Friday, October 30, 2020

Resounding referendum result

 David Seymour decided to draw up his End of Life Choice Bill five years ago. His primary reason was compassion. He believed it was the right thing to do. To the degree that he turned down two ministerships in the John Key government in order to pursue his bill.

The bill was drawn from the ballot on June 7, 2017 - before the 2017 election. It then went to parliamentary debate but NZ First made their support conditional on a referendum. I'm glad they did and was always confident that the public would support the bill. Why? Because this was the third time a voluntary euthanasia bill had been to parliament and the issue was not going away. Support was growing.

The 2020 referendum returned almost two thirds in favour.

What a great result.

Thank you David for the decision you made 5 years ago.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Alarm bells

 RNZ reports on the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the disproportionate number of Maori children in state care:

Dr Alison Green is completing her post-doctoral research at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, comparing the policy for removing indigenous children from their families in both Canada and New Zealand.

She points to a federal government law passed in Canada last year as a mechanism New Zealand could draw from to put in place the structural changes needed to devolve power from Oranga Tamariki to Māori.

Bill C-92 gives First Nations, Inuit and Metis collectives in Canada the right to create and enforce legislation to look after their own children.

In January this year in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the Cowessess First Nation enacted their own legislation which gives them to the right to operate their own child protection services based on their cultural practices.

Green suggested those redesigning how Oranga Tamariki interacts with Māori children should approach the Cowessess First Nations.

The implementation of indigenous responsibility for indigenous children is not new in Canada. The provincial devolution of services to native tribes has been ongoing and not much has changed. Bill C-92, a federal law, only expands the scope of devolution. 

I urge you to read An Endless Cycle of Despair by Brian Giesbrecht an ex Provincial Court Judge in Manitoba, Canada.

Excerpt (picks up the story in the 1970s/80s):

Out-adoption was eventually abandoned in favour of devolution as provincial child welfare authorities relinquished most of their authority over reserves to local Indigenous agencies such as the DOCFS in Manitoba. As a sitting judge, I watched as this policy unfolded in real time.

Advocates assured provincial governments that as newly formed Indigenous agencies opened up and Indigenous leaders gained more control, the old problems would ease. Appropriate cultural influence would inevitably reduce the number of children in care. Some even claimed chronic Indigenous welfare problems would disappear altogether. I once expressed my skepticism to a highly placed welfare bureaucrat. He candidly, if naively, responded: “How could it possibly be worse than the current situation?”

As it turned out, it could. To the story of Lester Desjarlais, we have added the equally tragic stories of Tina Fontaine, Phoenix Sinclair, Serenity and Devon Freeman, to name just a few of the better-known entries from a long list of despair. In Manitoba, approximately 90 percent of the province’s 11,000 children under the care of a child welfare agency are Indigenous, either on or off reserve. The biological parents of these children are often themselves products of an Indigenized child welfare system.

And because off-reserve adoption has been so severely discouraged, many children are placed in temporary foster care instead of with permanent families. This means that when they reach adulthood they are often left to fend for themselves, without any reliable family supports. This is one major reason why the majority of homeless people on Winnipeg’s streets are believed to be former child welfare wards. Meanwhile, FASD takes its toll on reserves, generation after generation.

Many of the Indigenous organizations given responsibility for child welfare were initially incapable of protecting native kids. Training and education among staff were dramatically different from the provincially-run agencies and these problems were exacerbated by dysfunction and corruption within other reserve institutions, including school boards and local government, as the Lester Desjarlais inquiry painfully illustrated. Again, this is not a racially-motivated accusation; the size of many reserves’ polity leaves them especially prone to conflicts of interest and nepotism. The problem of “small democracies” is detailed in University of Calgary academic Tom Flanagan’s 2016 study Corruption and First Nations in Canada.

Today, staff at Indigenous-run agencies are much better credentialed and the organizations more professional. After several decades of devolution, the care provided to children at risk is now largely equivalent to provincially-run child welfare agencies. Yet the statistics continue to worsen. Indigenization alone is clearly not sufficient to remedy the massive problems facing Indigenous children. Regardless of who is in charge, the root causes remain: addiction, family breakdown and poor community oversight. It has even become common for Indigenous child welfare workers to be criticized for making the same difficult choices that federal and provincial child welfare workers once made during previous eras.


When devolution began, it was common for Indigenous agencies to declare that no native babies would ever be apprehended from maternity wards. Parental and cultural rights would trump the rights of children at risk. This belief is further embedded in Bill C-92 through its “cultural continuity” requirement. Yet Indigenous child welfare officials have lately come to realize that leaving a newborn baby with his or her mother can be so fraught with risk that immediate apprehension is the only safe option.

That was the situation in the high-profile G (DF) case, in which a Winnipeg-based Indigenous child welfare agency tried to detain an addicted pregnant mother for treatment. She had previously given birth to several brain-damaged babies, yet the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately decided that detention violated the mother’s rights and, hence, was unlawful. The child, and many others since, was therefore consigned to a fate of painfully low chances.

After more than 30 years on the bench, it was clear to me that governments and agencies have very little control over how parents actually care for their children, or the eventual outcomes. Child welfare workers, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, are all motivated by a deep desire to do what is best for children under their watch. If a child has become a permanent ward of the state, it is almost certain that his or her home life was thoroughly and irreparably dysfunctional. Accordingly, the only way to remedy the high number of native children in foster care is to tackle the root cases. Family dysfunction on reserves is not the fault of child welfare agencies. The blame lies with parents and their communities.

It is this difficult reality that the federal government was trying to cope with using residential schools, and the provinces with the Sixties Scoop. Given the subsequent failure of devolution to remedy the situation, it is impossible to imagine a further push to sever native child welfare from the rest of the country will yield the desired results.

