Archive for July, 2017

The Negotiated Pay Equity Settlement for Care Workers – beware the fish-hooks amidst the hyperbole

29 July 2017 2 comments



Historic & Hyperbolic

It’s been touted as the most “historic pay rise” in  history. But the actual mechanics of the deal; the “fine print”; and other undisclosed facts may raise questions as how much of a “historic pay rise” the deal actually is.

As of 1 July, an estimated 55,000 healthcare workers would be in line for pay-equity increases ranging from a reported “15% to 50%”. The increase is estimated to be worth approximately $2 billion;



Meanwhile, the media, unions, and several blogs, lauded the settlement;


About 55,000 low-paid workers, mainly women, are about to get one of the biggest pay rises ever after details of a historic pay equity settlement are revealed today. – Dunedin Stadium blog


The government will implement a historic pay equity pay deal for aged and residential care workers worth $2.05 billion of extra pay for some 55,000 people – close to 2% of the total New Zealand workforce. – National Business Review


About 55,000 low-paid workers, mainly women, are about to get one of the biggest pay rises ever after details of a historic pay equity settlement are revealed today.New Zealand Herald


In 2014 Kristine Bartlett won a huge victory in the Court of Appeal over pay equity. Now, it looks like that victory is about to pay off, with the government about to approve a huge pay settlement for underpaid women.No Right Turn


The historic $2 billion pay rise for 55,000 care and support workers announced yesterday has been welcomed by unions, workers, and industry leaders.Otago Daily Times


The government has agreed to the principles of equal pay outlined by Unions, Government officials and Employers. This is a historic achievement and brings us one step closer to achieving equal pay for underpaid women. – PSA


Tens of thousands of aged-care and disability workers will get a hefty pay rise today as a landmark equity deal kicks into effect.Radio NZ


A historic pay deal for thousands of low-income care workers, mainly women, will be signed off today.TV3


It is a day they should celebrate […] great day for worker rights.The Daily Blog


This is a huge victory for health care workers, and for women. – The Standard


Obviously, the aged care settlement is excellent news for the workers who will directly benefit.Werewolf/Gordon Campbell


Radio NZ described the settlement in simple terms;

Parliament last month unanimously approved a $2 billion settlement, boosting the wages of about 55,000 workers by between 15 and 50 percent.

It follows a legal battle by Kristine Bartlett, who argued she was underpaid because she worked in a mainly-female industry.

Ms Bartlett’s pay will now jump from $16 an hour to $20 – and then again to $23 by 2021.

However, what many people fail to fully appreciate is that the pay-increases will be spread over five years, as this Ministry of Health table, below, illustrates;



In Ms Bartlett’s case – and others in her Level 4 pay bracket – her pay will increase from $16.25 per hour to $23.50 per hour – a 44.6% increase. However,  it should also be noted that [some] community support workers covered by this “equity pay rise” had not had any pay increase since the last collective agreement raised wages in October 2015;



But in correspondence to this blogger dated 14 July, E tū Union’s assistant national secretary, John Ryall, disagreed. He pointed out;

Those on collective agreements had increases from the funding increases given to their employers during this period (very low – about 1%) and from the movement in the minimum wage in April 2016 and again in April 2017 (about 3% plus on each occasion).

What is undisputed is that the pay increases will be doled out in small multiples;

In 2018, the increase will be an addition $1 per hour (for Level 2 pay rates) – a 5% increase from 2017.

In 2019 the increase will be  50 cents an hour – just under 2.5%  from 2018.

There will be zero pay increase in 2020.

In 2021, there is a $1.50 per hour pay increase from 2019 – a 7% increase, but over over two years.

John Ryall made clear that the settlement was an on-going process;

The Care and Support Equal Pay Settlement Agreed Position of the Parties says the following about the settlement – “Both parties (Unions and Government) are agreed that this settlement is an historic step forward for women workers in the elimination of systemic undervaluation of care and support work. As such, it is a significant step in addressing gender based inequality in New Zealand.” We did not even say in the settlement that pay equity had been achieved. We said it was a “significant step” as like the treaty settlements we did not believe that the rates themselves were high enough, but we were prepared to put this deal to a ratification vote (which incidentally was approved by 95% of care and support workers who voted) on the basis of settling, extinguishing claims for 5 years and having another go later if we felt there was still some ground to make up in terms of the Equal Pay Act.

John Ryall’s caution appears to be well-founded. However, the mainstream media and some blogs’ uncritical lauding of the settlement clearly failed to  reflect the real situation that the settlement was a “significant step” toward pay equity. The complexity of the problem may have contributed to the ‘fog’ surrounding the settlement.

An inflationary fish-hook

Furthermore, a considerable portion of those planned increases will be swallowed up by inflation, as this Treasury graph, below, shows;




The inflation figure for year-ending June 2017  is 1.7%, according to latest Statistics NZ figures. Ms Bartlett is apparently well ahead  this year.


Calculating  inflation requires averaging several contributing  factors. While domestic airfares were down 15% – vegetables were up 19%. It takes no stretch of the imagination which is more applicable to the daily lives of low-paid community care workers.

By  2018, inflation is around 1.7% – still ahead with her 5% increase.

By 2019, the inflation rate has climbed to 2.2% –  almost swallowing up her 2.5% increase.

By  2020, inflation remains at 2.2% – and with zero pay increase this year, Ms Bartlett’s pay rise last year has been well eroded, and nibbling into her 2018 increase.

By 2021, inflation stands at 2.1% – eating into her 7% pay increase that covered not one, but  two years.

On 22 April, I wrote to Minister for Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, to ask how the pay equity settlement would take inflation into account;

“Will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?”

Seven weeks later on 8 June, Minister Coleman responded;

“The settlement agreement contains an agreed formula linked to the All Industries Labour Cost Index to ensure wage rates remain current over the five year settlement.”

This is critical, as the Care and Support Workers Pay Equity Settlement Agreement is a mechanism for pay equity. Any erosion by inflation negates the intent as well as benefits of the settlement.

The Settlement Agreement document confirms Minister Coleman’s statement that there will be an “agreed formula linked to the All Industries Labour Cost Index to ensure wage rates remain current over the five year settlement“. But there is a ‘fish-hook’. Any adjustment for inflation is post-poned for four years;

“If the All Industries Labour Cost Index by 30 June 2021 (for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2021) moves on average by more than 1.7% annually then the figures in the above tables applying from 1 July 2021 will be adjusted accordingly.”

According to the Settlement Agreement, inflation adjustment will  not “ensure wage rates remain current over the five year settlement“, as Minister Coleman asserted. Instead, any inflation-adjustment to pay-equity is not made until 1 July 2021 – at the conclusion of the agreed  Settlement period.

I asked Council of Trade Union  economist, Bill Rosenberg, to comment on inflation adjustment to the Settlement. Bill said he was not confident of Treasury inflation forecasts;

“…Forecasts, Treasury’s as much as any forecaster’s, are just forecasts and the further out they are the less reliable they are. Treasury takes the view that the long term rate of inflation is 2% and all their forecasts trend towards that.

