Is that in Oranga Tamariki’s time?

Yeah. In the last year, yeah.

Right. So I would be very interested if people— In the same way that I have made the offer to Jean through the MP Meka Whaitiri, I would be very interested for them to actually email me specifically about those cases.

Okay. You talk about measurable outcomes in this legislation. So what are these measurable outcomes? Are you going to put targets in place to reduce the number of Maori in care?

I don’t like targets; that’s the first thing.

So that’s a no?

Yeah, because that says that there’s an acceptable level. I want to see a reduction of— And actually, something like 80% of the Maori children who are in the care of the Oranga Tamariki are living in whanau placements. So they’re not inside care and protection areas or anything like that. They are with whanau, but the CE still technically has legal guardianship rights over them.

Well, if you look at the statistics, 59% of children in care are Maori, and yet Maori are 15% of the population.

That’s right.

Would it not be a goal to say it would be actually representative of the population?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a wonderful goal for it to be representative of the population. But let’s be clear –Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills; Oranga Tamariki’s job is to protect children.

Full transcript: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1905/S00273/the-nation-minister-for-children-tracey-martin.htm

Government considering mandatory classifications for streaming services

This looks like being too late and impractical, especially for overseas streaming services .

NZ Herald: NZ Government mulling mandatory classification rules for Netflix and other streaming services

The Government is exploring the possibility of making classifications for on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Lightbox, mandatory.

What about Youtube? Facebook?

What about live streaming? That’s where one of the biggest problems is with objectionable material.

Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin said this would bring streaming services in line with other forms of media in New Zealand.

The Government today started consultation on options on classifying content that is available online.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and New Zealand’s classifications system is not keeping pace.”

It is nowhere near the mark and it’s hard to see how it could keep pace, with the amount of content that becomes available.

She said the current classification system was built around traditional platforms, such as cinema-released films and broadcast television programmes.

The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act was passed in 1993.

But the media landscape has changed significantly since then.

“Many commercial video-on-demand services do self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council,” Martin said.

But, she added, those classifications had not always been consistent with New Zealand’s regime and some streaming service providers chose not to participate in the voluntary scheme.

“This inconsistency means it can be confusing for parents trying to pick something for their kids to watch or that helps young people make informed choices.”

The only way any sort of consistency could be achieved is if all content was checked and classified by one entity, like the New Zealand Censor. A recent classification by our censor of the streamed video of the Christchurch mosque massacres was generally supported, but the classification of the killer’s manifesto was controversial.

Martin said it was the risk of children being harmed that had driven the process.

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76 per cent of New Zealanders are concerned about children’s and teens’ exposure to visual media content.

Classifying material before it becomes available would be hard enough, but how do you then ensure children don’t watch restricted material. Banned content is only a small part of the problem.

Martin said the reaction to the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, which features graphic suicide scenes and scenes of rape, was an example of the issue.

“As with many services and media that have developed from the internet, this issue of classification is one that many countries are looking at and the Censor has told me that there is international interest in what we are doing.

“Our work will also be informed by the steps being taken in Australia and the United Kingdom.”

Sydney Morning Herald: Netflix gets approval to classify own shows after two-year trial.

The Morrison government has given Netflix the green light to regulate film and television classification on its streaming platform in an unprecedented shift following a two-year trial.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield approved the ongoing use of the scheme, which allows the company to quickly rank content between G and R18+ after the review was finalised in August.

The new system removes immediate control of classifications for movies from the Classification Board for the first time since it was established in 1970.

The Classification Board will retain the power to change the ratings made under the new system, and decisions can also be appealed to the Classification Review Board.

Free-to-air stations already classify their own programming under a process administered by another organisation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Ratings are generated by considering the film’s themes, level of violence, sex, drug use, nudity and the language — before being given a classification of G, PG, M, MA15, R18 or being refused.

UK: BBFC Digital Age Ratings

People are concerned to know about how best to choose appropriate films, TV and music videos for their children and families to watch online, on their computers, tablets, games consoles and smartphones.

To provide you with guidance, the BBFC works with a number of on demand services to give age ratings for video content available for download and streaming.

