From the President’s Desk

Mac WelchMac Welch

The AGM is over for the 2018 year and a very successful and a worthwhile event it was too, after the ructions of previous years.
Congratulations must go to Tom O’Connor (Immediate-Past President) for his capable Chairmanship and conduct of the meeting. Congratulations also to the Delegates attending for their happy demeanour and excellent contribution to the debate and smooth running of a good meeting.

WHAT CAN I BRING TO THE POSITION OF NATIONAL PRESIDENT
An in-depth knowledge of the organisation and its strengths and weaknesses.
A good working relationship with current Board Members.

I feel there is still room for improvement in the direction which Grey Power is currently moving. I intend to channel my energies to encourage the Board to make the following changes. Keeping in mind that the President only has one vote on the Board and to make changes, he requires the agreement of a majority of Board members.
An increased public profile of GP Federation nationally
Media statements that appear to be controversial to encourage dialogue and attract input from members and the public alike.
More input from Associations and Zones –
I feel that we often do not make proper use of the many skills, talents & knowledge that are available to us in Grey Power.
There is amongst the membership some highly intelligent people who though not willing to take up full-time positions either on the Board or at Association level, would however be willing to contribute their skills/expertise to one-off projects.
These people need to be encouraged to contribute to their full potential and the Board needs to be made aware of their existence.
Better communications between Federation, Associations and members.
Current methods are clearly in-effective as witnessed by Remits to Annual General Meetings asking the Board to introduce as new policies items that are already current policies.
This would be an excellent topic for discussion at the next Annual General Meeting. Rather than publish National Advisory Groups and Standing Committee Reports in the bulletin, they should be published in the Grey Power Quarterly Magazine, this will ensure they reach all members.
Changes need to be made to the AGM format.
The remit system we currently use is cumbersome and time consuming. While I would suggest that it is retained for Constitutional Remits, other remits or motions should be able to be put to the meeting, debated and then voted upon. Non-attending associations can give their proxy to other attending associations marked to vote “As Proxy holder sees Fit”. This ensures that no association is dis-enfranchised as has been the reason given for using the current system. This would enable the business of the Federation to be conducted far more efficiently and in a timely manner. We need to have more open forums at the AGM to discuss and decide what should be Grey Power core business and what battles we should be fighting. The current Board has tried to focus on what they consider to be core Grey Power business but in some cases this has been unclear, that is because no clear direction has been given by the Annual General Meeting to the Board. This needs to be rectified.
Structure of the Board/Modernisation Plan
The modernisation plan was written for the most part from a corporate point-of-view. We have job descriptions setting out required skills & qualifications for Board representatives and Zone directors, all very well when these positions are positions appointed by a panel or by the Board. They are however not appointed by anyone. They are voted on by the Zones with very little reference to job descriptions or CV’s. These persons are elected by the zones on the basis of whether or not they feel that they can best represent them at Board level, or occasionally because they are the only person prepared to commit to the task.
The insistence we have under the Modernisation plan that every Board member must either chair a National Advisory Group or a Standing committee often makes no allowance for whether or not that person has the required knowledge, expertise or interest. I feel we would be far better to seek persons from within the membership with the required skills to chair these National Advisory Groups or committees unless such a person is already on the board, obviously not as convenient as having the chair sitting at the Board table but I would suggest far more effective.
In my view it is critical that the person elected to the position of National President has a solid background & experience at all levels within the Grey Power organisation.
It is necessary that the individual has this experience to enable them to understand the structure of the organisation, the membership and the constitution.

AREAS WE NEED TO PUT MORE/CONTINUED EFFORT INTO

Health
Health is and will continue to be an area where we focus a great deal of our energies timely, effective and adequately funded health services are critical to our membership. In this day an age living a life with constant pain while waiting months for a simple medical procedure is not acceptable.
The cry we always hear when talking about more and better health services is “needs more money” but I feel its time to look at the system and in many cases the people running it the system needs a revamp e.g. WAIKATO DHB.
Health Insurance Subsidies
At the 2010 AGM a remit was passed that GP would lobby the Government for some form of subsidy on Medical Health Insurance premiums in recognition of the fact that people who have their own health insurance effectively are subsidising the Public Health System. We have achieved virtually nothing in this area since then and members continue to have to cancel their Health Insurance due to the prohibitive cost in the latter years when they need it most. You can expect to see an increased effort in this area.
ACC
The Senior Citizens of NZ are not well served by ACC as are majority of all New Zealanders, in my opinion. We gave up our right to sue on the grounds of the implementation of a system that was going to remove the need for lengthy Court battles with Employers and Insurers for fair compensation for accidents when they were not the fault of the victim. This system has been steadily eroded over time to where employees are now paying a large portion of the costs of ACC. Many Providers are only part funded by ACC which means the client has to make up the balance, difficult if not impossible for someone trying to exist on only Superannuation. ACC continues to invest billions of dollars while continuing to short-change and nit-pick NZ citizens. This situation needs to be rectified urgently. For this reason I will be recommending to the Board at its May meeting that ACC portfolio become a stand-alone N.A.G. and it be given urgent priority.

