Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Just change a few words

July 28th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve changed just a few words in this column saying climate denial should be a crime:

There is no greater crime being perpetuated on future generations than that committed by those who deny the benefits of free trade. The economic consensus is so overwhelming that to argue against it is to perpetuate a dangerous fraud. Denial has become a yardstick by which intelligence can be tested. The term trade sceptic is now interchangeable with the term mindless fool.

Meta studies show that 97 per cent of published economists agree that free trade is beneficial for all countries and has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

All of this might be a strange curiosity if the ramifications weren’t so serious. Whether it is the erosion of wealth, an influx of refugees from protectionist countries, or the economic impacts on our primary industries from tariffs, New Zealand must prepare for some significant realities.

The worst of these problems will impact more greatly on generations to come, but to ignore them now is as unconscionable as it is selfish. It ought be seen as a crime.

One way in which everyday crime can be discouraged is to ensure that “capable guardians” are around to deter criminal activity. When it comes to free trade, the capable guardians are educated members of the public who counteract the deniers.

There may be differing opinions on what policies to pursue, but those who deny that free trade is beneficial ought be shouted down like the charlatans that they are. Or better yet, looked upon with pitiful contempt and completely ignored.

There is no room to sit on the fence and say, “I don’t know if it’s true”. Ignorance of the law excuses no one – and so it is with the laws of economics.

Jails are going to end up very full of all those criminal free trade deniers.

Trotter compares Trump to Gourlie

July 28th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Paul Gourlie broke all the rules of student politics. In pre-student loans New Zealand, when the universities were still capable of disgorging thousands of student protesters on to the streets, Paul re-defined what it meant to be a student politician.

Not for him the varsity student uniform of jeans and T-shirts. To the consternation of the Otago student body, “The Governor” (as Paul styled himself) sailed across their campus in a starched wing-collar and a flapping under-graduate gown.

His critics may have described him as “a cross between Dracula and Batman” – but Paul didn’t care. He wasn’t interested in the votes of the student “activists” who wore badges and carried placards. The votes he was after were those of the students who didn’t protest. The “scarfies” who saw life at university as an opportunity to have fun. The ones who found student politics “boring”.

Paul’s crucial political insight was that student activism was a minority sport, and that the left-wing rhetoric spouted by those activists left most students cold. What he offered the “great silent majority” of Otago students (who were neither active nor left-wing) was a wildly charismatic, fun-loving alternative to the stereotypical student politician. Paul’s flamboyant speeches were fast, furious, funny and almost completely devoid of content. Ordinary students cheered him to the echo.

I was at Otago after Gourlie was there but his legend lived on. Off memory he was President of both OUSA and OPSA.

The left-wingers on campus were completely flummoxed. No one had the slightest idea how to fight – let alone beat – a candidate who appeared to have escaped from the pages of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (or, for the benefit of younger readers, Hogwarts). The Left’s obvious discomfiture only increased Paul’s popularity: his merciless mocking of their candidates drawing wild applause. For a while, Paul Gourlie was invincible: one of only a handful of student presidents to serve two consecutive terms.

Though they unfolded nearly 40 years ago, there is something disturbingly contemporary about “The Gourlie Years”. The US presidential election campaign of 2016 is stirring up old memories. Paul Gourlie, the student anti-politician, and Donald Trump, the populist anti-President, have more than a little in common.

Not the least of these commonalities is the challenge presented to the Left by right-wing candidates of such uninhibited flamboyance. And, if comparing Trump to Otago University’s student president of 1979-80 seems just a little too weird, then think instead of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. He, too, built a political career on the insight that, eventually, a great many voters become tired – even resentful – of social-democracy’s high-minded expectations. Sometimes all the punters want is a little “bunga-bunga” – and lower taxes.

The comparison of Trump to Berlusconi is a good one. Trump is not a fascist, but he is authoritarian. If he becomes President I imagine he would be like Berlusconi. That isn’t a compliment by the way.

The “Clinton-Kaine” ticket suggests that the Democratic Convention will be long on worthiness and short on spark. If this is the way it plays out, then the Clinton Campaign will find itself in serious bother. Conventional pundits may have slammed the chaos and confusion of the Republican Convention, but in doing so they entirely missed the point. Trump wasn’t interested in staging a well-run convention. What he wanted, and what he produced, was a riveting political mini-series; replete with heroes and heroines, hucksters and villains. For a whole week it was all anyone was talking about.

What distinguishes Trump’s campaigning from Gourlie’s and Berlusconi’s is the darkness and brutality of his rhetorical palette. The latter exploited voters grown weary of the Left’s moral exhortations. They ran on the alluring promise of exuberant amorality and laissez-faire administration. Trump’s voters, by contrast, are driven by a toxic mixture of moral indignation and the violent desire to discipline and punish an America they no longer recognise as their own.

Trump’s campaign blends flamboyance, demagoguery and recklessness in equal measure. My gut feeling is that the cautious Hillary Clinton will fare as badly against “The Donald” as I did against “The Governor”.

The latest average of the polls has Trump and Clinton tied on 42% each.

