Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Maybe we should do an Aussie and sell it to close the deficit?

June 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The New Zealand Navy seized about $235 million of high-grade heroin – then let the smugglers free and hosed the drugs into the ocean.

Hey if we sold it back to the smugglers, then that would almost get us from deficit to surplus. We could call it the Australia solution!

Not wanting to hold on to almost 260kg of heroin, sailors kept small quantities for testing and dumped the rest into the ocean, using a fire hose that ran through a modified green wheelie bin.

A journalist was complaining not even the Greens were complaining about the impact this could have on the fish. I suggested the Greens would be in favour of fish able to get high on drugs :-)


Paying the Patron!

June 18th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Meanwhile, King Tuheitia’s office has refused to answer questions about the $110,000 he was paid in directors fees.

A person at the Kingitanga office told the Herald: “No one is going to talk to you sweetheart. There is no comment.”

Te Kohanga Reo Trust Board spokesman Derek Fox said the fee was legitimate, but had been written up wrong – it should have been labelled an honorarium.

King Tuheitia was the patron of the trust and because of that the trust wanted to pay him an honorarium – he hadn’t asked for it.

I’ve never before heard of a patron getting paid $110,000.

if they have so much money to spare, wouldn’t it be better to spend it on say Kohanga?


Abortion rate drops again

June 17th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

The number of abortions performed in New Zealand decreased in 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today. A total of 13,137 induced abortions were performed, which was 936 fewer than in 2013.

The general abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) decreased from 15.6 per 1,000 women in 2013 to 14.4 in 2014. This rate is the lowest it has been in over 20 years (in 1993 it was 14.3 per 1,000). The lower abortion rate indicates that the decrease in the number of abortions was due to fewer women having abortions, rather than to changes in the size or age structure of the population.  

I’ve graphed the data below:


As you can see the number and rate grew steadily until 2003. It was then fairly constant until 2007, and has been steadily dropping since.

This is a good thing.

It would be interesting to know what changed so that the number of abortions started to drop from 2007. Better education?  Better contraception? Less unprotected sex? Fewer women choosing an abortion? A combination of the above?


One law for all?

June 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police officers are being told not to ticket unlicensed Maori drivers caught behind the wheel.

The Counties Manukau Police guidelines are detailed in a policy, leaked to TVNZ last night.

It states police should refer Maori drivers for training if they are pulled over without a licence or in breach of their conditions instead of fines.

Superintendent John Tims told NewstalkZB this morning the document should have been worded better.

Everyone was entitled to the compliance, not just Maori drivers, he said.

“[The document] is probably not worded as well as it can be.

“There’s two parts to this: the compliance is for everyone, including Maori, and it is about making sure there’s less deaths on the road, less crashes,” Mr Tims said.

Maori drivers were “considered” when they were pulled over by police, he said, but were included in the policy simply as part of the Turning the Tide national policy.

PassRite Driving Academy founder Fred Bardon said it was a great way of getting people licensed to drive – but only if it applied it all drivers.

Maori should not be the only targeted group “…because there are other offenders that are doing the same thing and we need to be across the board so that everybody gets the same opportunity”, he told NewstalkZB.

A policy of referral for training rather than prosecution is fine, so long as it applies to all.

The Police say the document was simply not worded well.

It would be interesting to seek stats, if they exist, on how many drivers of each ethnicity have been referred for training for unlicensed driving, rather than prosecuted.

UPDATE: A reader sends in this satire:


Counties-Manukau Police have today announced an extension to their successful policy of not enforcing the law for ethnicities that are over-represented in crime statistics.

“Our exclusion from enforcing the drivers license law with respect to Maori has been a roaring success.  We now don’t ticket any Maori, or person claiming to be Maori.  This has made a massive positive impact on our recorded statistics.

“The fact that prevalence of Maori driving without a license has skyrocketed as a result of this policy, should not be seen as a negative outcome.  This is about “Turning the tide”.

“We have decided to extend the policy to the crime of aggravated robbery, an offence for which Maori are even more over-represented than drivers’ license offences.

