Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Lest we forget

April 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Last Post. The video was for British Remembrance Day, but is equally appropriate for us.

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More Kiwis returning home

April 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

migrationmarch2014

The number of people migrating from Australia to New Zealand continues to grow. If this trend keeps up, we may end up with a net inflow for the first time in our history.

Stats NZ reported:

New Zealand had a seasonally adjusted net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 3,800 migrants in March 2014 – the second-highest gain on record. The highest was in February 2003 (4,700), when a large number of overseas students arrived to study at New Zealand universities. Net migration has been positive and mostly increasing since September 2012. The increase since then was mainly due to fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia, as well as more non-New Zealand citizens arriving.

In the March 2014 year, migrant arrivals numbered 98,000 (up 14 percent), and migrant departures numbered 66,100 (down 21 percent), resulting in a net gain of 31,900 migrants. This is the highest gain since the January 2004 year (33,300). The highest net gain ever recorded was 42,500 in the May 2003 year.

In the latest year, New Zealand had a net loss of 12,900 migrants to Australia, well down from 35,500 a year earlier.

This is what Labour calls failed neo-liberal policies.

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Monday Motivator – Serene Fiordland Forest

April 21st, 2014 at 11:45 am by Richard Hume

Monday Motivator 18

Serene Fiordland Forest, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

I  have just returned from a week photographing around the lower South Island. It was an excellent trip and I look forward to seeing some new panoramics as I get the film processed in the coming days.

This photograph is from a previous trip and has always been a popular one capturing a little of the essence of the amazing Fiordland National Park.

Click on the image for a larger view of this photograph.

Cheers

Richard [richardhume.com]

YouTube: Timeless – A Panoramic Journey

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No need for compulsory Maori?

April 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by Jadis

A café on Waiheke Island has come up with a novel way to increase the use of te reo and it isn’t compulsory to use it but will save you some money.

On a Sunday, you can arrive at 8.30am, right at opening time, and by 8.35am there is a queue of locals out the door, waiting for their freshly baked hot cross buns, patisserie, artisan breads and hot, steaming drinks.

And if you say “He kawhe maku”, instead of “I’d like a coffee”, you’ll get 50c off for your trouble.

Owner Patrick Griffiths says the idea of introducing Maori is to support people to learn the language at whatever level they want, and to feel comfortable about it.

He and his wife Hinemoa have been studying te reo for seven years.

“If you want to speak Italian you can go to Italy and immerse yourself in the language but there’s no place you can really go to speak te reo Maori.

“It’s one of our three official languages and is a taonga – it’s very precious.”

Sure, it is on the very liberal Waiheke Island but it sure is a more interesting and fun way to encourage people to use everyday, conversational Maori.

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Royals rule… the media

April 9th, 2014 at 6:18 pm by Jadis

* This is a Jadis post as DPF is lost on a mountain putting together yet another travel blog while us in the real world cover his work load, blog load and ensure people think he is may still be a serious political commentator.  Warning: this post may or may not apply!

Blue bear

I love the blue bear.  I am awaiting Cunliffe’s response to how blue the bear is.  Clearly this is a plant from the National Party who are clearly using poor wee George for political gain.  Remember, Cunliffe accuses Key of using the Royal tour as some sort of electioneering stunt.  Well, Duncan Garner calls Cunliffe (and Winston) on this BS:

David Cunliffe does himself no favours accusing John Key of using the Royal visit as some kind of vote booster.

It’s laughable.

And Winston Peters ain’t much better.

Peters says Prince William, Kate and baby George shouldn’t even be here in election year at all.

I completely disagree and I hardly think we have much say in when they travel.

This is petty and I hope the royals don’t read about this stupid and snarky politics from our leaders.

It’s classless and uncouth.

Does anyone really think voters, at the end of September, are going to support John Key because they recall how months earlier the PM hosted the royals? Really?

Come on. I just don’t buy it.

David Cunliffe said Labour welcomed the royals and did not want to play politics with the visit but he said such visits should be as ‘even handed as possible between the Government and Opposition.’

