To mark Conservation Week 2013, I’ve compiled a list of what the Labour whānau has achieved…
Archive for the ‘conservation’ Category
I was in Queenstown over Easter and had arranged to meet with people in Glenorchy who are opposed to the proposal to put a tunnel through from the Dart River to Milford, while I was there. So on Easter Saturday afternoon, I turned up to meet the committee organising the opposition and then there was a public meeting after that.
I hardly expected anyone to turn up, but they started to pour in the door just before 3pm. Some people’s apologies were given because they had gone away or had haymaking to finish (where do you go for a weekend when you live in paradise?). Even Rob Munro (ex-Nat MP for Invercargill) turned up, but he left early - once he had determined how the meeting was going perhaps?
After the meeting, at which just EVERYONE there was vehemently opposed to the proposed tunnel, I was taken up to the start of the Routeburn track, where the mouth of the tunnel would be located.
Now, I love Central Otago and am familiar with large parts of it, but I had never driven up to Glenorchy from Queenstown. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It is pristine wilderness, protected as a World Heritage Park recognised by UNESCO. There was more LOTR scenery than you could shake a stick at. I am now absolutely committed to walking the Routeburn next season. Have a look at the Bear Grylls safety video AirNZ is using now in its Boeings and see if you think the environment would be enhanced by a tunnel.
This government’s proposals for the environment are truly scary – just have a look at the proposals for the second round of RMA ‘reforms’ and the water proposals. Nick Smith is going to make the decision about the Dart tunnel himself, which he can do. Do you think he will remember to do what his remit is as Minister of Conservation – to protect the environment? Does it make any sense at all to put a tunnel here??
Resolve is really building in West Auckland to stop National’s chainsaw massacre in the Waitakere Ranges.
Te Atatū Labour MP Phil Twyford, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Maryan Street, Councillors, Local Board representatives and ratepayers groups are all backing the community’s determination to save our trees – which together we surely will.
Here’s wishing Red Alert readers the chance to enjoy some of New Zealand’s great outdoors with family and friends this weekend.
I have enjoyed the Health portfolio. It is huge and arguably, it takes longer than one year to get around and establish networks. I have been doing that in the past year and I am grateful to all those who were prepared to engage intelligently and repeatedly with me. I have been pleased to stick up for diabetics in the disastrous changeover to the Care Sens blood glucose meters. It was a mistake and should be rescinded. It affects the way people manage their diabetes and directly impacts their well being, especially for Type 1 diabetics.
I have also made a running on the increase in prescription charges, changes to pharmacists’ contracts with the DHBs, and the burden of implementation of changes falling on local pharmacies. This sector is in chaos and Tony Ryall continues to pretend that there is nothing to see here. Shelves full of uncollected prescriptions would say otherwise. If people can’t afford medicines, and some clearly can’t, we are only going to see additional hospitalisations further town the track. This isn’t rocket science – just medical science.
But now I take up a new challenge with the Environment portfolio. And there are challenges aplenty. We would all love our myth of being 100% pure to become fact again but we need aggressive leadership in this area if that is ever to happen. From our waterways to our air quality, and much more besides, there is much to do to restore our natural environment and to protect it for future generations. I look forward to that challenge.
Thanks again to all you good health folk for working with me over the last year. Keep up the good work!
For too many attendees this was a groundhog day event.
Because yet again Westies are being forced to stand up to a Wellington-led move to abolish tree protection rules in the Waitakere Ranges. It really is crazy. But it seems that destroying West Auckland’s natural heritage has become a National Party obsession.
Environment Minister Amy Adams’ so-called Resource Management Reform Bill is a very poorly drafted piece of law. I reckon it’s deliberate, because when you untangle the jargon it’s nothing but a recipe for a chainsaw massacre.
Well West Aucklanders have seen all this before. We love our patch, we were staunch against Wellington’s chainsaws every other time – and last night the public meeting unanimously voted that we’ll be staunch against them now.
The National Government could save themselves one heck of a headache (and avoid underestimating the West Auckland community again) by simply excluding the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area from part 12 of Adams’ Bill.
But if National uses its numbers on behalf of the Property Council to push the chainsaw massacre through, then locals are determined this will not be the end of the story.
With the support of Auckland’s Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Councillor Sandra Coney, Waitakere Ranges Local Board Chair Denise Yates and member Greg Presland, the Ratepayers have agreed we will propose to Auckland Council a Local Bill to revisit this attack.
