Archive for December, 2009

Planning a Drink Savvy Party

December 31st, 2009 at 5:25 pm by David Farrar

A wee while ago I was approached by Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd and asked if I would like to host a “responsible drinking” or “drink savvy” party, and blog about it.

This sounded a fun challenge, even without the chance to win a trip for two to Aussie thrown in. Any excuse for a party, as they say.

Now a drink savvy party is a bit more of a challenge than a normal party. Anyone can arrange a normal party – just just text a dozen mates and say BYO 🙂

So a planning committee of myself, Chris and Amie was convened. We decided to hold it at Chris and Amie’s as they have a sheltered back yard, ideal for parties.

The first decision was the date. Initially I was thinking New Years Eve, but figured that it is more fun on NYE to just head into town for the big parties. So we decided to have the party on New Years Day itself – a sort of recovery from the night before party.

Figured after NYE, people wouldn’t want to be up too late, so we have gone for a start time of 4 pm – enjoy some afternoon sun.

Then came the big challenge. As readers will know I’m not greatly into nanny state restrictions around alcohol sales etc, and am a free market sort of person.

So that got me thinking – free markets work best with perfect information. So the drinks for the party would be clearly arranged to allow party goers to make the best decisions for themselves, rather than nanny state.

We decided to put together three mixtures of punch:

  1. A non-alcoholic punch, knowns as the drivers’ punch. Very yummy but alcohol free, so drivers of all ages are safe to drive
  2. A punch with a bit of a kick, known as the passengers’ punch. This would be ideal for those who just have to get into and out of a car to get home. Allows them to have fun, without worry.
  3. The third punch would be an in-between punch – alcoholic, but not too strong. I wanted to call this the cyclists’ punch :-), but in the end we settled for calling it the pedestrians’ punch. If you are walking home, you want to be happy, but not too happy.

Following this theme, we also went for three types of beer:

  1. 1% low alcohol beer
  2. Normal 4% beer
  3. A few selected bottles of Bavarian beer – details in a later post

So I got dispatched to the supermarket for the party purchases. The list:

  • 2 kg of oranges
  • 2 kg of lemons
  • 1 kg of limes
  • 1 bag of mint
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2-3 large bottles of Chi
  • 2 bottles of Schweppes Classic Dry Lemonade
  • 1 vodka
  • 1 Jack Daniels
  • 1 large bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice
  • 1 large bottle of pineapple juice
  • 300-400 grams of passion fruit pulp
  • Assorted Beer
  • Diet Coke
  • Apple Juice
  • Lots and lots of cheerios
  • Three big bag of chicken drumsticks

Took me a while to find the mint (I mean seriously!) and got the purchases back to the venue:

Hopefully the weather will be as good tomorrow as it was today.  We then discovered a threat to the party:

Chicken drumsticks and CoCo the dog make a bad combination. We managed to rescue the chicken in time, and gave her some cheerios instead.

Tomorrow will be the making of the three punches, and then the party itself.

Relaxing on the Kapiti Coast

December 31st, 2009 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

Headed up to Paraparaumu Beach during the week to catch up with friends who have a holiday home there. I went to university with Michael and we catch up regularly for movies and drinks. I hadn’t seen his younger sister Elaine for around 20 years, so it was a bonus to catch up with her also.

Not sure I made the best impression on her kids though as she introduces me to her daughter who is 13, and I proclaimed “Fuck I feel old”. When I first met Elaine she was at school herself, so suddenly realising she has a daughter who is only a couple of years younger than Elaine was when I met her, really makes you realise how much time has gone by.

The weather wasn’t great but their dog still enjoys chasing sticks into the ocean. It really is nice having the beach five metres away from the house.

It got me thinking about where my ideal holiday home would be, if my finances get to the stage where I could afford one. I have a mental shortlist along these lines:

  1. Marlborough Sounds. I’d love a place down there, preferably as remote as possible so we have no road access and no neighbours. It would mean I need enough money to buy a boat and a house there, and sadly that is more a pipe dream for now. Ongoing costs of a boat also a factor.
  2. Kapiti Coast. My family had a small batch at Waikanae and then a farmlet (15 acres) at Reikorangi so I know Kapiti very well. It is logistically the easiest option as just 45 minutes from Wellington. The beach is nice, and the prices not too unreasonable. The downside is it isn’t really remote enough.
  3. Great Barrier Island. I absolutely live the Barrier, and if I lived in Auckland that would be where I want my holiday home. I’d probably spend half the year there if I could. The downside is I do not live in Auckland, flights over there cost quite a bit if regular, and pretty expensive to buy. I’d be more tempted to build something custom.
  4. Wairarapa. I don’t mean Greytown or Martinborough but rural Wairarapa. Three friends of mine have places north of Masterton, and they are wonderful remote. No neighbours, superb bush and views and the prices are actually quite affordable. The downside is having to drive there and back regularly, and the distance to the beach.

Not sure how I will ever decide. If there is ever a Mrs Farrar, I guess she’ll decide for me 🙂

Scoring the Dom Post’s 2009 predictions

December 31st, 2009 at 9:51 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post gallery team make a set of 20 predictions at the beginning of each year, and get them marked at year end. They’re the only team brave enough to make predictions, so good on them.On the 1st of January 2009 I added in my own thoughts on the predictions.

I comment on the results, and add in my own scores:

1. Attempts to reach cross-party accord over the Electoral Finance Act will founder and its replacement will prove a thorn in National’s side as the parliamentary term rolls on.

The Greens were not happy with the interim return to the previous rules. Labour carped but backed it. The issue has slipped off the radar for now, thanks to Simon Power’s glacial consultation process, but we are still waiting for a new law. In the Christmas spirit a generous 5/10

That is a bit generous. While there have been some aspects Labour and Greens have not agreed with, it hasn’t been a thorn at all, as the process has been so open and transpaent. I’d say 3/10 at best.

2. Former prime minister Helen Clark will be appointed to an overseas post and quit Parliament before the end of the year, to be replaced in her seat by Phil Twyford.

Right call on resignation and overseas post, wrong on replacement. It went to Phil Goff’s hand-picked candidate David Shearer, partly to stop Judith Tizard returning off the list. Note to selves: Never underestimate Labour’s factionalism or its ability to kneecap those out of favour. 5/10

5/10 is a fair score. I should point out that I had already blogged about the Tizard Factor before 2009 started.

3. Former finance minister Michael Cullen will be gone from Parliament by lunchtime on Budget day – or soon after.

We read your mind, Mikey! 10/10

Yep. 10/10

4. National’s early attempt at reaching out to the unions will quickly fall by the wayside as workers mobilise against plans to extend the 90-day probation law and roll back the Holidays Act.

Things started turning very sour toward the end of the year, with a fight looming over the Holidays Act. But we lose marks for failing to highlight the biggest union bugbear; ACC reform. 8/10

Not a difficult prediction. I’d even go 9/10.

5. Miss Clark’s right-hand woman – H2, or Heather Simpson – will pop up in a surprising new role.

Our independent assessors reckon it is no surprise she followed Helen Clark to a job at the United Nations, but we did not know Miss Clark would get the job when we made the prediction, so there. 8/10

Perhaps more surprising is that Heather is still there, as she originally agreed to three months only. 8/10 also.

6. Annette King will signal her intention to quit Parliament before the next election, making way for a deputy leadership candidate from the Left of the Labour Party.

We were as wrong as a wrong thing. We would like to unreservedly apologise to the member for Rongotai for our negativity and cynicism. This year, maybe? 0/10

I said at the beginning of the year that I thought 2010 was more likely than 2009 for a retirement. Agree this is a 0/10

7. There will be at least two by-elections triggered during the course of the year.

Only one. We tried a partial justification by saying Hone Harawira was “that close” to going, and it was not our fault Richard Worth was a list MP, but our reviewers were unbending. 5/10

Two was a ballsy call. 5/10 for one right.

8. The Reserve Bank will lower interest rates to less than 4 per cent, but the Government will bow to pressure to boost the economy with even more fiscal stimulus than is currently in the pipeline.

Boy, did Alan Bollard go under 4 per cent! The rate hit a low of 2.5 per cent and is forecast to stay there till mid-2010. With some extra money for infrastructure and one last spendup in the 2009 Budget, not to mention the cycleway (so we won’t) things were more expansionary than they looked at Christmas 2008. We lose a mark because the tax cuts went west for now but, on the other hand, so did Cullen fund contributions. 9/10

A bit generous. There wasn’t a huge amount of extra fiscal stimulus so I would make it 7/10.

9. There will be trouble within ACT that will sideswipe the Government as its feisty members agitate against the Government’s economic line.

Sir Roger Douglas did little but agitate against the Government’s economic picks, as did the whole party over the Maori seats on the Auckland super-city and the emissions trading scheme … and then there was Rodney Hide’s travelling junket show and his unguarded remarks about John Key’s do-nothing style. We could go on, but then we’d have to give ourselves 11 out of 10, which our independent assessors say is not allowed. Grinches. 10/10

An easy prediction. 10/10 is fair enough.