Academic links our tertiary education system to Nazis and the holocaust

July 27th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A most bizarre article published by Massey University. It is by senior lecturer in management Dr Damian Ruth:

The Productivity Commission is two months away from delivering its draft report on the future of higher education in New Zealand. Its inquiry into new models of tertiary education aims to find ways of achieving better economic outcomes from New Zealand’s investment in the sector. This should be put into the context of ambitions to turn the ‘education industry’ into a million-dollar enterprise – but there is also a larger context.

Environmentalist David Orr says education systems are how we shape future generations to think about the world. Sadly, education per se is no guarantee of decency, prudence, or wisdom. As Orr points out, the destruction of the natural world to date has not been the work of ignorant people. It has been, largely, the result of the work of educated people. What kind of education do we need?

There are dots to be joined here. Donald Trump in the United States, xenophobia in Europe, the brutality of detention centres in Australia – these are the end result of an authoritarianism that will not tolerate dissent. We see the same thing in corporate malfeasance and government corruption. And now we can see it shaping education.

Meaningful education entails critique, reflexivity and conversation; when education is cast in terms of the management of provision and performance, it is rendered meaningless. As our education becomes more managed, more ‘effective’ in economic terms, it offers less and less of a barrier to barbarity. Today my students want to be efficient consumers and they want me to be an efficient courier. Under the pressure of productivity, education is turned into making sure the vending machine always works.

Up until this point it is the pretty standard rant against tertiary education management. But then he goes on and jumps the shark:

In her famous book about Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the term ‘banality of evil’ to describe the tendency of people to obey orders without critical evaluation. She pointed out that Eichmann did not want to think about the nature of his work – he just wanted to get on with the job and his job was organising transport. And as we know, he was very efficient. We know, because the forms were properly filled and the process was well-audited. Job done.

Education is a constant struggle against the banality of evil. To educate is to insist on thinking. It cultivates the capacity to contest. While it seems unthinkable that horrors such as the holocaust could ever take root here in New Zealand, it was also unthinkable in Germany in the 1930s. If we are going to fashion higher education policy here today along the fault lines identified by Wiesel in Germany preceding World War II, then perhaps it is not as unthinkable as we think.

So our tertiary education system is “evil” and may lead to New Zealand turning into Nazi Germany.

I despair that this is the level of argument a senior academic resorts to. It is also deeply deeply insulting to those who were affected by the Holocaust.

Can bosses be liable for fatigue from what people do in their own time?

July 26th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

MBIE have said:

Being tired on the job is a health and safety issue many businesses have to grapple with, says a world authority on worker fatigue.

“Fatigue is just another hazard,” says Professor Drew Dawson, director of the Appleton Institute at the Central Queensland University.

“Businesses need to be aware that the effects of fatigue on performance are similar to the effects of alcohol. It’s not reasonable to be in the workplace under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of fatigue.”

Managing fatigue is also about making sure staff have had sufficient sleep to work safely, says Prof Dawson.

But an employer can only do so much. Sure don’t have staff work 16 hours in a row, but what if they are fatigued and only working eight hours?

“Most people confuse fatigue management with their employment agreement and assume that if you comply with the rules of rostering, then it will be safe.

“It doesn’t take much thinking to realise this is not always true. For instance, if you’re up all night with a sick child, you will be unfit for work, irrespective of how long your shift is.”

This is true, but what does an employer do? Send a parent home because they were up all night? Is that the employer’s decision or the employee’s?

A predator-free NZ

July 26th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government wants to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050, formally adopting a target to eradicate all pests that threaten New Zealand’s native birds. 

Prime Minister John Key announced the goal, alongside Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, as well as a $28 million funding injection into a joint venture company to kickstart the campaign. 

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them,” Key said. …

By 2025, the Government has set four interim goals, which include:

• Having 1 million hectares of land where pests are suppressed or removed; 
• The development of a scientific breakthrough, capable of removing entirely one small mammalian predator;
• To be able demonstrate that areas of 20,000 hectares can be predator free without the use of fences like the one at at Wellington’s Zealandia sanctuary; 
• And the complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves. 

Introduced pests threatened the economy and primary sector, their total economic cost is estimated at about $3.3 billion a year, Key said.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

The Government has set up a new Crown Entity – Predator Free New Zealand Limited – to drive the programme alongside the private sector. 

That was on top of $60m to $80m already invested in pest control each year. 

This is a great initiative. I became aware of the proposal around two or three years ago and my first reaction was that you can’t achieve it – it only take one pregnant rat or stoat to reinfect an area. But if you go about it in a systematic way over two or three decades, it can be achieved. The cost is not insignificant – $10 billion or so. But over 20+ years that is a very good investment to make NZ predator-free.

Being lucky enough to live near Zealandia, I already see and enjoy the benefits of having some small areas safe for native birds. Extending this to all of New Zealand will really transform our country. Of course there will still be other predators (including humans) but rats, stoats, possums and ferrets kill 25 million birds a year and massively outweigh all other threats.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said New Zealand would prove itself a world leader in conservation science and technology. 

“For the first time, technology is starting to make feasible what previously seemed like an unattainable dream.

“I think what’s really exciting is for those of us watching this closely, is that the technology has moved dramatically,” Joyce said.

“You used to have to put out a trap line across an area of land and send people back every time the traps were sprung.