Secondly their Budget 2017 forecast for March 2017 was out – they forecast 2.0 percent but it came in at 2.2 percent  (illustrating the above point – though usually forecasts in the next year to 18 months are more reliable than further out). That puts out their June forecast. Recasting that, assuming they at least had the June quarter about right, their annual increases would be something like [this]“;




Bill compared his estimated inflationary figure with the 2017 BEFU (Budget Economic Fiscal Update), which yielded this table for predicted inflation;



“I’m not confident the June 2018 figure will be that low,” said Bill.

John Ryall was also unconcerned about inflationary pressures on the settlement, saying;

The wage rates will increase over the period from 1 July 2017 until 1 July 2021 by 13% on the bottom rate, 15% on the second level rate, 19% on the third level rate and 15% on the top level rate. This is still ahead of what the inflation rates are predicted to be for this period.

He also pointed out the settlement’s provision to make up for inflation in 2021;

Under the Care and Support Worker (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 if the labour cost all industries index moves by more than 1.7% on average over the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021 the final rates at 1 April 2021 will be adjusted upwards by the outstanding percentage.

However, that will not assist workers who leave the profession before 1 April 2021. Nevertheless, John did point out  the significant gains to workers, adding;

There are very strong provisions in the Care and Support Worker (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 for employers to do everything practically possible to “ensure” that all of their care and support employees get to the top step (ie complete a level 4 qualification). This means that very few of the care and support workers will be remaining on the same level as they complete their transition through from 1 April 2017 to 1 April 2021 and the increases take place as soon as they complete the qualifications, not having to wait for a service milestone after this date. This is a major piece of work for the unions in this period and I think will lead to a lot of future litigation and organising.

Whichever forecast becomes reality is almost irrelevant. What is relevant is that – spread over five years – the benefit of the $2 billion pay-out will be affected – perhaps weakened – by inflation.

On-going negotiations

I also asked Minister Coleman if the pay equity settlement would impact on future union wage negotiations;

“Will the equal-pay settlement and increase in wages have any impact on future Union-Employer wage negotiations? Or will future negotiations and demands for pay rises be considered a part of the pay-equity settlement?”

Minister Coleman responded that;

“The settlement addresses historic issues of systemic gender discrimination and does not extinguish the right of the 55,000 care and support workers  to negotiate  further rate increases or additional terms  and conditions  of employment with their employers.”

However, on page 5, the Settlement Agreement has done precisely that: extinguished rights;

“7. Subject to Executive and Parliamentary processes, the Parties acknowledge that the Legislation will cover the following matters:


(c) extinguish retrospective claims by Current Employees against Employers”

And  on page 18,

“The unions accept that this settlement will from 1 July 2017 extinguish any separate ongoing service allowance or qualifications allowance for care and support workers within the scope of this agreement that is contained in any employment agreement.”

The page 5 proviso extinguishes  past claims, whilst the page 18 proviso extinguishes current, on-going service and qualifications allowances.

Coleman added,

“The increases in care and support worker wage rates are not expected to significantly impact on contract negotiations with the approximately 1,100 employers. As noted above, the pay equity settlement does not extinguish the right of employers to negotiate price increases to meet increased operational costs.”

It is unclear what Minister Coleman bases his belief that “increases in care and support worker wage rates are not expected to significantly impact on contract negotiations”.

It remains to be seen whether future Union-Employer wage negotiations will yield further wage increases. If Employers point to the Pay Equity settlement as de facto pay-increases, then any equity in the settlement will be quickly eroded. By 2021, healthcare workers could be back to Square 1.

Should that happen, Unions may have to re-new pay-equity negotiations from scratch, as this Settlement agreement has a “sunset clause”;

This Settlement Agreement


(b) expires on 30 June 2022.

More hooks

Newsroom’s  Teuila Fuatai also identified another potential fish-hook; under-funding the equity funding by government/Ministry of Health. Should the Settlement funding be insufficient for any reason, employers may opt to hire relatively inexperienced – and thus cheaper – staff.  On 29 June, Ms Fuatai wrote;

Jessica Buddendijk, CANZ committee member, said the Ministry had fundamentally failed to account for “staffing numbers and length of service” in its calculations.

“Where a provider has a lot of very well educated, long serving staff, this tends to push them into the upper pay bands. With large numbers of [carers] needed because of the high dependency of those in aged care, this caused a huge error for which the providers have to bear the cost,” she said.

Simon Wallace, NZACA chief executive, warned that long term “many aged care providers may be forced to employ lower qualified and less experienced staff” because funding was weighted against having higher numbers of experienced and well-qualified workers.

There is precedent here.

National froze funding for ECE providers in 2010/11, sparking a massive, angry response from parents, ECE providers, and teaching staff. National’s  agenda was to cut costs by abandoning the requirement to having early childhood centres fully staffed by qualified teachers.

In November last year, the NZEI released a survey pointing to increasing use of unqualified staff  used by Early Childhood Education providers;

A new survey shows a six year funding freeze is threatening the quality of ECE as services say the freeze is forcing increases to parent fees, cuts to teacher pay, deteriorating child to teacher ratios, and increased reliance on unqualified staff.

An NZEI Te Riu Roa survey of 264 early childhood centres around the country found that 87% had experienced shortfalls since the Government first froze per-child funding six years ago, and 70 percent had increased fees – by an average of 29% – as a result.

Since 2010, increases in government funding for ECE have been for increased participation only, meaning services have faced real-term cuts to their core per-child funding.


• 41% of centres have reduced their ratio of qualified teachers in favour of cheaper unqualified staff.

According to the Newsroom story;

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was unaware of any providers being underfunded. “No one has told us that they’re underfunded, but the Ministry is working with some providers who have raised viability issues.”

Remain Calm – Don’t Hyperbolise

Interestingly, it was the student magazine, Salient, that reported the pay-equity settlement announcement on 1 May with restrained language. There was no hyperbole  such as “historic”, “victory”, “big pay rise”, etc;

Care workers win equal pay

The New Zealand government has announced a $2 billion settlement for care workers, after a lengthy court case led by aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett. Bartlett argued that the sector’s low wages were due to it being a female dominated industry, and were in conflict with the Equal Pay Act.

On July 1, depending on qualifications and experience, 55,000 workers across the sector will receive pay rises between 15 and 49 per cent.

The significance of the pay rise was explained by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman: “For the 20,000 workers currently on the minimum wage of $15.74 per hour, it means on July 1 they will move to at least $19 per hour, a 21 per cent pay rise.”

The settlement includes pay rises for workers who are above minimum wage and rewards those with qualifications and experience.

To back-pay or not to back-pay – why is it the question?

Lastly,  on the issue of back-dating  salary increases, I asked Minister Coleman;

Why was the settlement not back-dated when MPs automatically have their pay-increases backdated? Especially when negotiations with relevant parties was announced nearly two years ago on 20 October 2015 (by yourself) and has been on-going since.