10. The plan to cap and reduce the number of bureaucrats will create even more bureaucrats.

More here, less there – a mixed picture overall and the full extent of the Whanau Ora policy, and its potential for a parallel bureaucracy, is yet to be seen. A perhaps generous 6/10.

I think this one is a clear failure – maybe 3/10. There is no doubt the numbers have reduced. I would mark it 3/10.

11. National’s poll ratings will stay above 40 per cent despite the economic crisis.

10/10. But we wish we had been brave enough to say 50 per cent.

Yeah too easy in hindsight. 10/10

12. Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons will announce that she will stand aside and is likely to be replaced by Metiria Turei.

Sorry, Sue Bradford, but we always thought this is the way it would go. 10/10

I thought Jeanette might announce her retirement in 2009 and have the replacement elected in 2010. Didn’t expect her to vacate her role so quickly. Don’t think anyone but Sue Bradford ever thought she would become co-leader. 10/10

13. A junior minister will have egg on their face within six months, testing Mr Key’s promise to set a high level of accountability.

We have only two words to say to that. Richard Worth. Bingo. 10/10

An easy prediction also. Worth noting that Worth of course went quickly. 10/10

14. Jim Anderton will finally signal an end to his long parliamentary career, putting the future of his Progressive Party in doubt.

He has effectively folded the tent and merged his party with Labour under a “joint membership” clause, even handing over his key strategist John Pagani to advise Phil Goff and help run the Mt Albert by-election. But at 71, and even after a bout of pneumonia, he is vowing to fight on so we still await the public announcement of his quitting date. 8/10

I’d score this 5/10 as he has not made an announcement yet. My pick is for 2010.

15. Labour will be a very strong opposition, with poll ratings in the high 30s by year’s end.

They were relatively good in opposition, but the “very” and the fact that they have struggled to get above 35 per cent means our rating is even worse than Phil Goff’s here. 2/10

The last poll of the year had them at 27.5%. Agree 2/10.

16. Lockwood Smith will prove to be a flexible and able Speaker, promoting Parliament’s traditions without too many histrionics … or the need to bellow “Order!” as loudly as his predecessor.

You heard it here first, folks. His approach to holding ministers to account and his restrained manner have proved a winner. 10/10

A good pick and deserved 10/10.

17. Labour’s ousted West Coast MP Damien O’Connor will be back – if he wants to be – but those occupying the next few slots on the list will come under considerable pressure to step aside, in the interests of renewal, if more replacement MPs are needed.

He is back, and boy, have the others come under pressure – see our comments on Phil Twyford, David Shearer and Judith Tizard above. 10/10

Yep. 10/10

18. The Maori Party will find itself voting against the Government far more than it votes for it, especially on law and order and social issues, leading to some soul-searching among its MPs.

A poorly worded prediction, which loses points for vagueness. As a support party they were with the Government on most bills, but on a raft of controversial bills there were obvious divisions, with in some cases the party casting split votes. 3/10

A fair score. Agree on 3/10.

19. The emissions trading scheme will survive, and with few changes.

It has survived, largely intact, but the expected Labour-National deal did not eventuate so the changes were more extensive than we expected. 6/10

About right. I’d even make it 7/10 as the changes are not as major as some claim.

20. Finance Minister Bill English will embrace Labour spokesman David Cunliffe’s offer of a bipartisan approach to the world economic meltdown. Yes, we are joking.

Perhaps we should have points deducted for sarcasm, but it had a serious point too – Labour has repeatedly tried and failed to get National around the bipartisan table so Phil Goff can share the limelight with John Key. 10/10

Not sure Cunliffe is into job sharing either 🙂

That is a final score of 145 points out of a possible 200 – a small improvement on 2008 but maybe not enough to trade in the word processor for a crystal ball.

I scored it slightly lower at 140/200, but still a pretty good result.

In 2007 they scored themselves 145 and I scored them 127. In 2008 they scored themselves 138 and I scored 132. In 2009 it is 145 and 140 respectively.

Modesty prevents me from scoring my own predictions, but I will point out that I did get right the Phil Twyford and Annette King predictions 🙂

I look forward to the 2009 predictions tomorrow. Maybe iPredict can set up markets on some of them, so we can see what the public think!

General Debate 31 December 2009

December 31st, 2009 at 8:57 am by David Farrar

Today is the end (except for pedants) of the first decade of the new millennium.

And the honours are …

December 31st, 2009 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

The full honours list is here.

The top honour of membership of the Order of New Zealand goes to Helen Clark. In some ways, it is no surprise, as former PMs David Lange, Mike Moore and Jim Bolger were also made ONZ, and Don McKinnon also is a member for holding high international office.