I trust the foregoing has given you some insight into my thoughts and views as to the direction that I wish to take Grey Power over the coming 12 months. All the points raised are topics for discussion and I ask for full and frank input from the Board and Associations.

Mac Welch
National President
Grey Power Federation

Coromandel MP congratulates Grey Power President

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson has congratulated local Coromandel Town resident Mac Welch on his election as National President of Grey Power.
“Mac is a former President of Coromandel Grey Power and has previously served on the national executive of the organisation.  I know him to be a staunch advocate for seniors and their interests. Mac’s election as President of the nationwide Grey Power organisation is a credit to his hard work and dedication over many years. I wish him well during his term of office.”

ENDS
Media contact – Scott Simpson MP 021 880 331

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

My final year as president has been one of exciting highs and only a few disappointing lows.

Prior to the general election in October last year board members spent a considerable amount of time and effort with political parties working with them to develop some of the policies the new Government is now implementing. These include a new housing policy for the elderly, a new age care policy, rates rebates for residents in licence to occupy rest homes, free shingles vaccine and easier access to medical cannabis. This last issue still needs some work as the Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill does not go far enough but we have made a submission to the Select to the Health Select Committee suggesting some logical changes.

We have also made a submission on the Telecommunications (new regulatory framework) Bill in response to the concerns of many members about the future of the copper wire technology.

Few other groups have such a positive working relationship with all political parties and an essential part of that success is our strict political independence. Any suggestion that we support one political party over another or have an association with a political party would bring an end to the open door invitation we currently have with all of them. It is also my opinion, based on first-hand experience, that one of our major strengths is that we are amateur volunteers who speak with the voice and the real experiences of ordinary people. Any move to corporate structure would detract or professionalism would take away much of our current and very significant political influence.

Our success was also due to the fundamental difference between negotiating with political parties in the development of new policies which affect our members and protests about policy we don’t like. The board has shown beyond any doubt that the future lies not in attempting to repeat the protests of past but in making full use of our ability to negotiate good outcomes.

Over the past year there has been significant improvement in the functioning of the board with much more friendly and less acrimonious relationships between members. Disagreements on policy and how we go about our work are normal but I think the toxic atmosphere of the past is gone. Part of the cause of those difficulties I believe are our very complex internal systems. The Modernisation Plan was a good start to resolving some of those issues and I think it is now time to take the next step and simplify our systems. I have written a discussion paper for the new federation board on ways to make our work easier and simpler and they will consider that over the next few months. There is still some undue negativity in the zones but overall being the president of such a diverse group of people is a much more pleasant task now.

We have a Government, and a new style of government, the likes of which this country has not seen since Michael Joseph Savage rescued the nation from the dark days of Great Depression of the 1930 which only our parents can now remember. Hopefully that will mean the bleak times of the past nine years for many of our members are behind us but we cannot relax. To be part of the new order Grey Power will need to be as vigilante and committed to the welfare of our members as ever. That will mean more hard work for the federation board keeping up to date with political developments and visiting Government Ministers in Wellington.

To do that effectively it essential the board is not distracted by the divisive in-house political and personal infighting that was a feature of board business for far too long. It has taken the best part of two years for your hard working board to turn that around. When a democratic decision is made we are honour bound to not only accept it, not matter how we voted, but to also actively support it. It is not acceptable to attempt to undermine or reverse a decision once a vote has been taken. It is an essential corner stone of democracy that the decision of the majority becomes the decision of the whole. Any return to the divisive and destructive ways of the past will prevent Grey Power from achieving much need improvements for members. That would be tragic.

Finally the new look Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Grey Power had a number of concerns with the original treaty which had the potential to increase the cost of medications and posed a threat to New Zealand’s ability to make laws without the interference of multinational corporations.

Most, but not all, of those concerns have been addressed in the new treaty but there will be an opportunity to make submissions on the Bill finalising the treaty before it becomes law.