If Canada truly wishes to reduce the number of Indigenous children in foster care – and all Canadians have a stake in this outcome − we must start by emphasizing the importance of sobriety, parental responsibility and family stability among all citizens. Instead, Ottawa has chosen to place the blame for native child welfare failures on past injustices such as colonialism and institutional racism.

Ring any bells? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

"...there's going to be fruit sitting on the ground rotting"

 Alexandra 387

Balclutha  594

Dunedin Central 3,241

Gore  562

Invercargill 3,033

Mosgiel 414

Oamaru 704

Queenstown 588

South Dunedin 984

Timaru 1,655

Total 12,162

These are the number of people on Jobseeker Support at September 30, 2020.

I post them on the back of a conversation between Mike Hosking, Mark Mitchell  and Stuart Nash on NewstalkZB this morning. Nash was in denial that there are thousands of people on the unemployment benefit who don't want to work whereas Mark Mitchell had been down to the Blossom festival in Alexandra and said there are "six and a half thousand jobs empty at the moment"  as a consequence "there's going to be fruit sitting on the ground rotting."

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

No lockdown for Lockey

 On the lighter side of life, prior to the first lockdown I was providing daycare for two extra dogs. The arrangement had run for about a year. Lockey, a chihuahua cross, was slow to warm to me. On our very first day together out walking he took off, me in vain pursuit and high-tailed it for home. I gathered up the other ward and my own, went home. We drove around to his house on the hill and coaxed him back into the car. The months passed and Lockey got surer about me. Then April came and the arrangement couldn't stand. But within days there was yapping at the front gate. Lockey had brought himself around. And so the habit has continued. Most days he turns up early and someone will collect him late in the day. We have all agreed that it works for him and it works for us.

Purposefully re-purposing motels

Apparently some moteliers have sold out to purchasers happy to accommodate the need for emergency housing. They charge way over the normal asking price per unit and seem prepared to operate this new 'model'. I've heard multiple reports of damage and trouble associated with some WINZ occupants (and it can't be pleasant for other WINZ occupants having to live amongst it either). 

Regardless, the practise and cost to the taxpayer is ballooning. In the last September quarter it was reported at $83 million - up from $9 million three years ago. 

The following recent post from a motel owner seems to suggest the conclusion I had arrived at - that the government would do better to buy these motels outright and modify or rebuild - is already afoot. Although asking prices will be inflated it is better the taxpayer gets stung once rather than repeatedly and indefinitely. And under three more years of Labour more state housing of one form or another is a given.

Anyway lest I be accused of 'beneficiary bashing' yet again, here is the owner of Tongariro River Motel's experience and explanation for why he will no longer accept WINZ clients:

TRM continue to receive regular requests for emergency accommodation from WINZ/MSD-type “clients”. They are easily recognised when they request two or three weeks and never ask the $ room rate! TRM have recently been questioned for refusing their applications with criticism – accused of being selfishly selective – which deserves response.

TRM are targeted as it has older style low density with larger family units offering more spacious living accommodation. Every unit has under cover parking and fully equipped kitchens with full sized ovens, fridge freezer units, microwaves, etc. particularly to cater for fishos wanting to stay several weeks every year. Many of them from across the ditch are missing in action this season so the continual requests to provide “emergency housing” have continued.

It is understandable or simple economics in other motels which have been left struggling to survive with the lack of tourist traffic. When MSD clients need emergency housing they cannot afford not to open their doors. The “clients” are allowed to choose the motel which suits them best.

TRM’s first WINZ client last year booked a studio through the iSite for one week. As it was quiet at the time the room rate was reduced by 20% and she was upgraded into a larger one bedroom unit. After booking in, the rest of her whanau moved in with two large guard dogs for the rest of the week. It was a disaster.

When we visited the local WINZ office to request their help to remove them they denied any responsibility claiming the guest had booked through the iSite. When their culpability was questioned they called their security guards and I was “escorted” off the premises. Unbelievable!

During the difficult covid lockdown period TRM remained open and reluctantly accepted two other desperate cases. Both had unfortunate issues which were incompatible with other fishy guests, who advised they would not return if TRM was going to accommodate these emergency guests. We had to agree with them. After property damage and thefts they were both forced to leave anyway.

So for an obviously selfish reason TRM have continued their “no-WINZ” clients policy. We trust you can understand why. It is hard to believe how other motels persevere with them at all. In Taupo and Rotorua we know of massive motel price hikes to compensate for the anticipated damage and trouble, but that is not our style. TRM management and inmates prefer the motel to be half empty to enjoy the jovial considerate company of anglers instead. It is such a cruel world out there.

Monday, October 26, 2020

On the PM going forward

 The election has come and gone and we have the same Prime Minister. She says she will govern "for all New Zealanders". If that was possible then our whole political system would be redundant. She can't govern for me because I disagree with her philosophical ideas about how to solve problems. If she could govern for all New Zealanders why did ACT garner so many votes? It's a fatuous statement accorded no critical analysis. What's more, she isn't a personality who can turn a diversity of opinion  into consensus because she is a polariser. New Zealanders either think she is The Second Coming, or see her as a signaller of little substance. No doubt she is smart and strong. That doesn't dictate that she has any sense of what she wants to achieve for New Zealand or how to go about it. The first three years have demonstrated that. If the problem was actually NZ First, or the Greens, she now has the golden opportunity to prove that. I'm sticking with my initial prediction that she won't make a dent in child poverty and the many regrettable statistics that show child wellbeing in NZ leaves much to be desired.