Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Can blogs pick up the slack?

May 16th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes:

To state the bleedingly obvious: the blogosphere does not have the resources to compensate for the reduction in competition (and the loss of journalistic resources) that will be the inevitable outcome of this merger.

Why not? Sure, online startups are lively, thriving and multiplying : there’sScoop, The Spinoff, the Daily Blog, Kiwiblog, the Hard News stable, No Right Turn, The Standard, Pundit, the Dim-Post, Eric Crampton’s Offsetting Behaviour,Paul Buchanan’s 36th Parallel….to name just a few. Theoretically, the merger opens up a market opportunity for them. In reality, all of them will be damaged by the merger.

How come? Well for starters – and as this RNZ report explains here – and also here the blogosphere is poorly positioned to pick up the slack. It is run on a shoestring. It has few resources – or no resources at all, in most cases – to do news gathering. Its strength lies in its analysis and commentary; an essential role that the mainstream media has carried out timidly, or not at all. In other words, a genuine symbiotic relationship currently exists between the blogosphere and the traditional media. We rely on their news gathering and increasingly, they rely on our analysis and commentary. So… if there’s a decline in news gathering capacity, this will damage the ability of the blogosphere to carry out its valuable contribution to the public discourse.

I don’t disagree with what Gordon has said, and I’m not keen on the merger. But change can create opportunities.

The main media websites do very well at reporting news, and other sites do very well at analysis. Not just blogs, but NBR is very good at that, and I regard the best political analysis in NZ (by a wide margin) to be Richard Harman’s Politik newsletter.

But I have been thinking about what I would do if Stuff and NZ Herald combine and go behind a paywall. The initial impact would be a hassle. Rather than quote stories from their sites, and comment on them, I’d might have to use other sites such as Radio NZ or Newshub. But they have far fewer stories.

But the other thing I can do is start reporting the news more directly. 80% of stories seem to originate for PRs. I know this as I now get all the PRs. They tend to go into a folder I check once a day or so (if I have time). It is rare I’ll do a story based on a PR, as easier to quote a media story already summarising it.

But if two million NZers get blocked from most content on the Herald and Stuff sites, they’ll look elsewhere for it. I doubt many will pay for it.

I could hire someone to write a few news stories a day on interesting NZ issues. I already have good sources for overseas news.

I could also hire someone to cover parliamentary news and try and get them accredited to the press gallery. The gallery may not like it, but if they are going to hire most of their content behind paywalls, they’ll look bloody awful if they try to block a site willing to publish it freely from being able to access Parliament.

I’m not going to rush into anything, but if the merger goes ahead and the two main media websites combined and go behind a paywall, I will seriously look at whether I can grab a reasonable portion of their two million readers.

Patient Portals

May 14th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jonathan Coleman announced:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is encouraging people to use a new online map to see whether their GP offers a patient portal.

“A growing number of general practices are introducing patient portals. These secure online sites are the health equivalent to online banking,” says Dr Coleman.

“Portals enable patients to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view lab test results online.

“You can have secure conversations with your GP via email, and in some cases, patients can also view their notes online.

“Portals are convenient, secure and real time savers for both the patient and staff at their general practice.

“A new interactive map launched today makes it easy for patients to check which general practices are offering portals. Patient portals are a great step towards enabling New Zealanders to manage more of their own healthcare.”

Over 330 general practices are now offering patient portals, with nearly 136,000 New Zealanders registered to use one.

The map is here.

You can quickly see which medical centres in Wellington City have a patient portal. They are:

  • Island Bay Medical Centre
  • Peninsula Medical Centre
  • Newtown Medical Centre
  • Newtown Union Health Service
  • Brooklyn Central Health
  • Brooklyn Medical Centre
  • Karori Medical Centre
  • Capital Care Medical Centre
  • Evolve Wellington
  • City GPs
  • Kelburn Medical Centre
  • The Terrace Medical Centre
  • Onslow Medical Centre
  • Johnsonville Medical Centre
  • Newlands Medical Centre

I’ve been using Manage My Health for a couple of years and find it great. The main attraction is being able to see which doctors are free when, and book yourself in. But lots of other good features also:

  • Can see your vaccination history and recalls
  • Blood Type
  • All test results
  • Previous prescriptions
  • Secure e-mail with doctors

Family Violence

May 14th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Let us not soften the language we use about a man who hits a woman. It has been called domestic violence or partner violence. Our in-depth examination of the problem today and through next week is labelled “family violence” because an entire family suffers when a parent resorts to violence to control a partner or children. But at its most serious level, this problem is men. Not all men, not even most men, and, as some men always point out, not just men. Women can, and do, resort to violence too.

But this subject is too important to be blurred and broadened for the sake of gender neutrality. New Zealand has one of the worst family violence rates in the world and it is a fair bet women are not responsible for most of it, and certainly not the worst of it.

Why guess? we have a very robust and reliable survey of crime in New Zealand.

The 2014 NZ Crime and Safety Survey found:

  • 6% of women and 4% of men were victims of a violent interpersonal offence in 2013
  • 26% of women and 14% of men were victims of partner violence at some stage in their life

So yes most domestic violence is by men (and certainly the worst domestic violence is), but in the latest year 40% of victims were men which is a very significant minority. A 60/40 split is very different to say a 90/10 split.

We should not listen to claims of provocation, verbal or physical. If we are going to eradicate this disgrace on our society the truth needs to be implanted in every male mind that there is never an excuse for a man to hit a woman.

I agree. I abhor such violence.

