Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Grey Power wants legal pot

July 12th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

A group of Northland retirees who have never taken illegal drugs have started a petition to legalise marijuana.

The Otamatea chapter of Grey Power unanimously voted in May in favour of legalising the drug.

They have now started a petition, which they sent out to all the other 32 Grey Power chapters around the country.

Otamatea Grey Power president Beverley Aldridge said the drug had been used medically for over 10,000 years and it was only since 1961 when many governments made it illegal.

“None of our [members] actually takes it yet, but we want to be able to take it. We’ve seen our loved ones – you know, family and friends – dying in extreme pain and we don’t want to go through that.”

I’m all in favour of Grey Power campaigning to legalise pot.

My worry is that they’ll then demand they get taxpayer funded discounts on it, via their Super Gold Cards!

Radio NZ abandons comments

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

Radio NZ reports:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.”

And so, news websites began turning off comments sections. Popular Science, CNN, Mic.com, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Daily Beast have all turned off comments in the past couple of years.

“It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations,” wrote The Week’s editor-in-chief Ben Frumin. “Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation.”

When RNZ switched on comments last year, it was an experiment to see whether we could create a space where thoughtful and insightful comments would thrive.

And while the comments have been, for the most part, exactly that, there haven’t been many people involved in that conversation.

More and more, the conversations around RNZ’s journalism are happening elsewhere. We want to focus on making those spaces reflect that journalism and our charter.

As part of our upcoming overall redesign of the website, we’ll be making it easier for you to find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and you can always email us, text us, or even send us an actual letter.

Interesting things are happening around comments, like the Coral Project, and we will be watching those.

To use the parlance of the internet, this isn’t a flounce, it’s TTFN.

Integrated ticketing for Wellington

July 12th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Greater Wellington Regional Council is working towards one card for all bus travel across the region.

The council is working with Snapper Services to create an integrated ticketing system for the region, which is expected to be rolled out early in 2018.

At present, the Snapper card system is used only by NZ Bus, which runs Go Wellington, the Valley Flyer and Airport Flyer buses.

About time. Very frustrating that Snapper can only be used on some routes.

Air NZ on Wellington Airport runway

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

Richard Thomson of Air NZ writes at Stuff:

Air New Zealand celebrated a milestone last week when we landed a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at Wellington Airport.

Having the Dreamliner on the tarmac at Wellington prompted enquiries about whether we were trying to make a subtle point about the proposed Wellington Airport runway extension.

Our position on the runway extension isn’t that subtle, it is very clear. The problem with flying long haul from Wellington isn’t the length of the runway.

The problem is the size of the local travel market, there are simply not enough travellers from the Wellington region or even the lower North Island to sustain regular direct services to any of our long haul destinations; certainly not enough to justify the tremendous investment in infrastructure and the millions of dollars of on-going cost required to support them.

That is why – regardless of the length of the runway – we won’t operate long haul services out of Wellington. The numbers just don’t stack up relative to the costs involved in addressing the perceived problem.

Wellington has better air links to the world than it has ever had. It is close to two large, competitive aviation hubs and from September will have a new way to Singapore through Canberra on our alliance partner Singapore Airlines.

Air New Zealand is committed to supporting that service, but there is a good reason it’s travelling via Canberra – Singapore Airlines knows the passenger flows out of Wellington can’t sustain a direct service.

A longer runway may bring new airlines to Wellington such as South China. It is possible they will do direct flights to Asia from Wellington. But the evidence suggests it is less than likely. Christchurch has around the same population, and a very long runway, and very few direct flights overseas beyond Australia.  They do get flights to Singapore and Guangzhou but not North America.

Despite the reticence expressed by ourselves and all other airlines, Wellington Airport is pushing ahead with its runway extension project.

The reason for this is simple. Even if no new services are attracted, and even if it is paid for from the public purse, the airport will be able to recover the cost of the runway extension through landing fees from existing users and airlines.

The airport will make money under any circumstance, while existing airlines and travellers will be forced to pay.

It’s not for us to tell Wellingtonians how their rates should be spent. But, it is important to understand these dynamics to properly understand why the airport company is so keen, and airlines are so cautious, on the runway extension.

