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Labour and welfare

Written By: - Date published: 7:34 am, August 22nd, 2019 - 93 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, class war, drugs, greens, jacinda ardern - Tags: ,

During the election campaign in 2017 it became a concern that despite Labour’s stated intention that all New Zealanders deserved to live with dignity and be free from poverty, their approach to welfare was that there would be certain New Zealanders who would be sacrificed because we can’t save everyone. The question then arose: which of us would it be?

In 2018, five months into the new government, I wrote in a post,

It’s possible that Labour will take a pragmatic approach of keeping the underclass in a holding pattern while trying to prevent those above falling down the hole. Sepuloni,

“It’s about proportionate universalism. There are people with high and complex needs and yes they need additional support … but the group of people that I’d be concerned about is that tier of New Zealanders who don’t have high and complex needs, but are really on the brink,” she said.

“It wouldn’t take much for them to fall into that at risk category. Someone loses their job, someone becomes really unwell really quickly and unexpectedly and all of a sudden we’re in the difficult predicament.”

Without a values-based commitment to helping everyone, it’s hard not to start looking at who Labour will sacrifice this time.

Who is being sacrificed is clear now, I just didn’t think that it would be Labour actively pushing people into the hole by removing their income for 3 months.

Even allowing for TVNZ’s obvious hack and paste for maximum manipulation in this video, it’s still shocking to see Labour being in such complete alignment with Paula Bennett’s punitive welfare policy on drug testing beneficiaries. 

1 NEWS revealed this week that of the nearly 40,000 beneficiaries referred for jobs that required a drug test this year, there were only 114 failed tests and on 72 occasions beneficiaries were punished with sanctions.

Under the sanctions, regime job seekers’ can have their benefit cut by 50 per cent for four weeks, then stopped altogether if there are further infringements.

That’s beneficiaries with children. Those without children can lose their whole benefit for 13 weeks. Sanctions kick in after a process of failing three tests (which the beneficiary has to pay for), so there will be the argument that it’s only fair, beneficiaries had a choice. But one subtext here is an old and tired one, that beneficiaries are to be denied the simple pleasures in life. Jacinda Ardern herself criticised the policy in 2013 for its inability to differentiate between drug abuse and recreational use. And those that are addicted need support not penalties.

Living on a 50 – 100% reduction of a low income for one to three months is something that some people will struggle to ever recover from. Many beneficiaries have no savings and have no cash whatsoever by the end of each week.

In that situation how do you pay rent for 4 weeks with no income, let alone 3 months? Or buy food? Afford bus fare to get to job interviews? If you get a big unexpected cost in that time eg car repair, or your freezer breaks down, or a series of children’s medical bills, you go further into debt and at some point it becomes impossible to get out of that.

When Labour were in opposition, Ardern as Spokesperson on Social Development, and Phil Twyford, both heavily criticised National’s new drug testing policy because of the problems that the associated sanctions would cause. Now both Ardern and Minister for Social development, Carmel Sepuloni, are saying the testing and sanctions will remain, and are needed to ‘encourage’ beneficiaries to get a job.

Jacinda Arden, Minister for Child Poverty Reduction,

Ms Ardern told TVNZ1’s Breakfast, “when there are children involved there is a different approach”. 

“You can’t and you shouldn’t lose your full benefit – the sanction is limited, there is a sanction but it’s not in full because you have children in your care and we have to think about kids in those situations.”

But in 2013, when National introduced new benefit sanctions, Labour MP Phil Twyford said cutting people’s benefits by 50 percent when they have children will “ultimately do severe damage to the child”.

So which is it Jacinda? Only cutting by 50% is about doing right by children, or cutting by 50% will severely damage them. How is this helping people on the brink? How is this not pushing people down into the hole of serious poverty?

Is the ‘encouragement’ value really worth the risk of destroying the lives of 72 people, and any children and partners they have? Or are they just the collateral damage in the service of jobs at all costs even though there aren’t enough to go around?

Even if one accepts the position that we should save those we can and sacrifice others to do so, who actually believes that severely punishing 72 people who fail to get a drug testable job will change anything meaningful? If they’re addicted to drugs, how will this help? If they’re using recreational drugs, how is forcing them into a job they wouldn’t normally apply for, and that will be at risk from that use, going to be a good thing?

For those that remain unconvinced that the sanction policy is bad policy, consider that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommended drug-testing sanctions be removed. MSD’s evidence brief to WEAG showed that drug-testing was unreliable and not fit for purpose, and that sanctions had been shown overseas to lead to things like food insecurity and hospital admissions for children. 

So what is going on? At this point I don’t even care if this is partly New Zealand First’s influence, NZF don’t control what Labour say to the public. Labour have a chance here. They come out and reframe the discussion so that they don’t look like converts to the Paula Bennett School of Beneficiary Bashing and Humiliation, or they lose whatever respect that might be left on welfare issues.

At the moment it looks like a facade just fell off and we are seeing Labour’s ideological commitment to punitive welfare and class divisions based on who are the deserving poor. I don’t expect there to be much media coverage of this, but it is a milestone in Labour losing the moral authority to lead on wellbeing in New Zealand.

This policy isn’t a progressive position and it dovetails with most of what Labour are doing on welfare. They tinker around the edges, but remain unmoved on any real improvement for beneficaries.

It seems unlikely this will change any time soon and we should remember this come the next election. Labour can still get to lead the government, but that government will be greatly improved by a stronger Green coalition partner with an actual progressive welfare policy that includes removal of punitive sanctions.

