Monday, March 25, 2024

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 25/3/24

How school lunches provide enough leftovers for food bank clients, caravan park residents – and feral pigs

Just before Christmas, Finance Minister Nicola Willis delivered something that was pitched as a mini-budget and brayed about the decisive action being taken to repair the Government books and support income tax relief in Budget 2024.

In a statement headed Fiscal repair job underway. she introduced us to her “ongoing Fiscal Sustainability Programme”, intended to embed “a culture of responsible spending across Government”.

The first step in this is “an Initial Baseline Exercise” for government agencies designed to find around $1.5 billion a year in savings to deliver on government policy commitments and fund critical cost pressures.

This statement said work was under way to put New Zealand on a firmer financial footing, including:
  • Enabling full cost-recovery for immigration visa processing,
  • Taxing online casino gambling operations
  • Stepping-up the audit activities of the IRD
  • Replacing the fees-free policy with a final-year fees-free policy from 2025
  • Improving the cost-effectiveness of the school lunch programme
A press statement headed Strengthening Fiscal Responsibility Rules referred to “financial time-bombs” left behind by the Labour government.

Her list of “21 fiscal cliffs disclosed to the Finance Minister by the Treasury” included the Healthy School Lunches Programme.

Furthermore, she said:

“I have asked Ministers to identify other fiscal cliffs in their portfolios that may fall short of the Treasury’s $50 million materiality threshold. An example of this is the funding for period products in schools, originally funded at $8.1 million per year, which ends after 2024/25.”

Today the government has announced it has committed $2.9 million for period products in intermediate and secondary schools.

Education Minister Erica Stanford and Acting Women’s Minister Louise Upston got to do the grandstanding on this, saying the government had committed the funding to ensure intermediate and secondary schools continue providing period products “to those who need them”.

This suggests the money won’t be wasted on those who don’t need them, but it may well be used to provide period products to girls who could afford to buy their own.

The ministers’ colleagues, meanwhile, have been ….

And whose name was attached to this statement?

None other than the aforementioned Nicola Willis, taking time out from fiscal belt-tightening to announce that from 1 July, parents and caregivers of young children will be supported to manage the rising cost of living with a partial reimbursement of their ECE fees. Under the scheme, parents can get back up to 25 percent of their weekly fees, to a maximum of $75 per week.

Willis drew attention to FamilyBoost, an election campaign commitment which forms part of the government’s overall tax plan.

All families earning up to $180,000 with childcare costs are eligible. But to ensure support goes to families who need it most, the maximum repayment will gradually reduce for families earning more than $140,000.

Household income will be calculated by Inland Revenue (IR) using the past three months’ worth of actual reported income to determine eligibility.

Oh – maybe there will be much more paper work than voters expected in trying to winkle the lolly out of the government.

Full details of FamilyBoost, including how to apply for it, will be available on Budget Day – 30 May 2024.

Defence Minister Judith Collins has thanked the Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell, DSD, for his service as he leaves the Army after 40 years.

Boswell, appointed Chief of Army in September 2018, will leave on 9 June to take over as Marlborough District Council chief executive.

Small Business, Manufacturing, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Andrew Bayly will travel to Australia for a series of bilateral meetings and manufacturing visits.

He will meet Senator Tim Ayres, Ed Husic, Dr Andrew Leigh and Julie Collins, and representatives from competition and investment regulators as well as manufacturing meetings.

Australia’s regulatory reform agenda, particularly in relation to competition policy, is of interest to New Zealand “because we want to maintain the high levels of regulatory alignment in relation to competition”, Bayly said.

He also is interested in how Australia is using a range of tools to encourage competition across the economy, including in the grocery sector “where we share similar challenges”.

He will return to New Zealand on Thursday.

Building and Construction Minister Chris Penk delivered this to the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors.

