John Armstrong's analysis: Budget went some way to meeting Labour's unrealistic election promises

Grant Robertson’s first Budget falls short of being a real humdinger, but it is no humdrum affair. 

Source: 1 NEWS

It is restrained rather than reformist. It is transitional rather than— to borrow one of the Prime Minister’s favourite words — transformative.

The document is devoid of any “wow” factor. It contains nothing which is likely to grab the public’s imagination.

What is eye-watering is the scale of the cash and capital injections into the public health sector.

Some would come from reprioritisation, which is pulling money from other sectors. Source: 1 NEWS

There is only one thing that can be guaranteed from that funding. With an ageing population, even more moolah will be needed — and soon.

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The extra spending on health makes this a traditional Labour Budget to its core. The comparative starvation diet imposed on the education sector makes it a very unusual Labour Budget.

The contradiction comes down to priorities — the priorities imposed by the Minister of Finance by his wearing of the clothes of fiscal rectitude.

Robertson describes his first Budget as a “bread and butter” Budget. That is a way of deflecting National’s claim that he has been wasting all the tax revenue flowing into the Treasury’s coffers on fancy cakes.

In preparing the Budget, he had to conduct a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, Labour had to go some way towards meeting the unrealistic expectations the party had raised during last year’s election campaign that it would fix the country’s ageing schools and hospitals if it won power.

On the other hand, Labour did not want to do anything which National would wield as confirmation that Jacinda Ardern and her colleagues were binge spendthrifts.

He needed to serve up a very thick surplus.

1 NEWS political editor Jessica Mutch says there was no lolly scramble in Wellington today. Source: 1 NEWS

Tempted as he might have been to borrow heaps more money to fund the Government’s extensive and expensive capital works programme given current low interest rates, that is a political no-go area. Voters simply don’t like being in such hock.

Robertson’s caution means there is little to dislike in his Budget. Voters would like it even more were it not for one yawning hole — the absence of further measures helping first-home buyers get into a house or apartment.

Simon Bridges labelling of KiwiBuild as KiwiFraud was very cutting. It was biting because there was more than an element of truth in the remark — at least in terms of fraud in the political sense.

Perhaps worse would be KiwiBuild to become a joke, especially in Auckland. The joke would be on Labour.

Given elections can be won or lost on the mood in that metropolis, the broad smiles on the faces of Ardern and her MPs yesterday would fast become a distant memory.



New rules allow ministers' nannies to travel on the taxpayer, but PM will cover Clarke Gayford's US trip

New rules for ministers with babies who are travelling overseas allow them to to take a nanny or carer paid for by taxpayers. 

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she does not expect the taxpayer to pay for both her partner, Clarke Gayford, and a carer for their baby Neve, NZ Herald reports.

Ms Ardern and Mr Gayford, along with their baby, are travelling to New York today for Leaders' Week for the UN General Assembly.

The prime minister says that she will be paying for her partner's flights, since there are not many engagements for partners.

"There is no spousal programme for this, so we just made a judgment call that we would cover his travel for this trip. He will be going to some things, but he's primarily travelling to care for Neve."

After Ms Ardern became prime minister, the guidelines for ministers' overseas travel were reviewed and changed, reports the Herald.

Now, a minister with young infants is allowed to take someone, other than a partner, to care for that child or for a minister with a disability to take a support person if needed.

Ms Ardern said she never sought for the change and did not intend to use the entitlement for herself, and would only allow it for ministers in "exceptional circumstances."

The prime minister signs off on all ministerial travel overseas, other than to Australia, including deciding whether partners can travel with ministers and who pays for them.

Other ministers with young babies currently include the Green Party's Julie Anne Genter and Education Minister Chris Hipkins, whose partner had a second child this week.

Ms Ardern told the Herald she did not expect to have travel with more than one person, but if there was a situation which required both Mr Gayford and another carer for Neve, she would pay for that extra person out of her own pocket.