 

Float Culture

May 13th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A while back I got an invitation from Float Culture to try out their flotation pools where you lie in a super-saturated Epsom-salt solution.

As I finally had a spare day in Auckland last week, I headed along to them to try them out.

You fill in a quick medical form and they take you into one of their five rooms which consist of a bathroom and another room with the pool.

In the bathroom you shower and clean, remove any piercings (not an issue for me!), and put ear plugs into your ear (to block out the water).

Then you enter the pool room.

IMG_0548

The pool has around 30 cm of water in it. It’s heated to 35.5 degrees and as there is so much salt in it, you easily float on it. The temperature means you can’t tell what parts of you are under water and on top.

You then close the door and turn out the light, and the room goes pitch black.

For the first ten minutes they play soft music, and then it stops so you have near total sensory deprivation with no light, sound or feeling for the next fifty minutes.

The aim is to remove all stimulation from you so you destress and muscles relax.

So how did it got for me?

Some people can’t handle it and freak out. That definitely wasn’t me. Enjoyed the sensory deprivation.

It took me a fairly long time to relax though. That is more due to me. Ask anyone who has ever shared a bed with me, and you’ll hear complaints about how I twist and turn and roll over. I’m not good at not moving – even when asleep!

So by the time the music ended I was still not entirely relaxed. I was enjoying it, but still fidgeting a bit. And the movement would sometimes have me brush against a wall and then you lose the effect.

But after I guess 20 or 30 minutes or so, I got there and was just not moving or thinking but totally relaxed on the water. I know this, because suddenly the music started up again which meant the hour was up.

So overall a very pleasant experience. I’m someone who actually really enjoys sensory deprivation, so loved that aspect of it. Once I fully relaxed, ended up nicely in my own little world and was sad when the time was up. Would definitely do it again at some stage.

Is Uber getting arrogant?

May 13th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Seventeen Uber drivers have been issued warnings, and another ordered off the road after they failed to comply with revved-up NZTA rules. 

Less than two weeks ago, Transport Minister Simon Bridges hit back against Uber’s decision its New Zealand drivers no longer needed a passenger (P) endorsement, which was issued after checks on drivers’ medical, criminal, behavioural and driving histories.

Bridges said this was illegal, and drivers would require P Endorsements to stay on the roads.

Since then, 17 official warnings have been issued and one driver ordered off the road for not holding a Passenger Services License.

I’m a huge fan of the Uber service. I’ve also been very supportive of their desire to have regulatory settings that support innovation in the passenger transport market. The changes announced last month represented some great wins for Uber (actually more for passengers like myself).

But Uber’s decision to unilaterally declare they are a ride sharing service, and hence their drivers don’t need a P endorsement is an unwise one. I don’t think they’d win a court case on it, and they are putting their new drivers at risk of  fines.

Their strategy should be to continue to push for law changes, but not to ignore the law. Their current strategy risks them losing a lot of the goodwill they have built up.

Guest Post: New Talent To Drive Our Economy

May 12th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Rees Ward:

One hundred years ago, our export trade revolved around packing up sheep carcasses or their wool into a ship and waiting two months before they got to market. Today, some of our best export earners can weigh nothing and are delivered in fractions of a second.

New Zealand’s economy is transforming as the new service driven economy is broadening our export base beyond our traditional agricultural exports.

I have recently returned from working for the New Zealand Consulate General based in Los Angeles. Much of my work there involved supporting New Zealand firms, who were engaging with the rapidly growing tech sector Silicon Valley and across the wider Western USA economy.

California is growing jobs fast on the back of the tech sector – and this is creating additional demand for the supporting professions that drive business growth. These well paid jobs are available to those with the skills and the education to be part of that economy.

It is acknowledged that Silicon Valley emerged from the leadership and innovation of Stanford University. That has evolved to create an eco-system of venture capital, research and innovation. Silicon Valley has nearly a third of private sector workers in the tech sector firms. These are some of the wealthiest and best paid people in the United States. American firms are now fighting to get their hands on a tech capable workforce.

The New Zealand tech sector is also growing fast and has its heart in our own “Silicon Harbour” – the Wellington region. Firms like Xero, Weta Digital, Datacom and Trade Me are based here. They are joined by other yet-to-be household names such as Wipster, Fronde, Aurora 44, PledgeMe, Intergen and 8i who are creating good jobs and strong export revenues.

To support the development of the “Silicon Harbour”, the Wellington City Council opened a tech hub and collaboration space in November, to support this growth. This is part of developing connections which nurture the next generation of IT firms.

But what one of our fastest growing sectors is calling out for most, is more talent. Further the demand is just not for “geeks and nerds” – but the soft skills able to integrate technology solutions into the business environment. To become part of the new economy – and to get a better paying job – retraining to acquire new skills might be required.

The Government announced in October that it is backing a new collaboration between Victoria University, Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia to develop a post graduate school for ICT. This idea was too exciting opportunity for me not to sign up.  The Wellington ICT Graduate School deliver five Masters degree programmes in 2016. The courses have been designed to bring a diverse range of skilled and talented people into the ICT industry.

For most mid-career people, the thought of returning to University to complete a “new” undergraduate education is not only impractical, it is impossible. The solution has been to develop one year post-graduate “conversion” Masters degrees. A background as a teacher or a social worker could be a bonus rather than a barrier.

ICT firms are actively engaged in the education process at the School. Some learning will take place through internship, mentorship and entrepreneurial programmes as well as project work and placements in the workplace. This brings the education closer to what firms need today, rather than what the textbook printed last year says. Founder of Green Button, Scott Houston has bought his considerable mana to the board and bought a strong focus on creating a talent generator that will fuel the growth of our ICT industry.

