Thursday, June 16, 2022

Point of Order: Shouldn’t the interests of Seniors be looked after by a more mature Minister?

Efforts to buttress New Zealand’s relationships with our South Pacific neighbours are reflected in two announcements from the Beehive. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she had a warm and productive meeting with Samoa’ Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, in Wellington yesterday and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said tomorrow she will welcome Penny Wong on her first official visit to New Zealand as Australia’s Foreign Minister.

The Prime Ministers issued a Joint Statement acknowledging “strong cooperation” on COVID-19 and vaccines, a commitment to work together to navigate post-pandemic economic challenges, the importance of regional unity, and the pre-eminent role of existing regional architecture, such as the Pacific Island Forum.

They also agreed to strengthen cooperation on climate change.

Mahuta echoed this, saying she looked forward to talking to the new Foreign Minister on Australia’s climate change agenda and further ways of assisting Pacific Island nations on mitigation and adaptation measures.

“On broader Pacific challenges, Aotearoa New Zealand seeks to elevate the Pacific Island voice, and support collaboration and partnership through established institutions, especially the Pacific Islands Forum.

“I am also looking forward to hearing about Senator Wong’s recent travels to the Pacific and sharing my own perspectives on our partnerships and friendships in the region, including our efforts to support economic resilience and labour mobility in the Pacific.”

Other foreign policy matters to be discussed include the importance of indigenous perspectives in foreign policy, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and global issues such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The team at Point of Order recognises the significance of these statements and priorities but an element of self-interest drew us to another announcement.

Today, it transpires, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and – hurrah – the Government has poured a bit of lolly into a trough to fund projects aimed at preventing elder abuse.

The statement said:

$250,000 is being allocated to eleven projects from the Elder Abuse Prevention Fund. It is in addition to the $6.3 million for new prevention initiatives for older people announced in Budget 2022.

None of this money is coming our way and thus we have no conflict of interest to declare.

But the self-interest thing does have us wondering about the process whereby the beneficiaries were selected.

We are well aware that massive sums of funding are earmarked for Māori initiatives by Māori and for Māori in a broad range of activities.

Shouldn’t this principle be applied to helping the elderly with funding earmarked for elderly initiatives by the elderly and for the elderly?

Let’s start at Cabinet level. The 11 projects which are being funded as part of the Government’s efforts to prevent elder abuse were announced by Dr Ayesha Verrall, aged just 43 who nevertheless has been given the “Seniors” portfolio.

She’s doing a great job – don’t get us wrong.

“Sadly one in 10 older people experience elder abuse in New Zealand, that is simply unacceptable,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“Our Elder Abuse Prevention Fund supports programmes to tackle and prevent elder abuse across diverse groups in the older population.”

But we wonder about how much maturing she requires to be able to properly represent us and we wonder about the ages of the recipients of the funding she has announced.

The successful projects include a University of Otago study that aims to improve detection of abuse in older people and a national survey by Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura Outing Violence which will aim to find out more about the elder abuse experienced by Takatāpui and Rainbow Elders.

Self-interest colours Point of Order’s interest in another announcement.

The Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark, said more New Zealand homes, businesses and communities will soon benefit from fast and reliable connectivity, regardless of where they live, study and work.

He was announcing how $60 million allocated through Budget 2022, will be used to further improve rural connectivity over the next few years.

He said:

“For rural businesses, a reliable connection affords them the opportunity to be more innovative and productive. This is exactly what we need as we go about securing an economic recovery for the country.

“We are currently working towards having 99.8% of the population able to access new, or improved broadband by the end of next year.”

$43 million will be used to improve network capacity and speeds where rural users have been experiencing slow broadband. This includes, but is not limited to, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and the Waikato.

“Taken together with the Rural Capacity Upgrades I announced in February, the Government has now allocated over $90 million towards upgrading the capacity of rural networks, to be rolled out over the next three years.

“Tens of thousands of rural residents stand to benefit from this combined investment. This is over and above those already receiving improved broadband through the existing Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2, which has another year to run.”

Another $15 million of the Budget-allocated funding will go towards a new initiative called the Remote Users Scheme, to provide broadband services to New Zealanders in some of the country’s most remote locations – those with no coverage, or only have voice calling and text messaging services.

The new funding also includes provision for an additional $2 million to be spent on extending the successful Marae Digital Connectivity initiative for up to two years. This will allow for more eligible marae to benefit.

“More than 560 marae have been connected through this initiative so far, with most of them located in rural areas, serving as hubs for their communities. I look forward to seeing more marae connected in the coming months,” David Clark said.

A Point of Order team member who resides on Paekakariki Hill Road – a mere 30 minutes drive from Parliament Buildings – wonders what must be done to have his internet services upgraded. Declaring the property a marae might do the trick, perhaps.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

No comments: