Serious Fraud Office lays charges regarding New Zealand First Foundation


Yesterday it was announced by the Serious Fraud Office that they had charged two individuals in relation to ongoing concerns around New Zealand First Foundation.

It is possible that this will be the long awaited evidence that behind all of the smoke emanating from the N.Z.F.F. there really is a fire. For months claims have been circling of improper financial management by the party and/or the N.Z.F.F. I take you through the media version of events as they are alleged to have unfolded.

On 03 October 2019 former N.Z.F. Party President Lester Gray left his role. It came amid concerns about financial impropriety in the party.

In February 2020, two Radio New Zealand journalists, Guyon Espiner and Kate Newton, discovered that Talleys Fisheries had made a host of donations to politicians from New Zealand First, National and Labour. The donations themselves were not the problem, rather it was how they were handled – or not handled.

In March 2020 former N.Z.F. Member of Parliament Ross Meurant explored his time in the party and the influence of the deep sea fishing industry in an article for Sunday Star Times.

In July 2020 rumours of an impending Serious Fraud Office announcement were made. They followed revelations that Talleys organized two New Zealand First fundraisers and that New Zealand First M.P.’s Shane Jones, Clayton Mitchell and leader Winston Peters were there.

Perhaps though, the most telling concern was that it has emerged that Mr Peters is alleged to have tried to stop the announcement of charges against individuals. This lead reporter Luke Malpass to write about how the announcement of the charges, particularly in this light might be the torpedo that finally finishes off N.Z. First. Too many fishy allegations and donations to be ignored.

With a bit less than three weeks to go and voting starting in less than a week, New Zealand First is running out of time to plug the leaks. It would take a mighty effort to win back the critical 4-5% of the voting public that has not been with the party for sometime now. That does not mean it is impossible, but given N.Z. First exited Parliament in 2008 with similarly poor poll ratings, I struggle to see how it will come back from this.

The rise of A.C.T.


For the last nine year since A.C.T. was thrashed in the Election of 2011, it has been a one man band. It has undergone several leadership changes in that time, before David Blair Seymour became leader in 2014.

This is not the first time A.C.T. has been looking this strong in the polls. A.C.T. formed in 1994 and first contested the elections in 1996, gaining 8 M.P.’s. From 1999 to 2005 it had 9 Members of Parliament. That slumped to two M.P.’s in that year, but surged on the election of National to office in 2008 to five M.P.s. The following Parliamentary term however was rocked by scandals including the admission that former M.P. David Garrett used the details of a dead baby to get a passport, which revolted the voting public. The previous nine years until 2020 have seen A.C.T. very much as a one man band in Epsom.

Whilst the other parties in Parliament have fallen, or are steady, A.C.T. have been climbing, to what would be – if an election were held today – its best ever result. On current polling A.C.T. would have Mr Seymour plus 9 more Members of Parliament. The other nine would be (in listing order):

  • Brooke van Velden (Wellington Central)
  • Nicole McKee (Rongotai)
  • Chris Baillie (Nelson)
  • Simon Court (Te Atatu)
  • James Dowall (Waikato)
  • Karen Chhour (Upper Harbour)
  • Mark Cameron (Northland)
  • Toni Severin (Christchurch East)
  • Damien Smith (Botany)

So who are these people and what would they bring to Parliament in terms of knowledge, skills and backgrounds?

Brooke van Velden is the Deputy Leader of A.C.T. She comes from a mixed background of working in factory environments and as a corporate consultant. She worked in Parliament behind the scenes to enable the passage of the End of Life Choices Bill.

Nicole McKee is a national shooting champion who believes that the Government response to the Christchurch mosque attack was a knee jerk reaction. She runs a business providing firearms safety training. is qualified in law and has experience handling firearms component imports.

Chris Baillie is a full time secondary school teacher. He is a former police officer with 14 years patrol experience. Mr Baillie also owns a hospitality business that employs 14 people.

Simon Court is a civil and environmental engineer with 23 years experience, including managing planning and tendering projects as well as staff teams in Auckland, Wellington and Fiji. Mr Court believes that the R.M.A. needs to be replaced.

James McDowall is the owner of several businesses that include an immigration law firm. He also works for a mental health non-governmental organization. Mr McDowall has also led the development of A.C.T.’s firearms legislative response in the wake of the Government amending firearms laws.

Karen Chhour is a self employed mother of four who lives in Auckland. She believes that “anyone with the right tools can make something of themselves”.

Mark Cameron is a farmer in Northland who has farmed the region for 30 years. He will be driving A.C.T. rural policies.

