Education News – New horticulture programme teaches simple ways to grow your own food

Source: Te Pukenga

A new horticulture programme aims to offer practical gardening techniques to help feed whānau, save money and create a community of like-minded people.
“We want to give our families the ability to become more self-sufficient and to enjoy the delicious taste of organic home-grown success,” says Te Pūkenga NMIT Curriculum Area Manager for Primary, Food and Environment, Pam Wood.
Pam says there's a perfect storm of increasing costs for fruit and vegetables, coupled with weather events which are impacting the movement of produce both regionally and internationally.
To help address the issue for local communities, Te Pūkenga NMIT is launching a Level 2 Sustainable Horticulture programme, which offers practical education on how to successfully grow and maintain a productive garden.
The programme is designed to give people a solution to rising food prices and offer them a way to eat healthier.
“You harvest your kai fresh when you need it; it hasn’t sat in a coolstore and you know what has gone on it while it was growing.”
Jenny North, Horticulture tutor at Te Pūkenga NMIT, says classes will examine how to plan and execute a successful garden by learning several practical skills such as building your own compost and pruning and shaping trees.
“It is a hands-on course, with a bit of theory that gives reason behind what we do. We learn useful techniques for pruning and shaping trees, feeding the soil, and encouraging biodiversity,” Jenny says.
“We will also focus a lot on organic practices, teaching how to make fertilizer and compost, as well as discussing sustainable solutions to managing pests and diseases.”
The New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Skills – Sustainable Horticulture is open for enrolments in Blenheim, Kaikoura and Richmond and runs over six months with evening, daytime and Saturday morning classes available.
Where/When: Blenheim: From 27 March 2023. 6-8.30pm Monday evenings and every first and third Sat 9am-1pm.
Richmond: From 26 April 2023. 6pm-8.30pm Wednesday evenings and every first and third Sat 9am-1pm.
Kaikoura: From 27 April 2023. 9.30-2.30 Thursdays only.  

Politics and Education – Principals Unimpressed by National’s Return to the 3Rs

Source: NZ Principals Federation

The announcement of the National Party leader, Mr Luxon,  to lift literacy and numeracy achievement by returning to the out-dated, failed national standards regime, has astonished and disappointed principals across the motu.
President of the New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF), Leanne Otene,  said, “I can't believe we've just been presented with national standards mark two”.
The national standards were roundly seen as a reason for the halt in progress of the excellent New Zealand Curriculum document, resulting in a decade of negative achievement. Only now, with the Curriculum Refresh poised for implementation, is the sector beginning to make  progress again.
“No standardised system of teaching and assessment can possibly be useful in a context of high diversity as we have,” said Otene. “The learning support needs of the tamariki coming in our school gates is extensive nd growing,” she said.
“We have Akonga with autism, alcohol fetal syndrome, P babies, anxiety, trauma, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and our highest needs akonga, who make up about 5% of our extreme behavioural needs, present with violent and highly disruptive behaviours.
“What we most need is a Counsellor in every school and funding for psychologists, trauma trained teachers, specialists and therapists.  What we most definitely don't need is another round of national standards,” she said. 

University News – Gene-editing treatment relieves debilitating symptoms – UoA

Source: University of Auckland

Kiwi patients with a painful and debilitating inherited illness say gene-editing therapy has changed their lives.