We have a unique and very effective lobby group which enjoys the respect and regard of all political parties. Maintaining that respect and status requires unwavering unity of purpose.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

It is a pity that there is so much mis-information, pseudo-science and disingenuous humbug surrounding the issue of medical cannabis.

It is also unfortunate that the medical cannabis debate has been hijacked a number of times by those who simply want free access to the plant for smoking. That has produced an added barrier for those who have a genuine interest in the medical properties of the plant.

In spite of the claims by several groups there is no reliable, peer reviewed, science, so far, to show that cannabis, in any form cures anything. There is good evidence however to show that, properly administered, it is an effective sedative and pain inhibitor without many of the nasty side effects of conventional medications.

On that basis the Grey Power Federation Board established a policy, in November 2016, to support open access to cannabis-based pharmaceuticals on prescription from a GP but not to support home grown cannabis for self-medication.  Former Association Health Minister Peter Dunne undertook to do that just prior to the general election.

If the new Parliament had been bold enough last week to recognise that, both recent Bills addressing the matter of medical cannabis, one from the Government and one from the Green Party could have gone to the Health Select Committee and the public could have contributed to an important discussion on the subject.

As it turned out only the Government Bill will be considered, and that Bill is far too restrictive and does not go anywhere near far enough.

The Government Bill would provide a defence against criminal prosecution for terminally ill people, within a year of dying, using cannabis. It would still be an offence to grow and supply cannabis. That is clearly a nonsense as there are many people with chronic, debilitating pain who would benefit from having access to cannabis-based medicines.

During the debate on both Bills it was very clearly that entrenched party politics and ignorance of the subject got in the way of what was supposed to have been a conscience vote. It is therefore very important to make a clear distinction between so called recreational cannabis and medical cannabis. They are worlds apart.

The known adverse effect of smoking cannabis, particularly by young people, seems to have got in the way of an informed discussion on the matter of medical cannabis. However, in the same way that we do not allow people to have free access to opium but the medical profession has prescribed properly produced opioids for many years, we could still prohibit home grown cannabis for any purpose and at the same time have easy access to cannabis based pharmaceuticals.

Those who want to legalise cannabis for smoking make much of the fact that alcohol and tobacco are probably much worse from a public health point of view. They may well be correct but having two such substances in society does not justify introducing a third.

On the other and the Green Party Bill proposed to allow people to grow their own cannabis or self-medication. There is no escaping the obvious fact that those who did grow their own cannabis, among the tomatoes and spuds, would never harvest the plants as they would quickly be stolen by neighbourhood pot smokers. For as long as it is illegal to grow and smoke cannabis in New Zealand it is naïve to suggest it can be grown at home for self-medication.

It also ignores the fact that self-diagnosis and self-medication are hazardous at best and potentially fatal at worst. That is what we have a medical profession with several centuries of study and knowledge for.

There are a number of professionally produced cannabis-based pharmaceuticals available on the international market, including from Australia, and at least one is available in New Zealand but at significant cost. To the disappointment of the pot smoking brigade these products do not produce a “high” as the psychoactive THC is taken out during manufacture. That renders properly produced medical cannabis no different to any other medication derived from plant material and it should be, and could be, treated as such.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

Hi Folks,

We have an issue developing in the South Island which could have serious implications for the vulnerable elderly and very young throughout the rest of the country.

Like many coastal towns Timaru has a serious winter air quality problem with industrial coal fired boilers, heavy trucks and solid fuel home heaters creating heavy smog during the winter months. Some regional councils, which are responsible for the development of Regional Air Plans have taken a practical approach to the issue but others, including Environment Canterbury require log burners over 15 years old to be replaced regardless of efficiency. We now have people, who can’t afford a new log burner, living in unheated homes in the South Island winter, through fear of a penalty for having a smoky chimney.

Apparently a number of engineering companies offered to upgrade older style log burners to meet the new standards. It is a relatively straight forward operation which is done on a regular basis and in most cases can be done with the log burner in place. That offer was either declined ignored. There was also a suggestion that older style log burners should only be replaced when the house was sold but that was also rejected. There are also available in New Zealand Swiss made electrostatic chimney filters which have been successfully trialed and approved over most of Europe. They would cost around $2500 to buy and have fitted but, compared to between $5000 and $10,000 for a new log burner which many people simply cannot afford. Once again, the Canterbury Regional Council has refused to consider anything other than taking out older log burners.