“Now, when we receive a report or complaint of an aggravated robbery, we will ask the caller or complainant “Does one or more offenders appear to be Maori?”  If the answer is yes, we will not attend the incident or follow up the complaint, unless the Maori offender/s do not return the money they have stolen within two months.

“We expect this new policy to be an incredible success, with the number of arrests of Maori on suspicion of committing aggravated robbery expected to plummet.

“While we expect aggravated robberies by Maori and others pretending to be Maori, to skyrocket, we ask the public to consider the benefits of “Turning the Tide”.”


Please direct any media enquiries to our policy advisor, Hone Harawira.


Governance vs CEOs

June 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Not one – not even one – of the bosses of the top 50 listed companies on the NZX are women.

That’s one of the standout takeouts of the Herald’s CEO pay survey released this week.

It needs to change.

Dig a bit deeper and there are some shining female lights at the top of NZ business.

The problem is most of them are in governance roles. Sue Sheldon, Dame Jenny Shipley and Joan Withers are household names. Talk to young women and many offer up an ambition to go straight “into governance”.


I’m not sure that is a problem. I love governance roles. You get removed from day to day issues to focus more on the strategy, the environment and the risks. You can get a high level of impact, for less time than in an executive role. And the flexible timing of governance duties is I am sure especially appealing to many women.

But that’s not where the real drive in business comes from.

We want our boards to be stacked with people who know enough to usefully challenge the status quo , whose antennae are sharp enough to sniff out managed earnings rorts and understand markets.

Experience in top corporate positions teaches some of that.

But the ability to shape a business comes from being in the chief executive’s seat. That’s where the dynamism is created and the future is shaped.

I agree the experience from corporate management is very valuable, and directors with corporate management are valued.

But for many Kiwi women the game is not necessarily climbing the corporate ladder.

Wendy Pye, Erica Crawford and Diane Foreman are all self-made millionaires who have created major international businesses from New Zealand.

Ask for their pay packet and you will be rewarded with a snort. “That’s my business.”

Yep, nothing like owning your own business!


Perioperative Mortality

June 17th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting report on perioperative mortality in NZ. It’s great that we have such transparency of data.

The mortality rates within 30 days of an operation are:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft 2.47%
  • Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty 1.66%
  • Hip arthroplasty 1.58%
  • Cholecystectomy 0.37%
  • Knee arthroplasty 0.17%
  • General anaesthesia 0.12%
  • Bariatric surgery 0.07%

There is a huge difference based on you ASA score. The ASA scores are:

  1. Healthy person 0.05%
  2. Mild systemic disease 0.05%
  3. Severe systemic disease
  4. Severe systemic disease that is a constant threat to life 16.9%
  5. A moribund person not expected to survive without the operation 52.8%
  6. A brain-dead person



Guest Post: Firemen, journalists, and a naked emperor.

June 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Deanne Jessup:

Here in New Zealand we have just had a survey that tells us journalists are the least trusted, and firemen are the most.  This got me thinking about why, and what if anything should be done about it?

Imagine the world where most fires put themselves out safely every time.  Only we never knew it happened.  Instead, firemen turn up, wave spraying hoses and extinguishers, and hit things with their axe-shaped tools.  Once the fires are out, we celebrate them as heroes, declaring them wonderful and the most trusted of us all.

Now imagine we found out through the internet that firemen are frauds!  Over time we discover it was all a ruse to keep them in work.  Would you still trust them?  What if it then came out that firemen themselves actually lit most of the fires?  Would you still call them when the fires appeared?  What if it was a fire that would not extinguish itself?  What happens then?

As absurd as this tale is, a variation of it has been playing out every day of the last decade.  Journalists have fallen from our graces.  Though obvious, my main moral is not ‘the boy who cried wolf’ though it is certainly relevant to ask what happens if we decide we don’t need the media at all.

