In today's email we reported on the challenges facing next year's planned "digital first" census, dug into the document dump about the questions asked during coalition negotiations and detailed some grim reading on climate change.
1. IT woes inside inaugural online-first Census
Newsroom's South Island correspondent David Williams has reported this morning in detail about problems inside Statistics New Zealand with its IT system for the 2018 census.
Treasury has listed the project as 'amber', meaning “significant issues already exist, requiring management attention”.
The Census on March 6 is going to be done online mostly for the first time, with census forms no longer being delivered by hand to each address. Instead, forms are being mailed out and most of the information is to be collected online. Australia's first online census failed spectacularly last year after the system crashed after a denial of service attack, as reported by businessinsider.
While people have been able to submit online forms to the census since 2006, next year’s iteration is “digital-first”. Eighty percent of people will get online codes as opposed to paper forms. Four thousand fewer field staff are being taken on, as there will be fewer forms to collect and process. In the 2013 census, 34 percent of people completed their forms online. Next year’s goal is 70 percent online.
Williams reports from documents obtained under the Official Information Act which show big concerns within Statistics New Zealand as recently as late October about the stability of the system, which relies on Salesforce to manage its field workers.
An attempt to upload 2.1 million street addresses into Salesforce in October failed and 600,000 addresses had to be re-run.
“We lurch back and forth from success to doom all the time and Salesforce is absolutely central to the 2018 census design,” the head of New Zealand’s 2018 census, Denise McGregor, wrote to Statistics NZ CEO Teresa Dickinson on October 20.
“We have to get some stability," she wrote.
Since then, Statistics New Zealand suggested in its briefing to the incoming minister it may need new funding.
McGregor told Newsroom things had improved markedly since October.
Last week, Salesforce loaded 2.1 million records “with no errors."
Salesforce’s 25 performance targets have been met, McGregor said, and the 35 “stories and bug fixes” are done. McGregor says all priority one development work would be finished by the end of the year.
She added: “A lot’s happened since October.”
2. What they asked to see
The State Services Commission dumped a truckload of documents on the Press Gallery on Friday morning (a few hours after the Christmas Party) that detailed what questions the parties asked officials during coalition negotiations and the responses they got.
Newsroom's Shane Cowlishaw sorted through the pile and found that New Zealand First didn't ask a single question. See Shane's full report here on Newsroom Pro, where it was first published on Friday.
All parties involved in discussions made requests, except for New Zealand First.
The Greens made the most requests, asking for information on more than 20 subjects from departments including Inland Revenue, Treasury, and the Department of Conservation.
Subjects ranged from environmental and social issues to increasing New Zealand’s refugee quota to 4000 and establishing a new resettlement centre outside Auckland.
Labour requested information on the impact of soon-to-be renegotiated collective agreements and new equal pay settlements, the cost of connecting Auckland to Northport by rail, and boosting the minimum wage.
Only one request was made by the National Party, asking for information on the impact of changing the skilled migrant category on overall resident numbers, including the number of people granted residency under family and humanitarian categories, to assist them in their discussions with New Zealand First.
In particular, the Greens asked about an indefinite ban on new coal mines, offshore oil drilling and fracking consents. They were advised it would cost New Zealand more than $15 billion in lost royalties and revenue, as Derek Cheng reported.
3. Returning serve to Winston
Some readers may be wondering what has happened to Winston Peters' legal action against Newsroom Co-Editor Tim Murphy, Newshub's Lloyd Burr, Bill English and Steven Joyce over the release of Winston Peters' pension information.
Murphy, Burr, English et al have told the High Court they oppose New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' legal action over his seven-year superannuation payment - and do not have or cannot access easily the raft of documents he seeks.
The two journalists and the head of the Ministry of Social Development have also registered their opposition to the "pre-proceeding discovery" action Peters is trying under the Privacy Act.
Peters, 72, received superannuation payments at a rate above what he should have been paid for seven years and once contacted by MSD arranged a quick payment of around $18,000 with no public disclosure.
4. 'Plan for a worst case scenario'
Climate Change Minister James Shaw released on Friday official advice held back by the previous Government into how councils should plan for rising sea levels.
Newsroom's Cassandra Mason reported the advice was for councils to plan for the worst case scenario.
The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change guidance 2017, leaked in draft form by the Green Party earlier this year, was released at a briefing in Auckland.
The new guidelines map out a staged approach to planning for flood risk, advising councils to plan for the possible melting of the polar ice sheets before letting big, new housing developments proceed on the coast - replacing the 0.8m sea level stress-testing recommended by the previous 2008 guide.
Minister for Climate Change James Shaw formally released the guidance - held back by the previous government until after the election - alongside Dr Rob Bell, one of its lead authors, and Dr Judy Lawrence, co-chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group.