So it was inevitable Clark would be made a member, but so soon after she left office will leave a sour taste for many. One right wing friend commented:

What the fuck Farrar?  First a UN appointment now this!!!

Next Key will name a star in her fucking honour and have her face on the new flag.

Personally I’m still more upset by Cullen being appointed to an SOE Board while an MP.

We have one new Dame, and five Knights.

Aucklanders will know Dame Lesley Max well.

Professor Sir Mason Durie is one of the most prominent Maori health professionals.

Sir Peter Jackson may not have got the tax breaks he wants for the film industry, but he is now KNZM. He has said this award surpassed winning the Oscars. I suspect he would not have said this, had titles for the top honours not been restored. I am so pleased the Government did restore titles.

Sir Douglas Myers recognition is long overdue.

Justice Sir Bruce Robertson is a former President of the Law Commission and current Court of Appeal judge.

Finally it is honorary but nice to see recognition of the amazingly generous philanthropy of Sir Julian Robertson. Robertson first visited New Zealand in the 1950s to spend a year here writing a novel. He obviously fell in love with it. In May 2009 he announced the donation of $115 million of art to the Auckland Art Gallery – the single largest gift ever in Australasia.

Won’t comment on the entire list, but also worth mentioning former Auditor-General Kevin Brady who is made a CNZM. He was the public service at its finest as he stood up to Parliament and insisted that their funding of various pledge cards and the like was illegal.

The revolution continues

December 30th, 2009 at 10:35 pm by David Farrar

The Times names Neda Soltan as the 2009 Person of the Year. A superb choice.

Soltan was killed by Government forces in Iran, during a protest. However the Government has gone even further, with there being some evidence that Seyed Ali Mousavi (nephew of the presidential candidate) was not shot during a street protest, but actually hunted down at his house and killed by the Government as a warning.

Regardless the protests are growing, and the Times explains why:

Iran’s panicking regime is once again seeking to suppress the Green Movement by decapitating it.

Just as it did after June’s hotly-disputed presidential election, it is arresting high-profile reformists, academics and journalists who support the opposition.

It hesitates to detain Mir Hossein Mousavi lest millions of his supporters take to the streets, but it has locked up his brother-in-law and is widely suspected of killing his nephew. It cannot arrest Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel laureate, as she is abroad, but it has imprisoned her sister.

The tactic will prove as futile now as it did in June. Decapitation will not work because the opposition is a bottom-up movement run not by Mr Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, its nominal leaders, but by its grassroots members. It is a massive campaign of civil disobedience.

“Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards still don’t get it,” said one Iranian academic. “The Green Movement is a decentralised popular front run by local cells and local leaderships across the country. The main opposition figures do not control it. They are spiritual leaders, but do not provide any direction in regard to demonstrations or slogans.”

This is the key. You can not decapitate a grass-roots movement. You can shoot and arrest lots of people, but it will just anger more and more people.

Now I’m not saying this will result in the overthrow of the Government, as many in the Government will be happy to kill to remain in power. But their legitimacy as a Government will weaken massively. I doubt they could even go through the pretence of an election anytime soon, and if they do away with elections, then the resistance will have more reason to carry on.

Norton Internet Security 2010

December 30th, 2009 at 10:13 pm by David Farrar

Well just in time for year end, my complimentary copy of Norton Internet Security 2010 turned up. Time to try the install.

The installation was going fine until it discovered some remains of Trend Micro 2007, which has proven resistant to deletion. I tried everything but couldn’t get rid of it, but then realised you can just skip the warning about a possible conflict.

Next step was the product key. I had a brain meltdown and tried entering the serial number instead. Finally realised my mistake, and got it right.

After that it was all smooth sailing, and all installed in under 10 minutes. I’ve been using Norton for the last two years, and have to say yet to have a a real problem. Norton 360 was a bit difficult, but Internet Security 2009 worked perfectly I found, and 2010 looks to do the same.

I like the fact it doesn’t just keep away the real nasty stuff, but alerts me to even tracking cookies, and allows me to delete them as I go.

What Internet Security packages do readers use and like the most?

Fun in Wairarapa

December 30th, 2009 at 9:37 pm by David Farrar

At the weekend, headed up to Busted Blonde’s rural retreat in Wairarapa. Was a very pleasant day with lobster and sausages and some nice lamb chops which up until around three hours before dinner was prancing around the paddock. Always a bit weird to eat something that you have seen alive just before dinner!

Busted had her parents and son, with her and her Aussie Rock. Lots of fun conversation. One hilarious part was when these was a discussion of her son’s exes, and I suggested maybe one could discuss Busted’s exes instead. Her son piped up that he had a poor attention span so didn’t think he could pay attention to the entire list. Busted’s yells of protest about not saying mean things about her in front of her mum didn’t have much effect – I even got a reference to the Green Parrot in there.