I’m in favour of the runway extension, but believe it should be funded by the airport company primarily – not by ratepayers and taxpayers.

Wellington by building height

July 8th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

wellington heights

An interesting map of Wellington shaded by building height. Done by Rupert Applin and based on a Guardian one on English cities.

A full size version is here.

Airline Pilots’ Association loses in court

July 8th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The High Court in Wellington has backed a decision that a 90-metre safety area for an extended Wellington Airport runway is sufficient, turning down a bid by pilots who wanted a review because they didn’t regard it as long enough.

Justice Karen Clark yesterday rejected an application for judicial review of the Civil Aviation director’s decision by the New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association saying the director didn’t make an error in law in reaching the conclusion, nor was the consultation process with the NZAPA inadequate.

The association, which represents about 2,200 pilots and air traffic controllers, sought to have the decision reviewed, claiming the 90-metre runway end safety area was too short and needed to be 240 metres.

A good decision. I’m not sure the 350 metre extension is affordable, but adding on a further 150 metres would mean it definitely wouldn’t be affordable.

Amanda Banks gets a judicial apology

July 8th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A High Court judge has made a public apology to John Banks’ wife after questioning her credibility as a witness.

The ex-politician was back in court today seeking $190,000 costs over the trial that saw his wrongful conviction for a false electoral return.

That conviction was essentially based on Justice Edwin Wylie preferring Kim Dotcom and Mona Dotcom’s evidence over that of Amanda Banks but the Court of Appeal overturned that after Mrs Banks tracked down witnesses to a lunch at which Mr Dotcom had wrongly claimed the donations were discussed.

After hearing submissions from both parties today, Justice Edwin Wylie called Banks into the body of the court from the public gallery.

“It’s important I say this in public with the benefit of what I now know,” he said.

Justice Wylie acknowledged the assessment he made about Mrs Banks was “an error” and asked the former MP to pass on his apologies to his wife.

I’m pretty sure the apology to Amanda will be more important to John Banks than the amount of costs he wins back.

Radio NZ and Hager

July 8th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A reader has sent me this OIA response from Radio NZ regarding their collaboration with TVNZ and Nicky Hager. It outlines how taxpayer money was spent on paying for an exclusive that turned out to be a fizzer. Remember all this information was being released publicly anyway. They just spent taxpayers money on trying to get an exclusive.

I wouldn’t think they should hold out hope for more funding the next time they make a budget bid!

Key points of interest are:

  1. The idea to pay Hager seems to have come from Guyon Espiner
  2. Despite all the talk of how restricted their funding is, they had their chequebook ready to go from the beginning
  3. They appear to have both paid the ICIJ to become a “partner” and paid Hager as an “independent investigator”
  4. They appear to have offered setting up Gmail addresses for people
  5. They have with-held some info on the basis of it being a trade secret!

UPDATE: Just had a phone call from Guyon Espiner who has clarified that he did not propose paying Hager. His e-mail references are about Radio NZ joining the ICIJ, not hiring Hager. I accept this entirely. The e-mails I got sent are a partial set, and it was not clear what the references were in relation to.

Update2: A fuller set of e-mails has been released to me and can be viewed here.

Radio Nz OIA by David Farrar on Scribd

Guest Post: David Garrett

July 8th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A  guest post by David Garrett:

R vs. Shailer and Haerewa – The Attorney General’s explanation raises more questions than it answers.

Last Monday, Tania Shailer and David Haerewa were sentenced in the Rotorua High Court for the “manslaughter” of three year old  Moko Rangitoheriri. The sentence of 17 years was  one of the longest – if not the longest – imposed in New Zealand for the manslaughter of a child. The two animals who killed Moko must serve at least nine years before being eligible for parole. Sadly, the sentence will almost certainly be appealed, and probably reduced.  Even if it is not, Moko’s killers will spend much less time in jail than they would have if they had been convicted of murder- as I believe they undoubtedly  would have been  if they had faced trial for the murder charges originally laid against them.

The sentence – manslaughter vs, murder

Let me clarify the issue of sentence length. The ill informed have claimed that the sentence handed down  is about the same as they would have got for murder. That is utterly wrong. Had the killers been convicted of murder, the Judge could have sent them to prison for the rest of their lives under changes to the Sentencing Act  made in 2010. It would have been a brave Judge who imposed the first ever LWOP sentence handed down in New Zealand, but last Monday Justice Katz showed herself to be not lacking in courage, and not particularly concerned about the almost inevitable appeal.