Isn’t Cunliffe playing politics with the visit by saying all that?

He sounds like a kid that missed out on pass-the-parcel.

He sounds like he’s screaming at the top of his voice saying – pick me, pick me!

Surely it’s the job of the PM to host the royals at different times throughout this 10 day visit.

He is due to meet them 5 times during the tour.

Seriously there’s something wrong with us if we can’t host the royals in April and have an election at the end of September.

Our politicians need to grow up. They look bloody stupid – and none more so than David Cunliffe and Winston Peters.

I totally agree with Duncan.  Most Kiwis won’t associate the Royal Tour with politicians (unless they do something to embarrass them). They’ll associate it with having the opportunity to see the Royals up close, in our wee country and “oooh ahhh what a gorgeous George”.

 

 

 

 

 

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How NZ is ranking

April 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Have had a quick look through the global country rankings that have come out in the last year or two, to see how NZ is placed. Have to say pretty good overall. Here’s what I’ve got, remembering there are around 200 countries:

  • Rule of Law 6th
  • Economic Freedom 5th
  • Best to do business in 2nd
  • Least Corrupt 1st
  • Open Data 4th
  • Prosperous 5th
  • Best to be a woman 7th
  • Competitiveness 18th
  • Peaceful 3rd
  • Democratic 5th
  • Human Development 6th
  • Best for working women 1st
  • Freedom 1st
  • Open Budget 2nd
  • Best to be a mother 4th
  • Humanitarian responses 3rd
  • Smallest gender gap 5th
  • Generous 1st
  • Least failed 7th
  • Trade competitiveness 4th
  • Social progress 1st

You have to say overall New Zealand is a pretty awesome place!

You also wonder at those who claim the neo-liberal reforms have made New Zealand such an awful place that we need to over-throw them.

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The power of educational leadership

April 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

A little over six years ago, Selwyn College in Auckland was struggling.

The Government took over its governance after poor student achievement results, a bitter fight for control by opposing parent groups and the resignation of its long-serving principal.

This week, the decile 4 school, which has long had a multicultural roll and special emphasis on the arts, is celebrating the release of stellar NCEA results that underline a remarkable transformation.

Last year, 93 per cent of Selwyn students sitting NCEA Level 1 passed. Pass rates at Level 2 were 94 per cent, and 90 per cent at Level 3.

Compare that with the 2006 pass rates: 39 per cent at Level 1, 47 per cent at Level 2 and 49 per cent at Level 3.

That is an incredible change, and a great one.

Leading education expert Professor John Hattie has described the progress as some of the most marked he had seen.

“It is the evidence that leads to these comments. And it is stunning. And that this was achieved in such a short time shows what can happen with inspired, passionate leadership with a laser focus on students.”

This must be one of the more successful interventions, and shows what great leadership can achieve from the commissioner and principal.

Many parents used to avoid Selwyn College like the plague. Now it’s role is growing.

Better use of each student’s achievement data, new and renovated buildings, improved teaching practices and a central focus on academic performance were cited as reasons for the improvement.

Selwyn now assigns each student a teacher to act as a mentor to help make sure their study will open doors to university or the workplace.

Selwyn is only a decile 4 school. Some claim that socio-economic background of students is the main determinant and use that as an excuse for poor performance. This shows what you can achieve when you stop making excuses.

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The Titford case

April 5th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Ansell writes:

There has been a major breakthrough in the Allan Titford case. And sadly (but typically) every newspaper, TV channel and radio station in this country, in accord with the state’s wishes, is covering it up.

Before you read the affidavit below, bear in mind that the woman writing it, Sheryll Titford, along with her husband, Allan’s brother Brian, doesn’t like Allan. She has always supported her former sister-in-law, Susan Titford (Cochrane).

(And before you conclude that Allan must be guilty if his brother and sister-in-law don’t like him, wait till you hear what Sue’s brother Dennis Cochrane has to say about the dishonesty of his sister Sue — but that’s the subject of another post.)

This is what makes Sheryll Titford’s voluntary affidavit so remarkable. Despite being a friend of Sue’s, Sheryll has been moved by her conscience to do the right thing by Allan.