“Now you can set them and leave them, link them through GPS, it’s about one seventeenth of the cost to maintain predator control over a piece of land, than it was just a few years ago.”

Barry said target was considered unachievable until recently. 

The potential for scientific break-through’s were what made the target achievable. 

Yep it has become achievable.

Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague said welcomed the target, but said research showed it would cost $9b to make New Zealand predator-free. 

“The Government seems happy to once again put out the begging bowl to the private sector to fund what should be taken care of by the Government.

Hague seems to think it is wrong to seek private sector support. Far from wrong, it is preferable to do so. Many companies would love the opportunity to invest in this initiative, which helps their brand.

IOC slated for Russia decision

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

Paul Hayward writes:

They were searching for a way not to throw Russia out of the Olympics – and they found one, dumping the decision on the individual sports and banning a Russian whistleblower while also inviting her to Rio as a special guest. The white flag of capitulation flies over the International Olympic Committee.

Russia’s deep political reach should have told us this would happen. The buddy-act between Vladimir Putin and the IOC president, Thomas Bach, is indicative of a much greater distortion in world sport, which the Russians have used to their advantage.

External pressure to do with global politics and sport’s utter subservience to money was always going to shape the IOC’s thinking when it came to the era-defining decision on whether to cast Russia out.

In the end they came up with a feeble compromise, dropping moral responsibility from a great height on individual federations, who have 12 days to run through the legal minefield of considering each Russian case.

Many will lack the staff, legal-back up and resolve to deal with this legal landslide before the Rio opening ceremony.

Hiding behind the right of individual athletes not to be lumbered with collective responsibility for a state sponsored doping programme, the IOC want us to believe they have defended due process against the mob.

They have done nothing of the sort – and the clue is Yuliya Stepanova, who turned whistleblower on doping in Russian track and field but has been told she cannot compete in Rio, unlike dozens of other cheats who will hope that stressed international federations run out of time to properly decide their faith.

The IOC have basically guaranteed no one will whistle blow again.

Again, Russia is not the only country where doping is widespread. It is, however, the only nation we know of where ministers, administrators, secret service agents, athletes and coaches have conspired to defraud international sport on a scale that makes the East German model of the 1970s look miniscule.

‘State sponsored’ is the phrase to keep in mind, because this is the element that moves a doping scandal to a different level; one where a whole country becomes complicit and therefore ineligible to compete. With their disingenuous emphasis on individual rights, the IOC hoped we would forget that Russian cheating appears to be a political policy, like road building or defence.

That is the key difference. The Government was in charge of the doping regime.

Students can decide for themselves

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

Stuff reports:

Is it an example of thinking outside the box, or should a Wellington landlord be sent to the dog box for trying to rent out an earthquake-prone loft with makeshift wooden cubicles as bedrooms?

Victoria University’s student association and health experts have both criticised the central Wellington apartment, which was listed on Trade Me for $600 a week.

The person who made the listing was unable to be reached for comment on Sunday.

The online listing shows at least two bedrooms that appear to be makeshift cubicles in the living room.

The ideal tenant is described as “considerate”, which is something you would need to be, as the loft only has one bathroom to service as many as five other housemates.

But it seems prospective tenants have not exactly been banging down the door. The property was advertised on March 22 and still looked to be on the market on Sunday.

So what is the problem here?

Landlord lists a scummy property. Students decide not to live there.

Victoria University Students’ Association president Jonathan Gee said he had never seen a cubicle apartment like it in Wellington.

“I think it creates a new definition of really below-standard or really, really cheap accommodation – trying to get a quick buck out of students,” Gee said. “It’s quite sad. That’s not livable.”

Gee questioned whether the thin, wooden walls separating the cubicles – inside a building that had received a yellow sticker from Wellington City Council – posed a potential safety risk.

A yellow sticker means the building’s owner has 15 years to strengthen it or be forced to demolish it.

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, from the University of Otago, who is part of a team of health experts advocating for a rental warrant of fitness, said the advertised property was “another step down in standards”. 

She questioned whether the property would meet basic public health requirements around ventilation, and whether tenants would be able to get out of the property during an earthquake or fire. 

“I can’t see how that could possibly be legal.” 

Gee believed the “low-quality” offering demonstrated a lack of suitable student accommodation in the capital.

Actually it proves the opposite. The fact that it has been advertised for four months and no one has taken it up, shows students have found better options.

Trade Me communications and community spokesperson, Logan Mudge, says the auction site expected all landlords to make a full disclosure about properties they list.

“We also urge all potential tenants to do their due diligence and if they’re not happy with it, don’t rent it,” he said.



July 25th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Moko Rangitoheriri’s killer argues she was driven to violence by the little boy’s bad behaviour, and so she shouldn’t have to spend so long in prison.

Tania Shailer was sentenced to 17 years in prison at Rotorua High Court on June 26 for killing and torturing Moko while he was placed in her care. But her lawyer has appealed, saying the sentence was “manifestly excessive”.

Her partner David Haerewa, who received the same prison term from Justice Sarah Katz, is also expected to appeal his sentence.

Hopefully the sentence will be increased on appeal, not decreased.

Russia loses appeal over IAAF ban

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

One News reports:

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has tonight rejected the appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn the ban imposed by the IAAF following allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.