Members of Parliament regularly have their salary increases backdated by the Remuneration Authority;







Despite the Minister  responding to a previous question stating that “the settlement addresses historic issues of systemic gender discrimination and does not extinguish the right of the 55,000 care and support workers  to negotiate  further rate increases or additional terms  and conditions  of employment with their employers” – his response to the  question of back-dating the claim was in direct contradiction;

“The unions and the Government  agreed that the settlement would extinguish  all pay equity claims made prior to 1 July 2017 for eligible employees.”

Not just contradictory – but a total evasion of the question itself. Minister Coleman simply could not explain why highly-paid members of Parliament have salary increases back-dated – but lowly-paid healthcare workers do not enjoy the same privilege.

E tū’s  John Ryall, however, was less critical and more pragmatic with his explanation;

In the history of NZ all settlements under the Equal Pay Act have been negotiated settlements. In the 1970s these were normally done in 3 or 4 steps and none of them included backpay because of the complications that arise with who is entitled to it (previous employees or current employees, union members or non-members) and when large industry settlements are done the backpay can sometimes be worth more than the settlement. Are we trying to put right historical injustices or pursue compensation and in the case of the private sector will the compensation mean that employers become insolvent rather than lifting wage levels across the sector market to a minimum level that everyone has to pay. In the view of the unions who negotiated the settlement we were trying to put right an historical injustice that I personally have spent the last 35 years of my life on (I was worried it could take another 35 years before we ever saw a cent of what we were seeking and that Kristine Bartlett and myself would be dead and buried).

The pay equity movement by unions is a nobel cause and long past it’s due-date. It is disappointing that the settlement was marred by a government unwilling to apply principles of compensation that Parliamentarians regularly apply to themselves.

As John Ryall was determined to explain;

…this settlement has given confidence to hundreds of thousands of low paid workers who have found some leverage to get their abysmal pay rates increased. Already we are signing off a settlement on Monday for 1700 vocational disability support workers, we are pursuing a case in the Employment Relations Authority and putting pressure on government about 3000 mental health support workers and we have heaps of other workers who are approaching us about getting organised around equal pay as a lever to increasing wage rates across their industries. Other unions have cases running for 12,000 school support staff, about 3000 social workers, 2000 hospital administration workers and WINZ front line staff as well as a case for Countdown workers (distribution centre male employees v checkout female employees)

However, it still remains to be seen if this de facto Wage Order by National will achieve it’s intended aims. Especially where a National government is concerned.

But as John Ryall made clear;

The National Government could have ridden the Bartlett court case out and we may have got a judgement in another five years time, by the time it went through all levels of the courts, and then we would have needed to take cases for all the other workers in the three sub-sectors as well as vocational disability and mental health.

We made the judgement that negotiating a settlement was the right way to go. There are issues around the funding but the bigger picture is the re-distribution of income that this process has set up, which I think is eventually going to mean some hard questions about governments about the taxation system that is going to be needed to pay for it.

This blogger accepts the hard work by Ms Bartlett and the unions involved. But one thing we cannot over-look – there is no room  for complacency. Once the hyperbole is stripped away, it is clear that far from being a giant leap for low-paid workers, it was a small step.

Last word

From John Ryall;

We made the judgement that negotiating a settlement was the right way to go. There are issues around the funding but the bigger picture is the re-distribution of income that this process has set up, which I think is eventually going to mean some hard questions about governments about the taxation system that is going to be needed to pay for it.


The author of this story is employed in the community-care sector, and therefore has a vested interest in pay equity.





Beehive: $2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

National Business Review:  $2b pay equity package for aged care workers confirmed

NZ Herald:  Big pay rise for women – Deal likely to alarm private sector

Otago Daily Times:  Carers’ $2b pay rise hailed

PSA: Equal Pay

Radio NZ:  Dollars in pockets as historic pay equity deal takes effect

TV3:  $500m pay rise for care workers

Ministry of Health:  Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Operational Policy Document (p10)

Treasury: Economic Outlook – The outlook for the economy is positive

Statistics NZ:  Consumers Price Index – June 2017 quarter

Treasury: BEFU 2017

Ministry of Health: Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreemen (For Aged Residential Care) (p 5, 18)

Ministry of Health:   Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement (p4)

Newsroom:  Pay equity deal’s missing millions

Fairfax media:   Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

NZEI: ECE survey shows children and families paying for funding cuts

Salient:  Care workers win equal pay

Beehive: Government to enter negotiations over pay for care and support workers

NZ Herald:  MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Acknowledgements for assistance

Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister for Health

Bill Rosenberg, NZCTU

John Ryall, E tū Union


Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

The Spinoff:  After the equal pay decision, joy – and anxiety – from care workers who missed out

Other Blogs

Dunedin Stadium:  Payrise for low-wage workers in aged care and home support #genderpaygap

No Right Turn: A victory for women

The Daily Blog: Courts finally give the poorest workers what the Government wouldn’t and the Unions couldn’t

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell  on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers! (1 March 2012)

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash” (28 May 2012)

Roads, grandma, and John Key (18 July 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers (11 November 2012)

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion (16 November 2012)

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages (31 January 2014)

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation? (31 October 2015)

Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet (27 August 2016)

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?   (28 April 2017)





This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 July 2017.



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Drinking river water – Tourism NZ puts visitors at risk

21 July 2017 4 comments




When it comes to irresponsibility and incompetence, we are well used to National’s performance over the last eight years. Homelessness and rising unaffordability, under-funding in healthcare and education; corporate subsidies; wasting taxpayers’ money on pointless exercises; increasing environmental degradation; uncontrolled migration to prop up a lack-lustre economy; and more scandals than we can recall – are National’s track record since 2008.

Up till now, National’s ineptness has impacted only on New Zealanders.

But not content with policies that have impacted harshly on a wide sector of the local population, National has now set its sights on how to screw up  visiting tourists;



While concerns grow about the health of New Zealand’s waterways – including the potential for reputational damage – it has not changed the way the country presents itself to the world.

The latest “100% Pure” campaign, released last week, shows a tourist drinking water from a river, something that would be dangerous in parts of the country.

Tourism New Zealand is a government-owned and operated Crown Entity;

Tourism New Zealand is a Crown Entity funded by the New Zealand Government and established under the New Zealand Tourism Board Act 1991. We are led by a Board of Directors appointed by the Minister of Tourism and have a team of around 150 staff in 13 offices around the world. From humble beginnings, we are now the oldest tourism marketing department in the world.

The current Minister of Tourism is Paula Bennett. The same Minister who once advocated contraception for beneficiaries as some kind of ‘cure’ for sole-parenting.

A major aspect  of Tourism NZ’s advertising campaign involves the “100% Pure” theme – a claim largely ridiculed and dismissed by most New Zealanders as a bad-taste joke;



As at 15 July, around 245,000 views have been made of the video on Tourism NZ’s Facebook page;



Interestingly, whilst the woman in the image is depicted as scooping up the water and raising it toward her face, the video switches scene before her hands reach her face.