Sheryll’s affidavit reveals that Sue told her that her (Sue’s) father, Graham Cochrane, confessed on his deathbed to burning down Sue and Allan’s family home at Maunganui Bluff.

I don’t know enough about the case to draw conclusions myself. But if there is an affidavit that contradicts evidence given in court, then the authorities should investigate it, in case there has been a miscarriage of justice.

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NZ No 1 for social progress in the world

April 3rd, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Washington-based think-tank has found that New Zealand is the most socially advanced country in the world.

The Social Progress Imperative, whose advisory board is led by Harvard economist Professor Michael Porter, has put New Zealand first out of 130 countries based on 54 indicators of social progress.

The country tops the world on indicators of personal rights and freedoms, and comes in the top four for water and sanitation, access to schooling and tertiary education, and tolerance and inclusion of minority groups.

That’s excellent. We’re not No 1 in everything but when you take all 54 indicators together, we’re at the top.

The top 10 countries are:

  1. New Zealand 88.24
  2. Switzerland 88.19
  3. Iceland 88.07
  4. Netherlands 87.37
  5. Norway 87.12
  6. Sweden 87.08
  7. Canada 86.95
  8. Finland 86.91
  9. Denmark 86.55
  10. Australia 86.10

It scores a low 28th on nutrition and basic medical care partly because of a relatively high death rate for women in childbirth, 35th for health and wellbeing partly because of high obesity and suicide rates, and 32nd for ecosystem sustainability.

So definitely still more work to do in some areas.

Think-tank director Michael Green, a London-based economist and author ofPhilanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World, said New Zealand’s placing as the world’s most socially advanced nation contrasted with its 25th place in GDP per person.

“In terms of converting economic output into quality of life, New Zealand is doing really well,” he said.

It would be good to also lift the GDP.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said: “This report is great news and it backs up what we all know – that we live in a fantastic country.”

Labour social development spokeswoman Sue Moroney said New Zealand’s high scored reflected “Labour’s progressive agenda” in building up public health and education over many decades.

Interesting that Paula just says it reflects well on the country while Moroney tries to have her party claim credit for it!

In terms of the three major category groupings, NZ was:

  • Opportunity 1st
  • Foundations of Wellbeing 6th
  • Basic Human Needs 18th
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Domestic violence and workplace productivity

April 3rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The PSA commissioned some unusual, but interesting, research – on the impact of domestic violence on workplace productivity.

The executive summary:

Domestic violence is a workplace issue. It is estimated to cost employers in New Zealand at least
$368 million for the June year 2014. …

Employment is a key pathway out of domestic violence. The body of research about domestic
violence over the past 30 years finds conclusively that staying in employment is critical to reducing
the effects of violence. Security of employment enables those affected by domestic violence to
maintain domestic and economic stability, in this way assisting them to find a pathway out of
violence and to successfully re-build their lives.

This makes sense. If a partner is not working, they are more likely to remain in a domestic situation with violence as they’ll be nervous about leaving their partner if they are reliant on them for the household income.

Employers have the potential of productivity gains from implementing workplace protections that
support victims of domestic violence. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that as
well as the potential for breaking the cycle of domestic violence, the introduction of workplace
protections for people affected by domestic violence both saves employers costs (recruitment,
retention, re-training, health and safety) and increases productivity.

I’m not quite sure what workplaces can do (assuming the partner does not work there also) except generally be sensitive to any staff who experience domestic violence.

For every woman whose experience of violence is prevented as result of the workplace protections
in a particular year, an average of $3,371 in production-related costs can be avoided. This number
is conservative as outlined in the body of the report.

So what do they recommend:

  • That employers create and implement tailored domestic violence human resources policies
    that can be integrated with existing health and safety policies
  • That an on-line induction module be prepared that is freely available to all organisations
    which includes knowledge about domestic violence
  • To work with peak bodies to motivate take up of existing programmes focused on training to
    recognise, respond to and reduce domestic violence
  • Based on successful overseas practice, develop and implement a national policy that entitles
    victims of domestic violence to up to 10 days special leave

All violent crimes are bad, but I have to say I have an extra level of malice towards those who commit domestic violence. Your home is meant to be the one place where you are safe.