The ruling could influence whether the entire Russian Olympic team is banned from the games.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe says he is “thankful that our rules and our power to uphold our rules and the anti-doping code have been supported.

“This is not a day for triumphant statements. I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing. It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude.”

A sad day for the (probably few) clean Russian athletes. But they can still compete if shown to be clean – just not under Russian colours.

Only a team exclusion from the games will give the incentive for Russia to cease the state sponsored doping programme.

Council says yes to Sky Path

July 24th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A walking and cycling path across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge is a step closer after city councillors voted unanimously to support a means of paying for it.

The politicians have agreed that the $33m SkyPath should be funded by a public-private partnership (PPP), with Auckland Council underwriting the project to an agreed level.

Despite a 5-hour debate at the council’s Finance and Performance Committee meeting on Wednesday, in the end councillors voted as one in favour of the PPP.

“It’s been wrung dry, but all the answers have been spat out every time,” he said. “The time has come.”

Councillor Mike Lee said SkyPath was “the City Rail Link for walking and cycling”, referring to the city’s long awaited $2.5 billion downtown rail project now underway.

However SkyPath still has significant hurdles to overcome.

Residents groups opposed to the project are taking it to the Environment Court, with hearings due to be held later this year.

Under the terms of the PPP a toll will be charged to use SkyPath, and the council will underwrite revenue from the toll up to an agreed level.

If tolls don’t meet forecasts the council will pay out, but if they exceed them the council will profit.

The group behind SkyPath, HRL Morrison and Co, will finance, design, build, maintain and operate the path as a user pays facility for 25 years, when it will then revert to council ownership.

I’m glad to see this get the go ahead. It is designed to be basically user pays and will be very useful for cyclists and pedestrians.

Young principal turns school around

July 23rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A young principal has been given the ticket to move a lower decile school away from close Government monitoring.

Reviewers from the Education Review Office (ERO) were visiting Glenavon School every one to two years.

But the Blockhouse Bay school will now likely have its next review in four to five years, according to its latest ERO review.

The report “identifies Glenavon School as a high performing school”.

Principal Phil Toomer, now 31, arrived at the school in 2014, when he was just 28-years-old.

He came from Redoubt North School in Manukau where he was a teacher, deputy principal and acting principal over seven years.

Back then, he had planned to build the Glenavon School in all areas, with student achievement a big focus.

“There is no excuse just because a school is low decile to underachieve,” Toomer says.

And with an attitude like that, he has succeeded.

The school has children of many ethnicities, with Pacifica students making up more than 60 per cent of the school’s roll and Maori students numbering 18 per cent of pupils.

“Our community around us is changing and so is the culture of the school,” Toomer says.

And 78% of students are now at or above the national standard in reading, 74% for writing and 84% for maths.

What is impressive is that when they get year 1 students only 45% are at the national standard for reading so they make a real difference. The proportion of students reaching the national standard increased 10 percentage points from 2013 to 2014.

1st Air NZ safety video I’ve hated

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

Most of the Air NZ safety videos I have loved. The Men in Black one is great as was their original All Blacks one. The surfing one I loved watching and the LOTR ones were also really good (but got a bit tiring after a while).

Some have been merely okay (Richard Simmons) but overall pretty good.

But this latest one I really don’t like (even though I love Rhys Darby generally). It’s just not very interesting or funny. Watching is once is enough, let alone multiple times.

I note it has been viewed only 32,000 times which is small compared to others. Here’s how the others have gone:

  • The Hobbit (Epic) 15.7 million views
  • The Hobbit (Unexpected) 12.7 million
  • Safety in Paradise 7.0 million
  • Men in Black 3.7 million
  • Middle Earth 3.1 million
  • Richard Simmons 3.0 million
  • Betty White 2.5 million
  • Bear Essentials 2.4 million
  • Ed & Mel 1.3 million

Net migration still climbing

July 22nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


Net migration has almost hit 69,000, a huge turnaround from 2011 and 2012 when net migration was in fact negative.

Most people think it would be good to reduce this while infrastructure catches up, but the nature of net migration makes this challenging.

  • People leaving NZ have dropped by around 32,000 a year from 88,000 to 56,000
  • NZers returning to NZ have increased by around 9,000 from 22,000 to 31,000
  • Australians moving here have doubled from 5,000 to 10,000 a year

So around 46,000 of the increase in net migration is beyond government control and is a good thing – more Kiwis wanting to live in NZ, and Aussies moving here.

The other factor is arrivals (non NZ/Aus) have increased by 28,000 from 62,000 to 95,000. This is around 30% of the overall change in net migrations.

The increase in “foreign” arrivals is not in residency visas but almost equally (14,000 each) in student visas and work visas.

International students studying in NZ increase GDP by billions of dollars. Studying here does not grant residency. They do increase the strain on infrastructure, but if you turn down qualified applicants, you’ll impact economic growth. Most students visas are to students from India, China and the Phillipines.