Our economy will be increasingly reliant on our Silicon Harbour as a route to the global economy. The Wellington ICT Graduate School will soon start developing new leadership. For firms wanting to bring on that talent, we are open for business.

Rees Ward is the Director of the Wellington ICT Graduate School. https://wellingtonict.ac.nz/

Kiwiblog: The Bachelor special

May 12th, 2016 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

10 questions that no one wants the answer to, but the media will devote more time and attention to than The Budget:

  1. Did Jordan ever love Fleur?
  2. Is Jordan just an actor?
  3. Naz said on radio she slept with Jordan, but to her ex that she did not. Will the Auditor-General investigate which version is correct?
  4. Will Naz and Crystal form a club?
  5. Will Naz and Jordan get together?
  6. Will Naz be the next Bachelorette?
  7. Will there be a third season?
  8. Are all the girlswho missed out breathing a sigh of relief?
  9. Will Naz have to choose between the two Jordans?
  10. Does anyone care?

APN and Fairfax merger talks confirmed

May 11th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

APN News & Media has today confirmed plans to demerge NZME and revealed it is in discussions with Fairfax Media about a potential merger of their New Zealand businesses.

“If completed, the combined company will be a leading New Zealand media business, offering depth of news, sport and entertainment coverage across a diverse mix of channels including print, digital and radio,” an ASX announcement says.

The two entities have been in preliminary discussions about a potential merger, which will be subject to approval by both companies’ boards, shareholders and the Commerce Commission. The merger is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, subject to all necessary approvals.

I suspect Commerce Commission approval will take longer than six months.

Another NBR story reports:

A merger of New Zealand’s two largest media organisations could be approved on a counterfactual basis, despite competition concerns, a leading competition lawyer says. …

Competition lawyer Andy Matthews says while other countries have rules about media ownership to ensure a diversity of views in the media, “New Zealand’s never had that.”

“From a pure competition perspective, what’s going to happen if these guys don’t get together? Will they survive? It would be inappropriate to stop this because this is how industries respond to change,” he says. …

“It’s a highly fragmented market. I would have thought on the face of it a merger wouldn’t be anti-competitive. It’s an industry in crisis. Do you look at newspapers and online news separate or the same? Does the platform even matter anymore?” he asks.

The merger is undesirable, but the status quo may be even more undesirable as without it one or both companies could shrink significantly.

But the merger would also lead to huge job losses. Estimates I have seen suggest perhaps 1,000 or so.

One key issue for the Commerce Commission might be whether the Herald and Stuff websites would merge.On the print side there is almost no competition already. Radio has plenty of competition. But the websites may be the area where they have competition issues.

Also parliamentary reporting may suffer, as if the two offices merge, then you lose the competitive tension of each office trying to develop exclusive stories.

Maori Youth

May 11th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman reported:

The reform being pushed through by Tolley is perhaps the most far-reaching undertaken by the Govt and could stand as its greatest legacy if it achieves its goals. Already it has made some headway in improving the lives of Maori children who are more than twice as likely as Pakeha children to grow up in households experiencing hardship, and fare worse in most indicators.

A report by the University of Otago-based Child and Youth Epidemiology Service shows increasing numbers of Maori pre schoolers are getting early childhood education. There’s also been a halving of school suspensions for Maori students, an increase in immunisation rates, fewer young Maori smoking,and falling hospitalisation rates for Maori children for injuries from assault, neglect or maltreatment.

That’s promising.

The report is here. Some extracts:

  • A drop from 2010 to 2013 of Maori children living in relative poverty using the measure of below 60% of the contemporary median income, after housing costs
  • 17% of Maori children in “material hardship” down from 21% in 2011
  • The proportion of Māori new entrants reporting participation in ECE prior to school entry increased, from 83.6% in 2001 to 96.3% in 2013.
  • Suspension rates for Māori students falling from 18.8 per 1,000 in 2000, to 9.1per 1,000 in 2013.
  • Medical admissions with a social gradient in Māori children increased from 2000 to 2001, remained steady through to 2007, increased from 2007 to 2009, remained steady until 2012, and fell from 2012 to 2013 to reach a level similar to that seen in 2001–2007. In contrast, injury admissions with a social gradient fluctuated from year to year in the early 2000s and followed a downward trend from 2006 to 2013.
  • During 2000–2013, Māori children’s admission rates for injuries due to assault, neglect of maltreatment increased from 2002–2003 to 2008–09, and then declined
  • During 2000–2013, Māori young people’s admission rates for injuries due to assault were variable. The rate for 2013 was the lowest in the whole period.

To paraphrase Life of Brian’s “What did the Romans ever do for us except …”, you might ask “What did National ever do for Maori except ….”

Guest Post: NEW ZEALAND’S GREAT TOBACCO DEBATE NOW IN QUANDARY

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

A guest post by Carrick Graham:

New Zealand has always been a global leader in tobacco control. The 1990 Smokefree Environment’s Act came about due to the leadership of Helen Clark who essentially laid the foundations for the aspirational goal today of New Zealand being Smokefree by 2025.

For the past quarter of a century tobacco control has achieved significant milestones in their efforts against tobacco.

But herein lies a problem. The actual achievement of a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal of having 5% or less of the population smoking has now created a rod for the back of tobacco control.

The purists believe the only way to achieve the goal is for the Government to push through further amendments to the Smokefree Environments Act. They are particularly enthused with the possible introduction of plain-packaging of tobacco products this side of the Tasman.

