On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 5 September, NZ First leader Winston Peters, told Guyon Espiner that his party would be a force for major economic change. NZ First, he insisted, would spell an end to neo-liberalism;
“It’s no use having what we’ve had, perhaps you can call it tweedledum and tweedledummer, who have persisted with the neo-liberal experiment. Who have gone along with allowing the foreign banks to dominate New Zealand market for example. Allowed the overseas ownership of our share martket which went from 19% when this experiment started to beyond 70% now.
New Zealand First is not going to swap one side for the other side because they think it’s their turn so that they can carry on the same economic direction they’re going.
You’ve got a group on the Right, with a whole lot of cling-ons. You’ve got an unholy wedding or pre-nuptials on the Left, and we don’t want to be part of either of those things. We’re out for economic change and we intend to be successful.
We believe, if we’ve succeeded in getting our message away then economic and social direction change is a certainty.
And we’re not going to go around starting negotiating pre-election, with parties who have proven since the last 32 years, one started this economic disaster and the other one has continued it.”
Peters’ repudiation of the neo-liberal economic model had been made two months earlier on TVNZ’s Q+A, when he told Corin Dann;
Corin Dann: Do you think globalisation has failed?
Winston Peters: Of course it has. Because, see, it’s not so much about free trade, so to speak; it should be about fair trade, and there’s a world of difference.
Corin Dann: What is the alternative to globalisation if you believe that it’s failed? Is it a return to protectionism, nationalism?
Winston Peters: No, no, it’s not. It’s being like Norway; it’s being like Switzerland; it’s being like Taiwan. It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept. There’s a world of difference, and right around the Western world, there is a coming now rejection of the neoliberal experiment after 30, 35 years. It is under serious challenge now.
Corin Dann: Mr Peters, globalisation has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty. It’s brought New Zealand great diversity; it’s brought us all of the mod cons that we take for granted – our phones – everything like that. Hasn’t globalisation been great?
Winston Peters: You’re just confusing sound trade arrangements with globalisation. Globalisation in the UK consequence meant they were being told, out of the European Commission – unelected, in the UK Parliament – they were being told how their laws would be. 55% of the laws in the UK were being dominated out of Brussels. Now, no self-respecting country’s going to take that.
Peters’ comments roundly rejected globalisation, free trade, neo-liberalism. He inferred protectionism when he told Dann, “It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept“.
However, in a speech made in 1997, when Peters was Treasurer in the National-NZ First Coalition Government, he told the NBR Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Government to Business Forum that he would be pursuing conservative fiscal management; supporting an “open, internationally competitive economy”; lower taxes; and a de-regulated market.
Peter’s speech is in the form of a hard-copy in this blogger’s possession. It is headed “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister & Treasurer” and is dated 11 February 1997. It was embargoed till 8.35am for that day, when Peters made his speech at Wellington’s up-market Park Royal Hotel.
Peters began by saying that there were “four core economic principles at the heart of the government’s strategy;
- “sound, stable government
- ensuring an economic climate conducive to sustainable development and growth, more employment opportunities, high quality education and social services, a strong commitment to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management and over time, lower taxes and reduced public debt
- an open, internationally competitive economy, a strong export sector, and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance
- planning for the country’s future, emphasising intergenerational fairness and increasing the nation’s saving”
Later in the speech, Peters reiterated the Coalition’s fiscal policy;
“That is why we are committed to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management, lowering taxes and reducing public debt.”
Peters made clear that those were the core principles of the National-NZ First Coalition. They also happen to be core ideological tenets of neo-liberal doctrine.
Peters’ “core principles” are mirrored by the so-called “NZ Initiative” (formerly the Business Roundtable), a right-wing, neo-liberal think-tank;
We [NZ Initiative] are committed to developing policies that work for all New Zealanders, and we believe that promoting such policies will benefit all of our members as a matter of fact. But we are certainly an Initiative that usually prefers Adam Smith’s invisible hand to government’s visible fist.
Most of all, though, we believe that our goals and values are similar – if not identical – to what most New Zealanders want to see achieved:
- A good education system.
- Affordable housing.
- An open economy.
- A free and democratic society.
- The protection of our natural resources and heritage.
- Sound public finances.
- A stable currency.
The NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable also promotes lower taxes; a competitive, open economy; and prudent and conservative fiscal management – in short all the core principles expressed by Peters in February 1997.