Waitakere is our place. The rainforest in the Ranges is our children’s and their children’s natural heritage.
With shared resolve, and with history on our side, Westies will certainly save our trees again.
We made it to the end. 77 km. Wowed by the Waitaks. The Hillary Trail is the equal of almost any tramp I can think of. The bush, the beaches, and the to-die-for coastal views, including today’s final cliff top walk from Bethells to Muriwai.
We have looked at a lot of kauri trees. Some magnificent. Some beautiful. Too many diseased and dying.
We have seen the future for the northern bush if we don’t get to grips with kauri dieback and it ain’t pretty.
For me the heroes of the last week have been the scientists who have walked with us, explaining their work and what is known and not known.
I share their view that if we don’t get a better understanding of the disease we don’t stand a chance of stopping it.
But I’m a politician. I see political will as the scarce commodity here. Unless this Government commits funding to continue the work of the kauri dieback programme, then the kauri doesn’t stand a chance.
To get them to that point we have to make them understand that while it is not a threat to pine trees nor kiwifruit, phytophthora taxon agathis is killing the kauri and although it might be hard to put a dollar value on that, it is nevertheless something New Zealanders care deeply about.
More to come on this. I will continue to add my voice to those scientists, environmentalists, iwi, and other concerned Kiwis who won’t let this issue go.
In the meantime I want to thank all those who have walked with us, supported, reported, and helped turn a tramp into a campaign: Fred and Marlene Holloway, Ngarimu Blair, Ross Duder, Chris McBride, Viv van der Wal, Lika, Joseph, Jasper, Jack and Jake, Ian Horner, Ellena Hough, Stacey Hill, Nick Waipara, Simon Randall, Bruce Burns, Sarah Wyse, Monique Wheat, Marnie and Alison at Whatipu Lodge, Lindy Harvey, Cheryl Krull, Cr Sandra Coney, Neville Winter and Debi Jacka from Piha Surf Club, Sir Bob Harvey, John Edgar, Kubi Witten-Hannah, Ted Scott, Karekare Surf Club, Stephen Bell and all the western Rangers, Waitangi Woods, Grant Hewison, Tracy Dalton, Alistair Hall, Jim Wheeler, Moana Maniapoto and Toby Mills, Barb Erin and Ian from Muriwai, John Chapman, my assistant Mels Barton who was the first person to tell me about kauri dieback, my son Harry, niece Manu and her friend Sarah who walked with me, and my wife Jo for doing logistics and generally being wonderful.
Day 4 of the Hillary Trail and we walk up the Maungaroa Ridge which sits above Piha. I’m with Dr Nick Waipara who is Auckland Council’s chief scientist on biosecurity matters. Nick is one of the key figures in the fight against kauri dieback and has brought me here to show me the site where he and others first identified the disease.
The well being I feel from a great lunch at the surf club and a classic white water swim at Piha drains away as we walk through this stand of dead and dying trees. It is a kauri graveyard. The pathogen has cut a swathe along the ridge, infecting and killing 100 year old rickers and 10 year old saplings.
The forest floor is cluttered with fallen diseased trunks. Ghost trees silhouette against the sky.
We are looking at the future.
Unless we can find a way of stopping the disease in its tracks this is what the kauri forests will all come to look like.
Dr Nick Waipara tell us why the Maungaroa Ridge site is so important.
My take on how I felt on top of Maugaroa Ridge.
Day 4 – Set off from Karekare with amazing cliff top views as we head to Piha. The Piha Surf Club welcomed us with a slap up lunch (thanks Neville) which we shared with journalist James Ireland, Auckland Councillor Sandra Coney who is a great fighter for the Waitakeres, and Cheryl Krull from Auckland Uni whose PhD included work on how pigs are spreading dieback in the ranges. After the side trip to Maungaroa, we then walked through a stunning nikau forest and up to the Anawhata Craw campground.
Day 5 – Joined by Waitangi Woods the lead iwi rep on the kauri dieback programme, Stacey Hill who does comms and public engagement for the programme, my mate Tracy Dalton, my assistant Mels Barton, my niece Manu and her friend Sarah, and Alistair Hall the Editor of Wilderness magazine. An easy gentle walk across undulating country, regenerating forest with quite a few young and mostly healthy kauri, although also some dead and diseased along the ridge. Highlight was a swim in the waterfall and pools near Lake Wainamu. Destination Te Henga, Bethells Beach. Tomorrow the final leg through to Muriwai.
