Farewell from Colin

March 22nd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

is moving back to the mothership, so to speak, and leaving the press gallery to take up a senior role (can’t recall exact details) in the Press’ head office.

Colin was very popular, not just for his print columns, but also his blog which attracted hundreds of comments every post. He was a must read, to get his call on who he thought was doing well and not so well.

A highlight of his online activities was his literally eating his words, and printing out a statement he had made and blending it into a milkshake, capturing it on You Tube.

He wraps up his eights years on the political beat, with this column. He starts with what he got wrong:

One of the luxuries of hindsight is seeing what you wrote that turned out to be right – and what you got wrong. I dismissed ACT leader Rodney Hide’s chances in Epsom, and he’s never let me forget it. I anointed former ACT MP Deborah Coddington as the party’s next leader, and he’s never let me forget that, either.

Heh. I always enjoy hassling a prominent Wellington lobbyist about his prediction in 1996 that Neil Kirton was going to be a star. So Colin is not alone in his hindsight.

When I started writing about politics I thought all politicians were venal and self-serving. Now I believe only some of them are.

Most of the 122 MPs who sit in Wellington each week at your expense genuinely want to make the country a better place. They may be misguided, sometimes silly, occasionally foolish. But very few are genuinely bad.

And they are mainly gone now!

The silliest of the lot, for my money, was the independent MP Gordon Copeland, of UnitedFuture. He once argued in favour of a form of what could only be described as perpetual motion by suggesting surplus water from hydro power stations be pumped uphill again to make additional electricity.

Heh.

Picking a loser from my years of watching politics isn’t as easy. There have been countless embarrassments, numerous ministerial resignations and several MPs who ended up in jail. But the one who stands out for me is Dr Brash. He left a lucrative and well-respected post at the Reserve Bank to walk the plank of politics; a life for which he was eminently unsuited.

I disagree (no surprise), After 2002, National should not have even been in contention in 2005 and under Don National lifted its party vote a massive 18% – a feat unlikely to be beaten by any future leader. He also came within 2% of becoming Prime Minister and when he resigned as Leader, National was actually ahead in the polls.

My winner? It’s such a cliche to say Miss Clark, but who else can such an accolade be awarded to? She dominated politics during my time at Parliament, alongside probably only Mr Peters and Dr Brash, and she was more successful than either.

Few party leaders can claim three straight election victories and, love her or loathe her, she altered the paradigm of New Zealand politics. She forced National to the political centre, introduced most of the social policies this government now promises to keep, and elevated political management to an art form.

She got the relatively rare opportunity to leave politics on her own terms, rather than those of her party’s executioners, and fooled us all with her denials that she was interested in a job at the United Nations. Turns out there was a plan B after all.

While I don’t disagree with Colin saying Clark is the winner (hard to pick anyone else over the last eight years), I disagree she left politics on her own terms. She got thrown out of office, and she would give anything to have her old job back, I am sure.

Mr Peters was the most mercurial politician I came across. He could be very rude. He once called me a moron. He could also be incredibly charming. He would argue till death that black was white, and vice versa, usually after a drink or two. He was easily the most talented politician I saw, but also the laziest. The results were therefore never dull.

Imagine what a hard working Winston might have achieved, let alone an honest one.

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24 Responses to “Farewell from Colin”

  1. RRM (9,666 comments) says:

    Colin Espiner: “Most of the 122 MPs who sit in Wellington each week at your expense genuinely want to make the country a better place. They may be misguided, sometimes silly, occasionally foolish. But very few are genuinely bad.”

    Showing his stripes there. Clearly a Sycophant of the left and a typical liberal MSM puppet of the socialist long march to world domination.

    Oops, sorry – I just though someone should stand in for Redbaiter while he’s on holiday….

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  2. Grizz (540 comments) says:

    I am lead to believe that pumping water up hill actually does happen. Many South Island reservoirs are small. During periods of off peak power and with a surplus of electricity in the grid, there are pumps used to pump water back into the reservoirs to be used during peak hours. Sounds like a waste to me, but someone in the electricity industry may be able to comment further.

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  3. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    Colin Espiner is politically more savey than TV3 counterpart Duncan Garner and should take over Paul Holmes political rants by having his own politcal debate program. The press gallery want be as informative without him The only thing I don’t like about both Colin Espiner and Duncan Garner is that they are a bit too pro- Maori.

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  4. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    [Colin Espiner:] My winner? It’s such a cliche to say Miss Clark, but who else can such an accolade be awarded to? She dominated politics during my time at Parliament, alongside probably only Mr Peters and Dr Brash, and she was more successful than either.

    I guess some of us view ‘success’ differently to Mr Espiner – I view Klark’s reign as a total disaster for New Zealand.

    In my view ‘Dominating’ does not equal ‘success’, positive results and the betterment of society equals success.
    Epic fail seems more appropriate.

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  5. RRM (9,666 comments) says:

    ^^^ There is a power station in Wales that operates entirely on this principle, moving water back and forth between a lower and an upper reservoir.

