Archive for October, 2012

Star Wars: Episode VII

October 31st, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Yay. NZ Herald reports:

A seventh Star Wars film has been confirmed for release in 2015 as well as a string of sequels after the sale of LucasFilm to Disney for US$4.05 billion (NZ$4.93b).

In a statement announcing the deal, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm George Lucas said: “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

May Episode VII be as good as Episode IV rather than Episode III.

I wonder if the new movies will follow the non-canonical books, or if they will be totally different?

I can still recall the excitement as a 10 year old, seeing Star Wars. Almost everyone went to see it twice or more, and some peopel saw it dozens of times. It really did change films.

Wednesday Wallpaper | Dolphin Viewing, Kaikoura

October 31st, 2012 at 3:30 pm by Todd Sisson
Dolphin viewing New Zealand : A pod of dusky dolphins photographed off the coast of Kaikoura, South Island New Zealand

Dusky Dolphin Pod, Kaikoura New Zealand. NZ wildlife photography by Todd Sisson

Yes, it’s Wednesday Wallpaper time again!  This week we are off to Kaikoura on a little marine mammal tangent.  These dusky dolphins were photographed while on onboard with the Kaikoura Dolphin Encounter team – a very worthwhile excursion if you are ever in Kaikoura and the weather is good.

We had a little technical hitch last week, our website is in development mode at present and the download function was disabled – the large file downloads can be found at the amended link below until we get that issue tidied up. Sorry for any inconvenience – but you get what you pay for sometimes 😉

You may download the large version from this link:  Password = freewallpaper

Also available on our website as a canvas print.

See you next week!

Cheers – Todd

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Super Storm Sandy

October 31st, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The report at Stuff is sobering reading:

The most devastating storm in decades to hit the most densely populated US region has cut off modern communication and left millions without power, as thousands who fled their waterlogged homes wonder when – if – life will return to normal.

A weakening Sandy, the hurricane turned fearsome super storm, killed at least 50 people, many hit by falling trees, and still wasn’t finished. …

More than 8.2 million households were without power in 17 states as far west as Michigan.

Nearly two million of those were in New York, where large swaths of lower Manhattan lost electricity and entire streets ended up under water – as did seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn at one point, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day from weather, the first time that has happened since a blizzard in 1888.

The city’s subway system, the lifeblood of more than five million residents, was damaged like never before and closed indefinitely, and Consolidated Edison said electricity in and around New York could take a week to restore.

New York with no subway system!

Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicted the storm will end up causing about US$20 billion in damages and US$10 billion to US$30 billion in lost business. Another firm, AIR Worldwide, estimated losses up to Us$15 billion – big numbers probably offset by reconstruction and repairs that will contribute to longer-term growth.

Not really – this is a common mistake. Yes reconstruction does contribute to economic growth, but the money spent on it has an opportunity cost – and is money not invested in other areas – which would often contribute more to economic growth.

One of the most dramatic tales came from lower Manhattan, where a failed backup generator forced New York University’s Tisch Hospital to relocate more than 200 patients, including 20 babies from neonatal intensive care.

Dozens of ambulances lined up in the rainy night and the tiny patients were gingerly moved out, some attached to battery-powered respirators as gusts of wind blew their blankets.

So emotional.

What damage could be seen on the coastline was, in some locations, staggering – “unthinkable,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said of what unfolded along the Jersey Shore, where houses were swept from their foundations and amusement park rides were washed into the ocean. “Beyond anything I thought I would ever see.”

The power of nature.

Whale appointed Truth Editor

October 31st, 2012 at 1:59 pm by David Farrar

Truth has announced:

Internet shock jock goes mainstream

“Wellington, you’re on notice – be afraid.”

New Zealand’s number 1 news and opinion blogger Cameron Slater has today been appointed Editor of the Truth.

Truth is New Zealand’s last remaining Kiwi-owned national newspaper which this year turns 125 years old.

Slater has been brought on board to fundamentally change the way newspapers deliver to their audiences. Newspapers worldwide are in decline, due, Slater says, to a tired old business model that no longer works.

“We’re not going to spend $4 million on a paint job and then deliver the same tired old paid-for shit.

“Most of the media in this country is weak, and it’s paid for. The integrity in news went ages ago.”

Slater is adamant that the backbone of New Zealand – the people who work – are not getting a fair shake from government or the system. He aims to change that.

“Each and every one of us has got an investment in NZ Inc, and the majority of the people in charge of the place are taking the piss out of our investment.

“We’re going to keep the buggers honest. There’s no better disinfectant than sunlight.

“To use a tired phrase – if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, so Wellington, you’re on notice – if you’re having a lend, we’re coming for you!”

Changes will be rolled out over a period of months and will include both print and a 24 hour news website to support the paper. Slater aims to alter the approach to news presentation significantly.

“We took the pulse of the nation, and it had nearly bloody died.

“No bastard wants to read old news – they can get that online. We’ll be more of a views-paper that promises to deliver REAL news, REAL opinion.

“The people are numb from the eyes down with the diet of PR’d crap they get now. I will not do it to them anymore – it’s not right.

“I assure you – the little paper that could still can!”

There will be further announcements regarding contributors and editorial direction.

Slater’s first issue will hit newsstands on Thursday 8 November 2012.

