Saturday, October 29, 2022

Point of Order: Mahuta was finding a job for Goff and keeping miners off the seabed

So what does she make of further dismantling of our democracy?

The news we expected to hear from Nanaia Mahuta, as Minister of Local Government, was not to be found on the Beehive website when we checked around noon.

We refer to the far-from-surprising but nevertheless deeply disturbing news that the Government-appointed review of local government is recommending the further dismantling of democratic governance in New Zealand

The draft report from the review team, in keeping with the Government’s preference for mystifying most of its citizens by sticking te reo labels on new agencies, programmes and reports, is He mata whariki, he matawhanui.

The explanation provided for the enlightenment of the great majority of New Zealanders is that those words amount to

“… a metaphor for a welcoming place for people to gather and set a broad vision.”

Don’t be misled. As Kiwiblog reports, the review team has come up with stuff which seems mainly about making local government less democratic.

Their recommendations include:

* mana whenua appointments to Councils to “supplement” elected members

* Pay rises for Councillors

* Forcing STV on all Councils even where residents have overwhelmingly voted against it.

David Farrar warns:

Make no mistake – this is about ending equality of suffrage in New Zealand. They even denounce the concept of one person, one vote as reported in the Herald:

Panel chairman Jim Palmer said while Māori wards were valuable, mana whenua appointees were a recognition of the special place in New Zealand of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which allowed for the greater involvement of iwi and hapū in local decision-making.

“We think it’s a more nuanced conversation than just ‘one person, one vote’,” Palmer said.

Mahuta presumably was busy elsewhere – on Foreign Affairs duties – when the draft report was released for public consumption and did not feel any urge to issue an approving press statement.

Her more pressing concerns can be found by visiting Latest from the Beehive, where a new post introduces us to more te reo.

Yes, our health needs and wellbeing are being addressed in a report titled Te Pae Tata (nothing to do with spuds) which should be available here.

News of this report was the first item we encountered on checking what our ministers have been up to over the past day or so, and learning they have been …

Health Minister Andrew Little welcomed Te Pae Tata | the Interim New Zealand Health Plan, which has been jointly developed by Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora – Māori Health Authority.

Little said the public health system has been “consolidated” (by the disestablishment of our district health boards to be replaced by one health agency for everybody and another one for Maori). The Government now has a plan to achieve national service coverage and nationally consistent operating policies.

The plan, which gives effect to the Government’s record investment in health from Budget 2022. has been put together by clinicians and health experts and sets out the range of tasks that will be taken over two years to strengthen hospitals, primary care, and tackle the longstanding challenges including workforce shortages, he said.

As well as prioritising workforce and workplace issues, Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora have made specific commitments to improve outcomes in:

* Maternity and early years

* People with cancer

* People living with chronic health conditions

* People living with mental distress

Notes accompanying the press statement tell usTe Pae Tata sets out deliverables under four focus areas:

* People and whānau at the heart of healthcare;

* Priorities for improving health outcomes and equities;

* Unified health system;

* Priority populations.

* Te Pae Tata is “interim” because it is aligned to the landmark two-year budget reform. From 2024 the health budget will move to a three-year cycle and a full plan will commence.

Attorney-General David Parker and Defence Minister Peni Henare announced the introduction of the Inspector-General of Defence Bill, designed to provide independent oversight of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

This oversight was a recommendation from the Operation Burnham Inquiry which identified significant shortcomings in the way NZDF dealt with allegations of civilian casualties, resulting in a series of incorrect statements in briefings to Ministers and the public between 2010 and 2017.

Incorrect statements? Another word for that is “lies”, isn’t it?

The inquiry, led by Sir Terence Arnold and Sir Geoffrey Palmer, recommended an office of the Independent Inspector-General of Defence (located outside the NZDF organisational structure) be established to facilitate independent oversight of NZDF and enhance its democratic accountability.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced an appointment of the sort that once might be lumped among those pejoratively regarded as “jobs for the boys”, but in these days of gender equality some other expression will be necessary.

The appointee is the former Mayor of Auckland who – before that – had been a Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a Labour Party Leader, Phil Goff. The job he has landed is High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, hard on the heels of party colleague Trevor Mallard being appointed Ambassador to Ireland. 

Damien O’Connor, wearing his “Agriculture” and “Rural Communities” ministerial hats announced the Government is backing a farmer-led strategy in North Canterbury’s Amuri Basin to “boost” water quality.