He credited his colleague, Housing, Infrastructure and RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop, with leading the charge to developing a policy that will flood the market with land for housing, fix infrastructure funding and financing, and introduce incentives to encourage cities and regions to go for growth. Penk’s job is to ensure the settings are right in building and construction to deliver this ambitious agenda.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti announced continued government support in the form of $55,000 in sponsorship. Next year it will provide $60,000 for the 50-year anniversary, and an additional $60,000 in 2030, when Polyfest will reach a 55-year milestone.

Thirteen Māori students have been awarded scholarships and awards in recognition of their dedication and outstanding achievements.

The scholarships were established in 1945 to assist Māori achievers to succeed in education and to contribute as leaders in New Zealand and overseas. More than 300 scholarships have been awarded since.

Latest from the Beehive

25 MARCH 2024

Hardworking families are set to benefit from a new credit to help them meet their early childcare education (ECE) costs, Finance Minister Nicola Willis says.

Defence Minister Judith Collins has thanked the Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell, DSD, for his service as he leaves the Army after 40 years.

Small Business, Manufacturing, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Andrew Bayly will travel to Australia for a series of bi-lateral meetings and manufacturing visits.

24 MARCH 2024

The Coalition Government has committed $2.9 million to ensure intermediate and secondary schools continue providing period products to those who need them.


23 MARCH 2024

Good morning, it’s great to be here.

22 MARCH 2024

Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti has announced the Government’s commitment to the Auckland Secondary Schools Māori and Pacific Islands Cultural Festival, more commonly known as Polyfest.

Thirteen Māori students have been awarded Ngarimu VC and 28th (Māori) Battalion Memorial Scholarships and Awards in recognition of their dedication and outstanding achievements.

In their statement about period products in intermediate and secondary schools, Erica Stanford and Louise Upston referenced a University of Otago estimate that up to 95,000 young New Zealand women could be missing school because of a lack of access to period products.

“All intermediate, kura and secondary schools will continue to be able opt-in to the scheme, which will continue to benefit around 200,000 students,” Ms Stanford says.

Louise Upston said this was a positive step in addressing period poverty.

The funding of $2.9 million is from within Ministry of Education baselines and provides certainty to schools and the young women who rely on the products being available.

The future of the free lunch programme has yet to be decided.

But Point of Order today noted an RNZ report which suggests the programme is tackling poverty far beyond schools

There is enough tucker left over to feed food bank clients, their dogs and feral pigs – in one part of the country, at least.

This is money well spent, the article suggests, because it means the food bank clients don’t have to steal their vittles. Thus the school food programme serves a law-and-order purpose as well as an educative and nutritive one.

A woman living in a West Auckland caravan park says without the free meals she would go hungry and “probably go stealing from the supermarket”.

“As long as everyone’s full, got something to eat, it just kind of brings the crime down a little bit. Not a lot, but that’s my theory anyway,” she said.

Caravan park resident Owen Cooper, who works for the Ranui Baptist Community Care Trust which runs a food bank, says:

“I pick up these school lunches at about two in the afternoon.

“Whatever school lunches can be kept for the next day I will put into my food bank.”

Whatever can’t be stored is taken to the caravan park.

“At least that way somebody’s getting a bit of a meal,” he said

A total of four schools, with at least 300 children on their roll, donated surplus food to the trust, the RNZ report said.

Associate Minister of Education David Seymour has said he is considering cutting the funding by up to half, as nearly 10,000 meals were being wasted every day.

But Cooper said this was not his experience, and on average he picked up 30 leftover lunches from each school.

Sometimes the food was not fit for consumption, but even that was not thrown away, Cooper said.

“We send it through to a cattle farmer who has a pig problem on their property, they will feed it to the feral pigs, shoot a pig every now and then we get that pig back, we provide that for a community meal once a month or once every two months,” Owen said.

Occasionally, there were days when there would be a lot of food donated – but that was when the students were not at school.

Plenty of food for thought for David Seymour, eh?

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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