Congratulations to Cam. That is a huge vote of confidence in his abilities. He hasn’t become most read blogger by accident, and he will bring his tenacity to his new role. A blogger becoming a print (and web) editor might be a first – at least for New Zealand.

I’m looking forward to the first issue..

Brislen on data roaming

October 31st, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Brislen writes:

Roaming is one of those issues that makes most people despair of the telco sector. It seems so unfair and unjust and penalises customers for simply using their phones the way the telcos seemingly should want them to.

Yep – thansk to the outrageous data charges, I dump my NZ sim card and phone number when travelling overseas, and use local sims.

Firstly, let’s clarify a few points. Telcos should want you to use their services. They want to sign you up; they want you to give them money. They’re in business to make money and they do that by building products and services that you want.

What this means is my NZ telco gets no activity at all during that period I’m overseas.

The price for this is relatively low – the average 1GB offer for mobile devices in New Zealand is about $20-$30. I rang the Vodafone call centre and whined that my 1GB free add-on had disappeared and they reinstated it for me. That’s 1GB for free.

Travel to Sydney, however, and that all changes. That 1GB will set me back $500 and if that seems a bit steep for what is, after all, the same product. But take a moment to show your solidarity for Australians coming here. They’ll pay anything up to $20,000 for that 1GB of data.

I’m in Cambodia at the moment. If I used my phone in roaming mode it would cost me $30,000 per GB. I could but 1/6th of an X5 BMW for 1 GB of data!

Or I can get data for $3 a GB by using a local sim.  For US$20 I could get 10 GB of data – $300,000 of roaming charges.

In addition, when you look at the costings in the trans-Tasman ministerial review of all this, you’ll see that the price for data at a wholesale level is quite a bit less than you’d think. How much? Try about 35 cents/MB, which makes $20 seem a bit overly enthusiastic if you ask me.

There is no justification for data roaming rates at the levels they are, except of course they are trying to profit maximise. Nothing wrong with that – but smart travellers know now to get local sim cards, and over time the telco prices will have to drop to sane levels.

The review has come up with a variety of options, ranging from that old “let’s keep a watching brief” chestnut right through to something the Europeans call “de-coupling” which, in effect, allows the roaming customer to keep their mobile number for voice and text but to buy data packs from a local provider. So, for example, you get off the plane in Sydney and stroll up to the telco booth of your choice and buy 1GB of Aussie data for the local price.

That would be great. The only hassle with using a local sim card is my normal number doesn’t work. In some ways that is a blessing, but it would be nice to be able to just keep your own sim card, but get your data locally.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

October 31st, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I got up at 4.15 am to go out to Angkor Wat to see it in the sunrise. Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide. These photos were taken around 5 to 8 minutes apart.

Was just magnificent.

The French want to tax search engines

October 31st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

French President Francois Hollande is considering a pushing for a new tax that would see search engines such as Google have to pay each time they use content from French media.

Hollande discussed the topic with Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, during a meeting in Paris on Monday.

Hollande says the rapid expansion of the digital economy means that tax laws need to be updated to reward French media content.

Oh yes, lets tax the service that allows us to find content on the Internet. Moron.

Google has opposed the plan and threatened to bar French websites from its search results if the tax is imposed.

As they should. Imagine the howls of complaints. Would get the Government tossed from office in days.

Germany is considering a similar law, and Italian editors have also indicated they would favour such a plan.

I’m sure they do. Clinging to a failed business model.

A Lord Mayor for Wellington?

October 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Stuff reports:

One Lord Mayor for the region is being heralded as the future of local governance for Wellington.

An independent panel headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer today revealed its proposal for how local councils should be structured.

Under the structure there would be:

* A Greater Wellington Council with 10 councillors headed by a Lord Mayor, who would be elected by the public.

* Six local area councils: Wellington, Porirua, Kapiti, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Wairarapa.

* Each council would have a ‘‘mayoral figurehead’’, elected by the council, not the public.

* The current level of 107 elected mayors and councillors would reduce to 79.

* The Greater Wellington Council would be responsible for all finances, including setting a single rate for the region. It would also look after regional matters such as environmental issues and transport planning.

* The local area councils would be responsible for local service delivery, such as rubbish collection and park management, and local engagement and advocacy.

* Local area councils would have budgets negotiated with the Wellington Regional Council and would be responsible for funds allocated to them.

I think Sir Geoffrey’s proposed structure is a great improvement on the status quo.  The name Lord Mayor is silly, but having an elected Mayor for the whole Region would give Wellington a much more effective voice.

Councillors would sit for a four-year term, but would be restricted to a three-term maximum.

I am a huge fan of term limits, and think we should have them for Parliament also. A term limit means politicians focus more on what they can achieve in their limited tenure of service, rather than how to get re-elected for ever.

The proposal is here. However they have not put a suffix on it, so it comes up file type unknown. Open it as a pdf. It’s a weighty 208 pages long and the panel that unanimously recommends the structure is Sir Geoffrey, Sue Driver, Sir Wira Gardiner and Bryan Jackson.


A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

October 31st, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Commerce Commission has unconditionally approved Vodafone’s purchase of TelstraClear, a decision the Green Party says will reduce options and push up prices.

Co-leader Russel Norman noted the terms of the $840m takeover included a clause that would prevent Telstra re-entering the New Zealand market for an undisclosed period.