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NZ 4th for trade competitiveness

April 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand is well ahead of Australia in trade competitiveness, according to a new international report.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s enabling trade index for 2014 ranks New Zealand fourth out of 138 countries, up from fifth when the index was last released in 2012.

4th isn’t bad.

It assessed countries in four areas – market access, border administration, infrastructure, and the operating environment.

New Zealand performed well in most categories, getting an overall score of 5.2 out of seven.

However, it rated poorly in foreign-market access, coming in 65th at just 2.6 out of seven.

A big part of this was due to high cost or delays caused by international transportation, which the report found to be the most problematic factor for both importers and exporters.

Almost one in five respondents (18.7 per cent) picked it as the biggest problem for exporting, narrowly ahead of tariff barriers abroad (18.4 per cent).

Still a lot of work to be done, but things are looking good for exporters and importers.

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Finally an end

April 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Radio NZ news manager Lynne Snowdon has lost her marathon employment dispute with the state broadcaster.

In a decision issued today the Employment Court has scored the legal battle – believed to be the longest running employment dispute – at 3-0 to Radio NZ.

Judge Tony Ford said it was a rare case where Radio NZ had been able to establish on “entirely convincing facts” that Snowdon was substantially responsible for the irreconcilable breakdown in the employment relationship.

Snowdon went on sick leave in January 2003. She was dismissed in April 2005.

It’s insane that this case has dragged on for ten years. Hopefully this brings it to an end. I’ve followed the case for many years and had little doubt it would end this way.

Judge Tony Ford dismissed grounds claiming Snowdon had a disadvantage grievance, was unjustifiably dismissed, and that Radio NZ had falsely represented the financial situation at the heart of Snowdon’s complaints.

He said it had been a relatively straightforward employment dispute that had spiralled out of control.

Snowdon’s husband, John Hickling, told the court last year that it had cost Snowdon and her family more than $3.5 million to fight at that stage.

Snowdon let her grievance become an obsession. Off memory it all began as a dispute with then CEO Sharon Crosbie over the budget for the news division. If you don’t like the budget your boss gives you, then go find a new job – don’t turn it into a ten year dispute. If they really have spent $3.5 million on the fight, then that is even sadder, No one forced them to do so.

Since then the case has consumed another 47-day hearing.

Again, insane.

The judge said Radio NZ was entitled to costs and if the parties could not agree between themselves they would be decided by the court.

As a taxpayer, I want them to recover as many of their costs as possible.

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Violent crime continues to fall

April 1st, 2014 at 1:33 pm by David Farrar

crime

The latest crime stats are out. As you can see total crime continues to fall. Some people assert that crime has been consistently declining for 20 years or so. This is not quite correct. From 2004 to 2009 crime grew slightly. The change in trend since then is pronounced.

violentcrime

 

Now I’ve often said I don’t place much reliance on the total crime rate as it treats a minor crime such as possession of cannabis as the same as homicide. Also it can be affected by how much the Police target an area.

Hence the violent crime rate is the one I always focus on most, as victims of violent crimes are most likely to report the assaults. The graph above shows the 20 year trend,

The violent crime rate was fairly flat from 1996 to 2004, massively increased from 2004 to 2009 and since 2009 has been declining for the first time.

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Law Commission proposed relaxing suicide reporting ban

April 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Law Commission has released a paper on the current restrictions for suicide reporting. Their release says:

The Law Commission is recommending revising the restrictions in the Coroners Act 2006 regarding reporting suicide.  The new restrictions would be limited to public comment by any person of the method of the suicide death, the place of the suicide where it is suggestive of the method and the fact that the death is a suicide. However, a death would be able to be described as “suspected suicide” where that is supported by the facts. 

That seems a sensible way forward. It is farcical that very obvious suicides have euphemisms such as “no suspicious circumstances” attached to them as a code. Plus of course social media means that there is usually considerable discussion on such suicides (for better or worse) such as Charlotte Dawson’s. Of course as hers was in Australia it could be openly reported here.