Kiwi patients with a painful and debilitating inherited illness say gene-editing therapy has changed their lives and completely relieved their symptoms.
The group of seven patients who participated in a clinical trial have hereditary angioedema, meaning they formerly experienced unpredictable, sometimes frequent and potentially lethal attacks of swelling.
They were treated in late 2021 and early 2022 in the New Zealand Clinical Research facility in Auckland, as part of a first-in-human clinical trial of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing therapy.
“It looks as if the single-dose treatment will provide a permanent cure for my hereditary angioedema patients’ very disabling symptoms,” says principal investigator Honorary Senior Lecturer Dr Hilary Longhurst. “Plus, of course, there is huge potential for development of similar CRISPR-Cas9 treatments for other genetic disorders.”
People with hereditary angioedema find the attacks of swelling impact on their ability to take up normal opportunities in work and life.
The attacks may occur several times a week or a few times a year.
Over a lifetime, the disorder is associated with significant anxiety and depression.
The patients who participated in the trial are reporting that the therapy has been “life-changing”, says Dr Longhurst.
“Many of the patients have had family members who have died and they are absolutely terrified,” Dr Longhurst says. “They are frightened both of the pain of abdominal attacks, which is comparable to that of heart attacks and childbirth, but also the fact their airways might swell up and they might suffocate.”
Globally, it is estimated one in 50,000 people have the hereditary angioedema, which means it is likely 100 New Zealanders have the condition. However, because it is rare, it is often not correctly diagnosed. So far only around 60 Kiwi patients have been identified.
Patients have an inherited deficiency of the C1 inhibitor protein, which controls a biochemical pathway linked to inflammation. Without sufficient C1 inhibitor, the body gets a build-up of a protein fragment (peptide) called bradykinin, which stimulates swelling.
The therapy is delivered via a lipid nanoparticle, or miniscule ball of fat, containing the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic material, and is infused through a vein in the patient’s arm over two to four hours.
“This ball of lipid targets the treatment into the liver, and then the CRISPR guides the Cas9 onto exactly the gene that is causing the problem,” Dr Longhurst says.
The gene, KLKB1, produces a protein precursor to bradykinin, called kallikrein.
“The CAS9 acts as a molecular scissor to cut the KLKB1 gene. The body heals the break in the KLKB1 gene, but in doing this it sows additional bits of genetic material so that gene doesn't work anymore.
“The effect of the treatment is to silence the KLKB1 gene and to prevent overproduction of the kallikrein and bradykinin that cause the swelling.
“I always warn the patients that they may feel fluey on the day of the treatment but in fact the symptoms have been minimal,” Dr Longhurst says. “Some people feel a bit tired or have a headache, and one person had a bit of a temperature that lasted a few minutes. It’s been incredibly well tolerated.”
After a single treatment, the patients either had no more attacks of swelling or a dramatic reduction and then cessation of attacks after a few weeks.
“One patient, who had been experiencing frequent severe attacks, took a while to settle down, but most were immediately attack-free,” says Dr Longhurst.
By January 2023, ten months 14 months after the first treatment, almost all the patients have been free of attacks for between two and ten months and all patients have been able to stop their previous angioedema medications. The exception was a minor hand swelling after a sports injury, which technically classified as a potential angioedema.
Dr Longhurst, an Honorary Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Auckland, presented results from the trial at a November meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, with the abstract published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Allergy (November 2022).
The US company, Intellia Therapeutics, chose New Zealand for the first-in-world trial as the country had relatively little Covid-19 at the time, late 2021.
Since the New Zealand trial, family members of participants and patients in the Netherlands and the UK have received the same treatment.
The next stage will be a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.

Save the Children – Children in Yemen face highest risk from landmines and explosive devices in at least five years: Save the Children report