Had she not imposed LWOP, she would certainly have been persuaded that a life sentence with a minimum non parole period (NPP) of at least 17 years was appropriate – in other words an NPP of double what Shailer and her odious boyfriend received for manslaughter.

They would have been given an NPP of at least 17 years because of s.104 of the Sentencing Act, which lists 10 factors, any one of which justifies increasing the minimum NPP for murder from 10 years to at least 17.  In Moko’s case, there were  at least two such factors: that the murder was committed with a high degree of brutality, cruelty, depravity, or callousness; and that the victim  was particularly vulnerable because of his age.

So, in my view and in the view of many others with an understanding of the criminal law, Moko’s killers literally got away with murder. Why and how did that happen?

Here is what we know: 1) The Crown originally laid charges of murder against the pair; 2) at some later point, negotiations were initiated by one side or the other, and a deal was done under which Shailer and Haerewa would plead guilty to manslaughter; 3) the original murder charges were then withdrawn, and manslaughter charges were laid in their stead, to which the killers then, no doubt very gratefully, pleaded guilty.

Here is what we don’t know: 1) If there were all the claimed  myriad problems in obtaining a murder conviction against one or both, why were the murder  charges laid in the first place; 2) who initiated the negotiations which led to the substitution of charges (the Attorney General doesn’t seem to like the colloquial term “plea bargain”) which led to the charges of murder being downgraded?

In response to various media criticism of the seemingly inexplicable decision – including an op-ed piece by retired Judge Roy Wade –  Attorney General Finlayson released a sneering condescending statement a couple of weeks ago  condemning “ill informed speculation on blogs and  in rags like the Sunday papers” and saying that he would explain “in words of one syllable” after sentencing why the decision was made.

The Attorney General’s explanation

Shortly after the sentence was announced last Monday, Finlayson released his “explanation” – a statement that was markedly less imperious and insulting than his first. I have little doubt that John Key had a hand in the markedly different tone in the second statement.  The problem – as Judge Roy Wade and others quickly noted – was that the “explanation” raised more questions than it answered. In fact, the explanation was – at best – disingenuous.

For a start, Finlayson claims that the problem with the  murder charges lay in proving “murderous intent”. Proving an intention to murder is always problematic: very few killers shout “I am going to kill you” – in the presence of a surviving witness – before they shoot or stab someone. For that and other reasons, the Crimes Act provides  an alternative to murderous intent as the basis for a conviction for murder.

Section 167 (b) of the Crimes Act contains a two limbed test to found a charge of murder: firstly that an  offender “means to cause… bodily injury that is known to the offender to be likely to cause death”; and  secondly, that the offender is reckless as to whether death ensues or not.

We know from the evidence  – including the sickening pathologist’s report – what was done to Moko. His many potentially fatal injuries,  any one of which might have killed him, are now so well known that they don’t need repeating. Unlike the Kahui case – which other ill informed commentators have compared this to – there was no-one else in the frame: Shailer and Haerewa were the only two adults who could have inflicted the injuries. In addition, there was eye witness evidence of Moko’s eight year old sister – a child more than old enough to give evidence considered reliable.

While Shailer offered some doubtless spurious evidence of her supposed mental illness, neither killer claimed to be mentally sub-normal. Quite frankly, only a moron could possibly have thought that  the injuries they inflicted were not,  in the words of s.167 (b) “likely to cause death”.  It gets even worse for the killers. Harewa admitted to police that he had “killed Moko” by knowing how badly injured he was, and failing to seek medical help. (Statement of facts, page 8). And in her sentencing notes, Justice Katz found that Haerewa was the less culpable, albeit barely.

Justice Katz also found that the two killers were engaged in a “joint enterprise” – in other words the recklessness  of one was all that was required to convict both, especially if that recklessness is established as being present in the slightly less culpable of the two killers.