The work visas have also increased by 14,000 since around 2012. There may be more room to tighten up eligibility here. But skill shortages could be a consequence. Also the majority of those on work visas are not from third world countries. The most common countries for those on work visas are:

  1. UK 17%
  2. France 9%
  3. Germany 8%
  4. Australia 8%
  5. US 5%
  6. Philippines 5%
  7. China 4%
  8. South Africa 4%
  9. Canada 4%
  10. Japan 3%

Are the Sky negotiations being used as a pretext to save money?

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

The Herald reported:

The New Zealand Herald has withdrawn its reporting team from the Rio Olympics after failing to secure an agreement with Sky Television over use of Games footage on its news website.

NZME Managing Editor Shayne Currie today confirmed the Herald has informed the New Zealand Olympic Committee of its decision which follows similar action taken by Fairfax Media last night. Neither organisation will now send reporters, photographers and videographers to Rio but will still cover the Games.

Currie said “unduly restrictive” conditions imposed by Sky, who have purchased New Zealand broadcasting rights for the Games from the International Olympic Committee, had driven the decision.

“This has been a difficult decision but ultimately we cannot accept what we view as unduly restrictive and unnecessary News Access Rules as proposed by the New Zealand rights holder, Sky Television,” Currie said. “These do not allow for fair-use of copyright material in accordance with the New Zealand Copyright Act and have the potential to impact heavily on our ability to cover the Games in a fair and meaningful way.

“We also believe that they run counter to the Olympic charter. As a result, NZME Publishing – publisher of New Zealand’s biggest newspaper, the NZ Herald; one of the two largest New Zealand news websites,; and five regional daily newspapers – will no longer be sending a team of journalists to Rio.

“Through our syndicated agencies and partnerships, plus with our award-winning sports journalists in New Zealand, we will be doing our utmost to provide the best Games coverage possible.”

Fairfax confirmed a similar position with executive editor Sinead Boucher saying the conditions Sky had sought to impose around Games footage were “unprecedented”.

I feel sorry for the Fairfax and NZME sports journalists who won’t now get to cover the Olympics from Rio. The cynical side of me wonders if the Sky negotiations were used as a pretext so the soon to be combined company could save on the costs of having 20 journalists travel over there?

Benefit levels on an eight year low

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

Jo Goodhew announced:

Acting Social Development Minister Jo Goodhew says the number of people receiving a main benefit has continued to fall year on year, with the latest figures the lowest for any June quarter since 2008.

“The number of people receiving a main benefit has fallen by 5,172 (or 1.8 per cent) in the last 12 months, with those on Sole Parent Support continuing to drive the strong downward trend,” Mrs Goodhew says.

“This is the first quarter since the $790 million Child Hardship Package came into effect, raising benefit rates by $25 a week after tax for those with dependent children, and increasing obligations for sole parents.

“Sole Parents have shown they are willing and able to move into independence, with a reduction of 965 in the last quarter, or 3,818 in the last year in the numbers receiving Sole Parent Support.

This is good. We want a supportive welfare system to help people temporarily (unless incapacitated) while they have tough times, but we know that on average a welfare dependent household leads to far far worse outcomes for children growing up in them.

The changes in benefit levels for the last five years are:

  • All main benefits down 14.5%
  • Under 25s on welfare down 22.9%
  • Work ready job seekers down 21.6%
  • Job seekers on welfare for over a year down 17.7%
  • Sole parents benefits down 26.5%
  • Under 25 sole parent benefits down 34.3%

The under 25 reductions are especially pleasing as data shows the longer a teen stays on welfare the more likely they’ll remain there and have far worse life outcomes than if they get into the workforce.

Beards at school

July 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A group of Kapiti College students have attracted international support for a petition to allow year 13s at the school to grow tidy facial hair.

Anthony McEwen and four other students started the petition as a social studies assignment, expecting it to attract only 20 or 30 signatures from family and friends.

But it has so far received 281 signatures online, from as far afield as Auckland, Christchurch, Australia and Britain.

“They were all saying stuff like ‘What you’re doing is a great change’,” McEwen said. 

So support from people not part of the school community.

“At the end of the day, 99.9 per cent of the comments are positive.” 

Year 13 students were allowed to wear mufti to school, and to use makeup, he said. But if a student turns up with facial hair, he is taken from class and instructed to shave with provided equipment.

That did not fit with the rest of the dress code, McEwen said. “It’s facial hair. It’s not like everyone is staring at you.

“I don’t see, when we’re allowed to express ourselves through clothes, why we can’t express ourselves through facial hair.”

I can think of at least one reason.

Teenagers mature at different rates, and some need to start shaving at a quite young age, and others not until later in their teens. Most schools already have a high degree of peer pressure and/or bullying. Having some students turn up with beards etc could lead to hassling of other students for not being mature enough yet to have grown facial hair.

I don’t care too strongly either way – up to a school to decide its own policy. But there are sound reasons why a school might not want to.

Mark Mitchell on NZ Police shootings

July 20th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Mark Mitchell wrote on Facebook:

Whilst a Police Officer in Rotorua my colleagues and I were confronted with a similar situation as the one Rotorua Police staff were confronted with yesterday. At the forefront of a Police Officers decision making process often while events are unfolding quickly is always Public safety. An offender armed with a machete and high on drugs could kill or inflict serious injury on an unsuspecting member of the Public very quickly. On the face of it the Officers involved acted quickly, professionally and with courage to ensure no member of the Public was killed or seriously injured.

