TransTasman on Govt Departments

The excellent weekly newsletter, trans-Tasman, has some reviews of issues around Government agencies which I found interesting. You have to pay to subscribe, but here are some extracts so you can see the sort of stuff they have:

Ministry For The Environment

Govts which have been in power for a long time have a nasty tendency to view the public service as an extension of themselves. It is not a good thing, and when Govt’s change it can take a while for things to adjust, But what is worse is when the public service itself starts to make the same assumption. It has started to look a bit like this with the Ministry for the Environment.

More than a bit!

Department Of Conservation

After several years of fiscal malnourishment, “Doc” got a lot more money after the Cave Creek tragedy in 1995. Labour has continued this run of fiscal largesse. The department runs the country’s growing number of National Parks and Conservation Parks. The expansion has been such even a recent edition of one of the country’s tramping and outdoor magazines queried whether the expansion has been too far and too fast. The past four years has seen an additional 400,000 hectares of new Department of Conservation land in the South Island.

Energy Efficiency And Conservation Authority

The Authority’s main focus is getting people to use more energy efficient methods for heating and the like. One of the main planks of this is the solar water heating imitative, which was launched with great fanfare in late 2006, backed by a budget of $15.5m over three years. The aim was 15,000-20,000 installations in the first three years but this now looks a bit ambitious. In fact, the year after the strategy was launched the number of new installations dropped to the lowest level since 2000 – when the Authority began recording such installations. There is also a grant scheme offering $500 loans for installations, but in the 2006/07 year no grants were issued.

Not a single grant. Is there any other term for this except total failure. A great example of how good intentions are not enough.

Transit NZ/Land Transport NZ

At the moment, the budget allocation is for $7.5bn for each of the first three years. This is part of what Finance Minister Michael Cullen dubbed, in last year’s Budget, the biggest road building campaign for a generation.

The Greens must hate that level of spending being mainly on roads!

Ministry Of Transport

With Auckland being the key electoral battleground, and with transport hold-ups being such an issue in there, this will be even more so for this year. The Ministry has also increased its staff numbers, partly due to reorganisation of the sector and partly because it has a group of new policy people dealing with environmental issues and Climate Change.

Department Of Building And Housing

New Minister Shane Jones – one of the Govt’s high fliers, and tipped as a possible Labour leader – is also investigating changes to property law to allow investors to put up a “shell” property and allow low income people to buy a long term occupancy right and invest some of their own money. A model is the retirement village arrangement. Jones argues the change to more long-term renters creates a niche for this sort of property right. Less well noticed has been the change in profile of landlords. The popularity of investment properties means, according to a survey at the time the Department was formed, nearly a quarter of all landlords had been in the business for less than a year.

Housing New Zealand

On the one hand one of the major delivery agencies for social services, it is also the country’s largest property developer. So much so the Corporation, under after taking advice from its tax advisers, set up a separate property development company several years ago. The reason for this was to minimise the amount of tax the Corporation would have to pay for its property development activities.

So even Housing NZ avoids tax. Hilarious.

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