Monique Wheat & Simon Randall spraying trigene disinfectant. Photo: Harry Twyford
Head of Biosecurity at Auckland Council Jack Craw is one of the key figures in the hardy band of scientists, rangers and council workers leading the fight against kauri dieback. He describes kauri dieback as the HIV/AIDS of the tree world.
It might sound odd at first to compare AIDS to a disease that is killing trees but it is not a bad analogy. First, there is no known cure. Second, the best way to stop the spread of the disease is to change our behaviours that act as the disease vector.
The lethal spores of PTA (phytophthora taxon agathis) are spread in the soil. We humans, carrying infected soil on our tramping boots, are the main vector.
So one of the main approaches of the disease management work has been to get walkers to scrub the soles of their boots, and spray them with a disinfectant called trigene, at special stations set up throughout the affected areas.
Alarmingly it has been an uphill battle to get people to follow the signs and scrub and spray. Video cameras at the stations revealed only 25% of trampers actually doing the scrub and spray routine.
Short of closing the forests, getting people to scrub and spray is the best immediate hope for saving kauri.
Day 3 – Today my son Harry and I walked with Monique Wheat, a biologist working for the kauri dieback programme and researching where in the wood PTA affects the kauri. This is important because we need to understand the risk of spreading the disease from the timber of felled infected trees.
Today we walked from Whatipu over to Pararaha Valley, stopped for a swim in the Pararaha stream, and then walked over Zion Hill to Karekare where members of the surf club met us with tea and scones. Tomorrow we walk from Karekare to Anawhata.
Cool facts on kauri from Bruce Burns and Sarah Wyse on day 2, accompanied by Harry Twyford and Simon Randall. Photo by Mels Barton
1. All plants need nitrogen but kauri can thrive on less than almost any other. They have an amazing ability to do well in poor soil. That is not to say they like infertile soil. In fact there is a myth that kauri are slow growers. Planted in rich soil in good conditions kauri can grow very fast.
2. Kauri forest accumulates biomass faster than most forests anywhere in the world. It grows more wood – bigger trees and more of them.
3. The kauri ecosystem is the most diverse forest type in New Zealand. Kauri forest includes around 70 plant species in a 400 sq m plot. Compare that with South Island mountain beech which has only 2-3 species. This has implications for kauri dieback because if we lose the kauri then the bush will become a lot more homogenous and less interesting.
4. The kauri has powerful anti-competitive strategies that allow it to dominate other species. Kauri leaves and bark fall to the ground producing a litter that is acidic, slow to break down, and low in nutrients, making it hard for other species to compete in the same space.
5. The kauri has evolved a continuous self-pruning mechanism. The lower branches continually drop off leaving the tree with a smooth trunk and timber without knots. This is what made kauri so prized by the British navy for masts in the early 1800s. Missionary Samuel Marsden organised for ships that had transported convicts to Australia to call by New Zealand to pick up masts to take back to Britain.
6. Northern Maori used to chew kauri gum as an aphrodisiac, a natural Kiwi viagra. (I got this from a good source; unverified but in my view worth including).
Day 2 on the trail – Several hours walking from Huia to Mt Donald McLean with Bruce Burns who is senior lecturer in plant ecology at Auckland University, and PhD candidate Sarah Wyse who is doing her thesis on kauri ecosystems. It was a rare privilege to walk in the bush with people who know so much about it. Then we walked the Omanawanui Trail down to Whatipu – a three hour gutbuster with stunning views across the Manukau heads and out to the bar. Tomorrow we walk from Whatipu to Karekare.
Still a way to go to Whatipu from the Puriri Ridge Track. Photo: Mels Barton
Manukau Heads from the Omanawanui Track. Photo: Mels Barton
Phil Twyford, Simon Randall and Ngarimu Blair setting off on the Hillary Trail
Walking the first leg of the Hillary Trail today between Arataki Visitor Centre and Huia, I was struck by how little we know about Phytophthera taxon agathis, the pathogen that is killing kauri trees.
I can recite what we don’t know: we don’t know where it came from, we don’t know when it arrived, we don’t know exactly how it kills trees and we don’t know how to fight it.
A group of half a dozen scientists have been working on the disease for the past few years with funding support from government. A handful of scientists trying to deal with a largely unknown organism that is wiping out one of New Zealand’s most iconic species.
