N.Z. in lock down: DAYS 47 and 48

On Monday afternoon at 1600 hours, the Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand was moving to Level 2 at 0000 hours on Thursday.

Across DAYS 47 and 48, I have been thinking about the impact of the Government’s decision and the wisdom of it.

Whilst I generally support the move to LEVEL 2 I have wondered at times, in flashes of doubt brought on by a mixture of local goings on and international goings on, if perhaps New Zealand should have decided to wait another 10-14 days at LEVEL 3 and skip LEVEL 2 completely. Those pangs of doubt have been quickly silenced each time just by looking at  the number of people starting to raise credible concerns about our time at LEVEL 3

If we had decided to stay at LEVEL 3, whilst that would be very hard on a lot of people, I think the reward would have been COVID19 for the time being effectively eradicated in New Zealand. The country would have been able to effectively return to normal business. The Government restrictions would be all but gone and the Police would be able to fully focus on crime; hospitals and medical centres on the normal problems.

A part of me also worries that New Zealanders in their rush to get back to “normal” will completely forget the lessons of COVID19, which I will discuss later this week. And so for those reasons, my happiness at going to LEVEL 2 is tinged with wariness.

But the real worry is about a number of issues that people might perceive to be on the side, but which actually have had tangible impact on aspects of COVID19:

  • The legalese of the State of Emergency
  • The need for a hygiene revolution in New Zealand
  • How we approach health dealing with our elderly and more vulnerable people
  • The interconnected state of the world and the next pandemic

These issues are going to impact on how New Zealand recovers. But most probably few people have thought about them or their potential impacts.

Whilst I have laid down the case for the State of Emergency in previous posts. I believe that New Zealand needs to revisit as soon as this one is lifted the procedural steps that had to be taken to reach it. Each State of Emergency when it is lifted is immediately reviewed by its controller/s and senior staff so that before people forget what their roles and actions in it were, they are on a paper record in case question arise later about their legality.

New Zealand needs a hygiene revolution. And I can see it happening if we are serious about making sure we never have to do what has gone on in the country in the last seven weeks again. In some respects it will be simple things like requiring diners at a restaurant to sanitize their hands on arrival also patients arriving at any medical centre or hospital; in other respects, law changes might need to require people with the common cold/flu to stay home – is this enforceable? Don’t know.

Vulnerable people with serious long term conditions might now need to be marked as such on their files if this is not already happening. When emergencies are declared a community health worker might need to be sent around on a regular basis to make sure their needs are being met.

The pandemic made it around the world via cruise ships and long haul flights. There is no polite way of saying so. I see a necessary step in the future being to require anyone who has cold symptoms or worse to present a medical certificate at the border before being allowed to fly; require anyone entering the country with such conditions to present a certificate and agree to isolate until a Dr can see them. No agreement, no entry. Tough, but very probably necessary.

This is what I believe to be a common sense approach to the post-COVID19 future.

Urgent reform of Work and Income New Zealand needed

For decades it was rumours that the department of Work and Income New Zealand were underpaying clients on a systemic basis. Just rumours to most people. But they were persistent rumours. It was like looking for smoke with no obvious source – a lot of it about and stubbornly refusing to disperse. There had to be something burning somewhere, and there was. But where? And why could no one find it, never mind put it out?

But now, thanks to a leak on Friday, the rumours have become something much more serious.

In my estimate the entire Work and Income senior management need to be sacked. If an organization has lied for the decades it is alleged that Work and Income have done so, then most probably the senior management are not only aware of it, they are also complicit in enabling this.

I also believe that there should be a class action taken against them. I do not know how many clients of theirs were underpaid or not paid at all, who have eligible claims, but it could be in the tens of thousands of potential claimants and some of them might be eligible for thousands of dollars in compensation.

I would not want to be the Chief Executive of W.I.N.Z. right now. This would be a potentially public servant career ending blow to suffer. I would not be waiting for the Minister to ring and tell me my game is up. If this happened under watch, I’d be clearing my desk immediately. This kind of systemic failure is simply not acceptable under any Minister’s watch.

