Government must clarify role of volunteers under health and safety reforms

The government should use National Volunteer Week to clarify how the Health and Safety Reform Bill will affect them, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“While thanking volunteers for their work, the government is trying to push through a law which would place new regulatory burdens on voluntary organisations,” said Mr Seymour, referring to the Health and Safety Reform Bill currently before select committee.

“The Bill has been criticised by Volunteering NZ and Local Government NZ for the liabilities it places on organisations and their board members.

“In a situation like a working bee or disaster clean-up, a certain level of risk is expected by casual volunteers. Making organisations liable for this risk could discourage volunteers from taking leadership positions, and force those who did to reconsider working with casual volunteers who would fall under the strict new regulations.

“I have been approached by constituents in my electorate who are concerned they will be in breach of new regulations despite being involved in low risk activity.

“People who volunteer are rightly celebrated, but they need clarity around what liabilities they’re taking on by doing so. Otherwise there will be a chilling effect on volunteers nationwide, to all of our detriment.

“Volunteer initiatives are vital to the health of a free society. People who sacrifice their time for causes they’re passionate about put more care into their work than anonymous bureaucrats on fixed salaries.

“That’s why the Minister for the Voluntary Sector should stand up for volunteers by challenging regulatory overreach.”

Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Amendment Bill

Delivered by ACT Leader David Seymour on February 26, 2015.
Video is available here.

A former long-serving and very honourable member of this House has counselled me to stay for the full debate and listen to what other members have to say so that you can actually join into the debate and contribute to it, rather than showing up, reading a speech, and leaving. I am mindful that if I was to respond to everything that I have just heard properly, I would completely run out of time before I got to make any points of my own. But I have to say: what a bizarre contribution from Gareth Hughes.

He told us that this is not just a technical amendment, despite it being only 6 pages; it is actually a bending and breaking of the law. Well, let us just be clear about what this bill does. It says that Shell Todd Oil Services can continue doing what it was already able to do before new legislation and regulation was introduced. It will still have this new legislation and regulation and its full effects applied to it. However, it will be given more time so that it does not come to be in contravention of these news laws and regulations. So, if anything, what we are seeing is additional regulation of the offshore oil industry. I cannot believe that the Green Party would be against that.

He then complained that the Government frequently bends the rule of law, for example, to help people doing oil exploration who find themselves to be under threat from protest. What exactly does he want us to do? Does he really believe that anybody he happens to disagree with does not deserve the protection of the rule of law and actually should be forced to live in a world of anarchy?

And then for the ultimate oddity he said he is lodging a protest vote. He wants to see this go to the select committee, but he is not actually going to vote for it to do so. As Ōtara Millionaires Club used to sing: “How bizarre.”

Then we had Eugenie Sage from the Green Party say that we are not thinking about community. This really goes to the heart of what this debate is about. Actually approximately $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion each and every year, about 0.5 per cent of the country’s GDP — yes, that does have an effect on the community, and we are going to hear about this more and more.

Although this is a small technical bill, it brings into stark relief the way that the extractive industry and regulation are very tightly linked. If we look around the world, we can see just how much of a contribution economically the extractive industries make. This is particularly important at a time when regional New Zealand—places like the Northland area, for example—is facing declining and ageing populations and serious problems funding its local governments, and yet it has large potential to create jobs and become wealthier to extractive industries.

You can see this all over the world. In Alberta, for example, the province of Canada that has the most extractive industries, you have a median family income of $94,000. In Newfoundland and Labrador, from whence people commute by aeroplane to work in those industries, it is $70,000. It is very clear.

In Western Australia it is $68k. In Tasmania it is $48k. Again, the contrast that you get from having extractive industries and what that can do for regions—particularly regions that are facing economic challenge and that do not feel like a rock star economy—is very, very large.

Have a look, for example, a little bit closer to home. The average incomes in Taranaki are $74k for a household and in Northland they are $60,000. This is the economic difference that it makes.

[Hon Simon Bridges]: So why do the Greens oppose it?

[David Seymour]: Because they do not think that making money is actually beneficial for the community, Mr Bridges. That is the problem. And perhaps another prejudice that we should raise here is that there tends to be a belief in some quarters that the extractive industries are not sexy and cool and sophisticated, and did we not see that come out with the member Gareth Hughes waxing liberal about what we could be doing with the so-called smart economy while, as someone who has had one or two things to do with a few people who work in this industry, I can tell you that the extractive industries—oil and gas for instance—are enormously sophisticated, high-productivity industries working with large amounts of capital, and that might explain why the average wage for a New Zealander is $50,000 and the average wage for someone in the mineral industry is $105,000.

The Act Party wholeheartedly supports this bill. Thank you.

Celebrate volunteers by opposing regulatory burden

On International Volunteers Day New Zealand politicians must consider their responsibility in tackling the regulatory burden faced by the voluntary sector, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Unfortunately, regulations intended to improve practices in business can often have unwanted consequences for volunteer causes.