Some of these platforms also provide parental controls, enabling parents to make films with an appropriate age rating available to their children

Using BBFC age ratings for online content helps children and families make the same informed viewing choices when they’re using digital video services, as they can when they’re going to the cinema or renting or buying DVDs and Blu-ray.

Classifications would help responsible parents who can control everything their children watch, but there are big holes in the system. This has been a problem since VCR and DVD content became available – and kids found and watched their parents’ collections.

Classifications have long been a problem. I remember wearing a coat over my school uniform and being allowed in to watch A Clockwork Orange, which in New Zealand was rated R20 until 1984.

The good old days – I don’t remember this one (from Kiwi censorship’s most infamous moments):

Then there was the bizarre decision around the 1967 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Little old New Zealand made worldwide headlines for its decision to segregate male and female viewers. Cinemas found their own ways to interpret the law, whether via separate sessions, the use of stalls and circle seating, or even a rope.

And who new that we had political interference?

Film could also provide inspiration for a solution should the eventual decision on Into the River not go the way of public opinion. 1942 film Love on the Dole focuses on a young woman who decides to become a rich bookmaker’s mistress in order help her family through the Great Depression.

It was initially banned, but Government MPs (including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser) pressured the censor into reviewing the decision. However, knowing that the notoriously conservative appeal board were unlikely to make a change, the Government made the simple decision to replace the entire board. Unsurprisingly, the film was passed for general exhibition.

The modern means of (attempted) interference is censorship by social media outrage or instant petition.

Classification guidance would be helpful for some, but it’s unlikely to make a lot of difference – people, including children, are resourceful in finding ways of watching forbidden content.


Taketh and giveth – a Government media release from Friday: Helping more New Zealanders access online services

More New Zealanders than ever will be able to access online services safely and securely, with today’s launch of a new Digital Inclusion Blueprint, Minister Megan Woods has announced.

“In a world where the internet impacts more and more of our lives, it’s important that all New Zealanders have the tools and skills they need to access online services and use the internet safely and securely.

“Some people can’t easily apply for jobs as many recruitment processes start online, kids may be prevented from doing their homework, and others could feel isolated from more digitally savvy friends and family who communicate using social media.  We want to ensure no one is left out or left behind as more and more of our lives move online.

“Today we are launching the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which lays out how people can take full advantage of the internet. This will help us identify groups of New Zealanders who may struggle to access online services.

“This Blueprint will be used to coordinate the planning of different Government and community initiatives, and identify where future investment and action is needed.

“Access to online service is a key priority is one of my priorities and an area Government has already invested in. For example, the Prime Minister recently announced $21 million funding for Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns to connect local people and businesses to digital services.

 

Consultation on our ageing population

This should be popular here – it must concern all of us as we are all ageing.

RNZ: Consultation opens on govt strategy for aging population

Seniors Minister Tracey Martin opened a consultation to a new strategy that is going to “help older New Zealanders live well”.

The draft strategy, Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034, has been designed to ensure New Zealand is prepared for and makes the most of our aging population.

The strategy incorporates feedback from nationwide consultation last year about what people what for the future.

The key areas of the strategy are supporting seniors in the workforce and how business can better recruit and retain older people; and promoting housing options appropriate for older people, Ms Martin said.

Super Seniors (MSD):  Strategy for an ageing population


Draft new strategy

The draft new startegy, and a summary, Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034, takes a fresh look at what is required to ensure New Zealand has the right policies in place and is prepared for an ageing population.

We would like to hear your feedback about the draft strategy. Please:

Feedback closes at midnight on 3 June 2019.

Summary of submissions report

This report summarises what people told us was important and what the new strategy for an ageing population should cover. The report highlights the significant themes raise by submitters during the public consultation that occurred between June and August 2018.

Our population is ageing

Population growth

We have developed short snapshots on key topics:

We’ve asked some experts to tell us what they think that future looks like. We’ll be publishing these over the coming weeks. The following are available now:

If you have any questions, queries or feedback, contact us at ageing_population@msd.govt.nz