That technical point notwithstanding, it is simply not credible that both the killers did not  know that what they had done was life threatening. It is quite clear from what they did, and more importantly  didn’t do, that they were, at the very least,  utterly indifferent to what would happen as a result of the injuries they had inflicted. In other words, again to quote the Crimes Act, they were “reckless as to whether death ensued or not”

So why does the Attorney General  say the prosecution might have had difficulty proving “murderous intent”? They didn’t need to. They only had to prove the two limbs of s.167 (b), and there is an abundance of evidence to so prove.

The next question Finlayson’s statement fails to answer is why, if there were such problems, the charges of murder were laid in the first place? The Crown Solicitor at Rotorua is apparently a highly experienced Crown prosecutor with a number of murder trials under her belt. She evidently felt she had enough evidence to obtain convictions for murder, or surely she would not have laid the murder charges at the outset.

Nonetheless, for reasons still unknown, she changed her mind and entered into a plea bargain with the defence lawyers. Why did she do that?  We are told that certain damning  information only  came to light after  the deal was done, and that perhaps it would not have come out had the charges not been reduced. That is surely a very smelly red herring?  The decision to downgrade the charges, and accept a guilty plea to them,  was made before   the alleged further evidence came to light. It therefore cannot have been a factor in the decision to downgrade the charges.

Before turning to the final question, let us deal with the Attorney’s claim that plea bargaining doesn’t happen here. In so arguing, he is adopting a very narrow definition of “plea bargain”, one which applies in some of the states of the US but not others. In short, in some states the deal includes both the reduced charges and the sentence – we have all seen the American TV shows. In others, just the reduced charges are agreed, and the Judge is presented with a range of sentencing options. In still other states, a Judge must sign off on the deal. The fact is,  what is now happening here is plea bargaining in all but name.

Lastly, we do not know whether the defence or the Crown  initiated the negotiations which led to the plea bargain. What we do  know is that under changes made in 2013, the Crown may initiate such discussions, and not just maintain the charade that such discussions are  always initiated  by the defence.  We do not know where the initiative came from in this case, and it would seem we will now never know – or at least not until the information leaks in the gossip ridden legal fraternity, as it always does.

Last Monday thousands of people marched, some in the most inclement weather, demanding Justice for Moko. Did he receive it? Not as far as I am concerned he didn’t. It remains a shameful and shabby case which reflects little credit on many of the players involved in it. Not least the system that now allows such deals as were made to be done.

Alleged victim convicted of assault

July 7th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A fight outside an east Auckland bar which made New Year’s headlines has finally been unravelled in court.

Shona Maiden, 46, sparked a public uproar when she claimed to have been punched for speaking te reo as she was leaving the 123 Casino Karaoke Bar in Howick in the early hours of the morning.

She claimed a man took issue with that and questioned why a “Palagi” (European) would use such words, before hitting her in the mouth.

But the truth was cloudier and came out after both she and 43-year-old Ernest Opai were charged by police.

CCTV footage showed she had punched him several times outside the bar and witnesses told officers there had been words exchanged between the pair throughout the night.

Despite initially telling the Herald the attack had been unprovoked, Maiden admitted a count of common assault and in March was sentenced to what amounted to a one-year good behaviour bond.

Today, Opai had his punishment dished out after pleading guilty to an identical charge.

Judge Gerard Winter sentenced him to 80 hours of community work and 6 months supervision.

The judge labelled it “alcohol-fuelled violence” after hearing Opai had drunk eight bottles of beer leading up to the fight.

There’s a growing trend we see of people claiming they are being victimised for something, and the truth coming out later. A high profile case in the US also.

They should be shamed as their false claims undermine people who really do get assaulted and harrassed due to who they are.

No tag for this post.

Armed robber defeated by his own stupidity

July 7th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A man’s attempt to rob a Christchurch dairy was foiled when he was unable to open the unlocked sliding door.

Police said the man, armed with a gun, tried to rob the Division Street Dairy in Riccarton on Monday night.

He unsuccessfully tried to get into the dairy by “pushing and pulling the unlocked sliding door”, before leaving down Division St towards Blenheim Rd, police said. 

Not a candidate for Mensa then.

No tag for this post.

Three strikes earlier would see Moko’s killer not be eligible for parole

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

The Herald reports:

The couple jailed for killing 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri have more than 100 previous convictions between them, the Herald can now reveal.

Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri died on August 10 last year from injuries he received during prolonged abuse and torture at the hands of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa.

His case shocked, saddened and angered New Zealanders and led to marches in his name against child abuse. Last week his killers were jailed for 17 years for manslaughter.

Court documents released to the Herald reveal that Haerewa had racked up 111 convictions before he killed Moko and had been in and out of prison since 1991.

His offending included burglary, wilful damage, possession of a knife in a public place, contravening a protection order, male assaults female, aggravated robbery, breach of parole, theft, receiving stolen property, escaping custody and a raft of driving charges and bail breaches.

If the three strikes law had been in earlier he would have at least one strike for aggravated robbery. This would mean he would not be eligible for parole for his 17 year sentence for killing Moko.

Having said that, I doubt with his record he will be getting parole anytime soon.

Even Otago Uni academics say e-cigarettes less harmful than tobacco

July 6th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nick Wilson and two others blog at Otago University:

The studies we found suggest a very diverse range of results as shown in Table 1, but all suggest lower levels of risk for vapers compared to tobacco smokers. In particular, the risk associated with carbon monoxide seems likely to be close to 0% or a few percent at most. However, preliminary evidence (ie, one study by Carnevale et al (7)) suggests that the effect of vaping on four other inflammatory markers of likely relevance to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and respiratory disease may be at least half that of tobacco smoking. The results for cancer-related toxicants were variable, from 0% to 23% of the levels observed for tobacco smokers, with most studies reporting between 14% and 23% – a substantial level of exposure. But it is plausible that some of these toxicants could be due to unreported dual use with smoked tobacco (and even exposure to secondhand smoke).

So almost no carbon monoxide impact, and reduced levels of other toxicants.

It is important to know that e-cigarettes are a reduced harm product – that is not the same as harmless. You don’t want people going from not being a smoker to using e-cigarettes. But you do want people who are already smoking to start using e-cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco.

The academics conclude:

It seems likely that if smokers shift entirely to vaping their risk of chronic disease would be expected to decline. But if they stay vaping long-term – then they may still be exposed to some notable level of toxicants that are hazardous in terms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and possibly long-term respiratory disease. The safest option for smokers using vaping to reduce their health risk would be to limit the duration of dual use with cigarette smoking (ie, switching completely to vaping as soon as possible) and to also limit the total duration of vaping with a goal of reaching abstinence from both smoking and vaping, wherever possible without relapsing to smoking, which represents the greater risk to health.

I agree.

Herald calls for sale of Ports of Auckland

July 6th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The second reality that needs to be recognised by all concerned is that New Zealand does not need another port. The country already has too many.

If ports were run by the Government rather than local bodies, they would have been rationalised long ago. If port companies were answerable to private shareholders, the same thing would have happened, probably more efficiently than by government design. If Ports of Auckland was on the sharemarket, it would not be still enraging Aucklanders with these bids for more of the harbour. Its shareholders would have found it more worthwhile to co-operate with their nearest competitor, the Port of Tauranga.

Ports such as Tauranga are on the sharemarket and Tauranga has bought into Northport at Marsden Pt. With co-operation between Auckland, Tauranga and Northport, the need to ship goods into and out of this part of the country could surely be accommodated without further encroachment on the Waitemata – or dredging a $5 billion “super port” on the Manukau or the Firth. No such nonsense would be contemplated if the Auckland Council floated even part of its needlessly owned port. The city needs a council with the courage to do so.

The Council owning the Port has meant it is less responsive to the public.

Mediaworks denied they were the leak

July 6th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New documents cast doubt on Newshub’s claim that it admitted leaking an interest rate decision before it was investigated.  …

However Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler had earlier briefed the central bank’s board that MediaWorks had had to be prodded into admitting the leak.

“MediaWorks conducted its own investigation and initially said they had found no leak,” the Reserve Bank minutes of March 17 read.

“However, after prompting from Deloitte, MediaWorks had searched again and found the emails containing the leaked information.”

The Reserve Bank declined to comment. MediaWorks has been approached for comment.

Doesn’t really help their brand, having an OIA reveal they were economical with the truth.

NBR online doing well

July 5th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

When NBR ONLINE first introduced its paywall in 2009, people lined up to give it the bash.