In case his audience did not understand Peters’ commitment to “an open, internationally competitive economy” he repeated himself again, in his speech;
“The key to maintaining an open internationally competitive economy will be:
stable macroeconomic policies;
de-regulated, competitive and open market;
quality public services provided as efficiently as possible;
and the lowest possible taxes”
He went on;
“Another reform… removing restrictions on air services to and from New Zealand is important for reducing barriers to trade and tourism. To this end, the government remains committed to reciprocal liberalisation where possible…
To make the most of the opportunities a global economy provides…”
Not content to cement in an adherence to a neo-liberal agenda, Peters then attacked the social welfare system in this country – another prime target of the New Right;
“What distinguishes this government is the prominence given to the value of self-reliance… moving people away from State dependence to independence.”
Bear in mind that Peters was giving his speech only six years after Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of All Budgets” in 1991. By the time Peters addressed the Government to Business Forum in 1997, 19% of households were already living below the poverty line and unemployment was at 6.8%. By June the following year it had ballooned to 7.9%.
Peters’ response was to attack and demean the welfare system that kept many of these people alive as the scourge of neo-liberalism ravaged the country.
Peters’ speech continued, parroting many of neo-liberal cliches that we are now so familiar with;
“We want to create an environment which encourages New Zealanders to move away from welfare dependency to employment. And for those who still need welfare support, we want a move away from a welfare mentality to a positive attitude and greater acceptance of social obligations.
It is also about people taking greater responsibility for their futures rather than simply relying on the state.”
Peters was promoting the Cult of Individualism and cutting back state support – another basic tenet of neo-liberalism.
Next, he took a swipe at families and their “reliance” on welfare;
“A prime area needing attention is the family… this government will create an environment which instils greater levels of parental responsibility.
Our destiny is ultimately in the hands of individual New Zealanders. Breaking the cycle of dependency means taking primary responsibility for our own welfare and the welfare of our families.
This government expects each and every New Zealander to… live up to their responsibilities…”
This speech and it’s conservative message sounds ominously as if the ACT Party might have given it;
“To alleviate poverty, reduce dependency and shift able-bodied people from welfare to work.”
“To put personal responsibility, self-reliance and work above welfare dependency.”
“Welfare must not put children at risk by undermining the two-parent family.”
“True compassion demands welfare that provides a hand up to work, independence and a better future.”
In a later speech by Peters, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland, Peters reiterated his commitment to a free market regime;
“…Maintaining an open, internationally competitive economy, supporting a strong export sector, particularly by managing cost structures downwards and continuing deregulation and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance.
The government’s approach to fiscal management is orthodox and consistent…
Maintaining an open and competitive enterprise economy is essential because an open and competitive economy drives New Zealand firms to lift their game, and provide a more profitable investment base for our savings.
Let me be clear, this government is not opposed to foreign investment. When it is in the national interest we welcome all investment that boosts employment, productivity and growth.”
Peters was reassuring his capitalist audience; this man was not for ‘turning’.
There is little clear evidence that Peters is hostile to neo-liberalism, whether of the brutal Ruthenasia variety or the more insidious neo-liberalism-with-a-relaxed-face.
Instead, the evidence from his 1997 speeches is there for all to see. Peters may profess to have distanced himself from the neo-liberal experiment, but his own words betray him.
There is not one monolithic conservative/centre-right party in New Zealand, but two, distinct parties on the conservative spectrum. Just as Australia has the Liberal Party and it’s own rural-based National Party, we have National and NZ First. Like left-wing voters who have a choice between Labour or the Green Party, conservative voters in this country have a choice between National and NZ First.
As long as everyone is crystal-clear on this; NZ First’s leader remains committed to neo-liberalism.
The following are scanned images of Winston Peters’ 1997 speech to the Government to Business Forum;
The following are scanned images of Winston Peters speech, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland;
All media enquiries can be made to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NZ Initiative: About Us
NZ Initiative: The Case for Lower Taxes
Business Roundtable (NZ Initiative): Submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the 1997 Budget Policy Statement (March 1997)
Te Ara Encyclopedia: Mother of All Budgets
Ministry of Social Development: Assessing The Progress On Poverty Reduction
Statistics NZ: When times are tough, wage growth slows
ACT Party: Welfare and The Family
The Standard: Can We Trust Winston Peters?
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 September 2016.
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Congratulations are in order for Dr (Nick) Smith.
Not content with National’s default Blame-Game targets, Dr Smith has come up with an entire new scape-goat for National’s never-ending botch-ups; failed policies; scandals; mismanagement; under-funding; accident-prone Ministers; cronyism, and every other cluster-f*ck that a politician can conceivably come up with.
Up till now, National’s favorite Default Deflection targets have been;
Deflection #1: The Previous Labour government done it
Never mind that National has been in power for nearly nine years, they can still point the finger at Labour for “the mess that they left us”. (“Mess” being record low unemployment; positive economic growth; national debt paid down, and posting eight surpluses in a row. How many countries would love to have been bequeathed Labour’s “mess“?)