Most of the paltry $6 million spent over the last five years went on putting up signs and encouraging trampers to scrub the bottom of their boots, which is important to do, but if this was a biosecurity threat to our kiwifruit or pine plantations (PSA or painted apple moth) then you can bet ten times that amount would have been invested in the science.
Only science has any chance of saving the kauri.
It is important that we try to understand the disease, and what we can do about it. Plant pathologists like Ian Horner and Ellena Hough were out today in the bush above Huia monitoring whether kauri infected with PTA respond to having phosphite injected into their trunks.
Horner and Hough have day jobs with Plant and Food trying to save the kiwifruit industry from PSA. Saving kauri is a sideline for them, and today they are testing whether the phosphite they injected into 50-100 year old sick kauri a year ago has had any positive effect. It is an approach that works well with avocado trees infected with a similar pathogen to the one that is plaguing kauri.
Early results are inconclusive, but Horner concedes that even in the best case scenario, injecting phosphite is not a fix. Any beneficial effect would be temporary, only as long as the phosphite remained in the tree’s system. It might help save an iconic tree, or one treasured by a private landowner, but it is not going to save our forests.
The research must go on. The Government’s lack of commitment to extending the funding for the kauri dieback work beyond mid-2014 puts a question mark over this vital work. It is only a few million dollars a year. The survival of kauri as a species is at stake.
It has been a great start to the Hillary Trail. We had a send off from friends, park rangers and residents of the Waitakeres, with a karakia by kaumatua Fred Holloway. Thanks to my co-walkers Ngarimu Blair of Ngati Whatua, Ross Duder of Friends of Regional Parks and Simon Randall local body politician who did his Masters on Phytophtheras in the Waitakere Ranges.
Tomorrow we walk to Whatipu.
Send-off at Arataki
Scientist Ian Horner injecting phosphite into kauri at Huia
Over the next six days I am walking the Hillary Trail, 70 km through Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges. I have wanted to do it for a long time but it is more than just a summer tramp. I am doing it now to raise awareness of the disease that is killing one of our most cherished species, the kauri.
The killer is PTA phytophthora taxon agathis a.k.a. kauri dieback. Eleven percent of the kauri in the Waitakeres are dead or dying because of it, although the number is probably much higher because the disease has a long incubation period with no symptoms. The disease is spreading and the trees in the Waipoua and Trounson parks in Northland are so badly infected the proposal for a kauri national park in the north has been scuppered.
Scientists I have spoken to say that unless progress is made managing or stopping the disease then it is not too much of a stretch to say the species could be extinct within decades.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that there is a big question mark over continued funding for this work.
The scientific research, and the public awareness programme which encourages walkers to scrub and spray their boots at stations on the tracks, has cost about $6 million over the last five years. That funding runs out mid-2014, and the Ministry of Primary Industries who funded most of it, now say they will not take another budget bid to Cabinet. (See TV3′s report here.)
So do they want Councils to fund it? Should we run a cake stall? I am staggered the Government would spend $85 million fighting painted apple moth because it was a threat to pine trees but can’t find a few million bucks to save the kauri.
Does Tane Mahuta need to keel over and die before they take this disease seriously?
As I walk the Hillary Trail over the next few days with scientists and researchers and park rangers who are working on this crisis, I expect it will be bitter sweet. The Hillary Trail is a spectacular walk but instead of stopping to admire the stunning kauri that are a feature of the Waitakeres, we are likely to be stopping to examine dead and dying kauri, and checking the extent of the disease’s spread.
I will be posting updates here and on facebook and twitter, and doing everything I can to highlight the need for the Government to commit the funding needed to continue the scientific research and management of the disease.
Our generation doesn’t want the kauri to die out on our watch, does it?
Here is my recent media release and you can check out my submission to MAF regarding Maui’s Dolphins:
Global eyes on Government over dolphin response
Media Statement 10 April 2012
The Government’s response to the possible extinction of the Maui’s dolphin will be under worldwide scrutiny, Labour’s Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson has warned.
“With only 55 Maui dolphins in existence we cannot – as a developed country – allow inaction to be the cause of their extinction.
“There’s a huge win/win opportunity for ministers Kate Wilkinson and David Carter here. Not only should we be doing everything possible to save the species, but we should also be leading the world by moving our fishing industry to sustainable fishing methods,” Ruth Dyson said.
“We know that consumers are become more discerning – wanting to know how and where food is made. We could market sustainably caught fish internationally to huge benefit to our economy.