Sam Morgan, then a Fairfax director, called it “the brick wall” and he was one of the politer ones.

But it turns out that if you deliver news people can use, they are willing to pay for it.

People did sign on, and new subscription options have seen numbers accelerating over just the past six months to hit 4000 individual paid member subscribers today.

Their numbers are supplemented by 336 organisations with IP (internet protocol) subscriptions that let every staff member access NBR ONLINE from their office.

4,000 individual subscriptions is a good achievement. I suspect the bulk of the revenue comes from the 336 corporate subscriptions but still a useful contributions.

As Fairfax and NZME look at paywalls, they should look at how NBR has managed to do it profitably. From what I can tell, they do two important things:

  • Provide lots of really good analysis, not just news (which you can get anywhere)
  • Have some stories outside the paywall to get visits, but the best stuff behind the paywall so people know it is there and want to see it

Fairfax pays up big to settle Jennings defamation

July 5th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Fairfax Media has settled a case brought by Stephen Jennings against the company and its former reporter, Michael Field, regarding an article published in March 2015 on www.stuff.co.nz, and in a number of regional Fairfax newspapers, about Mr Jennings and his businesses.

Fairfax Media’s management, its editors and Mr Field apologise unreservedly to Mr Jennings for the article. We accept that the article and the statements about Mr Jennings and his businesses within it were entirely without merit; Mr Field did not contact Mr Jennings for his comment; and the article failed to meet Fairfax’s high expectations in relation to its own editorial standards and journalistic ethics.

The amount of the settlement, which included an offer by Fairfax to repeat its apology in open court, is substantial. Mr Jennings has confirmed he is donating the net settlement to charities focused on Taranaki, his home province, and sub-Saharan Africa, where his businesses operate.

I’ve read a lot of defamation settlement statements over the years and this one represents an absolute reaming. The key statements are:

We accept that the article and the statements about Mr Jennings and his businesses within it were entirely without merit

Can’t get much harsher than that. But the real zinger is:

The amount of the settlement, which included an offer by Fairfax to repeat its apology in open court, is substantial.

Normally a settlement is done to hide the amount being paid. For the agreed statement to reveal it is substantial, shows Fairfax was on a hiding to nothing and knew they would lose massively in court.

Young says make Lampton Quay a mall

July 5th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s time for Wellington to banish the buses, tear out the traffic and hand control of its main street to people on foot, a mayoral aspirant says.

Councillor Nicola Young has promised to push for Lambton Quay to be converted into a pedestrian mall, and to revisit sending State Highway 1 underground along Vivian St, if she is elected mayor in October.

With the demise of Wellington’s trolley buses just around the corner, and the decommissioning of the overhead wires to follow, the time was right to discuss removing traffic altogether from the jewel in the Golden Mile, Young said.

It would place Wellington alongside other “forward-thinking” cities that had restricted their main shopping areas to foot traffic, such as Sydney’s Pitt St Mall and Adelaide’s Rundle Mall.

Young’s vision for Lambton Quay involves paving, more trees, street furniture, distinctive feature lighting, social spaces and no vehicle fumes.

I think this is a very good idea. Bob Jones proposed similar a few years back. Turning it into a mall would be great for the city centre. Get far more people shopping and walking there and more outdoor sections for cafes.

Vaping grows

July 4th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Northland retailer selling e-cigarettes is “astounded” by the growth in sales since tobacco prices increased 10 per cent on January 1.

People puffing on the electronic devices, or “vaping” as the practice was known, were becoming a common sight around Northland with the retailer – who spoke anonymously – describing the cigarette substitutes as “the best thing I’ve ever sold”.

E-cigarettes – or electronic cigarettes – are devices that allow users to mimic the ritual of smoking a cigarette. Many glow at the end when activated, as real cigarettes do. Instead of inhaling smoke from burning tobacco, users inhale vapour containing nicotine.

“I’m astounded at how many people are buying them, and at how many people are giving up smoking using them. It’s a quiet little revolution,” said the retailer, who lost both his parents to smoking-related illnesses.

“I gave up cold turkey 10 years ago and it was hell – for about a year. The hardest thing to give up about smoking is the puff and the kick. These [customers] say it’s easy, and they’ve been trying for years and years.”