Toni Severin is a business owner that she runs along with her husband. Prior to that she has 14 years experience as a lab technician working for the Canterbury District Health Board. Mrs Severin is also a licenced gun owner.

Damien Smith has extensive experience in business, banking, and company directorship. Damien has a Masters in Business Administration and is a qualified educationalist.

What do you think of the above candidates?

 

Time for user pays in the New Zealand conservation estate?


I am currently doing a postgraduate paper on Natural Resource Policy extra murally at Massey University.  The below is a comment I made on whether it is time for user pays charges for entry to and use of our conservation estate, but also in towns that are tourism dependent.

How we let our small tourist towns get treated by tourists bothers me quite a bit. If you have been to Tekapo you will have seen the Church of the Good Shepherd by the lake. Tourist buses pull up there every day and tourists walk around and inside the building. Sometimes they arrive when services are being conducted and fail to show necessary etiquette. The locals are a bit antsy about it as on one hand they need tourist dollars, but on the other Tekapo is only a little town built around the lake shore and up slope a bit on the south side of State Highway 8. The numbers of tourists that come through the town during summer can cause infrastructure issues beyond the capacity of its tiny ratepayer base.

There are several locations around the South Island which could do with better management of their tourism related infrastructure and issues caused by tourism being a major industry in those locations. I would hope now with a quiet patch caused by the borders being shut that these places are thinking about how to address such matters.

Milford Sound is a good case in point. If any of you have been there, you will know it is a long drive if you stop at the view points along the way and that there is a daily – maybe, probably not at the moment – almost rush hour like period in the morning when all of the buses arrive from Te Anau with their loads of tourists and then a similar thing in the afternoon, when realizing they have to get back to Te Anau, there is a similarly large exodus. I knew a German lady who used to work on the tour boats down there a decade ago (gone back to Germany), who could attest to this, and traffic being an issue as well. Being in a World Heritage area, there are limitations on what kind of businesses can be there and how they operate. Milford Sound township is also right on the water front and next to a river with known flood issues (not surprising given it gets 6,000+ mm/yr!), which means land is at a premium.

How do you help fund the necessary facilities and maintenance as well as programmes in a place like Milford?

I think the only way to realistically do it is require all tourists to pay a one off fee in Te Anau and collect a docket that upon entry to Milford Sound, gets scanned.

But here is the problem. Should Kiwi’s pay full price or get a discount? As taxpayers they help cover costs through taxes, so maybe in their case, we should require them to present a driver licence or passport as evidence. I think it would be unfair to make them pay for something we already support with taxation.

Another student commented on what the Maori King, Te Heuheu Tukino, who gifted the land that makes up Tongariro National Park to the Crown, would think. I wonder if anyone has really thought to conduct an interview with kaumatua on behalf of any iwi, how they view tourism in terms of how it impacts on their ancestral lands, the effects on matters of kaitiakitanga and how the taonga are being treated. It would be a fascinating exercise to say the least. And as one who loves volcanoes and did a fourth year assessment on how Ngati Tuwharetoa view Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro as well as Pihanga, I wonder now whether they would be so keen on further expansion of Whakapapa skifield across their southernmost ancestor.

Tourism means a lot to New Zealanders. We love to show people around our country and for the most people love to come and be shown around. But the environmental cost of it all is getting to a point where some students on the course think in the most sensitive places like the Milford Track or the Tongariro Crossing, closing them for a whole season to allow them to recover is not only a “good idea”, but one that needs to be implemented.

And unfortunately, I am inclined to agree.

COVID19 worsens around the World; New Zealand heading for Level 1 – again


Some days when I look at the COVID19 of New Zealand and then look at the response of other countries, it seems like we are a different planet all on our own doing our own thing. Having successfully fought off what I think was the second wave of the pandemic, New Zealand is once again heading towards COVID19 Level 1, where the country is effectively functioning normally, but with precautions in place. And as we do, I cannot help but look in the revision mirror at the madness engulfing other countries that did not so proactively respond to it.

What I find really off putting is how poorly the western world has done in fighting COVID19. With the exception of Germany, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand, most western countries have had and continue to have a torrid time – it is not to say that it was a walk in the park in New Zealand, far far from it, but thanks to a proactive response New Zealand has managed to avoid the case explosion that has happened in the United States, Brazil, India and elsewhere. With support across the House of Representatives, New Zealand has been able to tackle this as a nation and not as individuals. With effective communication, New Zealand has avoided the chaotic responses seen in European countries. And with the comparative lack of socio-political division, we have avoided becoming like the United States, the wealthiest country in the world tearing itself to bits as violently as it can without a second Civil War starting.