How that “mess” has survived unchanged and “fixed”, by National, throughout nearly a decade is never explained. Only Guyon Espiner on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ cuts of Ministers when they attempt to resort to Deflection Number One, with an exasperation in his voice that would do the parent of a toddler proud.
The Housing crisis was a recent example of Deflecting blame to Labour;
Key’s latest exercise in responsibility-avoidance;
“Under the nine years that Helen [Clark] was Prime Minister, my friend, nationally house prices went up 102 percent. Under us in eight years, they’ve gone up 43. In Auckland they went up 87 percent I think – under us it’s about the same.
If it was a state of emergency now, a crisis now, why wasn’t it a state of emergency and a crisis then?”
Even the passing of National’s ill-fated synthetic drugs laws (later repealed as an utter legislative failure) was blamed on Labour;
Who would have thought that after eight years in Opposition, Labour still wields such powerful influence? Who thought it possible to govern from the Opposition benches?
Labour, take a bow.
Which is all rather ironic, as Dear Leader is pushing Heaven, Earth, and Planet Key to support Helen Clark as the U.N.’s next Secretary General;
“There are major global challenges facing the world today and the United Nations needs a proven leader who can be pragmatic and effective.
Coming from New Zealand Helen Clark is well placed to bridge divisions and get results. She is the best person for the job.
I’ll do everything I can to get her over the line.
If Helen became the next secretary general of the UN New Zealanders would celebrate in the same way they celebrate Lorde for her singing and Lydia Ko in golf.”
Most people would say she was a very strong prime minister for nine years and she’s done a great job in the last seven years at UNDP.”
“If they’re doing that, that is everything that’s wrong with the United Nations because, for goodness sake, let’s get the best person in the job…
I still think anyway if its a drag race between Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark, New Zealanders, and I reckon a hell of a lot of Australians, know who the best candidate is.”
Wow! Is this the same Prime Minister of a previous Labour government that Key blames all New Zealand’s economic and social woes?
Deflection #2: Welfare Beneficiaries/Housing NZ tenants done it
It’s the fault of those “lazy benes”. And/or Housing NZ tenants. It’s their fault that poverty has increased; wages have remained low; the income/wealth gap has widened; that there is over-crowding and homelessness.
Of course it’s their fault. Key said so;
“But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”
Didn’t you know that government social and fiscal policy is set by WINZ beneficiaries and Housing NZ clients?!
Deflection #3: The GFC/Great Recession/Overseas Events done it
Unemployment is still high (even with Statistics NZ fudging unemployment stats). It’s the GFC, stoopid, as Key pointed out;
“We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis. We have had three terrible earthquakes in Christchurch. We have had the collapse of finance companies. We have had to bail out what is, in terms of the earthquakes, the single biggest economic impact on a developed economy as the result of a disaster. The public don’t agree with every decision… but I think they believe on balance it’s been a tough three years and we’ve handled most things well. The second thing is it’s all relative. Yes, our unemployment went to 7 per cent and now it’s 6.5, but in America it’s 9 per cent officially and 14 per cent unofficially and in Spain it’s 20 per cent… “
“While I think we have to acknowledge that the last three years have been pretty tough with the Global Financial Crisis, on a relative basisNew Zealand’s been doing a better than a lot of other countries.”
Of course, Deflection #3 has a limited shelf-life, and sooner or later the public and media will wise-up to the fact that the Global Financial Crisis event was eight years ago.
Time for another handy international crisis?
When it comes to Auckland-related problems such as housing unaffordability; homelessness, and over-crowding, the Nats have a geographic-specific Deflection solely set aside for that contingency;
Deflection #4 is better than ‘Persil‘ at removing embarrassing and unsightly, Auckland-issue credibility stains…
But now, in a masterful, brilliant stroke of creative political bullshit-artistry, Dr Smith has come up with a brand new Deflection category.
Drum roll, please…
Deflection #5: The birds done it!
In a speech on 30 August, Dr Smith was at pains to rationalise away his government’s abject failure at cleaning up New Zealand’s heavily polluted waterways. His surrender to a future of rivers so contaminated with animal faeces and harmful micro-organisms that they can no longer be swum in, was summed up when he lamented;
“A national requirement for all water bodies to be swimmable all of the time is impractical. Most of our rivers breach the 540 E. coli count required for swimming during heavy rainfall.”
The target to blame? Birds.
“We’ve got water bodies like the Washdyke Lagoon here in Canterbury and Lake Papaitonga in the Manawatu which are home to many birds whose E. coli make it impossible to meet the swimming standard without a massive bird cull.”
The… Birds!?!? Priceless.
Hear that, birds?!?! It’s all your fault!!
Expect to hear more of Deflection #5 in future, as the chorus of complaints about our rivers and lakes continues to grow.