Obviously the producers of this video were not prepared to risk the woman’s  health by actually expecting her drink the water.

For good reason.

Many of New Zealand’s waterways are polluted to varying degrees by urban and dairying run-off. In 2013, the Environment Ministry reported that 61% of monitored rivers in New Zealand were unsafe for swimming. Waterways were either “poor” or “very poor” quality.

Ministry data showed that the worst performing  regions were also heavy dairy farming regions. Nine waterways in Canterbury rated “very poor”. Manawatu-Whanganui, Southland, and Taranaki had seven waterways listed as “very poor”. Hawkes Bay and Wellington had five each.



Drinking  water from our lakes, rivers, and streams is a hazardous activity in 21st Century New Zealand. There is the risk of  infection; serious illness, and perhaps death from toxic algae, giardia, e.coli, campylobacter, etc.

Statistics NZ has a convenient map of e.coli levels throughout the country;



Most New Zealanders are now aware of the serious health-risks posed by our polluted waterways – especially as urban populations and  dairy farming has increased  in the last nine years.  We have people like Dr Mike Joy, Massey University’s freshwater ecologist, to thank for breaking the silence on our polluted waterways;


Dr Mike Joy – Massey University freshwater ecologist


Dr Joy’s  revelations were unpopular with many in the business world and right-wing politics. People like National Party supporter and corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth,  bitterly attacked Dr Joy in a vitriolic email in November 2012;


From: Mark Unsworth []
Sent: Wednesday, 21 November 2012 12:15 a.m.
To: Joy, Mike
Subject: Ego Trip

Dear Dr Joy
Is your ego so great that you feel the need to sabotage all the efforts made by those promoting tourism in NZ because of your passionate views on the environment ?
You have the right to hold strong views but you ,as an academic whose salary is paid for by others taxes, must also act responsibly .
Letting your ego run riot worldwide in the manner you did can only lead to lower levels of inbound tourism.

You may not care given your tenure in a nice comfy University lounge ,but to others this affects income and jobs.
Give that some thought next time you feel the need to see your name in print in New York .And possibly think of changing your name from Joy to Misery-its more accurate
Mark Unsworth”


Unsworth was not attacking Dr Joy for incorrect facts. Unsworth was attacking Dr Joy for making public true facts.

Even our former esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, was dismissive of the scientist’s warnings;

“He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I could provide you another one that’ll give you a counter-view.”

Since then, the demonisation of Dr Joy has been replaced with understanding and acceptance. Like climate-change, river and lake pollution will not conveniently ‘go away’ if we ignore it. The consequences of ignoring the problem will be severe for us, and the environment, as the OECD warned us just this year;

New Zealand’s environment is under increasing stress due to an economy reliant on primary industries, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says.

It appeared to be resulting in environmental trade-offs, which put the country’s “green” reputation at risk, it said.

In a just-released report, the OECD urged New Zealand to come up with a long-term vision to transition to a greener, low-carbon economy.


New Zealand’s environment is under increasing stress due to an economy reliant on primary industries, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says.

It appeared to be resulting in environmental trade-offs, which put the country’s “green” reputation at risk, it said.

In a just-released report, the OECD urged New Zealand to come up with a long-term vision to transition to a greener, low-carbon economy.


It detailed the environmental impact of farming intensification, and warned freshwater pollution would continue under current economic growth plans.

New Zealand’s nitrogen balance had worsened more than any other OECD country between 1998 and 2009, primarily due to farming intensification.

Unfortunately, the best efforts of the Green Party to turn back the tide of water-pollution has often been stymied by intransigence and self-interest in  Parliament.

In October 2012, Green MP Catherine Delahunty’s private member’s bill – Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill – was drawn from the Ballot. The Bill would have reduced the amount of time that discharges could be made into our rivers “in exceptional circumstances”. (Yes, industries are allowed to discharge waste into our waterways! Who knew!?)


Greens MP, Catherine Delahunty, at the Selwyn River

Greens MP, Catherine Delahunty, at the Selwyn River


As reported in the NZ Herald in October 2012;

Green MP Catherine Delahunty said her member’s bill, which has passed its first reading, sought to close a loophole in the Resource Management Act that allowed contaminating discharges with toxic effects and discolouration of waters under “exceptional circumstances”.

Ms Delahunty said the phrase included no timeframe, and had been used to justify long-term pollution of some waterways and coastal areas.

Her bill would limit its use to five years.

Ms Delahunty’s Bill was voted down at it’s Second Reading by National (59 votes); NZ First (7 votes); ACT (1 vote), and  Peter Dunne.

This means that a company such as Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill is legally entitled to continuously dump pollutants into the Tarawera River in the Bay of Plenty. The rationale is that the mill hires local people, so pollution is a “necessary evil”. (Ironically, the products are then shipped back to Norway, which also portrays itself as “clean and green”.)

The Tarawera River’s nick-name is “The Black Drain“.

So our rivers and lakes will continue to be fouled by agriculture, dairying, industry, and urban activity.

Meanwhile, a government Crown Entity blithely produces and promotes a video depicting a woman drinking from one of our waterways.

What tourists don’t understand is what may be lurking up-river, just out of sight around the next bend;



Note the brown stain flowing from the cow.

What might that be?

Now look at what National, via Tourism NZ, is promoting as safely drinkable.



New Zealand should post a Health Warning at every airport terminal.

Preferably before someone gets seriously ill. Or dies.





Fairfax media:  New ‘100% Pure’ campaign shows tourist drinking river water

Tourism NZ: About

Radiolive:  Will free contraception for beneficiaries improve society?

Tourism NZ: Welcome to New Zealand

Facebook: Tourism NZ

Fairfax  media:  Many NZ rivers unsafe for swimming

Statistics NZ: River water quality – e.coli

Facebook:  Russel Norman – Mark Unsworth’s email

Fairfax media:  Are NZ politicians joining the international tide of post-truth politics?

Fairfax media:  Farming, emissions and waste putting NZ’s ‘green’ reputation at risk, OECD says

NZ Herald: Bill aims to plug pollution loophole

Parliament: Vote – Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Special report – how polluted are New Zealand’s rivers?

Green Party:  The Taniwha of the Tarawera

Radio NZ:  Cattle in Otago rivers OK – DoC

Previous related blogposts

New Zealand – we’re in the sh*t

TDB Investigation into what is happening in our water

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come




Nick smith another swimmable river


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 July 2017.



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NZ Initiative – Bulk Funding Schools



Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein.


On 6 July, the  “NZ Initiative” – a re-branded right-wing think-tank previously known as the NZ Business Roundtable – released a propaganda-piece entitled, ‘Amplifying Excellence: Promoting Transparency, Professionalism and Support in Schools‘. The so-called “report” advocated more sly “free market” forces unleashed onto our constantly-changing education system.

The title of the  “report” sneakily implies our education system is not transparent; is un-professional; and our schools un-supported.

