Friday, July 29, 2022

Point of Order: Oh, look – Sepuloni finds some money for the arts has not been spent

But it will be put to use in a trough for cultural “regeneration”

News of the PM’s next overseas travel plans flowed from the Beehive along with a fanfaronade of self-congratulation for work coming along nicely, thank you, announcements of fresh projects and programmes for consuming our taxes, and advice aimed at enhancing our wellbeing.

The overseas travel is to Samoa – Jacinda Ardern will lead a Parliamentary and community delegation to Apia from the 1–2 August to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of “the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, between Aotearoa New Zealand and Samoa”

It is government policy, apparently, to inject the word “Aotearoa” into all ministerial press statements. The treaty signed 60 years ago was “the Treaty of Friendship between the Government of New Zealand and the Government of Western Samoa”.

The latest spending initiatives include an announcement from Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that the Government is co-investing in a $22 million programme aimed at significantly reducing agricultural greenhouse gases and nitrate leaching.

The Government has committed $7.3 million over seven years to the N-Vision NZ programme through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund. The programme focuses on three technology streams:

N-Retain is a new nitrification inhibitor technology that will look at new ways to block the biological processes in the soil that lead to nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching.

N-Test is a new soil test to inform nitrogen fertiliser decisions on pastoral farms, that will help capitalise on the nitrogen already in soil organic matter. This could mean less nitrogen fertiliser needs to be applied.

N-Bio Boost is a fungal bio-inoculant to increase nitrogen use efficiency, which will examine how naturally occurring fungi boost the nitrogen efficiency of plants as another way to future-proof productivity.

Ravensdown, which is leading the programme, will contribute $11 million cash, with Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research providing research expertise. Ravensdown and Lincoln University will contribute in-kind funding to the value of $3.8 million.

O’Connor said the products and technologies developed through the N-Vision NZ programme will be made widely available under commercial terms.

This looks a better bet than investing in “regenerative agriculture” but regeneration has not been forgotten.

Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced the Government has opened the Cultural Sector Regeneration Fund,

“… the first stage of a new approach to cultural sector funding designed to support strategic, sector-led initiatives, that will have lasting benefits for arts, culture, and heritage in Aotearoa New Zealand”.

It seems this initiative will sop up money that otherwise might have sat in the Government’s coffers, waiting to be put to good use – say – in health or education, because Sepuloni said:

“We’ve designed this Fund to use remaining money from the Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme to support projects and initiatives that have the best chance of achieving enduring and sustainable benefits for the arts, culture and heritage sectors.

She reminded us that the Government has made “significant investments” in cultural sectors in recent years as part of its COVID-19 response.

This includes $374 million in Budget 2020 and a further $121 million of funding in response to Omicron.

More information can be found at the Cultural Sector Regeneration Fund webpage.

On the self-congratulatory front, we learn from Immigration Minister Michael Wood that “the implementation of the Government’s immigration rebalance is progressing well”. He said this while releasing details on how highly skilled migrants, including those with roles on the Green List, can apply to gain residence once they have arrived in New Zealand.

Building and Construction Minister Megan Woods similarly said that since she formed a taskforce last month to help resolve the plasterboard shortage, “good progress is being made”.

She was announcing:

* Four alternative plasterboard products able to be used as substitutes for GIB

* 12 importers of plasterboard– four of them new – have 100 containers of product en route to New Zealand

* Regular updating of guidance and ongoing communication with sector to encourage use of alternative products

* Step-by-step, practical information for plasterboard merchants and builders to be released this week

* Kāinga Ora procures alternative product for retrofit programme, taking pressure off domestic supply chains and providing market certainty for alternative products.

* An expanded range and volume of plasterboard products will help address the industry shortfall.

In the advisory category, we find Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall launching a national hepatitis C awareness campaign to mark World Hepatitis Day while – ahead of the first of three monthly Government Cost of Living payments due to be made on Monday – Revenue Minister David Parker is urging people to make sure Inland Revenue has their bank account details.

The awareness campaign trumpeted by Verrall is part of the National Hepatitis C Action Plan for New Zealand, which was launched a year ago with the goal of eliminating hepatitis C as a major public health threat by 2030.

“We’re calling on Kiwis to ‘Stick it to hep C’ – ‘Werohia te Atekakā C’ – because all it takes to find out whether you’ve been exposed to hepatitis C is a quick and easy finger-prick test.

“Over 200 New Zealanders continue to die each year from hepatitis C even though we now have an easy test and an easy cure. If hepatitis C is left untreated, up to a quarter of cases will develop cirrhosis, which can lead to life-threatening liver cancer or liver failure.

“Every one of these deaths could have been prevented by earlier diagnosis and treatment.

“Getting tested is a win-win. If you’re negative, you can put your worries behind you right away. And if you do have hepatitis C almost all people can be cured by simply taking a tablet for 8 weeks,” Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

The new Cost of Living Payment sits alongside the Government’s Winter Energy Payment, and, together, these payments will support 81 per cent of New Zealanders aged 18 and over with their bills this year.

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

1 comment:

Terry Morrissey said...

Just more in the endless sopply of spin and propaganda. Still no signs of any achievements, only throwing money at irrelevant nonsense.