 

93 comments on “Labour and welfare ”

  1. Grant Insley 1

    "That’s beneficiaries with children." ? Nowhere in Heralds report did I see the mention of beneficiaries with children. If the sanctions had been on beneficiaries with children, I'd put money on The Herald making a LOUD noise about it. They didn't. I have my doubts…….

    • weka 1.1

      Did you read the whole post?

      Ms Ardern told TVNZ1’s Breakfast, “when there are children involved there is a different approach".

      • Rapunzel 1.1.1

        See until now, just as with some savings at Auck council, I never "heard" that or was not discerning enough to pick it up, I feel like a mushroom with cloth ears.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          TVNZ bungled the reporting a bit. I haven't seen the Herald coverage, but I only understood what was going on when I looked up the actual policy on WINZ's website.

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    It is stating the obvious that the underclass created by the neo liberal experiment in this country was kicked off by Labour in 1984, when mass sackings occurred as Govt. Departments became SOEs required to produce dividends, Manufacturing was run down, and Import substitution regimes like Car Assembly ended.

    Todays generational poor and precariously employed are indeed the children of ‘Roger’n’Ruth’. Richardson slashed benefits below the level acknowledged necessary to feed people adequately. Clark bought in “Jobs Jolt” that stopped beneficiaries social mobility. Beneficiaries would be cut off if they moved to towns with high unemployment. The old Social Security model retired, for a punitive, sadistic WINZ/MSD that runs a winners and losers model, that holds individuals to blame for macro economic decisions well beyond their control.

    The Experts Working Group had people like Robert Reid, First Union President, on it, and AAAP–Auckland Action Against Poverty, people involved in the Unemployment and Beneficiaries movements for many years. It is a travesty that their excellent report has basically been dispatched into the Manukau Harbour in a concrete overcoat!

    “Well Being” but not for Beneficiaries. Labour urgently needs some better political management and to stop being in thrall to the neo liberal CEOs and managers at WINZ/MSD and other Ministries that are not their friends at all.

    • wot t.m. said…

      and that outright war on the poor has been replaced by neoliberal-incrementalist 'reforms'..

      which by their very nature mean s.f.a. changes..

      and the minister in charge walks/talks like a tory in labour drag..

      and j.ardern tells us it is 'complex'…

      meanwhile the boot stays on the neck of the poorest..

      benefit rates have not changed more than a pittance..

      yes – sole-parents are getting more (and this is the one ray of light – in a still gloomy room..)

      two yrs into this 'transformational' gummint – nothing has changed for the poor/homeless..

      and what little has been done by this gummint – is nowhere near enough..

      (and before people start yelling at me – yes – they are better that the 'feckin' tories..

      but really – that's enough..?..)

      • Tiger Mountain 2.1.1

        Well put phillip

        there is so much that could be changed overnight, like abatement rates and stand downs, and shit treatment of people, if the likes of Carmel Sepuloni were not seemingly intimidated by certain senior public servants and policy wankers

        incremental moves on Minimum Wage, Fair Pay Agreements, Pay Equity settlements for carers etc. mean low paid workers are becoming slightly higher paid workers over time–so the old hang beneficiaries out to dry–“work will set you free” nonsense can be dropped

  3. Pat 3

    "It’s possible that Labour will take a pragmatic approach of keeping the underclass in a holding pattern while trying to prevent those above falling down the hole"

    Am curious as to why you chose that statement (and repeated here) as apparently key….whether the course Labour is taking is pragmatic is open to debate, but surely any policy has to be pragmatic…theory is fine, but only if supported by results.

    • weka 3.1

      the post in 2018 was me exploring whether Labour were ideologically committed to sacrificing beneficiaries or it was more a matter of them just needing time to make changes at WINZ. I was still giving them, and Sepuloni, the benefit of the doubt.

      I repeated that bit here because it shows that Sepuloni understands the dynamics of poverty creation well enough, and it was a good contrast with them now actively creating poverty for people, which is different from them just letting people fail.

      I'm good with pragmatics. I don't think this is what is happening. I think Labour are ideologically aligned with sanctioning drug users no matter that pragmatic consequences.

      PM suggests below that it might be about the pragmatics of middle NZ votes, but that's not the kind of pragmatics I was referring to.

      • Pat 3.1.1

        k…that being so shouldn't it then read ' its possible will take an idealogical approach…etc' ?

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          last year I thought that Labour wanted to do the right things but were constrained by fear of the electorate. Hence 'pragmatics'. Now I think it's ideology, that they actually believe that punishing drug users is a good approach.

          Not sure if you are quibbling semantics or trying to make a point about Labour.

          • Pat 3.1.1.1.1

            neither…am trying to understand what you mean

            • weka 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Compare to how the Greens manage this (acknowledging the difference between being a junior partner and having the responsibility of forming govt). The Greens are clear that they won't compromise on core values, but will do deals and adjustments on policy where they because of pragmatics.

              It's just taken me awhile to name Labour's core value here. I think that they have a problem with welfare. Whereas the Greens are very easy with it because their core values are that people do best when supported not punished. Labour still believe in the value of punishment, so the sanctions policy, and other problematic welfare policies, aren't an issue for them in the way they are for other people who hold different values.

              I see this in other areas of Labour's welfare policy. It's why they focus on work and are incapable of addressing welfare for disabled people who can't work. If you start from a position of welfare being a good thing, that's solvable. If you start from a position of welfare being a necessary evil, then it's harder to make changes that don't undermine your baseline position (everyone should be working).