Amongst the several vague recommendations was this one;

True to New Zealand’s self-managed school landscape, the government largely lets school boards and principals get on with leading their schools. However, in other respects, school leaders can be hamstrung by bureaucratic restrictions; for example, the Ministry prescribes how school leaders should spend parts of their teaching resource budgets.

Recommendation 6: Effective leaders should be trusted as true professionals and granted total budget autonomy to lead their schools.

“Total budget autonomy” is code for bulk-funding – a favourite agenda from the New Right.

Bulk-funding had previously been introduced as part of National’s “Ruthenasia reforms” in the 1990s. It was done away with by the Labour-Alliance government in 2000.

In June last year, then-Education Minister Hekia Parata attempted to resurrect the corpse of Bulk Funding under a new guise, “Global Funding“;

The change would set a “global budget” for each school, delivered as cash instalments for school expenses, and a credit system for salaries.

According to the documents, this would mean:

• Principals would determine the split between cash and credit, with the flexibility to make adjustments during the year.

• Unspent credit would be paid out at the end of the year and a process for recovering credit overspends would be established.

• Teaching staff salaries would be charged against the “credit” portion at an average rate.

• Non-teaching staff salaries would be charged against the “credit” portion at actual cost.

The global budget system would not be the same as the controversial bulk funding of teacher salaries that sparked protests 20 years ago, the proposal said. The documents said: “This is a significant difference from historical bulk funding proposals which would have seen schools charged the actual salary.”

The reaction was predictable, and Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president, Angela Roberts, spoke for many when she warned;

“It is bulk funding. It is minor technicalities that make it something different, and I think it’s very cynical of the ministry to think that they can con people with a change in language.”

The schools get to decide how they spend that, how many teachers they purchase effectively and how many teacher aides. So schools will be incentivised through the averaging out to have cheaper teachers or fewer teachers because they can cash that money up.

Bulk funding was resoundingly rejected by the community 20 years ago because everybody understood the cost would be borne by the school when the government couldn’t be bothered putting more money into the system.”

Opposition to Parata’s Bulk-Funding-In-Drag plan was met with heated opposition by parents, teachers, school principals. Donna Eden, a teacher with 20 years’ education experience explained why she was so vehemently opposed to “Global Funding”;

“Teachers really don’t like bulk funding, so much so that they have been out of the classrooms meeting and rallying. And they’re talking to anyone who will listen about how our kids will be worse off.

And they will.

Why? Well, it will mean bigger classes and fewer teachers. It will mean our kids have less time with their teacher because instead of sharing him or her with 15 other children there will be 30 or more classmates needing the attention of their kaiako. It will mean less support for the kids that need it. It will mean fewer teacher aides for fewer hours.

It will likely mean untrained teachers in the classroom because they will be cheaper to pay.

It will mean winners and losers, and that, my friends, is not okay. Every child deserves the best, all of them, all over our country.

It’s simply that schools will be given a lump sum of money. And from this lump sum they will pay teachers’ salaries (which are currently centrally funded, meaning they don’t cost schools) and for everything else (think the power, water, supplies, first aid supplies, the caretaker, the office staff , support staff like teacher aides, any class room resources…)

There will be a separate pool of money for maintenance – property repairs and the like.

Why is it bad news?


Firstly, because there is no new money. It’s just moving around the money that is already there. And it’s already not enough.

For the first time ever school operations grants, the cash that keeps schools running, have been frozen.

While costs rise, this budget won’t keep up. This means cuts to what schools can offer. It will start with trimming the extracurricular stuff. It won’t stop from there.

Hekia Parata is looking to remove the caps to class sizes and the guaranteed teacher funding this brings. It will mean that classes will get bigger – they will have to in order to stay within budget.

It’s like trying to do the grocery shopping with the usual budget when you have four extra people staying for the week. It just won’t stretch; something will have to give.

If it comes down to a choice between paying the power bill and paying a teacher, it is principals and boards of trustees that will have to decide who goes. What a horrible decision to have to make.”

On 18 November last year, Parata caved to mounting public pressure and announced that National would not proceed on it’s “Global Funding” policy;

“I have therefore recommended, and Cabinet has agreed, that the global budget proposal not proceed. The global budget was a mechanism for payment, not for determining the level of funding, so this decision will not affect the core purpose of the review.”

The successor to Ruth Richardson’s Bulk Funding, Parata’s “Global Funding”, was quietly returned to the Historical Rubbish Bin of Very Bad Ideas.

Barely a year later and the NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable has attempted to breathe life back into Bulk Funding/Global Funding. This time referring to the model as ‘Total Budget Autonomy‘. (No doubt  Crosky-Textor or some other tax-payer funded spin-doctor will come up with some new clever, shiny name.)

But it’s still a pig. Perhaps with a new shade of lipstick. But a pig still.



The question is, why the Neo-libs keep beating the same drum?  Why keep trying to implement a policy that has been tried; failed; and almost no one wants.

More importantly, the evidence is that Donna Eden’s fears are well-based and grounded in reality.

New Zealand has had bulk-funding in another area of the State Sector – and it has proven to be a dismal failure;



Analysing budget short-falls and DHB deficits two years ago, Fairfax journalist Stacy Kirk wrote;

Specifically, [Treasury]  documents say DHB underfunding will put pay increases for public sector health workers, including nurses and doctors, at risk.

Cost pressures mean DHBs have not been fully funded to cover wage increases for the 40,000 workers whose contracts are up for renegotiation shortly.

Ms Kirk reported Treasury officials as saying;

“The fiscal strategy presents some tough choices for Budget 2015, there are a number of fiscal pressures across the social sector, and Ministers will need to review options and trade-offs to determine an appropriate Budget package.”

The Treasury document that Ms Kirk quotes makes this observation on funding DHBs;

There are material cost pressures affecting the Ministry-managed NDE [non-
departmental expenditure] service lines that need to be managed as part of
this process. These cost pressures will include demographic demand growth,
wage and price inflation, and other factors. As for DHBs, it is unlikely that
these pressures can be fully funded, so we will be looking to the sector to
deliver substantial efficiencies. To maintain current levels of service
provision, it is likely that a reasonably large injection of new funding will
be needed – in addition to the $275 million already agreed for DHBs – or
Ministers will need to make choices on what services are to be altered or cut back.

Note this bit; “…cost pressures will include demographic demand growth, wage and price inflation, and other factors. As for DHBs, it is unlikely that these pressures can be fully funded, so we will be looking to the sector to deliver substantial efficiencies”.

Treasury’s admonition that “it is unlikely that these pressures can be fully funded” for DHBs is borne out by the number of Boards that are in deficit – and  worsening. A forecasted $58.7 million deficit has blown out to $89.9 million. Half of DHBs either in the red, or perilously close to it;



In the case of Capital and Coast DHB – currently $28 million in deficit – it is noteworthy that there financial woes started in the mid-1990s;

In 1995-96 Capital Coast Health reported a deficit of $26m, which the following year grew to $70m. Chief financial officer Tony Hickmott said the $68m debt hole left by the construction of the regional hospital in 2008 had contributed to deficits for the past 10 years.

