• No new community cases - good. The entire country in a form of lockdown - bad.
    I get that Auckland needs to take precautions given the level of faffing around done by people deemed to be infectious but why on earth is the South Island locked down? Why in fact is anywhere south of Hamilton locked down?
    We might have an easier case to make for opening up the rest of the country if hordes of Aucklanders hadn't saddled up their late model sedans and fled for the hills or their holiday homes.
    The fact that they did that, that they were given a window of time to escape the city makes it more difficult to justify opening up south of the Bombay and north of the Brynderwyns, but surely the South Island should be free to go about its business unencumbered by restrictions on gatherings.
    Richard Prebble has written an excellent piece in the NZ Herald about the need for the government to hold an inquiry and god knows it loves an inquiry into the failings of the Covid response.
    And he's right. We have the Ministry via the Prime Minister saying that they sent 15 messages, via phone text and email to a KFC worker and her family relaying the health advice to stay home.
    I hope the PM has seen each and every one of those messages because given the misinformation that came out of the ministry at the start of this pandemic, I no longer accept anything I hear from the Ministry of Health as the truth.

  • Should the New Zealand government cancel student loan debt?
    That’s the argument being made in an opinion piece on Newsroom.
    London-based reporter Laura Walters writes: "As part of a generation that’s been hit by one economic challenge after the next, student loan debt is just one of myriad factors that is making me reconsider what my life will look like.
    "Rather than offering interest-free borrowing, or expecting people to refinance their loans, the Government could try something more ambitious (such as debt cancellation) "
    Walters joined Kerre McIvor to further discuss her argument and how debt is holding people back from being productive members of society.

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  • Land Rover Horse of the Year organisers have cancelled the 2021 event after 48 hours of discussions left them realising they wouldn't be able to clear the hurdles put up by Covid uncertainty.
    A spokesperson for the Hastings event wrote on Facebook on Monday night that it was not a decision that had been made lightly.
    Horse of the Year, a fixture of the Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana, draws 1500 competitors and tens of thousands of spectators each year and sits alongside the Art Deco Festival and Royal A&P Show as one of the region's biggest yearly events.
    After squeezing the 2020 event in just before Covid Level 4 lockdown, New Zealand's biggest equestrian competition was set to run in 2021 on March 9-14.
    There is a possibility alert levels 2 for NZ and 3 for Auckland could have been lifted by the Government in time for the event's start date, but organisers had already indicated there was little chance of it going ahead if all, or almost all, of NZ was not in Level 1.
    The HOY spokesperson said:
    "We worked through all possible scenarios for Land Rover Horse of the Year 2021 during NZ's ever changing Covid19 situation.
    "We know there is huge support for us to go ahead however there are many factors we have had to consider.
    "These include financial implications for our show and its ongoing sustainability, the travel and time pressures for riders, the experience we can deliver for our riders and spectators, and most importantly of all, the health & wellbeing of everyone who attends the show."
    The spokesperson said it was a "heart-breaking" decision to have to make, "particularly when the majority of our expense has already been incurred".
    "We are truly devastated and send all our best wishes to our Land Rover Horse of the Year family from all corners of New Zealand.
    "Rest assured we already have 2022 firmly in our sights and will come back bigger and better than ever."
    text by Hawkes Bay Today

  • A review of the Government's drug buyer Pharmac will focus on the timeliness and transparency of its decisions.
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Andrew Little announced the independent review's terms of reference at Parliament today.
    The Pharmac review will focus on two areas:

    how well Pharmac performs against its current objectives and whether this could be improved
    whether Pharmac's current objectives maximise its potential to improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders as part of the wider health system and whether these objectives should be changed.

    It will also consider factors including:

    the timeliness of Pharmac's decision making
    the transparency and accessibility of its decision making
    equity - including access to medicines and devices for Māori and Pacific peoples.