“And the by-catch of sustainable fishing practices would be saving the dolphin, unlike the current method, which is killing them.”
Ms Dyson, who, in a written submission to MAF has called for a comprehensive monitoring programme to help protect the Maui’s dolphin and an extension to a proposed set net ban, says the government can no longer close its eyes to the issue.
“The world is looking on. The Ministers have, to date, appeared cowed and compliant.
“They must strengthen their resolve to do the best for both the dolphins and the fishing industry, as well as New Zealand’s international reputation,” Ruth Dyson said.
Submissions on the MAF consultation close at 4pm Wednesday 11 April 2012 with parallel consultation on a DOC proposal closing the following week.
When I was doing Vote Chat with Bryce Edwards at Otago University on Friday he raised the good question of the political balancing act that surrounds how opposition political parties respond to a disaster, in this case the Rena. As an Opposition there is the risk that people will see criticism of the government as politicising the situation, being opportunistic etc. Equally part of the role of an Opposition is to hold the government to account, whatever the horrendous circumstances might be.
To get one thing out of the way straight up, no one is saying the Government is to blame for the Rena hitting the reef. I am also sure that John Key, Steven Joyce and Nick Smith are as disturbed as I am by the images of the oil on beaches and the death and injury of wildlife. Every New Zealander will want to see the damage from the accident mitigated and the environment cleaned up. What is a legitimate question though is whether faced with the incident the government showed the leadership that we should expect of them and acted as swiftly and effectively as they should have.
My take is that the government were flat footed and to keen to sheet blame and responsibility elsewhere rather than take the leadership role we want our government to take in times of crisis. Someone I worked with once said that people mostly want the government out of their way when things are going well, but they want them there yesterday when things go wrong. I think National got that wrong in the first few days of the Rena incident.
And criticism of this is not just coming from Labour, but also from people who might normally be described as friends of the government like John Roughan, Paul Holmes and even Matthew Hooten. Here is part of Hooten’s NBR column which is not on-line. (h/t Liberation)
Joyce failed totally to comprehend what the Rena grounding meant to the Bay of Plenty’, and ‘He did not see that, as transport minister and arguably the most powerful figure in the government after Mr Key, his role was to lead and improve the quality of the response, and ensure it was sufficiently empowered and resourced. When he spoke publicly, he demonstrated little empathy with locals, telling them there was no point going to the beach to clean up the oil, saying more was on its way and that it could take years to resolve anyway
Then there is the question of whether the government had done the work over the last three years to have us planned for a disaster like this. There are questions here too, with the freeze on funding for Maritime NZ and the failure to put in place the mechanism that would see more of the costs of dealing with the disaster fall on the ship company and less on you and me.
So, in the face of this disaster, we join with all New Zealanders in wanting to protect our beautiful coastline and all those, human and animal who inhabit it. But we also take our role seriously to raise the question- Where was the leadership?, and in this case it was sadly lacking.
In 2011, Red Alert is doing a few new things. One of them is to introduce you to some confirmed Labour candidates who will do the occasional guest post.Today’s guest poster is Christine Rose, the candidate for Rodney.
Kokako are one of New Zealand’s most beautiful songbirds. They sing in ‘gently paced, wistful tunes’, with an ‘organ-like song’ that can carry for kilometres. They are distinguished by their dusky grey plumage, their bright blue fleshy wattles and a little black face mask. They skip through the forest more than they fly, and come from an ancient lineage. But kokako have been pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat loss and predation.
Kokako were once widespread, found in the North and South Islands. But they are particularly vulnerable because of their poor flying ability, unable to flee from forest destruction to new habitats, and with females on the nest most prone to predation. One study found only about one chick in 10 nests survives.
In the 1980s there were only about 350 pairs of blue wattled, North Island, kokako left. Through good pest control and protection of remaining birds, (by volunteers and DoC), the population is now about 750 pairs and the aim of the National Kokako Recovery project is to have 1000 pairs in dispersed locations, by 2020. In Auckland, a small population of mainly male kokako remained in the Hunua Ranges, but they were totally extinct in the Waitakeres.
Over the last few years passionate and hardworking Forest & Bird conservationists have worked with the old Auckland Regional Council and iwi to restore the biodiversity of the Waitakere Ranges to its former glory. The Waitakere rainforest on the edge of the country’s biggest city covers over 17,000 hectares. More than 2000 hectares is now home to ‘Ark in the Park’ where species are being revived.