This desire to introduce another round of regulations seems to be at the expense of ignoring, or even acknowledging low hanging fruits that are currently in plain sight.

Take the review of the Customs and Excise Act that is currently underway. At this very moment, anyone can grow up to 15 kilograms of tobacco (that’s equivalent to 300x 50g RYO pouches) year after year for personal use. That is the equivalent of 300x 50gram pouches of un-taxed and un-labelled roll-your-own.  This provision seems at odds with the objectives of tobacco control and a Smokefree Aotearoa. Yet surprisingly, not a Scooby’s whistle from tobacco control on this issue.

But that’s not the most scandalous element of tobacco control today.

The British Government recently commissioned an independent review of the latest evidence on e-cigarettes and their use to ensure that practitioners, policy makers and the public have the best evidence available. The result was the ‘E-cigarettes: an evidence update’ Report, released in August 2015.

As a result, Public Health England now says “best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether”.

One of the lead authors of the report was New Zealand’s very own public health academic, Dr Hayden McRobbie.

This report has been supported by credible organisations like Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians, and the British Lung Foundation. Yet, the likes of ASH New Zealand, Smokefree Coalition, and even the Cancer Society, seemingly refuse to openly discuss what is clearly the new elephant in the room.

Just last week the UK’s Royal College of Physicians – an institution representing 32, 000 doctors and renowned for its work in tobacco control, released a 220 page report Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction.

They conclude that: E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking (actually they can act as a gateway from smoking) and do not result in normalisation of smoking.

This Royal College of Physicians report received significant global media coverage. In New Zealand it was picked up by the Otago Daily Times and warranted just a fleeting mention in the NZ Herald. Stuff seemed to have missed the story.

It seems some within New Zealand’s tobacco control community cannot bring themselves to openly (or publicly) discuss what are by a country mile, two of the most significant and internationally recognised reports on e-cigarettes ever produced.

Further to this, more than 50 public health researchers recently wrote a ‘Statement from specialists in nicotine science and public health policy’ to Dr Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organisation.

In this statement these specialists (including eminent New Zealand public health figures Associate Professor Chris Bullen, Dr Murray Laugesen, Dr Hayden McRobbie) said:

“The potential for tobacco harm reduction products to reduce the burden of smoking related disease is very large, and these products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st Century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted and instead regulation that is fit for purpose and designed to realise the potential should be championed by WHO.

We are deeply concerned that the classification of these products as tobacco and their inclusion in the FCTC will do more harm than good, and obstruct efforts to meet the targets to reduce non-communicable disease we are all committed to.”

With Euromonitor forecasting retail sales of e-cigarettes worldwide for 2013 at US$2.5 billion, Wells Fargo estimating that figure will top $10 billion by 2017, and Bloomberg Industries projecting that sales will exceed those of traditional cigarettes by 2047, it is a disruptive technology-driven market that is not going away. 

Clive Bates, a former Director of ASH UK tweeted this week ‘Great thing about NZ is that it is small enough to change quickly, big enough to be a game-changer worldwide’.

To this point, this week New Zealand is to host the world premiere of the documentary ‘A Billion Lives’ at DocEdge Film Festival. The film is about vaping and the role e-cigarettes play in harm reduction and public health.

How the Government responds to this will be very interesting indeed.

Disclosure: Carrick Graham was Corporate Affairs Director for BAT NZ until 2006, when he left to establish Facilitate Communications. He has maintained an interest in the tobacco debate. Facilitates’ clients include retailer interests.

Diversion

May 10th, 2016 at 9:22 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The blogger who was infamously hacked and then exposed in Dirty Politics has himself admitted hiring someone to illegally access the computer files of opponents.

Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater has been granted diversion by police for attempting to hire Ben Rachinger for $5000 to get into the left wing “The Standard” blog. Instead of being convicted and sentenced, he has arranged to do 40 hours work for the children’s charity Kidscan.

Judge Richard McIlraith said: “He has accepted his guilt and embarked upon a programme of diversion to address that.”

Hacking is wrong – it is both illegal and morally indefensible. Cameron was wrong to agree to pay Ben Rachinger money to hack The Standard. As the Judge says he has accepted in court he was wrong, and done community service as diversion.

But while Cameron was wrong, he was taken advantage of by a guy who lied constantly to Cameron and fed him months and months of lies. He took advantage of Cameron’s desire to find out who hacked him, and convinced Cameron that he could prove various people were behind the hack on him – if he in turn got paid to hack them. Cameron should have reported Rachinger to the Police rather than agree to pay him. Rachinger is facing his own trial for his actions, so hence I can’t comment in depth on them.

Cameron has blogged his version of what happened here.

Hopefully there has been lessons learnt from this by Cameron and others. As someone whose privacy has been breached by hackers, I am very anti hacking. I do have to try and contain myself though when Nicky Hager complains that his privacy got breached when Police were searching for Rawshark’s identity as of course Nicky Hager has just spent weeks working with NZ media to breach the privacy of hundreds of New Zealanders who have broken no laws, but just used a law firm that got hacked.

Mediaworks banned from Reserve Bank media conferences

May 10th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Reserve Bank has banned MediaWorks from its media conferences until further notice as punishment for its journalists leaking sensitive market information from the Official Cash Rate cut decision in March. …

An advisory from the bank says representatives “from Mediaworks news outlets are excluded from Reserve Bank media conferences until further notice” as a result of the March 10 leak.