The important thing is not giving details, which it is proposed remain prohibited unless released by a Coroner. A key finding is:

We are satisfied that there is widespread agreement amongst experts in this field and world authorities, such as the World Health Organisation, that media reporting can lead to copycat suicidal behaviour by vulnerable people.

Reporting the details of a suicide is protected by the right to freedom of expression in section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We have concluded that despite extensive evidence of a link between suicide reporting and copycat behaviour, it is only the evidence linking the reporting of the method of suicide to subsequent suicidal behaviour that is strong enough to justify a statutory restriction.

Again I agree.

Hopefully the Government will take up the recommendations at some stage.

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The Internet economy potential

March 31st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand retailers are falling behind other sectors of the economy in their use of the internet to drive sales and business management, says a major new study funded by internet NZ and the global internet search engine, Google.

The “Value of internet Services to New Zealand Businesses” report, issued this morning, says firms using the internet well are between 6 per cent and 11 per cent more productive than their competitors in the same field. Best practice users were as much as 73 per cent more productive than average businesses in their industry.

The report suggests if all businesses were using the internet to its full potential, New Zealand’s economy – currently worth around $210 billion of output annually – could get a $34 billion efficiency and productivity boost.

Maybe retailers should stop trying to tax the Internet and should embrace it more!

The research was conducted by the economic research consultancy Sapere and used data from 5,589 businesses in the Statistics New Zealand Business Operations Survey.

It excluded firms in the information technology sector, which were presumed to be high internet users and interviews with 76 businesses were conducted in the tourism, retail, dairy/agriculture, and professional services sectors.

The report says while internet speed and connectivity were once the major issue, that is no longer so. The use to which the internet is put is the larger issue for most firms.

In the retail sector, where the common complaint is that e-commerce is robbing traditional shops of sales, the survey found retailers were “slightly lower users of internet services than businesses as a whole.”

“They are less likely to have a website, less likely to have most of their staff online, and less likely to use fibre, with bigger firms generally higher users than smaller firms.

“On our numbers, it is highly unusual for retailers to be selling a lot online at this point, with only 3 per cent of firms reporting that more than a quarter of their sales are made online, although retailers are heavy online purchasers.”

And of interest:

It reports one service provider as saying no more than one in 12 New Zealand retailers was doing a good job of integrating online and offline stores.

So huge potential there if it is grasped. The full report, for those interested, is here.

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Pora gets parole

March 31st, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Convicted killer Teina Pora has been granted parole this morning.

He has spent 21 years in prison for the 1994 rape and murder of Susan Burdett in her South Auckland home, which he says he did not commit.

Pora’s lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, said he was pleased and relieved by the Parole Board’s decision.

“It’s the outcome we’ve been trying for for the last 13 times we’ve come to the Parole Board, so one never expects a result, one always hopes,” he said.

“And we were hopeful today.

“We’re now obviously going to let the dust settle a bit and then we’ll continue to focus on the Privy Council hearing later in the year,” he said.

The parole decision is a pragmatic one, bearing in mind the uncertainty over his conviction and the length of time he has spent in jail. I hope he is given good support now he is released.

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Sad

March 31st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anna Leask at the Herald reports:

A pensioner scammed out of more than $140,000 by a woman he met on a legitimate dating site is ashamed and embarrassed that he was deceived for almost three years.

Police say he is one of thousands of Kiwis being sucked in, and today the man is sharing his story to prevent others being financially and emotionally destroyed.

The elderly man, who spoke to the Herald on the condition his name was not published, is one of an increasing number of people being tricked by romance scammers.

They prey on the emotional vulnerability of lonely or older people and police say they are making phenomenal amounts of money from New Zealand victims.

The man met his scammer after he signed up to a dating website. He said he was very lonely at the time and was desperate for companionship.

A woman who claimed she lived in a small town in West Africa made contact with him.

Sadly that should have been the first danger sign.