In my view, this tale parodies the one from ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’.  We know we can get our news elsewhere; we know about social media, blogs, and live streams.  But like the people of the Emperor’s court who thought they had to pretend, perhaps we are worried what they will do if we point out their nakedness.  So instead the absurd situation persists where we pretend their relevance but trust them the least.

The internet has both caused this situation and is constantly changing the nature of it.  Initially, it revealed the nakedness of the media, now it is becoming the child from the story pointing loudly and shouting “you have no clothes on!”  Technology has radically reshaped the world.  We are moving into a new era.  Media are trying to reinvent, to clothe themselves in the attires of the day.

The current scramble to ‘change’ shows the media think the reason readership and profitability are both low is because they are printing in the wrong place, rather than the reality that they have been caught printing the wrong thing.  There is no road to trust by adopting old practices on new platforms.  Media must take to heart that no amount of blogging, social engagement, and digital media will change that we can now see around them.

They must understand that we can now see the truth, often faster than they report it.  To become trusted again, they must add value and once again report honestly, openly, and without prejudice or bias.  Of course, as they were ‘caught’ naked, a fair question is did they ever?

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The Kohanga Reo story

June 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The controversial episode of the current affairs show that reportedly cost Maori Television its star broadcaster has aired – with new reports of misspending by Kohanga Reo officials.

Those reportedly tied up in the financial mismanagement include the Maori king, King Tuheitia.

Executive interference in the Kohanga Reo story, and another on Whanau Ora, was believed to be a factor in Mihingarangi Forbes’ resignation from Native Affairs earlier this month.

Today’s piece focused on misspending at the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust Board and its wholly-owned subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga Limited, a follow up to an earlier investigation by the show.

It’s good to see Maori TV continue its fine tradition of investigative journalism and run this follow up story. The fact it has run the story does make me wonder about the unsourced claims that the resignation of Forbes was because the CEO did not want the story to run.  It would be nice to have an authoritative statement on what did happen.

However Native Affairs tonight reported that a review into Te Pataka Ohanga by Internal Affairs had found wrongdoings it described as “gross mismanagement”.

These included paying $111000 in directors fees to Kingi Tuiheitia – the Maori King – when he was not a director. That issue had now been referred to Inland Revenue, Native Affairs said.

Te Pataka Ohanga also paid themselves bonuses including koha not approved by the board, and used credit cards to purchase personal items.

It had also allowed board members to take personal loans.

Ousted board member Toni Waho, who spoke exclusively to the programme, said he had one of the loans, which he now agreed was “not a good look”.

Native Affairs reported that since then, Te Pataka Ohanga had cancelled credit cards and suspended loans, among other measures to ensure financial accountability.

It’s really simple.

  • Don’t pay director’s fees to someone who is not a director
  • Don’t use work credit cards for personal items
  • Don’t pay bonuses not approved by the board, or by management with delegated authority
  • Don’t ever lend money to anyone – you are not a bank

It was now on an Inland Revenue watch list, and had been given a formal warning.

The show also revealed the trust had made two payments totaling $800,000 for termination fees in 2007.

The trust appointed a new chief executive last month, a former Ministry of Education official named Kararaina Cribb.
Education Minister Hekia Parata appeared on the show, to say she continues to want a change in governance on the board, to a more modern alternative.

The status quo is unacceptable.

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June 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Salient reports:

VUWSA has caved into the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association’s demands, paying the national body its outstanding membership fees and agreeing in principle to hold a referendum on its continued membership.

In September 2014 the Executive decided to withdraw from NZUSA. This followed a 2013 student-initiated referendum on whether VUWSA should remain a member. 63 per cent of students voted “Yes, but only with reforms”—however, there was no straight “Yes” option. The Executive claimed reform hadn’t occurred and that this gave them a mandate to withdraw without holding a further referendum.

With NZUSA’s constitution requiring members to give 12 months’ notice of withdrawal, the national body has continued to invoice VUWSA for its $45,000 annual membership fee. VUWSA had intended to withhold over $20,000, and budgeted accordingly. But with NZUSA threatening court action, and legal advice that VUWSA would lose, the Executive has brought itself up to date with payments.

if the rules of NZUSA say you must give 12 months notice to quit (and they do) and VUWSA signed up to those rules, then they should pay the levies for that year.

