Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Peter Hughes appointed State Services Commissioner

May 3rd, 2016 at 11:24 am by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced the appointment of Peter Hughes CNZM as the next State Services Commissioner and Head of State Services.

Mr Hughes has been appointed for a five year term starting on 4 July 2016.

“I am very pleased to appoint Peter Hughes as the next State Services Commissioner and Head of State Services,” says Mr Key.

“Peter has dedicated his working life to the public service and is one of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected Public Service Chief Executives.

This is a very good appointment. Hughes is arguably the most capable chief executive in the public sector since Dame Margaret Bazley. He did a very good job running the Ministry of Social Development, and then after a brief stint at Victoria University returned to head up the Ministry of Education.

Stakeholders (including unions) say he has made a huge difference at the Ministry, as they have got far better at working with the sector and supporting the Minister.

The SSC is not seen as hugely effective at the moment. I’m one of those who has advocated that it might be better to have abolished it, and transferred its functions to DPMC. The appointment of Hughes is the best opportunity it has to regain the high respect it used to have as one of the three central co-ordinating agencies.

The only downside with the appointment of Hughes, is he will be very hard to replace in Education.

A sensible fire merger

May 2nd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter Dunne has announced:

A $303 million overhaul of New Zealand’s fire services will create an organisation “fit for the 21st century”, the Government says – and your insurance could cost more to help pay for it.

The NZ Fire Service, mainly responsible for urban parts of the country, will merge with the National Rural Fire Authority and more than 40 other rural fire services to create a single organisation – Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

This is a very good thing, as finally there will be one fire authority for NZ. The status quo has seen silos with professional firefighters, volunteer firefighters and rural firefighters.

Announcing the merger to firefighter representatives, Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne described it as “the single biggest change to happen to our fire service in around 70 years”.

“There was a recognition that we needed to have a fire service that was fit for purpose for the 21st century, that was flexible, modern and efficient.

“We’re not grafting one bit on to another – we’re building a completely new organisation.”

The changes would put the country’s 12,000 volunteer firefighters in a direct relationship with the main organisation for the first time, while recognising the increased medical and emergency work being carried out by firefighters.

In the past the professional firefighters union (and some officers) have basically hated the volunteer firefighters as they see them as unpaid scabs or the like. 20 years ago the relationships were toxic. While there are still challenges, my understanding is that relationships are far better today.

Bells may backfire

April 30th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It works for cats and it works for cows, so should cyclists also be required to have a bell so you can hear them coming?

That could soon be the case in Wellington, after the city council proposed changing its rules to “strongly encourage” every cyclist to have a bell for warning pedestrians when they are about to whizz past.

I’m not sure this is a great idea.

If a cyclist does not have a bell and they are coming up behind pedestrians, then the onus is on them to slow down and only pass in a safe manner.

If they have a bell, they may think that all they have to do is ring it, and the onus is on the pedestrians to get out of their way.

Hilary Barry quits TV3

April 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

One of TV3’s biggest and most popular stars, newsreader Hilary Barry, has quit the network.

Her departure is the second high-profile casualty at TV3 in the past year after John Campbell left in May when his show Campbell Live was dumped.

The Weekend Herald can reveal Ms Barry, who has been with the company since 1993, resigned on Thursday. There is speculation she is headed to rival broadcaster TVNZ.

This is a huge loss for TV3. Barry is pretty much their most well known face. They’ve lost many other top presenters and journalists also. It is hard to see how they turn around their decline.

Pity the landlords

April 29th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Bad tenants are being unfairly let off the hook for property damage after a court decision, landlords say. 

The Court of Appeal ruled last week that tenants who caused a fire by leaving oil unattended on a stove in 2009 could not be held financially liable.

The Residential Tenancies Act states tenants can be made to pay for damage caused by neglect or carelessness. The Property Law Act says they are not liable for damage from “perils” beyond their control such as fire, storm, earthquake or volcanic eruption.

Leaving oil unattended on a stove seems pretty careless to me.

Landlords and property managers say that while last week’s appeal court decision may have been fair, the ruling opens the floodgates for tenants being excused for severe negligence and deliberate damage.

One Christchurch property manager, who did not want his business identified for fear of jeopardising live Tenancy Tribunal claims, said they had lost two applications in the last few days seeking orders for tenants to pay landlords’ insurance excesses after damage.