Increased demand for services, high labour costs, increased complexity of patients, and the increasing and ageing population had compounded the issue.

Building construction. Labour costs. Demand for services. Increased complexity. Increasing population. Each one of those factors can easily be translated into the education sector which also requires building upgrades or building entire new class-rooms; growing students rolls; increasing special-needs; and rising population due to National’s exploitation of migration to create the illusion of economic growth.

Now add Bulk Funding/Global Funding/’Total Budget Autonomy’ into the mix for schools.

How long would it be before schools found themselves in precisely the same precarious  financial woes that our DHBs are currently suffering?

As things currently stand, parents/guardians are having to dip more and more into their pockets to pay “school donations”, to make up for obvious shortfalls in the Vote Education budget;



Of course, the National government still claims – without a hint of self-awareness of the Big Lie – that education is still free in New Zealand;

It’s free to go to a state school — but the school can ask for donations towards their running costs.

But at least one school – St Heliers – is unashamedly upfront in why school “donations” are necessary;

A donation is requested of parents to contribute towards the shortfall in funding from the Government.

Even with direct Ministry funding, schools are still having to make up a “shortfall in funding from the Government“. This dire situation has been compounded by National’s decision to freeze school operational funding this year;



The above Herald story goes on to report;

The targeted approach means more than 1300 schools will get less money than they would have received, had that money been used for a general increase.

The difference ranges from a few hundred dollars up to $24,000.

About 816 schools will get more, and information on a further 242 schools is suppressed for privacy reasons because fewer than five students are at-risk.

Now imagine the funding constraints that  schools would have to deal with if Bulk Funding/Global Funding/’Total Budget Autonomy’ was re-introduced for their sector.

But we don’t have to imagine, do we? Because half the District Health Boards in this country have already shown us what would be in store for schools throughout the country.

Which is something that the  NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable seems to have studiously over-looked when they compiled their rubbish report, ‘Amplifying Excellence: Promoting Transparency, Professionalism and Support in Schools‘.

Never under-estimate the ability of the New Right to suggest policies that that been tried, tested, and failed. Just keep repeating the experiment over and over and over again.

One day the result will be different.

Of course it will. Just ask Albert Einstein.





NBR:  Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank

NZ Initiative: Amplifying Excellence: Promoting Transparency, Professionalism and Support in Schools

Victoria University: The Bulk Funding of Teacher’s Salaries – A Case Study in Education Policy

NZ Herald:  New funding system for schools including a ‘global’ salary criticised

Radio NZ:  Teachers fear ‘bulk funding in new guise’

The Spinoff:  A teacher tells you what you need to know about bulk funding

Fairfax media:  Education Minister signals end of school bulk funding and decile systems

Fairfax media:  DHBs ‘considerably’ underfunded – and more deficits predicted

Treasury NZ: Treasury Budget 2015 Information Release Document July 2015

Fairfax media:  DHB deficits blowing to $90m. Health sector dying ‘by 1000 service cuts’ – Labour

Fairfax media:  Capital & Coast DHB’s debt hole deepens as boss admits 20 years of deficits

Fairfax media:  Parents prop up schools to tune of $250m

NZ Herald:  School costs – $40,000 for ‘free’ state education

NZ Herald: Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling

NZ Herald: Parents paid $161m for children’s ‘free education

NZ Government: Education – school fees

NZ Herald: ‘At risk’ school funding revealed – with 1300 to lose out under new model

Other Blogs

Save our Schools:  Parata backs down on bulk funding plans

Chris Trotter: Morbid Symptoms – Neoliberalism’s Room for Manoeuvre Keeps Shrinking

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister





This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 July 2017.



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The Cheesy Voting Sketch



Following the recent announcement that Shane Jones would be a NZ First candidate for Whangarei in this years’ election, Jones appeared on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘. Interviewed by veteran broadcaster, Lisa Owen, Jones repeated Winston Peters’ mantra of not declaring which major party they preferred to coalesce with, post election;

Lisa Owen: So, in terms of forming a government, potentially forming a government after this election, the thing is Labour could probably come with the Greens, and you’ve said before it would be a long day in hell if you served under a Green government. Is that still your position?

Shane Jones: Well, the garrulous Aussie, Norman has gone. He’s where he belongs, in the Greenpeace. So, I don’t think you should treat historic statements as being static facts; that’s the first thing.

Lisa Owen: But Metiria’s still there. Metiria Turei was there when you made that comment, and she still is. I mean, she once described you as being sexist and said you were a 19th century man living in the 21st century. Would you be happy for her to be one of your bosses?

Shane Jones: Oh, well, I look forward to debating with her in the election, et cetera, and I don’t get too hung up about various rhetorical missiles that are flung around. But in terms of forming the next government—

Lisa Owen: So, you’ve mellowed about the Greens, have you?

Shane Jones: Oh, well, we must move on from the imperfect part of my career. We’re going into a new phase where there’s a lot more diligence; there’s a lot more focus, but the passion is still there. In relation to the formation of the next government—

Lisa Owen: And more pragmatism?

Shane Jones: There’s one thing you can say about me, I was never doctrinaire or dogmatic. That is why, in many occasions, I parted company with the Labour party.

Lisa Owen: So you could work with the Greens in government?

Shane Jones: Well, I am pragmatic, but the reality is — first create the leverage by boosting the vote.

Lisa Owen: But you’re not ruling it out, then?

Shane Jones: No, all I’m saying is I’m going to win Whangarei, and I’m going to help Winston harvest votes up and down the country in nga hau e wha — the four winds — and then the wind that blows us into parliament is going to put the country on an entirely different course.

A verbose way of telling us he’s not telling us.

Which, because of NZ First’s continuing  bizarre policy of  refusing to make clear  their coalition preferences, reminded me of Monty Python’s cheese sketch. Adapted to our present circumstances, I present to you, The Cheesy Voting Sketch;




(A customer walks in the door.)

Customer (John Cleese): Good Morning.

Owner (John Clarke, in this version): G’day, mate. Welcome to Trev’s 4-Square Grocery Shop!

Customer: Ah thank you my good man.

Owner: What can I do for you, mate?

C: Well, Well, I was sitting in the public library on Victoria Street just now, skimming through ‘Only their Purpose is Mad‘ by Bruce Jesson, and I suddenly remembered I needed to buy a few cans of the edible nutritious seed from certain domesticated and husbanded plants of the legume family, specifically from the genus Phaseolus vulgaris.

O: Eh?

C: Beans, preserved in a tin plated and lacquered steel cylinder, sterilised by heat treatment.

O: Ah, canned beans!

C: In a nutshell. And I thought to myself,  I curtailed my Jessoning activites, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some legumis comestibles!

O: Come again?

C: I want to buy some beans.

O: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the ‘Lorde‘  CD I was playing!

C: Oh, heaven forbid: I am one who delights in all manifestations of the screetching diva.

O: Sorry?

C: Nah, she’s cool, mate.

O: So she can go on playing, can she?

