Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

The 10th Great Walk

November 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new West Coast walk will commemorate the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine disaster.

Environment Minister Nick Smith announced plans on Sunday for the $10 million, 45-kilometre Pike29 Memorial Track from Blackball to Punakaiki, through the Paparoa National Park.

The park will be extended by 3971 hectares to include the Pike River site. Twenty-nine men died in the coal mine there following an explosion on November 19, 2010. Their bodies have not been recovered.

“[The track] has come about because of the families’ determination that some good might come out from the terrible tragedy that occurred,” Smith said.

“It will bring tourism and economic development to the West Coast, permanently protect an area of high conservation values and ensure the final resting place of the 29 miners is accessible but properly respected.”

The track will incorporate parts of the existing Croesus and Pororari River tracks and include an eight-kilometre side track to the Pike River mine, which will host an information centre and memorial. Two 20-bed huts will be built on the route. The track – New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk – is expected to be open by the end of 2018.

A Great Walk will bring tourism. I can hardly wait until it is open, as I’m working my way through the nine existing Great Walks. By March I will have done Milford, Kepler, Rakiura, Heaphy, Abel Tasman and Tongariro.


“I never met them”

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

Stuff reports:

Eighteen years on from the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, the man convicted of killing them has finally broken his silence. …

In three interviews conducted over three days from Christchurch’s Rolleston Prison, Watson maintained his innocence.

Of his arrest, he said, “I think it was because I had a criminal record and I was [at Furenaux Lodge] alone and I left alone.

“Basically, I was an easy target from them,” he told White, a former Marlborough Express reporter who covered the case from the beginning. “I was the easiest person that they could pick.

“I don’t know where Ben and Olivia are,” he said. “I’ve never met them, never seen them.

“They definitely never came on my boat and I definitely didn’t murder them. And they’ve basically dumped me in jail for half my lifetime, it must be coming up, for something I haven’t done.

I’m shocked. I thought he was going to confess.

Can anyone name a New Zealand murderer who has admitted they did it, unless caught in the act?

Anyway if Watson says they never came on his boat, yet DNA shows hairs from Olivia were on his boat, there seem to be only three possible explanations:

  1. The Police planted the evidence
  2. Ben and Olivia sneaked onto his boat without him knowing
  3. He’s lying



A fail for 3D

November 17th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Statistics lecturer Adam Smith writes in the Herald:

3D’s 22-minute piece, entitled Cause or coincidence, focused on four unfortunate young women with crippling diseases, and two who had died. They, like thousands of other girls in NZ, have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer. The majority of the piece is taken up with Paula Penfold interviewing the girls and their families.

It was shocking and sad, in more ways than one. When asked, some of the girls and parents were convinced that the vaccine was the cause, though some weren’t. Either way, as much as we feel for them, they are not qualified to make that judgement. Regardless, Paula Penfold seemed very intent on obtaining these emotive sound bites.

The science, on the other hand, barely got a mention.

There is no credible scientific evidence for the HPV vaccine increasing the risk of these, or any other, serious diseases or sudden deaths. And there has been plenty of science. For example, in 2013, this BMJ study looked at nearly one million girls in Denmark and Sweden. If an association exists, this study, or one of the many others from around the world, would almost certainly have found it. And no, the study was not funded by drug companies (see footnotes to the BMJ article).

Even if TV3 were intent on ignoring the science, why not provide some balance by interviewing families grieving for those lost to cervical cancer? How about mentioning the thousands of non-vaccinated girls with the same diseases as those in the story?

Pretty damning.

The anti-vaccine movement are lapping up TV3’s story and posting it all over social media. People will be drawn to their fanatical websites, which present thousands of sad and scary anecdotes. Sometimes they dress these anecdotes as science by quoting numbers and making graphs. They claim that the entire global medical profession is trying to kill you for a profit. This is simply preposterous. Unfortunately, the Information Age has also provides a platform for misinformation.

Vaccines are an obvious target for the blame of frustrated and grieving families. But that doesn’t mean that a one-sided selection of even thousands of anecdotes constitutes reliable evidence. Such evidence can only be provided by well-designed scientific study.

The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.

I urge the New Zealand public, when deciding on what to believe and whether to vaccinate your children, to place greater weight on the scientific evidence. The evidence here is quite clear, and it comes from literally over a million cases. In the face of it, a few emotive, cherry-picked anecdotes should not persuade you.

Cause or coincidence? TV3’s story barely establishes coincidence. It certainly doesn’t show correlation. The idea of cause is laughable.

If this is the quality of so-called investigative journalism on TV3, we’re better off without it and we should let it die. The sad reality is that this shoddy journalism will likely result in some avoidable cases of cervical cancer, which may lead to the same fate.