I know little about Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni. For all I know she might be a brilliant Minister whose time has come and she intends to make the most of it. Or she might be spectacularly inept, like fellow Minister, Phil Twyford. Whatever the case, she need to stamp her authority on W.I.N.Z. and any other umbrella agency of the Ministry of Social Destruction, that might be behaving like W.I.N.Z. has behind her back.

A bold Minister would not have waited for something like this to happen. There is no shortage of evidence to indicate that problems have existed at W.I.N.Z. for some time, both from the tempestuous relationship between client and servant that anyone who has been to an appointment with this agency, and from some of the more overt problems that have surfaced in the media from time to time.

A bold Minister would be overhauling the legislative framework that governs the M.S.D., W.I.N.Z. Studylink, Child Youth and Family Services (C.Y.F.S.). They would be looking at why such a toxic and dangerous culture has been allowed to form and the aggravating factors possible; the interactions between the agencies. To enable the necessary changes, they would then be bringing legislation before Parliament that takes on board all of these issues and the numerous other ones lurking just beneath the surface.

And if the Minister refuses to ACT on the feedback, she should consider whether she is fit to hold the Ministerial Warrant for Minister of Social Development. Because at the time of scheduling this to publish, there was a warning of potential legal action hanging over W.I.N.Z.

Watch this space.

N.Z. in lock down: DAYS 45 and 46

Today, the Government will make an announcement that determines the future of the lock down. In doing this, they will indirectly influence the end date for the New Zealand In Lock Down diary, and when the return to normal transmission will resume. For the remainder of lock down the diary will publish every second day.

Below is the entry for DAYS 45 and 46 of New Zealand in lock down as we look to end one of the grimmest peace time periods in New Zealand history.

There has been a distinct positive side to the COVID19 lock down. The enforced time off work, time in our respective bubbles at home has forced many people to get creative with how they spent their time. From trying new things like baking and crafts to working on maintenance jobs around the house, it would be a lie to say COVID19 lock down was all bad.

In our bubble, my father has been steadily knocking off a long list of maintenance jobs around the property, some of which date back decades. They include re-levelling the cobble path from the house to the garage. This is a more recent task that was started last week. Prior to that, joining was put in place where the brick facade of the house meets the roof so that water cannot seep into the house. The underside of the ceiling was given a new coat of paint

I have continued to make use of the lock down period. Whilst my father was busy outside, I got on with my study at a time when I was seriously struggling with my postgraduate paper and wondering if I would have to with draw from it.  Because of this, I have been able to claw my way back into the paper and and feel more confident than I did in March of completing it.

Outside of my study, I have spent anywhere between 30 minutes and 120 minutes a day walking, covering anywhere between 3 kilometres and nearly 12 kilometres. I have been doing two types of walking. You can see from the Google Earth image I have made, how the two types differ:

  • Infill walking – walking the length of a street in both directions by crossing the road just before I reach the end and walking down the other side, and takes considerably longer to do, whilst staying near home
  • Area walking – walking a path that rings in an area on the map, which I might do infill walking in later, which means one will walk considerably further from home than if they did infill walking

It has given me a good chance to look at neighbours and say “Hi” to people whilst passing. I have gone down streets in nearby suburbs that I never knew existed. I have walked through areas with state housing, often in quite run down state and through areas with B.M.W. cars and flash four bedroom houses with electric gates, beautiful gardens, swimming pools and even tennis courts. I have been to dairies and service stations I have not been to in the past. It is also deceptive in terms of how far I have walked. Take a guess at how far I have walked. Then take a second guess based on the first at how far you think I might walk if I am out for say 90 minutes a day at a steady pace by the time lock down ends.

75 years after V.E. Day 1945 has the world learnt its lesson?

This is a special article to acknowledge the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. It does not replace the “N.Z. In Lock Down” diary. It is timed to publish 75 years to the minute that the German surrender took effect in Europe.

