Thursday, August 25, 2022

Point of Order: Expect to hear heaps about supermarkets and child welfare changes

But few will notice the fate of sod-turning ceremonies

Uh, oh. We no longer have a simple sod-turning ceremony to kick off work on a new road, pathway or whatever.

The dignitaries who are invited to these photo opportunities will find they are attending something called a huringa nuku.

That was the ominous experience today, when Transport Minister Michael Wood issued a statement to announce:

Safer journeys for young and old in Wellington’s Eastern Bays are a step closer today, after a huringa nuku (sod-turning ceremony) led by Te Āti Awa Taranaki Whānui to mark the start of construction for Tupua Horo Nuku Eastern Bays shared path …

The state-subsidised, Treaty-spruiking news media – especially if they can be persuaded sod-turning ceremonies are a shameful consequence of colonialism – are unlikely to pay much heed to their extinction.

On the other hand, we expect they will pay huge attention to governmental news about some – if not all – of the following: –

Supermarkets –

Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark announced “an unprecedented shake-up of the grocery sector”, including a requirement that supermarkets provide their competitors fair access to their products on wholesale terms.

Supermarkets will be incentivised to share and justify pricing and product ranges for wholesale sales. If they fail to offer a fair deal, new regulation will require supermarkets to offer certain wholesale products at terms, including price and range, determined by a regulator.

This is a response to the Commerce Commission finding New Zealand supermarkets earn $1 million a day in excess profits because of a lack of competition.

“Under these changes the existing duopoly will be required to negotiate wholesale offerings to their competitors on commercial terms. However if those prices are not what we would expect in a competitive wholesale market the new Grocery Commissioner will be able to impose additional regulation to force fairer prices,” Clark said.

Child welfare –

The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Bill and the Children and Young People’s Commission Bill have passed their Third Reading in Parliament, disregarding widespread objections.

The legislation
* strengthens the Independent Children’s Monitor’s duties and powers to assess compliance with the Oranga Tamariki Act and the quality of Oranga Tamariki System service delivery, and assess outcomes for children and young people, families and whānau in the Oranga Tamariki System
* strengthens independent complaints oversight and investigations related to the Oranga Tamariki System through the Ombudsman

* strengthens system level advocacy for all New Zealand children and young people by establishing the Children and Young People’s Commission to replace the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and enhancing its functions and activities

* requires the oversight bodies to demonstrate a practical commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi [the hugely pliable document that, in just a few astonishing words, provides remedies for a vast array of problems].

New Zealand Bill of Rights –

The New Zealand Bill of Rights (Declarations of Inconsistency) Amendment Bill, which the government says strengthens New Zealanders’ basic human rights, has passed its third reading in Parliament.

It provides a process for the Government and House of Representatives to respond to a declaration of inconsistency under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

A ‘declaration of inconsistency’ is a formal statement by a court or tribunal that an Act is inconsistent with fundamental human rights protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

The amendment will
* require the Attorney-General to notify the House of Representatives of the court’s declaration of inconsistency within six sitting days after the declaration becomes final; and
* require the Minister responsible to present the Government response within six months of the Attorney-General notifying the House.

The Bill also amends the Human Rights Act 1993 so the response to a declaration of inconsistency by the Human Rights Review Tribunal is the same as the response to a declaration under the Bill of Rights Act.

Ambassador to Ireland –

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced the appointment of outgoing Speaker of Parliament Trevor Mallard as the next Ambassador to Ireland.

But Point of Order, having looked further into the appointment of Trevor Mallard to a job in Dublin, turned to the aforementioned news from the office of the Minister of Transport.

One burning question left unanswered by the minister’s press statement is to establish what exactly is wrong with a sod-turning ceremony that it should be supplanted by something else.

That leads to asking whether taxpayers are being done a huge favour by a cost-conscious government because sod-turning ceremonies are significantly more expensive than a huringa nuku.

The cost question is raised by the disclosure that the Government spent an outrageously extravagant $336,000 on the opening ceremony for Transmission Gully.

Kiwiblog this week reported that a reader had sent in an OIA asking for details of the spending.

The breakdown shows an outfit called He Waka Eke Noa Charitable Trust was paid $221,000 for planning and organising the two-hour opening ceremony.

David Farrar snorts:

Even if you were charging $100 an hour for staff involved that is 2,200 staff hours to organise a two hour event.

And what is this charitable trust? Is it the one that appears to be based in Auckland and trades as “Ugly Shakespeare Company, Kete Aronui”?

The chairman of this trust is one David Clendon, a former Green Party member of Parliament.

The Green Party boasts of being the only political party that will stop building unnecessary motorways that create urban sprawl and confine people to polluting cars. In Government, it boasts, it has reprioritised low carbon options in transport planning.

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

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