              I used to think that Labour were less unkind than that and would eventually get to solving the welfare problems. I don't anymore. I think they're concerned about middle NZ votes, but I think the block is really in their core values. Whatever they're saying about kindness and dignity, it's not reflected in what they do with welfare.

              • Pat

                First thing I will say is that our interpretations of 'pragmatic' would appear to be at odds…

                …that said Labour have always differentiated between the 'working poor' and beneficiaries, and there are economic reasons that predate neoliberalism. Given their rhetoric at election time particularly around child poverty they have created a rod for their own back given the link but then none of their policy from that period is coherent…they were missing in action for the entire Key period and really havnt recovered.

                The truly sad thing is that 2 years into their government they still appear to be incapable of coherent policy development…and the really scary thing is the alternative

                • weka

                  what do you mean by pragmatic?

                  I haven't really looked at their policy development since the election. I was assuming they still believe that the solution to child poverty is to get people into jobs and are working on that across a number of areas.

                  • Pat

                    pragmatic is realistic and sensible and based on outcome (which may involve an element of suck it and see) not necessarily theory, though the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

                    And yes I would agree that Labours strategy (such as it is) is to address child poverty through work…and given the world economic outlook that is likely to be problematic

                  • The Chairman

                    I was assuming they still believe that the solution to child poverty is to get people into jobs and are working on that across a number of areas.

                    Indeed, that seems to be their focus. However, with around half the kids living in poverty coming from working households (due to our current low wages) that solution is largely a fallacy. Hence, before Labour assist people into work they need to better address the low rate of wages.

                    Now, while people may point to WFF, with the ever growing number of low income workers queuing at food banks, evidently that’s not doing enough to turn things around.

      • Chris 3.1.2

        There have been countless arguments on this site about Labour's position on benefits. TPK very recently defended Labour by referring to the statutory annual CPI increase as evidence of Labour's commitment to increasing main benefits. Those of us who challenge Labour and its track record on benefits are maligned as destructive and negative and without evidence to support what we say about Labour's clear lack of desire to really change things.

        It's time Labour supporters and others on the Left took the time to familiarise themselves with some of the historical detail around what Labour's been responsible for since 1999, both while in government and opposition. Resting on a belief that 'at least they're not as bad as the other lot' isn't enough, especially when the evidence tells us that that's not in fact true.

  4. At the moment it looks like a facade just fell off and we are seeing Labour’s ideological commitment to punitive welfare and class divisions based on who are the deserving poor.

    Well, a facade fell off, but I think what it's exposed is fear of how middle NZ would feel about the government not punishing beneficiaries who fail these bullshit drugs tests. If you're aiming to get 40% of the vote, you have to appeal to a lot of decidedly non-progressive voters.

    • Adrian Thornton 4.1

      Just like you to advocate bowing, shaking like a leaf on bended knees to the whims of middle classes…it’s pathetic.

    • weka 4.2

      Quite possibly PM, but some of those middle NZ people appear to be Labour MPs. I don't think Labour are thinking, oh I really wish we could help these people but we're not going to because we'll lose votes. I think they actually think this is the right thing to be doing to those beneficiaries. Otherwise they'd be handling the messaging on this differently. But they're pretty consistent on the deserving poor messaging, this is just the most blatant I've seen it. I'd love to see the full video that TVNZ has, but what they showed was Ardern not even trying to be decent. Ball is firmly in her court today if that’s not true.

      • Rosemary McDonald 4.2.1

        I think they actually think this is the right thing to be doing to those beneficiaries.

        There's Uncle Shane. He's made it one of his signature policies to do whatever it takes to get the 'nephews of the couch'. And if one spends a wee amount of time in some of the communities he is referring to then yes, perhaps there needs to be some…encouragement…to break the cycle.

        But in the wider scheme of things, there are very many beneficiaries for whom sustainable and secure employment is a distant idea, and to a significant number will never happen. Through no fault of their own. And this government, just like the last, has treated these people like shit. And they will continue to do so as long as they are whores to the middle vote. And the continued 'support' of NZF.

        At the moment it looks like a facade just fell off

        The facade fell off on the day that Ardern's spin team got the messaging so horribly, horribly wrong with The Great Kiwibuild Launch. Whoever thought that it was appropriate to channel Savage when buttsnorkelling for the upper middle voter should have been keelhauled.

        https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/ardern-welcomes-first-kiwibuild-families-new-homes

        SSDD

        • weka 4.2.1.1

          heh, isn't buttsnorkling the upper middle classes what Kiwibuild has always been about? Kiwibuild was made for them.

          Helping communities to break the cycle of whatever is one thing. Pushing poor people down a hole is completely different. The only way I can make sense of the policy is to understand Labour are ok with collateral damage.

          • Adrian Thornton 4.2.1.1.1

            Unfortunately Labour NZ is only conforming to it's stated neoliberal ideology, so I am not really sure why anyone is surprised at it's lack of long term vision, or real commitment to any kind of meaningful progressive change..to quote Jane Kelsey.. “A neoliberal mind-set of living for ourselves today and hoping tomorrow will look after itself permeates government, business, and many Kiwis’ psyches.”

            I mean seriously when your political party's battle cry is 'positive pragmatism' then you really know you are in the shit.

            Turn Labour Left!

        • SHG 4.2.1.2

          There's Uncle Shane. He's made it one of his signature policies to do whatever it takes to get the 'nephews of the couch'.

          And if there’s anyone who knows the value of hard work, it’s Shane Jones. Yep, Shane “I love hard work” Jones sure does love working hard at loving hard work.