    The independent review panel will be chaired by the former Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin and will include corporate governance consultant Frank McLaughlin, experienced health and governance expert Heather Simpson, pharmacist prescriber Leanne Te Karu, preventative and social medicine professor Sue Crengle and disability advocate Dr Tristram Ingham.
    The review is intended to run until the end of the year with an interim report in August and a final report in December.
    "I expect that the review committee will decide its own consultation process but that it will include at a minimum the appropriate input from consumers, Māori, Pacific peoples, clinicians and industry," Little said.
    The budget for the review is expected to be between $1.5 and $2 million.
    Ardern said the review would help New Zealanders have confidence in the system.
    Ardern said broadly the Pharmac model worked well but they'd heard concerns about the model and the Government believed there was scope to improve it.
    "Pharmac is a model that's critically important to the health sector and viewed as world leading - but let's make it better if we can."
    Little said concerns raised about the drug-buying agency included access to new medicines, timeliness of decision making and its priorities.
    "In addition there have been concerns about the safety of substituting medicines due to cost and availability, and access to products that are funded in other countries but not here in New Zealand."
    Nearly 4 million New Zealanders received medicines procured by the drug agency.
    The review was committed to by Ardern during an election debate with National leader Judith Collins who also promised to review the agency if elected.
    Ardern said when asked if Labour would commit to a review, she said: "If it gives people faith in our system, then yes."
    Newsroom reported this morning the review will investigate how the government drug-buying agency can better respond to specific government health priorities relating to emerging drugs and more.
    In 2019 the Health Select Committee voted against a politician-led inquiry into the agency. The National Party said it appeared Labour only committed to the independent review when it was "politically palatable".
    Little confirmed the Government was planning an independent inquiry into Pharmac and that Labour just didn't support it being led by politicians on the Health Select Committee.
    Little said they wanted it to be independent and considered it "inappropriate" for MPs to do it.
    "It needs to be at arm's length from politicians. It's not right for politicians making political judgments about Pharmac and its decisions.
    "There are high-level policy decisions but it is better that they are reviewed at arm's length and independently," he said last year.
    He said work is under way to establish terms of reference and an appropriate review body.

  • We've talked before about the shocking state of our kids' teeth. More than 5000 children and teenagers have dental surgery under general anaesthetic every year for problems associated with neglect.
    Dental decay is the most common chronic health condition in New Zealand and it causes serious problems for the children who have rotting teeth.
    I have heard some parents say, what does it matter? They lose the teeth anyway. But in the interim, their children suffer, with problems ranging from extreme pain and spread of infection to poor self-esteem and reduced quality of life.
    Now the government is looking to put a fence at the top of the cliff to prevent the ambulance being needed at the bottom.
    The Prime Minister has promised to pass a bill that's been on hold for nearly four years - a bill that would give water fluoridation powers to District Health Boards and probably extend water fluoridation from 50 per cent of the country to at least 85.
    Dental Association president Kate Ayers told Mike Hosking that would have an immediate impact, and can reduce decay rates by 40 percent.
    The government is also giving preschoolers free toothbrushes, which is all well and good but they have to be used and used properly.
    I know it can be a faff at the end of the day making sure the little ones are brushing their teeth properly, after you've had a full day of child minding, and you've just got through the bath, and there's still bedtime stories and questions to answer and streams of consciousness that are really just delaying tactics to get through but its part of the job.
    Perhaps if the government shook the money tree once again and provided a nanny at the end of the night to oversee correct brushing - that would have more of an impact.
    But to be fair, a similar programme in Scotland - giving toothbrushes and toothpaste to little ones - has been successful and its hoped that the combination of fluoride and supplying tools for teeth cleaning will end up saving the country more than 600 million dollars over 20 years - and thousands and thousands of children a life time of pain and embarrassment.

  • According to research from Inland Revenue and Treasury, the wealthiest New Zealanders pay just 12 per cent of their total income in tax on average.
    The same research found 42 per cent of the wealthiest New Zealanders were paying lower tax rates than the lowest tax rate paid by people who earn their money from an ordinary job or a benefit.
    The reason for the disparity between New Zealand’s wealthiest people and regular salary and wage earners is that the wealthiest New Zealanders tend to earn a large part of their income in parts of the economy that are either taxed lightly or not taxed at all.
    So how do we better calculate the wealth of rich people?
    PwC partner Geof Nightingale was a member of the Government's Tax Working Group which was created to consider the future of tax.
    He joined Kerre McIvor to share his knowledge on the issue.