"We are playing it by ear. There is no set plan, it's just whether or not she's getting enough sleep, where I am for feeds. They might be with us a lot, they might just be in the hotel,” she said.

In New York, Ms Ardern is also staying in apartment-type accommodation rather than the usual hotel because kitchen facilities were needed for Neve.

Ms Ardern said she had made sure it did not cost more than was usual.

Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and baby Neve. Source: 1 NEWS

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Sunday preview: What is the future for whitebait?

Saturday morning at the market. I bite the bullet, line up and buy one. It's a delicious, piping-hot, wee taste of home, but boy do I feel guilty. Not guilty enough to stop at one, though. I go back for a second. Then a third.

I've read the headlines. Read the entire stories. Whitebait are being wiped out because of people like me. They could soon be gone forever - and it's my fault. Or is it?

According to a Department of Conservation report released last year, three of the five whitebait species are "at risk/declining" and one species is "threatened".

Everyone agrees humans are having a huge impact on whitebait habitat, but people don't agree on how much of an impact fishing has on these species.

To help protect these native fish Forest and Bird are calling for recreational catch limits and a complete commercial ban on whitebaiting.

"Here is a species that are in trouble and there's no limit at all to the amount that you can catch" says Forest and Bird's Kevin Hague.

But Dr Mike Hickford, a marine ecologist at the University of Canterbury says fears of wiping out whitebait are grossly overblown. "I don't think we will ever wipe out whitebait" he says.

Hickford says a distinction needs to be made between adult and the post-larvae fish. "There's no doubt that the adult stage of these fish are in trouble, but it doesn't translate to the whitebait".

Hickford says there's no evidence to suggest at this stage that whitebaiting affects the threatened adult population, which spawn in such huge numbers.

"The majority of those whitebaits that are coming back in to the river, they're going to die anyway, they always have died and they still will die in the future no matter what we do".

Despite a lack of clear evidence, Kevin Hague says restrictions on how we catch whitebait, how much we can catch and the sale of whitebait should be introduced before the start of next 3-month long season (Sept-Nov).

"We don't want to interfere with someone's ability to go and get a feed for their family, but we just think there should be some tools that we use to actually reduce the pressure on these species".

Cascade Whitebait, one of New Zealand's biggest commercial whitebaiters, fish each season on the isolated Cascade river, just south of Haast.

Nan Brown, whose parents helped set up the operation 70 years ago, says their records don't show any decline in whitebait catch.   She wants to hold on to their fishery and says, "It would be unfair to let the guillotine drop on something you don't know enough about.” 

Watch the full story tomorrow night AT 7.30pm on SUNDAY TVNZ1 or TVNZOnDemand

Whitebait are being wiped out but people can’t agree on how much of an impact fishing has on these species Source: Sunday

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Man in serious condition following assault near Christchurch mall

A 41-year-old man is in a serious but stable condition in a Christchurch hospital, following an attack in the early hours this morning.

Police have cordoned off an area beside the Hornby Mall, on Shands Road, for a scene examination.

It is expected to be cleared by midday today.

Police are continuing to investigate the scene to establish what occurred.

File image of an Ambulance outside a hospital. Source: 1 NEWS


Police in stand-off with man barricaded in Huntly house

Police are currently involved in an ongoing stand-off in Huntly, which started around 2am this morning.

The eight-hour stand off began when police were called to a home on Harris St, where a man and woman had been fighting.

Upon arriving at the scene, police found the man had locked himself inside and was refusing to come out. 

At 9am, he was still refusing to come out of the home and police negotiators are currently on site, Waikato police Senior Sergeant Charles Burgess told Stuff.

"He's barricaded himself in the house and is threatening to harm himself," Senior Sergeant Burgess said.

He's not known to have access to any guns, Burgess said but does have access to knives and other items inside the home. 

"A police negotiation team are trying to speak to the man so we can bring an end to this event."

A section of the road has been cordoned off and detours are in place.

No one else is inside the home and no one has been injured.

Police emergency scene
Police emergency scene Source: 1 NEWS