The harm included carpets covered in drink stains and cigarette burns, damaged walls, and ignored plumbing leaks which led to water damage, he said.  

“The Tenancy Tribunal said they had made their ruling because of the Appeal Court ruling. They definitely used that as an excuse to exonerate tenants for any damage,” the property manager said.

So what is the possible impact:

The property manager said the rulings would lead to higher insurance premiums pushing up rents, or landlords excluding risky tenants such as families with children. Insurance companies could also insist landlords take only insured tenants, he said.

“The good tenants will have to pay the price for what the bad ones do”.

Requiring tenants to be insured could well be the outcome.

Classification Office gets it right

April 29th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Three of Wicked Campers’ most offensive vehicles have been banned from New Zealand’s roads, following a landmark ruling.

In a ruling from the Classification Office – the first time it has made a decision about a vehicle –  the organisation ruled that slogans on three of the controversial Australian company’s vehicles qualify were “objectionable publications”.

The ruling means that the vans are banned from public places in New Zealand with immediate effect, and Wicked could face a fine of up to $200,000 per offence if it continued to use them.

The banned vehicles depict a cartoon of the Cat in the Hat with drug paraphernalia, Snow White about to snort cocaine and Shaggy and Scooby Doo about to smoke marijuana.

I was worried that the Classification Office might get too enthusiastic and use their powers to ban slogans which are sexist. That would be a step too far. Yes they are offensive and I support the efforts of campgrounds and the like to say vehicles with them are not welcome on their private property.  But banning sexist slogans on vans would be like banning offensive t-shirt slogans.

But by only banning the three designs showing children’s characters doing illegal drugs, the Classification Office has not gone too far.

In its ruling, the Classification Office says the “size and colourful nature” of the images on the vans – including a depiction of Snow White using cocaine – means they would attract the attention of children and young teenagers.

Drug use as promoted on the vans would have “serious short and long term harmful impacts on the psychological and physical health of children”, the ruling said.

While there was “a certain tolerance” for the depiction of drug use in films and DVDs, their viewing could be controlled, while the Wicked vans “cannot be easily covered, or displayed only in restricted areas or to select persons”.

The Classification Office said it considered an R16 classification, but it would have been too difficult to enforce for a vehicle.

“The classification of these campervans as objectionable removes all doubt as to their unsuitability for their intended purpose.”

So far so good, but …

It would now consider a number of other vans submitted by police for classification.

It will be interesting to see if any others are banned.

Misinformation from Worksafe

April 29th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Worksafe NZ has been accused of “grossly exaggerating” workplace injuries and fatalities in a major television advertising campaign.

But the Crown agency is sticking by its “Home Time” campaign, indicating it uses a definition that classes “severe injuries” as much more common than “serious” ones.

Most people would regard severe and serious as very similiar terms. If anything you’d think severe is worse than serious.

Worksafe’s campaign contains a statement from Griffins Foods chief executive Alison Barrass that “last year more than 23,000 people were severely injured or killed in New Zealand workplaces”.

By linking it to killed, it makes you think these are injuries just short of death. Maybe lose a limb, or be off work for months.

But Statistics NZ data indicated only 450 people were killed or seriously injured at work in 2014, said Ian Harrison, principal of Wellington economics consultant Tailgate Economics.

450 vs 23,000!

Harrison, who previously worked for the Reserve Bank and World Bank, has filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, describing the advertisements as “deceptive”.

Figures published by Worksafe NZ on its own website indicated there were 44 workplace fatalities in the year to April 2015 and 3384 “serious harm notices”.

So the Worksafe ad uses a figure 50 times larger than Stats NZ and seven times larger than their own website.

It defined a severe injury as a work-related claim that required more than seven days off work, while a serious injury involved hospitalisation and a higher risk of death, he said. 

So severe is a week off work. I doubt most people would think of that as servere.

Harrison believed people were likely to be misled by that.

“The viewer is being led to believe that tens of thousands are ‘not coming home’ each year because of death or serious injury.

I’m with Harrison. This is not a good start for Worksafe.

His report is here. It will be interesting to see the decision of the ASA.

UPDATE: Worksafe responds:

WorkSafe New Zealand’s Home Time advertisement states that “last year more than 23-thousand people were severely injured or killed in New Zealand workplaces.” That is completely correct.

The 23,000 figure relates to ACC data for severe injuries, which require more than 7 days off work. Severe injuries can include everything from falls from height to being hit by moving objects. Not only does that mean that thousands of New Zealanders suffered severe work-related injuries it also represents a huge loss of productivity.

‘Severe injuries’ is one of the three official measures that are used to track progress towards the Government’s target of reducing workplace injuries by 25 per cent by 2020 (along with fatalities and serious injuries).

Tailrisk Economics has focused on the ‘serious injury’ measure as if it is the only valid measure. It is not.

The Home Time advertisement sets out the case for New Zealand needing to do a better job at keeping people health and safe at work – and WorkSafe stands by that 100 per cent.


  • Severe injuries are defined as work-related injury claims that require more than a week off work (and excludes what are called ‘gradual process injuries’).

  • Serious injuries are defined as hospitalisations with a higher chance of death.

  • Tailrisk Economics is wrong when it suggests the Home Time advertisement refers to 23,000 deaths and serious injuries. As explained above, the 23,000 figure relates to severe injuries and deaths.

Huntly to stay open until 2022

April 28th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Scoop reports:

Genesis Energy will keep its two coal and gas-fired units at Huntly Power Station operating until 2022, having previously said they’d be closed by 2018, after wringing a high price from other electricity generators who wanted to keep them as back-up.

The Auckland-based power company has signed a ‘swaption’ contract with Meridian Energy “and other market participants”, according to a statement from Meridian chief executive Mark Binns. Meridian, but no detail of the trigger price for firing up Huntly has been given and there is no indication of how much of up to 150 Megawatts of additional capacity is committed to Meridian versus other generators.

Meridian only owns wind and hydro power stations and appears to have led the charge to pay to have the two 250 megawatt Huntly ‘Rankine’ units on standby for any periods of low inflows to hydro lakes that could compromise security of electricity supply. The contract will make up to 100MW available year-round and an additional 50MW in the winter months, from April to the end of October.

The move will disappoint environmental campaigners seeking less fossil fuel use in the New Zealand electricity system, which is roughly 80 percent renewable at present, with a target of 90 percent renewable by 2025.

By 2025 it is likely Huntly will have closed anyway. The decisions on individual power stations are for the company directors. It is not a decision for Government. The Government has correctly placed a charge on greenhouse gas emissions, so that coal costs more than previously. But if Genesis has decided it is more profitable to keep it open for now, that is fine. The price they pay for emissions through the ETS will help pay for offsets such as forestry. That is why an ETS is a good market response, rather than central Government decision making.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges said the move was a “pragmatic” and “transitional” measure, while the national grid operator Transpower also welcomed the decision.

“There were times in 2019 that we forecast a shortfall of energy, which could have been difficult to manage,” said chief executive Alison Andrew in a statement. “In extreme cases (for example a dry year when the hydro lakes are very low), we could have experienced a situation where consumers would have been asked to conserve their power usage.”

Basically without Huntly there would have been risks of power shortages. As more generation comes online, Huntly won’t be needed eventually.

Sort of funny

April 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sergeant Cameron Browne told the authority that, when he entered the bar with police last month, Andrews was at the DJ booth.

“He used the PA system to tell patrons that the police officers were not real, they were in fact strippers,” Browne said.

“He encouraged patrons to pay police $20 to strip, and continued to encourage patrons to taunt police until the compliance was complete.”

Heh, I find that pretty funny actually.

The officers also testified to often finding intoxicated people in the bar. Some reported seeing drunk people leaving through an upstairs window. 

Thom said he assessed two drunk women, barely able to stand, in the bar who “were among the worse I have seen in some time”. 

Based on serving drunken patrons, it is possible the bar should lose their licence – but not for joking the Police are strippers.

The challenge is determining if they were served at this bar while drunk, or whether they drank elsewhere and then came to Ruby Rabbit.

Less name supression

April 28th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The number of permanent name suppression orders issued by the courts has halved in the past five years. In 2011, 640 people received permanent suppression for criminal matters in the district and high courts. The next year, the number dropped to 407 and has slid even further to 317 in 2015. Over the same five-year period, the number of people appearing in court has fallen by about 25 per cent, according to information from the Ministry of Justice.