In relation to the way our Media report these incidents. I acknowledge that headlines sell papers, but the type of headline like the one below is not helpful when considering the type of stress and tension we are currently witnessing in the U.S.

I am proud of our NZ Police service. Having trained and worked with Law Enforcement agency’s globally I have no doubt we have one of the best trained and most professional Police Services in the World.

In my own electorate of Rodney, when I don’t see them in a Police Uniform, I see them on school boards of trustees, administrating sports clubs, surf clubs, Lions clubs, volunteering at locals events, running programmes for youth In their own time, and just getting on and raising their family’s.

Their children, mothers, fathers, husbands wives , Friends and community’s deserve better than a headline like this.

The headline Mitchell was referring to was “Police ‘cold blooded killers’ – girlfriend”. Why they give such prominence to her views, when they are not backed by any evidence, is of course about selling papers or clickbait.

His post has gone viral, being shared 285 times and viewed around 100,000 times.

4th hand sources

July 20th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fairfax has been running a story for several days that alleged very senior China official were threatening a trade war with New Zealand because of a complaint with MBIE about steel imports allegedly being dumped in NZ.

One of the so called sources has clarified in NBR that in fact he could find little substance to it:

The star witness in the China trade war rumours that has erupted over the past couple of days says the story is a dud.

Former trade negotiator Charles Finny says he was quoted out of context in a Sunday Star Times story alleging China is pressuring for an investigation into steel dumping to be dropped – and that his own investigations indicated the rumour was baseless.

The editor asked Mr Finny to ring around. He duly obliged. But when he called contacts he had made during his time with Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the former China FTA negotiator drew a blank. No one had heard rumours of any China pressure on exporters on exporters – bar one source in the Beehive who had heard that the topic had been raised with an exporter in China but by a person at a Chamber of Commerce-type organisation.

So this seemed to be the basis of a major story which gave the impression that the Chinese Government at senior levels was planning trade restrictions.

A later story in Stuff claims vindication on the basis that Zespri knew of the approach. But look closely at the actual details:

In a major backdown, the Government confirms it was told a Chinese industry body had approached a New Zealand exporter, venting anger over a complaint against alleged steel dumping practices. 

But Trade Minister Todd McClay says Mofcom – China’s trade ministry equivalent – has denied any knowledge that an approach occurred. 

So the allegation is that someone from a Chinese industry body made a threat, not the Government (which knows nothing of it). But again look at the actual details:

Zespri released a statement following McClay’s comments, saying it’s local staff in Beijing received “unsubstantiated information” from an industry body in China on “purported industry consultations related to the import of New Zealand agricultural  products”.

So a local Zespri staff member received some unsubstantiated information from an industry body, and this is the basis of the entire front page story.

This is like saying that because someone from Federated Farmers says they have heard some gossip about what the NZ Government will do, that this is proof the Government is planning a trade war.

The story was worth reporting, but not in the way it was. I think the original story was quite misleading as to the source of the so called threat, and that it represented the view of the Chinese Government. The original story said:

China has threatened “retaliatory measures” against New Zealand trade, warning it will slow the flow of dairy, wool and kiwifruit imports. …

But somehow, China learned of the application – and it is taking retaliatory action.

In the past week, representatives of New Zealand’s biggest export industries have been called in by Chinese officials, and told to exert their influence to make sure the MBIE investigation does not go ahead.

Those paragraphs are not supported by the facts now emerged. China is not taking retaliatory measures. No representatives have been called in by Chinese officials, and there is no demand the investigation does not go ahead. The far less sensational story is that a Chinese industry body said that they had heard there was an investigation.

My suspicion is that the story was fed to the Sunday Star-Times by NZ First, and they ran it on the basis of a fourth hand verification that someone heard someone from someone.

As I said the story was worth reporting, but the way they do so was over the top. What is annoying is they won’t admit their original story was overblown. Here’s their latest:

Dairy giant Fonterra told Government officials  it had been approached by Chinese commerce representatives, warning of reprisals if they did anything to compromise Chinese steel imports.

It’s the latest revelation in a series of about-turns about the Government’s knowledge of Chinese threats of a wider trade war.

Fairfax are desperately trying to keep the story alive, but again read beyond the first two sentences.

Fonterra director for global stakeholder affairs Phil Turner said there had been “rumours on the ground that Fonterra concluded were simply that – unsubstantiated rumours“.

“Fonterra has not received any threats, has not been approached by the Chinese Government, and does not have any information related to the rumours which includes the source of the initial speculation.”

What is amazing is that their own story contradicts them. They start claiming vindication and keep using the language of warning of reprisals, and the actual quotes from Fonterra say quite the opposite.

Would those signing have him in their community?

July 19th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A petition for an autistic man held in an isolated wing of a mental health unit has garnered more than 2000 signatures in a day.

The family of Ashley Peacock, 38, launched their latest bid to see him moved to a community facility on Sunday, by calling for Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to intervene in their son’s case. …

The petition is calling for the Mr Coleman to intervene under Section 32 of the Public Health and Disability Act 2000.

“We request that Ashley Peacock be urgently relocated to an individualised service in the community with appropriate levels of support, with a clear time frame,” it said.