“Make no mistake – Vodafone’s move is about eliminating competition,” he said.

“We’ve seen it in the banking sector, the insurance sector, and now it’s happening in the telco sector. Vodafone’s takeover of TelstraClear will inevitably lead to higher prices for end-users, businesses, and government.

“It’s not in the long-term interests of the New Zealand economy for our primary competition regulator to be eliminating competition in the telecommunications industry.”

Oh Good God, now Russel wants to be the Commerce Commission also. Let politicians decide on the basis of a five minute chat to their staff, rather than you know months and months of legal and economic analysis.

However, the commission said it did not find any significant business overlap between Vodafone and TelstraClear in the provision of either mobile phone services or fixed line services to large businesses.

Exactly. It would be vastly different if it was a Telecom and Vodafone merger. That would be bad for consumers. But many in the industry think that the TelstraClear acquisition by Vodafone will actually enhance competition as it means there will be a fully fledged competitor to Telecom. Individually neither TC nor Vodafone could effectively compete with Telecom in all aspects. Together, they can.

With David Parker having declared that Ministers (not shareholders) should determine who can buy F&P shares, and Russel Norman declaring who can buy TelstraClear, it is becoming clear that in a future Labour-Green Government the way to get sales approved will be to cosy up to Ministers.

General Debate 31 October 2012

October 31st, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Part 6A restricted

October 30th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Kate Wilkinson has announced:

Cabinet has agreed to further improvements to the Employment Relations Act 2000, including changes to Part 6A that deals with the cleaning, catering, orderly and laundry industries, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said today.

The objective of Part 6A is to provide continuity of employment for employees in specific industries when a business is restructured or sold.

“A review of Part 6A found that there were significant operational issues around transferring employees’ entitlements and information to the new employer,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“Proposed amendments will fix these issues and provide more certainty and clarity for employers while at the same time protecting key benefits for affected employees.

In addition, the review found that while larger businesses had been able to adapt better to the requirements of Part 6A, small and medium sized businesses faced greater proportional costs.

“For example, a husband and wife cleaning team who tender and win a small contract may be currently required to take on any staff doing the work under the previous contract owner.

“That’s why Cabinet has also agreed to exempt small and medium businesses – those with fewer than 20 employees – from the provisions of Part 6A where the SME is the incoming employer.”

Employees in small and medium enterprises account for approximately a quarter of those in affected industries.

I’ve always regarded Part 6A as anti-competitive nonsense. Forcing the company that wins to hire the staff of the company that loses. Doesn’t provide much incentive for staff to make sure their company keeps the contract – their jobs remain.

Restricting it to large contractors is a step in the right direction, and welcome. However personally I’d scrap 6A entirely.

There’s some other welcome changes too:

 A return to the original position in the Employment Relations Act where the duty of good faith does not require the parties to conclude a collective agreement.
• Empowering the Employment Relations Authority to declare in certain circumstances that collective bargaining has ended.
• Allowing employers to opt out of multi-employer bargaining.
• Allowing for partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action.
• Removing the 30-day rule that forces non-union members to take union terms and conditions.
• Changes around the disclosure of personal information following Employment Court judgments involving Massey University.

Almost all of these were in the 2011 manifesto, so National is simply keeping its word. They are all pretty minor – but important none the less.

One other change:

The right to request flexible working arrangements will be extended to all workers, right from their first day on the job – currently only caregivers are eligible and only after six months of employment.

I think a lot of the future will be people working different and more flexible working hours, rather than the standard nine to five, five days a week. In some jobs too, a lot can now be done from home.

Will the Greens get Finance

October 30th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

From The Nation:

Rachel         Okay you said that you’re open to potentially, you know helping to form a coalition.  Presumably you’d want a ministerial position in that coalition.  What do you think you’d be best suited to?

Russel         Yeah I mean I think the Green team would want ministerial positions.  So you know we come as a package, so we’ve got co-leaders, and we’ve got some really talented MPs, so we’d be looking at some of those key portfolios, both economics and finance portfolios, but other social and environmental portfolios as well.

Rachel         Okay so what would sit well with you?  Minister of Finance?

Russel         You know obviously that needs to be sorted in a post-election negotiation.  Obviously we are interested in positions like that, but in terms of the detail you couldn’t really sort it out until you know what the vote were.  It’s up to the voters to decide how much influence the Green Party has.

Rachel         Would you rule it out?

Russel         I wouldn’t rule it out, I wouldn’t rule it in. You know at the end of the day we’ll go to the election, the voters will determine the level of influence we have, and that will determine the outcome.

In 1996 National got 34% and NZ First got 13% and that was enough to get Winston Peters Treasurer. If there is a change of Government, then the Greens are looking will placed to demand the same. They are currently polling around 12% and Labour 32%.

We’d be the first country outside Eastern Europe I suspect to have a former Marxist (or was it a Maoist – always get them confused!) as Minister of Finance!

With at least three parties needed to form a centre-left Government, it would be a fascinating thing to observe. On current polling it could be Labour gets only 12 – 14 Cabinet Ministers, with the Greens getting 4 – 6, NZ First 2 – 3 and possibly Mana 1.

From a political observation point of view, it would be fascinating. From a taxpayer point of view, it would be less fun.