So maybe the death of 3D will be no bad thing. As a taxpayer I don’t want my taxes going on hysterical scaremongering. I’m happy to fund some public broadcasting, but not crap like this.


Is Red Peak racist?

November 16th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide quotes Tu Harawira:

My first preference is to stick with our present flag. My second choice was “Red Peak” – but not any more.

I didn’t know why Red Peak appealed. It just did. But thanks to Maori broadcaster Tu Harawira I now know it’s because it’s a racist flag appealing to my inner colonialist. Red Peak now disgusts me.

It came as a jolt when Harawira this week told the 24-hour Flag Summit that Red Peak symbolises “white deciding where the colours will go”.

“To me this is a symbol of the white fellas with all the colours in the corner.”

It’s true. The big white stripe has marginalised blue, red and black shapes forcing them to the margins. Who knew that Red Peak was really a racist flag! :-)

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Reddell on housing in Wellington

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

A great blog post by Michael Reddell who for his sins attended a consultation meeting by Wellington City Council. He writes:

Question 1 on the WCC consultation form says “Where should medium-density housing development happen in your suburb?”, which on the one hand presumes that people agree that such development should happen at all, and on the other leaves me scratching my head thinking “well, surely on any site where someone finds it worthwhile to do so”.   And then “what standards of design should the medium-density housing meet?”, and I’m thinking “whatever works best for developers and willing buyers”.   But I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the room last night thinking anything remotely along those lines. 

Alas such views will be unknown in any Council housing department.

Instead of a focus on facilitating landowner rights, consumer choice, and competition, the whole thing flow from a central planner’s identification that Island Bay is one of those places with a strong “town centre” and hence a candidate to promote medium-density dwelling.  I was trying to work out why Island Bay is identified and not, say Seatoun –  similar public transport, similar vintage houses –  and I can only conclude that it is because the latter lacks a supermarket, an anchor of the “town centre”.  It puzzles me what happens to the Council’s logic if the(small by modern standards) supermarket were to close

Maybe they’d then knock all the new houses and apartments down!

But part of the consultation is about preparing a “plan to guide development in Island Bay town centre”.  The so-called “town centre” is perhaps 15 private shops, in a higgledy-piggledy variety of styles, several of which are threatened by the Council/government earthquake-strengthening requirements.  But why do we need bureaucrats “planning” a “town centre” to “ensure coherency across different developments and help contribute to a more attractive and vibrant centre”?    At the meeting, the bureaucrats talked of checking to ensure that “we have located the town centre in  the right place” –  to which one response might be that the market already resolved that one more than 100 years ago. 

There’s a few shops down at the Esplanade end also. If over the next 20 years it becomes a seaside resort and ends up with 20 cafes and shops, then that’s great. We don’t need to plan where town centres and shops go.

Just like the IMF the other day, the Council is keen on only “high quality” housing, but why is that something for them to decide, rather than willing buyers and sellers?


So the Council staff were bad, but they met their match in the residents.  There was a strongly negative reaction to the notion that anyone outside Island Bay should have any say on the proposed changes – forcing staff to downplay the very suggestion.  There was a great deal of concern about protecting people’s house prices (up), but no apparent sense that allowing land to be used more intensively would, all else equal, make it more valuable not less.  There was concern about what sort of socially-undesirable people might move into these new dwellings (and this is one of the more left wing suburbs around), and so many demands for controls and restrictions that –  briefly – the Council staff were forced to defend the ideas of choice and private property rights.  One person was appalled at the idea of three storey dwellings – this is a suburb surrounded by, and partly built on, high hills.

Almost funny, if not so sad.

But the pressures to do so, and the sorts of vocal clashes I witnessed last night, arise largely because Councils are reluctant to see the physical size of the city grow.  Wellington might not have much flat land –  although most people probably don’t live on flat land in Wellington anyway –  but any time I fly in or out of the place I’m reminded that it is not short of land. 

Our city has huge amounts of land, and still close to the city centre.

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Meridian on renewables

November 16th, 2015 at 9:31 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Meridian Energy has come under fire from the Greens for trying to prevent the closure of New Zealand’s last coal-fired power generators.

Appearing in front of Parliament’s Commerce select committee, Meridian chief executive Mark Binns said New Zealand was “a long way away” from generating all its electricity from renewables, questioning whether that might ever be possible.

“If you rely on wind and hydro, if it does’t rain, you have to have something else to turn on. And at this stage, that is fossil fuel; either coal or gas,” he said.