So far the Government has defended Ashley’s treatment, saying his case is “complicated” and safety was paramount.

The Capital and Coast District Health Board has previously said he had some of the “highest and most complex needs” and had issues with unpredictable violence.

I have sympathy for Peacock’s family. No one would want to see a family member locked up 22 hours a day.

However if Peacock does have unpredictable violent outbursts, the DHB does have a responsibility to staff and other patients to keep them safe.

The status quo looks pretty horrible, as being locked up 22 hours a day may be making his condition even worse. But finding a safe solution is I imagine very challenging.

It is easy to sign a petition as 2,000 people have done. They are demanding he be placed in the community. Would they be willing to have Mr Peacock in their community, or do they mean someone else’s community?

Property investors will need a 40% deposit

July 19th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Property investors will need a 40 per cent deposit under tough new restrictions revealed today.

The new rules are being urgently introduced in an attempt to put a lid on New Zealand’s spiralling property prices.

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler has outlined the new rules this morning, and told banks they will be expected to act immediately.

The new loan-to-value ratios (LVRs) would take effect on September 1, but the Reserve Bank wants banks to “observe the spirit of the new restrictions” in the lead-up to the new policy.

The rules are:

• Restrictions for investor lending extended from nationwide from Auckland only
• Banks will be forced to require a 40 per cent deposit – up from 30 per cent – for at least 95 per cent of the loans they make in this area.

Home buyers
• Restrictions for owner-occupier lending extended from Auckland to nationwide.
• Required deposit level remains at 20 per cent for at least 90 per cent of bank lending.

It will be interesting to see how much impact this has. The large property investors may have enough capital that this won’t impact them greatly.

Will IOC ban Russia?

July 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With the Rio Games less than three weeks away, the International Olympic Committee on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time) promised “the toughest sanctions available” after a report found Moscow had concealed the positive doping tests of athletes in many sports in the run-up to the Sochi Winter games.

The IOC did not spell out whether it would heed growing calls for Olympic bans already imposed on Russia’s track and field athletes and weightlifters to be extended to all its competitors in Rio.

But IOC President Thomas Bach said the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation had revealed “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games”.

“Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated.”

WADA itself explicitly urged the IOC to consider banning Russia from the Rio Olympics altogether.

The WADA-backed report confirmed allegations made by former Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who two months ago told the New York Times that dozens of Russians used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities.

It said the catalyst for the development of a system to conceal widespread doping had been Russia’s performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, where a country that cherishes its status as a sporting superpower finished 11th, with only three gold medals.

“The surprise result of the Sochi investigation was the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow Laboratory in processing and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games,” said the report, unveiled in Toronto.

Russia should be banned until the state sponsored doping programme is independently verified as having ended. It obviously extended beyond just athletics, so only banning the track and field team makes little sense. As the IAAF have done the right thing, let’s hope the IOC does also.

There will always be some athletes that dope and try to get away with it. The difference here is that the entire programme was endorsed by the state, and in fact run by the state.

The report was led by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren, who had sat on the independent commission that last year exposed widespread doping and corruption in Russian track and field, leading to its exclusion from international competition.

He said Russia’s Sports Ministry had overseen the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results for years before Sochi.

“The State implemented a simple failsafe strategy,” the report said. “If all the operational precautions to promote and permit doping by Russian athletes proved to have been ineffective for whatever reason, the laboratory provided a failsafe mechanism.

“The State had the ability to transform a positive analytical result into a negative one by ordering that the analytical process of the Moscow Laboratory be altered.”

In Sochi itself, where international observers were scrutinising the drug tests, positive results could not simply be brushed away, so a system of sample-swapping was put in place with the help of the FSB intelligence service, the report said.

Rodchenkov had spoken of a clandestine night-time operation in which he said staff secretly took urine samples from the lab via a “mouse hole” cut into a wall, and replaced them with clean samples taken from the same athlete months earlier and sometimes manipulated.

Such an operation was only possible as it was government sanctioned.

Inflation remains low

July 19th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Borrowers appear set to see even lower interest rates in the wake of lower than expected inflation.

On Monday Statistics New Zealand revealed that the consumer price index (CPI) rose by a less than expected 0.4 per cent in the year to June 30.

With the Reserve Bank forecasting that inflation would be 0.6 per cent, economists now see the central bank as odds-on to cut the official cash rate to 2 per cent on August 11, a new all time low.

Westpac, which was already forecasting an August cut, said market pricing of financial products suggested there was now an 80 per cent chance that the Reserve Bank would cut the OCR on August 11, up from 70 per cent before the figures were released.

So long as one doesn’t have deflation, I think low inflation is great.

In the last three years prices overall have risen just 2.5% over three years. While from 2005 to 2008 prices went up 9.5%.

Wouldn’t lecture theatres or science labs be more useful?

July 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new signature building for the University of Waikato isn’t a sure bet yet – although there are already three suggested concepts.

Estimates are that a marae and multicultural complex could add up to around $60 million but it wouldn’t happen fast.

Three concepts for a complex on the site of the old law school prefabs have been shown to the university and Maori communities. …

University chancellor Jim Bolger asked if there were financial parameters in place “or are we still in starry-eyed optimism?”