More recently when the possibility of upgrading older log burners was again raised, Environment Canterbury refused to consider the possibility, claiming that it was too late for amendments and it would take a prolonged and costly plan change process. They also claimed the log burners would need to be taken out of the house to be rebuilt and laboratory tested. As abatement notices and penalties can be imposed for visible chimney smoke regardless of the age of the log burner the 15 year restriction and claimed laboratory testing of upgraded log burners are unnecessary.

South Island district health boards advise that air quality and home heating are intrinsically linked and both have implications for human health. That means they must be managed in balance. It is irresponsible to frighten people into living without winter heating with illogical rules to clean up the air they breathe. Cold winter homes pose a major threat to the health of the elderly and the very young. To put these people at unnecessary risk because a regional council is too stubborn and arrogant to listen to the community they are supposed to serve is simply unacceptable.

All political parties will be asked if they would allow older style log burners anywhere in the country to be upgraded and their responses will be published in the Grey Power Magazine before the general election.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

New Retirement Age

The recent announcement by Prime Minister Bill English, that the age of entitlement for national superannuation would rise from 65 to 67 by 2037, should not have been a surprise to anyone.

For many months prior to the announcement a steady campaign of misinformation and scare tactics about the long term unaffordability of national superannuation, coupled with ill-founded suggestions that the so called baby Boomer generation were “greedy oldies”, were a clear indications that some changes were in the wind.

National superannuation is not a benefit or a charity and amounts to less than 4% of GDP. Even if the amount currently paid doubles over the next twenty years GDP will probably increase by a similar amount or more. To even suggest that those people in physically demanding occupations should carry on working until 67 is simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as New Zealand.

The proposed new age of entitlement of 67 will only affect people currently younger than 45 and it is these people, our children and grandchildren we are concerned about, not ourselves.

The generation now in their retirement years and the one before them built the hydro dams, steel mills and the industrial infrastructure which underpins todays thriving economy. Certainly they earned good wages but they worked hard in dangerous industries and paid massive taxes, up to 33%, to fund those developments. Many did not live long enough to collect national superannuation and that includes high numbers Maori and Pacifica people A portion of the big taxes they paid was, supposedly, set aside, by agreement with Government and matched with a Government contribution, to fund national superannuation. The Government suspended payments into the scheme in 2008 and still gave the pension to immigrants after only ten years residency in New Zealand so it is a bit rich to now suggest the scheme is unaffordable.

Those people looking for someone to blame for the serious economic ills faced by some sectors of the community today should look to the successive governments who have sold off New Zealand’s heritage to the highest bidder not the older generation who created that heritage. Many of those who accuse the older generation of taking everything and leaving nothing for those who follow don’t know what hard work and hardship is and they seem to know very little about working for the good of the community. When we, in Grey Power, negotiate with government for better access to health care and the continued viability of national superannuation we are doing it for those who will follow us into retirement in the years ahead.

Lifting the age to 67 has the potential to create more problems than it will solve, if indeed there are problems to solve. What hasn’t been announced, yet, is how those people in physically demanding jobs will survive. It is simply unreasonable and unnecessary to expect these people to remain in full work until they are 67. Bodies wear out well before that age for many people.

Age is not a disability and these people should not be dependent on a benefit. Social benefits are too easily discounted and reduced by all manner of rules and regulation which do not, and must never, be applied to national superannuation or those too old to work.

It is unlikely that any government decision today will bind a government twenty years in the future but we have an obligation to ensure there is proper provision made for those who reach retirement in twenty years time as previous generations ensured there was provision for us twenty years and more ago.

I have already made my disappointment at the lack of consultation known but the door is still open for further discussions. We have a firm policy to retain a state-funded, universal, non-means tested pension payable at age 65 years. Any changes to that policy can only be made at our AGM in May and I have made provision for a detailed debate on the subject on the agenda. Hopefully, by that time, there will be more details of how the new system will work and we will need to do more listening and careful thinking before deciding on how we will respond.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

A number of national and international developments have the potential to cause us some problems and hard work over the next few months and we need to be united and focused on what we do and how we do it.

These developments include the election of Donald trump to the presidency of the United States, the election of Bill English as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the resurfacing of the New Zealand Constitution conversation, among others.

As was predicted in the long lead up to the election of Donald Trump the United States has now officially withdrawn from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Arrangement. (TPPA). While some in Grey Power might be elated at that news, as we were strongly opposed to what little we knew of the international trade treaty, it has not gone away.