Yes it is possibly the easiest way for people to quit smoking, yet it is illegal to sell the nicotine for e-cigarettes in NZ – people have to import from overseas.

Holly Bognar said she had smoked for most of her life from about age 13 – apart from when she was pregnant.

“I’d always gone back to it,” the 38-year-old said.

“I was heavily smoking until four months ago and now I don’t at all, not even when I drink alcohol, I’ve transitioned to e-cigarettes.”

Ms Bognar said, when she first switched to her e-cigarette, she puffed on it a lot, a pattern the retailer said a lot of his customers reported.

“Now I’ve sort of weaned myself down, which just gradually happened,” she said.

“It’s also the amount you can save. It was about $65 initially, and a thing of oil (for the e-ciggie) is about $10, which lasts a couple of weeks. That’s compared to probably a 30g in five days, which is $55 and heaps to take out of your benefit.”

So saving $45 a week and far less harmful.

An ISP guide from InternetNZ

July 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

InternetNZ has published a guide to NZ ISPs. This is not the usual guide comparing prices because there are many other good sites that do this.

This is about other aspects of being an ISP, They specifically look at:

  • Does the ISP allow you to check your account online easily
  • Do they have a co-ordinated disclosure policy on how to report security bugs
  • Do they have a data breach notification policy
  • Do they used the DIA child exploitation filter, and tell you about it
  • Do they support IPv6
  • Do they publish transparency reports on how often they give customer info to Government agencies

You can see the results compared for 15 ISPs here.

Auckland port locations

July 4th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Shippers have given the thumbs down to one finding from the Port Future Study – that Auckland’s next major port could be sited in the Manukau Harbour.

The study, officially due out today, said Auckland’s next new “super port” could be moved to the Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames at a cost of $4 billion to $5.5 billion.

New Zealand Shipping Federation executive director Annabel Young, who is a member of the Consensus Working Group launched by Mayor Len Brown a year ago to reconsider Ports of Auckland’s place on the city waterfront, said shippers do not favour a west coast port alternative.

Young said the working group included a diverse range of people but they had reached an agreement.

“And the agreement that we reached did not assume that the port would have to move, but if it does need to move it needs somewhere to go to, and we need to start thinking about that now,” she said.

The Firth of Thames was originally considered as the site of New Zealand’s only oil refinery, which ended up being built at Marsden Point, near Whangarei.

Young said it was no secret that shippers favoured a port on the east coast – where most of New Zealand’s ports are located – because of the generally wilder weather and sea conditions on the opposite coast.

“The east coast is always going to beat out a west coast site,” Young said. Manukau has scored well because of its proximity to road and rail. “That said, it’s not a great site for a port,” she said.

So no ideal location but with a capacity limit at the current location, a decision will need to be made eventually.

TVNZ now lets petitions decide what programmes they air

July 3rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

TVNZ have responded to a petition with over 10,000 signatories and ditched plans to screen a controversial British reality TV show in which participants had sex during the programme.

Sex Box,  a Channel Four show in which couples have sex inside a screened box before a studio audience then step out to discuss the experience, was due to air on TV2 next month.

But the network confirmed today they had dropped it from schedules. 

“The series was initially considered to form a part of our July line-up but given the feedback we’ve taken the time to re-look at it,” said a spokesman. “On reflection, we agree it is not the right fit for inclusion in the TV2 schedule.”

“We typically get a range of viewer opinions expressed about our on-air and online content. Not everyone will agree with every decision we make but we do listen,” the spokesperson added.

TVNZ said that they were “responding to the feedback” the network had received about the show, and agreed that after “taking a closer look at Sex Box” the show was not “the right fit” for the public broadcaster.

An online petition launched by petitioner Ann-Maree Quinn to see TV2 axe the show launched on community website CitizenGo in early June, and has since garnered 10,184 signatories, with a goal to eventually reach 20,000.

The show sounded terrible and exploitative. Just like almost every other reality TV show.

But they purchased the rights to it, and have decided not to show it because of an online petition. That is the wrong decision.

We have scores of channels people can watch. If people didn’t want to see it, they can choose another channel. Instead we have censorship via petition.