Quigley explained that a project of this scale could cost around $60m.

“Last time I saw [chief financial officer] Andrew [McKinnon]’s balance sheets he didn’t have $60m,” Bolger said.

“He may have a bottom drawer that he hasn’t told me about.”

The university could have the necessary funds in a few years’ time, with some borrowing, McKinnon said.

A marae complex idea won support from council member Richard Jeffries and he said the Kingitanga was also keen to see an upgrade.

“For the university that has by far and away the largest proportion of Maori students and Pasifika … I think it’s a really important kaupapa for us.”

It is important universities have come space and buildings set aside where students can gather. But $60 million for such a facility seems obscenely large.


Got off very lightly

July 18th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A 46-year-old man must pay $500 to the woman he terrified by tailgating her for 17km across North Canterbury, but is allowed to keep driving. 

Michael Dean Teague was on Friday ordered to make the payment for emotional harm to the woman, who declined to meet him at a restorative justice meeting while he awaited sentencing for intimidation.

Defence counsel Paul Norcross told the Christchurch District Court that Teague was genuinely remorseful and had been willing to meet the victim to apologise. …

The woman he followed was terrified by his actions. In her written victim impact report she said she “had never been so scared in her life. Your reaction was so over the top it was unbelievable,” Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said.

She said she had not expected any reparation, but hoped Teague would lose his driver’s licence. 

“Just thinking about it even now makes me feel anxious, I can feel that frightened emotion that I felt that night and it’s still very vivid in my mind when I’m driving at night … I’m not the same.”

I would be terrified also. If someone followed me in a road rage for 17 km, I would conclude they were determined to kill or seriously wound me.

The police said that about 10.20pm on April 8, Teague was driving his Mitsubishi Outlander on Glasnevin Road, Amberley.

The woman flashed her lights because Teague’s lights were on high beam and he then braked heavily, did a U-turn and accelerated hard up behind her car.

His vehicle was so close that all she could see in her mirror was the bonnet of his vehicle.

He kept on tailgating the victim for about 3km, while she became frightened and phoned the police.

Teague continued to follow her into Waipara township, where she turned into a dead end street.

She drove to the end of the street, turned around and stopped. Teague stopped in the middle of the road about 30m away with his lights on full beam.

The woman managed to get past him and drove back to State Highway 1 where she drove to Amberley with Teague still chasing her.

This is almost psychotic behaviour and totally unacceptable. I’d classify it as near threatening to kill and personally would throw him in jail for say four weeks to get across the message he must never ever do this again.


Guest Post: Regional Council likely adding to congestion woes

July 17th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Anthony Morris:

It is quite likely that Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) policies are adding to traffic congestion in Wellington. Peak-time public transport fares are set too high because simple economic logic has been disregarded and those fares are not subsidised. The subsidies are instead all funnelled to less-used off-peak services.

Fares contribute 52% of the cost of running public transport services in Wellington which is high compared to other cities in Australasia. Given most of those services are running at off-peak times with lower passenger loadings, it is certain that the peak-time services are at least covering their cost.

If everyone tried to drive into work at peak traffic times, the roads would completely block up. The use of peak-time public transport by commuters benefits other road users by lessening congestion, providing what economists call an external benefit. This benefit justifies subsidising peak-time public transport fares from the petrol taxes collected from road users. Trains give a bigger external benefit than buses because they usually get commuters off the arterial roads completely.

Unfortunately, GWRC sets fares that recover the full cost or more of peak time services and pushes all the subsidies to less-popular off-peak routes. This means we get the illogical situation of it being cheaper for a couple to drive to work in the city and pay for city fringe parking than catch public transport, which for three zones would cost them $14.52 per day.

But it gets worse. We have buses and trains traversing almost identical routes at almost identical times, with buses often being cheaper and/or more convenient! For example, using a smartcard it costs $3.63 to get from Johnsonville to the city by bus, and the city means anywhere along the golden mile from the bus depot to Courtenay Place. Using a 10-trip ticket the train costs the same but only gets you to the main station, and you then have to walk or catch a bus to get to other parts of the city. This may be fixed with the new integrated ticketing system but this is not arriving until 2018.

The Newlands buses running from Johnsonville and traversing the golden mile with all the other commuter buses also increase congestion. If all commuters got free inner-city bus trips, the Newlands buses could run to the main depot only, and train users would also not have to pay extra to get further into the city.

Outside of peak traffic hours people with cars usually prefer to use them to get around because it is more convenient. Not everyone has a car or can afford a taxi, so for social reasons it is desirable to have off-peak public transport services.

However, some of the off-peak transport services are likely very expensive per passenger carried, like late night suburban services with one or two passengers. We don’t know for sure because there is no publicly available data available on the average loadings of those services, despite all the data that must be collected by the Snapper system.

Some off-peak public transport routes could be more efficiently served by shuttle vans or even cars. Apps such as Uber organise individual taxis to peoples’ homes so something similar could be applied to get taxis to act as public transport to bus stops. Conditions are ripe for the development of new, innovative and cost-effective public transport solutions. Peak-time users are not getting a fair deal!

Anthony Morris is a Wellington commuter and policy analyst working in an unrelated field.