“Backing” implies funding and – sure enough – somewhere in the press statement you will winkle out the commitment of $1.49 million over three years to the $2.69 million project through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

“We’ve invested over $34 million into 200 catchment groups across the country to help farmers and growers to shift the dial on water quality. This project complements that effort.”

O’Connor reminded us the Government aims to restore waterways within a generation and this project will help farmers in the Amuri Basin to work together to improve water quality in their drains and streams.

The project, led by Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) with co-investment from Environment Canterbury and DairyNZ,

“… seeks to build on AIC’s existing strategy to farm beyond the regulatory minimums.”

The project aims to be a blueprint for other catchments faced with freshwater quality challenges.”

The Amuri Basin encompasses the towns of Culverden, Rotherham and Waiau.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the Government will back a conditional moratorium on deep sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction, until strong environmental rules can be agreed and backed up by robust science.

The decision follows a review of progress on regulations for deep sea mining in the area managed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is the seabed beyond exclusive economic zones and extended continental shelves. The ISA has a July 2023 deadline to complete the regulations, or Mining Code, before mining applications can be submitted.

“This area contains some of the least understood eco-systems on the planet, and our scientific knowledge of it remains extremely limited,” Nanaia Mahuta says.

“Deep sea mining could cause irreversible changes to this environment and have a significant impact on its biodiversity. To understand this impact will require far more scientific knowledge about the deep seabed than we currently have.”

Progress on the Mining Code has been slow and the Ardern Government is not confident a robust regulatory framework which ensures the effective protection of the marine environment can be agreed by the required deadline. 

Two ministers – Carmel Sepuloni (Arts, Culture and Heritage) and Stuart Nash (Economic and Regional Development) – took the spotlight to announce this one.

They declared:

“The Government is taking action to secure the long-term future of the film and television industry through proposals released today for public consultation as part of the New Zealand Screen Production Grant review.”

The proposed options aim to encourage a steady pipeline of domestic and international screen productions, enhance screen sector skills and career pathways, and support the development of high-quality, home-grown content.

Nash said the industry contributes more than $3.5 billion to the economy each year, directly employs more than 13,900 people, and creates benefits for other industries, such as hospitality, construction and tourism.

“The proposals put forward aim to increase the value generated from government investment in the New Zealand Screen Production Grant, improve how we attract productions to New Zealand and how we promote New Zealand as an internationally-regarded screen sector.”

Information about the consultation and how to provide feedback is available by clicking here on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

As Social Development Minister, Carmel Sepuoni announced the launch of the grandly labelled Social Sector Commissioning Action Plan 2022-2028, which (she said) marks

“… a significant and exciting shift in the way social services deliver suppport for people, whānau and communities in New Zealand.”

Sepuloni is claiming this will entail:

* Faster, clearer and more effective delivery of social support to communities

* Strengthening of social sector’s ability to respond to communities needs

* Government agencies to develop transformational plans about how to work more effectively with social services

* Governance group for social sector commissioning to drive transformation of commissioning

Sepuloni spoke of the need for transparency, but much of her statement comprised promise rather than detail.

This is an Arderm Government announcement, of course, which means The Treaty must be invoked:

“Underpinning this Action Plan and the starting point for transformation is Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the need for us to recognise and give practical effect to Te Tiriti. Māori-Crown partnerships must be at the heart of effective commissioning and this Action Plan will support iwi, hapū and whānau to create their own solutions, ensure equitable access, experiences and outcomes for Māori who work in the sector, and apply tikanga in a way that benefits the provision of support.”

Some hard data followed mention of the Treaty.

Since work begun in 2018, the Government has been working on extending contracts to provide more certainty and stability for non-government organisations.

The average length of a contract is now 2.5 years, with contracts of three years or more making up 61 percent of contracts for 2020/21.

The National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence (for example) has used “relational commissioning” to deliver better outcomes for people, their families, and communities.

The Government’s response to COVID-19 has further underlined the role social sector organisations play in supporting people.

“We saw communities come together to support their own, whether that be through the quick delivery of food parcels and hygiene packs or helping to provide income and hardship assistance. We want to see more of this, and this Action Plan supports that.”

Sepuloni insisted this is not just about improving government practice when commissioning social services. It is also about

“… strengthening the ties that brings together government, the sector, iwi, Māori and communities to support people and their whānau, including our disabled people, people experiencing mental illness, Māori and Pacific.”

We would like to think this means “everybody”, but the local government recommendations suggest some of us will be privileged with more rights than others.

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

No comments: