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You know your policy sucks when…

Written By: - Date published: 12:42 pm, April 9th, 2010 - 21 comments
Categories: privatisation, public services - Tags: , , ,

It’s so vacuous and vapid that even Guyon Espiner is concerned about the lack of quality analysis and policy design.

To be sure, Guyon didn’t voice these concerns on air and he starts his blog by falling into the “we’ve got to do something, this is something, let’s do this” logical fallacy. And the “we have policies targeting social problems, those problems still exist, therefore those policies are useless and wasteful” nonsense, which is like arguing seat belts don’t work because people still die in car crashes. And surprise, surprise he automatically accepts the premise that privatisation will deliver better results.

But, eventually, Guyon manages to ask ‘hey, what is this Whanau Ora thing?’ and he’s unimpressed with the answers:

The taskforce report reads like a motivational self-help guide with banal slogans spread across its 71 pages. “Whanau Ora – well that’s us, it’s who we are,” reads one. “Whanau have to describe success in their own terms,” reads another. My personal favourite is: “Whanau ora is going to take us there and it has been since the beginning of time.”

Sometimes even the main text descends into complete psycho-babble: In searching for what Whanau Ora actually means the taskforce concludes that “whanau ora is distinctive because it recognises a collective entity, endorses a group capacity for self determination, has an intergenerational dynamic, is built on a Maori cultural foundation, asserts a positive role for whanau within society and can be applied across a wide range of social and economic sectors.”

So the challenge for the proponents of Whanau Ora is to explain how it will work and then to prove it does work.

Indeed. I noticed the silly ‘motivational’-type phrases in the report too. To me they sum up everything that is wrong with this half-arsed policy.

Guyon goes on to say that he likes Matt McCarten’s description of Whanau Ora as a ‘one-stop shop’ for social services. The problem is that the minister responsible, Tariana Turia, explicitly rejected that definition when Guyon put it to her on Q+A and such ‘one-stop shops’ already exist.

Guyon ends with a pretty silly comment. The same one, incidentally, that Wellington Airport passive-aggressively made to Wellingtonians when everyone hated the ‘Wellywood’ sign:

The challenge for the critics is: Have you got a better idea?

Hell, I’m a sucker, I’ll take the bait.

One better idea is not signing over hundreds of millions of dollars to unaccountable private organisations with no plan, no clear notion of what specific problems need to be addressed and how, no measures of success, and no checks against corruption. It would be better to carry on as is than take hundreds of millions out of existing services to make a punt in the dark.

Another better idea would be not cutting Pathways to Partnership, not cutting education, not cutting health.

My final idea stems from the example of the family that Whanau Ora is supposedly going to somehow help: single mum, three kids all in trouble because mum isn’t around because she’s working shifts.

It seems to me the problem in that family arises principally from the fact that mum can’t get decent work with hours that also allow her to be there for her family. The Whanau Ora report has some nonsense about an advisor ‘helping her find more suitable employment’ but that ignores the fundamental problem – the jobs don’t exist.

If the government were serious about helping families in need it’s priority would be getting people back into work and its second and third priorities would better pay and conditions for low income workers.

The fact that is has gone with this Whanau Ora nonsense instead shows it has no real intention of tackling the causes of this country’s social ills.

21 comments on “You know your policy sucks when…”

  1. Its not a ‘one stop shop’…it’s more like ‘home delivery’ and thats the way the world is going.

    The problem with the solo mum example isnt the job. You could give her a job that pays well enough for her to spend quality time with her kids but thats not to say money will make her a better parent.

    The problem is how do you mend a broken spirit. Can you not see that’s what Maori suffer from ? Their present spirit is at odds with their past and unless you can reconnect them, they and their kids don’t have the spirit to look towards a ‘brighter future’ 🙂

    In dickensian terms, think of Scrooge and the ghosts of christmas. Whanau ora counsellors are putting themsleves in the role of spiritual healers and will time trip clients in the hope of reconnecting them to the nobler values of their ancestors and future progeny.

    But of course Tariana isn’t going to say that cos most eurocentrist have no idea how Te ao Maori/the Maori world works and nor will she hold that world up for even more public ridicule.

    Some things are just too sacred to be shared with just anyone. Remember that magic jawbone i referred to. It’s a tool for reinterpreting sacred lore and not everyone knew or knows how to use it.

    captcha : trees (some cant see the wood because of it as they have a massive splinter in the minds eye)

    • pollywog 1.1

      *edit*…”see” the wood dammit ! [fixed — r0b]

    • quenchino 1.2

      But of course Tariana isn’t going to say that cos most eurocentrist have no idea how Te ao Maori/the Maori world works and nor will she hold that world up for even more public ridicule

      Bullshit. That’s as stupid as saying that most Maori have no idea how the European world works; or that Maori have some kind of monopoly on being ‘spiritual’.

      Pushing on down that kind of separatist path leads off into wilderness.

      • pollywog 1.2.1

        That’s as stupid as saying that most Maori have no idea how the European world works; or that Maori have some kind of monopoly on being ‘spiritual’.

        But fella…Most Pasifikans inclusive of Maori have no idea how the european world works. From left/right wing capitalism/socialism, to the market, to financial literacy, dealing with insurance, mortgages, hire purchases, even to MMP and parliamentary process etc.

        You ever been to a marae and had to stand there all awkwardly not knowing the protocols and procedures ? That’s how some of us feel going into banks, insurance companies, gov’t institutions etc with people in funny uniforms speaking gobble de gook to us.

        I dont hold your ignorance against you, why hold yours against us and expect us to be the same ? I’m not saying Maori have a ‘spiritual’ monopoly but spirits do play a large part in our everyday lives, more so than the average eurocentric NZer.

        The way i see it, pushing off down that path leads to self determination and re empowering, but hey, some people will always ridicule what they don’t understand.

        • insider 1.2.1.1

          “But fella Most Pasifikans inclusive of Maori have no idea how the european world works. From left/right wing capitalism/socialism, to the market, to financial literacy, dealing with insurance, mortgages, hire purchases, even to MMP and parliamentary process etc”

          That;s about education and experience not inherently cultural. What you seem to be saying is that they are, as Pasfikans, incapable of learning from experience. Isn’t that incredibly patronising if not borderline racist? It probably would be considered the latter if I, a middle aged WASP, said it.

          I’m beginning to wonder how the Maori I know have ever managed to get jobs, or mortgages or a driver’s licence, or start businesses and pay their taxes. I must have dreamed it.

          • pollywog 1.2.1.1.1

            Education and experience from someone who not so much sold out their culture, but compromised it to become more eurocentrically culturally focused. In doing so, connections to ancestral spirits were weakened and in breeding from that culture of mainstream success, future generations went on to compromise their culture even more to get jobs, mortgages and start businesses.

            Of course we learnt by experience and mostly we learnt from bad experiences. Native Maori/Pasifikan bad, transplanted christian euro good. The underlying message constantly reinforced being, if we want to get ahead and prosper in the world we have to become more like europeans. I suppose the extreme is the ludicrously foppish, king of Tonga.

            Theres nothing racist about it. I don’t buy into the false racial construct. It’s all about culture, elitism and the compromise and sacrifice of traditional values.

            • insider 1.2.1.1.1.1

              my ancestors could have used the same arguments when my culture went from animistic religion to monotheism, and abandoned runes for Latin script and those fancy Arabic numerals. “I mean, what have the Romans ever done for us….?”

              If you want to see noble savage done over by cultural imperialism, so be it. I see it as a practical example of cultural evolution to adapt to forces greater than any individual or culture. You can rail at those who adapt as sellouts/uncle toms from your pataka but it’s not particularly helpful and will likely look as quaint as the guy with the sandwich board saying “the end is nigh”. Not everything that has been abandoned was good and not everything adopted was bad.

              PS enjoy your cultural elitistly imposed weekend 🙂

              • pollywog

                I’m all for cultural evolution but not to the extent that ones native culture becomes token for grants. I just want us to be honest in our appraisal of what was gained/lost, how/why and who benefitted most. Somewhere between my position and quenchino’s is probably a ‘happy medium’. Maybe thats who ‘whanau ora’ practitioners are.

                By the way ” the end is nigh”…and yeah, have a cracker of a weekend yourself 🙂

            • Puddleglum 1.2.1.1.1.2

              Hi Pollywog – I don’t think all left critics of Whanau Ora, or the Maori Party more generally, are unaware of the points you make. I’m certainly not. If Maori or Pasific people can provide an alternative way of organising this modern society so that it’s more humane then all power to them. But look at it from my perspective – and it’s a long one (I’m well read on this), way back to when my ancestors were just as collective, just as family focused, just as imbued with spiritual connectedness to the world as Maori were 170 years ago or maybe still are. But … something happened.

              My ancestors were colonised centuries before Maori were; they were pushed off their land, progressively denied their remaining customary rights; any attempts by them to gain some control of their own destiny (their ‘tino rangatiratanga’) were met with deception, rejection and violent suppression; they were treated as sub-human, their children were sold, prostituted, huge numbers of them were imprisoned. All of this was done to them in the first act of English colonisation – before it happened to the Scots, before it happened to the Irish, the Native Americans, the Africans (whose slave labour financially founded Britain’s emerging industrial economy).

              My ancestors were the English peasants who then, in time, became the English, urban working class – once living off the land was made impossible and they were herded into horrendous conditions whose only ‘positive’ was that it was better than starving. You see, they had to be colonised first. Their oppression had to provide the base for colonial expansion to Ireland, the Americas, Australia, India and New Zealand. They had to be ‘tamed’, ‘ripped untimely’ from their own culture, dispossessed, brutally oppressed for centuries to allow the sorry farce that is the history of the world over the last few centuries to begin.

              Note that this all began with English people oppressing English people. That might help you to understand why the English, historically, was so aware of class. That might help you to understand why some on the ‘left’ are SO concerned about notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’. When colonialism began is was not one race against another, one culture against another (although the new capitalist culture was definitely contrary to peasant culture). It was the powerful few against the powerless many.

              Also note that in Ireland, India and even here in New Zealand some members of the local elites actually did very well, thank you, from this continuing process of colonisation, just as some of my peasant ancestors grabbed the opportunity (as yeoman farmers) to get a foot on the ground floor of the developing capitalist world.

              So, my fear over Whanau Ora, and the Maori Party, is that history is just going to repeat itself. No new culture, no new way of organising ourselves will come out of it. This is just one of the many ways that real alternatives to the present system (what you, mistakenly, term ‘eurocentric’ when it bears no resemblance to the culture of my ancestors or to that of the mass of Europeans, many of whom retain immense allegiance, against the odds, to a deep sense of solidarity, family and community) get hijacked, defused and rendered neuter. My ancestors tried it all – and failed. Please don’t think there’s something different about Maori or Pasifika culture that would allow it to succeed where my ancestors’ culture failed.

              My sense is that this government is, wittingly or unwittingly, encouraging Maori – especially Maori leaders – to believe that, in fact, it’s all about different cultures. It isn’t. It’s about how the powerful have always treated the powerless – irrespective of common or different culture, common or different race.

              • pollywog

                Nice one Puddleglum.

                My ancestors tried it all and failed. Please don’t think there’s something different about Maori or Pasifika culture that would allow it to succeed where my ancestors’ culture failed.

                Yeah maybe, but given the opportunity to learn that ourselves would be nice. As a parent i would love for my kids to learn from my mistakes and save themselves the hassle, yet i understand the need for them to try, fail, and from the lessons learnt, make them better, stronger and wiser for it.

                In keeping with the powerful over the powerless from within a culture, I suppose this is my definitive take on ‘whanau ora’. What do you think ?

                More to worry about

              • Puddleglum

                I think it’s very insightful.

                If whanau can use this to exert pressure on their own elites (of whatever culture) then that would be ideal. But, I suspect that if that began to happen it would be ‘modified’ or even undermined. After all, from the point of view of those with power, what’s the use of power if you don’t use it to make sure you get what you want?

                I’m not a complete pessimist – I think gains have been made over the last century and a half. It’s just that it’s a hard road to hoe – there’s no bright new dawn of social progress, just ‘business as usual’ (i.e., a hard slog and constant vigilance, taking nothing for granted).

  2. Rob M 2

    Perhaps the original document was in Maori and something has been lost in translation.

  3. PK 3

    ***If the government were serious about helping families in need it’s priority would be getting people back into work and its second and third priorities would better pay and conditions for low income workers.***

    Those are the traditional left wing economic concerns but, as Chris Trotter has pointed out, identity politics has become more prevalent (ironically now under National). This just seems to show that ethno-politics become increasingly important in a diverse society. This isn’t primarily about nuts and bolts outcomes like those you mention, but about ethnic control.

    That’s not to say it won’t work, but I think the main motivation based on ethnocentrism, which is a natural outgrowth of nepotism.

    • Bright Red 3.1

      Well and that’s another problem.

      There’s an ethnonorm-ism inherent in this approach. It assumes (hell it states) that there is a ‘right’ way for a Maori family to live and it wants to impose that ‘right’ way on families.

      • marty mars 3.1.1

        Yes and other whanau from other cultures that want to use whanau ora – remember it is now open to all BR

        • pollywog 3.1.1.1

          Sweet..so are the service providers gonna be non-exclusively Maori also ?

          Ayo aunty Tari…Where do i sign up for a laptop, wireless broadband and branded car. I want a silver one and a matching cell phone with a ‘borg’ like head set ?…and can i get a badge too ? Maybe one of them flip out wallets like the feds have on TV ? Oooh oooh and a stylin leather trenchcoat. Of course it goes without saying i’ll have the meke shades.