The payment follows a secret meeting between the VUWSA Executive and NZUSA President Rory McCourt on 11 May. At this meeting, McCourt tried to persuade the Executive of the continued need for a unified national body. He described the meeting as “positive”, although he also delivered a legal threat over the fee.

After hashing out an agreement in private, the Executive voted on the proposal at an official meeting on 4 June. Salient, which is usually invited to all Executive meetings, was not told of the meeting or sent an agenda.

VUWSA has chalked this up to an administrative error. However, insiders have also confirmed that the 11 May meeting with NZUSA was deliberately concealed from Salient and no official record of the meeting exists.

Secret meetings which exclude the media, and lying to Salient about it – not a good look.

However, many within VUWSA also believe that McCourt, a former VUWSA President, has actively whipped up resentment toward VUWSA in an attempt to pressure the association into paying—a strategy that appears to have worked.

This year, Labour MPs including David Cunliffe and David Clark have spoken out against the exodus from NZUSA, and the perception within VUWSA is that it is losing the media battle.

Labour MPs pressuring student associations to remain members of NZUSA. I think that indicates how Labour sees NZUSA as part of the Labour family.

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RIP Richard Orzecki

June 16th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Maori Party have announced:

The Māori Party is in mourning today for the loss of a loved friend, champion and trail-blazer, Richard Orzecki.

“Richard was one of our foot-soldiers from our earliest days,” says Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

“His commitment to the cause could not be faulted; he inspired everyone in his wake through his enthusiasm and his motivational leadership.”

Mr Orzecki took on the mantle of electorate chair for Te Tai Hauāuru and immediately set out to help set the strategic direction for the Māori Party.

“Nothing was too big a job for Richard. We saw that same application to the task when he became a member of Ngā Pū Waea, the Māori Broadband Working Group” says Mr Flavell.

“Richard fully understood the power of connection for whānau and worked assiduously to link up whānau with their marae through technology. He was a staunch advocate for investing in the right communications infrastructure for marae to consolidate their role as the virtual centres of their community.

Mr Orzecki served on two District Health Boards; was a member of the New Zealand Māori Council, and had previously been chair of his iwi, Te Rūnanga o Raukawa.

Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox says, “While he was proud of his Polish whakapapa through his father, his passion knew no end for the advancement of Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Wehiwehi”.

I knew Richard through his work in the Internet space. He was a member of InternetNZ and was seen as a real leader in the Internet world. He was a strong and effective advocate and was responsible for many initiatives. On a personal note, he was one of life’s really nice people, and his death will leave all those who knew him very sad.

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NZ 6th for rule of law

June 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Law Society reports:

New Zealand is ranked sixth in the world in the latest Rule of Law Index published by the World Justice Project.

The World Justice Project was founded in 2006 as a presidential initiative of the American Bar Association and says it became an independent non-profit association in 2009. It has offices in Washington DC and Seattle in the United States.

The World Justice Project says its Rule of Law Index is compiled from a large number of surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced in practical, everyday situations by ordinary people around the world.

Performance is assessed using 44 indicators across eight categories, each of which is scored and ranked globally and against regional and income peers. 

The top 10 are:

  1. Denmark 0.87
  2. Norway 0.87
  3. Sweden 0.85
  4. Finland 0.85
  5. Netherlands 0.83
  6. New Zealand 0.83
  7. Austria 0.82
  8. Germany 0.81
  9. Singapore 0.81
  10. Australia 0.80

The bottom country is Venezuela.

Some specific rankings in categories are:

  • Open Government 2nd
  • Regulatory Enforcement 5th
  • Absence of Corruption 6th

CEO salaries

June 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A useful feature at the Herald where you can see the salaries of top CEOS over the last decade, and also the profits of the companies they run.

What it shows is the vast majority of CEOs have their salaries go down, as well as up. Presumably all linked to the profits of the companies they run. That is how it should be.