“One current example is the Health and Safety Reform Bill, which would treat volunteers – even casual ones – as workers, forcing organisations to take liability for the safety of people who have chosen to pitch in for events like tree plantings and disaster clean-ups.

“The practical effect of this regulation is obvious: it will be harder for communities to mobilise volunteer action. Ratepayers in particular will be hit hard, as local councils currently utilise volunteer labour for many vital services and initiatives.

“ACT is backing the Bill’s submissions from Local Government NZ and Volunteer NZ, which call for more flexible regulation towards health and safety.”

“Volunteer initiatives are always preferable to government programmes. Individuals who sacrifice their time to contribute to causes they are passionate about are far more likely to put care into a job than an anonymous bureaucrat on a fixed salary.

“Volunteer and community initiatives are at the core of what separates an adequate society from a healthy society. The fact that New Zealanders spend more time volunteering than anyone else in the OECD is something we ought to celebrate.”

The efforts of New Zealand small businesses are being destroyed by the Law of Unintended Consequences Act (1925)

“I keep seeing reports that many small business people, the backbone of the country’s economy, are being put at risk of failure by well intended legislation that is having the effect of putting their businesses at peril,” said Dr Jamie Whyte, Leader of the ACT Party.

"For instance it is reported in the press that the owner of a guided fishing business in the Coromandel will no longer take tourists out on the water because of the high cost of new safety audits.

"Industry insiders report that the changes will put the highly experienced small operators out of business and could leave the tourists at more risk than before.

"It appears the Government's labour service thinks regulations should not cover equipment hireage or non-guided services, because customers do not have the same level of expectation over their care as they would when being guided by professionals. The seasoned operators are concerned that experience and common sense is being lost in favour of report writing.

"What are the tourists' expectations? Can that be part of regulations? Why should tourists be put at risk of drowning because of this senseless “expectations” approach to regulating the industry?

"Another experienced operator reports “This whole process seems to me like it is going to promote unsafe practices instead of getting rid of them.”

“Red tape and regulations that have the opposite effect of what was intended by the changes should never be allowed to trump common sense and the hard won experience of the experts in the field,” said Dr Whyte.

 

Colin Craig is deluded and dangerous

“Colin Craig is proposing a radical transformation of our constitution. The Conservatives are proposing to overthrow of one hundred and fifty odd years of parliamentary democracy and replace it with binding referenda,” said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“Yet Craig does not want a referendum to make this change. He has said repeatedly he will support a Labour/Green government if they will agree to binding referendum. In other words, Colin Craig thinks that if he gets just 5% of the vote, he should be able to overthrow our form of government.” 

“If anything should be put to a referendum, it is a significant change to our constitution.”

“The media should stop mocking Craig’s loopy ideas about “chem-trails” and the American moon landings being faked and instead examine his much more radical political ideas,” said Dr Whyte.

“Binding referendums have destroyed California.  It has gone from being the powerhouse of America to being ungovernable.

“The problem with government by referendum can be seen in Colin Craig’s own policy platform. He says totally contradictory things.

“I appeared with Colin Craig in several debates. He always begins by assuring the audience that the Conservatives were in favour of less government and less tax. Then all of his specific policy proposals involve increasing the role of the government.

“Colin Craig wants more government spending on apprenticeships and similar training; he wants the government to fund start-up companies; he wants the government to decide who you may sell your land to; he wants the government to decide who goes to university,” said Dr Whyte.

“Here is a man supposedly in favour of smaller government whose every specific policy proposal involves an expansion of government.

“You cannot be in government and vote in favour of every spending increase and then vote for tax cuts. The books do not balance.

“But people can vote in favour of a referendum that increases spending and, later, in favour of a referendum that cuts taxes. That is what the electorate in California has done.

“Colin Craig’s populist policy hodgepodge and binding referenda have the same problem; they try to have it both ways. It has ruined California and it will ruin New Zealand.

“Like Colin Craig, the electorate in California has passed the now infamous Proposition 13 that limits taxes. But the people of California, like Colin Craig, have not seen a spending proposal they do not like. Lobby groups have successfully promoted referenda that direct taxpayers’ money their way,” said Dr Whyte.

“Do not think this will not happen in New Zealand. The Fire Service Union promoted a successful referendum that said how many people there should be on a fire truck. The government ignored that recommendation and the country has not burnt down. Colin Craig would have had that referendum turned into an unchangeable law, and we would all be paying for it in higher insurance bills.

“I doubt those who are thinking of voting for Colin Craig have realised how dangerous his proposal is. He says he will support any government that supports binding referenda. He will support Labour if they give him this change in our constitution. Is Christine Rankin telling the people of Epsom that a vote for her might be a vote for David Cunliffe to be Prime Minister?” said Dr Whyte.

“Binding referenda have made California ungovernable. Do we really want 5% of the population making New Zealand ungovernable too?"

ACT Party Opening Broadcast

 

Authorised by Garry Mallett, 809 River Road, Hamilton.

The Sunday Series with Jamie Whyte - 27 July 2014

Jamie Whyte talks green tape, why it's bad for the economy (and the environment) and how ACT plans to untangle us from it.