It was released in conjunction with a ‘stocktake’ report - a state of the nation type round-up of how New Zealand is placed to cope with the impacts of climate change.
Described by Shaw as “grim reading”, the stocktake report makes clear we have no coordinated national plan to adapt to the coming changes, including sea level rise.
It warned New Zealanders to expect changes that will affect “where we live, our infrastructure, and our economy”, noting the 30cm of sea level rise projected for the next 50 years would have an impact on all coastal areas.
It points out we have no shortage of information on climate change, but that information just isn’t in the form to help make decisions on what course of action to take.
The news comes after a Newsroom special inquiry found that, in the Coromandel alone, hundreds of new, permanent land titles were created on the coast in the past two years, after modelling at most 1m of sea level rise.
5. Briefly in our political economy
Still at odds - The Auckland Council's decision in favour of the Wynyard Basin option for the America's Cup, which requires wharf extensions, has yet to be agreed by the Government, despite a looming deadline in January for resource consents. Environment Minister David Parker prefers the tank farm be used instead, but the Council has said clearing hazardous materials would be too difficult, as Nicholas Jones reported this morning. Jacinda Ardern backed up Parker on NewstalkZB this morning, saying it was worth getting another cost estimate for the tank farm.
Plug in the tills - Retailers are set to have their busiest week of the year over the next seven days after reasonable sales growth last year. Sales through Paymark, which handles 75 percent of credit and debit card transactions, were $1.445 billion in the seven days to December 17, which was up 7.0 percent on the previous week and up 5.8 percent relative to the same week a year ago. This was slightly lower than the average growth rate through 2017.
Shortt succeeds Chapman - ASB announced on Friday that Vittoria Shortt would be appointed as CEO to succeed retiring CEO Barbara Chapman in early February next year. Shortt, (pictured above) is a New Zealander who has been with ASB's parent CBA in Australia since 2002. She is currently CBA's Group Executive for Marketing & Strategy.
Extra migrants - Despite the Government's election campaign rhertoric, its first action in power has been to add to the number of occupations on the skills shortage list for imported workers. Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway announced on Friday that seven building-related occupations had been added to the Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL). In addition to the seven building-related occupations, three motor industry-related professions were added to the ISSL, as well as midwives and accountants. Five occupations were removed from the ISSL and five from the long term list.
No slowdown - There has been plenty of talk about a slump in business confidence leading to a slowdown in the economy next year, but there are few signs of it on the roads (see the Truckometer measures) and in the factories. BNZ and BusinessNZ reported on Friday that the manufacturing sector's rate of expansion sped up slightly in November. The Performance of Manufacturing Index rose 0.7 points to 57.7 in November from October. Any reading above 50 indicates the sector is expanding. Manufacturing has been expanding since October 2012.
"Recent surveys have seen business confidence falter during and after the government formation process," said BNZ Senior Economist Doug Steel. "In contrast, the PMI, which is a survey of business outcomes rather than sentiment has remained rock solid over recent months."
6. Briefly in the global political economy...
A win for Turnbull - Australia's Governing Liberal Party won a by-election in Bennelong in Sydney over the weekend, shoring up Malcolm Turnbull's wafer-thin majority in Parliament. Some polls suggested the Government could lose it. (Bloomberg)
Tax win for Trump? - Republicans are increasingly confident they can pass tax reform through the Senate on Tuesday to give it to Donald Trump in time to sign before Christmas. Concessions were made over the weekend to win over wavering Republican Senators and avoid a delay until after Alabama's winning Democractic senator arrives in Congress. (Reuters)
China tightening too - China’s central bank tightened monetary policy over the weekend as China's leadership tries to reduce financial risks from fast-growing debt without slowing growth too much. GDP growth has started to cool in recent months amid a government crackdown on high-risk lending and polluting factories, and the move by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) signaled that Beijing will keep policy tighter next year, Reuters reported.
7. Coming up...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to hold her weekly post-cabinet news conference around 4 pm today.
Performance of Services Index data for November is due at 10.30 am, while ANZ Consumer Confidence survey (Roy Morgan) is due at 1 pm today.
Parliament resumes on Tuesday at 2 pm for its final sitting week of the year.
Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to release international travel and migration data for November on Wednesday at 10.45 am. It is scheduled to release GDP data for the September quarter at 10.45 am on Thursday.
8. One fun thing
Nigel Farage, the man behind Brexit, revealed in a maudlin interview over the weekend that he was 'separated, skint and can't appear in public without being abused.'
There wasn't a lot of sympathy online.
David Whitley begins a thread with this: "I hope his boiler breaks down"
Nat Pryce: "Poor @Nigel_Farage. I suggest we promise him a lot of money, write it on the side of a bus, and then not give him anything."