    IIRC the turbines are over 90% efficient in extracting power from downward-moving water, but only something like about 40% efficient in using electricity to pump water back upwards (during off-peak periods of low grid demand.) So it is useful in meeting peak (evening) power demands, but overall it consumes electricity, it does not generate any.

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  6. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    Grizz: many of the new technologies we use for generating power (wind, solar etc) are intensely variable. There are also very large swings in demand at certain points in the day – before work, after work. The renewables, and nuclear, also have the characteristic that they cost almost nothing to run once you’ve built them – so if there isn’t enough demand to use all the power they offer, you may as well use it for something. With wind in particular, they’re quite hard to shut off – they need a load to avoid them damaging themselves. There is a reasonable use of pumped hydro here essentially as a giant battery – a way to smooth peaks in demand and supply. You’re using that surplus power that you really can’t otherwise turn off, and spending 30% of it so that 70% or so of it is available at a later time.

    In the UK they’re playing with it as they go more to wind, tidal, solar. They need roughly 4 days of spare capacity to cover the potential of a significant cloudy period coinciding with low winds. Refer this (online) book: http://www.withouthotair.com/

    There is no suggestion that you get out more power than you put in, only that like any other battery, you pay a percentage of the energy in order to save it up for later use.

    For us in NZ, we typically have massive storage in hydro anyway. It makes little sense to pump water back uphill into the dams unless we have some sort of baseload power than can’t be turned off and is otherwise wasted. We don’t have enough wind, solar or nuclear to provide that sort of profile, you’d either be using hydro to pump hydro (clearly stupid) or fossil fuel to pump hydro, which isn’t all that ecologically friendly.

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  7. m@tt (612 comments) says:

    Pumping water back up to refill a reservoir for later power generation can make sense under certain circumstances and does in fact happen.
    In very basic terms it is related to differences in the cost per unit at the time it is pumped and the time it is re-used. The benefit can accrue via maximising water use and revenue. If your only measure is nett energy created, then it is a loss.

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  8. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    RRM 1:01 pm,

    IIRC the turbines are over 90% efficient in extracting power from downward-moving water, but only something like about 40% efficient in using electricity to pump water back upwards (during off-peak periods of low grid demand.) So it is useful in meeting peak (evening) power demands, but overall it consumes electricity, it does not generate any.

    For this to be cost effective then peak power prices would have to be more than 9/4 times the price of off peak power – I think my maths is right here.

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  9. RRM (9,666 comments) says:

    As I say, IIRC. Pretty sure the turbines were horribly inefficient as pumps.

    **Googles…*

    Wikipedia is your friend – again!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

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  10. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    Kris K – 90%*40% = 36%

    Off peak power prices would have to be 36% of peak power prices – roughly a third. No idea what they actually are. But I think this is about more than just price. There is significant investment to pump back uphill, it might be more effective to just build a “surge capacity” gas fired plant. If the pumping was going to be driven by fossil fuel fired plants anyway, then a new gas-fired plant would:
    – probably cost about the same as the pumps (actually, I made that up, I have no idea)
    – allow you to store the gas itself, rather than pumping water to store it (so efficiency = 100%, not 36%)
    – probably deliver power at greater efficiency than any existing fossil fuel plant in NZ (newer usually = better)
    – modern gas plants provide substantial swing capacity – they can spin up very quickly
    – only get used if you actually run out of power – whereas the pumped hydro you’d end up doing the pumping “just in case” even if you don’t end up needing the surge capacity that it provides

    I reckon this would be much more ecologically effective, and given that you only use it when you need it rather than pre-emptively, it would be more cost effective.

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  11. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    PaulL 1:24 pm,

    … whereas the pumped hydro you’d end up doing the pumping “just in case” even if you don’t end up needing the surge capacity that it provides

    Whatever the maths, I agree that pumping water back up is “just in case”. And if you never need it then you’ve just wasted the equivalent dollar value in energy irrespective of ratios of peak and off peak power charges.

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  12. scrubone (3,082 comments) says:

    “I guess some of us view ’success’ differently to Mr Espiner – I view Klark’s reign as a total disaster for New Zealand.”

    I think the problem with the political media during the early years of Labour’s time in office is illustrated by this comment.

    The media too often judge politicians by how successful they are as politicians – things like how much of their agenda they push through. Ordinary people would rather judge them by assessing whether those agenda items actually improved the country. Clearly, much of Clark’s agenda did not, and that which did (paying down debt for example) only lasted as long as it was politically convenient.

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  13. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    Scrubone 1:42 pm,

    I think the problem with the political media during the early years of Labour’s time in office is illustrated by this comment.

    The media too often judge politicians by how successful they are as politicians – things like how much of their agenda they push through. Ordinary people would rather judge them by assessing whether those agenda items actually improved the country. Clearly, much of Clark’s agenda did not, and that which did (paying down debt for example) only lasted as long as it was politically convenient.

    I agree.
    One would think that the definition of success would be that as defined by those who put politicians in power, and those whom politicians (are meant to) represent – that being; “ordinary people” – the man on the street.

    Leaving politicians and the liberal MSM to define terms essentially gives them free reign to rewrite history and paint themselves in a good light. Helen Clark is a case in point.