World War 2 in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. 5 years and 8 months of the most destructive war known to man had finally come to an end. Millions were dead. Cities, entire countries were wrecked from end to end. Millions more were transient, bombed out of their homes with nowhere to go. Prisoners of war going home to countries they no longer recognized and concentration/death camp survivors wondering how they had survived a special kind of hell, now wondering how to restart their lives.

Europe in May 1945 was also a continent about to undergo massive geopolitical upheaval. The fighting to rid the Germans and their allies from occupied Europe was on a scale perhaps only matched by the stand off between the democratic western bloc and the Communist eastern bloc that then consumed the continent for 46 years and on at least one occasion very nearly brought the world to its nadir.

For a time the international order that was established to prevent World War 3 or any of the atrocities that made World War 2 a particularly horrible war worked relatively well. However, in line with the valedictory speech of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the advent of the military-industrial complex whose needs – and wants – began to feed off each other, the world was introduced to wars that are more about providing an excuse for manufacturing new murder machines.

Just as Adolf Hitler sought lebensraum (living space)in the Middle East, the U.S.S.R. sought it in neighbouring countries. Major industrial powers – and smaller ones, including Australia and New Zealand – sought raw material (in N.Z.’s case phosphate from Nauru to make fertilizer with)to manufacture things with, showing scant (some might say callous) disregard for the third world nations that it was sourced from. Now we wonder why many of those nations have low regard for the western way of doing things.

Now we watch the European powers – France, Spain, Britain, Italy and others – struggle with the devastating effects of COVID19. Tens of thousands of their civilians have died and probably hundreds of thousands more were made sick. For countries that are meant to have some of the best health care in the world, their response was surprisingly poorly organized.

Will COVID19 make the developed world dunk its proverbial head in a bucket of cold water? I do not think so, but it would be nice to think that if one of the most economically destructive things in 100 years has done any good, it will be to make we might not need W.W.3 to destroy ourselves.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 44

Yesterday was DAY 44 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

This has been a highly contentious week for the Government as a number of legal and procedural challenges to how it is handling the COVID19 emergency have come out. There are two particular issues that I want to mention in this article:

  • A challenge to the legality of the LEVEL 3 and LEVEL 4 lock down is underway
  • The Government, following a trend set several Governments ago – and which has been going on for at least my entire adult life – has done a massive document dump to distract New Zealanders

Many New Zealanders – but certainly NOT all – probably do not care too much at the moment about the perceived illegality of LEVEL 3 and LEVEL 4 lock down. They are just grateful that the Government has taken firm and decisive action to minimize COVID19.

But certainly not all New Zealanders are in that category. Nor should people be. If the lock downs were illegal, then that points to failings by the Clark, Key/English and now the Ardern Government to make sure that the legal grounds were proverbially rock solid. I doubt though that one could justify some of the suggestions that have been made by the most aggressive right-wing commentators, including sending the Prime Minister to trial. But there would be an absolutely expectation that the Government would make appropriate amendments to legislation to ensure that this cannot happen again.

My concerns in this case stem from a grubby tactic that successive Governments have used and which seems to be finding rare consensus across the political spectrum when it comes to condemnation of it. I am talking about the habit of massive document dumps on Friday afternoon’s where, perhaps under pressure as it has been this week, or because they think no one will be paying attention as they look forward to the weekend – or hoping that if anyone IS paying attention, that they’ve forgotten by Monday why they were grumpy on Friday. It is not new. The fifth Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark did it. The fifth National Government of Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English did it. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Government is just the latest.

Because of the latest use of this tactic, I wonder if a Cabinet Manual update is needed to provide guidance on how and when the Government should release documents in the manner that it tends to. I certainly believe it to be a questionable tactic and New Zealand political commentators across the spectrum seem to think that it should be frowned upon.

More critically it reinforces in my mind why New Zealanders need to be taught civics in high school. I personally see no reason why it cannot be taught. People might say “oh, but you are teaching politics”, to which I reply, how do they expect to learn about the political and legal systems if they are not properly taught?