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says lives will be 'incomparably better' in England's spring and summer as he sets out a plan to fully ease lockdown rules by June 21.
    A paper published yesterday shows the two vaccines approved and in use in Britain showed high efficacy rates in trials.
    The first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines in Scotland led to a substantial fall in Covid-19 hospital admissions.
    Dr Chris Smith, medical consultant of virology at Cambridge University and founder of the Naked Scientist podcast, joined Kerre McIvor this morning to update us on the latest developments from Britain.

  • A Christchurch man says the scene that confronted him ten years ago felt like it was straight out of a movie.
    Lawyer Andrew Riches was sitting in his office when the building started shaking and filing cabinets fell down.
    He ran outside and was one of the first rescuers at the PGC building, which had pancaked, claiming 18 lives.
    Riches told Kerre McIvor when he heard people calling out for help he sprang to action.
    "When I stopped and looked at it, the whole building had collapsed down many floors on top of each other.
    "You run through your head, how many people would be working on each floor - there must be a pile of desks in there."
    Riches, alongside fellow lawyers David Lang and Toby Giles, were honoured with awards from the Christchurch Mayor of that time, Bob Parker, for heroism during the earthquake.

  • Calls for a purpose built quarantine centre that is located miles away from our cities and our biggest population masses are growing.
    All the big names in immunology - Nick Wilson, Des Gorman and Michael Baker - have said its absolute madness to house returnees carrying the different Covid strains into hotels in our biggest cities.
    We have 18 hotels in Auckland, three in Hamilton, two in Wellington and six in Christchurch - our most populous cities and we bang quarantine facilities smack bang in the middle of them.
    People are people and, despite the very best of intentions, accidents happen, and people, on occasion, will behave badly. Since the army have taken over the running of the hotels, there haven't been quite as many returnees going walkabout and popping into their local Countdown but nonetheless the possibility is always there - and once the Covid cooties are out and about, the ramifications of Covid in the community are devastating.
    Now National's Covid spokesman Chris Bishop has jumped on the bandwagon and called for a purpose built facility on the outskirts of Auckland.
    He says, and he's quite right and nobody would disagree, that NZ can't afford to keep yo-yoing in and out of lockdown and the Auckland economy can't afford to keep bleeding $30 million a day.
    While employees probably enjoyed their three days off this week in Auckland, it's caused major disruption in the city and indeed for the rest of the country.
    We're going to have to learn to live with Covid - vaccinations or no vaccinations - and if that means forking out for a purpose built quarantine facility, then that's the price of living with this virus.
    Listen above as Chris Bishop joins Kerre McIvor to discuss his proposal

  • A Christchurch man says the scene that confronted him ten years ago felt like it was straight out of a movie.
    Lawyer Andrew Riches was sitting in his office when the building started shaking and filing cabinets fell down.
    He ran outside and was one of the first rescuers at the PGC building, which had pancaked, claiming 18 lives.
    Riches told Kerre McIvor when he heard people calling out for help he sprang to action.
    "When I stopped and looked at it, the whole building had collapsed down many floors on top of each other.
    "You run through your head, how many people would be working on each floor - there must be a pile of desks in there."
    Riches, alongside fellow lawyers David Lang and Toby Giles, were honoured with awards from the Christchurch Mayor of that time, Bob Parker, for heroism during the earthquake.