As she and the victim became closer, she suggested travelling to meet him in New Zealand. He was thrilled, and although he was hesitant when she asked for money to renew her passport and for flights, he was assured she was genuine because of their “natural” conversations.

Best in that case to pay for the tickets directly. Never ever send cash.

But each time she purportedly set off for New Zealand, something went wrong. She told the man of visa and passport issues and being detained for trying to travel with a large number of gold bars without an export licence. Each time, she needed more cash to get her out of trouble.

That’s a pretty big warning sign. I don’t know anyone who tries to travel with gold bars!

She never came to New Zealand, but kept in constant contact with the victim. He was soon sending her money for her daughter’s school fees, uniform and swimming lessons.

He paid for a new laptop for his “friend” and was sending regular amounts to “maintain her”.

The woman also conned him out of $1000 each week, supposedly to pay a security company to store her gold bars, which she said were worth more than US$28,000 ($32,320).

Gold is around US$1,300 an ounce so that’s around 21.5 ounces or 600 grams of gold. That’s not gold bars. That’s a small slice.

There were times when he questioned the woman or suspected a scam, but each time she would come up with a plausible explanation.

The requests for cash would stop for a time, but as soon as she had his trust again, she would slowly convince him to keep making deposits.

He made the deposits through money-transfer companies, and when he was turned away from one because it was concerned about how often he was sending cash to Africa, he found another service.

Okay now that’s beyond stupid. It’s one thing to be gullible, but another to ignore the fact that even the money transfer company is telling you it is a scam.

Police were alerted to his frequent money transfers and went to see him.

At first, he did not believe what they were telling him. He went online to confront the woman, and she “explained it all”.

After several days going back and forth with the Auckland city fraud squad, he finally realised he had been duped.

Good on the Police for being pro-active, but really sad they had to intervene.

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Herald on Sunday story badly wrong

March 30th, 2014 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Susan Edmunds at the Herald on Sunday writes:

The cost of feeding your family a cooked weekend breakfast rose by more than three times the rate of inflation over the past five years — and the price increases aren’t likely to stop.

This makes it sound like breakfast food prices have been rising faster than other costs. Their calculation:

If you served tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, toast, eggs, tinned spaghetti and cereal, with coffee, tea and orange juice this weekend, it would have cost you 6.9 per cent more than the same meal in 2008, and almost 3 per cent more than in 2012. Breakfast food prices have risen more quickly than other prices.

Over the past five years, the compound average annual rate of inflation was 2.1 per cent.

This is so wrong and deceptive, it is appalling.

The story is comparing the cumulative five year price increase of cooked breakfasts with the average annual inflation rate. That is not apples and apples. That is comparing the cost of five apples to one apple.

Yes the average annual inflation rate has been 2.1%. What that means is that prices overall have increased 10.8% from December 2008 to December 2013. The CPI for those quarters was 1072 and 1188 respectively.

So if the cost of breakfast has increased by 6.9% over five years, then the cost of breakfast has increased by around 60% of the overall inflation, not by three times as much. The average annualized increase in breakfast is 1.4% – again far less than 2.1%.

This story should be pulled from their website it is so wrong. I’m not sure a correction can fix it, as its central premise is flawed.

I also doubt some of the data in there. I presume they got more detailed data from Stats NZ than on Infoshare, but even what Infoshare has doesn’t support some of the assertions such as:

A loaf of bread is now 11 per cent more expensive than it was in 2008.

The bread sub-index was 1290 in Dec 2008 and 1374 in Dec 2013 (and down to 1359 in Feb 2014). This is a five year increase of 6.5%, not 11%.

But even if you accept their figures are correct, their assertion is fundamentally wrong. The cost of a cooked breakfast has not risen three times faster than inflation. It has risen slower than inflation.

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Otago Rail Trail Day 3

March 27th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

ORT0041

Yes that is frost on the ground. We left at 8.30 am and it was freezing – almost literally. Around 1 degree and it was nasty. My fingers were frozen and the wind bites through the jacket. The first 4 kms or so was very unenjoyable. But fortunately both the air warmed up, as did we. Next time I’m wearing full polar gloves, not fingerless gloves!