Source: Save the Children

One child was killed or injured on average every two days in Yemen last year by landmines or other explosive devices, the highest rate in five years, according to a Save the Children report that calls for immediate action to protect children from these deadly weapons.
A study, titled 'Watching Our Every Step', analysed data from January 2018 to November 2022 and found that children in Yemen are facing the highest risk in five years of encountering landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO)-weapons that failed to detonate such as artillery shells, grenades, mortars, rockets and bombs.
For while direct child casualties from armed violence, such as airstrikes, shelling or crossfire, have decreased overall in Yemen since 2018, child casualties caused by explosive devices have risen – from an average of one every five days in 2018 to one every two days in 2022,with years of conflict littering the country with landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Child casualties from landmines or unexploded ordnance rose to 199 in 2022 – or 55% of overall children casualties – compared to 68 in 2018 which was 7% of overall child casualties, rising as families returned home during a six-month UN-brokered truce to contaminated land.
Children in Yemen are at risk of encountering landmines and explosive remnants of war while engaging in everyday activities such as playing, collecting firewood and water, and tending to livestock and they may lack the experience to identify or avoid them.
According to Save the Children’s analysis, almost half of all landmine and explosive remnants of war incidents involving children were deadly.
Maha-, 10, from Taiz, stepped on a landmine while collecting firewood with her sister last October. Even though Maha was rushed to the hospital for surgery, she lost her left eye and had her right hand amputated. Her sister Maya-, 16, was covered in shrapnel and badly injured both legs.
“If I could make a drawing about war, I would draw people with amputated hands and legs, injured eyes, injured arms and legs, and people walking with crutches,”Maha said.
The report also found the proportion of child injuries and deaths caused by these explosive devices increased during the six-month UN-brokered truce last year As people returned home to areas that had been battlefields.
“As the country enters its ninth year of conflict, this report is a stark reminder of the devastating impact the war is having on children, Yemen's most vulnerable population,” said Save the Children’s Deputy Country Director for Yemen, Ashfaq Ahmad.
” The fact that more and more children are being killed and injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war is a damning indictment of the parties to the conflict who continue to use these weapons.”
Decades of repeated armed conflict since the early 1960s have left behind a deadly legacy of explosive devices in Yemen, posing a constant threat to children's safety, particularly in rural areas.
With the health system on the verge of collapse and few qualified rehabilitation specialists in Yemen, children injured by these deadly weapons do not have access to the long-term care needed to recover their mobility, return to school, and reintegrate into community life.
Children living in displacement camps are more at risk of getting hurt by explosive devices due to a lack of mine risk education and being in areas at high risk of floods. Out of the 194 child victims of landmines and other explosive devices Save the Children supported between 2020 and 2022, nearly one in four were internally displaced.
Jihad, a psychosocial specialist volunteer with Save the Children in Taiz, stepped on a landmine several years ago and now has a prosthetic leg. He uses his own experience to help reassure children like Maha and Miya that they will still be able to do anything they set their mind to.
“We enrolled the sisters in our psychosocial support program,” said Jihad. “Throughout the weeks following the incident, I made sure their family was fully aware of the different phases of the physical, emotional, and psychological struggles that the girls would be facing and provided guidance on how to deal with each of them… My work with Save the Children is focused on helping children like Maha and Maya overcome these challenges and restore their confidence.”
Most common child injuries treated by Save the Children included amputation of upper or lower limbs and hands, as well as loss of sight and hearing. In some cases, incidents led to permanent disability due to shrapnel and injuries to the spine.
Apart from physical injuries, children also reported the psychological distress they endured following explosive incidents, including trouble sleeping and daily fear and anxiety.
Save the Children is calling on all parties to the conflict to take immediate action to protect children from these deadly weapons. This includes ending the use of mines, clearing mined areas, and raising awareness of the risks among communities to prevent further tragedies.
The child rights organisation is also calling on all parties to the conflict to comply with International Humanitarian Law, avoid the use of explosive devices in populated areas, and guarantee humanitarian access.
“We cannot continue to stand by and watch as children's lives are torn apart by these horrific weapons” said Ashfaq Ahmad. “The situation in Yemen is truly horrific. All parties to the conflict must prioritise the protection of children and ensure that they are no longer exposed to the risks posed by landmines and other explosive devices.”
Save the Children is urging donors to fully fund Yemen’s Humanitarian Response Plan of US$4.3 billion, resource and mainstream mental health and psychosocial support for child victims and hold perpetrators to account for their actions.
Save the Children has been working in Yemen for 60 years, implementing a wide range of programmes in education, child protection, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and emergency response across most of the country Save the Children Yemen provides medical care and assistive devices to child victims of explosive devices, including landmines as well as services such as psychosocial support, cash assistance, and referral services.
  • Save the Children’s analysis shows trends in child casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance during the period January 2018 to November 2022, including before, during, and after the UN-brokered truce from April to October 2022. The findings rely on original analysis of data collected by the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), interviews with nine humanitarian mine action experts, and surveys conducted with 13 children from Taiz in January 2023. This included nine girls and four boys, aged between seven and 17, who had directly experienced a landmine or explosive ordnance incident. Interviews were conducted by local social workers trained in psychosocial support to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.
  • Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) – Explosive ordnance that has been primed, fuzed, armed or otherwise prepared for use or used. It may have been fired, dropped, launched, or projected yet remains unexploded either through malfunction or design or for any other reason.
  • Explosive Devices in this PR refers to landmines and remnants of war, such as unexploded ordnance.

