I hope this newsletter finds you well.
A new interactive website has been developed in New Zealand’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Developed by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC), in partnership with Water Safety NZ and Recreation Aotearoa, https://www.covid19outdoors.nz/ has the support of more than 30 national organisations. The website enables users to select their location and pick from a wide-ranging list of recreational activities. Users are then provided with clear guidance as to whether that particular activity is permitted and if there are any restrictions or important considerations. The website currently covers 61 different land and water-based personal outdoor activities ranging from taking a walk around the neighbourhood through to mountain biking, skiing, hunting, paddle boarding, surfing, cycling and camping.
In support of the community, the Murupara Medical Centre continues to waive all fees during Alert Level 3. While the Pharmacy is dropping off medication in the letterboxes of those over the age of 70. Over Anzac weekend Kohutapu Lodge provided 300 hāngi meals and dessert to the community, providing for all frontline and essential workers, as well as the elderly.
10 selected schools in the Gisborne region are providing free lunches to their students during Alert Level 3. Last Wednesday, on their first day, Te Wharau School handed out 180 lunches! Lunches not collected are being frozen and handed out to families when needed.
Art is a powerful tool for expressing emotions and building community spirit during this very challenging Covid-19 crisis. As an opportunity for students to extend their thanks to the hardworking essential services, we’ve invited them to participate in our art competition, Thanking Essential Services Art (TESA). At present, the Beacon Newspaper is online free of charge and they are looking forward to displaying and seeing our children’s art. In the Gisborne Herald, the competition runs for two weeks. The 8 best artworks were displayed in the Gisborne Herald on Saturday, and this week it will run again. After the two weeks and when we get to Alert Level 2, we hope to display the best 2 artworks by public vote in the Gisborne Herald, for popular vote. Encourage your children to give it a go!
With Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday, it is interesting to reflect upon its history and how it came to be. Anna Jarvis, a 44 year old woman, who was an active suffragette in her youth, sparked the movement for Mother’s Day. She had the idea after her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, passed away. Despite Anna and her mother having a strained relationship, Anna worked tirelessly to have Mother’s Day recognised as a national holiday. A resolution for the recognition of Mother’s Day was brought before Congress on May 9th, 1908, however, the resolution failed to pass. However, 6 years later the resolution to designate the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day was passed.
Parliament resumed last week with reduced numbers to adhere to Level 3 rules. MPs were spaced around the House but we began to resume normal processes with Question Time each day and Select Committees continuing. The required debate on the Annual Reviews of all Government Agencies for the 18/19 financial year began in a shortened form. The rules allow MPs to debate the performance in that previous year, plus the current operations, allowing the COVID-19 response was able to be debated.
The usual Standing Order that restricts each MP to no more than 4 x 5 minute calls was relaxed to try and provide a better ‘conversation’ between the Minister and MPs. Because the debate takes place “In Committee” the Speaker cannot take part, and the Deputy Speaker is in charge of the debate.
Tuesday saw Finance and Health debated. Some finance Issues debated;
- NZ GDP growth declined from just under 4% in 2016 to 1.8% in Dec 2019 quarter – the economy was not strong going into Covid-19 crisis
- Coalition Government inherited massive surpluses and within 2 years was heading back into deficit
- Wage subsidy excellent for employees and quickly accessed in the main
- Small business access to support through the tax-loss carry-back scheme (Treasury estimate $3.1 billion) is not a cash handout to businesses. It simply changes the year the tax losses can be used to minimise their tax bill from the following tax year (2020-21) to the previous one (2019-20). So the Government is allowing businesses to access last year’s profits and offset this year’s projected losses. No subsidisation, no free money to the business community, no immediate relief for businesses who have no income but still paying all outgoings.
Some health issues raised;
- DHB deficits – growing to $304 million in first 7 months of this year after a final $230 million last year, so the third year of growing DHB deficits, as well as Holiday Act, pay issues resulting from 2003 legislation changes that were well signalled to the Clark Government as being deficient.
- Last year’s review raised questions around infectious disease eg meningitis, measles and influenza eg supply chain, contact tracing and general practice robustness.
- The supply chain was “Not a supply issue, a distribution issue” with measles and influenza vaccines last year. Same mantra this year with PPE! Contact Tracing – again a major issue from last year’s review featuring still during Covid-19 response.
Wednesday was Social Welfare and Workplace Relations and Safety
Some of the Social Welfare issues raised;
- Jobseeker benefit numbers in June 2019 had risen by nearly 14,000. 11.2% increase on the year before.
- Northland unemployment has grown from 8.7 % to 10% in just 9 months.
- 1 in 8 children born in NZ born into a benefit. Significant impact on children living in poverty – a priority for the PM as 60% of children living in material hardship come from benefit homes.
- Work programs – Mana in Mahi was launched for 4,000 places by PM. The annual review showed just 2000 places funded and few places had been filled with a 65% retention rate. Now only 1 in 4 is completing.
- Use of motels – housed people in need but not suitable for long term accommodation – what next?
Thursday saw passing through all stages legislation to make amendments to;
Income Tax Act, Tax Admin Act, Child Support Act, Animal Welfare Act, Public Finance Act, Crown Entities Act, SOE Act and Credit Contracts Legislation Amendment Act. Two main groups –relief from Covid-19 and regulatory compliance issues as a result of Covid-19.
Parliament resumes this week.
Stay safe and well.