If you want 100% renewable, you will have periods when there is no electricity. 90% is achievable, maybe even 95%. But not 100%.

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes questioned whether Meridian’s stance was compatible with the marketing messages on the company’s website, which called on consumers to switch to Meridian to “save the world from their sofa” and support renewable energy.

Binns revealed at the company’s annual meeting last week that he had asked fellow partially-privatised power company Genesis Energy to consider delaying the planned closure of its two coal-fuelled turbines at the Huntly Power station in 2018.

All of Meridian’s branding is around how they are almost all renewable energy, but it then turns out they are the ones squealing when Genesis closes Huntly as they need their coal!


Tertiary fraud

November 16th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A little over a year ago we learned a tertiary education provider, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, had given the players and staff of the New Zealand Warriors league club an 18-week tourism course in one day. An investigation into such funding irregularities resulted in the institution returning $5.9 million to the Tertiary Education Commission.

Since then, investigations into six tertiary institutions, from Southland to the Bay of Plenty, have identified more than $25 million in misappropriation. One of them, we reported this week, has been stripped of its registration.

Why is this happening on such a scale? And how is it that only one of these places has been deregistered? On the face of it, this is fraud with public funds.

This is a reasonable question. If the only sanction for shall we say creative accounting is that you have to pay the money back, then these issues are likely to continue.However if the sanction is deregistration, then tertiary providers should be far more cautious.

It is well past time that when found out, these places face much greater penalties than merely handing back the money if they can. The Serious Fraud Office needs to make an example of someone. A salutary prosecution could wake up the sector to take its social responsibility seriously. It needs to ensure no course is a waste of money and everyone’s time.

If we prosecute people for stealing $1,000 from the Government, shouldn’t we do it if they steal $25 million?

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Russia suspended from athletics 24-1

November 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

CNN reports:

The International Association of Athletics Federations voted Friday to provisionally suspend Russia as a member amid a doping scandal, the IAAF reported on its website.

The action will keep the All-Russia Athletic Federation, the nation’s leading athletic association, out of international competition for an indefinite period that may include the2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

“This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said.

“Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time,” Coe said. “But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world.”

The 24-1 vote was taken by teleconference. Russia was not allowed to vote

This is the right call, as noting short of this will convince the Russian Government that it needs to take action over drug cheating, rather than cover it up and facilitate it.

Very sad for the clean Russian athletes. They need to hope that enough changes occur so that they can compete in the Rio Olympics.

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A very well paid slave

November 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

Caddie Steve Williams said he had no idea using the word “slave” in his new autobiography to describe his relationship at times with Tiger Woods would trigger a storm of controversy that has spanned the globe.

After a New Zealand newspaper published an excerpt from his book, Out of the Rough, 10 days ago in which Williams said at times he felt he was treated “like I was his slave” while working for Woods, Williams has been heavily criticized.

It is estimated that Williams earned US$12 million while caddying for Williams. That’s not bad for having to pick his clubs up off the ground occasionally.

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Robertson on drink driving limits

November 14th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Hospitality CEO Bruce Robertson writes:

They can be funny things, laws.

We may not always agree with all of them, but a civilised society requires clear laws to function.

Those laws should be fair and reasonable, reflect the views of citizens, and be easy to understand and obey.

This is not the case with the lower drink-drive limit, brought into effect in December last year.

It’s not the law that Hospitality New Zealand takes issue with. The real issue is that police and NZTA are purposely ignoring that the law means you can have a few drinks and drive.

Worse still, they are using scare tactics to promote public ignorance of how to stay within the law.

The role of police is not to make moral judgments. Their role is to enforce the laws put in place by Parliament and catch those who break them.

So let’s be absolutely clear – it is perfectly legal for an adult to have a drink and then drive.

The law is explicit about this. It’s also explicit that there are limits. But what do limits practically mean if no one understands them?

What’s the point when those legal limits are deliberately ignored and misinterpreted by the authorities?

That’s the nub of it – the police and NZTA should not be promoting their “interpretation” of the law. Their job is to make it clear how the law applies.

The police and the NZTA decided we couldn’t handle the law or the truth. Their campaigns do not “inform” us about the limit.

They say you should not drink anything because even a few drinks will push you over the limit. This is not true.

The key point is that we should know what the legal limit is, so we can make sure we don’t break the law.

Of course one should also exercise judgement about safeness to drive regardless of the law. But we do that anyway. If one feels tried, or thinks one may be overly affected by alcohol, you often get someone else to drive.

Our “rule of thumb” shows men can have three standard drinks over two hours and women two standard drinks over two hours.

By following this simple, easy-to-understand guide, the vast majority of adults will be easily under the lower limit.