That is appropriate. The exclusion should not last forever, but there should be some consequences for their breach of the terms of the media lockup.

It would have been better for the Reserve Bank not to scrap the lock ups, but just exclude Mediaworks from them (as they have now done for media conferences).

It occurs to me that the best “punishment” for the serious breach by Mediaworks would have been for Treasury to exclude Mediaworks staff from the Budget lockup. Not attending a Reserve Bank media conference or lock up is a very very minor thing. But if you were excluded from the Budget lockup, you’d be massively disadvantaged as all the other media would have had two hours head start to write their stories. Excluding from one Budget lockup would be sufficient to get the message across about consequences.

Guest Post: David Garrett – Plea Bargaining in New Zealand – a primer

May 10th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Introduction

The murder – and that is undoubtedly what it was – of three year old Moko Rangitoheriri has dragged the system of state initiated plea bargaining into the light. Over a period of weeks, Tania Shailer and her boyfriend David Haerewa bashed, stomped, strangled and kicked little Moko to death. His injuries were so bad that his mother had trouble recognizing him, and the pathologist had difficulty determining which of his many life threatening injuries had actually killed the little boy.

Shailer and her scumbag boyfriend were quite rightly charged with murder under a section of the Crimes Act which deems intent to kill  to be present  where life threatening injuries have been inflicted, and the defendants are reckless as to whether death will result.  Inexplicably, a sleazy plea bargaining deal was done under which the charges against Moko’s killers were reduced from murder to manslaughter. How could that have happened?

History

Although it has never been publicized, plea bargaining has been a reality in New Zealand for at least the last 25 years or so.  The major change in recent times is that the initiative for the negotiations aimed at agreeing on a lesser charge a defendant will plead guilty to may now come from the Crown as well as from  the defence. Some defence barristers are of the view that the Crown now has, because of funding changes, (see below) an incentive to initiate these kinds of deals, whereas in the past,  they resisted them.

Historically,  plea bargaining negotiations were initiated by the defence. Let’s consider a fact situation from a real case which I am familiar with. Two men hired a taxi, ostensibly to take them from one town in Taranaki to another. Once the cab was out of town, the men demanded that the driver hand over his money, and give them the car. He resisted both demands. One offender then produced a hammer, and while saying “I’m gunna kill you, you cunt”, bashed the driver until the cab ran off the road. The men severely beat the driver, stole the cab, and left the driver for dead. They were quickly apprehended, and charged  inter alia with attempted murder. 

Once lawyers had been instructed, negotiations were initiated with the police and Crown Solicitor. I am told that attempted murder is a difficult charge to prove (the element of intent being the difficulty) even when, as in this case, clear threats to kill had been made by at least one offender. In the event, the attempted murder charges against the pair were withdrawn, and both pleaded guilty to  lesser charges.

It is important – and perhaps not easy – for lay people to understand that when the defence  attempts to get charges reduced, they are simply doing the job which ethics demands of them. Lawyers who do criminal defence work are committed to getting the best possible deal for their clients – both in terms of charge and sentence – and to testing the police/Crown case thoroughly. Although many may find it distasteful, it is wrong to criticize defence lawyers for initiating these discussions. They are simply doing their job.

Funding of prosecutions

Traditionally, the Crown solicitor in any particular area of the country had complete discretion whether to proceed with a prosecution of the original charge he had laid, or to negotiate with the defence, if they  proposed a lesser charge to which the defendant(s) would plead guilty. This system created an incentive for prosecutors to take cases to trial – they were paid per day  of court time. Perhaps this also partly explains why murder trials which fifty years ago would be completed in a week, now take three or four, or even longer. The Crown didn’t care how long the trial took – they got paid for every day of the trial.

As a result of the above system, having the Crown Warrant for any particular area was widely seen as a licence to print money – crime is always going to be with us, and a hard arse prosecutor could theoretically take every case to trial, even when it was likely that  the evidence would not support the charge being prosecuted. Given that most serious offenders are on legal aid, the result of the old system was an ever growing blowout in the legal aid bill.

Changes to the sytem were introduced three years ago. The main change was that rather than the Crown Solicitor – and his or her juniors – being paid for every day they spent in court, they are now “bulk funded.” In other words, every Crown Solicitor is given a sum of taxpayers money annually which they spend on the prosecutions in their district. The amount they are paid remains the same, whether 100% of cases go to trial or only 10%, with the other 90% resulting in  negotiated guilty pleas to a lesser charge or charges.

This has apparently created a reverse incentive from the old system: it is now very much in the Crown’s interest to “plead down” cases, and save the $1-5 million that a major trial may cost. That means that for those cases which do  proceed to trial, the Crown Solicitor is effectively getting a much higher hourly rate than if he or she had taken every case – or even most of them – to trial.

In addition to bulk funding, the second major change is that plea bargain negotiations may now be initiated either  by the defence or  the Crown. It appears that in Moko’s case, the negotiations were initiated by the Crown Solicitor at Rotorua, although I am unable to confirm that. As we will see, experienced defence barristers cannot understand why this case was plead down.

Reform

It is acknowledged that the old  system – under which Crown Solicitors could take any and every case to trial –  created an incentive to try more cases for longer than perhaps justice would demand. It now seems clear however, that we have created the opposite incentive – one that rewards Crown Solicitors for disposing of cases by way of plea bargain where they feel so inclined – regardless of the legal merits or the justice of the outcome.

I have spoken to two senior defence barristers about this present case. Both are bewildered by the decision to downgrade the charges – one said that if the reported facts are correct, he would not even have bothered trying to get the charges reduced for these two killers.