Guest Post on Accepting Drugs in Sport: the Case of Pro-Cycling

October 30th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Mike Wilkinson, a former Ironman tri-athlete and a keen Tour de France follower:

The downfall of Lance Armstrong in the sport of professional cycling now seems complete.  Yet, as the dust settles, many are left wondering what’s next for pro-cycling: can it recover its credibility?  Or will it once more be tarnished by the brush of doping?  There seems little cause for hope, unless the Armstrong scandal helps the public reach a new acceptance of drugs in particular sports like pro-cycling.

Much has been written about Lance Armstrong. including allegations that he’s brought the sport into disrepute.  Although I’ll say that we can hardly expect successful pro-cyclists to behave like Mother Teresa, I have little to add about the man’s career.  I think, however, that there’s one important thing to keep in mind: the significant role of drugs in professional cycling goes well beyond just Lance Armstrong.

Before Armstrong, so many of cycling’s big names have tested positive for drugs.  They include Armstrong’s former rival, Jan Ullrich, five times Tour winner, Miguel Indurain and even the man who’s arguably the greatest road cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx.  

Drugging does not seem confined to just individual athletes, either.  In 1998, the year before Armstrong won his first Tour de France, pro-cycling went through the Festina Affair.  It started when a team car that was stopped by the authorities at a border crossing and was found to be packed to the gunwales with EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs.  The case sent shockwaves throughout the sport and resulted in the trial of 10 people, including cyclists, team doctors and team managers   There were plenty of calls for pro-cycling to clean up its act following that fiasco, too.

But why is doping so rife in pro-cycling?  For my part, I think people need to appreciate just what the sport involves.  In the Tour de France, for example, competitors ride approximately 3500 kilometres.  Over that distance, the winner sets a phenomenal average speed of around 40kmh. And even with that pace, riders get just two rest days through the 23 days of the race  

I don’t doubt how hard it is to be a professional sports person in any code, but surely there are few sports where competitors operate so near the upper bounds of human endurance.  Cyclists must face a massive temptation to seek performance from wherever they can find it.

Some are calling for some sort of amnesty in which riders can come clean.  Whether or not that happens, you have to wonder just how long it will take for riders will start doping or not.  When someone in a race performs well, everyone else is going to think that person’s doping and they should, too.

Do others share my scepticism that the sport can clean itself up?  Yes, including some pretty important people.  One big name sponsor Dutch bank, Rabobank, has been involved in cycling for 17 years.  Yet, after the Armstrong scandal, it announced it was ending its sponsorship of both men’s and women’s professional cycling, saying that it was “no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.”

What does it mean for something to be a fair sport?  Surely, it’s that players know the rules and abide by them.  What if the rules were changed so that a level of doping was acceptable?  If everyone was able to take drugs, wouldn’t the sport still be fair?

While cyclists might by themselves reach this point, it’s doubtful that the general public would accept any sort of doping.  This is my reason for writing this post for Kiwiblog and not for some cycling forum.  Isn’t it time that we woke up and ask whether, for some particular sports, a level of doping might be ok?

For my 2c I think it is desirable that top titles are won by those who are the best athletes, not have the best chemists. However it would be great to have a “main” Olympics and a “freak” Olympics where anything goes from drugs to biotechnology – and have the winners from both compete against each other 🙂

Campbell on Shearer

October 30th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes in The Wellingtonian:

All year, David Shearer’s strategists have been claiming that as New Zealanders gradually get to know him, they will come to like what they see.

Instead, what seems to be happening is that voters are going through periodic fits of disenchantment with the government and then looking more closely at the alternative, only to rebound in alarm.

So far, Shearer has simply failed to make the case that he could lead a credible alternative government.

And it would be a very complicated Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana Government with the major party being weaker in electoral terms than in any other Government. This means diminished ability to impose or even negotiate an agenda.

Yet by the same token, every time the Key government has got itself into trouble this year, a few rogue elements in the Labour caucus (eg, Trevor Mallard, Shane Jones) have proceeded to score an own goal, and create doubt about Labour’s competence and coherence.

This would suggests that Shearer’s flaws go beyond his public failure to be forceful and articulate, and extend to an inability to devise a consistent opposition strategy and ensure that his team sticks to it.

Recently, the Labour-leaning website The Standard listed the year’s roll call of self-inflicted damage: from Mallard’s ticket scalping debacle, to Shearer’s speech about the beneficiary on the roof, to Jones’ recent attacks on the Greens on behalf of his campaign donor, Sealords.

It was an impressively long list.

Merely replacing Shearer with his deputy Grant Robertson would seem unlikely to improve matters.

Robertson and his electorate team are already well represented among Shearer’s advisers, and thus seem more part of the problem than the solution.

So Gordon Campbell seems to be in Camp Cunliffe.

Angkor Wat

October 30th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Angkor Wat was built in the 1100s and is the largest temple complex in the world.

Th outer wall is 3.6 metres in length and surrounded by this lovely moat. Temples don’t usually have moats, as they are normmally associated with defences. But this moat it seems was created to help stabilise the foundations.

Heading into the outer structure.

The main structure with its three levels.

Angkor Wat took 37 years to build, and they think involved 300,000 slaves and 6,000 elephants.

An example of the carvings on some of the walls.

A former swimming pool on the second level.

The third level of Angkor Wat is “heaven” so the 12 staircases going up to it are known as stairways to heaven 🙂

More carvings. And yes the one on the left is ….