Good to see the law change working, and fewer people getting name suppression. That is a significant drop.

A Trans-Tasman visa sounds good

April 27th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tourism bodies are calling for a single Australia-New Zealand visa to boost international visitor numbers on both sides of the Tasman.

The trans-Tasman visa would make long-haul flights ot Australia and New Zealand more enticing and allow the two countries to be marketed as a single destination, say the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia and Tourism Industry Association New Zealand.

The two bodies have written to the Australian Minister for Immigration and Tourism in support of their call.

They want a regional visa that would allow international tourists to travel between both countries.

Sounds a great idea. Many tourists coming to one place do want to visit the other.

“A temporary Trans-Tasman Visa arrangement was implemented during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 in which visitors travelling between 26 January and 5 April 2015 only required an Australian visa to travel over to New Zealand.

“A three-month visa was granted upon arrival in New Zealand to those holding an eligible Australian visa through the period,” the two industry groups said in a statement.

“Australia and New Zealand are long-haul destinations – it makes a lot of sense for us to package the two countries together in a joint regional visa to prospective international tourists who are weighing up the long flight to our countries,” said TTF chief executive Margy Osmond.

“The reality is that if you are coming halfway around the world to Australia or New Zealand you want to make it worth your while, just as travelling to Europe we visit a multitude of countries on that continent not just one.

“Seamless travel between Australia and New Zealand for our own citizens and international visitors is a goal we should be strongly pursuing to make our two nations a more attractive destination in what is a cut-throat, competitive tourism market.”

A 2014 TTF investigation suggested a joint visa scheme could increase the number of international visitors to the region by 141,300 people by 2020.

Not sure how robust that number is, but am sure it would help boost tourists numbers.

The key would be to make sure that there is policy alignment on who can get a visa.

Ten years of misinformation

April 27th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hospital bosses were warned about a childbirth educator’s controversial and dangerous teachings 10 years ago, but it appears nothing was done.

Antenatal teacher Adith Stoneman is being investigated after it was revealed she was teaching “old wives tales” to expectant mums, including advising women to use castor oil for induction, at publicly-funded classes at Waitakere Hospital in west Auckland.

It has now emerged other parents were alarmed by her non-scientific approach, which has strengthened calls for greater regulation of the childbirth education industry.

Auckland mother Jenni Hunter said she complained to Waitemata DHB in 2006 after Stoneman told her class that immunisations were linked to autism and Vitamin K caused cancer in children.

So for 10 years this midwife has been funded by taxpayers to give false information to pregnant mothers. That’s outrageous.

Hunter has joined calls for an overhaul of the way childbirth lessons are run.

“I want to know that all antenatal classes are checked so they provide balanced, evidence-based, practical information.”

Last week, a maternity health campaigner called for a national evidence-based curriculum, auditing of childbirth lessons and a single advice source for expectant parents.

The auditing is the key thing.

Parents have shared their own bizarre lessons from childbirth classes across the country on social media.

* “We should only have our baby in an environment we felt comfortable having sex in.”

* “We were told medical intervention pretty much meant that you had done something wrong.”

* “A c-section was the worst that could happen to our baby.”

* “Pain relief blocked the ‘love hormone’ from mother to child. Lucky I disregarded that when I went into hospital as I ended up having an emergency c-section.”

* “Talking about [caesareans] would be bringing on the negative side of birth.”

* “Rather than doing an internal exam of a woman’s cervix, a midwife should tell how far along she is by the look on her face.”

* “[Give] your baby untested remedies … ‘the [baby’s] body would take what it needs and excrete the rest’.”

* “You fail as a mother if you can’t breastfeed … [and] that natural birth is the only way.”

* “Don’t get induced, don’t have an epidural, don’t have a c-section … unfortunately [I] had to have all the above and felt like I had failed.”

Most midwives are highly professional and excellent at their jobs. But there is a small minority who have a near religious view that childbirth should never involve any medical intervention, and they give misinformation to parents. As it is a taxpayer funded service, the Government and DHBs need to ensure that the advice being given is based on knowledge, not prejudice and opinion.

Rent it out to the Police Museum

April 26th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The future of New Zealand’s oldest purpose-built police station is in the hands of Wellingtonians.