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Well above the river.

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And then closer to the river.

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Then we hit some nice open country. We had 42 kms to cover in the final day but had to do it in three hours to make the shuttle so had one brief stop in Hyde only.

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Once the day warmed up, it became easily the best of the days. Lovely sunshine, mainly downhill or flat and stunning scenic views.

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We stopped to celebrate having done 150 kms. Yay.

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I just love Central Otago views and you soak them up so much more when cycling through them than driving through them. Superb.

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Just to prove I was on the trip also!

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The memorial for the train disaster in 1943 near Hyde.

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This was rather cool. At first I thought they might be statues as they looked so still and just standing guard. But eventually they flew off.

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The last few kms are very straight, and fast.

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More great scenery.

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These km markers from the original rail line were very useful as you got to know where each town is in relation to them. The end at Middlemarch is at 64.

Often when cycling along, I reflected how amazing a train journey along here would have been.

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Middlemarch has a few remains from the train line.

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Yay, at the end. We ended up cycling 172 kms in 48 hours! As one of our party only started taking up cycling six weeks ago (and me only three months ago) this was a very good effort.

ORT0056

Then we had a shuttle bus take us back to Queenstown where we once again enjoyed great views, and excellent wind and tapas at Eichhardts.

Despite some challenging conditions, absolutely loved doing the Rail Trail, and already planning the next trail. For those thinking of doing it also, here’s some advice.

  1. Do it in at least three nights, not two. It is hard going, unless you are an experienced cyclist. Almost everyone we met on the trail was surprised at the distances we were trying to do each day, and it left less time for entertainment
  2. Make sure you have really really warm gear, no matter how sunny the day looks, but also ability to strip off if you get too hot.
  3. Consider getting plastic bags to wear over your sock or shoes, in case it rains. Cycling in wet shoes and sock for five hours is not so much fun.
  4. Stay in Clyde the night before if possible so you have an early start on Day 1
  5. Have your valuables such as cameras and phones in a plastic bag in case it rains as panniers get soaked.
  6. While only a 2% slope, be prepared for it to be a long slog up.
  7. Don’t believe people who say it is all downhill after the highest point. It is mainly flat and downhill, but still has a few sections with an uphill gradient
  8. Try and stay at Muddy River Creek in Lauder and Kokonga Lodge if you can, with perhaps a night in Wedderburn between.
  9. Definitely do the alternate route of the river trail to Alexandra in the morning, even though it is longer.
  10. Trail Journeys were very good on customer service and helpfulness, but their administration was a bit loose as the booking for a shuttle back to Clyde was wrong. So double check all the bookings, but the staff were good sorting the problems out.
  11. Definitely go do it – the scenery is amazing, and far better than photos can portray.
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Safe Wellington

March 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NZTA have published a list of the top 100 high risk intersections.

Wellington’s most dangerous intersection is only at 32 nationally – SH1 and Victoria Street at the Inner City Bypass.

Next at 43 is corner of Courtenay Place and Taranaki Street.

86 is corner of Ghuznee Street and Cuba Street.

Overall pretty good for a major city.

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Exports continue to soar

March 27th, 2014 at 12:54 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

Exports of primary products led the rise in total goods exports in February 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today. This includes rises for milk powder, logs, and sheepmeat exports.

The value of exported goods rose $663 million (17 percent) to $4.6 billion in February 2014, compared with February 2013. …

The trade balance for February 2014 was a surplus of $818 million (18 percent of exports). This is the highest-ever trade surplus for any February month and compares with a surplus of $432 million (11 percent of exports) in February 2013.

Not bad. Look at the last six years or so here.

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Seasonally adjusted imports are at much the same level as 2008, while exports are around $7 billion a year higher.

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A Haast-Hollyford toll road?

March 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The controversial $230 million Haast-Hollyford toll road is gaining momentum with its international investors visiting the West Coast this week to meet community leaders.

However, plans to apply for resource consent were on hold until a dispute was resolved over claims that part of the 136 kilometre proposed route was a paper road that officials illegally removed from maps nearly 40 years ago.

