The incoming National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management

In 2014, a National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management was introduced. It was the first serious attempt to use the N.P.S. as an instrument to prescribe freshwater policy in New Zealand. The N.P.S.-F.M. which was amended in 2017 will be superseded by a new one this week. But how keen are politicians on improving our freshwater resource?

On the centre-right, National, whose voter base is dominated by farmers and business owners is not keen and National leader Judith Collins initially said that the reforms would be “gone by lunch time”. Although Ms Collins has since back tracked somewhat, the overall support in the party for improvement of the resource is low and generally viewed as unnecessary red tape.

On the centre-left, the Labour Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is supporting the new N.P.S.-F.M. which seeks to broadly overhaul the checks and balances on use of the resource by farmers. The broad aims are to reduce the presence of livestock in freshwater bodies including lowland streams and smaller rivers, to require farms to have management plans and data loggers recording their water takes from groundwater and surface water sources.

New Zealand has a long and deep association with its freshwater resource. We use it for electricity generation; a multitude of water sports; farming; industrial and domestic uses. It supports an array of fisheries, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Maori iwi have ancestral linkages to the freshwater, its use for transportation, as a source of kai, and as ancestors the strength of the mauri (life force) is an indicator of its health. In the central North Island, Tainui whose ancestral lands cover much of Waikato are strongly linked to the river of the same name, in the same way that Ngati Tuwharetoa are linked to the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and Ngai Tahu to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Causes of the decline in fresh water quality can be traced to excessive nutrients going into freshwater, mainly from dairy farms. If waterways are not appropriately fenced off cows will urinate/defecate in the water. The break down of this introduces high levels of nitrogen which is bad for aquatic life in the streams, which in turn impact on the fish. In urban areas a failure to adequately treat runoff from roofs, road surfaces and industrial sites means a range of heavy metals find their way into water bodies such as the Avon or Heathcote Rivers in Christchurch.

The 2020 N.P.S.-F.M. takes effect on 03 September 2020.


Answering the critics of getting New Zealand out of poverty

Poverty is one of New Zealand’s biggest social issues and probably the most divisive. It is a subject that generates a wide range of reactions when discussed, from compassion and wanting to help those in it, to contempt that at times almost borders on hate. In this article I look at some of the common arguments put up by those who are critics of the behaviours and living standards of lower income earners.

To me, poverty is an intergenerational thing in many families. Successive generations of the same family have come to be marginalized people, unable to break. There are multiple arguments that critics of addressing poverty like to use to justify their stance. I will address these here:

  • that most are lazy people who simply do not want to help themselves
  • that people who are in poverty waste their benefit money on drugs, alcohol and gambling
  • that all one needs is to work hard and save

A fairly small percentage of people are likely to be lazy – but how did they get to this state of being? Are they from a family where schooling was a low priority; what if their parents were simply absentee in that they were at work or had gone out and simply neglected their children? You cannot blame the children for that.

A correlation between the location of alcohol stores and bars with pokie machines can be made. For example Merivale and Fendalton, two of the more upmarket suburbs in Christchurch have bars, but they are quite upmarket places that do not have run of the mill features such as pool tables, T.A.B. and/or pokies; instead of the standard Speights, Mac’s Gold, Guinness, more expensive beer is found. Higher income areas have greater social mobility and are able to afford access to resources that lower income people cannot. Contrast with neighbouring Bryndwr or Papanui, both of which have bars that have pokie machines, and subsequently middle income people are more likely to be found there, which helps to discourage the lower income earners from presenting.

Occasionally you see articles in Stuff which are click bait in nature, but talk about people who have had supposed rags to riches stories simply by working hard and saving hard. What these articles tend to omit is that these people had parental or other assistance getting into the market. A person earning $75,000 a year currently loses $25,000 in income tax. Assuming they are flatting/renting they might pay another $15,000 in rent. Add food, internet, medical, clothing and vehicular costs and that might be another $1,200 per month.