Of the 26 companies included, only one (Sky TV) has had the CEO salary increase every year.


RIP John Marshall

June 15th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Much-loved Wellington lawyer John Marshall, QC, has died after battling a brain tumour.

The 68-year-old died “peacefully and surrounded by family” at his Wellington home on Sunday morning.

The prominent Wellingtonian was diagnosed with a brain tumour 11 months ago.

He is survived by his wife Mary, their three children, John, Annabel and Clementine, and his granddaughter Rose.

“John was an exceptionally warm, loving and supportive husband, father and grandfather.

“He was accepting, courageous and strong during the last 11 months. Throughout his illness, he said that he had had a wonderful life. We will miss him deeply,” they said.

Marshall was a highly regarded litigator whose services to the law were recognised this year when he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

He was former president of the New Zealand Law Society, and in his five-year tenure as chief commissioner of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, Marshall led such prominent New Zealand cases as the Carterton balloon disaster and the Easy Rider fishing boat tragedy.

Marshall was a hugely respected lawyer and contributed much to New Zealand and Wellington.

“Part of John Marshall’s legacy to transport safety will be his firm advocacy for better regulation and zero tolerance of substance impairment in safety critical transport roles,” Transport Accident Investigation Commission chief commissioner Helen Cull added.

Marshall was also a significant contributor to the national life of the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, Knox Church Dunedin minister Kerry Enright said.

“He was conciliatory and gentle in his style, and his professionalism and wisdom together with his warmth and convivial humanity echoed the churches values and helped people respond in difficult circumstances.”

“He was just a wonderfully warm, encouraging, positive, thoughtful compassionate person to me,” Enright said.

Wellington College headmaster Roger Moses first met Marshall in his role on the Wellington College Board of Trustees, when Marshall appointed him to the headmaster role almost 20 years ago today.

Marshall was head prefect of Wellington College in 1964, on the Board of Trustees and chairman of the Wellington College Foundation.

“He will be very sadly missed. I feel pretty emotional, he’s been a wonderful friend,” Moses said.

Marshall was “integrity personified”, he said.

“It’s easy for someone like me to come out with a lot of cliches, but he really was a wonderful human being.”

As always thoughts are with his family and friends.

John Marshall was the son of former National Prime Minister Jack Marshall. I always though John Marshall would have been an excellent MP if he had also gone into politics.

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A stink decision

June 14th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

NZTA has insisted a 45-minute clean-up was necessary after a man defecated in Wellington’s Mt Victoria tunnel.

Spokesman Anthony Frith said the agency was satisfied with the clean up time in off-peak traffic, and said the mess had to be cleaned up as it was an issue of both hygiene and road safety.

“If you think about it a little bit goes a long way – before you know it, it could be spread around the Basin Reserve,” Frith said.

Police said the man had jumped from the walkway of the central Wellington tunnel down to the road, where he attended to the call of nature at 6am.

The busy commuter tunnel, which was closed overnight for scheduled maintenance, had been scheduled to open at 6am.

But a clean-up crew was needed, delaying the time by 45 minutes.

Oh how precious. I’m pretty sure 99% of motorists would rather drive through some crap rather than have a tunnel closed for 45 minutes.

Plus why takes 45 minutes? Just knock it to the side of the road.

Will they close SH1 if someone vomits on it?

No tag for this post.

South Auckland Middle School Annual Report

June 13th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The South Auckland Middle School Annual report is here. Some highlights:

  • Year 7 reading is 1.4% above the performance target
  • Year 7 maths is 2.1% below the performance target
  • Year 7 writing is 18.3% above the performance target
  • Year 8 reading is 0.94% above the performance target
  • Year 8 maths is 28.4% above the performance target
  • Year 8 writing is 1.9% below the performance target

I love how you can get such clear reporting against clear targets.

They also note that the current start-up cost for a single student in a State School is $46,790 (excluding establishment salaries) and the current start-up cost for a single student in a Partnership School is $5,613 (including establishment salaries).