The view from the third level. Absolutely magnificent. I’m going back the next day at 5 am to see a sunrise from it.

Another view from the top, showing the tourists coming in.

The stairs down. Bloody steep.

A view across the moat.

Incredibly well preserved for something built in the 1100s.

Complaint of the Week

October 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Already had some good idiotic complaints come in to me. This week’s winner is about a Lotto Ad.

The background:

The television advertisement for Lotto promoted the $27 Million dollar draw and featured a woman sitting in a café. When she realised her table was wobbling, she pulled out a wad of notes from her bag and put it under one of the table legs to stabilise it. 

The complaint:

Complainant, H. Malhotra, said: putting the money under the leg of the table was “very, very disrespectful and insensitive towards people not only on the poverty line but some cultures like Hindu’s, as we do not touch money with our feet as it is always so hard to earn.” The Complainant also said that the advertisement sent a “bad” message to younger people about the value of money

The lack of both a sense of humour, and also the appreciation of the context of someone having just won $27 million is staggering.

The sad thing with this stuff, is that it ends up taking up time – both the ASA’s, but often organisations complained about have to send hours or hire lawyers to deal with such stupidities.

Cell-phone polling

October 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Dim-Post highlights a comment left on his blog an an anonymous pollster:

The problem with calling cell phones doesn’t really lie in the cost of calls. For a polling company, calling a cell phone doesn’t cost that much more than calling a landline. The problem is the complexity and cost of employing dual sampling frames when the proportion of cell phone users without a landline is still very low. If the purpose of calling cell phones is to reduce non-coverage of likely voters, then you may actually need to ‘screen out’ those you call on cell phones who also have a landline (because they are already covered by the landline sample frame).

If we assume 6% of eligible voters have cell phones and no landline, that means that 94% of the people you call on a cell phone will not be eligible to take part (again, because they are already covered by the landline sample frame). This is where the cost would really begin to build up – all those interviewer hours required just to screen people out (eek!).

This is not the only way to reduce non-coverage – but it’s actually one of the more straight forward and ‘statistically pure’ ways (ie, you can develop some sort of weighting scheme, but the more you weight, the greater the design effect (which increases the margin or error, and decreased the accuracy of a poll).

To make things more complex:

– Some people have more than one cellphone, meaning that the probability of them being called is higher, so additional weighting would need to be applied to adjust for the probability of selection (you may notice that some polls weight by household size and the number of landlines connected to a house – this is adjusting for the probability of section)

– There are a lot of cell phone numbers that are out of use, but when they are called they still go through to a voice mail. Unlike landlines (which you can ‘ping’ to test the connection), it is very difficult (ie, near impossible) to determine if there is actually an eligible person at the end of a number, so you’ve got no measure of the success rate of your sampling approach (ie, refusal rates, response rates, qualifier rates etc).

At the moment such a small proportion of New Zealanders have a cell phone with no landline that party support would need to be DRAMATICALLY different among those people for this particular type of non-coverage to influence the poll results for party vote (eg, support for Labour among cell phone only voters may need to be TWICE what it is among landline voters for the party vote result to shift by more than, say, the margin of error).

When the proportion of people with cell phones and no landline is considerably larger than it is today (like it is in some other countries), then it will definitely make sense to employ a dual sampling frame approach. In NZ though (at least in 2011) most pollsters got things pretty close to the election day result so this would suggest non-coverage of cell phone only voters isn’t a big issue just yet. If cell phone plans get cheaper, then polling approaches will probably need to change to keep up.

All comments I agree with. As time goes on it will become more of an issue in NZ, but at this stage the impact is limited. Also polling companies compensate for those without landlines by having quotas or weighting by age and income.

Housing affordability

October 30th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Bill English announced:

  • Increasing land supply – this will include more greenfields and brownfields developments and allow further densification of cities, where appropriate.
  • Reducing delays and costs of RMA processes associated withhousing – this includes introducing a six-month time limit on council processing of medium-sized consents.
  • Improving the timely provision of infrastructure to support new housing – this will include considering new ways to co-ordinate and manage infrastructure for subdivisions.
  • Improving productivity in the construction sector – this includes an evaluation of the Productivity Partnership’s progress in achieving a 20 per cent increase in productivity by 2020.

Increasing land supply is key – especially in Auckland. There is a reasons housing affordability is so much worse in Auckland than most other cities around the world. It is an artificial restriction on supply of land. And the impact on house prices is as predictable as the impact of gravity on apples.

The six month deadline for consenting of medium-sized constructions should also make a significant difference.

Labour and Greens are of course against the two major recommendations. They seem to think the answer to housing affordability is to have the Government build more homes, and everyone becomes a tenant of the state.

Not PC makes some very useful points:

The debate over affordable housing is already being framed as a debate between “sprawl” and “intensification”—a debate between those who wish to release (just a little) the planners’ ring-fences around NZ’s major cities to allow new homes on “greenfield” sections, versus those who insist we build with more intensity within the ring fence on so called “brownfield” sites.

The latter group characterise the former as being in favour of “sprawl”; the former characterise the latter as promoting the construction of the slums of tomorrow.

Both are right, and both are wrong.