Two representatives from Australian-registered investment company JCP gave a breakdown of the road’s financial projections at a meeting at West Coast Regional Council yesterday.

John Lunbeck, a San Francisco-based JCP partner, said the new route would meet rapidly growing demand for access to South Island’s wilderness.

Its total cost was expected to be “no more than $230 million” but extra funding was available.

The toll fee would start at $35 per traveller, almost double the previously suggested $20 a head, and would generate about $30m in the first year, based on predictions of 800,000 to 900,000 travellers. That toll would increase by $5 every five years for 30 years and traffic was expected to grow by 6 per cent annually.

Haast Hollyford Highway chairman Durham Havill, a former Westland mayor and the road’s strongest proponent, told the meeting that the road would have huge benefits for the West Coast and Southland.

It would double West Coast tourism, provide 1500 construction jobs over its four-year build, shave 355 kilometres and four to five hours off the trip between Haast and Milford Sound and offer a new South Island tourist loop, he said.

I’d pay $35 for that in a second. Compare that to not spending five hours in a car – very cheap.

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Otago Rail Trail Day 2

March 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Started off around 9 am and popped into the cafe at Lauder to get some food to eat while cycling as 21 kms to the next cafe.

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A rare bridge that is curved!

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The view from the bridge.

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At times the scenery looks like you are in the US West. On the first day we saw an actual cowboy – well a guy on a horse with cowboy hat and neckerchief. I observed this section would be ideal for an ambush by Indians!

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This is the former campsite of the tunnel makers.

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And the first of two tunnels. You are advised to use a torch and to walk through. I did neither :-)

It is a bit scary in the middle, as you really can’t see anything but a distant light and if one did ride into the wall it would be very painful!

After this it started to rain and rain heavily. We got soaked. Even worse it was raining from above and below. In the stretch before Oturehua it was basically a five km long puddle, which with no mudguards just sprayed water upwards non stop. My feet got drenched.

We had an early lunch at Oturehua. The plan was to lunch at Wedderburn but we needed hot soup and pasta now. Dried off slightly, and then headed back onto the trail with it raining even harder. Fair to say we’re all wet, cold and a bit miserable.

But then after half an hour or so, the rain (mainly) stopped. This was very welcome!

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Those old bridges are like human vibrators. Very jarring as you go over them, but fun.

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A cute tint cottage in the trees.

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And finally after a long slog up the hill, we’re at the highest point. There’s snow on the hills in the distance and it is damn cold.

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Downhills are fun! Less so on gravel. When doing 30 km/hr you really don’t want to fall onto gravel. Luckily I didn’t, but one close skid.

We stopped in Wedderburn for a drink at the pub and warmed up some more. We’re all still pretty cold so we decided that would be our last stop and just do the final 31 kms to Kokonga in one go.

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Don’t think I’ll swim in that one.

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Finally got to the very welcoming Kokonga Lodge.Peter Jackson stayed here when filming, and you can see why. Superb food and hospitality and a great fireplace.

In the shower my ankles were itching madly. Finally worked out it wasn’t craft insect bites, but the legs thawing out!

Had a very nice dinner, but was so exhausted I fell asleep at 9 pm. It was a hard 64 kms of riding with the weather, and we had a head on wind for the last 5 kms.

The final day is just 42 kms, but we have to be at Middlemarch by midday so an early start.

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Vanguard Military School

March 26th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A video from Vanguard Military School, one of the new charter schools. Doesn’t look like their students have an obesity problem!

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Morgan advocates all cats on Wellington to be on leashes

March 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Zealandia will become little more than a “cat food factory” unless something is done about wandering felines, the Wellington City Council has been told.

Hearings began today for submissions into the council’s draft annual plan, with philanthropist and anti-cat campaigner Gareth Morgan among the first to address councillors.

He advocated councils making micro-chipping mandatory for cats to determine ownership, so un-owned cats could be “zipped” and any pets caught wandering could be returned for a fee. There should also be a 24-hour curfew on cats, with them only allowed out on leashes.

Yes, cats only allowed outside on leashes. I can see that happening – not.

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