That means you safely have a couple of after-work beers with mates, or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner  – just as the law intends (and despite what the police and NZTA would have you believe).

It’s important to note, too, that we didn’t simply pull these figures out of a hat.

The rule of thumb is based on analysis by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), which fully supports it.

What’s more, our rule of thumb is even more conservative than ESR’s own recommendations. Three drinks will have most men easily within the limit.

It is conservative. A BAC calculator shows the following estimates for standard drinks to remain below 0.05 over two hours:

  • Male 80 kgs – 4.2
  • Male 70 kgs – 3.9
  • Male 90 kgs – 4.5
  • Female 60 kgs – 3.1
  • Female 70 kgs – 3.4
  • Female 80 kgs – 3.7

So the guidelines of 3 for men and 2 for women is pretty conservative.

Even a 30 kg woman will only get a BAC of 0.03 with two standard drinks over two hours.  And unless a male weighs under 45 kgs, three standard drinks will have them under 0.05. Of course there is some variation beyond weight and gender but the guideline of three and two for men and women looks very sensible.

Now you may argue that any alcohol is too much, and there is increased risk at below 0.05. Well here’s the official data on BAC levels in fatally injured drivers.

BAC of 31 to 50

  • 2014 – 0/171
  • 2013 – 0/164
  • 2012 – 1/183
  • 2011 – 3/183
  • 2010 – 2/227
  • 2009 – 1/238



A new Wellington-Hutt link

November 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A $35 million seaside path linking Wellington and the Hutt Valley has been confirmed.

The NZ Transport Agency announced on Friday it had plumped for the more expensive seaside route for a cycle and pedestrian pathway to finally unite the valley and the city, and siphon cyclists off the busy highway.

Consent applications were expected to be lodged next year and the agency would look to start construction on the pathway in 2019 at the latest.

Wellington Cycling Action Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said the decision was a long time coming, with calls for a cycleway mentioned in Hansard records from 1905.

“This ticks all the boxes, it’s going to be a great tourism asset, it’s going to ease traffic congestion and make parking easier in Wellington.”

He said the pathway would boost cycle safety by drawing riders away from the highway.

“Most people can’t travel between the Hutt and Wellington by bike, because they don’t want to mix with State Highway 2 traffic.”

There is a sort of cycleway at the moment but it is very narrow and stops 250 metres from Petone, on the wrong side of the road. So to get to Petone you have to then cycle into oncoming traffic!

A proper dedicated path for cycling, walking and running will be very popular.  Once it is built I’ll be brunching in Petone a lot more!

In a rare moment of motorist and cyclist unity, the Automobile Association’s motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the announcement was “very good news”.

“It’s extremely good news because the current route is inadequate and forcing people to ride on the road, which is a much higher risk.”

Agency central regional director Raewyn Bleakley said the preferred option would act as a buffer against events such as the 2013 storm that saw waves crashing onto the railway and highway, “contributing to massive disruption”, she said.

Frith said the extended seawall would prevent debris being blown inland from the sea and would be designed to “minimise sea spray and, where possible, to withstand environmental effects”.

“It will be well maintained to ensure it is kept clear of any hazards for cyclists. The result will be a far safer route for cyclists, and a more resilient rail and road corridor.”

So good for motorists also.

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Why Christchurch City Council should sell down it’s airport shares

November 13th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Christchurch Airport is fully Government owned – 75% Christchurch City Council and 25% NZ Government.

Christchurch City Council is very short of money – it faces having to borrow a lot of money, unless it can free up capital.

I’ve been sent an interesting analysis of performance stats of the three main NZ airports. They are:

  • Christchurch dividend $148 million vs Wellington dividend $399 million
  • Returns on aeronautical assets is 1.1% for Christchurch, 5.7% Wellington and 6.0% Auckland
  • Earnings per passengers is $2,52 for Christchurch, $8.00 Wellington and $9.40 Auckland

Domestic violence killings

November 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A review of the law could make it easier for battered family violence victims who kill their abusers to avoid a murder charge.

The Law Commission had been asked by Minister of Justice Amy Adams to review how victims of domestic violence are dealt with by the law if they strike back against their partner or family member and kill them.

On Wednesday, the Commission released an Issues Paper identifying several areas where our justice system could be letting down victims who kill their abusers.

Adams has previously called New Zealand’s domestic violence record “horrific” and said in August that combating family violence was her top priority.

The Commission’s paper echoed Adams’ concerns, pointing out that family violence was a “significant problem” in New Zealand, with nearly half of all homicides family violence-related.

“Most homicides are committed by people with a history of aggression but sometimes, people who have been victims of long-term physical, sexual and psychological violence kill their abusers”, the paper said.