$75,000 – $25,000 – $15,000 – $14,400 = $20,600 per annum after expenses and assuming no money is being set aside in KiwiSaver. It would take 18 years if all of that $22,000 was saved JUST for buying a house to be able to buy something worth $400,000. Someone at a supermarket on minimum wage earning $600 per week after tax, paying rent could easily lose nearly all of that on living costs, never mind saving.

Crime is a significant symptom of poverty and much of it can be removed by addressing the chief causes of poverty. By giving people a proper place to live that is warm and dry will help to reduce the likelihood of them being a drag on the health system; establishing an adult education system for those who were never taught basic things and assign them a tutor/buddy; appending social benefits to inflation will all help. Addressing poverty is a long term investment – a marathon and not a 100 metre sprint.The social/economic/cultural benefits in the long term will far outweigh the fiscal costs of the investment.

Two parties that are bad for New Zealand

If you have a friend who drives drunk, I assume on the first instance you would tell him/her s/he is being an idiot and that a second instance would cost them your friendship our similar?


If you had a friend blast off at Maori, that they are all dole bludgers growing cannabis/cooking methamphetamine and the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal is a gravy train, what would you do? Would you ignore it? Would you tell them to pull their head in, or would you put them on notice?

I have come come to an extremely grim conclusion about two parties in New Zealand politics. There are two parties that unfortunately have policies that have policies that go much deeper than about party and electoral preferences.

If you wish to vote for #NewConservatives you are in effect telling me you wish to null and void the Treaty of Waitangi. You are telling me you want to undermine the essential foundations of this country: Te Tiriti O Waitangi. I have looked at New Conservative policy and they want to do this. All references to the Treaty of Waitangi must go according to New Conservative. In terms of consulting the tangata whenua about this must go. All duties to consult on wahi tapu, mahinga kai, taonga – everything that has enabled the Iwi and the Hapu to get to where they are – must apparently go.

Unfortunately for women, New Conservative’s harsh line does not stop at being anti-Maori. Their policy platform is something akin to The Handmaid Tales. Far from looking forward into the 21st Century it seeks to wind the country back to the 1950’s, possibly earlier. It seeks to criminalize abortion; prostitution – the oldest industry in the world after agriculture – would also be criminalized. But it is the idea that young mothers should be placed with experienced couples – who for all we know might want to exploit a person in a vulnerable position or might not have the time or the gumption to go through with their obligations – that I find truly gobsmacking.

The other party that has come to my attention is the #NewZealandPublicParty, which was established this year by Billy Te Kahika Jr, and which has merged with Advance New Zealand.

When you seek official information – information verified by an official source or from an official source – one expects that this information will be as accurate as possible and subject to immediate change if found not to be. Correct?

So, it is a mystery to me as to why the second party in my sights deems it necessary to tell complete lies, spread disinformation and which was born in the last year. People are entitled to believe what they want, but the wilful spread of disinformation – information that is knowingly wrong, yet people still spread it – is an act that to me is as bad as lying.

We all tell our children not to lie. We tell each how wrong lying is. And with good reason. It can be dangerous. It certainly tells one a lot about a person’s values if they insist on spreading disinformation. It is hard for me to understand a person’s values if they are willing to accept a party that knowingly lies. Why would you want them anywhere near Parliament?


The perils of a New Zealand Border Force

Normally I am quite tough on matters of national security, and I am, but the concept of a New Zealand border agency fills me with dread. One does not have to look far to see in other countries why it is controversial. And the last a government agency with enormous control was created in New Zealand it was the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, an agency that many in Canterbury were pleased to see the back of.

So, why am I opposed to a New Zealand Border agency being created? There are several reasons, which I then explore in greater depth:

  • The existing agencies charged with our border protection are perfectly capable of doing the job if we just resource, staff and train them appropriately
  • A New Zealand Border agency would probably be modelled on the Australian Border Force, which has courted controversy with many of its actions
  • These types of agencies – if we use the Australian Border Force or the American Immigration Customs Enforcement Force as examples tend to be used to conduct raids on minorities, be used as instruments of fear to give effect to institutionalized xenophobia
  • If we have a N.Z.B. agency then detention facilities like those on Manus and Nauru Islands in Australia are likely to be the next step – who would we put in them?