What’s missing here is choice.  In talking about about development on either “greenfield” or “brownfield” sites, both advocates insist that folk do things their way. They completely ignore the fact that people have the right to choosewhere and how they live, particularly if they own the place on which they choose to settle down.

This is key. Those against increasing the urban limit are not just saying they don’t want to live further out – but they want to effectively ban others from doing the same.  They don’t want people to have choice – they want everyone in an inner city apartment.

Let people live where they wish to, as long as they bear the costs. And let those choices themselves—choices based on people’s own values for which they are prepared to pay the cost—organically reflect the way the city develops.

Exactly. If new suburbs are going to mean you need more public transport links out there, then make those who choose to live there pay for it. I suspect many will happily pay a but more for public transport if it means they can get their house for $50,000 cheaper.

The answer (with rare exceptions) is that for most bits of land in most NZ suburbs, all of the housing types listed above that make the least use of scarce urban land are allowed, and all those that help increase the number of housing units that can comfortably work in a city — and that are enormously popular overseas — almost all of these urban housing types are disallowed.

PC concludes:

We let them ring-fencethe city and stop people heading out and building away from the city when they want to —“sprawl!” is the all-too hysterical cry — and then we let them stop other people building higher density urban housing when they want to. Instead of leaving people free to choose, we have these boring “halfway houses” that some people like, but that many simply accept because that’s all that’s available, and they don’t know any better.

When there’s just so much available, so many great housing types  from which to choose, it just doesn’t make any sense.

“Sprawl” or “intensification”? That’s a false dichotomy. I say let people be free to choose.

That’s the path to genuinely liveable cities, and to affordability.

Hear hear.

General Debate 30 October 2012

October 30th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Urewera sentences upheld

October 30th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the Urewera four’s appeal against their convictions and sentences.

In today’s decision, Justices Mark O’Regan, Ellen France and Terence Arnold have agreed with High Court Justice Rodney Hansen’s earlier ruling and labelled it a “generous one”.

Lawyers for Urs Signer, Emily Bailey, veteran activist Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara took the appeal in August, three months after Justice Hansen’s ruling.

At the time, Signer and Bailey received a sentence of nine months’ home detention on firearms possession charges while Iti and Kemara were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison on the same charges.

In today’s ruling Justices O’Regan, France and Arnold agreed with Justice Hansen’s reasoning in the following passage:

“The question of whether the four of you participated in a criminal group, which had as its objective the commission of serious crimes of violence, is quite distinct from the issue of why you acquired the firearms and deployed them at the camps.

“Your intention in that latter sense is highly relevant to an assessment of your culpability and there is sufficient evidence on that issue to satisfy me to the standard of beyond reasonable doubt.”

They also suggested Justice Hansen’s approach had been “generous”.

“Accordingly, we consider it was open to the judge to reach the factual findings he did. Once that point is accepted, there can be no real argument that the sentences imposed were within range.

“Indeed, there is force in the Crown submission that in giving credit for the appellants’ altruistic motivation, the approach taken was generous.”

This is a very significant decision from the Court of Appeal. Many misguided idiots complained that the Court had got the sentences wrong, and had ignored the jury verdict. The Court of Appeal has rubbished this claim, and in fact said if anything the trial judge was too generous with his sentencing.
If Iti and co had not been so incompetent, they could have been dangerous. We do not want armed militias in NZ, or even idiots pretending to be one using firearms illegally.
The confirmed sentences should provide reasonable deterrent to others in the future.

Challenges for National

October 29th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins compiles some of the challenges ahead for National:

  • A November High Court hearing on the Waitangi Tribunal water ruling, which could spark fresh division if it goes down the path of ownership;
  • A constitutional review, which could also stray into potentially divisive race issues.
  • A string of inquiries and investigations including the Paula Rebstock-led probe into leaks at the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, which has the potential to shatter reputations and snare senior public servants in its net.
  • An auditor-general’s inquiry into the horse-trading over a national convention centre built by SkyCity in return for a quid pro quo promise to allow more pokie machines.
  • Ongoing inquiries into ACC privacy breaches.
  • The never-ending Dotcom saga, which still has a long way to play out in the courts and includes the investigation into the GCSB.
  • A housing affordability study next week, which has impossibly high expectations of an enduring solution to meet;
  • And a report to State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman on the air force Anzac Day crash, which killed three servicemen. One report has already damned the safety culture at RNZAF. The Labour Department (now part of the Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry), responsible for workplace safety, may also come in for heavy criticism.

I’d say the two big ones are the High Court ruling on the Waitangi Trinual ruling and the AG inquiry into the convention centre proposal. The former because an adverse ruling would derail a major policy plank of the Government’s. The latter because it involves the PM.

The MFAT leak inquiry may be interesting but not likely to impact the Govt itself. The ACC reports are unlikely to turn up anything not already known, and may in fact leads to problems for Labour with the defamation suit against Mallard and Little.

There could still be some stuff to come out with the Dotcom issue and GCSB. This could still get quite big – but there is little the Govt can now do but let the legal system flow.

Housing affordability I will cover later, and the RNZAF crash while tragic – is not likely to be a major issue for the Government itself.

The end of the year is not without a potential landmine for Mr Shearer either; the auditor-general could release her report into former minister Shane Jones’ handling of an immigration case involving Chinese national Bill Liu. Mr Liu, who goes by several names, was earlier this year found not guilty of making false declarations related to his immigration and citizenship application, despite a High Court judge declaring the case to be highly suspicious.

