Saturday, December 23, 2023

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 22/12/23

We anxiously await news that the bloke in this sleigh and his team of reindeer have passed muster with our biosecurity authorities

Time is running out, but on behalf of the nation’s children we hope to hear soon that biosecurity officials have granted the appropriate permits for a team of reindeer to cross our borders.

We were alerted to the need for such approvals – and in turn we drew the matter to the attention of some of the big-wigs in the Beehive – when we received a press statement from American biosecurity officials:

THIS JUST IN: USDA Issues Permit for Santa’s Reindeer to Enter the U.S.

(Washington, D.C., December 21, 2023) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today issued a transit permit to Mr. S. Nicholas Claus of the North Pole, a distributor with Gifts and Good Cheer, Inc. The permit will allow reindeer to enter and exit the United States between the hours of 6 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2023, and 6 a.m. on Dec. 25, 2023, local time, through or over any U.S. border port.

Obviously our government is grappling with a raft of other burning issues.

These include the future of Cook Strait ferry sailings, which we may suppose has been deemed more worthy of ministerial attention than the paper work for the bearded bloke driving a reindeer-drawn sleigh laden with goodies which he intends landing on every roof in the country in the first few hours after midnight on Sunday.

Fair to say, the physics involved in this exploit raise issues far beyond the remit of Biosecurity New Zealand. Its brief includes:

Stopping pests and diseases at New Zealand’s border

Biosecurity New Zealand works with travellers, industry, importers and other organisations to keep unwanted pests and diseases from entering Aotearoa.

While officials may or may not be checking on the sorts of pests and diseases that reindeer can carry, Finance Minister Nicola Willis and State Owned Enterprises Minister Paul Goldsmith have announced an expert advisory group is being established to provide the coalition Government with independent advice and assurance on KiwiRail’s inter-island ferry service.

The group will help to ensure that there are robust plans in place to support safe, resilient and reliable services in the coming years, the ministers’ media statement said.

The establishment of the group also recognises that the Crown has interests that may be wider than KiwiRail’s commercial interests.

Mind you, we might ask if a group is established when ministers say it has been established, or when appointments have been made, which is not yet.

Paul Goldsmith says the membership of the Ministerial Advisory Group will be finalised in the New Year.

Nicola Willis says she and Goldsmith met this week with representatives of CentrePort, Port Marlborough, the Marlborough District Council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council as important stakeholders in the Cook Strait connection.

She said:

“We share a determination to ensure ongoing reliable ferry services and will be engaging with them as we develop a solution that works better for all those with an interest in the inter-island ferry service.”

Last week the Government declined a request to contribute an additional $1.47 billion to the project to replace KiwiRail’s three ageing ferries with two, larger purpose-built ferries.

Besides establishing a Ministerial Advisory Group (without any appointees), the Government has asked the Ministry of Transport to lead an assessment of the long-term requirements for a resilient connection across Cook Strait to connect people and enable freight. The assessment will be supported by the Treasury.

Other fresh official statements relate to homeowners adversely affected by severe weather earlier this year and the need to improve security for medical workers and patients in hospital emergency departments.

Latest from the Beehive

22 DECEMBER 2023

An expert advisory group is being established to provide the coalition Government with independent advice and assurance on KiwiRail’s inter-island ferry service.

The Government will extend financial support to more displaced homeowners affected by the severe weather events in late 2022 and early 2023, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston says.

The coalition government is delivering a $5.7 million boost to emergency department security this summer, employing an extra 200 people (93 FTE) to keep hospital EDs safe.

As for Santa Claus and his team of reindeer, American kiddies have been given an assurance about their right to travel through the USA that has yet to be provided by our officials.

Andrew Hoggard has made no official announcements as Minister of Biosecurity and the latest item of news posted on the Ministry for Primary Industry’s website relates to food safety. It says:

New Zealand Food Safety is supporting Woolworths in its recall of its Summer Berry Mince Pies due to the possible presence of fine metal.

In the United States, officials obviously have a greater awareness of the need to assure the public that Santa’s sleigh will get through their border security systems:

“USDA is delighted to grant Mr. Claus and his reindeer a special permit to enter the United States, ensuring a seamless journey for the joy they bring each holiday season,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “We extend a warm welcome to Mr. Claus and recognize the vital role of U.S. milk and cookies in fueling his festive flight.”

Veterinary officials ensured the reindeer met all entry requirements before issuing the permit. Dr. Rosemary Sifford, USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, stated: “At a recent inspection, the reindeer were found to be healthy and able to prance and paw with each hoof.”

It was noted on the health certificate that one reindeer, Rudolph, has a minor physical anomaly. However, APHIS indicated that Rudolph’s red nose, while bright, was normal for him and not a concern.

APHIS regulates the movement of cervids, including reindeer, to protect the health of America’s livestock population. The permitting process provides assurance that only healthy animals enter the United States.

USDA has confirmed that the reindeer will arrive pulling a wooden sleigh with jingling bells attached, filled with brightly wrapped gifts. Port personnel will clean and disinfect the runners and underside of the sleigh at the time of entry. They will also conduct a short visual inspection of the reindeer. Mr. Claus has been asked to disinfect his boots and thoroughly wash his hands. These measures are intended to prevent the entry of any livestock diseases the team may encounter during deliveries to farms and houses around the world prior to entering the United States.

Mr. Claus also provided an advance list of what port personnel should expect upon their arrival. This includes a variety of food items, all of which come from approved locations and none of which pose a threat to U.S. animal or plant health.

“It’s important that Gifts and Good Cheer, Inc. take all the right steps and precautions to protect against the potential introduction of pests and diseases,” explained Mr. Claus. “I appreciate USDA’s assistance every year as we gear up for our big night.”

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Noche Buena, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Diwali, or other holidays during this time of year, USDA wishes you a happy and healthy season full of time-honored traditions and celebrations.

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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