Business News – Kiwi leader tackles global energy issues

Source: BusinessNZ

The BusinessNZ Energy Council (BEC) and Young Energy Professionals Network congratulates New Zealand’s newest member of the global Future Energy Leaders Programme (FEL).
Vector Limited’s Public Policy Group Manager Robyn Holdaway joins professionals from around the world, to tackle the big energy issues on the world stage.
BEC Executive Director Tina Schirr says the nomination is well-deserved.
“The 2023 nominations process saw almost 200 high quality applications from more than 60 countries. Robyn brings a new perspective to the energy issues we face, both here and abroad.
“Robyn has been involved in policy surrounding future energy systems and worked to strengthen ties between the Government and industry, to work together on complex energy issues. I am truly delighted to see another woman leading the way and shaping the future of how we use energy.”
Holdaway says it’s a privilege to be part of the FEL Network.
“I am so pleased to be joining leaders from across the world to help drive solutions that are fit for the future.
“The imperatives for change that are in front of our sector – such as climate change, consumer needs, and technological change and the way that we respond, will impact younger generations most acutely.”
As a Global FEL member, Holdaway will undergo a three-year development programme to gain an even broader understanding of the energy system including its challenges and transition, as well as getting the opportunity to work collaboratively with international peers.
FEL members will also join energy and political leaders from around the world at the World Energy Congress in the Netherlands, where conversation will be centred around redesigning energy for people and the planet.
Holdaway joins two more outstanding Kiwi FELs, Mark Todoroff (Tesla) and Emily Hilton (Hiringa), taking on a leading role in making our energy system more sustainable, for everyone and everywhere.
  • The BusinessNZ Energy Council (BEC) is a group of New Zealand’s peak energy sector organisations taking a leading role in creating a sustainable energy future.
  • BEC is New Zealand’s member of the World Energy Council 

Weather News – MetService: Covering period of Thursday 23 – Sunday 25 March

Source: MetService

Covering period of Thursday 23 – Sunday 25 March
A weekend front for the west
A ridge of high pressure currently stationed over New Zealand gives way to a front moving in from the Tasman Sea this weekend, bringing a period of wet weather for some. MetService has issued Severe Weather Watches for heavy rain across the western South Island from Friday night which are associated with this front.

Some places across northern Aotearoa New Zealand experienced their coldest temperature of the year so far this morning thanks to southerly breezes and clear skies.

MetService meteorologist Ashlee Parkes elaborates, “At 8am this morning, Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga airport recorded temperatures of 10.7°C, 3.5°C and 9.5°C respectively. This is the first wave of autumnal temperatures for many across the North Island”.

However, temperatures are set to return to normal this weekend as a front approaches Te Waipounamu (South Island) from the Tasman Sea.

Severe Weather Watches for heavy rain have been issued this morning for northern Fiordland and the ranges of Westland south of Otira.

“Western areas of the South Island will see a period of heavy and possibly thundery rain on Saturday as the front moves onto the island, with scattered falls spreading into southern and eastern areas. This front tracks north during the weekend, bringing brief heavy falls to western areas of Te Ika a Māui (North Island) on Sunday,” says Parkes.

Cooler temperatures return to the South Island on Tuesday as a cold front races up from the Southern Ocean.

“A sharp cold change will be felt across the South Island on Tuesday with a dusting of snow across the peaks of the motu with this front. Keep up to date with the latest forecasts on the MetService website,” Parkes continues.

Today, Thursday 23 March, is World Meteorological Day, which highlights the vital role of meteorological agencies throughout the world. Weather doesn’t respect political boundaries, so forecasting relies on international co-operation.  

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) which is an agency of the United Nations that overseas that international collaboration.

New Zealand through MetService is a member of the WMO and through this relationship we supply and have access to, international meteorological data and products, and have designated responsibilities to keep people safe and prepared for the impacts of weather on land, in the air or at sea.