It is clear that the reform of the system which had led to the legal aid budget blowout has created the unintended consequence of giving Crown lawyers an incentive to avoid trials where justice demands that a trial ought to have taken place, and therefore  allow  a  jury to  decide whether the facts support a verdict of murder or manslaughter. As with my criminal barrister colleagues, I am very firmly of the view that this case is one where the defendants were properly charged with murder, and where no plea bargain ought to have been made.

That said, it is clearly not an option to simply revert to the old system which reversed the incentive, and gave Crown Solicitors a licence to print money.  One simple and effective solution would perhaps be  to require Judges to approve plea bargaining deals  which involved murder –  either all murders, or just those where children are victims. That is the arrangement in a number of American jurisdictions – if the Judge doesn’t like the deal, there is a trial on the originally laid charge.

It is important to understand that cases like this will be happening all over the country every day. It is only due to good fortune – and in fairness some good journalism – which has led to this particular case, and the system which has allowed it to happen, to be dragged into the light.

Once again flag confusion strikes

May 10th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

flagconfuse

Media coverage of the Invictus Games.

Will the Herald and Stuff merge?

May 9th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A major announcement on the future of media company NZME – publisher of The New Zealand Herald – is expected by Wednesday.

Shares in its parent, APN News & Media, are in a trading halt on the Australian Stock Exchange pending details of a “potentially material transaction’ for its New Zealand media arm.

The Australian reported APN and Fairfax Media were both considering spinning off their New Zealand media businesses which could then be merged, citing unnamed sources.

Wow, that would be huge. If the two media operations merged, I imagine there would be massive job losses as you would presumably have one combined news desk, press gallery team, website etc etc.

It would be very bad for media competition. However there is already limited competition at the print level, as every city has pretty much one daily newspaper only. I imagine the Sunday newspapers might rationalise also.

Fairfax Media acknowledged The Australian’s report in a statement to the Australian stock exchange but did not confirm its content.

“Fairfax continues to explore options for all its businesses including Fairfax New Zealand, but at this time there is nothing to disclose,” it said.

Hardly a denial.

McLeod on TV justice shows

May 9th, 2016 at 12:08 pm by David Farrar

Rosemary McLead writes:

I am bored with the Sounds murders. I’ve had it up to my nostrils with them. I am bored with Scott Watson. I do not count him as a martyr to the justice system, but as a convicted double murderer. Which is reasonable, because that is what he is. As far as I’m concerned he doesn’t deserve your sympathy, or mine.

I think of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, two young people with their whole long lifetimes before them, whose existence was snuffed out – a jury agreed – by this man, who now merits my tax dollars being squandered on him in the name of fashion.

It is fashion, of course it is, because documentaries that cast doubt on criminal convictions are beloved of kindly people who believe the justice system is an evil thing about which they cannot bring themselves to be kind. Many nice people like to believe the world is an evil place, and that dark forces drive the police to frame the innocent. Yes, it happens, but this is how often in this country: not much.

There would be no documentary to establish Watson’s guilt for a million dollars.

No ratings in a show saying the Police got the right person. But maybe Ian Wishart should apply for funding for a documentary backing his book that concluded Watson did do it.

These documentaries are made because kindly people, people with good hearts, just cannot bring themselves to believe that a man who says he’s innocent could lie. Or that his lawyer most likely crafted a defence without knowing the whole truth any more than you or I. Or that everybody’s family believes them to be innocent and will say so, repeatedly, as Watson’s father does. And rather than sit through the tedium of a long trial, which Watson – and his jury – did, they would prefer to believe a documentary that sweeps aside inconvenient detail and spells out a story in words of one syllable, between ad breaks, in a commercial hour.

Will this documentary show the evidence that supports Watson’s conviction, or only the evidence that supports their contention? Will it be advocacy or factual?

It’s not his house

May 9th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Plans to buy up property in rural Marlborough to make way for a hydroelectric scheme have hit a road block, with one man refusing to leave his home.

It’s not his home. He was renting it and the rental agreement has expired.

Wairau Valley man Kieran Venning said he had no intention of leaving his rented property, about 40 kilometres west of Blenheim, despite being served an eviction notice.

Power company TrustPower tried to remove Venning on Friday by sending a bailiff round to his house, but he locked the doors and told the bailiff he was trespassing.

Actually Venning is trespassing.

TrustPower community relations manager Graeme Purches said the company bought the property Venning lived on along with several others in preparation for the scheme.

So it is Trustpower’s house.

Purches rented the house to Venning on a periodic tenancy agreement, he said.

When Venning did not leave after 42 days’ notice, Purches went to the Tenancy Tribunal to have him evicted.

“We’ve tried all the reasonable approaches with this guy. We’ve been dealing with this guy for over two months,” Purches said. 

Rural constable Beau Webster, of Blenheim, said he accompanied the bailiff on Friday to “avoid animosity”.

Venning told Webster he had lodged an injunction in court to stop his landlord evicting him.

A court officer had no record of the injunction, Webster said.

So he is a liar also.

Venning said he had lived in Marlborough since November 2011. 

The Wairau Valley was already being “desecrated” by vineyards and he wanted to stop further destruction, he said. 

“The eco-system and the environment can’t sustain or withstand it.” 

Those desecrating vineyards provide jobs to thousands of people. Also some pretty good wines.

Countdown gets suspended again

May 8th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Another Countdown supermarket in Blenheim has been banned from selling booze, meaning all three Countdown supermarkets in town are alcohol-free. 