“Usually, although not always, such people are women who have suffered years of violence by male intimate partners.”

Lead commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp said victims of domestic violence who go on to kill their partners are usually charged with murder.

One of the key questions for the Commission was whether New Zealand should introduce a new partial defence, reducing murder to manslaughter, for victims of family violence.  

“When victims of family violence kill their abusers, they are often acting in response to years of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

“Homicide is one of the most important areas of the criminal law and it may not adequately recognise the position of victims of family violence,” Mapp said.

I’m somewhat nervous about this. The law currently allows a finding of self-defence if someone kills to defend themselves from an active attack, or threatened attack.

This potential change is about someone who doesn’t kill in the middle of a fight, but who kills their partner in basically cold blood.

Now I have sympathy that some victims of domestic violence (which I abhor) may feel it is the only way out. However it is preferable to leave your partner rather than kill them. It’s not as simple as that, but still the punishment for domestic violence should be jail, not death.

Having said that manslaughter is still a very serious offence. I just don’t know one should use that term for something that is pre-meditated.

Maybe we should not use the terms murder and manslaughter but instead just have degrees of homicide?

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Welcome competition on the North America route

November 11th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Dreams of an air fare war between New Zealand the United States have been realised, with Air NZ today slashing its airfares to Los Angeles just as American Airlines confirmed it will start flying here in June.

Air NZ has cut fares to Los Angeles to $499 from around $785. American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker said it hadn’t set its fares yet but said it would be competitive.

The airline is the world’s biggest and will use a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route –
breaking Air New Zealand’s stranglehold on direct services between Auckland and the United States.

Great to see American Airlines enter the market, and we’re already seeing the benefit.

Usefully the alliance with Qantas means one can not just travel Auckland to LA, but also have connecting domestic connections in each country.


They forgot the Supreme Court building

November 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff has an article and poll on NZ’s ugliest buildings.

The options are:

  • The former Auckland Council building, Greys Ave
  • The Hilton, 147 Quay St, Auckland
  • The Spencer on Byron Hotel, Takapuna
  • The Base Shopping Centre, Hamilton
  • City council building, Palmerston North
  • PMTC Building, Palmerston North
  • The Beehive, Wellington
  • The former Government Life building, Christchurch
  • Civic House, Nelson

But how could they leave off the Supreme Court building?


Photo: John Ansell

After a few weeks of not seeing it I forget how ugly it is, until I view it again.

It is so beautiful inside, but the exterior looks like a Stalinist building with a barbed wire fence.


Drink drive limits

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

Stuff reports:

Police have been accused of “scaring” motorists over the lower drink-driving limit, with suggestions people should avoid even a sip of the hard stuff.

Hospitality New Zealand has published a “rule of thumb” drinking-then-driving guide that will soon be placed in most bars and pubs in the country.

The guide, which has approval from government science agency ESR, recommends no more than three standard drinks over two hours for men, and two standard drinks over two hours for women.

It comes with caveats, such as how much and what types of foods you have been eating, and your size.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said the organisation was forced to act after police and the New Zealand Transport Agency dragged their heels over publicising how much can be drunk under the new limit, instead suggesting no-one should drink at all.

“Police should be enforcing the limit, not scaring people into drinking less than that,” he said.

“Clearly you can have a couple, and the public needs some clarity about that.”

Robertson hits out a one particular NZTA television advertisement, in which a woman is found over the limit after a couple of drinks at dinner.

“They are saying you have two drinks and you’re over, but our evidence is that just not accurate.”

I do wish the Police would focus on being the criminal Police not the moral Police.

The drink-driving limit was cut from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg at the beginning of December 2014.

Since then, thousands of people have been caught driving below the old limit, accounting for nearly a third of all drink-driving offences.

The change has also coincided with a 14 per cent drop in the number of people caught with high levels – proof, police say, that the change is saving lives.

That isn’t proof the change is saving lives. That is proof that fewer people are caught with higher levels. It could well be saving lives but to know that one has to look at fatal crash data to see if the number involving alcohol has gone up or down.

In 2014 31 out of 171 dead drivers had blood alcohol over the legal limit. So it will be interesting to see what the 2015 data is, when complete. I hope it will be lower.


Will Russia be banned?

November 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An international anti-doping commission recommended on Monday that Russia’s Athletics Federation be banned from the sport over widespread doping offences – a move that could see the powerhouse Russian team excluded from next year’s Rio Olympics.

The commission, set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), found a “deeply rooted culture of cheating” in Russian athletics. But it also identified what it called systemic failures in the global governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The international police body Interpol said it would coordinate a global investigation into suspected corruption and doping in athletics.