Never let it be said that National cannot find a convenient target to deflect blame onto, whenever a situation demands it;
Obviously, any chance of National taking responsibility for the mis-management of our waterways is… for the birds.
But the public, the media, and environmental groups will not allow Smith to escape his responsibilities. He will be held to account and reminded of his failures at every turn. Like New Zealand’s polluted, unswimmable waterways, his Environmental portfolio has become utterly toxic.
We can hear Dr Smith now; “Oh, the pain, the pain…”
Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour
Radio NZ: Labour forced our hand on timing – Key
Fairfax media: Government backs Helen Clark for top UN job
Fairfax media: John Key – Don’t write Helen Clark off yet, after UN polling
Dominion Post: View from the top
Fairfax media: Key and Goff Q&A – Creating jobs
Fairfax media: Council blamed for Auckland housing delays
Beehive.govt.nz: Improving freshwater management
No Right Turn: Lowering expectations
No Right Turn: So much for 100% pure
The Standard: Water quality too important for bird-brained excuses
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 September 2016.
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“…We should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.” – John Key,
In September 2008, one month before the general election, National’s leader addressed the party’s “Bluegreen* Forum“, asserting;
“What global Leaders know, and what the National Party knows, is that environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand. We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other. And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.
In the years ahead it will be increasingly important that New Zealand marries its economic and environmental policies. Global climate change awareness, resource shortages, and increasing intolerance of environmental degradation will give environmental policy renewed relevance on the world stage.
New Zealand will need policies that make the most of this trend. This will be important for our trade prospects and for the way in which we grow our economy. I’m confident that with the right policies New Zealand can make its environmental credentials an important part of its comparative advantage.”
Nearly eight years later, Key’s fine speech on environmental protection has come to nought. Nearly eight years of National governance and – whilst ostensibly implementing “bluegreen” policies – we have recently witnessed the worst case of water contamination in modern New Zealand history;
Until the evening of 19 August, people could only guess at the source of the campylobacter contamination. Though many – if not most – New Zealanders already held a suspicion at the back of their minds.
According to the 19 August Radio NZ report – updated at 6.33PM;
Preliminary results from the tests carried out on the contaminated water have shown, while several strains of the bacteria were present, ruminants were the most likely source.
Wild fowl was also a possible source, but the report from Environmental Science and Research (ESR) said poultry was unlikely.
The institute said more analysis would be carried out next week before a final assessment of the source could be made.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said it was likely the previous weekend’s flooding had swept faeces from livestock into the water supply.
“It’s very hard to explain it in any other way. I’ve been a farmer, I’m an engineer, and it looks likely that somehow that has occurred.”
The chooks may be off the hook – but it seems that the cows have come home to roost (or whatever cows do when they “come home”); our dirty little secret is out in the open. We are a polluted nation, awash in animal faeces and the billions upon billions of microscopic organisms that inhabit each piece of animal dung.
In December 2011, three years after Key addressed the so-called “Bluegreen Forum” and promised that “National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans” – there were already suggestions that dairy farmers were not compliant in keeping their livestock out of waterways;
Dairy farmers have been accused of telling porkies to Fonterra about whether they are keeping stock out of waterways.
An Agriculture Ministry audit of the Clean Streams Accord shows that half of farms have complete stock exclusion.
This contrasts with Fonterra’s claim – based on farmers’ self-appraisal – that 84 per cent of farms are compliant.
Fish and Game leapt on the disparity, revealed yesterday in the accord’s report for the 2010-11 year.
Chief executive Bryce Johnson said it raised questions about the accuracy of all the other performance targets reported by the dairy industry to the public, politicians and the government’s Land and Water Forum.
“It’s a woeful indictment on the legitimacy of the accord, on dairying’s environmental performance over the past decade and particularly the industry’s claim that self-policing is the way towards achieving improved water quality,” he said.
At the time, Fonterra’ milk supply general manager Steve Murphy attempted to ‘spin’ the dairy industry’s way out of the discrepancy;
“Some aspects [of the ministry audit] are factual but there are also differences in the way measurements were made.”
Murphy even tried to make light of the situation with this bad-taste remark;
“We can all pooh-pooh the results but the reality is that progress is being made.”
Federated Farmers dairy chairman, Willy Leferink, simply dismissed the report out-of-hand;
“If you look closely at that report you can pick holes in it, but to me, it also sends a clear message to get our respective farms in order.”
At the same time, environmental scientist, Dr Mike Joy, condemned the so-called “clean, green” image that New Zealand was perpetuating. At the 2011 Forest & Bird annual general meeting presentation, Dr Joy called our “100% Pure” advertising campaign misleading and cited the data;
- Almost all river quality monitoring sites show a worsening trend. 43% of them regularly fail to meet bathing standards, in many instances because faecal contamination levels are too high. Almost half our lakes are polluted by excess nutrients, or over-run by invasive fish. Sediment chokes all but one harbour, and estuaries.