    I really struggle to think of a nine year period in New Zealand politics/history when as much damage was done as was perpetrated during Clark’s nine year reign of terror. The legacy that keeps on giving.

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  14. Crusader (295 comments) says:

    (a) Was Clark successful? No. She failed utterly in her stated goal of improving our standing in OECD rankings. That’s what actually matters to NZ, not dominating parliament or advancing some social agenda.
    (b) Did she win 3 elections? Sort-of. Well, she never actually gained a majority for her own party. She managed to convince Mr Baubles-of-Office to back her, though. Does that count as winning an election?
    (c) Did she leave on her own terms? Of course not, what a silly thing to say. She had her Plan B well thought out, and executed it as soon as it was clear she had been kicked out of office by the seat of her pants.

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  15. RRM (9,666 comments) says:

    “Clark’s nine year reign of terror. ”

    JC. You’re reading the intelligent right-wing blogosphere in New Zealand, folks…

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  16. Repton (769 comments) says:

    I am lead to believe that pumping water up hill actually does happen. Many South Island reservoirs are small. During periods of off peak power and with a surplus of electricity in the grid, there are pumps used to pump water back into the reservoirs to be used during peak hours. Sounds like a waste to me, but someone in the electricity industry may be able to comment further.

    I’m not in the industry, but the basic problem is that you can;t store electricity; you have to use it as it’s generated. So if you generate too much, you can only convert it to another form of energy. You’ll be most familiar with chemical potential energy as a storage device (i.e. batteries), but they have problems with memory effects. Plus, I’m not sure you’d want a country-sized battery sitting around :-)

    So pumping water uphill is another option: storing the excess electricity as gravitational potential energy, which you can recover later using your hydro dam.

    Obviously this isn’t 100% efficient because of thigns like thermodynamics. There will always be some energy lost as heat.

    NZ may do this more often as we get more wind power. Our wind is pretty reliable, but it’s not perfect. If the wind is strong all over the country, we may find ourselves generating too much, in which case we can store the excess in a hydro dam.

    Of course, if Copeland was just suggesting that “pump water uphill” is a solution to the empty lakes problem, then he was being stupid.

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  17. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    RRM 2:22 pm,

    “Clark’s nine year reign of terror.”

    JC. You’re reading the intelligent right-wing blogosphere in New Zealand, folks…

    Some people run from the truth, others embrace it.
    I like to think I fall into the second category.

    By the way, I have rights on that phrase, and if you want to use it again in the future a small surcharge will apply.
    My bank account details are as follows …

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  18. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    Repton 2:51 pm,

    What concerns me even more than attempting to “pump water uphill”, is when we in New Zealand try to push shit uphill – something we tend to specialise in almost as much as our attempts to implement things that have failed elsewhere.
    Anti smacking legislation in Sweden. anyone?

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  19. Murray (8,842 comments) says:

    You could sack every jounralist in this country and improve the quality of service… not to mention it accuracy.

    Kris have you claimed The decade of dickheads yet? I may have use for it. several in fact.

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  20. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,820 comments) says:

    If the voters of New Zealand put Helen Clark into office so their children could be poorer than they otherwise would be then you would rate Helen Clark’s time in office as a “success”.

    Mission Accomplished

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  21. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    Murray 3:21 pm,

    Kris have you claimed The decade of dickheads yet? I may have use for it. several in fact.

    She’s all yours, Murray.
    But if I choose to use it I will apportion you with authorship in my footnotes.

    “The decade of dickheads” – it does have a certain ring to it.

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  22. eszett (2,374 comments) says:

    I agree.
    One would think that the definition of success would be that as defined by those who put politicians in power, and those whom politicians (are meant to) represent – that being; “ordinary people” – the man on the street.

    and

    Some people run from the truth, others embrace it.
    I like to think I fall into the second category.

    Gotta love how KK thinks he has embraced the truth and speaks for the “ordinary people – the man on the street.”

    Funniest thing coming from the fringe of the religous right.

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  23. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    eszett 3:35 pm,

    So who is it exactly that YOU speak for, Eszett?
    And is your roll here to address the issues, or just haunt me like a bad smell? – Whatever turns you on, I guess.

    By the way, some of my best friends are “ordinary people – the man on the street.” And I believe many of my views are consistent with the average New Zealander if the last election result, and many who comment here are anything to go by.

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  24. eszett (2,374 comments) says:

    # Kris K (1785) Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    eszett 3:35 pm,

    So who is it exactly that YOU speak for, Eszett?
    And is your roll here to address the issues, or just haunt me like a bad smell? – Whatever turns you on, I guess.

    By the way, some of my best friends are “ordinary people – the man on the street.” And I believe many of my views are consistent with the average New Zealander if the last election result, and many who comment here are anything to go by.

    I speak for myself, Kris K.

    Sorry, if you feel haunted, I assure you it’s not intended.

    You have strong and very self-righteous views, I just strongly disagree with them, that’s all.
    And I like to point out the inconsistencies of your arguments. Such as that you cannot be on the right wing religious fringe and “mainstream” at the same time.

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