Anyway the highlight came after dinner, where her Aussie Rock proved he was as good with his hands as he is with his …. mind. He brought out his miniature plane which he had made.

I had wondered what the strip of lawn was for in the middle of the paddock. Now I knew – a runway. And along it goes.

And we have takeoff. The plane had great lift – not quite a harrier, but could climb quite dramatically when needed.

The plane could go up hundreds of metres easily. It was damn fast also – I’d say it could give a car a good run for its money. I’m not sure what the range is, but it looked to me that it could get up to a km or so away without difficulty.

And it successfully lands again.

I really enjoyed the drive to and from the Wairarapa. The traffic was light and got over the Rimutakas in under 20 minutes. There are so many great rural roads out there, that at some stage I want to spend a few days there just exploring the more remote areas.

The Aucklander Awards

December 30th, 2009 at 8:31 pm by David Farrar

Oh this is hilarious. The Aucklander gives out it awards for 2010. The categories are:

  1. Most overinflated view of a local body role.
  2. Most creative charity contribution.
  3. Most persistent request to be left alone.
  4. Most petulant outburst.
  5. Most relentless pursuit of the facts.
  6. Most frightful drug reaction.
  7. Most ingratiating brush with real celebrity.
  8. Most insincere apology.
  9. Most welcomed media silence.
  10. Most unsuccessful media silence.

The winner of all ten awards is North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams. It must be so embarrassing if you live on the North Shore to have to admit Williams is your Mayor. I wonder if house prices have declined on the Shore since he was elected?

No smoking prisons

December 30th, 2009 at 3:43 pm by David Farrar

This sounds promising from the Telegraph:

A noticeable drop in recorded crimes on the Isle of Man is being attributed to the opening of Europe’s only completely no smoking prison.

The island which is one of the safest places to live in the British Isles, has seen a massive reduction in total crimes since the new £42m jail opened in August 2008.

In the nine month period from April 2008 to December 15 2008 the total recorded crimes stood at 2,508.

But in the same period this year crimes dropped off 14 per cent, with a total of 2,157 crimes committed.
The prison is Europe’s one and only completely non-smoking prison – with smoking not even allowed in the prison exercise yard.

Even prison guards are banned from smoking anywhere on the premises and have to go into a nearby car park to light up.

Prisoners are told they have no choice but to give up and are given free nicotine patches and counselling sessions to help them beat their cravings.

“It’s a standing joke now that when we nick someone we remind them that if they get sent down they’ll have to come off the cigarettes – their faces are a picture,” said a police source.

“It’s like they are more scared about giving up smoking than a criminal record and some time in the nick.”

So how about it Judith – trial a non smoking prison and see the results.

Locke on his Head of State Bill

December 30th, 2009 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

Keith Locke writes in the Dominion Post:

After a seven-year wait, my Head of State Referenda Bill, designed to let New Zealanders decide who should be their head of state, has finally been pulled from the members’ ballot.

I hope to win enough support in Parliament for my private member’s bill to send it through for select committee consideration.

Sadly National is voting against letting the people have a say. It may still pass though, if all the other parties support it. It would be the first time the people of NZ would be able to submit on what they think the process should be for resolving the issue of our head of state.

There are strong arguments for change, not least that we are now a confident, independent nation in the South Pacific. Having a head of state in Britain does not match who we are in the 21st century.

And our economic and trading future is with our neighbours, not Europe.

My bill provides a choice of three options – the status quo and two republican options. The most popular republican option is probably a directly elected president (selected by single transferable vote), but I have also included as an option a president selected by 75 per cent of Parliament. I wanted all the options on the table for people to debate before a vote.

If none of the three options gains 50 per cent support, the bill provides for a runoff referendum between the two leading options.

So it would probably be a run off between the status quo and the most popular republican option.

This separation of royal roles has produced an interesting constitutional dilemma for British politicians trying to change the rules of royal succession, so that they don’t give preference to male heirs. If the British Parliament made such a change, and the New Zealand Parliament did not, the king or queen of New Zealand could end up being a different person from the king or queen of Britain.

I always say that if we have to have a royal family, we should invite Princess Madeleine of Sweden to become our head of state!

Some New Zealanders worry that we might end up with the wrong person if we elect our head of state: perhaps a celebrity who doesn’t know much about politics or, at the other end of the scale, someone too politically aligned.

My view is that we can trust the people to elect a head of state acceptable to the nation, as Ireland has in election after election. Former Irish president Mary Robinson went on to do well as the UN high commissioner on human rights.

The other thing you can do is ban any current or former MP from being elected President, if one is worried about a politician being President.

At present the governor-general lacks some independence, because he or she is appointed by the Government, has to take advice from the Government, and can be sacked by the Government. An elected head of state would not be so constrained from acting in an impartial manner.

This is a key issue, that many people do not realise. The Prime Minister can sack the Governor-General at whim, and appoint a new one without approval or even consultation with anyone.

Having a NZ Head of State, would reduce the power of the Prime Minister.

Cathedral Cove

December 30th, 2009 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

This is looking like a classic case of locals vs tourists. The locals have their homes do don’t see any merit in having a stall selling water and ice creams, but the tourists love it.

The Herald reports:

The owner of a seaside stall that locals accuse of spoiling pristine Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula says tourists are relieved to see him at the end of a long, hot walk, and that he is leaving the white-sand beach cleaner than he finds it each day.

Shanan Laird, 31, said he had had nothing but positive feedback from visitors – and only two negative comments from locals – since he began selling drinks and sandwiches at the untouched spot, 30 minutes’ walk from the road.

The former ski-patroller carries a 2m x 2m table by boat to the cove each day and offers basic first aid, sunblock, snorkels, drinks and sandwiches to beachgoers.

As part of his contract with the Department of Conservation, he must clean the beach of all rubbish before he leaves each day.

Looks like a win/win to me.

Mr Laird said he got the idea last summer after seeing people arrive at the beach, hot and bothered, with no food or water and having to turn back.

“All the tourists are just so happy that someone is there with water because they didn’t realise the walk was so difficult,” he said. “Lots of people just forget [to bring drinks]. It’s a beautiful place so I may as well enhance it by offering cold drinks so people can spend longer there.”

Mr Laird’s brother, Ryan, a restaurant owner at nearby Cooks Beach, said visitors could not believe there was nowhere to buy drinks at the cove before this summer. The stall was tucked into the bush so it would not interfere with the vista.

“The place is already highly commercialised with the snorkelling tours and boat trips and everything … but there is no support on the beach to remove anything [rubbish] that gets left there,” he said.

The photo in the Herald article makes it pretty clear the stall is not intrusive.

Aucklanders and false alarms

December 30th, 2009 at 11:21 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than a quarter of all fire call-outs in the past financial year were false alarms, at a cost to taxpayers of up to $25 million.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show of the 73,512 jobs the Fire Service attended in the year to June, firefighters turned back from 20,373.

The majority of false alarms – 41 per cent – came from the Auckland region, where up to 74 per cent of all calls to central city stations turned out to be false alarms.

The false alarm rate in Auckland appears to be two to three times higher than the rest of NZ. Any theories on why?

No tag for this post.

General Debate 30 December 2009

December 30th, 2009 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

RIP Helen Bain

December 29th, 2009 at 9:02 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A 38-year-old woman has died after being swept away riding a horse across the Ruamahanga River in the Wairarapa this afternoon, while a man died suddenly at Lake Taupo and another drowned at Northland’s Ninety Mile Beach after trying to rescue his grandchildren today.

The woman was riding with a friend near Matapihi Road, about 5km north of Masterton, at 2pm when she attempted to cross the swollen river, Masterton police said.

The horse fell and the woman was swept away.

Her riding companion tried to help her and then sought help from a nearby friend.

The friend searched and found the woman downstream.

She was taken onto land but could not be revived.

A friend texted me with the name of the person who drowned, as we both knew her from our days working at Parliament. I can’t say more until the Police name her, but am very saddened by such an early and tragic death. She was a vibrant irreverent sort, who will be missed by many who knew her. My thoughts go out to her family, close friends and colleagues.

I’ll say more once the Police release the name officially.

UPDATE: They have now named Helen Bain.

I met Helen around 15 years when I started at Parliament. She worked for the then Dominion and had a wonderful irreverent wit. She won several Qantas Awards and I recall former Editor Richard Long often referring to her as one of the most talented journalists he had hired.

Helen spent a couple of years working for John Tamihere as his press secretary. She had hilarious stories from that period, as Tamihere was always getting into trouble.

Helen did a brief spell as the Sunday Star-Times political editor and also was a motoring writer for a while. I recall hassling her once about having to write a story about riding the 11 pm bus with the hoodies 🙂

For the last four years or so she was Comms Manager for the Forest and Bird Society. If people ever wondered why I often ran promotions or free ads for them, despite disagreeing with them on some issues – the answer is Helen would inveigle me into it. Never could say no to her!

Any death at 38 is far too young. Helen especially though was full of life, and her loss will be felt keenly. The only commiseration is that she died doing something she loved – horse riding.

Again my thoughts are with her family, colleagues and close friends.

A first hand tale of the attempt to blow up NW253

December 29th, 2009 at 10:24 am by David Farrar

Over at the Huffington Post, Roey Rosenblith blogs a fascinating first hand account of what it was like on the flight that Al Qaeda tried to blow up.

Definitely read the whole thing to get soem idea of what it must have been like. I did enjoy his final paragraph:

In a few weeks my vacation is over. I’m going back to Uganda, to work with my Ugandan business partner Abu Musuuza, who by the way is a practicing Muslim (and I, by the way, am a seldom practicing Jew). With our American investors, Ryan Allis and Ron Boehm, our company Village Energy is going to provide light and power to as many people as we can get it to. And even though al Qaeda tried, I’ll be damned if they manage to stop me or anyone else on that flight from going out and achieving our life’s ambitions.

Dom Post on armed police

December 29th, 2009 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The DP editorial:

The shooting of 28-year-old Constable Jeremy Snow, predictably, has led to renewed calls for the police to be routinely armed. Those calls should be resisted. …

Many, notably Police Association president Greg O’Connor, believe those events mean that it is time to give police easier access to firearms.

I think the DP is simplifying the issue. I ended up discussing this with Greg O’Connor on The Panel, and Greg is not calling for all officers on patrol to be armed. What he did advocate is that generally all police cars should have arms in their boots, so they can be accessed quickly if needed.

Sadly there is probably nothing that could have stopped Constable Snow from being shot. The scum who did it opened fire with no warning.

However his two colleagues had to go in unarmed, to tend to his wounds. They saved his life. If they had access to arms in their car, they would have been safer in doing so.

Of course more access to firearms, means more training is needed.

There are other steps that should be tried before the question of routinely arming police is considered. The Taser, which is still being introduced, has the potential to provide police with a non-fatal alternative to firearms. Mr Broad has also talked of armed response vehicles with small teams of specially trained officers permanently on standby, but able to carry out routine frontline duties until they are needed.

The taser is a good choice if the offender is not armed with a gun themselves. But it is suicidal to go against an offender with a gun with a taser.

The concept of armed response vehicles on standby is laudable, but there are times when the five to ten minutes it will take to get there, will be too long.

Tourism more than clean and green

December 29th, 2009 at 9:48 am by David Farrar

Phil O’Reilly makes the point that our tourism is not just based on a clean and green brand. This is not to say one should not protect such a brand, but also not to get hysterical that some mining on 0.001% of DOC land will damage the brand. O’Reilly lists other reasons people visit here:

  • The country is beautiful, and the people are friendly, open, down to earth, direct, hospitable and welcoming. New Zealand people are “authentic”. They say there is something vibrant about us.
  • New Zealand is safe and pretty. It’s the least corrupt country in the world. The people are honest and trustworthy.
  • Americans say the food is good, with no worries about food safety. Australians talk about flying over to have fun in Courtenay Place.

And he goes on:

People overseas find our countryside beautiful but they tend to mention our people more. And, interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone describe New Zealand in terms of “clean and green”. Yet we seem to have convinced ourselves that that’s how the world sees us.

We seem to have a view that any chink in our environment will badly compromise our clean, green image in the eyes of the world.

I don’t think people overseas do have such simplistic opinions. Most people are realists. They understand that an absolutely pristine environment is not achievable unless humans are somehow removed from the picture.

As some want.

General Debate 29 December 2009

December 29th, 2009 at 9:25 am by David Farrar

Don’t palm us off campaign

December 29th, 2009 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Auckland Zoo is running a campaign to ask Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to label palm oil on all food products that contain palm oil and its derivatives.

Palm oil is fine when made from existing crops, but in South East Asia, they are clearing the equivalent of 300 rugby fields an hour of rainforest, for new palm oil plantations

I am all in favour of labelling, as opposed to banning. Consumer choice and empowerment is good. You can sign their petition here.

The campaign has been very smart. The Rhys Darby ad above is nicely done, but sending out a large non palm oil chocolate bar with their media kit was a great way to make sure the message got read 🙂

e-campaigning in 2008 election

December 28th, 2009 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar

A comprehensive study done by the VUW Chair in e-Government on the use of new media by political parties in the 2008 election. 122 pages, so not light reading.

Labour’s inflation policy a recipe for disaster

December 28th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post has a guest column by Stephen Kirchner from the CIS:

The idea that New Zealand can ignore inflation and grow faster through easy money and a lower exchange rate is a tempting, but short-sighted view. It ignores the fact that higher domestic prices would ultimately undermine rather than promote international competitiveness. Economic growth and export success must ultimately be built on real factors such as productivity growth, not easy money and exchange rate depreciation.

