New Zealand’s Family Court has noted that some parents are using the lockdown as an excuse to make changes to their custody arrangements, in breach of parenting orders.
Family Court Covid-19 Guidelines state that “children are precious and that, more than ever, this is a time to focus on their wellbeing, and in particular their safety. It is important that their loved ones are also safe and well, and that children know that, and are able to see their parents and caregivers lead by example.”
Great sentiments but, pre-Coid-19, police attended a family violence incident every five and a half minutes. During Covid-19, psychological abuse and violence of parents to each other and to children can be expected to increase. Keeping a bubble that is safe in multiple ways, may be hard.
A big shout out to the police, Oranga Tamariki staff and the NGOs that continue to be on call throughout this time of escalating tensions and fear of disease.
The National Party has recently released a policy statement about gangs. There are promises about raiding gangs on a regular basis to uncover potential wrongdoing and stopping welfare payments if people have assets they cannot explain.
All policies start with a list of objectives which, in this case, are documented as:
Every day, we can see how law gets operationalised: when we drive too fast and get ticketed, if we are unhappy with the behaviour of a teacher and want their conduct to be investigated in order to protect our child, or when we lodge a request for a building consent to modify our home.
Sometimes, however, the operation of the law exposes shortcomings with the design of the policy that underpins it.
The State Services Act 1988 is a prime example. A creature of its time, this piece of legislation provided the foundations for the formation, operation and financing of government entities. Since 1988, these government entities tackled Aotearoa New Zealand’s wicked social problems in the context of global and national societal, labour market, economic and technological changes. Their financing arrangements (Budget appropriations) have operated in isolation and this has made it hard for agencies to ‘join up’ to provide wraparound support to tackle difficult problems.
Thirty years on, we know that our complex social problems cannot be addressed in isolation. A Public Service Legislation Bill has recently been introduced into Parliament to reform and replace the existing Act. Once the Bill has passed, the leaders of government departments will be able to come together as across-agency ‘Boards’ or joint ventures. They can then be accountable to a single Minister and have a Budget appropriation targeted at the issue they have come together to specifically address.
The State Services/Public Service legislation is a demonstration of the policy cycle: policy development once led to a law which was implemented but, over time as issues arose, further policy analysis was needed. The nature of these issues and problems was uncovered and an option was developed to address them. That option is now being implemented into law.
The second session of my Public Policy 1010 training course covers the interface between law and policy development and, in turn, policy development and law. Case studies include the physical restraint provisions in the Education Act 1989, compliance frameworks in transport settings, the interface between the tax and benefit systems, and the ‘three waters’ review.
This session of the training course also goes through the 'machinery of government' that governs the making of new policy, laws and regulations. By the end, you might wonder how we ever manage to make progress!
Driving home from work, I sometimes listen to Wallace Chapman and his panel on Radio New Zealand. He asks each of his panel members what they’ve been thinking about; this is a great way to get us hooked into a whole range of topics that might otherwise pass us by.
What I’ve been thinking about is the recovery of people and communities at risk of an emergency.
We have a new entity called the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which will have a key role in both the initial response phase after a geological or meteorological event (such as an earthquake, volcano, flood or tsunami) and the long tail of any recovery.
Emergency recovery is a many-headed beast, and so other government departments will take the lead in some areas such as the recovery of road and rail infrastructure. Think of the massive amount of work following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016 to repair, and make more resilient, State Highway 1 and the Main North Railway Line from Picton, through Kaikoura, to Christchurch.
Infrastructure relating to the three waters (drinking, waste and storm) is also well covered. Currently, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet holds the funding for three water recovery, which it operates in partnership with local and regional councils. The Department of Internal Affairs is reviewing this, and so we may see changes in the leadership and management of three waters infrastructure. However, one thing is sure; all the critical underpinnings of communities are well covered in recovery exercises.
But what about privately-owned property?
Private and public insurance can pay for the repair of, or retreat from, damaged land (EQC) and damaged housing (private insurers). There has been a lot written about how well that was managed in Christchurch and in Kaikoura following the 2010/2011 and 2016 earthquakes, and how well-covered homeowners are, and I do not intend to canvas that here.
My interest is in the situations where people cannot return to their homes due to the risk of damage rather than actual damage, because neither public nor private insurance covers that.
What about when land shifts and exposes large boulders overhanging homes, or big slips indicate that there is a risk of further slips? The homeowners are not allowed to stay in their homes, are unable to sell their homes (because who would buy them), insurers sometimes refuse to renew insurance policies, and usually homeowners are unable to afford to walk away and start again.
There are also many places around the country from which homeowners need to retreat due to rising sea levels carving away the land (Invercargill, Bluff, Kapiti coast, East Coast of the North Island, and southern Taranaki are some examples). Other areas ripe for retreat include those which are condemned to severe floods year after year (think Whakatane, Edgecumbe, and Matata) or which are situated near active volcanos (such as White Island in the Bay of Plenty).
In all these cases, not only are homes at risk, so too are the transport life lines and three water infrastructure critical to communities.
Do we wait for emergencies to eventuate in all their fury so that insurers (public and private) can pay out for actual damage, or should we be anticipating these risks and finding ways to move communities to safer ground in advance?
Regional and local councils are already putting in place regional policy statements and changes to district plans so that requests for new building in areas at risk can be refused, but existing homeowners in those areas are without options.
I wonder if central, regional and local councils could put their heads together about whether it is cost effective to remediate the land is some of these areas of risk and, if not, when and how those areas should go into retreat mode? There might also be a way to agree on a basic formula for who pays for what, in which situations. Would it be a third, a third, a third? Or would homeowners need to become a fourth partner in any such arrangement?
In any case, preparation may be preferable to waiting for disaster to strike before a retreat package can be developed on a case-by-case basis, with a formula for ‘who pays’ painfully reinvented each time.
This is one of the case studies I use in my Public Policy 101 training course to develop and evaluate policy options. Take a look at my course outline and details here and check out my Patreon page here.
A correspondent has written to me about New Zealand’s announcement that farmers are being brought into our (restored) emissions trading scheme, and querying why that is. Their understanding is that the Paris Accord to reduce CO2 emissions does not expect that agricultural emissions would be taken into account.
My reading is that the Paris Accord stipulates how each country should tackle CO2 emissions, although I can’t claim to be an expert in this. I notice, however, that the UN’s measurement of emissions does include land use change.
Apparently New Zealand is one of the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters on a per capita basis; our net emissions have risen 21 per cent since 2008; and agriculture contributes 48 per cent of those.
The Labour Party made election campaign promises in 2017 to both restore the emissions trading scheme and bring agriculture into it.
The recent announcement about how the Government plans to follow through on that promise follows the advice of the Climate Commission. It will only kick in if farmers haven’t managed to reduce their own emissions, farm by farm, when progress is reviewed in 2022. Payments won’t even start until 2025 and will be discounted by 95 per cent.
Greenpeace has said we haven’t gone far enough. Federated Farmers has said the policy goes too far. So the Government may have got it about right.
This is a fascinating example of policy development that spans big, little and operational ‘P’ policy. The first session of my Public Policy 101 training course gives a whirlwind tour of the different types of policy, what they involve and what skills you will need. The PowerPoint presentation for that first session is available to my ‘patrons’ now at my Patreon Public Policy101 Training Materials page. Next week, I will follow up with detailed notes that support the 'whirlwind' presentation with lots of real life examples.