Central Otago News & Ensign Columns - September

Check out my recent columns in both the Central Otago News and The Ensign.


Central Otago News column - published September 9.

Health Of River Is Vital


Cool heads and a common›sense approach must prevail as the Central Otago region faces a wave of issues relating to water.

Late last month I supported the decision of the majority of ORC councillors who voted to ask for more scientific information to be tabled before they decide on minimum flows for the Manuherikia River.

A complete scientific and ecological picture must be used to form a well›balanced decision informed by science.

Balance isat the heart of what the council should aim to achieve.

I believe everyone agrees that the health of the river is vital and that it should be future›proofed for generations to come.

At the same time, maintaining the wellbeing of the Central Otago community is essential.

The reality is that water drawn from the Manuherikia river creates hundreds upon hundreds of jobs, many of which contribute to afood supply chain feeding our communities and many further afield.

While the Manuherikia River’s minimum flows are being discussed, countrywide reforms including both the Water Services Bill and the Three Waters Reforms are also being considered.

My National colleagues and I have serious concerns about the Three Waters Reform programme.

I’m sure many of you will agree it’s easy to see why.

Councils will be stripped of ownership and control of their water assets while the country is projected to foot a bill of between $120 billion to $185 billion for the entire project.

To put that in perspective, New Zealand’s entire Gross Domestic Product last year was $190 billion.

Recently every mayor and chair in Otago and Southland called on the Government to pause the Three Waters reform programme so that they could obtain enough information and time to consult with their communities as they are legally required to do under the Local Government Act.

The Act says councils must consult with their communities on major changes to planning and infrastructure.

The Government has been putting pressure on councils to ignore that and push ahead with the reforms without giving councils sufficient information and time to meaningfully consult with their communities.

It’s not a responsible approach and it is at odds with the democratic processes New Zealand has developed and prides itself on.

That’s why I stand with those across the country opposing the Government’s agenda of mass centralisation which it’s pushing in other areas including polytechnics and across the health system.

Let’s ensure that our communities continue to be empowered to have a say on the things that matter most to them.


Ensign column - published September 8


Covid Response Priorities Wrong


Southlanders fronted up and did their part for New Zealand’s safety following the recent Delta outbreak so it is only fair to ask if the Government did the same.

With the largest percentage of essential workers of any province in the country, it has been business as usual for the many who have kept our region going.

From truck drivers, supermarket workers, meat workers, health staff and everyone in between I thank you for your hard work and dedication.

Of course, farmers and our food-producing teams deserve a special thank you, too.

Businesses and individuals across Southland forced out of work during lockdown will be left counting the cost of closing for much longer than the two weeks of Level 4.

Given the sacrifices that have been made, questions must be asked of the Government’s preparation for another Covid-19 outbreak.

In the South under the Ministry of Health’s watch, no extra ventilators were stocked in Southern DHB hospitals in the months leading up to the Auckland outbreak, with the total left at just 20.

As Delta raged across New South Wales, the Government made nochanges to New Zealand’s ICU infrastructure.

Instead of investing in ICU equipment and staff during that time, spending on restructuring the health system ballooned from $5 million to $38 million.

To top it off the Government announced a freeze onthe pay for healthcare staff, which really amounted to a pay cut when you factor in inflationary pressure.

The Government’s stance on immigration hasn’t helped, either.

It’s hard to fathom that during a pandemic it isn’t urgently processing the applications of the more than 2200 nurses and 650 doctors who have submitted expressions of interest for residency under the skilled migrant category visa.

Gaps in the Government’s Covid preparation and response range from the management of MIQ facilities to a lack of support for small businesses.

In the middle of a pandemic, this Government has been focused on massive centralisation reform projects like the amalgamation of polytechnics, Three Waters and the health system.

A sensible approach would have bolstered ventilator supplies, ICU capacity, healthcare staffing needs, the vaccine rollout and MIQ protection as the threat of Delta loomed.

That’s the practical and commonsense approach and it’s the same one essential workers have used in Southland during every day of Alert Level 3 and Level 4.