For media enquiries or to arrange an interview with one of our meteorologists please call 04 4700 848 or email

Understanding our Severe Weather Watches and Warnings

Outlooks are about looking ahead:

To provide advanced information on possible future Watches and/or Warnings
Issued routinely once or twice a day
Recommendation: Plan

Watches are about being alert:

When severe weather is possible, but not sufficiently imminent or certain for a warning to be issued
Typically issued 1 – 3 days in advance of potential severe weather.
During a Watch: Stay alert

Orange Warnings are about taking action:

When severe weather is imminent or is occurring
Typically issued 1 – 3 days in advance of potential severe weather
In the event of an Orange Warning: Take action

Red Warnings are about taking immediate action:

When extremely severe weather is imminent or is occurring
Issued when an event is expected to be among the worst that we get – it will have significant impact and it is possible that a lot of people will be affected
In the event of a Red Warning: Act now!

Social News – South Auckland Social Services charity trailblazes NZ owned technology innovation

Source: HelpAtHand
The charity Family Success Matters joins forces with Help@Hand to provide new safety technology for frontline social workers.
Family violence and sexual violence is having a devastating impact on people, communities, and budgets across the country. Family Success Matters (FSM), a family social services provider in the heart of south Auckland, is taking a frontline, ground-up approach to tackle this issue, using ground-breaking family violence support and prevention technology, in the Counties-Manuakau area.
FSM, chief executive Colleen Fakalogotoa, enlisted the support of Sir Ray Avery, founder of the Help@Hand trust, to trial violence prevention technology and services offered by Help@Hand partner, Jupl. A solution that will protect FSM frontline social workers and families under their care in the community.
Colleen Fakalogotoa said “I have a responsibility to protect my frontline workers from harm. We had a successful staff trial and today we trained and armed our frontline community workers with the Family Violence protection tools provided by Help@Hand and Jupl.
We also trialled it with clients too and will be offering the program to survivors of Family and Sexual Violence, with real-time support, so we may better help the families under our care and prevent further abuse.”
Sir Ray Avery says, “Family harm is a big problem in our community and responsible for approximately 40 percent of police time, not including the majority of cases that go unreported. Family violence is a subset of family harm which includes physical, sexual or psychological abuse within domestic relationships.
In 2020 ACC commissioned a report to determine the total cost of sexual violence in New Zealand and the estimated cost was just over $6.9 billion and the total cost of Domestic Violence being much higher. So, anything that can prevent the incidence of family and sexual violence in the community makes good social and economic sense.”
Jupl CEO, Alan Brannigan says, “Our personal protection systems protect families at risk 24/7 wherever they may be and allows them start new lives free from fear of abuse.
The work that FSM is doing in the community every day is inspiring and humbling and we will do everything possible to provide them with the training and tools to support them in their work”.
FSM, HR Manager, Mary Chapman, who spearheaded the programme at FSM concluded ” It’s reassuring to be able to provide our people with the most advanced safety technology. Having this safety tool in their kete, empowers our workers, and can give them the confidence to know when they go into a home – if something goes wrong, then we’ve got their back.”

Save the Children: Continued Government investment vital to lift more children and families out of poverty

