Health – Hand hygiene and keeping germs at home vital as RSV rates soar countrywide

Source: Asthma and Respiratory Foundation

With hospitals across the country struggling with high numbers of babies and young children seriously ill with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and schools and kindergartens reporting record numbers of children off sick, it’s vital we all do our part to stop the spread of winter germs, says the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ).
RSV is a common virus, and in many cases the symptoms are like cold symptoms and can be treated at home. However, it is also the most common cause of hospitalisation for lower respiratory tract infections in under-two-year-olds, and can cause serious illness such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Those most at risk of becoming seriously ill from RSV are premature babies, and young children with congenital heart or lung diseases or compromised immune systems. Older adults can also be vulnerable.
A 2020 study led by Dr Adrian Trenholme (a member of ARFNZ’s Scientific Advisory Board) and Dr Webb at Kidz First Hospital in South Auckland showed the dramatic effect that COVID-19 health interventions had on levels of respiratory disease in infants. Last year, the usual winter peak of RSV hospitalisations didn’t occur. Now that we have travel bubbles in place, children who were not exposed to the virus last year and did not develop immunity are more vulnerable, as they are being exposed to RSV for the first time.
Symptoms of RSV can include:
Runny nose
Fever
Cough
Short periods without breathing (apnea)
Trouble eating, drinking, or swallowing
Wheezing
Flaring of the nostrils or straining of the chest or stomach while breathing
Breathing faster than usual, or trouble breathing
Turning blue around the lips and fingertips.
“If your child is struggling for breath it is vital to seek medical assistance immediately,” says ARFNZ Medical Director Dr James Fingleton. “If their symptoms are more like a common cold, keep them at home, make sure they stay hydrated, and manage pain and fever with paracetamol as appropriate. There is no vaccine against RSV, and no specific treatment, so the most important thing is for us to prevent the spread as far as possible. As well as staying home when sick, it’s important for all of us to be washing our hands thoroughly, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.” 

Economy – Relationship Charter 2021 Survey Results – Reserve Bank of New Zealand

Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

08 July 2021 – The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua launched the Relationship Charter in 2018 as a step towards achieving its aspiration to build the best possible 'regulated-regulated' relationships.

The Charter commits the Reserve Bank and the financial sector to a mutual understanding of appropriate conduct and culture and is underpinned by the principle of 'te hunga tiaki' – the combined stewardship of an efficient system for the benefit of all.

The Bank have committed to regular reviews of our own performance against the Charter's values. We undertook our first survey in April 2020 and repeated the exercise in April 2021, commissioning Buzz Channel once again. The summary of the report is now available to read.

Key findings
We had a good response to the survey this year, with 97 responses from banks and 86 from insurers.

We are pleased that the Bank's perfomance is rated significnatly higher compared to 12 months ago in terms of the overall relationship. 91% of bank participants gave a rating of 4 or 5 (out of 5) this year compared to 68% in 2020. The banks reported a significant increase in frequency of engagement with the Reserve Bank compared to last year.

This was the first year the insurance sector was surveyed and two thirds of insurer participants rated their relationship with the Reserve Bank highly (4 or 5 out of 5).

There was recognition of the Reserve Bank's performance over the last twelve months, partiularly on our response to the Covid-19 crisis and our handling of the Accellion FTA data breach.

Participants also provided a significant amount of constructive feedback which provides the Reserve Bank with an opportunity to identify possible improvements to processes, systems and communication.

Over the next few months the Reserve Bank will continue to reflect on the industry feedback and implement changes we can make to build on the positive work to date. We are committed to openness and regular communication to support a stronger partnership between us and regulated firms.