        • Wensleydale 4.2.1.3

          I remember back in the late '90s during the reign of Reichsführer Shipley, I was required to attend a WINZ seminar. It was ostensibly about 'getting back to work', but it was basically a cuddle-fest run by a weird Dutch bloke in an unattractive cardigan. We all had to stand up and introduce ourselves, wear colourful name-tags and talk about our hopes and dreams for the future. We spent most of the time humouring our exuberant host, smiling awkwardly and desperately wishing we were somewhere else. Many of the attendees were immigrants – qualified electricians, engineers, carpenters… but the majority of them drove taxis because they didn't have the equivalent New Zealand certifications. Some attendees were semi-literate, barely coherent and one bloke used the opportunity to loudly harangue the government about causing the death of his mother. (He was later removed by security for being disruptive and aggressive.) I spent most of the afternoon trying to write CVs for people who could barely read or write, had zero qualifications, and realistically stood no chance of acquiring gainful employment. It was a uniquely depressing experience, and something I never care to repeat.

          Contrary to popular belief, being a beneficiary is not fun. You're not on the pig's back or riding the gravy train. You're constantly scraping and scrimping just to get by, and subsisting on a diet of baked beans and Weet-bix gets really old really fast. You’re also regarded as subhuman scum by large swathes of the general populace. It's a miserable, dispiriting test of endurance and it robs you of your self-confidence and your dignity. I don't wish it on anyone.

      • Psycho Milt 4.2.2

        … some of those middle NZ people appear to be Labour MPs.

        Yep. The party's always had some conservatives in the ranks, and still does. It's annoying, but there isn't any way to be a mass-market party without that. I don't think Ardern's one of them though – I suspect her comments reflect cold, hard assessment of likely voter appeal than personal ideology.

        • weka 4.2.2.1

          so she's compromising her values to win votes? That's cold.

          • Psycho Milt 4.2.2.1.1

            I think that's it, yes. It's entirely rational:

            Premise 1: The party's purpose is to achieve improvements for lower classes.

            Premise 2: Improvements achievable from opposition = 0.

            Conclusion: Therefore, avoiding return to opposition is the primary goal – proposed improvements mustn't conflict with it.

            This is one reason I could never be in politics (or any other major leadership role) – the fact that your actions have a rational basis isn't much of a salve to your conscience when the actions mean misery for significant numbers of people. It takes a special kind of toughness to bear that, and I expect Ardern will look older than her years by the time she leaves this job.

  5. Sabine 5

    Labour, kinder and gentler, but no where better. And those that depend on well being government will just have to rejoice with the crumbs they get.

    I think that really is the crux of the matter. Labour as much as National or NZF or any of the christian parties are still in that punitive form of puritanism of pulling one up by bootstraps while wearing gumboots and if that does not work it must be because one is lazy and undeserving. The greens well …..there shall be no gummibears, too.

    As Psycho Milt says Labour is appealing to the conservative vote rather then the non voters. And labour will be a nice shade of purple with a deep hint of blue in order to get elected again. After all it does not want to deal with NZF again.

    the public will vote again for the lesser evil without ever asking how much lesser it is so as long as it is kinder and gentler.

    A friend of mine one said, you can put a red ribbon around it, cover it in vaseline and it still hurts. go figure.

  6. Adrian 6

    If benefits are cut to those with children and there is no evidence of such and 72 out of 40,000 is a very small percentage anyway, about 2 in 1000, it is very unlikely that children are involved. If in the unlikely event that children were involved and there was no penalty what gets the first call on the money, food, clothes and shoes for those kids or dope, meth or whatever other shit is available.? I know what my bets are on.

    • weka 6.1

      if children weren't involved why did Ardern say “when there are children involved there is a different approach”?

      Are you suggesting that it's ok to cut the benefit of adults with kids if the adult is an out of control addict? It's unclear what you meant by raising that.

      What about the kids whose parents aren't spending their benefit first on drugs? It's a shit policy.

    • David Mac 6.2

      I’m not able to believe that only 1 in every 500 beneficiaries enjoys an occasional toke. I think any level headed person with a mildly diverse life history would estimate 1 or 2 in every 10. But….so what?

      It’s a fresh way to whip those flat out treading water. If it were more than that, we’d take a holistic approach to identifying drug use amongst those dependent on the taxpayer for their income and start with the ones that cost us the most.

      • Kevin 6.2.1

        "I’m not able to believe that only 1 in every 500 beneficiaries enjoys an occasional toke. I think any level headed person with a mildly diverse life history would estimate 1 or 2 in every 10."

        Based on what? Your stereotypical view of who constitutes a 'beneficiary'?

        • David Mac 6.2.1.1

          Beneficiary, armed guard or Uber driver, I think my estimate stands for all of us, that's my point. I reckon about 1 or 2 in every 10 adults enjoy an occasional toke. The variable will be someone on a limited budget is obliged to chisel an occasional $10 worth out of a working pal's bag. What's your guess Kevin?

      • Adrian 6.2.2

        Its 1 in 500 who faced sanctions.

        • phillip ure 6.2.2.1

          um..!..can i just note..that most poor people can't afford to buy dope..

          ..drug-testing the middle-class..would give a much higher rate that 1 in 500..

          (and would the recent testings of waste-water also confirm a much higher rate than 1 in 500..?..)

  7. Stuart Munro. 7

    I'm afraid Labour disappointed all my expectations when they colluded with the Gnats and fishing industry turning a blind eye to the illegal use of slave crews. They still like to pretend they didn't do it. This drug testing thing is just more of the same.

    The neoliberal premise that sold Labour on Rogergnomics, is that they or Treasury are competent and that enacting neoliberal prescriptions will enrich us all. Yet they fail to act on unequivocally economically negative phenomena like capital gains, imposing massive ongoing dead weight costs right across the economy.

    The best we can expect from them is some pretention to kindness – they don't have the economic chops to trade in neoliberalism for developmentalism, nor the commitment to look at hard issues like drugs and consistently choose the best policy as opposed to the least disruptive of the status quo. Lesser of two evils is all the menu offers – enlightened governance not so much.

    • gsays 7.1

      Agree with that Stuart, although I think you have understated Winston and NZ 1st influence on the go easy on the fishing industry.

      • Stuart Munro. 7.1.1

        It's a practice that was going on well before Winston (or Shane Jones for that matter) were in a position to influence policy – as soon as the rules required for boats to be registered in NZ to get a permit (some time prior to 1989 as it happens). It ought to have been a clue that one of the Talleys – not a group known for their excessive care of workers – condemned the practice back in the early nineties (and promptly created a shell called Amalgamated Marketing to conduct all his company's charter fishing so as not to leave his main concerns liable).

        There's a parallel with the lack of skill growth in the trades in the southern US that accompanied slavery, that would have been instructive were our governments as keen on economic development as rhetorical devices like "It's the economy, Stupid" were meant to lead us to believe.

  8. lprent 8

    The thing that I find most objectionable about this apart from having sanctions or stand-downs is that 40% of the jobs or training listed require a drug test.

    https://fyi.org.nz/request/1863/response/6627/attach/html/2/Harris%20Alex%20Final%20Response%20dated%2027%20August%202014.pdf.html

    There simply aren't that many jobs that require drug tests. They are essentially those that are dangerous when someone is inebriated or drugged up. Then they should be looking at a much wider range of drugs because most of the anti-psychotic drugs need to be tested as well.

    I think that the employers need to make a case about why their job requires a drug-test.

    • weka 8.1

      what's up with that? Employers deciding to drug test people who are beneficiaries specifically rather than every applicant? Or is drug testing now widespread?

      • Rosemary McDonald 8.1.1

        Or is drug testing now widespread?

        Yes. I heard just the other day that random drug testing was being brought into a commercial laboratory doing routine sample testing. I guess it could have significant downstream ramifications if Scientist C2 was still impaired from the weekend's partying and missed a contaminated batch. Cue pubic health nightmare and potential damage to exports.

        I remember this…https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:OmzxZg3eMowJ:https://worksafe.govt.nz/dmsdocument/3208-guidance-for-managing-drug-and-alcohol-related-risks-in-adventure-activities+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=nz&client=firefox-b-d ….from 2013when I was trying to find out if agricultural pilots were subject to routine drug screening. The document covers prescribed as well as recreational drugs.

        We have an appalling reputation for poor workplace safety. Our 'she'll be right' culture sees far too many workers fail to return home at the end of their shift. Yes, it is the responsibility of management to provide a safe working environment, but all is for nought if there is no clear expectation that workers are going to arrive totally unimpaired by prescription or recreational chemicals.

        • Dukeofurl 8.1.1.1

          "As a business owner you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your staff whilst they are in your workplace.Do you really know if your staff are sober or under the influence putting their peers and your business at risk?" The private company 'The Drug testing Agency'

          https://tdda.com/

          Hardly an issue if the employees are sales clerks or computer programmers

    • Stuart Munro. 8.2

      I believe that was part of a strategy to depress wages and foster support for migrant labour. The drug test is a wife beater, if you're a prospective employee – you may not decline it, and reservations about false positives aren't tolerated.

      Part of the problem is that there are two narratives on drug consequences – claims that it costs hundreds of lives that seem downright ambitious, and the harm minimization approach that has led to legalization across much of the US. If you buy the first line there are many jobs a positive drug test might disallow, but objective comparisons of job hazards and residual drug effects would probably restrict such testing to the likes of surgeons (fine motor skills & critical clinical judgment & pharmaceutical access).

      • Psycho Milt 8.2.1

        I believe that was part of a strategy to depress wages and foster support for migrant labour.

        Same here. As with the meth-testing scam, it just makes no sense unless you assume malicious intent.

  9. bwaghorn 9

    They need to shift workplace drug testing to an impairment test during work hours . What you do in your own time is yours (and possibly the cops) business .

  10. Tiger Mountain 10

    Some workplaces, including unionised ones, are moving to saliva testing, now that it is an accepted method, which is more likely to show recent use and possible impairment, whereas urine testing shows use at some stage–the consultants and kit retailers like the nice little earn from urine testing though, and some punitive employers like to rattle cages

    • Rapunzel 10.1

      I wish they would sort it out, relationship/knowledge of a small/med business where safety is daily at risk and must be a priority which goes hand in hand with meeting safety and insurance cover requirements. The operators face an ongoing issue of having to test, encouraging and educating staff and are open to all workers who want fair wages for admittedly what is hard work. Persistence has paid off in mainly Kiwi crews but the reality is that all the wishing and hoping and oversight means they still get "let down" and that I know is a painful process for all concerned and sometimes families.

      Sensible testing is desperately needed.

    • bwaghorn 10.2

      It's a great business model .

      While I was crawling out of Auckland ( you poor dumb barstards live like that) I heard an ad for a drug testing company pumping the fear angle.

      • Rapunzel 10.2.1

        Rather than be tied up with the type of "middle-men", reminds me all to much of the "P" clean-ups, for testing they under took the training to be qualified to test themselves incl pre-employment to reduce complications and try to get the keenest workers and keep it all on track. I can also say for that reason they were "doubly" scrupulous with compliance, in that case you have no one else to blame and communicating with staff of how meeting that is of overall benefit for all is better than not taking the interest in safety for your staff, yourselves and the business that earns the income for everyone. They are not greedy people but had built it up from skills learned over decades beginning as a young workers out of school.

  11. Kay 11

    But the lovely new paint job and pot plants in the waiting area at my local WINZ office are seriously making me consider changing my vote back to Labour 🙂 /sarc

  12. cleangreen 12

    Labour are a 'right leaning risk adverse political party' now not a true 'party for the people as ‘Social Credit’ are..

    I wished to to proven wrong.

  13. AB 13

    Labour have made some assumptions about what a significant chunk of their supporters believe, i.e. that there is hostility towards perceived 'bludgers' and an ingrained puritan work ethic. These assumptions may be backed up by data from focus groups.

    If they are wrong in these assumptions, then we'd expect to see the Greens make important gains from Labour in 2020. If the assumptions are correct, then the best tactic is to deal some serious body blows to poverty while ostensibly attacking an entirely different problem where taking action has widespread support – such as Climate Change.

  14. Dukeofurl 14

    Just reading the background links in the story.

    This was the claim made

    MSD’s evidence brief to WEAG showed that drug-testing was unreliable and not fit for purpose

    However the MSD brief does say this

    There is no research on the effects of New Zealand drug testing obligations and sanctions.

    page 2.

    However the words "unreliable" and "fit for purpose" dont appear anywhere in MSD brief as linked. ( based on a word search)

    The phrase seems to be Wekas summary rather than part of MSD Brief as claimed. If there is no research for NZs regime then we cant claim what is really known other than at anecdotal level.

    • Michael 14.1

      Dukeofurl said:

      "However the words "unreliable" and "fit for purpose" dont appear anywhere in MSD brief as linked. "

      But page 10 of the MSd Brief said (inside a blue box):

      "Additional considerations in interpreting the available evidence base are the limitations of drug testing instruments, and the implications these have for the effectiveness of drug testing policies:
       Common drug-testing instruments do not produce reliable estimates of drug
      use. Detection of drug use depends not only on substance use but also on other
      factors such as the characteristics of each drug, individual metabolism, and cut-off
      levels. Common urinary drug testing is more likely to identify marijuana users
      compared with people using harder drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, as these drugs
      exit the body’s system within several hours or days. In comparison, marijuana can
      remain in the body for weeks after use. Most drug tests also only identify the
      presence of a substance in the body, and do not distinguish between use of illegal
      drugs and the legitimate use of certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs
      (ASPE, 2011; Crew and Davis, 2003).
       Results cannot distinguish between occasional substance users and those
      with a substance use disorder. Drug tests detect recent drug use, but provide no
      information about frequency of use, impairment or treatment needs. Many individuals
      who are likely to test positive will be casual drug users who do not satisfy diagnostic
      criteria for dependence. For example, a University of Michigan study of a drug-testing
      programme found that the majority of those who tested positive were casual users
      with no classifiable underlying addiction (Pollack et al. 2002).
       A positive drug test cannot establish whether or not a person is intoxicated
      or impaired. It cannot differentiate between drug use that has no impact on
      workplace safety or productivity and problematic drug use causing intoxication or
      impairment at the workplace (NZ Drug Foundation, 2011)."

      Thus the impairment tests are forensically unreliable, as MSD admits. Yet it continues to sanction thousands of people for "failing" those tests.

      • Dukeofurl 14.1.1

        How can that be when this definitive statement is made

        "There is no research on the effects of New Zealand drug testing obligations and sanctions.

        I think you are confusing ' testing for any drug use' and testing how much use as evidence of impairment or dependence.

        Its a silly thing to say that drug tests cant do what they say, but certainly they cant say how much drug use there is , from casual user or dependence. Thats whats 'unreliable'

        We went through all this 40 years ago with alcohol testing and the level doesnt distinguish between an alcoholic or someone just had a few drinks. That is important when your job involves more dangerous occupations like forestry but not such a big deal if you work as a sales clerk in a clothing store.

        I understand from the MSD brief that the sanctions were mainly if:

        the job required drug testing

        and were graduated so that multiple failures were recorded before a 13 week stand down occurred. ( surely thats evidence of dependence!)

        Tests for alcohol ( as a drug) are detected by 'instruments' and repeated test failures while driving mean its longer loss of license .

        • weka 14.1.1.1

          doesn't breathalising drivers for alcohol show a level deemed a problem and is followed by a blood test to measure how much? And that how much has a reasonably clear correlation to impairment. It's different from other drug testing.

          • Incognito 14.1.1.1.1

            There are different types of breath tests. One is to detect whether you have been drinking while the evidential breath test gives an actual measurement using a calibrated device. There is a close correlation between the concentration in exhaled breath and blood.

            https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/about-limits/alcohol-and-drugs-limits/

            Impairment is such a vague term and can have so many causes. For example, illness (fever), food poisoning, depression (suicidal pilots), tiredness, et cetera. Similarly, many people are distracted when they should be concentrating and focussed (e.g. mobile phones while driving).

            It is such a can of worms.

    • weka 14.2

      yes, my summary based on a quick read. I don't think it's any secret that the drug testing being used doesn't evaluate impairment and is generally regarded as useless. Impairment is the only reason that I can see to drug test employees.

      • Dukeofurl 14.2.1

        What about multiple test failures ? Surely evidence of dependence.

        I used to know a female lawyer who smoked 'marijuana by the sack full' – her words. The safety at a desk job isnt a problem , but surely impairment for the type of work and managing workload.

        For Forestry is on site random testing and zero tolerance. No surprise there as its a highly dangerous job.

        • weka 14.2.1.1

          If someone has a dependence on a drug, it's fucking stupid as to make them apply for jobs that are dangerous to do while impaired.

          But afaik, the drug testing being done isn't for impairment, it's for presence of a drug in the past, even if that's recreational use on the weekend.

        • Psycho Milt 14.2.1.2

          If drug tests showed that you'd consumed alcohol in the last week, I'd fail a drug test every time. And yet I've never been drunk on the job. Tests that are a useful proxy for current impairment are the only useful ones.

  15. Ad 15

    Sepuloni is your target Weka.

    Old people get money for winter heating.

    Why not children?

    If this government can't raise core rates with headline unemployment at 4%, ie when it's easy, can't see them doing it when it gets hard.

    A cold winter to be on a benefit.

    • Dukeofurl 15.1

      Thats totally wrong claim

      "Old people get money for winter heating. "

      The payment is for ALL beneficiaries: unemployment , sickness, DPB and pensioners

    • weka 15.2

      Wouldn't that be a Cabinet decision? That Peters is involved with. It will be interesting to see what Labour do with a L/G government, esp on with more Green MPs i.e. what the influence of Peters has been will be more evident. Then Sepuloni can bear more of the burden (I think she already deserves to carry a lot).

      As Duke points out, the heating payment goes to all beneficiaries (maybe all low income people that apply). For some it will be a real help, for others I suspect they will find it sucked up in the next rent rise.

      • Dukeofurl 15.2.1

        ALL means all beneficaries, its not means tested or have to show eligibility nor taxed at source.

        as for Ad's concern 'for the children'

        "Single people with no children will get $20.46 a week. People with children will get $31.82 a week.

        I see it as a benefit increase with a 'marketing name' as is the way of things these days

        • weka 15.2.1.1

          In addition to all beneficiaries, I was wondering if it's also available to low income people who apply. Like supplementary benefits eg accommodation supplement, you don't have to be on a benefit to get them, just on a low income and below a certain asset limit.

  16. Michael 16

    The real scandal here is that MSD knows the drug tests are unreliable but continues to punish 40,000 people (and their children) for "failing" those tests, while the Labour-led government lets them do it because it is terrified of middle class backlash.

    • Dukeofurl 16.1

      Did you read the MSD brief linked by Weka. they give some numbers , nothing like your made up ones

      MSD:Around 100 sanctions are applied for drug-related obligation failures each year.

      Its a graduated scale so first fail is limited right up to:

      "The number of people facing suspension of their benefit for drug related obligation failure, or cancellation of their benefit and a 13 week stand down, has fluctuated between 22 and 36 per year.

      only 30 or so per year at the top end of benefit sanctions per year

      Where does the 40k per year being punished come from ….admit you just made it up.

  17. Craig H 17

    Personally, I think that beneficiaries taking drugs while on a benefit deserve to be executed by hypothermia (a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome if power or rent are not paid).

  18. Michael 18

    Of course you do.

  19. Descendant Of Smith 19

    Expecting Labour to make actual changes (as opposed to simply saying be more gentle when you whip them) is not something I was optimistic about before the election – only the greens had a coherent policy towards benefits.

    Bullet pointed commentary:
    1. Helen Clark put back Ruth's $20-00 per week back on NZS never on benefits
    2. The change in the much lower youth rates from under 18 to under 25 has never been reversed and doesn't get talked about
    3. The last two Royal Commissions as well as WEAG said that benefit rates needed to be lifted – successive governments have ignored this – with the irony of National being the first to at least lift sole parents somewhat.
    4. The media understands stuff all about benefits which is why it focuses on small stuff like drug testing when most sanctions get put in place for not visiting your case manager (clearly a far more heinous crime than taking drugs)
    5. The Job Seeker numbers include two groups of sole parents (those with children older than 14 and those who had another child on benefit). This made it look like sole parent numbers were reducing when they were simply hidden in the job seeker numbers. No-one is talking about putting them back onto a sole parent benefit – not even the ones with little babies.
    6. Sole parents are subject to sanctions around looking for work that 20 years ago they were not. Once they were free to raise their children. Now working and spending much of your income on childcare while you are at work is clearly the preferred governmental option.
    7. Sickness benefit clients are also hidden in the job seeker numbers. Who the hell can tell how low the numbers of actual unemployed are with all the previously non-unemployed in the mix.
    8. Training for sole parents to educate themselves was slashed, as were adult night classes in schools. No-one is putting this training back.

    Labour has no policy to address or reverse any of this. Sadly they have had the greatest opportunity ever to do so for a long time. They still however operate the Mike Smith school of political strategy – year of the policy, year of implementation, keep your powder dry til just before the election bull-shit. This means instead of making change quickly and letting the public get used to it and realise the world hasn't fallen apart they make things an election issue that need not be.

    The moves to the right tend to happen quickly and with maximum destruction, moves to the left slowly because the middle has already shifted right and Labour tries to appease the middle.

    The medias inability to understand even the basics of the welfare system doesn't help.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIuryZ8JUJM

  20. Descendant Of Smith 20

    To give some context this OIA gives the numbers of disputed sanctions which is around 36,000 to 37,000 per year. That's just the disputed.

    Credit to MSD for publishing their OIA’s – didn’t know they did that.

    https://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/official-information-responses/2019/march/r-20190329-number-of-benefit-recipients-that-fulfil-the-good-and-sufficient-reason-exemption-criteria-from-sanctions-for-failure-to-comply-with-s-233-ssa18-requirements.pdf

  21. A 21

    WEAG recommendations need to be adopted asap.

    The fact is our welfare system has turned into a bureaucratic exercise where beneficiaries are taught to develop a neurotic relationship with money. Attempts to get out of the system are quashed.

    This makes no sense.

    • Dukeofurl 21.1

      Everything the government does in bureaucratic. But why is not turning up for appointments seen as a hurdle without a good reason.

      Dealing with Councils is bureaucratic, big companies too. When you have 1000s of staff you need definitive processes and rules to ensure people are treated similarly and fairly

      • Descendant Of Smith 21.1.1

        I guess if you think a little deeper about the predominant purpose of the appointment (from my kids experience none were to be offered a job for instance) and ignore the fact that sole parents quite happily raised their children before nationals reforms without having to go to lots of appointments you might conclude that the vast majority of appointments have little actual beneficial purpose for the person attending.

        For whose benefit are they one might ask?

        And as a rule councils and companies don't have to exert the power of the state to get you to go, you've generally requested the appointment not the other way around. I don't think my council or bank have ever sent me a letter saying "come and talk to me, just cause I want you to, and if you do not I'll close your account."

        And I'm pretty sure different people get called in more often than others. Similar and fair aren't a consideration. It seems to be more influenced by who your case manager is. One son was called in constantly spite of being really good at looking for work an applying for job, the barely at all. As noted neither were ever offered a job and both found their own.

  22. Certainly does seem Ruth was more preeminent than Helen.

    And that Jacinda was enthralled with not just the latter , but the former. And also with John. Perhaps not so much publicly so with Don , but at least there in sentiment…

    Have times changed apart from a few well placed tinkerings to keep the chickens from getting too restless ? Hardly seems like it , does it.

    Revolution – 4, The New Country | Television | NZ On Screen

    https://www.nzonscreen.com › title › revolution-the-new-country-1996

    And here's Babe Ruth with her ideas on just why the poor , the unemployed , the sick should ALWAYS be the known factor in the equation to cut costs in order to keep the wealthy afloat. I've provided this to stop the Right Wingers from salivating too much and drooling all over their keyboards.

    Go Ruthie !!!

    Ruth Richardson – YouTube

    https://www.youtube.com › watch

  23. adam 23

    Oh so a government committed to hard right economics, acts like hard douchebags and you're surprised.

    mmmmmmmmmm……

  24. TheBlackKittenReturns 24

    This surprises me. I thought they would have tossed this policy out long ago. I actually agree, I think it’s a punitive approach. Just imagine if they did the same thing with tobacco. Tested smokers and penalised your benefit for smoking or you couldn’t get a job because you smoked tobacco. I wonder if all those anti smokers out there would be as up in arms about penalising beneficiaries for smoking tobacco as they are for other illegal drugs. Just curious.

    Anyway, the point is drugs are addictive and some people really struggle to give them up. Why I find this wrong is that giving up an addiction is not easy and there is hardly any help available for it. Like many things in our public health, there is just no funding. So simply cutting a benefit without offering any help or denying someone employment because they smoked a joint the night before is too harsh.

    Just as a side note, I personally don’t see any difference between someone smoking a joint or drinking a bottle of wine the night before but one is punished and the other is not. Hardly consistent is it.

  25. Can you please get hold of me Weka – this government are doing far worse to disabled mentally injured victims of crime like myself. WINZ are covering up that ACC have been denying me entitlements for past nine years after I won TWO REVIEWS in 2010/11. My WINZ forms I have to fill out every three months for years, say awaiting treatment for nine years. when my case manager tried to get it sorted late last year the government stepped in and changed her job etc. The Masterton manager was completely complicit and told me my problems with ACC were nothing to do with her.

    They are also aware I have not seen a doctor for over four years because of really disturbing things happening with Wairarapa doctors regarding suicidal people like myself. we have highest rates of suicide, self-harm etc in NZ and I know why. The WINZ manager knows I am sick, she knows how unwell I am – I had to self-harm in front of her to cope with the last forms I had to fill out. She calls police when I protest outside, most of the time I'm doing it I'm crying and wailing in complete despair.

    WINZ know all I want is my health care, get better and go back to work – because I am not safe rotting on welfare after more than 10 flatmates who terrorised me, ripped me off, stole from me, unloaded their trauma onto me in detail, mentally ill people, dangerous mentally ill people. Anyway, my case is complicated and I desperately need a doctor because I have other health issues other than Complex PTSD – ie wanting to kill myself, self-harm, bulimia, phobias, ticking etc.

    Currently up on 18 police charges for my LEGAL NON-VIOLENT protests about not receiving health care – they all involve people/organisations who instrumental in making sure I don't get my ACC care, or any mental health or physical health care whatsoever. I believe I am being denied all health care and justice because I publicly protest about ACC and government denying disabled victims of crime the treatment care rehabilitation and safe stable homes they are entitled to under ACC, constitutional laws as well as UN treaties.

    Please help me tell my story, please stop them hurting me and censoring my art, poetry, songs and everything else I do and say as a UN Civil Society Actor. How can there be freedom of speech when police violently assault you and threaten you with rape for protesting about what is happening to you and others??? When all IPCA complaints are ignored – I have never hurt anybody, they hurt me.

    The health and justice systems are being used punitively to harm me for my public protests – please can you help me and expose what is going on. Latest abomination is my valid complaint to the Medical Council about a very political and bias 'independent' psych assessment is being ignored.

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