Source: Save the Children

Save the Children is calling on the Government to “keep children in its sights” and continue investing in policies to lift more children and whānau out of poverty following the release of today’s latest child poverty statistics showed no real change in numbers.
The child rights organisation acknowledged the Government’s continued investment in reducing child poverty, but Advocacy Director Jacqui Southey says it is a long and committed journey to ensure every child in New Zealand lives in a secure home with a decent standard of living.
“Far too many tamariki and their families in Aotearoa are still living in poverty, with material hardship significantly felt by tamariki Māori, Pasifika children and children with disabilities, with no real change in numbers since 2019. This means these tamariki continue to live without the essentials they need. Disabled children are more than three times more likely to experience material hardship than non-disabled households.
“While child poverty has not seemed to worsen over the past two years, it is concerning that families living in emergency accommodation are not included in the survey, so essentially this data misses the families living at the hardest end of poverty.
“It is vital that the Government continues to help lift the incomes of our most vulnerable families through targeted support such as lifting the lowest incomes, and effective policies that directly reach children like Healthy Food in Schools.”
Ms Southey says the lifts to family support, including increases to the Family Tax Credit and Best Start payments, due to begin on April 1 will certainly be beneficial to many low and middle income families, but far greater investment is required to reduce numbers of children living in poverty.
“We’re all experiencing a cost-of-living crisis and high rates of inflation but for children and families on the lowest incomes this is crippling, even further acute if you’ve been impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle or flooding events” she says.
“Housing costs remain a real pressure for families on lowest incomes and is more severely felt by families that are renting. This is extremely concerning given the median rent price was announced this morning to have increased to over $600 a week. This level of living cost increase has not been captured in today’s data, potentially indicating an even further struggle for low-income households to make ends meet.
“The disparity experienced by too many children in New Zealand is a child rights issue. Every child deserves a decent standard of living, access to nutritious food, healthy and affordable housing, education, and healthcare. Government investment is required to ensure these rights for all of our children.”
Ms Southey says the recent examination of New Zealand’s progress on upholding children’s rights by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the Government to continue to prioritise public spending on measures to lift children out of poverty.
About Save the Children NZ:
Save the Children works in 120 countries across the world. The organisation responds to emergencies and works with children and their communities to ensure they survive, learn and are protected.
Save the Children NZ currently supports international programmes in Fiji, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Areas of work include child protection, education and literacy, disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, and alleviating child poverty.

OPINION – What are China’s e-currency ambitions?

Source: University of Auckland – Opinion by Xin Chen and José Miguel Alonso-Trabanco

Opinion: The waning use of cash in New Zealand, paired with emerging technology, has encouraged the investigation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), which unlike cryptocurrency, is supported by the Government and issued by a central rather than commercial banks.

In a world where cryptocurrencies and big-tech companies are aggressively infiltrating financial services, the idea of issuing a CBDC in New Zealand is, at least in part, a defensive move to protect the country’s monetary sovereignty. It may also be a protective measure against potential currency substitution challenges posed by foreign CBDCs.

China launched its central bank-issued digital currency, the e-CNY, in 2020. However, the country’s rollout of its digital yuan has been met with some concerns, including that it could be used to monitor citizens and, in time, evade international sanctions.

The People’s Bank of China began digital yuan investigations in 2014. It established the China Digital Currency Research Institute in 2016, completed research, design and system testing in 2019, launched the e-CNY (Chinese yuan) in 2020, also known as the electronic Chinese yuan or digital yuan, and has since been conducting on-the-ground trials in more than 20 cities across the country. One such trial was carried out at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where over e¥315,000 in e-yuan was reported to have been used every day.

Along with the birth of the e-CNY, the Chinese economy has witnessed a dramatic transition towards digitalisation. The majority of people already use mobile payment services such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, and in major cities like Beijing, even beggars use QR codes and mobile payment apps to accept donations. This almost total societal adoption of digital transformation speaks to the potential of the e-CNY.

However, the introduction of China’s digital currency is not simply a phenomenon in which the impacts are felt domestically. There is an increasing sentiment that as an early adopter of a central bank digital currency, the Chinese yuan has an advantage in competing with the US dollar as the world’s main reserve currency. Many in the international community also wonder whether the rollout of the e-CNY will reshape the world’s currency landscape and impact bilateral, regional and multilateral economic and business interactions.

In response to concerns about the e-CNY, Chinese financial officials have repeatedly said that efforts to create a digital yuan are aimed at serving domestic retail demands. Moreover, they emphasise that the e-CNY changes only the yuan’s form and ways of usage, not its actual value or impact on the international financial market and system.

In addressing growing public curiosity and enthusiasm within China about the yuan, as an international currency, Chinese finance professionals, scholars, and commentators state that the e-CNY is a helpful but “insufficient provision” for the yuan’s global adoption and usage.

They also emphasise that history indicates that the internationalisation of a country’s currency often lags behind the growth of its economic power. Citing the International Monetary Fund’s findings that the Chinese yuan still accounts for less than 3 percent of global foreign currency reserves, they say that the journey for the yuan to become a popular global currency will be long and evolutionary.