FreeVoucherCodes.co.nz launches to help Kiwis save when they shop online

Source: NZ Compare

Deloitte Fast 500 business NZ Compare has launched FreeVoucherCodes.co.nz to help Kiwis save when they shop online
www.FreeVoucherCodes.co.nz is a new site for Kiwi shoppers to help them save money on a huge range of different products and services.
Free Voucher Codes will connect Kiwis with money saving offers from some of New Zealand and the world's leading brands. Launched in July 2021, the site will provide sales, discount codes, coupons and voucher code information to thousands of people across NZ every month.
Developed by the team at NZ Compare, the company behind Broadband Compare and Power Compare, the Free Voucher Codes website will empower consumers and help them discover new products and services that they may not previously have known existed.
Free Voucher Codes aims to provide our visitors with the tools and information they need to easily compare offers, services and products available on the market. Our easy-to-use website creates a discovery platform to help customers explore the range of deals and companies offering them the very best promotions in the NZ market.
If you are a retailer looking to generate incremental sales on a pay for performance basis then partnering with Free Voucher Codes on an affiliate marketing solution could help make the difference on you getting a sale ahead of a competitor, increasing market share and helping new shoppers discover your company without having to pay for traffic like you would through Facebook or Google. With over 100,000 Kiwis using NZ Compare sites to shop savvy every month, there is a huge audience ready to find your brand.
Asked to comment on the launch, Gavin Male, founder of NZ Compare said, “Since the pandemic peaked last year, online shopping in New Zealand has advanced at pace, but we still lack behind countries like the UK, US and Australia when it comes to being savvy about our online shopping. Voucher codes and online couponing have grown hugely in popularity throughout the world and with Free Voucher Codes we’re now working to bring discounts and deals to the New Zealand population.”
The Free Voucher Codes website is now the perfect place for a shopper to discover a new brand, offer or deal. For example, if you’re looking to treat someone to some flowers or buy some new shoes Free Voucher Codes is the perfect place to start your shopping. Filter by category to see the best offers and then simply click through, make a note of the code and save when you complete your purchase.
“In my opinion, given the choice between Groupon, KGB Deals and Everydayoffers, I believe business owners would go with everydayoffers because they are fairer. I believe the site has a good chance of getting a big share of the market.”
About NZ Compare
NZ Compare ( www.nzcompare.com), operate a suite of comparison websites in New Zealand to help Kiwis make a fully informed choice on their broadband, power and financial products. New to their stable of websites is FreeVoucherCodes.co.nz, an online couponing website. NZ Compare sites are used by over 100,000 Kiwis every month and offer quick and easy online tools to check options at your address and compare the most suitable products for your particular needs. 

Social Issues – ‘Public interest’ amendment to drug law needed to hasten future harm reduction initiatives

Source: New Zealand Drug Foundation

The New Zealand Drug Foundation is calling for a ‘public interest’ exemption to be added to the country’s drug laws to enable quicker and easier establishment of future harm reduction initiatives that could save lives.  
 
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Sarah Helm, made the call today during a submission in support of the Drug and Substance Checking Bill – new legislation that will permanently legalise drug checking.  

“The Drug Foundation supports this world-first legislation,” says Helm. “While drug checking has been happening in other parts of the world, no other country has created dedicated legislation and regulations to enable it. We can be proud.”

In Canada, harm reduction programmes such as drug checking and supervised injecting sites were able to be introduced under a ‘public interest’ clause in the country’s existing laws. The clause allows the government to make an exemption to the country’s drug law if they deem it in the ‘public interest’.

“Our drug laws are broken and don't allow for harm reduction measures. Our two proudest and most effective drug interventions, Needle Exchange and drug checking, have both required special legislative exceptions to be made and both operated in a legal grey area beforehand,” says Helm.

“A ‘public interest’ clause in the Misuse of Drugs Act would be a simple way that we can ensure future harm reduction and potentially life-saving initiatives are able to be rolled out quickly and easily.”

“Rather than going through a lengthy legislative process each time we want to establish a new initiative, a ‘public interest’ clause would enable the Director General of Health to make the call following a scientific approval process. This would mean future initiatives, such as overdose prevention centres or the provision of safer using equipment as alternatives to injecting like pipes, would be much easier to implement.”

In their submission to the Health Select Committee, the Foundation voiced its strong support for the Drug and Substance Checking Bill and congratulated the Government for introducing legislation to clarify the legal status of drug checking – an essential harm reduction service that saves lives.  

Helm says the Foundation would like to see drug checking services greatly expanded to ensure equitable access for anyone across Aotearoa who would benefit, run by a range of service providers.
 
“Legalising drug checking means services can be expanded to reach more people, which is crucial,” says Helm. “Current services aren’t reaching enough New Zealanders. The main drug checking services are only able to be in a maximum of three places at a time currently because we only have access to three spectrometers, the machines used to test substances.”

Helm says that currently people who are using methamphetamine, who inject drugs or who use synthetic cannabinoids are not able to access drug checking.  

“More funding and proactive provision of drug checking is needed to ensure that people who are most at-risk are able to access this vital service. We want to see drug checking made available at Needle Exchanges, in community centres and in many other places.”

Helm says one of the vital components of drug-checking is the harm reduction advice given while drugs are being checked. This kind of advice isn’t generally available anywhere else, and the Foundation is calling for that to be a mandatory requirement of selected providers.

“Funding must be made available to buy more spectrometers, improve access and ensure harm reduction advice can be provided wherever drug checking takes place.”

The Sustainable Business Council (SBC) welcomes the announcement today regarding the Emissions Reduction Plan

Source: Sustainable Business Council

Executive Director of SBC, Mike Burrell, says that the Emissions Reduction Plan is an important part of providing businesses with the long-term certainty they need to invest in low carbon solutions.
“SBC and the Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) will continue to work with government to ensure policy is put in place for a clear and ambitious pathway to a zero-carbon future. Having assurance that a policy framework will be signalled early and with cross-party consensus is essential for New Zealand businesses working to reduce their emissions.”
The Minister also named a just transition, a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, a science-led approach, and nature-focused solutions as four other guiding principles.
“It’s reassuring to see the Government giving assurances that the Emissions Reduction Plan will reflect these key elements,” says Mr Burrell.
“At SBC we have made a just transition a key pillar of our strategy to ensure the future is positive for all New Zealanders, and we look forward to working with government to achieve this.”