Dr Simon Spacey vs Waikato Uni

June 12th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports on an interesting employment case:

A University of Waikato lecturer is seeking $1.8 million in compensation from his employer who he claims did nothing when he was being bullied online by students. 

$1.8 million???

Senior lecturer Simon Spacey alleges students made a derogatory webpage using an image of him, they also struck up a conversation about him on social media as well as emails he received which referred to him in derogatory terms. 

By derogatory terms, does he mean the e-mail below where he chastises a student for not calling him Dr Spacey?


His university page is interesting for two reasons. First his seven degrees or diplomas!

B. Sc. (Hons), M. Sc., D.E.A, M.B.A, J.L.P, D. CSC, D.I.U, Ph. D

I’m not even sure what a D.E.A is. J.L.P seems to be Japanese Language Programme. The D. CSC is something from the Centre for Scientific Computing I think.

But also of interest is Dr Spacey lists next to each degree a comment such as “High Honours”, “Special Mention”, “Top 5% Band” which is not something I’ve seen before on a CV for an academic.

A poet on Reddit has come up with a little poem:

My name is Doctor Spacey
Hallowed be my name
I’m not called Tim or Tracey
Not Bob and not Elaine

I’m a personage important
I’m a prodigy, a star
I’m a legend in my lunchtime
Please address me with “Hurrah!”

I have a phD in Awesome
And 48 degrees
Three knighthoods and an Emmy
A Purple Heart and a VC

I never need to purchase alcohol
Because I turn water into wine
I have no need for any vehicle
Because I slide through space and time

When I arrived in Hamilton
It was like the Second Coming
I expected bugles and parades
Marching bands and drumming

When I invented the internet
I never expected to see
Anything but tribute pages
Paying homage to me

You will all be sorry
Your lives will be misery
You would all be nothing
If it weren’t for me

For the sake of clarity I should point out that I don’t think the poet is claiming Dr Spacey has actually claimed to have a VC or invented the Internet. I think he or she is lampooning perceived self-importance.

I suspect that if one didn’t chastise students for not calling you Dr Spacey, then they might not say derogatory things about you online.


Metro’s 50 most influential Aucklanders

June 12th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Metro Magazine has named the 50 Aucklanders it says are the most influential. The top 10 are:

1.      Stephen Tindall, business
2.      Lorde, music
3.      Nigel Morrison, business
4.      John Key, politics
5.      Steven Joyce, politics
6.      Stephen Town, council
7.      Peter Cooper, development
8.      Joan Withers, business
9.      Lynda Reid, education
10.    Al Brown, food

Looking at some of the more common categories here is how they rank people be sector:


  1. Stephen Tindall
  2. Nigel Morrison
  3. Joan Withers
  4. Paul Majurey
  5. Michael Stiassny


  1. John Key
  2. Steven Joyce
  3. Len Brown
  4. Jacinda Ardern
  5. Phil Goff
  6. Winston Peters
  7. Penny Hulse


  1. Jane Hastings
  2. Mike Hosking
  3. Julie Christie
  4. Shayne Currie
  5. Rachel Glucina
  6. Kelly Martin
  7. Sido Kitchin
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Journalists now trusted less than MPs

June 11th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

ResearchNZ has done a poll of trust in occupations, reporting the proportion who gave them a 7 or higher out of 10.

Second bottom are MPs at 25%. But this is a 7% increase over 2013.

Now at the bottom constant on 23% are journalists.

Wonder where bloggers would come! :-)



RIP Peter Conway

June 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government and Business New Zealand have joined in tributes to former Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway who died suddenly yesterday.

Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said Mr Conway was an engaging, intelligent and passionate advocate for workers who had committed his whole working life to improving the lives of working people. …

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly said Mr Conway was unfailingly constructive as an advocate in employment relations and highly respected by all who worked with him.

“Peter was an industrial leader of the highest integrity and his passing is a sad loss to New Zealand.”

John Bishop of the Taxpayers’ Unions described him as “an unfailingly honourable and dedicated New Zealander who strove to serve the people he represented”.