Since 2009 24 kokako have been translocated from different parts of the country, returning their melodious song to the forest where once they roamed. Last year at least three kokako chicks were fledged. This is a testament to the difference that committed individuals can make to a most worthy a cause – saving a species.
At our recent celebration to mark Ark in the Park’s successful efforts to save this species, the question was repeatedly asked why we’re seeing cuts to Department of Conservation funding when we have species like this on the brink. There certainly are amazing DoC workers who devote their lives to kokako and conservation. However, recent retrenchments in conservation budgets show the current government’s priorities lie elsewhere.
That’s another reason why this election is so important. A huge number of New Zealand’s endemic species are on the global critically endangered list. This is not the right time to cut conservation budgets. Our species, habitats, forest fragments, are the store of ecological capital, of hope for the future. Species, and our reputation, depend on our environment. Cuts to conservation budgets can only endanger these further, despite the amazing work of conservationists on the ground. Extinction is forever.
The South Island kokako, with its orange wattles is now most certainly extinct, and known as ‘the grey ghost’. How New Zealanders vote at this election, may determine whether our other special species like the North Island kokako, also join the ranks of forest ghosts.
Labour has a great track record working with the environmental sector on species and habitat recovery. That’s why, as a lifelong conservationist, I’m standing for Labour.
Christine Rose served the Rodney area as an elected representative for 15 years between 1995 and 2010. She was Deputy Mayor of the Rodney District Council, and Deputy Chair of the Auckland Regional Council. She chaired various committees including the ARC’s Transport Committee and the Regional Land Transport Committee which led the development of the Regional Transport Strategy.
Lesley Soper is the Labour candidate for Invercargill
This week it was announced that the Department of Conservation (DOC) is to cut 96 jobs around the country from 4 regional centres. 18 jobs will go from the Invercargill office, leaving only 20 of the 38 existing service positions in place. All staff in service positions will have to reapply for their jobs.
The cuts follow the National Government 2009 cut to DOC’s Budget of $54million over 4 years, which means there are probably more to come in the next stage of the ‘Review’ for efficiency and effectiveness.
Once again the regions suffer, with Northland; Tongariro/Whanganui/Taranaki; and Nelson/Marlborough also to suffer job cuts. Valuable locals, contributing to their communities economically and socially, with institutional loyalty, knowledge and years of long service are forced into job scrambles; onto the dole queue; overseas; or into short-term and insecure contract work. The regional economies and communities lose out; real people doing valuable jobs lose out; and DOC is expected to do more with less.
Southland has a significant amount of conservation land, and DOC protects places and species that Southlanders value. Jobs to go include science, technical, communications, planning and legal, but for the present no ranger positions. So jobs that allow good conservation outcomes to be achieved and rangers to be rangers go. Cut to the bone and only the skeleton remains.
Is 19 or 20 the new preferred size du jour for public service Regional offices? How long before ‘efficiences of scale’ mean the size du jour is in single figures?
Again, local public service cuts that no-one can feel comfortable about. Silence from local National MP’s on any reasons why.
The National led government released its latest public service staff statistics yesterday. They show that they have overseen almost 2,400 Kiwis losing their jobs since 2008. That is thousands of families with people who make the money to put food on the table out of work. Things really are starting to follow the 1990s pattern- the gutting of the public sector, followed by the decline in services and confidence from the public, followed by the hiring of consultants and contractors to fill the gaps…
The figures announced today do not cover the full impact most recent jobs losses announced for DOC and the IRD. In both cases its not the people I look after in Wellington Central bearing the brunt, it is the provinces. Wanganui, Rotorua, Napier, Invercargill, Nelson, New Plymouth. Did someone say “frontline services”.
Two stories related to this came my way today. The first from the Daily News in New Plymouth who quoted one of the staff saying that they had been warned that if they talked publicly about the job losses they would go even quicker.
“They told us there was to be absolutely no discussion of anything to the media. If anyone spoke to the media it could be a code of conduct issue,” an employee told the Taranaki Daily News on condition of anonymity. Penalties for breaching the code of conduct could include being sacked, they said.
The worker also said something that will be familiar to many in the public service. He said “morale was in tatters”. It is, in almost every government agency I speak to- and the end result of that is poorer services for us all.