The New Zealand Customs Service is entrusted with the protection of our borders. Whilst I certainly agree that it is not sufficiently funded or resourced, we are a small country that has somewhat limited resources compared to Australia or the United States. I also note that they are also geographically much larger countries with correspondingly larger populations and more diverse resources to protect. I would argue that maintaining a single well resourced and funded agency is preferable to several that duplicate responsibilities.

The Australian Border Force was created by Minister of Homeland Security Peter Dutton in July 2015. The A.B.F. has run the controversial Operation Sovereign Borders, which involves the detention of people who arrived without a visa from foreign countries. Whilst noting the right of Australia to protect its border, politicians from the Liberal Party and One Nation have frequently used border security as an excuse to carry out activities that breach Australia’s international human rights obligations.

In a New Zealand context a border agency would need an independent watch dog that can monitor its activity and report to Parliament on a regular basis with regards to the Border Force’s actions. It also needs to be able to issue guidance that has legal weighting, whereas the A.B.F has a Minister who will surely deny that the A.B.F. has committed any serious wrongs.

National and New Zealand First both seem to like the idea of a New Zealand border agency. The National Party version seems to be focussed on addressing COVID19 returnees. It would not allow anyone in who has not been tested and wants countries of origin to be responsible for the testing. Aside from there being no legal way to enforce this Trumpian idea in a foreign jurisdiction, the National proposal goes one step further in that it seeks to block New Zealanders in countries that might not have the means or know how to carry out such testing. This potentially breaches the Human Rights Act 1986 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

And the N.Z. border agency may be more than just a pandemic control agency. Instead of being limited to stopping people at the border who might have COVID19, it would if we took the Australian model, also become an agency that expresses the worst of institutionalized fear mongering by targetting minority groups based on ethnicity, religious background and so forth.

In both the United States and Australia agencies of this nature have been linked to the eventual establishment of detention centre systems that are often run by private firms such as Serco, or Wilsons. For these private operations are purely profit driven and to contract out government responsibilities around the lives and safety of detainees, has led in the Australian case to shocking stories of abject squalor, suicides, children self harming, guards mistreating detainees. And when the media try to hold them to account, they become targets of government anger.

We do not need any of this in New Zealand. It is for these reasons I refuse to support the creation of New Zealand border agency.

First nine days of lockdown unlawful, but justified

A court decision has found that the Government breached the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in the first nine days of the lockdown.

So, what happened?

A three count complaint was made that the Government did not act within the scope of the law during lock down. Andrew Borrowdale took the Government to court, aggrieved that his rights of freedom of movement and freedom of association were being infringed on during lock down. His first point regarded comments made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other officials concerning the announcement of lock down and its onset. His second related to three orders and how they were linked to each other.

In short when New Zealand went into lockdown at 2359 hours on 25 March 2020, the Government had overstepped the order of the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield that forbade congregating except with social distancing.

This is to say that whilst the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 was breached by the lockdown for the first nine days, the rapidly evolving COVID19 situation meant that the Government was left with little choice but to act rapidly. Whilst staying in our homes was not a legal position until 03 April 2020 it was one that was found to be justified, reasonable and proportionate to the emergency as it stood at the time.

However only on this count, article 1, of the case laid, did the Court find in favour of Mr Borrowdale. The other two counts were dismissed.

Unsurprisingly this has drawn an angry reaction from the Opposition in Parliament today who attempted to suggest that the Government is a body with two arms but does not know what each arm is doing. However one could argue that the Government, in a time of unprecedented urgency where New Zealanders were being put on an emergency footing that had not happened since World War 2, if at all, literally did not have the time to go through and double check their legal footing before it became necessary to lock the country down.

Some will call this evidence that the Government cannot and should not be trusted with anything. But many of these are the same people currently promoting conspiracy theories around the COVID19 response when there is plenty of evidence that New Zealand’s success stems in no small part from reacting as we did. Yes, in hindsight the Government should have taken a bit longer to confirm the legal ground that it was standing on, but if we had waited another week or however long before putting lock down into effect, perhaps we would have a three digit death toll instead of 22.

That is not okay.