A local couple are the proud new owners of the heritage Mt Cook police barracks in Buckle St. …

The Buckle St, category A heritage listed commercial premises, was built in 1894 by prisoners. It was home to The Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery until the completion of Te Papa in the late 1990s.

The building, at the base of the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, is currently tenanted to several small companies on short-term leases.

Bayleys Wellington salesman James Higgie, who is marketing the building for sale by tender, said the new owners, from Wellington, had no immediate plans for the building.

As I blogged previously, this building would be ideal for the Police Museum – the oldest police station in NZ, and right in the middle of the Pukeahu heritage area. A memorial to fallen police officers would fit the nature of the area perfectly.

The current Police Museum (at the Police College) gets around 7,500 visitors a year (from last published stats). Move it to Buckle Street as a tenant, and I reckon you’d get at least ten times as many visitors.

Mediaworks almost loses Budget lockup for everyone

April 25th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

The Treasury has confirmed it is to go ahead with a lock-up for journalists for the budget on May 26, despite the Reserve Bank’s decision to end the briefings.

In a note sent to media organisations, Treasury chief executive Gabriel Makhlouf said he had weighed up whether to end the practice. “On balance, I have decided that an embargoed briefing for Budget 2016 will be held as planned. However, I will continue to review both the overall status of future Budget briefings and the ability of organisations to attend, in light of the adherence to lock-up conditions.”

This means there was a serious chance that Treasury could have canned the lockups.

It is unfortunate that Mediaworks has not been punished in anyway for their breach of the Reserve Bank lockup. As I said, they should at least pay the cost of the investigation.

Guest Post: Where Kiwis spend their time

April 25th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Where kiwis spend their free time


This summary enraged two men in Auckland. So much so that they set up to encourage NZers  to work to their strengths – with less housework like laundry and ironing and more charitable giving.

Let’s look through some of the interesting insights:


When I see this graph I think:

  • We spend too much time on mass media
  • We waste a large proportion of our life on housework
  • We don’t spend enough time on religion, reflection and charity
  • And the majority of people in this country don’t spend time with children.


Averages can be very misleading. But, they can also be a useful guide. All in all we are pretty even. This must have been widely different to 100 years ago. But, it is still fair to say that females are doing a bit more at home like ironing & laundry and men are still doing more paid work.


Overall there is little difference between males and females. Females spend a little more time at home with others while males spend more time out of home (probably at work). And we both spend around 54% of our lives with family.


Of little surprise though the more we earn the more we neglect our family. We go to work and work too much. On top of this we feel like we should socialise with work mates more. Then we rush home and do household chores and finally try and have some quality time with the partner and kids.


Education has little impact on our family time. PHDs or scraping through with Cs … either way family is family and it’s a big part of our life.


This is interesting. Work little or a lot to not be alone. However, if you work a part time job you are destined to join introverts anonymous.

Compared to Auckland University Pyschology survey

I tried asking Dr. Chris Sibley the Lead researcher for the NZAVS Department of Psychology at Auckland Uni for permission to publish this. But, I couldn’t get in touch. So given google made it public I’ll share it.

  • New Zealanders worked on average 24-25 hours per week. They did, on average between 10-11 hours of housework and cooking per week, and spent roughly 13-14 hours looking after children. New Zealanders commuted an average of 5 hours per week
  • In terms of leisure time, New Zealanders spent an average of 11 hours watching television, films and videos, between 1-2 hours playing computer games, and between 4-5 hours exercising.
  • New Zealanders, on average also spent between 1-2 hours per week performing charitable activities.

In summary what will you change?

  • What are the things you want more of in your life? What’s stopping you?
  • If you don’t have enough family time, reduce your work hours (whether homework or paid work). If you want someone else to do your laundry and ironing in Auckland head to
  • If you want an easy way of boosting your charity time easy lifestyle is a social business that supports clean drinking water for Africa and poverty alleviation in New Zealand with every order.

Check out the stats: StatsNZ

Author – Daniel Howell

Founder of a social entrepreneur who believes in people over profit. He is passionate about seeing kiwis work in their strengths and make the world a better place for everyone around them.



No tag for this post.

Wellington trolley buses to remain electric

April 25th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s trolley buses are set to jump their wires and could soon head anywhere in the country.