Our concerns were the potential loss of access to affordable medications which would probably have impacted on older people more than most others. There were also issues of the loss of New Zealand’s right to make our own laws without pressure from international corporations seeking easy access to the New Zealand market place.

New Prime Minister Bill English has signaled that New Zealand and the remaining signatories to TPPA could proceed with a revised treaty. If that is the case then we need to insist that the big multinational corporations should be sidelined and that the process should include a more open dialogue with the New Zealand public.

Bill English has also indicated at least a review of national superannuation but, so far, few details of his intentions have been released. This issue alone has the potential to bring a major impact on our members and, while our new Prime Minister should be given every opportunity to find his way into the job, we can’t afford to relax and are seeking an early discussion with him.

In the last few weeks the proposed New Zealand Constitution has re-surfaced with all manner of wild and unfounded claims being made about the intentions of Government and some political activists. The reality is that all the essential components of a New Zealand constitution already exist in several laws. Some of them, such as the Freedom of Information Act (1982), Bill of Rights Act (1990) are relatively well known but other elements can be difficult to find and identify. Pulling them all together into a single, all encompassing, entrenched and supreme document is both logical and long overdue. Such a constitution would provide certainty for, and prudent constraint on, governments and give confidence and protection for all New Zealanders provided that the constitution could not be amended or repealed without the overwhelming will and mandate of the nation via a binding referendum specifically and solely for that purpose. The fact that some politicians have already said a written, entrenched constitution would be a hindrance to government, suggests it is probably a good idea. Under a New Zealand Constitution the Government we would have greater protection from political meddling or secret negotiations like TPPA than we have now.

In the lead up to this years general election we can expect pressure from all manner of political groups for Grey Power to support their particular ideas on these issues. We have already had a few last year but there will no doubt be more in the months ahead. It is absolutely essential for us to form our own opinions and policies, not support those of other groups. We may come up with similar ideas but they must be ours, decided by our membership alone. To achieve that it is important for all associations to not allow other groups to foist their ideas on them or make submissions to Government on these matters without letting the Federation office know first. That way we can coordinate our efforts and strength rather than be fragmented, contradictory and easy to ignore.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

Any change of leadership can bring a period of anxiety and uncertainty. I know that from the ripples which went through the Grey Power family when I was elected as national president in May this year. It took time and patience to assure people that their fears that some of the changes we introduced would be for the better. So far that has been borne out by results.

However when former Prime Minister John Key stood down to be replaced by Bill English there was a disturbing indication that the security of national superannuation could at least be under review. While John Key was in office he gave a solemn promise that national superannuation would remain unchanged. Like his policies or not we knew we could trust him and he was as good as his word on that important issue.

Within days of Bill English being elected by his National Party colleagues to be the new Prime Minister there were indications that he might not be as willing to leave national superannuation untouched. There have been no policy announcements and nothing more than vague hints but they have been enough to set alarm bells ringing.

We know that national superannuation has been under almost constant attack by all sorts of people and groups, including the Retirement Commissioner, for the past year or more. Some say it is unaffordable and others want the age of entitlement raised from 65 to 67. In reality the scheme cost something less than four percent of GDP and Government had not made any contribution to the fund since 2008. The scheme is obviously affordable now and would be more so into the future if Government honoured their part of the bargain and resumed contributions.

It would be unthinkable to raise the entitlement age to 67, particularly for those involved in physically demanding trades. While academics and those who have never worked with their hands and backs might suggest people in manual trades could retrain for new, less demanding, jobs in their middle years, the reality is very different, For starters the Government has stopped funding adult education schemes and, regardless of qualifications and work experience, it is nearly impossible for anyone over 50 to get a job.

Not all people over 65 are in financial trouble but a significant number, particularly those who live alone and only have national superannuation, live in near poverty.

We know there are parts of the scheme which need a review and some tidying up but the basic entitlements of a universal pension for all New Zealanders at 65 is out of bounds for political meddling. The deduction system for people with foreign state funded pensions who applied for New Zealand superannuation, after ten years residency, was generous and basically sound but there were a few anomalies which need to be addressed and we are working with the Ministry of Social Development on those matters.

We have a firm policy to retain a state-funded, universal, non-means tested pension payable at age 65 years and that is our bottom line. It was a proposal to apply surtax to national superannuation which gave rise to Grey Power more than 30 years ago and we need to be alert to any attempt to dilute what is already a meagre pension.