  • Unsafe lead levels have been found in the blood of East Otago-based children.
    It was revealed earlier in the month unsafe levels of lead had been discovered in the southern towns of Karitane and Waikouaiti. The levels go back to as early as July 2020.
    Back in 2017, a Government inquiry found 20 per cent of the country's tap water was not up to standard, with as many as 750,000 New Zealanders exposed to drinking water that was not safe.
    Water New Zealand is the industry body for the three water sector - drinking water, waste water and storm water.
    Water NZ Technical Manager Noel Roberts told Kerre McIvor the main problem is resources.
    "Both people capability and funds, and stretched between multiple needs for funding, especially from rates.
    A Beca report says New Zealand needs to look at desalination and purifying of waste water. Mr Roberts says the level of expertise required is not cheap, and there are not many individuals around the country who can do it.
    "That's sort of why the DIA is looking at the three waters reform and what the options are there."

  • The Salvation Army's released its annual State of the Nation report focusing on areas such as crime, housing, and poverty.
    One of their biggest concerns is that the large increases in hardship are going to linger long after the Covid-19 pandemic - exemplified by food parcels given out last year, doubling to more than 110-thousand.
    They're urging the Government to take harder action against the housing crisis as it's key to addressing income poverty, which is worsening.
    Salvation Army Lieutenant Colonel Ian Hutson says increasing benefits, or any income, doesn't work if the cost of housing just keeps rising too.
    He told Kerre McIvor the housing register is continuing to climb.
    "It's got up to over 22,000 people, those who are in most need of housing."
    Hutson says the number of social housing needs to be ramped up.
    "There is a real need to increase the number of social housing that is being built."

  • Remember Shamima Begum? The entitled little schoolgirl who ran away to be a terrorist with two of her mates, married two terrorists, gave birth to three babies who all subsequently died and then demanded the right to return to the UK and that the UK return her citizenship - she was stripped of it in the interests of national security.
    She's still battling for the right to return to the UK claiming she's a citizen and she has the rights of a citizen but at the moment, she's cooling her heels in a refugee camp while her lawyers battle for her to be allowed back in the UK so she can plead her case.
    There was a glimmer of hope that she could be palmed off to Bangladesh as her parents were originally from Bangladesh, but the Bangladeshi government quite sensibly washed their hands of her and said she was the UK's problem.
    And so the battle goes on.
    Now we have our very own Shamima Begum in the form of Suhayra Aden - a New Zealand born, Aussie raised woman who ran away to join the ISIS from Australia.
    Although the Australian and New Zealand authorities had been working on how they could solve the problem of Suhayra for a number of years, the decision by Scott Morrisson to strip Aden of her Australian citizenship means she and her two children are now solely the responsibility of this country.
    How did our PM take that news? Fair to say, not well. She says she told Morrison if the issue became public she would speak very strongly on New Zealand's view.
    Australia's PM was unrepentant. Morrison told media Australia does not want to see terrorists, who fought with terrorist organisations, enjoying privileges of citizenship, and he has to put his country's interest first.
    This is what Australia has been doing. If there's a sniff of a hope that some thug was born in New Zealand, back they go. It doesn't matter if they went over as a babe in arms, back they go. I find it incredible our Prime Minister would be shocked and surprised.
    They don't want to deal with thugs, with criminals, with hardcore recidivists, and they've found a way of divesting themselves of that problem. Even if they raised them and didn't give their families the kick up the bum to raise them right, they see them as our problem.
    We do the same - to Samoans, to Tongans, Irish and Americans have been sent back. If we find a way to kick you out, we do the same.
    It was the most angry I think I've seen Jacinda Ardern been at a press conference, but I had to wonder why - this is what they do.
    The difference here is does this woman even want to come back? She was caught trying crossing the border from Syria into Turkey to join the 3.6 million other refugees registered as Syrian that Turkey is trying to manage.
    The Turkish authorities detained her and now they want to deport her - it's simply a matter of which country is prepared to take her.