Mr Jones was stood down by Mr Shearer when the auditor-general launched her inquiry. Mr Liu was a substantial donor to the Labour Party. A damning report would sink Mr Jones’ political career. But a less-than-damning report that also falls short of completely exonerating Mr Jones would be an even bigger headache for Mr Shearer.

Overshadowing all else are the Canterbury earthquake and Pike River inquires, both due by the end of November. Both will require a political response from the Government that gives comfort to the families of the victims of both disasters that lessons have been learnt.

The two Royal Commissions are opportunities and threats. The Government basically needs to adopt pretty much everything they recommend, unless there is a very very strong reason not to.

And the Shane Jones and Bill Liu case is eagerly awaited. It may not reveal anything new, but even what has been revealed so far is damning.

Tonle Sap Lake

October 29th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

We left the Mekong to head up to Siem Reap, which takes us through Tonle Sap Lake. The lake is the largest in South East Asia and unusually the flow changes direction twice a year, with the lake depth expanding and shrinking dramatically from one metre to nine metres! The area of the lake varies from 2,700 sq kms to 16,000 when flooding!

This is the view I woke up to.

There’s a lot of trees and bushes in the lake. Not all of them grow from the bottom. Many of the bushes just float on the water.

This is all in the lake itself – not off to one side.


One of the launches we go out on. The Cambodian ones are pretty ancient compared to the ones we used in Vietnam.

Also in the lake, is a village of a few hundred people – and literally in the lake. All the houses are on stilts, so they are above the high tide in the wet season. You can’t walk from house to house, so every house has a boat. The kids local school is also on stilts, not on ground, so I guess they play water polo, not soccer.

A couple more elevated houses.

This is another floating market. But unlike the earlier floating market which was selling from boats, this is shops on rafts. Each house floats on the water. They don’t move around much, but can get towed if they have to move.

Many of the boats are worked by school age youth. They learn to swim around the same time as they learn to walk.

One person fishing, while the other tries to hold the boat stable.

This is their housing store. You want housing affordability – come to Cambodia! They sell everything from large logs to bamboo sticks, so you can build your own house.

As we were by the waterside, three of the kids who had been following us about dived into the water.

The Cambodian kids love high fiving people. Even the infants almost do it.

One of our group asked who one of the kids has light brown hair, when almost everyone else is black. The answer is that inevitable he has older sisters who use their younger brothers to experiment on with hair dyes!

This kid also followed us around, with his older brother. Adorably cute and innocent. Of course kids that age are naked all the time, but generally they tend to be at home, not walking about the city!

This was our last expedition on the water. From Monday to Wednesday we are in Siem Reap.

Loosen Up

October 29th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance reports:

A row has broken out over school children being allowed to sit in MPs’ chairs.

Speaker Lockwood Smith wrote to all political parties yesterday saying there had been complaints about unruly behaviour during private tours. MPs often show school children and other guests around the debating chamber when Parliament is not sitting.

In the edict, Dr Smith said he had “a number of issues and concerns raised by the Parliamentary Service about the behaviour of members’ guests”.

He wants party whips to remind MPs: “No staff, members’ guests or visitors are to sit in the seats in the chamber at any time . . . desk phones are not to be used and guests should not handle the microphone.”

But Labour whip Chris Hipkins has hit back, saying the ban was “unnecessarily draconian”.

I agree with Chris. Since I was a child, kids and others have been unofficially allowed to sit on MPs Chairs – so long as they are respectful. I recall the thrill at sitting in the PM’s Chair, and even trying the Speaker’s Chair out for size. And when many years later I was a staffer and did private tours, I would allow guests to do the same – again so long as they were respectful.

Strictly speaking, the rules say guests should not sit in MPs’ chairs. But Mr Hipkins said: “It’s a nice thing to be able to do.

Yeah it is officially against the rules, and Lockie is just reinforcing the rules. But it would be a good rule to loosen up, or in the interim turn a but of a blind eye to – unless there is some serious harm being caused.

Supporting Christchurch

October 29th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Three of Christchurch’s wealthiest and most influential business families have joined forces to have a leading role in shaping the new inner city shopping precinct.

Yesterday, Ballantynes, Philip Carter and Peter Guthrey showed a small part of their hand announcing they had formed the BCG Alliance, a formidable retailing and investor group proposing predominantly a retail and commercial office development over 25,000 square metres.

That is about 43 per cent of the total retail precinct footprint set out in the Christchurch Central Development Unit’s blueprint.

A great welcome initiative.

“Here are three Christchurch families who are really wanting to show leadership for the city, want to ensure an end result that is stunning, but to do that we totally believe collaboration is the key amongst it all,” Ballantynes managing director Mary Devine said.

“So we don’t want to be big brother coming in and saying this is what we are all about, but we do want to create a vision that is exciting.” …

“It’s not about individual gain, it’s about an end product that everyone will be proud of.”

The same people were behind getting Container Mall going as a temporary retail space, almost donating land to retailers to help get the CBD going again. There’s still some big challenges ahead for Christchurch, but the fact that they are proposing such ambitious plans for investment is a good thing.