It is like cheating on an exam – only works for a while

The Reserve Bank’s primary focus on inflation recognises that monetary policy needs to be based on a single instrument and policy objective. Pursuing multiple objectives with multiple instruments, as Labour now suggests, is a recipe for incoherent policy and poor economic performance such as New Zealand experienced before its path-breaking reforms of the 1980s.

TVNZ is a good example of having multiple conflicting objectives. Either none of the objectives are achieved particularly well, or some of them are just ignored.

It would also undermine the transparency and accountability that were important objectives of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act. Under the current framework, the governor of the Reserve Bank is personally accountable for realising the inflation target under a policy targets agreement with the finance minister. Sustained breaches of the inflation target can result in the non-executive members of the Reserve Bank board recommending dismissal of the governor to the minister. This is no idle threat, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to hold the governor accountable for achieving multiple objectives instead of a clearly defined inflation target.

An excellent point. More objectives will mean less accountability. The Governor will always have a get out of jail card.

Since the first PTA was entered into in 1990, the inflation target has been progressively watered down. Most notably, the inflation target has been relaxed from 0-2 per cent to 1-3 per cent and given a medium-term focus, so there is now greater tolerance of short-term breaches.

I actually believe it should go back to a 0% to 2% range. Over time even 3% inflation is too much.

Spitfire Beer Ads

December 28th, 2009 at 2:08 pm by David Farrar

Blog Bits

December 28th, 2009 at 1:31 pm by David Farrar
  1. Paul Walker analyses the economics of Boxing Day sales. His conclusion is they are a way to get customers to reveal their price sensitivity.
  2. Brian Edwards blogs that he does not believe in free will and that everyone is a product of their genetics and environment. I disagree entirely and there there are countless examples of people with appalling genetics and environments doing well, and also of people with superb genetics and environments doing very bad things.
  3. Gooner at No Minister has been reading letters to the editor and highlights the Labour party activist who blames John Key for a possible reduction in screening hours for Coronation Street. Wow you almost have to feel sorry for them, when that is what they are reduced to.
  4. Whale Oil has created a Wiki page for his defence, where lawerly people can contribute ideas for his defence against the breach of name suppression charges.
  5. Lindsay Mitchell highlights hows a Southland foodbank co-ordinator is blaming the increased demand for assistance on the new National Government, despite National maintaining benefits and cost of living adjustments. Maybe he thinks the recession was caused by National?
  6. No Right Turn wants to Mondayize Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day. I tend to agree.
  7. Chris Hipkins notes this is the end of the first decade of the millennium (pedants go away), and that we have gone from Clinton to Obama, terrorism at the start of the decade was associated more with Northern Ireland, and you needed a dozen currencies to travel through Europe.

ODT on Intolerance

December 28th, 2009 at 11:36 am by David Farrar

The ODT editorial:

Central Auckland might not be Iraq or Afghanistan but it has been the scene of extremist religious reaction.

It was perfectly reasonable for certain churches and for various individuals to express their displeasure and even horror at what they saw as unsuitable or blasphemous in the Joseph and Mary billboard.

But the man who painted over it and the woman who attacked it with a knife are intolerant religious fanatics.

As such they are dangerous. In the name of their God they saw it as their right, even their obligation, to break the law and damage property.

The point I made.

While their actions are clearly of a different ilk to the suicide bombers of 9/11 or of a Baghdad market place, the fundamental impulse is the same. In the righteous name of God, they felt called to do their duty.

I agree. The moment you think doing God’s duty puts you above the law, it is a slippery slope.

But do the very values of the West contain the seeds of their own destruction? Is tolerance – and so-called “progressive” Christianity for that matter – a licence for wishy-washy thinking, policy and behaviour? Do the fanatics and the intolerant simply take advantage of weakness? Are the institutions and principles of democracy callously abused by ideologues for their own ends? These are dilemmas which liberal democracies face.

These are the concerns that echo through modern Western Europe as immigration swells the numbers from cultures and beliefs where ethics like individual human rights are far from sacrosanct.

The way forward has to be to ensure pride in the basic values that underpin democratic society and to defend them with vigour.

It means being prepared to be tolerant of different cultures and different beliefs but intolerant when aspects of those cultures and beliefs threaten the core on which Western democracies are based. Already, countries, institutions and individuals have been bullied over freedom of speech, with the most stark example the furore over the Danish Mohammed cartoons.

And the answer is to defend freedom of speech, not to applaud those who would deny it in Auckland.