I think it says a lot about someone who was in the political sphere when they are praised not just by those people on the same side of the spectrum as them, but also sincerely respected and praised by those on the other side.

His family issued a statement yesterday saying he had battled a depressive illness for a year.

“Peter fought hard in a daily struggle to stay with the family he loved. He carried this terrible illness with the same dignity and kindness that he lived his life, but ultimately it took him.”

Mr Conway is survived by his wife, Liz Riddiford, and three children, Maddy, Sean and Rosa.

My condolences to his family and friends.

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Public drinking fines fair enough

June 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A second police crackdown on drinking in public has resulted in 40 young people being fined $250 each in just three hours.

Wellington police carried out the blitz in the central city, targeting people breaching the liquor ban on Saturday night. 

After an earlier operation two weeks ago, which netted 60 people breaking the bylaw, police publicly warned  they would carry out another on Saturday. Senior Sergeant Steve Dearns, who led both operations, said he was “concerned” so many people were still being caught.

But Victoria University’s students’ association is calling the fines punitive, and says hitting young people in the pocket won’t address the causes of “pre-loading”.

There is no “cause” of pre-loading. It’s simply a decision to but alcohol from off-licenses and drink it before going to an on-license.

If they were not being violent or committing vandalis, a warning and tipping out the booze would be fairer, association president Rick Zwaan said. “This $250 fine seems to be a bit punitive.”

I think the idea is that the fine will deter them from doing it in future.

Zwaan said it was no wonder students drank in the streets when alcohol was so expensive in bars, and university hostels set curfews on drinking indoors.  “It’s pretty unaffordable to drink out in the city.” 

Oh cry me a river. First of all it is no hard to drink past the curfew in a hostel, so long as you are not too rowdy. Secondly most students have lots of friends who live in flats. To claim there is no alternative but to drink in the street is crap.



June 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Edge, at Circa, is a one person show by broadway star Angelica Page, and she is a star.

We have many good actors in NZ, but Page is in the global league. Her performance was riveting and stunning. You can see why she won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress. She has a mastery of the stage which is compelling. A slight narrowing of the eyes can convey so much. A slight change in pitch speaks volumes.

The play is about the life of Sylvia Plath, set on the day of her suicide aged 30. It’s a very sombre and gripping play. Page narrates the life of Plath ranging from her childhood to her death.

Plath, a Pulitizer Prize winner, was married to UK Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. A lot of the play focused on their relationship. He is the charming urbane womaniser, she is the neurotic masochistic victim. She is mentally unstable – her first suicide attempt was at age nine. Later in life she has electroconvulsive therapy.

An enduring controversy has been how much Hughes is to blame for her death. He left her for his mistress (who later also committed suicide, in the same manner as Plath). There were accusations he abused her, and for 20 years her gravestone was constantly vandalised to remove his name from it.

Page makes Plath real. She is funny, brittle, sad, mad, and strong at varying times. You get a picture of her loves and fears. It made me want to go buy the biography of Plath that the play is based on.

By coincidence there was a Q+A with Page after the play, moderated by Ran Henwood. A fascinating 45 minute discussion on Plath and the play. Questions ranged from whether Plath really intended to kill herself (she had many previous unsuccessful attempts which might have been cries for help) to what did people who knew Sylvia think of the play.

This isn’t a play that will appeal t everyone, but if you like dramatic solo performances, then this is as good as it gets.

It is on every second night at Circa, alternating with Turning Page (the story of Page’s famous mother), so is on Fri 12, Sun 14, Wed 17 and Sat 20 June.

Stars: ****1/2

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Uber charges dropped

June 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have dropped charges against 16 Uber drivers who were fined while  carrying passengers using the popular ridesharing app.

Uber is a free smartphone app, which connects passengers to freelance drivers in private cars.

Uber now has more than 1000 drivers in Auckland and Wellington and aims to expand throughout New Zealand.

But in Auckland, police began stopping some Uber drivers over the New Year period charging them or issued them infringement notices for using their smartphone app as a meter – a breach that would make them subject to tough taxi regulations.