The commission said in its report that the London 2012 Olympics had been “sabotaged” by the widespread inaction of international and national anti-doping authorities.

“For 2016 our recommendation is that the Russian Federation be suspended, in fact one of our hopes is that they will volunteer that, so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework if you like,” Dick Pound, president of WADA, told a news conference in Geneva.

Russia finished second behind the United States in the medal table at the 2012 Olympics, with 17 medals, eight of them gold, and has long been one of the chief players in track and field.

Russia really is regressing to the old Soviet Union, which of course was world leaders in doping.

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Disagreeing with Roughan

November 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Roughan writes:

What a strange thing it was that Sonny Bill Williams did. All the previous strange things in his career have been blamed on his manager but there was nobody in Sonny Bill’s ear when he decided to give his Rugby World Cup winner’s medal away.

It was his own spontaneous gesture to a lad who had run out to the All Blacks during their victory lap and had been tackled by a Twickenham security guard. The kid was not hurt and probably not surprised to be tackled. Williams and Steve Hansen picked him up, put an arm around him and Williams steered him back to the fence where on a parting impulse he gave the kid his medal.

A trifle excessive, I thought. Also a bit demeaning for the prize the All Blacks had just won, and I wondered what his teammates thought. I also hoped the boy’s parents would realise it was a needless gesture, probably made in a moment of excitement when the man was not thinking clearly, and one he would later regret.

I hoped they would later offer it back, which indeed they did, Williams has said. But he told them, “Nah, better he has it than it hang on my wall”. Was he modestly depreciating his generosity or did he really not want this thing?

I think it was a spontaneous gesture with the best of motivations. It was a realisation that to a young fan, the medal would have perhaps a lifetime of impact, which was greater than having it was to Sonny Bill.

This doesn’t mean he doesn’t value it, but that what he values more is the actual achievement of helping win the Rugby World Cup, rather than the medal that goes with it. The memories, the photos, the actual event are what mean the most to the players. The medal is a tangible record of it, but is not the end in itself.

He is not alone among top sportsmen is having little interest in keeping memorabilia – but it is fairly unusual to give it away a moment after it has been draped around their neck. Insulting too. His teammates might never say whether they found it insulting but as a fan, I did.

It felt like a betrayal of our enthusiasm for their achievement and the exquisite agony of those early mornings on the couch.

I don’t know whether I’m more disappointed in Williams or the many who see it as an utterly admirable act of generosity.

I’m one of those. I think it was a reflection of the All Black culture we now have about being role medals, and inspiring young people. There should be no expectation ever that any sportsperson should do what SBW did, but when it happens as it did, let’s just celebrate it in an uncomplicated way, rather than psychoanalyse it.

Most human beings get pleasure from giving other people pleasure. It can be as simple as that.

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This is why we should promote citizenship

November 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Lilian Turner, 95, who faced deportation to Britain, where she had not lived since after the end of World War II, has been granted residence.

The widow’s case comes as the Law Society and immigration lawyers say they are seeing an increasingly tough stance on deportations by Immigration New Zealand.

But the agency said while it was focused on immigrants with criminal convictions, and those who posed a threat to national security, it had no intention of deporting Mrs Turner.

The appeals tribunal decision brings to an end a 13-year battle for Mrs Turner to regain the residence status she had nearly 40 years ago.

Mrs Turner and her husband moved to New Zealand in the 1970s, but their permanent resident status lapsed when they moved back to Africa.

Of course it is right she keeps her residency status, but for me this highlights why we should be promoting citizenship more, and restricting certain rights such as voting to citizens. If Mrs Turner had become a citizen during her 30 years living here, then she’d never have to worry about residency. But many do not become citizens because there are so few benefits in doing so.


Less discrimination in NZ workplaces

November 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand workplaces are more diverse and accepting than those in Australia, an employment study says.

Research by human resources and recruitment company Randstad shows 78 per cent of New Zealand workers believed their company had an open and inclusive culture and 88 per cent valued diversity in the workplace.

The study of at least 400 New Zealand employees aged between 18 and 65 said 16 per cent of workers had experienced gender discrimination, compared to the global average of 21 per cent.

The study surveyed workers in 33 other countries, including Australia, where 25 per cent of workers said they had experienced discrimination.

Religious discrimination affected 9 per cent of New Zealand workers compared to 16 per cent in Australia, which was equal to the global average.

New Zealand was ranked one of the most tolerant towards workers of different races, with 10 per cent having suffered racial discrimination at work, compared to 20 per cent in Australia and a global average of 17 per cent.