The Grey Power Federation would rather not get into a fight with Government as we achieve much more by working with them on many important issues but there are limits to what we will tolerate. If it becomes necessary to mount another public campaign like the anti-surtax campaign to protect national superannuation in the lead up to next years general election we will. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

While the Grey Power Federation does not yet have a formal policy on the ownership and allocation of freshwater we have written to Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith on the issue of affordability of water for home use. The debate on the ownership of freshwater has been surrounded by so much myth and guesswork that an informed public conversation is now all but impossible.

Only the debate on 1080, can rival the water ownership question for entrenched opinion, grandstanding and orchestrated mis-information.

While successive governments have given an assurance that “no one owns water” the difference between that official position and the reality of commercial exploitation is vast. Todays regional councils, and a range of local authorities before them, have been allocating water for domestic use, agriculture and industry in various parts of the country for more than half a century. However questions are now asked about acceptability of commercial extraction of freshwater as a tradeable commodity. There are, at present, about 70 water bottling companies providing water both in New Zealand and a growing export market. These companies don’t buy the water as our regional councils are not authorised to sell it, but they onsell it at significant profit.

The same applies to irrigation companies which take water from rivers or aquifers, without charge under a range of consent conditions imposed by regional councils, and provide it a cost to surrounding farmers. These companies also make significant profits.

The law does not allow regional councils to place meaningful constraints on the extraction and commercial exploitation of freshwater and there appears to be an expectation if not an actual instruction, to facilitate as much water extraction for agriculture as possible.

Adding to the complexity and heat of the argument is the lack of reliable information on the demands of Maori. A Waitangi Tribunal ruling, in 2012, that Maori have traditional rights and interests in water guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi, created ill-informed outrage among those who never took the time to find out exactly what the finding means.

When considering the Maori claim, the tribunal found that those rights were equivalent to ownership under the treaty and that there was an expectation that the water would be shared with Pakeha settlers. The tribunal’s recommendations are not binding on the government and can be ignored.

There are important also legal issues attached to Maori claims to water ownership.

The first is the guarantees given to Maori in Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi which says, in both Maori and English that Maori could retain everything they owned unless they were willing to part with it. This was not a unique or particularly radical promise but was an assurance that existing property rights would be honoured and that the Crown would not assume ownership of anything. That right has existed in British law since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

When the first Europeans arrived in the late 1700s two of the first commodities they traded for with Maori for were fire wood and fresh water, for which they paid trinkets, steel tools and, later, muskets. Ownership was clearly recognised and accepted by both parties to those transactions.

Irrigation companies can be said to own the water they take for free from rivers or, aquifers and on-sell it to farmers. They can keep that water if they choose or trade it for shares in the company or in almost any way that suits both parties. Bottled water in supermarkets is obviously owned for the purpose of sale; ownership is clearly established. It is ownership in everything but name.

The most important consideration is the difference between common or communal ownership of natural resources and commercial exploitation and how those differences impact on the rest of the community.

It is safe to assume that freshwater, which can be claimed as belonging to everyone, is in fact an unowned communal resource unless it is used for commercial exploitation. At that point the community, including Maori, should demand recognition of their rights way of payment and meaningful restraints.

For Grey that means we will seek assurances that water will always be affordable and available for domestic use before any other purpose.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Tom O’ConnorTom O’Connor

This week we have one of those successes which come from quiet diplomacy, attention to detail and working with kindred groups.

On Friday, September 23, the Government announced that the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2) will now not be reported back to Parliament until March next year. It was originally going to be reported back by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on October 28.

The Government introduced the Bill to Parliament earlier this year which, if passed into law, would have removed much of our rights and abilities to have any say at all in how our local bodies operate. In particular the Bill included a proposal to extend the powers of the Local Government Commission to re-structure district councils without consultation with rate payers.

That would have meant that the Local Government Commission could require neighbouring district councils to amalgamate some or all of their functions and ratepayers would have no say in the process. If we want to keep local body rates affordable it is essential that we must not lose the right to have our own local government and to elect who we want to represent us locally.

Zone Four Board Representative Pete Matcham presented a submission to the Select Committee considering the Bill and we joined forces with Local Government New Zealand which also opposed that part of the Bill.

The Government has now agreed to have further discussions with those who opposed the Bill in its original form with a view to making some radical changes and we will be part of that process..

It was a good initial result brought about by hard work, cooperation and sound strategic planning.

Tom O'Connor
Former National President
Grey Power Federation

Latest news and updates

You'll find all the latest news, press releases and announcements on our Facebook Page