Kerry’s climb

October 29th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A very moving and emotional article last week in the Dom Post by former Mayor Kerry Prendergast. A couple of extracts:

I’ve thought long and hard about where the idea to climb Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, came from. It has been on my bucket list a long time. I’d wanted to do it before husband Rex and I turned 70 and 60. Time was running out.

What turned this into a passionate desire to do it this year was the death of my lovely 30-year-old son, Andrew, in March 2011. Andrew, always mad on – and very good with – horses, was just beginning to retrain a difficult horse. The horse shied while on a lunge-line and Andrew was thrown off, on to hard and rough ground, sustaining what subsequently proved to be a fatal head injury.

I was a religious person until the loss of my first son, Paul, at his birth in 1979. His loss fundamentally challenged my beliefs. Logic tells me not to believe in heaven, but if I’m wrong, then climbing to 6000 metres might bring me a little closer to Andrew’s spirit. It’s irrational, I know, but there you have it.

And the climb itself:

This morning we descend off the edge of the lava sheet with high valley walls around us, swirling cloud below us, the mountain above us, a perfect sunny morning, and what appears to be a cliff in front of us. For the first two hours we climb the 200m-high Barranco Wall, poles clipped to packs to free our hands for this steep hand-climbing section. Challenging, but satisfying and fun. Fortunately there are frequent rests on tiny ledges and steps as porters move past, one hand balancing the load on their heads – while we hold on tight with both hands. Amazing. ACC and OSH would be most unappreciative but we are thoroughly impressed.

Having climbed the wall, we descend a steep, slippery stream bed. But up the next heavy climb is the promise of a cooked lunch – carbo loading for our ascent tomorrow. The last water on the mountain is in this valley so our porters traipse back with large containers for our lunch, and then on and up to base camp. Water-purifying tablets cater to our pampered Western stomachs.

After a relentless three hours of steep uphill climbing through swirling cloud, we reach 4600m Barafu Camp about 4pm. This is base camp for the ascent. It is cold, bleak, and cloudy, with the imposing, somewhat daunting, snowy slopes above us. The long drops here are hung over a cliff!

Sounds an amazing experience.

Then the summit:

We set out at midnight, pitch-black and minus-12C, but mercifully without wind. Our headlamps blazing, we obediently follow Thomas; there are cliffs on both sides in places. A string of headlamps weaves ahead – it is a seven-hour, 7km slog up 1300m to the rim. Walking is extremely slow. We are told to breathe really deeply and this helps. The frequent stops are welcome.

We are supposed to drink two litres of water on the way up – containers are cosseted under jackets to prevent freezing. We also have energy bars, jelly beans, chocolate, but I refuse it all as I’m so nauseated. I am bitterly cold, my fingers numb.

And then I notice, 5cm above the top of my left pole, an oval white light hovering. If I look it goes away, but it is there in the corner of my eye and I’m convinced it is Andrew – my fairy – keeping his eye on me, encouraging me, guiding my every step. Later, when I swap to a lighter headlamp the “fairy-light” effect goes away, of course, as the sceptics among you would expect.

We had been told to empty our minds and think only of each next step but my ascent continues to be a time to relive the last days we had with Andrew, and I shed many tears.

For 18 months I have pushed the memories of those last 10 days of Andrew’s life to the back of my mind. Even though it is not easy, I now try to remember them in detail in the hope that my nightmares will go away, probably a false hope … I remember the first panicked call about the accident, the rush to A&E, the bad scan results, the experiences in the ICU, decisions and advice from the experts, our hopes dashed as Andrew doesn’t regain consciousness. Then the agonising decision to turn off life support, followed by six days caring for Andrew at home with the support of family and friends, Andrew lying deeply unconscious in our midst, then that last morning as Andrew took his final breaths.

I find it comforting, though others don’t, when Rex tells me we are halfway, then three-quarters. I begin to feel it is possible to make the top. Then, about 5.30am, as the sky begins to lighten and we can see the lights bobbing up to the rim of the crater, I know I can make it. The last 500m is a bottleneck. People ahead exhaustedly stop, and then start slowly off again. The rim finally arrives at 6.40am and the relief manifests in different ways to each of us; for me, hugging and crying.

But Stella Point is, unfortunately, not the real top! After a brief pause to see the sunrise completed, we set off for Uhuru Peak. At 5895m (19,340ft) this is the summit, and it takes us more than an hour to reach it. Not a hard walk but that last 150m vertically is dreadful. We shuffle past wonderful views of the snow-filled crater on our right and a magnificent 30m-high glacier on our left. The combination of tiredness, altitude, a migraine and vomiting make this last hour almost impossible for me. With 200m to go I have to be cajoled by our guides to continue.

We queue to get in front of the sign for photos, proudly holding up our Kiwi flag.

Well done Kerry and Rex – a great achievement.

So what have I achieved? We have ticked off a large item on our bucket list – but have also discovered the limit of our endurance, physically and mentally. Rex and I decide four items are now off all our future plans: tents, sleeping bags, mountains, and, for me especially, long- drops!

As for Andrew – have I found him? Was he up there with me? I believe I can answer “Yes”. But I also know that for every step I take forward in my grief pathway, some days I feel I fall back two.

If there is any place you can feel close to a lost loved one, up the top of a mountain like Kilimanjaro would be it.

I’m glad Kerry shared her story. I think I may have just added Kilimanjaro to my own bucket list!