Auckland's Unitary Plan won't make a jot of difference to housing affordability

It doesn't matter whether the Unitary Plan allows for relatively intensified development inside the Rural Urban Boundary, or greenfield developments outside of it, aka subdivisions. 

That is because the problem Auckland has at its core is anti-development legislation - the Resource Management ACT (RMA).

It isn't right when developments in Long Bay, for example, take 18 years to get off the ground and can be held up by people living in the Coromandel.

The RMA came into effect in 1991. 

At that time the ratio of median house price to median income was around 3 to 1. 

That means before the RMA, a median house price was $300,000 and the median household income was $100,000.  That's easily affordable. 

Today it is almost 6 to 1. 

Even if median incomes moved to $150,000 (which they haven't), median house prices have increased to $750,000.  That's quite unaffordable.

It takes too long to build a house in Auckland, and it costs too much.

The RMA has created the situation in Auckland where perfectly responsible developments are opposed and delayed to the extent that, if they ever get off the ground, the extra costs have pushed up the price of the final product.  It has made housing unaffordable, and created a crisis.

It is therefore irrelevant what the Unitary Plan says about where properties can be built, and what land can be developed. 

Unless the RMA is dramatically reformed to create a presumption of development and a restriction on the opposition to developments, the Unitary Plan will mean nothing. 

And that is because people in Coromandel will still be permitted to oppose, and thereby delay, developments in Auckland.

Author of this blog post, Nick Kearney, is the Local Board Member for the Kaipatiki Ward. 

The inner Waitemata Harbour suburbs of Beach Haven, Birkenhead, Chatswood, Birkdale, Northcote Peninsula, Glenfield, Hillcrest and Marlborough make up the Kaipātiki local board area. It is bounded by the Northern Motorway to the east.

 

 

Nathan Guy Must Stop Making Excuses And Do Something

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is looking for excuses to justify his inaction amid growing calls by kiwifruit growers that the industry needs an independent inquiry, ACT New Zealand Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson said today.

“Initially the Minister said he wouldn’t initiate an inquiry because Zespri was before the Courts on a charge of smuggling.

“Now that Zespri has been found guilty, he is using the excuse that an internal inquiry is already taking place and there is no need for the Government to step in.

“But growers who have contacted ACT do not have any faith in the internal inquiry,” Mr Nicolson said.

“New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI), which is charged with conducting the inquiry, is the very organisation that commissioned the 2007 Grant Samuel Report into Zespri and then suppressed it because it was unfavourable.

“What has changed in NZKGI since then?

“NZKGI has no credibility when it comes to conducting an independent inquiry into Zespri.  The report won’t be worth the paper it is written on.

“The Minister’s continued position of doing nothing is unacceptable.  By failing to take action, the Minister appears to be sanctioning Zespri's poor business behaviour that threatens our reputation.
 
“Kiwifruit is big business for New Zealand and our reputation relies on Zespri acting as a good corporate citizen.  If its reputation is damaged our entire industry will suffer.

“The Government forces all growers to export through Zespri.  It is therefore the Government’s responsibility to ensure that Zespri’s operations are above board.   Initiating an independent inquiry is the only way the Government can do this,” Mr Nicolson said.

ENDS

 

Kiwifruit Collaboration Arrangements ‘Most Likely Illegal’ In International Markets

Claims by former senior personnel of Turners and Growers that Kiwifruit New Zealand’ s application process for Collaborative Marketing Arrangements (CMA) with Zespri is ‘farcical’ and ‘lacks openness, fairness and integrity’ is further indication that all is not well in the kiwifruit industry, ACT New Zealand Associate Primary Industries Spokesman  Robin Grieve said today.

 Former Turners and Growers development manager, Murray Malone, and  former Managing Director of Turners and Growers, Jeff Wesley, told rural newspaper ‘Straight Furrow’ that New Zealand’s collaborative arrangements could be seen as collusion in the eyes of international trade. 

They say, under the CMA process growers are ‘forced to collude with Zespri to fix price and to dominate market position.’  While not illegal in New Zealand, this is ‘most likely illegal in some of the target markets in which the fruit is sold including China’.

“Growers in the kiwifruit industry have faced big challenges over recent times and it is imperative that their financial returns are not compromised by an inefficient and dysfunctional marketing system which has the government’s fingerprints all over it,” Mr Grieve said.

“The government imposed a monopolistic marketing system on the industry and then just walked away, leaving Zespri without proper oversight.   Now the problems are piling up.

“Without the option to take their business elsewhere growers are trapped.   It is time the government, which denied growers the freedom to sell their produce elsewhere, takes its obligations more seriously.   

“ACT has been calling on Minister Nathan Guy to launch an independent inquiry into Zespri since it was convicted in China for smuggling.  Yesterday, ACT called for the potential inquiry to include claims by growers that they are subjected to bullying and secrecy by the company. 

“The Minister owes it to growers to initiate an inquiry to ensure his regulations are not propping up a marketing system that is costing growers’ money and possibly forcing them to act illegally,” Mr Grieve said.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

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