Meanwhile over in Whanganui they are facing the effect of the cuts to the Department of Conservation, the latest in a line of cuts including to NZTA, child advocacy services and the baliffs. I got a note passed on to me from a local teacher who said
I feel awful today as I hear from children I teach that their their families will be shifting out of Wanganui because of the cutbacks and the gutting of the local DOC office.which once served the region from Taranaki to the Manawatu and over the Ruahines. Going are the scientists, an engineer, cartographers and other skilled workers whose children have been really special to teach.
This is one aspect of the abandoning of provinicial New Zealand, the breakdown of communities. Another is the loss of health services in places like Temuka and Rangiora. John Pagani has written a good blog on another aspect of it. The absence of any real focused regional development from this government that will give people a sense that there are jobs and a future for them and their town. I think we owe these towns that have been the backbone of our country some support and some hope.
The great Kiwi road trip could be at risk. A bunch of friends hit the road Friday night for a weekend of surfing. In the early hours they reach the beach and sleep in the van so they can get a few hours sleep before hitting the water at sunrise. Under the Government’s anti-Freedom Camping Bill they could be up for an instant $150. (For surfing you can also read fishing, tramping, hunting…)
The Bill is an attempt to deal with the problem of littering and human waste left by the large number of campervans in some of the country’s most scenic spots. It makes it easier for Councils to declare areas off-limits to freedom camping, and gives them an enforcement regime that includes instant fines for both littering, and camping in the wrong areas.
Let’s be clear: there is a problem here. Noone likes to see toilet waste on the roadside in our scenic spots. But according to submitters it is mostly caused by international visitors travelling in campervans without self-contained toilet facilities.
Our objection is that the Bill is a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. It gives DoC and Councils the tools to effectively outlaw freedom camping by declaring large areas out of bounds for freedom campers. Both DoC and Councils can levy instant fines on offenders. Now DoC doesn’t have a record of predatory enforcement regimes for the purposes of income generation, but you can’t say the same thing about some Councils.
It amazes me that other more targeted approaches haven’t been tried first. Why not bring in instant fines for littering and waste dumping (and not freedom camping), have the option of levying those fines on vehicles (as is done with traffic fines) and then make it mandatory for rental companies to recover the fine from the client’s credit card.
Why not phase out campervans that don’t have self-contained toilet facilities? Maybe as a country that encourages higher and higher numbers of tourists we should invest a bit more in visitor infrastructure like toilets, rubbish bins, and waste disposal facilities for campervans?
From an email just in:
Thanks for your common sense stand on freedom camping, I’m a kiwi – currently overseas.As a surfer being able to enjoy New Zealand, crashing where there are waves is worth more to me than any sum of money.This… bill represents a destruction of what I value most about New Zealand, and NZder’s tradition of camping next to lakes, the sea, enjoying what we ALL have as kiwis.
P.S. I should add that we voted for the Bill at first reading, recognising there is a problem and we thought the Bill deserved some select committee scrutiny. Having read and heard the submissions, we now think it is a dog.
The website – Nobody Likes a Tory - has been providing amusement (and solace) to around 60,000 supporters on Facebook, including many NZers.
It’s unrelentingly anti-Tory – we’re talking the UK kind here, but didn’t John Key visit David Cameron to find out how to be an unscarey Tory? (And while you’re reading this, note the recommendation for the Penguin’s blog from the UK conservatives).
John Key said at the time :
I think there are a reasonable number of similarities – we are both centrist in our thinking, both ambitious for our respective countries to make a change and to deliver on the promise that our respective countries have.”
Oh yeah? I wonder how much John Key wants to compare himself to Cameron these days.
Have a good laugh at this – the Common People, and someone, please point me to a John Key/NZ version – because while JK didn’t go to Eton, he did grow up in a State House and that makes all the difference – or so he tells us constantly.
The outbreak of Psa is a grim reminder how exposed we are as an economy to the effects of biological attack by unwanted organisms. Why then, would a party that claims to represent farmers reduce the border protection efforts to help pay for tax cuts.
The farmers and orchardists at risk from this ridiculous stance should reconsider their loyalty to a party that has deserted their needs. I have been contacted by people working in the system who say this is just the beginning of incursions that will occur because they can’t do their job properly.
Money and resources have been shifted internally to set up Smartgate and smoother passenger processing at our airports. Delays coming into this country are rarely long compared to the US process or the chaos at some larger international airports.
We should never compromise our biosecurity for convenience. The US dont do it for their security, why should we?? I wonder if Hilary passed that wisdom on to John or was he too starstruck to hear?