Countdown Springlands, on Middle Renwick Rd, cannot sell alcohol for five days, from May 20-25, after failing a controlled purchase operation in September last year.

Countdown Blenheim, on Arthur St, is serving a 42-day suspension after it was caught selling to minors for the fifth time in same police sting.

As I have said before, Countdown seems to have a real problem here. It is good the law is being enforced.

In the controlled purchase operation in September, two boys, aged 16 and 17, visited seven off-licence premises including Countdown Springlands and Countdown Blenheim. 

The boys gave identification showing their real age to checkout staff and still walked away with alcohol at three stores.

That’s even worse that not asking to see the ID – they saw it, and didn’t even look at the date of birth (or ignored it).

Countdown area manager Joanne McNaught said her team was very disappointed the stores failed the police sting.

“We apologise to our customers again for the inconvenience.”

All checkout staff at Countdown Springlands were re-trained after the sting.

The store hired more supervisors, stopped selling alcohol through self-checkout, and started asking people who looked under 30 for identification instead of people who looked under 25.

Useful steps but why do these breaches keep happening? Not rocket science to check ID.

Should teaching become a post graduate degree?

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

The Herald reports:

Students accepted into teaching degrees have some of the lowest entrance scores across all bachelor programmes, prompting calls to mandate postgraduate entry to lift teacher status and quality.

Education leaders from seven New Zealand universities wrote a joint letter to government last week recommending the move, in a bid to get the “best and brightest” graduates into classrooms.

I think there is merit in this. The current requirements are seen as an easy option by many.

Professor Moltzen said the deans group had come up with seven recommendations on how to lift the prestige of the profession. These included requiring a postgraduate qualification before registration, and raising entry requirements to teaching courses.

“We felt it was important to be proactive. There have been concerns about the status of the profession for as long as I can remember, but I think it’s probably lower now than when I started,” he said.

“I think we can always improve our performance and improve the quality of teachers going into the profession – but I don’t think there’s a message there the profession is failing. The vast majority of teachers care deeply about their students and work incredibly hard.”

Lifting the prestige of the profession would be a good thing. Other initiatives such as Teach First can also help attract people to teaching.

Dom Post on Wicked Campers

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

A rare good Dom Post editorial:

The use of drugs by favourite childhood characters is likely to encourage impressionable young people  to see drug use as funny and cool, the office finds. That is surely right. So now the firm will face serious trouble if it allows these vans to hit the road again. 

It’s hard to object.

However, this finding deals only with the drug-themed camper vans. The sex-themed ones will be dealt with separately, and they might prove a tougher nut to crack. If there is no kind of incitement to breaking a law, for instance, the case against them becomes harder to sustain.

And here the argument for finding them objectionable and in effect banning them becomes more fraught. To repeat, even oafs have the right to express themselves, even when they are just using their freedom of speech to manufacture outrage in order to make money.

In this case the company’s “jokes” are disgusting and anti-women and many people have taken offence at them. And of course anyone travelling along the highway can’t avoid seeing them. They are not like sexually explicit or offensive material available in private to consenting adults.

It is also true that the material is arguably far more offensive than anything else on public display. But does that mean they must be banned in the way that the company’s drug-use material has been?

That is a tough call for a liberal society.

And one that should not be made, and if so would probably be illegal.

Yes they are offensive, but it is not the role of the state to ban things merely because they are offensive. The test is objectionable which is far higher – torture, rape, child abuse etc.

I’m all for private citizens and business owners putting pressure on Wicked Campers to remove the offensive slogans. Campgrounds can refuse to allow their vans to camp in them. Petrol companies can refuse to serve them. That is the way to deal with them. Having the state ban a sexist slogan is not a power we want to encourage.

Real Housewives of Auckland

May 6th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Mediaworks’ under-fire chief executive Mark Weldon says New Zealand is “very low” in broadcast hours for reality television – signalling further investment in reality shows by the broadcaster.

While its news division is in turmoil after a string of exits headlined by star news anchor Hilary Barry, Mediaworks is focusing on producing more reality TV by forming a new company, Bravo New Zealand.

It’s a partnership with NBCUniversal – which makes shows such as Keeping up with the Kardashians, Million Dollar Listing and Real Housewives – which provides content to 176 territories worldwide, across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific. …

Mediaworks will close the youth-oriented channel FOUR in July and replace it with Bravo New Zealand. Bravo will screen reality shows such as Million Dollar Listing, Top Chef, Shahs of Sunset, Flipping Out and The Real Housewives.

The first local offering on the channel, The Real Housewives of Auckland, launches in August.

Weldon said MediaWorks had identified a gap in the market for female-oriented reality programming, which tends to engender loyal and passionate fans. 

As a commercial decision, this makes sense. Reality TV stars don’t cost anything in terms of salaries, and actors do.

I don’t watch much reality TV, as I just don’t have the time any more. But they can be quite addictive. I used to watch The Amazing Race and Survivor heaps.

The Real Housewives of Auckland sounds somewhat compelling. Not for me, but I can see it doing well.

 

Saving Kerepehi

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

An interesting article in the Herald:

The tiny Waikato town of Kerepehi once resembled one of those semi-deserted rural communities unkindly referred to as “zombie towns”.

The dairy factory had long ceased operations, the War Memorial Hall and domain were seldom used and a close-knit rural community – which proudly sent 15 soldiers to World War I and 49 to World War II – mustered only 429 residents last census night.

But this dot on State Highway 2, between Ngatea and Paeroa, is emerging as an industrial and food technology hub.