- By 2050, if the trend continues, we would have extinguished native fish in New Zealand. Five threatened species are commercially harvested; none have any legal protection.
- 18,000-30,000 people contract waterborne diseases every year, from microbial contamination. Of the 70 “best” Waikato waterways, e-coli in more than 50 of them exceeds contact recreation levels.
Our esteemed Dear Leader responded with his usual facile glibness;
“Well, that might be Mike Joy’s view, but I don’t share that view. Like lawyers, I can give you one that will provide you with a counter-theory.”
When questioned further by the Dominion Post, Key’s tax-payer funded spokesperson responded with a curt;
“The prime minister does not share the view of Mike Joy, and has no further comment to make.”
Eight months after Key’s dismissal of Dr Joy’s warnings, government scientists from NIWA were pointing out the dangerously degraded state of our waterways;
Water in Lake Horowhenua is so toxic that it could kill a small child, regional councillors have been told.
In certain conditions, and if cyanobacteria were present, the lake could be lethal to animals and small children, a scientist with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Dr Max Gibbs, told Horizons Regional Council’s environment committee yesterday.
Dr Gibbs was presenting a selection of initiatives to help improve the water quality of the Levin lake, which is floating just off the bottom of the New Zealand lake-water quality rankings, sitting at 107 out of 116.
As our waterways were becoming toxic enough to potentially kill animals and small children, Key made what was perhaps the lamest, most pathetic rationale to justify continuing to use the “100% Pure” branding for our country;
“It’s like saying ‘McDonald’s, I’m loving it’ – I’m not sure every moment that someone’s eating McDonald’s they’re loving it . . . it’s the same thing with 100% Pure. It’s got to be taken with a bit of a pinch of salt.”
John Key was likening our environment to McDonalds – one of the world’s premier unhealthy fast-food producers.
Perhaps Key’s remarks were more appropriate than he realised at the time. At least he wasn’t blaming Labour or welfare beneficiaries this time;
“If . . . we should be 100% Pure and . . . there’s no economic activity . . . cavemen burning fires has a environmental impact.”
Worse was to come for Dr Joy’s admonitions to our poor environment track record.
On 21 November 2012, corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth, sent this scathing email, attacking the scientist;
From: Mark Unsworth [email@example.com]
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
Unsworth’s hysterical outburst was a crass attempt to gag the scientist-messenger. At the same time the corporate lobbyist was demanding Dr Joy’s silence, the Ministry for the Environment released a report warning that half of New Zealand rivers were too dangerously polluted to swim in;
More than half of monitored recreational sites on our rivers are unsafe for swimming, a report has revealed.
The Ministry for the Environment’s latest report card – issued weeks before summer weather sends Kiwis flocking to the water – has left opposition parties questioning New Zealand’s 100 per cent pure brand.
The results showed water quality was poor or very poor at 52 per cent of monitored river sites.
A further 28 per cent were graded “fair” – with a risk of illness for those swimming there.
Only 20 per cent of monitored river recreation sites were graded good or very good.
Health effects from swallowing water tainted with faecal micro-organisms or other bacteria can be unpleasant. They include diarrhoea or vomiting, and infections of the eye, ear, nose and throat.Children were particularly at risk of ear and skin infections, said the medical officer of health with the Toi Te Ora Public Health Service, Dr Phil Shoemack.
The report card canvassed sampling from 210 freshwater beaches, including lakeside areas, and 248 coastal beaches used for recreation that had been assigned grades based on monitoring data acquired over five summers.
It is unknown if Unsworth also sent a similar vitriolic email to the Ministry for the Environment.
Attempts in Parliament to clean up our waterways have been blocked by National and other parties.
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!?)
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.
As further reported by Forest & Bird;
The most well-known case of the term “exceptional circumstances” being used loosely is where the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has allowed the Tasman Mill in Kawerau to discharge wastewater into the Tarawera River since 1995. In 2010, the mill used this clause of the RMA once more to obtain resource consents to keep discharging for another 25 years. That is, under section 107 (2)(a) of the Act, the mill has been consented to discharge to the river for a total of 42 years This is clearly not an exceptional circumstance but a case of a business-as-usual approach being used to exploit this loophole in the RMA.
The Bill passed it’s first reading and was sent to the Local Government and Environment Committee.