So the levels of discrimination experienced in NZ workplaces was:

  • Gender 16% vs 25% globally
  • Religion 9% vs 16% globally
  • Race 10% vs 17% globally

A dangerous local loon

November 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Facebook page belonging to an Auckland man shows pictures of him posing with an Islamic State flag, holding an AK47-style rifle and speaking of his role in a holy war. …

Mr SaifuAllah, 23, told the Herald that he “100 per cent” supported the views and actions of Islamic State.

He said he changed his name three years ago but was born as William Ringo Ratapu-Howard in South Auckland, where he still lives.

He said the Government had confiscated his passport last year, stopped him travelling to Sydney in May where he planned to marry his Lebanese fiancée and that he had repeatedly been questioned by the SIS about his beliefs.

Mr SaifuAllah said he converted to Islam about three years ago to escape his life of drugs and crime.

“I was in Black Power. I couldn’t see my life going anywhere, I was having a bad life, I was a gang member.”

His older brother found the religion first, and introduced it to their mother and then him, he said.

The religion has led him away from those aspects of his past. However, he has also been introduced to radical beliefs that see him sympathise with the terror group.

Maybe people will realise that when the Government says there are a non-trivial number of extremists in New Zealand, they’re not just making it up.

One can hope he is one of those who is talk, not action. But you never know. Australia has had several who have gone from talk to action.

Mr SaifuAllah has multiple photos and comments on his Facebook page professing allegiance to the terrorist group.

In a 2014 interview with TVNZ, he said he did not support the views of the terror organisation. He does now.

“These are my views and I support them 100 percent,” he said.

His photos are captioned with war cries and comments made this week spoke of his role in a holy war fought so “one day Islam will dominate everything that the sun sets on”.

He has images of the Islamic State flag and other propaganda from the terrorist group.

Photos and graphics show soldiers, war cries and religious quotes.

Comments in recent days show his allegiance to these sentiments. “One day Islam will dominate everything that the sun sets on meaning the whole earth,” he said on Wednesday.

Personally I’d let him travel to Syria so long as he agrees to cancel his NZ citizenship and never come back.

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Women of Influence winners

November 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some great winners in the Women of Influence Awards. They include:

Businesswoman Joan Withers has been named the supreme winner at this year’s Women of Influence awards.

Judges said her work championing board diversity and striving to close the gender gap resulted in a unanimous decision.

Withers left school at 16 years old and worked as a junior bank teller before moving up the ranks of the advertising world. …

She is currently the chairwoman of Mighty River Power and TVNZ, a director of ANZ and a member of the Treasury Advisory Board.

She also spent two years as The Radio Network chief executive, fours years as Fairfax Media chief executive and about 15 years as an Auckland International Airport director and chairwoman.

The Women of Influence Awards – a partnership between Fairfax Media and Westpac – celebrate the leading women shaping the future of New Zealand.

I find it amusing that Westpac is a partner in the awards, and an ANZ Director wins :-)

Withers is a great choice – highly respected.

Linda Jenkinson won for her entrepreneurial success in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand. 

From Palmerston North, but now based in San Francisco, Jenkinson is a serial entrepreneur and was the first New Zealand woman to take a company public on the NASDAQ exchange.

She is currently the chairwoman and owner of LesConcierges, the largest luxury corporate concierge company in the world, catering to more than 65 million members. 

Getting a company onto the NASDAQ is no mean feat.

Vicky Robertson won for her continued focus on results and ability to work effectively across a wide range of stakeholder groups.

Whether it was speaking about the competition policy at the 1995 APEC summit in Osaka, reviewing the Climate Change Policy and KiwiSaver scheme or leading Treasury to explore new approaches to policy design, judges said she makes a huge impact for a prosperous New Zealand.

Robertson has just been appointed the CE of the Ministry for the Environment.

Community and not-for-profit

This award was won by Stacey Shortall for the depth and breadth of her contribution and influence in her work with children.

This includes developing a weekly homework club at a decile one school, initiatives in the battle against domestic violence, advocating against violence toward children and developing a prison programme to help jailed mothers maintain meaningful connections with their children.

A partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, Shortall has been recognised as a leading lawyer in New Zealand by Chambers, The Legal 500, Legal Media Group and NZ Lawyer.

Amazing she has time to do all that and be a partner in a major law firm.


Rugby World Cup power consumption

November 6th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


This is a graph of power consumption for the last two Sundays. You can see the impact of the Rugby World Cup Final with the increase at 4.15 am as people start getting up. And a big spike at half time as people put on the jug, went to the toilet, opened the fridge door etc.