          I’ll look mean as rollin up, flippin out the badge and sayin “pollywog..whanau ora division. Come with me if you want to live…”

          Say whut ? Fucken eh i will sort your shit out cuz, just call me vodafone cos i will hook you up. Sheeeeit…i got a direct line to your ancestors owwww !!!

          chur 🙂

  4. ianmac 4

    Bright Red “It assumes (hell it states) that there is a ‘right’ way for a Maori family to live and it wants to impose that ‘right’ way on families.” This could be solved by training in the Catholic way of confession of sin and no birth control. No? How about a Destiny Church for all those who are poor but not quite poverty stricken. No? How about the Act Party so that the poor and disadvantaged could learn to satisfy greed at the neighbour’s expense. No?
    Yes. A very vexed question but maybe the traditional Maori way with extended family and respect for the Elders might work, but only if the “needy” want to buy into it and break the cycle. Who knows what the “right” way is?

  5. I remember reading the large Royal Commission documents that came out about Genetic Engineering and they managed to discuss a bi/multi-cultural approach to value systems while still at the same time delivering hard recommendations about implementation and policy.

    The problem with leaving all the spiritual stuff as nice aspirational goals is that is all to easy to pull the carpet out from under it later on. For it to anything at all to protect and engage with Maori cultural values it absolutely MUST engage with the dirty difficult world of policy.

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Was it only 5-10 years ago that the The Maori way of knowing was all the rage as a viable alternative to the Scientific method.
    So we know have its cousin the Maori way of delivering social services.
    Whats the bet that Titiwhai Hawawira’s way of delivering mental health services can be seen again. Along with the Donna Huata way of doing reading recovery

  7. Gramsci 7

    What really concerns me about Whanau Ora is that it will further drive down the wages of the care workers in the sector. When patients were de-instutionalised in the eighties and nineties, there was a huge drop in the wages of those formerly working in well-unionised centralised sites. Care workers went from a few centralised agreements with a bureaucracy behind the front-of-line care to support their work.

    Please do not take this post as support of the institutions. There were problems with the institutions, but my point is regarding how the wages and conditions have dropped in this sector and the service levels have declined.

    What occurred was a disolution of these terms and conditions, with a corresponding drop in service. The work became casualised and further de-valued. There was no need for any level of qualification; the money that went to providers had to be soaked up in the first instance by a multitude of supporting bureaucracies before any of it got to the workers. It might be even less if there was a profit to be made by the organisation.

    These problems are still being grappled with by the sector and then along comes Whanau Ora. This will only further fragment and disolve the service levels and wages of those working in the sector. It will put wages back even further and make a unified response to the Government’s continual under-funding of this sector even harder to resisit.

    And that – comrades – is why the National Party supports it.