Yes, there are countries that we could be more like. I am particularly impressed with Taiwan’s effort. Taiwan has had in the 8 months that COVID19 has been around, 509 cases and 7 deaths. It is recording one or two new cases a day and its death toll has not increased in months. But unfortunately Taiwan is more of an exception, rather than the norm.

The few countries that have lesser cases than Taiwan and are considered to be first world are non-existent. The few countries at all that have less cases than Taiwan are Pacific island nations such as the Cook Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, and so forth. These countries by their isolated nature, small size and lack of connection with the outside world pre-emptively shut down without waiting for recommendations to do so. However their very weak health systems mean even just a few cases of COVID19 could be disastrous.

Brazil, after peaking on 29 July at 69,000 new cases a day, has tapered off somewhat, but is still recording 33,000 new cases or the equivalent of the entire population of Blenheim each day. It has had 138,000 deaths from 4.59 million cases. Its President Jair Bolsonaro, denies the existence of COVID19 despite testing positive for it himself. Like India, like other countries whose cities have large slum areas, Brazilian urban areas have been swamped by COVID and my guess is that whilst 4.59 million cases have been recorded, there are probably hundreds of thousands more that are unknown.

India is finally facing up to something I had long dreaded would happen. Because of the relatively large size of India and poor transportation, I thought COVID19 would take a bit longer to spread around the country and it appears to have done so. But at the back of my mind I worried that when COVID19 did eventually arrive it would be potentially catastrophic. The acceleration of cases in India is truly shocking to watch – in one day last week, the equivalent of the entire population of Palmerston North (95,000) was infected; 5.6 million cases to date. Mortality rates though are not as high as I thought, with 1,053 dying on 22 September 2020.  With poor hygiene and sanitation practices, I expect that India’s case rate will worsen for a while longer yet.

And then there is Australia, a country that for the most part has COVID19 in check. Yet at the same time, Victoria, its second most populous state is locked down and has been for six weeks. Its politicians are arguing over whether to individually open up their states whilst Victoria finishes mandatory lock down. The cost to Australia, like New Zealand will be substantial, but if the former can successfully shrug off COVID19, it might be able to join New Zealand and other nations that have seen off the second wave in a COVID19-free bubble.

And so here we are. How did so many other nations with much greater resources, man power and expertise manage to mess up so badly, not once, but twice?

COVID Level 1 for New Zealand from Thursday


On Thursday at 0000 hours COVID Level 2 will take force in Auckland, nearly 6 weeks after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent the country’s most populous region back to Level 3 (2 for the rest of New Zealand). At the same time Level 1 will take effect across the rest of New Zealand.

The country has spent the last nearly 6 weeks at an elevated COVID19 level as it stamps out what appears to be the inevitable second wave. In that time 200+ more cases have been added to the New Zealand tally, whilst 3 more deaths were also recorded.

It has not come without significant controversy though as conspiracy parties such as Advance New Zealand try to make people believe COVID19 is a cover for a takeover of New Zealanders rights by the Government. They point to actions by the New Zealand Defence Force, and Police during the first lock down – actions that are actually sanctioned by decades old legislation: the Health Act 1956; Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002 and the Pandemic Preparedness Act 2006.

However it also means New Zealand has possibly achieved something no other country has yet done: seeing off the second wave of COVID19 without it merging with the mayhem caused by the first.

COVID19 waves and their impacts (IMAGE: VICTOR TSENG)Whilst we had a second wave, the strategy employed meant that only the Auckland area was made to shut down to Level 3, whilst the rest of the country went to Level 2. For the second time this year Auckland will be reopening on Thursday to an elevated alert level and wondering how much of 2020 can be salvaged from two lengthy shut down periods. For the first time too, campaigning for the 2020 General Election will be able to take place.

Many on the far right will continue to say that New Zealand is bent on destroying its own economy. They will continue to claim that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a Communist whose goal is a takeover of the country. These people could not be more wrong, and potentially could not be less empathetic with the families of the dead and the people who have suffered it, if they had tried. But not only that, the level of deceit being foisted upon New Zealanders just trying to get their lives back on track in what has been a very testing year by any reasonable measure, is quite shocking.

As for other countries, Australia, despite having the misfortune of having to watch Victoria slump back into lock down, is still the best friendly country. Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales as well as the Northern Territory are all largely open to domestic travel. Like New Zealand their border is largely shut, with only a few people who are citizens or permanent residents being allowed back.

Watching from a far, it seems like COVID19 is some sort of sinking ship. New Zealand and Australia, plus a few other nations have somehow managed to paddle their life boats away from it, whilst the rest of the world continues to struggle to get away.