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The six main threats to NZ

November 6th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

‘We think there are six security problems that you should really worry about,” our spies told Prime Minister John Key.

Top of the list? “Violent extremism in New Zealand and by New Zealanders.”

The top-secret list was revealed in the Briefing to the Incoming Minister provided by the heads of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

It was obtained by the Herald through the Official Information Act after the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman and – with redactions – shows how Mr Key and Attorney General Chris Finlayson were briefed when returned to government in October last year.

The concern about “violent extremism” appeared linked to concerns over the ability of the extremist group Isis (Islamic State) to export terror and was linked to observations “significant migration” was “creating communities [in New Zealand] with distinct identities and links to overseas”.

A very interesting document. It’s good the Herald were able to get it. The six main threats are:

1 Violent extremism in NZ and by New Zealanders – the report warns migration is creating communities with “distinct identities and links overseas”. It appears to reflect information the SIS has learned from Muslim communities.

2 Loss of information and data – the means by which a cyber attack is done is “easier to acquire and easy to combine with insider threats”. It poses economic and reputational risks.

3 Hostile intelligence operations in and against the country – the report warns of “industrial espionage” against companies and “targeting of New Zealanders by foreign governments”. Again, the consequence of increased migration could be linked to these concerns.

4 Mass arrivals – the entire small section is redacted, but John Key has previously spoken of concern over boat-loads of refugees making landfall in New Zealand.

5 Trans-national organised crime – drugs, money-laundering and illegal fishing are highlighted, brought about by an “open economy, the internet and established networks among migrant communities”.

6 Instability in the South Pacific – the entire section is blanked out, but the SIS has had a close focus on Fiji, its leadership and anti-regime movements in New Zealand and Australia.


Wendys and alcohol

November 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The moral police are up in arms in Christchurch reports Stuff:

Opposition to Wendy’s Hornby’s bid for a liquor licence is building as it emerges there are 17 other places that sell alcohol within a kilometre of the fast-food outlet.

A misleading figure as only six are on-licenses.

Wendy’s Hornby, on Main South Rd, has applied to the Christchurch City Council for a liquor licence between 8am and 11pm, seven days a week.

It is the first-fast food outlet in New Zealand to make such a move.

I don’t think I have eaten at a Wendy’s for 20 years. But if they want to be able to sell beer along with their food, and they comply with the law, why not. Why is a fast food restaurant deemed unsuitable and cafes and other restaurants deemed okay?

Council information supplied to Woods showed there were 17 licensed premises selling alcohol within 1km of the Wendy’s outlet.

“I think there’s plenty of places in the Hornby area where people can go and enjoy a meal and get a drink with it. I don’t think there’s any need for us to be licensing our fast-food restaurants.”

There were six on-licence premises within 1km of Wendy’s Hornby, five club licences and six off-licences, according to the council information.

The 17 number is deceptive as the fact you can buy some wine at a bottle store isn’t a substitute for whether you can have a drink with your meal. So it is really six on-licenses over 100 hectares of area.

Nora Rangi said she would stop taking her seven grandchildren to Wendy’s if the application was granted.

And that’s a fine response. But the owner of Wendy’s should get to make the decision on whether allowing beer and wine with food will lead to more or fewer customers.

In her submission, she said it allowed easy access to view alcohol consumption for young people.

No it is an offence to sell to under 18s, and the Police are vigorous with doing spot checks and prosecuting those who break the law. If Wendy’s sold to under agers they would lose any licence they gained.

Vicki Bretherton said she was worried about Hornby students and the fact people under 18 could be serving alcohol to customers.

No, under 18s can’t sell alcohol.

Several people said they felt comfortable sending their children to Wendy’s unsupervised, but that would change if the application was successful.

And that is not a decision for authorities. That is a decision from them and Wendy’s. If customers don’t like Wendy’s selling alcohol, then stop going. But don’t try and stop them from doing so, unless there is some reason to think they will breach liquor laws.

Wendy’s chief executive Danielle Lendich said last week the company wanted guests to enjoy a beer with a burger if they chose to, and it was a way for Wendy’s to “up its game”.

Non-alcoholic beverages would still be available, and no alcohol would be served at the drive- through or for takeaway guests.

“Many other family and quick service restaurants have liquor licences including Valentines, the old Cobb & Co, Denny’s and Lone Star, and many QSR [quick service restaurant] concepts that have opened more recently also have liquor licences including Burger Burger, Mexicali Fresh, Zambrero, The Coffee Club and Columbus, ” she said.
“Our principal business will remain the provision of meals to the public and we have no intention of becoming a bar or hangout where people sit all night and drink beer.”
I don’t see what all the fuss is about.