Nonetheless, many Chinese finance professionals, researchers, and commentators hail the e-CNY system as an innovative and robust financial infrastructure. They are hopeful that when embellished with features like lower costs, higher efficiency, and “settlement upon payment”, the e-CNY will appeal to countries that are world leaders in the digital economy but furnished with a limited number of large companies with global influence. These countries usually pay special attention to opportunities for their SMEs to adapt to and benefit from new digital business models and trading patterns.

Standing out in this group, as noted in some Chinese studies, are Singapore and New Zealand, which are also highlighted as important Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) participants and founding members of the world’s first digital economy partnership (DEPA).

The notion of building a financial silk road and promoting local currencies first in cross-border economic and business activities has been gaining traction in Chinese corporate circles.

Many in China’s business and research sectors give particular importance to RCEP members as most are not only on China’s Belt and Road Initiative land and maritime routes, they are also some of the world’s most important producers and consumers of bulk commodities.  

The free trade agreement has thus opened new avenues for China to work with the RCEP countries in building a united commodities market where currencies from within the region, including their digital formats, are used as the standard price and settlement mechanism. The efforts in this regard should allow the e-CNY more opportunities to help expedite the ascendance of the yuan to a regional anchor currency status for trade settlement, direct investment, loans, and aid funds.

About the authors:

Dr Xin Chen, Research Fellow, New Zealand Asia Institute, Business School, University of Auckland.

Mr José Miguel Alonso-Trabanco, Doctoral Candidate, School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University.

Social News – Children languishing in poverty forgotten in government policies, says CPAG

Source: Child Poverty Action Group

Latest figures measuring child poverty rates in Aotearoa New Zealand are a sad indictment on the country with no real improvement in policy that could turn things around, according to Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the leading voice on the issue.
StatsNZ data released today shows no real change in all areas used to measure child poverty rates in New Zealand.
“This is an appalling situation. The future is bleak for these children who are languishing in poverty. The country’s future is also blighted by this because we’re not investing in children,” said Prof Emeritus and CPAG health spokesperson Innes Asher.
About one in 10 children experience material hardship where their households cannot afford things like regular healthy food, doctors visits or to pay their power bills on time, according to the StatsNZ data.
“The trouble is, of the almost 9,000 households surveyed in this data, there was no inclusion of our most vulnerable families. Families living in motels and other emergency accommodation, as well as cars and other forms of homelessness were not included,” Prof Emeritus Asher said.
“The real picture is likely to be a lot more grim as anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers of families in these dire situations is on the increase.”
“We also know poverty is a driver of preventable hospitalisations, which is another reason to urgently address child poverty, for the sake of our overburdened health system.”
The picture for Māori and Pasifika children is much worse, according to the data.
One in five Māori children and one in four Pasifika children experience material hardship, according to StatsNZ.
CPAG convenor and housing spokesperson Alan Johnson said radical changes to tax and welfare were needed. The government needed to show more courage than it had in the past five years if it wanted to turn things around, he said.
“How could there be any change in the rate of child poverty in New Zealand when there have been no policies implemented that could turn things around? He said.
The lack of improvement in the data makes it harder, according to CPAG, for the government to meet its ten-year targets by 2028.
CPAG called on the government to fully adopt the 42 recommendations of the government-appointed Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s February 2019 report. So, far not one of the recommendations had been fully implemented in the four years since the group's report was published.
“The government has tinkered with policies here and there but there’s been no game changer that gives those of us advocating for children any real hope that the situation will be turned around. It’s shameful.”
CPAG was also concerned about the rate of children with disabilities – 1 in 5 – who were living in material hardship.
“We know that any household with a disabled family member is more at risk of living in hardship,” said Mr Johnson.
There is no data around the number of disabled children who are Māori. CPAG is concerned about that cohort with a double risk factor and is calling on the government to start including this cohort in its data.
“Again, some of our most vulnerable are not being measured by this data,” he added.
CPAG urged all political parties to put children at the front and centre of election-year promises.