Awards – David Grant is Federated Farmers Arable Farmer of the Year

Source: Federated Farmers

Mid Canterbury Arable Farmer David Grant was awarded the “Federated Farmers Arable Farmer of the Year Award 2021” at the arable industry awards in Christchurch tonight.
David’s contribution to the industry through is work with the Foundation for Arable Research, and in innovation and information sharing, made him an outstanding candidate for this year's award, Feds Arable chair Colin Hurst said.
The Arable Farmer of the Year Award is designed to recognise a member who excels at arable farming and to acknowledge the standard of excellence they set for the industry.
“The award acknowledges a farmer who balances production and profit requirements against environmental, sustainability and other compliance requirements.
“Success in the arable industry typically flies under the radar in New Zealand, that's why Federated Farmers created this award, to recognise and highlight achievement of the highest level,” Colin said.
A fellow Mid Canterbury grower, Graeme Bassett, won the Biosecurity Farmer of the Year award.
This award is designed to recognise a member who is focused on protecting their property from the risks posed by unwanted pests, weeds or diseases, and has done biosecurity related advocacy work on behalf of all growers.
“Graeme was one of the first farmers who put procedures and protocols in place, including processes for contractors coming onto farm, with seed contamination being a key priority,” arable industry vice chair (seeds) David Birkett said.
“He has led by example for others in the industry to follow and we can learn a lot from Graeme’s work.”
The Grain Grower of the Year award went to Southlanders Morgan and Karen Horrell .
This award recognises a member who has made a contribution to the wheat industry over a number of years and has demonstrated outstanding wheat yields.
The Horrells farm at Wendonside in Southland and grow winter wheat, winter barley, milling oats, garden peas, Blue peas, ryegrass seed and forage brassicas.
They achieve constantly strong crop yields across the board and use a no-till farming system. Their wheat yields and quality would be in the top 10% of Southland growers annually with a medium input operation.
The Seed Grower of the Year award also went to South Otago growers Craig and Anna Whiteside, who farm just north of Clinton.
The Whitside's crops include winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley, milling oats, garden peas, radish seed, Asian brassica seed, tick bean seed, fava beans, ryegrass seed and turf grass seed. They have a large-scale operation and use 5 percent of the farm for their own trials of new crops.
The lone North Island winner on the night was Waikato grower Paul Hunter, the winner of the Federated Farmers Maize Grower of the Year award.
The award is designed to recognise a member who is a grower with outstanding maize silage or grain yields but also makes a contribution to industry and recognises someone who balances production and profit requirements against environmental, sustainability and other compliance requirements.
In his 25 years of crop farming on his own property Paul has constantly been involved and supportive of industry research and development.
He is a member of a group of northern North Island growers started 10 years ago who have embraced trying new concepts. He has made his own three-year conversion from conventional to strip till, which has been a highly successful transition.

Economy – Reserve Bank confirms consultations “key to the future of how New Zealanders pay and save”

Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

07 July 2021 – “The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua will be consulting extensively over the remainder of 2021 on issues key to the future of how New Zealanders pay and save, driven by its new stewardship mandate for cash and a broader currency system that supports the prosperity and wellbeing of New Zealanders,” confirmed Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby today (Weds, 7 Jul '21).

The Reserve Bank will be releasing a series of money and cash issues papers for feedback from August to November which are taking forward issues identified during Future of Cash consultations in 2019.

“We'll be considering not only what we should be doing as steward, but what a resilient and stable cash and currency system in New Zealand might look like, and how we might best respond to digital innovations in money and payments,” says Mr Hawkesby who is also the Reserve Bank's General Manager of Economics, Financial Markets and Banking.

“The first consultation will introduce and seek feedback on the broad concepts of money and cash stewardship, and outline specific topics to be covered in the rest of the series.  Subsequent papers will look at the potential for a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) to work alongside cash as government-backed money, issues arising from new electronic money forms including crypto assets (such as BitCoin) and stable coins (such as proposed by a Facebook-led consortium), and how the cash system might need to change to continue to meet the needs of users.

“While most of us are keen to pay electronically, we know from research we've published today, feedback, and news reports that some communities, personal and retail customers are struggling with the loss of cash and in-person banking services despite banks' efforts to help them adapt.

“Despite less New Zealanders using physical cash, the ability to use it remains widely valued because it ensures inclusion, and gives everyone autonomy and choice in the way they pay and save.