  • Researchers are looking into how to expand Covid-19 detection - with a Kiwi at the forefront of developing more accessible technology.
    Air New Zealand employees undertaking regular surveillance testing are participating in a Institute of Environmental Science and Research study, that will test saliva for the virus.
    The study will include the SalivaDirect Covid-19 testing technology developed by Nathan Grubaugh and New Zealander Anne Wyllie at Yale University in the US.
    While the Ministry of Health say at this stage there is still no indication that saliva PCR testing could replace the mandatory nasopharyngeal testing, health experts say it's only a matter of time.
    The ACT Party has come out this morning calling for daily mandatory saliva tests for border and MIQ Staff. So just how is saliva testing progressing?
    Dr Wyllie told Kerre McIvor that she wanted to make a test as effective as possible, and they worked off developing the same PCR technology as the nasal swabs but make it more affordable.
    "We started playing with this back in April. There's still such a dire need here in the US for testing, so anything we could do to increase access to testing."
    She says they validated their method with the National Basketball Association and their bubble.

  • Kerre McIvor shares her thoughts on housing intensification and NIMBY-ism below, and chats with National Party leader Judith Collins about finding the balance.
    Residents in Christchurch are up in arms about ugly intensive housing developments popping up in their neighbourhoods.
    They've started a petition, and National MP David Bennett is also behind a petition in Hamilton to halt a Kainga Ora housing development as it was a “high density development in a low density suburban area” that would “change the character of the suburb”.
    I can totally understand how residents would feel. When we were living in Grey Lynn and Wellpark College, which was a big college on a large piece of land went from one side of the block to the other, when that was sold, we assumed it was going to be an apartment complex put up there. Why wouldn’t there be? It made absolute sense that an apartment building would be put there. Though, as it turned out, beautiful, single level dwellings were put up.
    I still think they should have put apartments there. It was a perfect site for an apartment building, if you were looking to create lower cost housing in the central city.
    When residents of Point Chevalier, a lovely seaside suburb close to the central city complain, about six storey apartment blocks popping up next to family homes, again, understandable.
    But if the only reason to oppose the development is because you don't like it, that's simply not good enough. Not when people are desperate to get into their own homes in the cities.
    Even the National Party is now backing the Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which will stop councils from enforcing height limits of less than six storeys near major transit routes in an attempt to intensify cities.
    There is no need for intensification to necessarily be ugly. I can understand why people are opposed to intensification when you look around and see what’s happened to the monstrosity that is Auckland Central. But we need more homes – more thoughtfully planned, well designed homes, and that cannot be impossible.
    And interestingly, successful NIMBYs seem to come from the leafier, more expensive suburbs. They know how to use the process. But one of their more potent weapons may be done away with under the changes announced to the RMA.
    The NIMBY's weapon of choice is the RMA appeals process - blocking consents - and the Environment Minister won't commit to keeping it.

  • The stoush between Rawiri Waititi and the Speaker of the House is absolutely absurd. If Waititi wants to wear a hei tiki shaped taonga around his neck into Parliament for goodness sake, he should be able to.
    This stoush has been brewing for some time. Late last year, Waititi was warned that he faced being ejected from the House if he did not wear a tie, after refusing to wear one.
    Well, after refusing to wear what Mallard deems to be a tie. Peter Dunne was allowed to wear that absurd foppish bow tie in the debating chamber. It seems Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March, who is of Mexican descent, is allowed to wear a Bona bolo tie. These are as much ties as hei tiki.
    The origin of the tie appears to have come about after Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries during the 30 year war in France. They wore red scarfs around their necks and Louis liked the look so much, he appropriated it and thus the cravat was born, and from there came the tie.
    Ties came about because a French fop wanted to jazz up his wardrobe. It has nothing to do with a mark of respect or gravitas or dignity.
    Late last year, Mallard said he was open to relaxing the rules around ties in the House. He had asked all MPs for their opinion as to whether or not MPs should be wearing ties in Parliament.
    That feedback came back in the affirmative and the rule stayed.
    "A significant majority of members who responded opposed any change to dress standards for the Debating Chamber," Mallard said.
    "Having considered those views, I have decided that no change in current standards is warranted. Business attire, including a jacket and tie for men, remains the required dress standard."
    But as I mentioned above, Mallard is open to interpretation as to what a tie should look like. A bow tie? A piece of string? But not a hei tiki?
    Mallard is the problem, not the co-leader of the Māori Party. What if Labour needed the Māori Party to govern in a cobbled together coalition? You can bet your bippy then the Speakers version of what a tie looked like would include a hei tiki.
    Also, as we mentioned yesterday, the Speaker of the House has done more to sully the integrity of the House than Rawiri Waititi.
    Besides, is this really what we pay our MPs to do? Engage in personal power struggles wasting valuable time and energy that could be spent on issues that really matter? Get back to work like the rest of us had to do weeks earlier than you lot.