Industrial sections are both well serviced and relatively cheap, proximity to two major ports has been noted far and wide and the moniker “Edmonds Town” seems most apt; like the famous baking powder this place seems “sure to rise”.

Transformation began a few years ago, when the Hauraki District Council spent $9 million upgrading the town’s water treatment plant to accommodate existing farms, plus future industrial growth. The council also approved a plant to process waste water from food processing.

Then Hauraki Mayor John Tregidga led an economic delegation to China and Taiwan to promote Kerepehi and its useful proximity to both Tauranga and Auckland Ports.

In 2014 the previously derelict dairy factory was taken over by Chinese-owned icecream manufacturer Allied Faxi Food Company.

The plant has been converted into an export-focused ice cream manufacturing plant, employing 15 staff sourced from local townships including: Kerepehi, Ngatea, Paeroa and Thames. Plans exist to ramp up workforce numbers to 50 by the end of the year, as offshore demand for product grows.

So the Council invested in some infrastructure and went out and sought foreign investment. And the result is a revival.

Some 23 industrial building sites immediately opposite the dairy factory have been tagged for future development. Seven of these – from 2020sq m to 12,392sq m – have been sold through Bayleys Hamilton.

Commercial and industrial sales specialist Josh Smith credits the visionary council with the success of Kerepehi’s Hauraki Park food hub.

He points out that the council removed development contribution fees, making it cheaper for developers to build new premises. Savings were passed on to incoming tenants or owner/occupiers.

“Hauraki District Council has taken some bold and innovative moves to attract new business to the region, and that’s a strategy which has certainly paid off. Employment is on the up and economic activity in the region has grown through on-going building and construction project work being undertaken,” he said.

Sounds like the Council is doing a good job.

No tag for this post.

Bad behaviour from Air NZ

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

Stuff reports:

Air New Zealand refused to let a woman board her flight to Tonga because the aircraft had reached its upper weight limit.

Auckland woman Alex Catchpole-Ozpınar was supposed to board her 9.30am flight to Tonga on Monday for a five day holiday but was turned away at the Air NZ check-in counter because her aircraft had reached its weight limit.

Catchpole-Ozpınar said she was told by a manager that if an aircraft weighed too much they kicked off the person who was last to book online.

The flight was not fully booked, Air New Zealand said.

Catchpole-Ozpınar said she booked her airfare in February. She tried to check in two-and-a-half hours before her departure time.

“This is such a screw-up. I expected way better from Air New Zealand,” she said in a post on the airline’s Facebook page.

Her mother, Leanne Catchpole, was already in Tonga waiting for Catchpole-Ozpınar to arrive.

She said the airline had only saved about 70kg by excluding her daughter and her carry-on bag from the flight.

“They didn’t try to contact her either to let her know not to bother to make the trip out to the airport,” she said.

Air NZ responded to the Facebook post with a link to its conditions of carriage which outline that it may refuse to carry any item for safety or operational reasons.

Catchpole-Ozpınar’s five day holiday in Tonga was shortened due to the disruption and her accommodation was non-refundable.

“I was hoping for a positive experience but I feel discouraged to fly with you to the Pacific again.”

She was rebooked on a Tuesday flight but Air NZ said she would need to contact her travel insurance provider regarding accommodation expenses.

This is really bad customer service from Air NZ.

Sometimes flights may be overbooked or be at weight capacity.

But what a good airline should do (and is common in the US) is offer rewards (such as free upgrades or airpoint dollars) to passengers willing to delay their flight. Not just destroy’s someone’s travel plans who has done nothing wrong.

In the US I’ve happily accepted a flight delay in exchange for an upgrade and/or free accommodation.

I’d be ropable if an airline ever simply refused to let me board a plane I had a paid ticket for, simply because they have over booked or are at weight capacity. You should pay people to volunteer to delay in those circumstances.

Huge labour force growth

May 4th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

The unemployment rate increased to 5.7 percent in the March 2016 quarter (from a revised 5.4 percent), while the labour force grew 1.5 percent, Statistics New Zealand said today. This was the largest increase in New Zealand’s labour force since December 2004.

“The total labour force increased by 38,000 people in the March 2016 quarter,” labour market and households statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said. “This resulted in more New Zealanders in unemployment and employment than three months ago.”

The growth in people employed (1.2 percent) exceeded the growth in the working-age population (0.8 percent) this quarter. This resulted in the employment rate going up to 65.1 percent (from 64.9 percent). Employment increased for men and women this quarter, including for women going into full-time employment (10,600 people). Compared with a year ago, 47,000 more people were employed (2.0 percent).

47,000 more people working is not bad.

The increase in the unemployment rate was expected as the previous quarter had dropped 0.7%, and to some degree this is probably a correction (the HLFS has sampling margin of error like any poll).

From a year ago:

  • Employment up 2.0%
  • Unemployment down 0.3%
  • Unemployment rate down 0.1%
  • Average ordinary time hourly earnings up 2.4%

Weldon resigns

May 4th, 2016 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

Newshub reports:

Today the MediaWorks Board has announced that Mark Weldon has resigned from his position as CEO.

The Board has accepted Mark’s resignation and respects his decision.  

Mark Weldon commented: “I wish to share the news that, last night, I notified the MediaWorks Board of my resignation from my role as CEO.

 

This is not a huge surprise. There was such obvious internal discontent that it seemed obvious either Weldon would go, or more staff would leave.

Mediaworks staff may find a different CEO won’t result in better outcomes for them. Television and media companies face a very challenging environment and declining revenue.