“Yet another bizarre reality TV show to occupy our screens, but this one is particularly troubling on a number of levels,” the petition read.

“It is not prudish to object to Sex Box. Some things ought not to be for sale, ought not to be promoted with evocative storylines, solely to grow viewership,” Quinn continued.

“Some things simply require a level of good taste and decency.  Sexual intimacy is not just a recreational activity to be viewed, scored and analysed in such a public setting,”

Quinn’s anti-Sex Box petition deemed the series “a new low” in our “flash in the pan, celebrity-seeking culture.”

Quinn, who is currently based in Australia, said the purpose behind starting her petition was to “maintain high community standards on public TV.”

So a petition stated by someone not even in New Zealand gets TVNZ to change their broadcasting decisions.

Vogels upset they failed to get a house for free

July 3rd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Vogel House will not be returned to the Vogel family, the Crown land commissioner has ruled.

The $4.1 million former ministerial home was offered to the Vogel Charitable Trust and the Wellington SPCA – both beneficiaries of Jocelyn Vogel’s estate – in January, to the dismay of Jocelyn’s descendants. 

Tim and Geoff Vogel, her grandsons, appealed against the decision in a bid to keep the home in which they were raised within the family. 

The Crown land commissioner announced on Thursday that the brothers’ application had been declined.

“The applicants submitted that it would be equitable to allot Vogel House to them, because of their special circumstances and the hardship that it would cause if public applications were sought,” said John Hook, Crown property group manager at Land Information New Zealand (Linz).

How does it cause them hardship to not get a house which has not been in their family for 50 years?

Tim Vogel, a Wellington lawyer, said he and his brother felt they had been “shafted”, and might take the matter as far as the High Court.

“It’s not over yet. This decision is subject to a judicial review, and that’s certainly possible.”

He was confident he and his brother would win a judicial review, and said the law supported their fight.

“Vogel House was built for the Vogels, bought for the Vogels, lived in by the Vogels. Who do you think the property should go back to?”

It should go to the beneficiaries listed in Jocelyn Vogel’s will.

He believed the two charities would sell the house.

As could Mr Vogel if he and his brother get it. What has that to do with things?

“My grandfather didn’t even like animals, there’s no way he would be leaving Vogel House to the SPCA.

A red herring. It was his grandmother’s will. Is he saying that is in anyway legally relevant?

“We feel angry, we feel aggrieved, and we don’t feel we have been given a fair hearing. 

“We cannot let that go unchallenged.”

Yes you can.

You want a $6 million house for nothing. Can’t blame you – so would I. But stop bleating to the media and making you you are a victim.

NZ 4th for adult literacy

July 2nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Adult Kiwis are among the most literate in the OECD, according to a new report.

The survey of adult skills, released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday, showed New Zealand has steadily improved adult literacy over two decades.

It was ranked fourth of the 33 countries surveyed, behind Japan, Finland and the Netherlands. In the same survey in 1996, New Zealand was ranked 12th. 

Adult Kiwis also ranked fifth in problem-solving using technology and 13th in numeracy. They were above the OECD average in all three categories.

Pretty pleasing results. But we have always tended to do quite well overall. The challenge is in our tail – the bottom 15% or so who do significantly worse than tails in other countries.

Should wages be the same in Nelson as Auckland?

July 1st, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Foodstuffs pays its South Island supermarket staff $2 less an hour solely because they are in the South Island, the FIRST union alleges. 

An ongoing dispute over wages for Foodstuffs’ staff will head to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) next week as contract negotiations remain gridlocked.

New World Nelson, Pak ‘n Save Richmond and Pak ‘n Save Invercargill’s local owners rejected the FIRST union’s attempt to bargain for pay rises in collective agreements, FIRST’s Nelson organiser Rachel Boyack said. …

Boyack said employees at Foodstuffs’ South Island stores were paid about $2 less an hour than North Island staff without explanation.

“[Foodstuffs] have said that they’re paid less because it’s the South Island.

“The jaw drops on our side of the table. I have never heard an employer say that South Island staff should be paid less.”

I don’t see why wages should be the same in every city. Wage rates are a factor of supply and demand, and this varies by area. It costs more to live in Auckland so wages tend to be higher in Auckland.