At it’s second reading it was voted down;
|Ayes 51||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.|
|Noes 68||NZ National 59; NZ First 7; ACT 1; United Future 1.|
It was disappointing and disturbing to see NZ First voting against Catherine Delahunty’s Bill. At the time, NZ First justified voting down strengthening environmental protection for our waterways by invoking commercial imperatives;
“It was also interesting to note that very big signals were given in terms of the potential impact that this bill would have on the wider New Zealand economic development situation. If resource consents and permits of this nature were restricted to only 5 years for exceptional discharges, it would have a very adverse detrimental effect on investment and industry in this country. In the situation with Norske Skog, it had, just in the last few years, invested $50 million in a major new machine at the paper plant there—a very significant investment in a major piece of equipment. Had Norske Skog not had the extended permits, the parent company internationally would probably have made the decision not to invest that $50 million in New Zealand.”
As then-Co-Leader of the Green Party, Dr Russell Norman has pointed out;
“The natural environment makes New Zealand a great place to live. And it underpins our economy – tourists come here for the 100% Pure image, and Chinese parents feed their kids New Zealand infant formula because it’s clean, green and safe.
So you’d have to be a mug to attack the environment. Or a Cabinet minister, because since the last election that’s exactly what they’ve been up to.
They are using taxpayer money to subsidise the intensification of dairying agribusiness, intensification that will lead to more water pollution. According to the Ministry for the Environment most monitored rivers aren’t safe for swimming already.
Swimming in a river should be a birth right of New Zealand kids but it’s rapidly becoming a quaint historical oddity- “Hey dad did you really swim in that half drained contaminated cesspool when you were a kid?”
And sure agribusiness makes a quick buck selling milk powder to China, but what happens when Chinese parents find out that our rivers are becoming just as polluted as theirs? Will they still pay a premium for New Zealand food?
No environment, no economy.”
In March this year – as disaster loomed five months away for Havelock North – Environment Minister Nick Smith exposed National’s “Bluegreen” stance;
“I do not think a legal requirement for every water body in New Zealand to be swimmable is practical. Our ambition is for a lot more areas to be swimmable… but we want to be practical.”
In effect, Smith admitted his government’s failure and surrendered New Zealand to a future of dirty rivers; dying lakes and undrinkable water.
Little wonder that stock belonging to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias her businessman husband, Hugh Fletcher, were permitted to freely wade through Canterbury’s Lake Taylor, Hurunui river, and Lake Sumner despite abatement notices being issued by ECan. An incident in January this year was repeated several times.
In one image, a cow was photographed wading through a river, a stream of brown ‘matter’ emanating from it’s rear;
The Station’s then-farm manager, Brian Anderson, called environmental rules “ridiculous”.
Anderson’s lack of concern is by no means unique. Whether it be Key or Nick Smith, there is a distinctive short-sightedness that fails to see even into the very-near future when it comes to the negative implications of our dairy-intensive agri-economy.
The attitude of many (most?) in the farming sector, and their political-wing (the National Party), is to turn a blind eye to known environmental degradation; parrot “green” policies when under public or media scrutiny; and hope for the best.
None of which has come out well for this country.
Even the far-right blog, Whaleoil and it’s unhinged owner, appears to belatedly understand the simple equation; Shit-Out (of the cow), Shit In (to our waterways);
On 7 September, 2008, John Key said that “…we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.”
Indeed we should.
Thus far, by every measurement, including the polluted waterways of New Zealand and contaminated drinking water in Havelock North – National’s “environmental rhetoric” does not match its “environmental record”.
National has abrogated it’s responsibilities to safeguard our environment. Instead of placing priority on cleaning up our waterways, this is no longer “practical”, according to Nick Smith.
Instead, National has settled for second best.
When it comes to drinking water, second best is nowhere near good enough.
The frightening aspect to National’s indifference to our water quality and wider environmental concerns is not just the contamination of our water-supply. Nor our rivers, half of which are no longer of a swimmable standard.
No, the truly worrying possibility is when the international media will suddenly realise what has been happening in “clean, green” Aotearoa, and that our “100% Pure” brand is a clever scam.
When the documentaries exposing this lie begin to appear on TV screens in Britain, Europe, North America, and elsewhere, our entire tourism sector will face a crisis. It will be a crisis not unlike the 1080 extortion-scare which impacted on our dairy exports to China two years ago,
As the Radio NZ report said;
Dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest export earner with $14 billion’s worth leaving the country’s shores each year, and the industry says reputation is everything.
Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand chairman Malcolm Bailey said the threat cost the country millions of dollars.
It is only a matter of time before the first foreign journalists and camera crews arrive on our shores. Only a matter of time before our dis-coloured rivers; semi-dead lakes; and cows wading and excreting into our waterways is all filmed. Only a matter of time before inhabitants of Havelock North are interviewed. Only a matter of time before a request for interviews with ministers land on their desks.