C: Most certainly! Now then, some beans please, my good man.

O: (lustily) Certainly, sir. What would you like?

C: Well, eh, how about a little Red Kidney?

O: Sure, mate. Now, would you like Watties, Pams, imported Italian, or Trev’s Surprise?

C: Pray explain, what is ‘Trev’s Surprise’?

O: Well, mate, it’s like this. You put your cash on the counter, I go out the back; grab half a dozen various cans at random; strip off  their labels, and you buy those.

C: But… how do I determine  the contents of those cans, my good man? They could practically be anything!

O: Correct, mate. They could indeed.

C: Prithee, good fellow, how does that benefit me?

O: Oh, it doesn’t, mate. You simply leave the choice up to me and it’s a total surprise to you when you get the cans home and open them up. They could be beans, peaches, sardines, jam, anchovies, marmalade, dog food, anything!

C: I’ve never heard of anything quite so ludicrous, dear chap. No one would be mad enough to  let you make such a choice on their behalf!

O: Oh, I beg to differ. It’s very popular, mate.

C: Is it!?

O: Oh, yeah, mate , it’s staggeringly popular at this time of the year, especially politically.

C: Is it!!??

O: Oh yeah.

C: What do you mean,’especially politically’, my little bourgeois entrepreneur?

O: Well mate, people give their vote to New Zealand First. Winston then takes your vote and applies it to another party of his own choosing by picking the one he goes into coalition with. You don’t choose, Winston does.

C: I’ve never heard of anything so unlikely! How many people allow this?

O: Oh,  about 10%.

C: Really.

O: Yeah, mate.

C : Really?!?!

O: Yeah, mate. I shit you not.

C: And what about the remaining 90% of voters? How do they choose whether they prefer a National-led or Labour-led coalition?

O: Oh, they make their own minds up. They want to know what they’re getting. Bit boring really, if you ask me.

So, would you like to try Trev’s Surprise, mate?

C: No thank you,  I prefer to know what I’m getting.

It might be dog tucker.


(With a nod & apologies to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I’m sure they’d understand.)





Radio NZ:  Shane Jones to stand for NZ First in Whangarei

Scoop media: The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Shane Jones

Youtube: The Cheese Shop sketch, Monty Python

Previous related blogposts

John Banks and Winston Peters, Apples and Oranges

A Message to Winston; A Message to John Key; and a Message to the Regions

Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

Expose: Winston Peters; the 1997 speeches; and neo-liberal tendencies





This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 July 2017.



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The Labour interns – ACT exposes hypocrisy!



The headlines!

A few days ago, headlines appeared supposedly “exposing  a rort” by the NZ Labour Party to exploit American interns for electoral campaigning purposes;




The “Shock! Horror!” story occurred at the worst possible time for Labour and  the Opposition, as National was being held to account for attempting to  cover up the Todd Barclay Tape scandal and possibly perverting the course of justice;



The facts behind the “headlines”

However, as the initial media frenzy subsided and gave way to a closer look at the allegations, the narrative soon changed from “slave labour conditions“; “substandard conditions“; and “a cramped marae with no working shower” – to some actual facts.

Awataha marae‘s spokesperson, Anthony Wilson rejected  suggestions that his facilities were “substandard”;

“ We don’t know what the organizers promised our guests but we are like any other marae we only have the facilities we currently have.

We don’t think our facilities are substandard although we are not a five-star hotel. We are working on developing our marae facilities to cater for the influx of schools, community and internationals.

Our role is to manaaki and awhi our manuhiri. If the organizers choose better accommodation that’s fine by us, we wish the young people all the best for the future as many of them have become our friends.”

Anthony Wilson appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 June, and further rejected the smears against his marae;

“ What was not being told was we’ve got eight showers. It’s not like that we only had one shower. And the other thing – the broken cabinet. We get broken things all the time when we have groups of this sort of size and nature using our facilities all the time. So we kind of resent the implications of disgruntled students trying to make a point out of this. I believe it’s quite good now that some of those stories have been outed. I’ve seen a few articles just recently now where the students have actually come out and defended the marae and saying that they had a wonderful time and also the facilities were adequate for what they required.”

The Politik story seemed bemused by the tasks expected from volunteers;

“They were told that they are broken down into teams- they will be either phone soliciting ( they’ve bought 30-ish Alcatel phones, and they sit in a room and call, from this marae, very disorganised, many of these people have been called already ) , door knocking in regions in Auckland, or approaching universities and “unions” to recruit votes ad more volunteers. They have one day of ‘training’ tomorrow. There is nothing else planned for these guys as far as I am aware.”

The complaints regarding campaign work are fatuous. Political volunteer work is never paid. Volunteer work consists precisely of “drudge” activities such as door-knocking, phone calling, leafletting, putting up billboards, staffing stalls; etc.

As a volunteer for the Alliance in the 1990s, this is precisely the work that this blogger, and thousands of others around New Zealand, carried out in the 1999 and 2002 election campaigns; “drudge” activities such as door-knocking, phone calling, leafletting, putting up billboards, staffing stalls; etc.

Unpaid volunteer work is not restricted to parties on the Left.  This is a page from the National party website* outlining what work unpaid volunteers are asked to carry out;



The Maori Party – which slammed Labour’s use of  volunteers as “slave labour” – also has a webpage touting for unpaid volunteers;



The ACT Party’s website is even more specific and wide-ranging in the expertise it demands from unpaid volunteers;




Considering the financial support ACT enjoys from its wealthy donors, it seems almost scrooge-like in it’s unwillingness to pay for services.

Interns and volunteers

The American volunteers were described as “interns” by the media;

A group of 85 interns flew to New Zealand from around the world expecting lectures from Helen Clark and real world campaign experience.

They arrived to a cramped dormitory, no pay, no lectures, and a broken shower.

Aside from the one broken shower out of eight (which – according to some breathless media pundits – pushes New Zealand automatically into Third World status), complaints that interns were not paid appears contradictory.  Internship NZ suggests that interns are paid at aleast the minimum wage in New Zealand, to avoid exploitation;

The only cost to the employer is the intern’s wage. We ask that the interns get paid what workers doing the same job are being paid (we do not want the interns exploited). We advise our interns that the minimum wage in New Zealand is $15.75 per hour, and that in most cases they will be paid more than this. We ask that the interns get between 30 – 40 hours per week (or enough for them to “live” comfortably).


One broken shower out of eight – a fact missing from most msm coverage of this “story”.


However, when taken in conjunction with political volunteer work, the very definition of internship can involve paid or unpaid work;

Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways but not as rigorous as apprenticeships for professions, trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardisation and oversight leaves the term open to broad interpretation. Interns may be college or university students, high school students, or post-graduate adults. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary.

Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students can also use an internship to determine if they have an interest in a particular career, to create a network of contacts, to acquire a recommendation letter to add to their curriculum vitae, or to gain school credit. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the organizations for which they worked upon completion of the internship.