The iconic buses have been thrown a lifeline with their owner, NZ Bus, signing a $43 million deal that will see “a significant number” of its 1100 buses in Auckland and Wellington converted to electric.

The capital’s 60 trolley buses were set to be removed from service in mid-2017 when NZ Bus’ current contract with Greater Wellington Regional Council expires, but this deal means they will live on.

NZ Bus chief executive Zane Fulljames refused to say exactly how many buses would be refitted with electric drivetrains in the deal with American firm Wrightspeed, but said it would be significant number.

Great -a decision made by the company, with no (apparent) subsidies.

The Wrightspeed motors will be fitted into existing buses and will operate mostly on rechargeable electric batteries, topped up by a small conventionally-powered motor if needed on the road.

As battery technology improves, the top ups will no longer be needed and the buses will travel entirely on electric power, Fulljames said.

As battery technology improves, this is what will really impact take up.

New Zealander Ian Wright co-founded Tesla then founded his own company Wrightspeed in the US.

Nice to see a NZer do well globally.

Vision tests for licenses

April 25th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Blink and you won’t miss it – eyesight tests could be dropped from driver’s licence renewals under proposals that aim to push licensing online.

The Ministry of Transport has proposed a one-off vision test for drivers when they first apply. For renewals, people would simply have to declare they can see properly.

Eyesight testing for licence renewals has been controversial. The majority of people who fail the tests are later told by their optometrists that their vision is fine for driving.

Studies done for the ministry have found there are few safety benefits from frequent eye tests, and a discussion paper said the changes could save up to $13.7 million over the next two decades, mainly through cutting time spent travelling to licensing agents.

The studies found people who failed vision tests and were forced to wear glasses were no safer on the roads than before they failed. People with undiagnosed eyesight problems were at no more risk of crashing.

“The studies, which suggest there is no discernible road safety benefit from the current frequency of vision testing, are one input into the decision-making process,” ministry communications team leader Lesley Reidy said.

Most people with bad vision know it, and get glasses. You certainly can be unaware your eyesight has deteriorated, but it has to be pretty bad for it to affect your driving. As they say, the research is that the vision tests do not improve road safety.

However, optometrist Jack Crawford questioned those studies, and said vision safety should not be sacrificed for a more convenient system, “especially when the science behind it isn’t that strong”.

Hmmn, who makes money from vision tests?


* The proposal would require people renewing their licences to declare they are not aware their vision has deteriorated since their last renewal, or that any deterioration is being managed by glasses or contact lenses.

* This would not apply for commercial licences, and people over 75 who would still need vision checks through the medical fitness process.

Keeping them for over 75s is sensible.

28,927 killed serving their country

April 25th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

28,927 New Zealanders have died while serving overseas in our Armed Forces. We do not forget them.

Those killed by conflict are:

  • WWI 16,697
  • WWII 11,874
  • South Africa 228
  • Korea 41
  • Vietnam 37
  • Malaya 26
  • Afghanistan 14
  • East Timor 5
  • Thailand 2
  • Rhodesia 1
  • Falklands 1
  • Kuwait 1

E-cigarette safety

April 24th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Q: How safe are e-cigarettes and how effective are they for people trying to quit smoking?

A: Oliver Knight-West, a research fellow at the National Institute for Health Innovation, University of Auckland, says:

There is established evidence that e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco smoking. It also tells us that current e-cigarettes are exposing vapers – e-cigarette smokers – to even fewer toxins compared to earlier products which are no longer available to buy, and that the levels of toxins are generally lower than the upper limits deemed safe for human exposure.

Of course we cannot be certain that e-cigarettes are completely safe and that long-term vaping is risk-free, but we can be confident that if any negative health effects are detected, they will be very small compared to the proven dangers of tobacco smoking.

Public Health England estimated they are 95% safer than tobacco. So that is not 100% safe, but still exponentially safer.

While we desperately need these studies too, it is puzzling that the current regulatory framework around e-cigarettes in New Zealand does not take heed of the data we already have and allow the legal sale of e-cigarettes with nicotine.

At the moment, highly toxic tobacco is given preferential treatment as a way for people to use nicotine.

With the right framework, e-cigarettes with nicotine could be just the breakthrough to help hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders become smoke-free and live healthier, longer lives.