Good to see common sense win out. It is not the role of the Police to work on behalf of the Taxi Federation.

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Broadband prices

June 10th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Consumers are getting a reasonable deal from phone and internet providers but are still paying over the odds for mobile broadband, according to the Commerce Commission.

The competition watchdog said telecommunications companies invested $1.69 billion in the year to June 2014, equalling the record set six years ago, despite a 1 per cent drop in industry revenues to $5.17b. Much of the investment was driven by the roll-out of ultrafast broadband (UFB).

Most of the figures in the annual report are based on a survey that is already one year old.

But they suggest Kiwis are paying broadly the same for phone and broadband plans, when compared to people in other developed countries.

Prices ranged from 22 per cent below average to 23 per cent above average, depending on technology and data caps, the commission found.

Consumers were also paying between a third and two thirds less for mobile phone calls and mobile broadband if they took up one of the $9 to $29 monthly deals offered by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

But the price of larger mobile broadband plans was still high, with a six gigabyte monthly plan costing $90 a month, more than double the average among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development states (OECD) .

That seems right to be. Home broadband plans are pretty well priced now. I have an unlimited data plan for a reasonable cost.

But the cost of a big data mobile plan is still over $100 (including phone plan also).

Broadband users chomped through an average of 32 gigabytes of fixed-line broadband data each month, up from 26Gb the previous year. Average speeds rose from 5.3 megabits per second to 7.3Mbps, achieving parity with Australia but still behind the 11Mbps average in the United States and Britain.

The Commissions reports are online here.

Some interesting stats comparing 2014 to 2008:

  • Total telco investment up from $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion a year
  • Fixed broadband connections up from 850,000 to 1,390,000
  • Average speed up from 2.7 Mb/s to 7.3 Mb/s
  • Unbundled phone lines from 3,000 to 131,000
  • Fixed call minutes down from 12 billion to 8.25 billion
  • Mobile minutes up from 3.7 billion to 5.3 billion

Why we don’t test foreign drivers

June 10th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More than 30,000 signatures was not enough to persuade the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee to listen to Sean and Cody Roberts’ petition calling for compulsory drivers test for foreign drivers.

The Geraldine youngsters, 10 and 9 respectively, collated the petition after their father, Grant Roberts was killed  in 2012 by a Chinese tourist who had been in New Zealand for less than 48 hours. Grant was travelling on a motorcycle through the Lindis Pass when he was killed.

The petition was started because the pair believed their father would still be alive had the driver completed a competency test. The brothers asked for Parliament to consider a change to legislation, so that every foreign driver was to be competency tested before being able to get behind the wheel of a rental vehicle.

The roads would be safer if every foreign driver was required to sit a competence test. Likewise they would safer if every NZ driver had to annually sit a competence test. And they would be safer if no one under the age of 25 was allowed to drive.

The test is how much impact any change would make on road safety, and what would be the impact in other areas.

If people knew that NZ was the only country in the world where tourists are not allowed to drive, unless they sit a competency test, then we’d have a lot fewer tourists.

The Select Committee heard and received evidence from the New Zealand Automobile Association, the Tourist Industry Association New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and petitioners Sean and Cody Roberts.

However it rejected compulsory testing, noting New Zealand was a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic 1949 which prevented administration of a competency based test to foreign drivers.

Which makes the whole issue rather moot.


RIP Sir Peter Williams

June 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Respected lawyer Sir Peter Williams died last night.

The 80-year-old Queen’s Counsel, who has battled prostate cancer for almost a decade, died at his Ponsonby, Auckland home about 6.30pm.

Sir Peter was one of New Zealand’s most respected legal minds and a prison reform campaigner.

He was never battle-shy, having fought for his clients in the courtroom for 60 years, and campaigned for prisoner rights.

There were times I wished Sir Peter was not such a fine lawyer, as he achieved many a “not guilty” verdict. But a fair justice system needs strong and skilled advocates, and he was definitely one of those.

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