  • A Royal Society of New Zealand panel has been brought in to improve students' declining maths results.
    The Ministry of Educations National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement shows only 45 percent of students in Year 8 are achieving at the expected curriculum level.
    It comes after a survey late last year found Kiwi students' maths knowledge in the first year of high school, is below all other English speaking countries.
    Education Minister Chris Hipkins told Kerre McIvor that the politicisation of education isn't too blame, and both sides of the aisles agree it is an issue.
    However, he agrees that some of the solutions have been too political.
    "If you look at National Standards, they were tackling the right problem but they had the wrong solution."
    He says there has been bipartisanship in looking for a solution.

  • It is still a big regret of mine that I lost my way with maths.
    I was really enjoying maths for years and years and then I hit fifth form and either it was the change of teacher or I'd just reached my natural limit but one minute I had it, and the next minute it was gone.
    One minute I was enjoying the glorious purity of solving equations, the next the numerals and symbols were just incomprehensible ciphers.
    I managed to scrape through School C maths, then collapsed into a sixth form economics class and that was the end of maths for me.
    And I've had on my bucket list for years the desire to go back to school and learn the language of maths properly. It's a beautiful language and one I got to do the equivalent of saying Hello, how are you? and Thank you very much in - just your basic essentials but that was it.
    And it appears I'm not alone. For years and years, Kiwi kids have been on a slippery slope - if I knew maths I'd be able to put a maths pun in there about angles - sliding down the international league tables since global testing started in the 1990s.
    To be fair, we're also flunking in reading and science. But the latest results of the Trends in International Maths and Science Study released last year were so bad that everybody's decided that somebody has to do something .
    And look at that, somebody has. The Ministry of Education has called in a Royal Society expert panel to adapt the national curriculum to achieve this.
    There are four main surveys that measure how well our education system is doing. All show that we're in trouble. And we've known this for years. There are so many, many things wrong with our education system, it's hard to know where to start.
    Perhaps when our national curriculum advisory service was abolished with the establishement of Tomorrow's Schools. Schools became self governing and in recent years, schools have been left to buy their own advice from approved profit driven facilitators. Schools bid for professional development funding from a limited pool.
    Teachers need more support. Only 14 per cent of NZ Year 5 primary teachers specialised in maths in their training compared with a global average of 43 per cent. Kids are also missing out because teachers stream students into ability based groups far more than their global counterparts do.
    It's a shambles but it can and should be fixable.

  • A chance to help young people through the justice system, and reduce reoffending.
    The Young Adult List separates 18-25 year olds from adult court, and offers extra support.
    It's being trialled for 12 months at Porirua District Court, and is being described as a huge success.
    Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker told Kerre McIvor one of the biggest problems the programme addresses is the complicated jargon.
    "It's a strange and scary place and the language used is often not understood by people on the street, and people from whatever walk of life have a real hard job understanding the court process."
    He says the current system treats them as fully functioning adults, when they clearly aren't.
    "Unless we can have them fairly participate in the case which is about them, then there is no wraparound service or intervention that is going to work."

  • A maths expert thinks politics are at play in New Zealand's record low maths results.
    An expert panel's been called in by the Ministry of Education for advice on improving students' maths results.
    A survey has found Kiwi students' math knowledge in the first year of high school ranks below all other English-speaking countries.
    Massey University mathematics professor Bobbie Hunter told Kerre McIvor political agendas have contributed, leading to such things as National Standards, which derailed maths teaching.
    "In fact, we need to separate politics from policy, and set a New Zealand-wide policy in what we want from mathematics."
    She says e're still achieving at the same level as twenty years ago.
    "Our students haven't actually gone backwards - every other country has jumped over us."