Only a matter of time.
Who will John Key blame then?
Water contamination has spread to Hastings and Flaxmere;
The TV1 report also confirms the Radio NZ story that farm animal-faeces was most likely the source of contamination;
Dr Snee says the results of yesterday’s DNA testing of the contaminated water were inconclusive – meaning authorities are no closer to getting answers to just how the water became contaminated.
The tests show bovine contamination, so most likely to be from sheep, cattle or deer.
* The Bluegreen Forum is the National Party’s pseudo-environmental “wing”. Realising that environmental protection was a critical ‘Achilles Heal’ of the National Party, the Bluegreen Forum was created so “that environmental issues should not be monopolised by those on the left of the political spectrum“, as Key asserted in September 2008.
The “Bluegreens” are good at parroting environmental rhetoric.
By coincidence, or by supreme irony, blue-green is also the colour of cyanobacteria, which can be a toxic consequence of heavily polluted waterways. According to Wikipedia;
Aquatic cyanobacteria are known for their extensive and highly visible blooms that can form in both freshwater and marine environments. The blooms can have the appearance of blue-green paint or scum.
Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum
New Zealand Yearbook: 1984
New Zealand Yearbook: 2008
Statistics NZ: Agricultural Production Statistics: June 2015
Dominion Post: Fish and Game hits out at farmers
Forest & Bird: 2011 AGM – Dr Mike Joy
Dominion Post: Ecologist at odds with PM on 100% Pure NZ
Dominion Post: Worries over toxicity of lake
Fairfax media: ‘100% Pure’ is like McDonald’s ad, says Key
Facebook: Russel Norman – Mark Unsworth’s email
NZ Herald: No swimming – 52% impure NZ rivers
NZ Herald: Bill aims to plug pollution loophole
Forest & Bird: Resource Management Amendment Bill
Radio NZ: Industry counts cost of 1080 threat
National: Bluegreen Forum
Gordon Campbell on Havelock North’s water issues
Pundit: Mike Joy answers the PM, with hard facts (2011)
The New Zealand story: 100% pooer! (2012)
The Standard: The Friday dump on Havelock North
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 August 2016.
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On 3 July, this blogger reported how Statistics NZ had radically changed the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;
“Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.
Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.”
Statistics NZ explained the ramifications of the “revised” definition of unemployment ;
Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate
Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent
Increases in the number of people not in the labour force
Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate
A person job-searching using the internet was “not actively seeking work“. Predictably, at the stroke of a pen, unemployment “fell” over-night from 5.7% to 5.2%.
It was “manna from heaven” for the incumbent government which has been besieged on several fronts for worsening social and economic indicators.
Despite being little more than a dressed-up “accounting trick”, politicians could claim with a straight-face that “unemployment was falling”.
Which did not take long.
Statistics NZ announced it’s changes on 29 June 2016.
Four days later, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, gloated on TVNZ’s Q+A to Corin Dann;
“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”
Of course unemployment was falling “pretty dramatically”. Government statisticians were ‘cooking’ the numbers.
By August, both Key and Bill English were joyfully quoting the “new unemployment stats”.
On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;
“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”
So not only was Key quoting the”new, revised” unemployment stats – but his government was now actively predicating their immigration policy on the bogus data.
Three days later, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;
“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”
Whilst it is expected for politicians to mis-use questionable data for their own self-aggrandisement (and re-election chances), worse was to come.
On 10 August, Radio NZ‘s
“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”
Bonnett did not
It is unfortunate that some journalists seem unaware of the new ‘regime’ which portrays unemployment lower than it actually is. The fact that Statistics NZ has ‘fudged’ their data which now skews unemployment should be common knowledge throughout the mainstream media.
Especially when government ministers are now “patting themselves on the back” for a “fall” in unemployment that never happened.
The new unemployment figures are not factual. They are a fiction.
Journalists need to know the difference.
Addendum1 – a letter to the public
from: Frank Macskasy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to: Listener <email@example.com>
date: Sun, Aug 14, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor
On 29 June, Statistics NZ announced that it would be “revising” the definition of unemployment. It stated that “looking at job advertisements on the internet is … not actively seeking work”.
The consequence, as Statistics NZ pointed out, would be a “decrease in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate”. Accordingly, SNZ revised down the March Quarter unemployment rate from 5.7% to 5.2%.
It did not take long for politicians to realise and exploit the benefits of this revision. On August 8, our esteemed Prime Minister cited the “fall” in unemployment;
“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong…”
Three days later, Bill English also referenced the new figure;
“The Reserve Bank… is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019…”
Even Radio NZ’s Gill Bonnett quoted the “revised” figure in a story on 10 August;
“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”
The irony is that whilst Statistics NZ plays with phantom numbers to suit itself, the unemployed do not find their circumstances improved one iota.