Unpaid work is not only recognised in New Zealand – Statistic NZ even counts it toward employment data;



A revelation

Following  complaints from some interns, others came forward with  more positive experiences. And there was a revelation of what might have pricipitated  the complaint(s);

An American student taking part in a “fellowship” programme for the Labour Party campaign has defended it, saying most of the 85 interns on it are happy.

The student spoke on the condition of anonymity because most in the programme had signed non-disclosure agreements before starting on the programme.

She believed the complaints and leaks to the media were driven by one or two interns who had a beef with the programme. She claimed one was dropped from a leadership position on the programme after allegedly taking bottles of wine from Labour MP Jenny Salesa’s house after Salesa hosted a meal for them.

“We sat down, we ate and he walked away with two bottles of wine. The organisers called him out for it. Since then it’s been a simmering pot.”

She said it was disappointing to read comments in the media about “sweatshop” conditions and “slave labour”.

“Three meals a day, every single day, were provided. The care they have provided is comprehensive. The one thing that has cause a bit of chatter is the cubicle situation, which I understand is not ideal. But the sweatshop conditions, where we were rallied into a line and forced to work, that’s not true at all.”

She defended Awataha marae, saying most were moved into proper living quarters on the marae which are “more than ideal”.

“The food is great and they are very accommodating.”

ACT exposes hypocrisy

Perhaps the most outrageously hypocritical response to this non-story came from the ACT Party. On 23 June, ACT tweeted;



ACT is hardly known as a champion of workers’ rights.

ACT’s policy toward the minimum wage, for example, is anything but positive as former party-leader Jamie Whyte expressed three years ago;

“The economists in the National Party aren’t stupid, They know that this will have adverse effects for New Zealand workers and the economy. Yet they continue to intervene in wage rates, in an attempt to position themselves as moderates,” says Dr Whyte.

“In doing this, National perpetuates the myth that minimum wages protect the poor.

“John Key has skimmed over the inevitable consequences of this intervention, saying job losses will be ‘relatively negligible’. What Key doesn’t acknowledge is the unseen effects of minimum wages — those businesses which don’t directly lay off workers will be discouraged from employing more, or replacing those who leave voluntarily in future.

“The best thing that low skilled workers can do is get work experience. It’s hard to think of a more cruel policy than passing a law that bans the people most in need of work experience from getting any.

“Furthermore, many businesses will pass on their increasing employment costs to the consumer, contributing to the rising price of living which many New Zealanders have come to accept as normal.

“ACT doesn’t think it’s okay for the state to put up barriers to employment. Nor does ACT think it’s okay for the state to intervene to drive up the cost of living.”


“Hero of the Working Class” and former ACT leader, Jamie Whyte


Whyte’s successor, David Seymour,  gave ACT’s support to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which  further eroded worker’s rights and promoted neo-liberal employment ideology;

“  Why, then, do the opponents of flexible labour markets in general, and this bill in particular, not see the futility in trying to legislate a different outcome in the labour market and the damage it is likely to do? Why, indeed, has the National Government compromised on the vulnerable worker clause and the requirement to conclude bargaining when these should be removed entirely?


I support this bill because it is a step in the right direction towards more flexible markets. Like all attempts to improve public policy, this amendment is imperfect. Economic reality and experience suggests it should have gone further.”

The only hypocrisy exposed in this non-story is the willingness of an amoral Right to seize an opportunity, to leap on an issue in a lame attempt to gain the moral highground.

A closer examination reveals a somewhat different  picture. Instead of skewering the Labour Party with a sloppily-written “exposé“, based on half-truths from a few disgruntled individuals, we are reminded that the ACT Party is no friend of the working class (or even the Middle Classes, who would suffer higher and more intrusive user-pays under a punitive ACT-style neo-liberal system).

Perhaps Laurie Fleming summed it up best on Twitter, when he posted this response to ACT’s faux tears about fabricated worker exploitation;



Yes indeed, ACT has exposed hypocrisy on this issue: it’s own.


* National Party webpages are saved and retained, as National regularly removes pages from its site.





Radio NZ:  Labour Party intern programme ‘got out of control’

Radio NZ:  Awataha Marae rejects ‘substandard’ housings claim

NZ Herald:  Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

The Wireless:  Unpaid, unhappy and over here – Labour’s intern scandal explained

Maori TV:  Labour Party intern scheme “slave labour” – Marama Fox

Newstalk ZB:  Labour’s ‘looking into’ their unpaid internships

Fairfax media:  Labour Party brings in unpaid overseas students

NZ Herald:  Taping scandal: National Party board member who advised Glenys Dickson to withdraw Todd Barclay complaint named

Mediaworks/Newshub: Todd Barclay tape scandal – More allegations of false statements emerge

Radio NZ: Todd Barclay – ‘I’ve made some mistakes’

Radio NZ:  Barclay apologises for ‘misleading’ answers

Fairfax media:  Todd Barclay fronts after revelations of secret recording

NZ Herald:  Glenys Dickson breaks silence over Todd Barclay secret tapes scandal

Fairfax media:  Todd Barclay invented complaints on staffer Glenys Dickson – allegations

Mediaworks/Radiolive:  Patrick Gower – Todd Barclay’s admission means police must reopen case

The Spinoff:  All the untruths, evasions and, um, bullshit in the Todd Barclay debacle

Scoop media: Q+A – Anthony Wilson and Andrew Little

Politik:  Labour Party volunteer workers rebel over living conditions

National Party: Volunteers

Maori Party: Volunteers

ACT Party: Join

Electoral Commission: 2014 party donations and loans returns – ACT Party

Fairfax media: Internal docs on Labour intern scheme ‘wishful thinking’

Internship NZ:  Information for Employers

Wikipedia:  Internship

Statistics NZ:  Labour Market Statistics Quarterly Concept set – Employed

NZ Herald:  US intern defends Labour’s ‘fellowship’ campaign programme from ‘sweatshop’ claims

Twitter: ACT – Labour interns

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

Parliament:  Employment Relations Amendment Bill – Third Reading – David Seymour

Twitter: Laurie Fleming – ACT – workers rights


NZ Herald:  Audrey Young – No comparison between Labour’s intern strife and National’s crisis

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Q+A review – Has anyone contacted slave pen crusader Matthew Hooton yet?

The Daily Blog:  Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear

The Daily Blog:  At some point people are going to admit this 2month old story about a Labour intern slave scandal was just a distraction from Bill & Todd

The Jackal:  No comparison in substandard housing

The Standard:  Racist attack on marae living

The Standard:  Over egging the scandal soufflee

Previous related blogposts

A great business opportunity, courtesy of ACT

ACT leader, Jamie Whyte, refutes cliched stereotype of solo-mothers?

National-ACT supporters – not the brightest lights in the night sky, eh?

ACT Party candidate David Seymour – revealed

It’s official: ACT’s Jamie Whyte is several-sandwiches-and-a-salad short of a picnic

Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

Foot in Mouth award – Former ACT MP exposes flaw in free-market system

Foot in Mouth award – another former ACT MP plumbs new depths of dumbness





This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2017.



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