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    5 days ago
  • NZ concludes digital economy trade talks with Singapore and Chile
    A new trade agreement concluded today helps New Zealand exporters and consumers take advantage of opportunities from digital trade.    Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker together with Chile’s Vice Minister of Trade Rodrigo Yañez and Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, have announced conclusion of ...
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    5 days ago
  • Provincial Growth Fund to fund Waipukurau cultural development and tourism
    The Ngā Ara Tipuna -  Waipukurau Pā Site Interpretation project will receive $2.798 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to create an authentic cultural tourism experience, Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today “The project will inform visitors about the history of six pā sites in Waipukurau with a combination ...
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    6 days ago
  • 21 new judges boost diversity, improve access to justice
    Twenty-one new District Court judges have been appointed in a move that will improve access to justice and boost diversity on the bench. The new judges include replacements for retirements and 10 new positions. Attorney-General David Parker today announced the 14 judges who can immediately be named, with the remainder ...
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    6 days ago
  • Puhinui to Auckland Airport in 10 minutes
    Aucklanders are another step closer to getting rapid transit to the airport, with the start of construction to upgrade State Highway 20B to the airport, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced today. SH20B will be upgraded with additional lanes in each direction, dedicated to bus and high-occupancy vehicles between Pukaki Creek ...
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    6 days ago
  • Advancing New Zealand’s trade agenda focus of Europe meetings
    World Trade Organisation reform, agricultural trade and a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom will be the focus of Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker’s visit to Europe this week. David Parker leaves on Tuesday for a series of meetings in the UK and Switzerland that aim ...
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    7 days ago
  • Minister of Defence to visit counterparts in US and Canada
    The Minister of Defence, Ron Mark, departed today for the United States and Canada where he will meet with his counterparts.  While in Canada Minister Mark will meet with his counterpart, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan.  “New Zealand and Canada are close friends, and share an instinctive like-mindedness on ...
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    1 week ago
  • Government to deliver family carers $2000 pay rise, expand scheme to spouses this year
    The Coalition Government is delivering this year the changes to Funded Family Care the disability sector has long-asked for, says Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa. “Today we are announcing the details of our big changes to Funded Family Care, including an annual average pay boost of $2,246.40 for funded ...
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    1 week ago
  • Ko te reo kua mū: Piri Sciascia
    Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta joins te ao Māori in their sorrow as they learn of the loss of one of the great orators and spokespersons of a generation – Piri Sciascia.  “The son of Pōrangahau was a staunch advocate for Māori development and served his people for over ...
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    1 week ago
  • Minister opens new ecosanctuary at Cape Farewell
    A new ecosanctuary with a predator proof fence on Golden Bay’s Cape Farewell, which will restore a safe home for sea birds, rare native plants, giant snails, and geckos, was officially opened today by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage. “There has been a fantastic community effort supported by the ...
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    1 week ago
  • Pacific partners work together to provide additional support to Australia
    The NZDF continues to support the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as it battles fires in Victoria and New South Wales, including by transporting Republic of Fiji Military engineers from Nadi to Australia, announced Defence Minister Ron Mark. On Saturday morning a NZDF Boeing 757 will depart New Zealand to uplift ...
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    1 week ago
  • Kaikōura $10.88 million boost in tourism & business
    The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is investing $10.88 million to boost business and tourism opportunities in Kaikōura, Parliamentary Undersecretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. As part of the Kaikōura Marina Development Programme, the following two projects will receive PGF funding: A $9.88 million investment to begin the ...
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    1 week ago
  • Govt accounts in surplus, debt remains low
    The Government’s books are in good shape with the accounts in surplus and expenses close to forecast, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says. The Treasury today released the Crown accounts for the five months to November. The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was above forecast by $0.7 billion resulting ...
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    1 week ago
  • Auckland focus for first Police graduation of 2020
    The number of Police on the Auckland frontline is increasing with the graduation today of a special locally-trained wing of new constables. Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of eighteen officers from Recruit Wing 333-5 means that more than 1900 new Police have been deployed since the Coalition Government ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Wairarapa gets $7.11m PGF water boost
    The Provincial Growth Fund is putting $7.11 million into creating a sustainable water supply for Wairarapa, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. The following two projects will receive Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) funding: A $7 million investment in Wairarapa Water Limited for the pre-construction development of ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Progress with new Police station in Mahia
    Community safety and crime prevention in the East Coast community of Mahia has moved forward with the opening of a new Police station to serve the growing coastal settlement. Police Minister Stuart Nash has officially opened the new station, which was relocated almost 20 kilometres along the coast from the nearby ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Plans to protect the future of whitebaiting announced
    With several native whitebait species in decline the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage has today released proposals to standardise and improve management of whitebait across New Zealand. “The need for action for a healthy whitebait fishery has never been greater,” Eugenie Sage said.  “Four of the six whitebait species are ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • New resource for schools to increase awareness and understanding of climate change
    A new Ministry of Education resource available for schools in 2020 will increase awareness and understanding of climate change, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The resource, Climate Change – prepare today, live well tomorrow, will help students understand the effects of climate change at a local, national and global ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Getting more out of our most productive firms
    Finance Minister Grant Robertson has approved the terms of reference for an Inquiry into the economic contribution of New Zealand's frontier firms. Frontier firms are the most productive firms in the domestic economy within their own industry. “These firms are important as they diffuse new technologies and business practices into ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • NZDF sends more support to Australia
    The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is sending an Environmental Health Team, a Primary Health Care Team and a Chaplain to Australia, boosting New Zealand support for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as it battles bush fires in Victoria and New South Wales, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today. The ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand joins partners in calling for full investigation into air crash in Iran
    Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Rt Hon Winston Peters says that developments suggesting a surface-to-air missile is responsible for the downing of the Ukrainian International Airlines flight in Iran is disastrous news. “New Zealand offers its deepest sympathies to the families of the 176 victims. It is ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Staying connected to Australian agriculture
    Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, says the Ministry for Primary Industries is continuing to stay connected to federal authorities in Australia as devastating fires affect the country.  “The Ministry is using an existing trans-Tasman forum for discussions on the agricultural impact of the fires and the future recovery phase,” says Damien ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Investment in schools – a commitment to communities
    Thousands of school-age children, their teachers and wider communities are benefiting from the Government’s multi-million dollar investment upgrading and renewing schools, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “We want New Zealand to be the best place to be a child and that means learning in warm, comfortable and modern classrooms,” ...
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    3 weeks ago