Changing the numbers does not change people’s real lives.
[address & phone number supplied]
Addendum2 – Statistics NZ’s other Dodgy Definitions
According to Statistics NZ, you are deemed to be employed if you;
- worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment
- worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative
How many people are deemed to be “employed” by Statistics NZ, even though they may be working one hour per week, with or without pay?
Statistics NZ’s employment/unemployment figures are utterly unreliable.
At best, they show the minimum number of unemployed in this country and most likely do not reflect reality.
As this blogger reported back on 12 February 2014;
A Roy Morgan poll has un-employment in New Zealand steady at 8.5%, with a further 11.3% under-employed. Collectively, 19.8% of the workforce (519,000, up 69,000) were either unemployed or under-employed. For the December Quarter 2013, according to Roy Morgan:
Roy Morgan’s polling to determine New Zealand’s unemployment rate yielded a figure 2.3 percentage-points higher than Statistics NZ’s Household Labour Force Survey.
Roy Morgan’s polling for the previous December Quarter for 2012 yielded a similar story. Polling revealed a staggering 9.4% unemployed, with a further 11.6% under-employed. By contrast, Statistics NZ’s figures for the December 2012 Quarter was 6.9% – 2.5 percentage points lower than Roy Morgan’s.
Curiously, Statistics NZ reports – but does not appear to analyse or question – their own conflicting data;
- The number of people employed decreased by 23,000 (down 1.0 percent).
- The labour force participation rate fell 1.2 percentage points, to 67.2 percent.
- The number of people in the labour force decreased by 33,000.
So despite the unemployment rate for the December 2012 Quarter apparently falling “0.4 percentage points, to 6.9 percent” – the actual number of people in work did not increase – it also fell.
There appears to be a solid disconnect between Statistics NZ’s own figures.
Considering the dodgy definitions being used by Statistics NZ, Roy Morgan may prove to be closer to reality than we realise.
Clearly our real unemployment rate is being masked by unrealistic definitions.
Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016
Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey
Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights
Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – December 2012 quarter
Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – September 2013 quarter
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 August 2016.
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In March 2013, former Dominion editor and right-wing columnist, Karl Du Fresne, spat an almighty dummy when he launched a diatribe of accusations of “bias” against Radio New Zealand;
I responded shortly thereafter with my own interpretation of Du Fresne’s accusation, writing;
Du Fresne referred to RNZ as “left wing”. And then listed all those people whom he thinks are guilty of being “left”. People like,
Obviously, these people all need to be brought before Parliament’s House Committee for Un-New Zealand Activities. (Which, we don’t have – yet – but I’m sure one of Mr Du Fresne’s right wing colleagues such as Maggie Barry could easily organise one. More on Maggie Barry in a moment.) Then the H.C.U.N.Z.A. can ensure that Hill, Laidlaw, Rose, and Ryan never work in this town again.
Du Fresne claimed;
“So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable? One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.
Public broadcasting organisations, by their very nature, tend to be Left-leaning.”
Du Fresne did not hold back in his trenchant criticism of the state broadcaster;
“But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests that I’m comfortable with – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour for the rest of New Zealand who are a bunch of leftie, pinko, mung-bean eating, hippies.”
I responded by listing the right-wing commentators who were regular or semi-regular guests and commentators on Radio NZ;
- ex-National President, Michelle Boag;
- National & ACT supporter and anti-MMP campaigner, Jordan Williams
- rightwing blogger and National Party apparatchik, David Farrar;
- ex-ACT MP and Party President, Rodney Hide;
- ex-ACT and later, ex-National MP, Stephen Franks;
- former speech-writer and press secretary for National and right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten;
- and former police officer and front-person for television’s “Police Ten 7″, Graham Bell (who holds right wing views on many issues).
Not forgetting also;
- Richard Griffin, Radio NZ’s one-time political editor, who worked for National Party ex-Prime Minister Jim Bolger, as his press secretary in the late 1990’s, and is on Radio NZ’s Board of Governors
- Maggie Barry (who I referred to above), was the morning presenter on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’ in 1986, and hosted ‘Nine To Noon’ show in 1990. Later, in November 2011, Ms Barry stood as a political candidate in the general election, and won the seat of North Shore. She stood as a National Party candidate.
Karl du Fresne – his name pointed out with a big, ‘pinko’ arrow.
So, is Radio NZ still biased?
Especially when the only person to be publicly banned from that broadcaster was left-wing commentator Martyn Bradbury;
Not so self-righteous with indignant cries of “Bias!” now are we, Mr Du Fresne?
Manawatu Standard: RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled
Radio NZ: Board of Governors
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 August 2016.
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