It is pretty insane the more dangerous product can be sold in any retail outlet while the far safer product is illegal to sell!

Will xenotransplantation help those needing organs?

April 23rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NZeno blogs:

At NZeno, we believe xenotransplantation is ready to enter the clinic because of the major advances made possible by new gene editing techniques.

The vast majority of xenotransplantation literature and news stories describe results with pigs created using genetic engineering technology that is almost 20 years old.  For instance, the recent research featured on Pig Hearts Survive more than 2 years in a Baboon used pig engineered with the same technology used in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Genome editing has advanced far more in just the last three years than in all of time previously.

Preclinical research on pigs created using CRISPR, if published at all, is released very quietly and normally receives no coverage.  Many researchers refuse to publish for fear of being scooped.  Those that do publish release cryptic results that are useful only to their patent strategy.  NZeno’s founders are seminal figures in the transition to use new techniques to solve the challenges of xenotransplantation.

Some people may find this yucky but if xenotransplantation can save human lives, or at least enhance them, then I’m in favour. The ethics need to be managed well, but this should not be a barrier to research here.

QE II turns 90

April 22nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar


Her Majesty has turned 90. Many good photos of her but this one is my favourite. Those pictured from left to right are:

  • James, Viscount Severn, 8 (10th in line to the throne)
  • Lady Louise Windsor, 12, (11th)
  • Mia Tindall (holding the Queen’s handbag), 2 (17th)
  • Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, 11 months (4th)
  • Savannah Phillips, 5 (14th)
  • Prince George of Cambridge, 2 (3rd)
  • Isla Phillips, 3, (15th)

The Queen is by far the oldest living British Monarch. Victoria and George III both made 81, then Edward VIII made 77 and George II 76.

NZ 5th for press freedom

April 22nd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Reporters without Borders has released its 2016 Press Freedom Report and NZ has moved up one place to 5th place.

A slightly inconvenient fact with some of the deranged who would have you believe the media in NZ cower in fear because John Key complained to the Police over being bugged and Cameron Slater complained to the Police over being hacked.

The top 10 are:

  1. Finland
  2. Netherlands
  3. Norway
  4. Denmark
  5. New Zealand
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Switzerland
  8. Sweden
  9. Ireland
  10. Jamacia

Some other countries are Canada 18th, Australia 25th, UK 38th, and US 41st.

The bottom countries are:

  1. Eritrea
  2. North Korea
  3. Turkemistan
  4. Syria
  5. China

Takes a lot to beat North Korea.

Highest migration from Australia for 25 years

April 22nd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

Net migration from Australia continued to rise, with a net gain of 1,900 migrants. This is the highest annual net gain of migrants from Australia in about 25 years (since the August 1991 year) and the sixth consecutive month to show an annual net gain. One in five migrants arriving in New Zealand in the March 2016 year came from Australia, and most were New Zealand citizens returning.

This graph shows the trend:


Departures to Australia are at an all time low and arrivals from Australia at an all time high.

How are plays produced?

April 21st, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

For quite a few years now I’ve been fortunate enough to get review tickets to many plays in Wellington. So once or twice a month I get to go to the theatre and (generally) enjoy a play. They range from local productions of international classics to unique productions and premieres of local plays.

One of the things which I’ve got interested in, is how do these productions occur. Who decides what gets made? Who decides who takes part? What are the economics of the productions? What sort of work does it involve for playwrights, directors and actors? I enjoy seeing the final product, but what is involved in getting a play to the stage.

So over a few months I’ve interviewed various people such as author Dave Armstrong, actor Gavin Rutherford, and the Circa Council co-ordinator to increase my understanding of how it all works. I thought I’d do a blog post on it, as some readers may find it interesting also.

The playwright

I used to think that the playwright was the central figure in that they would decide to write a play, get funding for it, and then get a theatre to show it. But actually is the the director who is the central figure. They tend to be the ones who pick a script, decide they want to direct it, and then make a proposal to a theatre. Playwrights can submit directly, but more often it is a director who does the pitch.

So when a playwright writes a play, they may not have any guarantee it will be picked up. Sometimes a playwright and a director will form a bit of a partnership, where they work together from the concept stage.