“Knowing that the money held in our bank accounts can be withdrawn in central bank money backed by the New Zealand government – currently only available through physical cash – is an unspoken promise which helps promote trust in banks and the financial system. We are concerned that this promise is being weakened through reducing access to physical cash services due to falling branch and ATM numbers.

“However, we also know that digital forms of payment are the preferred way of paying for the majority of us, and that the future will undoubtedly involve less cash. Our job is to ensure that these transitions work for all New Zealanders.

“The potential for a Central Bank Digital Currency to help address some of the downsides of reducing physical cash use and services is something we want to explore for New Zealand.  A CBDC, similar to digital cash, might well be part of the solution, but we need to test our assessment of the issues and proposed approach before developing any firm proposals.

“We encourage those affected or interested in these issues to register on our website to be included in these consultations, during which we'll be talking and travelling widely to hear from all the interests involved including diverse communities and customer types, along with cash, banking and fintech industries,” says Mr Hawkesby.

Research reports highlight cash use and service changes, and how we value cash

The Reserve Bank has published today a series of research reports prepared over the past six months looking at trends in cash and payments preferences and services, including the apparent impact of COVID-19, and why and how New Zealanders still value cash despite preferring electronic payments.

Cash and payments data update: COVID-19 special
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the decline in transactional cash use, compounded by accelerating reductions in banks' branch and cash services, and despite New Zealanders' rush to cash in March 2020.

Comparison report: Cash use surveys 2017, 2019, 2020
Cash use survey 2020
The decline in cash users is reflected across a number of indicators, including the proportion of people who don't hold cash in their wallet, and the number of people who are using cash less than they were 12 months ago. Increasing numbers of New Zealanders are using electronic payment options. In 2020, the trajectory of change in responses to some questions has increased dramatically.

More information:

Environment Advisory: Greenpeace hosting water testing in Ashburton and Temuka this weekend

Source: Greenpeace

Greenpeace is conducting free drop-in water testing days in Ashburton and Temuka this coming weekend to enable households to check their bore water for nitrate contamination.
10am – 2pm, Saturday 10th July at Mid Canterbury Community House, 44 Cass St, Ashburton
10am – 2pm, Sunday 11th July at Alpine Energy Community Centre, Fergusson Drive, Temuka
Greenpeace is running the testing in conjunction with the Federation of Freshwater Anglers.
This is the third and fourth day of testing run by Greenpeace, with previous testing held in May at Dunsandel and Woodend in Canterbury. Results from these earlier testing days can be found here.
Earlier this week, leading environmental NGOs called for the Government to  lower the limit for nitrate in both drinking water and freshwater to under one milligram per litre.
The major causes of nitrate pollution are a huge increase in dairy cows and synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use since 1990.
Greenpeace is supporting calls from medical experts to take a precautionary approach, and is asking the Government to lower the limit for nitrate contamination in water from 11.3mg/L to 0.87mg/L in line with international research linking nitrate contamination to bowel cancer and adverse birth outcomes.
Greenpeace is continuing its push for the Government to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser as part of the suite of actions needed to reduce nitrate contamination of water.
Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel will be at both water testing days and is available for interviews.

Climate and Emissions – Unions welcome Greens’ call for more action to reduce emissions

Source: CTU

The Council of Trade Unions is agreeing with Greens co-leader James Shaw who gave a speech this afternoon outlining what is needed in the Emissions Reduction Plan.
“Working people couldn’t agree more that we need a Just Transition. A Just Transition which is fair and well planned, which includes systemic change to ensure that our move to a sustainable existence improves peoples lives and livelihoods. Changes which herald a more equal society valuing the contributions that we each make,” CTU National Secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges said.
“I could not agree with James more when he says that we need to ensure ‘everyone has a secure income that pays [at least] enough for them to put a warm roof over their heads and food on the table’. We really have an opportunity to reimagine better, to build back better from where we are now.”
“Ensuring that low carbon work is valued is part of the solution as well. All too often low carbon roles like teaching, caring, nursing have been negatively impacted by the gender pay imbalance. So, ensuring that we fix the gender pay imbalance is another part of the solution to create a fairer future.”

Energy Sector – Renewable gas study shows promise

Source: Energy Resources Aotearoa

A new study showing the potential of renewable gas made from organic and farm waste has been welcomed by Energy Resources Aotearoa.
The joint study by Beca, Firstgas Group and Fonterra estimates that biogas with low emissions could be in use by homes and businesses by 2030.
“This is an exciting potential new energy source that could use the existing natural gas infrastructure,” says chief executive John Carnegie.
“It shows the importance of keeping our options open, and not banning new gas connections which could be used for this new form of gas.
“It also shows the ETS is working. By putting a price on emissions, it is encouraging new technological innovations like this.
“New Zealand is going to need more energy from all sources as we transition to lower emissions, so this is a very welcome project.”