The standard royalty on a play is 10% of sales.

So if you have a play run for four weeks and it gets 150 per night average at say $35, then you may get just under $15,000 for the play. If it is a big hit and goes to other theatres then you can multiply that. But also many scripts never get picked up. You may write six plays, and five never get picked up.

Also 150 a night average is something you may get in Circa One as it can seat 228. But Circa 2 has a maximum 98. And smaller theatres like Bats are even less.

The bottom line is you need to write quite a few plays a year to get a decent income, or have one become a nationwide tour.

The director

The director is the one who generally makes the pitch to a theatre. Often it may be in combination with a playwright. In fact author/director pairings are quite common.

The director decides the makeup of the company that produces a play. The theatre does have a veto, but in practice this has never been used. They may have some people in mind for particular roles, or do open auditions.

While the director is sort of the CEO for the production, they may not get paid more than any of the other principals. At Circa the company tends to split profits equally amongst all the principals (lesser roles may be paid a half share or be on a flat rate) such as the actors.

The theatre

At Circa the theatre takes 20% of the proceeds to cover the operating costs of the theatre. Hence when deciding what plays to put on, popular appeal is an important factor.

However it is not the only one. With two theatres, the larger Circa One can do the more populist shows, and more niche shows in Circa Two. Sometimes they may say yes to a show because they want to nurture the career of someone they see promising. As a non-profit trust they need to earn enough to cover costs, but beyond that it is not solely about maximum sales. Of course the more tickets sold the more they can do, and the better for the artists.

Other theatres may have different models. Some will assume most or all of the risk and pay artists a fixed rate, and have lots of permanent staff including a chief executive. Circa however has no CEO, but a Council of 12 volunteers who are active members. Some will be artists and some may be lawyers or business people. Their common calling is a love of theatre.

The Council decides who to hear pitches from, and consider submissions from directors and playwrights.

The major plays are a nine week effort. They have four weeks of rehearsals, one week of production and four weeks of performances. So the revenue from the performances has to cover the full costs of the whole nine weeks.

The theatre also acts as a sort of bank for each production. They will advance the money up front (along with TACT) to cover the costs, and get reimbursed once sales have begun.

There are also private sponsors who will sponsor a show. This money generally goes only to the company members, and not to the theatre.


The principal actors in a show are on a profit share. So the more actors in a show, the less money per actor. Lesser roles may get a half share only but generally all the actors tend to be an equal share.

The income from a nine week show generally ranges from $3,000 to $9,000. At the lower end, that would come to just $18,000 a year (and if constantly in a show).

Almost no stage actors in New Zealand can survive just on the theatre. They either have “day jobs” or they supplement their income from related activities such as voice talent for radio commercials etc. They do it because they enjoy it.


This is the Theatre Artists Charitable Trust. They play a key role by giving a grant for each production – around $3,000 per production member. This effectively gives them an income during the rehearsals and pre-production phase.

It was set up in 1987 and has gifted $5 million since then. Donors include Chapman Tripp, Deloitte and Vodafone.

Non actor production members

Generally each actor and the director gets a full share of  the co-op proceeds (after costs). The stage manager tends to get a full share also.

Other production members such as publicists, designers, operators, technical support will either get a half share or may be paid directly as an expense. In the end the decisions are made by the co-op as a whole as to what split is fair to everyone.


This won’t be of interest to many, but as someone who has seen scores of shows and enjoyed most of them, I have always been curious about how the shows actually come together, and what the economics of them are. There’s a lot of work and sweat to get a show to production.

Welfare numbers continue to fall

April 21st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Anne Tolley announced:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the number of people receiving a main benefit has fallen below 280,000 for the first time since 2008.

“The number of people receiving a main benefit has fallen by 4,369 (1.5 per cent) in the year to March 2016, taking the total number of people receiving a main benefit to 279,891,” Mrs Tolley says.

“Those receiving Sole Parent Support continue to drive the biggest reduction in numbers, with a drop of 3,986 (or 5.7 per cent).

Benefit numbers peaked in December 2011 at 350,932. Since then they have fallen away 20% to 279,891.

Since December 2011 the individual changes are:

  • Job Seeker Support down 18.4%
  • Sole Parent Support down 26.1%
  • Supported Living Payment (Invalids etc) up 1.7%