Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Broadcasting Standards Authority – September Decisions

October 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Guest Post by Nigel Kearney:

Broadcasting Standards Authority – September Decisions

The BSA issued 21 decisions in September made up of 9 TVNZ, 4 TV3, 5 radio, 1 Sky and 2 election ads. Only one was (partially) upheld and, as you would expect, most had no real merit and were quickly disposed of. The decisions can be found here.

There’s no point in trying to analyze the merit or reasoning of the decisions because the very existence of the BSA is inconsistent with free speech. But what we can do is amuse ourselves with the foolishness of the complainants and, occasionally, the authority itself.

The silliest complaint decided in September was made by a Rebecca van der Kley of Christchurch. It concerned a Fair Go investigation into a Christchurch roofer who had taken money from customers and not completed the work. The roofer was interviewed and gave his side of the story so you may wonder what the problem was.

One of the roofer’s excuses for his non-performance was that he had mental health issues. He volunteered this information when he knew he was on camera. Apparently Ms van der Kley was nevertheless sufficently outraged that she decided to lodge a complaint alleging a breach of the fraudster’s privacy.

It’s possible for anyone to complain to the BSA about a breach of someone else’s privacy. It doesn’t matter whether the ‘victim’ considers their privacy has been breached or may even have voluntarily revealed the information. These kind of complaints seem very popular. Normally, a complaint about breach of broadcasting standards has to be lodged with the broadcaster first but a privacy complaint can be made directly to the BSA. I’m no psychologist, but I think maybe the sort of people who make these complaints prefer a ‘blab to the teacher’ approach rather than directly confronting the person they have a problem with, and the privacy standard allows them to do that.

Dishonourable mentions for most unjustified complaining go to Metua Pekepo of Auckland for complaining about inaccuracy where the Internet party was referred to by the name of its bankroller instead of the offical party name, and to Elizabeth Samuel of Kaiapoi for complaining about the word ‘fuck’ being used in show screened after 8:30 and after a warning about ‘frequent use of coarse language’. Apparently it was too soon after 8:30 or something.

As I said above, I don’t believe the BSA serves any purpose, and therefore no complaint should be upheld ever. But it’s worth noting their rationale for declining a complaint by Victor Wieland of Auckland about lack of balance in a global warming story:

“…this item did not purport to discuss the different sides of the debate around the existence, or causes of climate change. It simply reported the latest findings of the IPCC, so it did not amount to a ‘discussion’ which required the presentation of alternative views.”

I wonder if it would be the same if there was a story on the economy consisting entirely of repeating some findings from the NZ Initiative.

This post would not be complete without mentioning the ‘heifers and lardos’ comment by Rachel Smalley. Chris Du Fall of Wellington saw fit to complain to the BSA about this even after the broadcaster itself upheld her complaint and apologized publicly. The BSA rightly rejected the complaint and also noted they would not have taken any action even if the broadcaster had done nothing. The actual comments were, of course, absolutely true and their broadcast was a valuable public service, albeit unintentional.


Interest rates may hold for another year

October 24th, 2014 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Economists now expect the Reserve Bank to keep interest rates on hold until September next year after inflation in the September quarter proved even more benign than it had forecast.

The consumers price index rose 0.3 per cent in the quarter, when the median market forecast had been 0.5 per cent and the Reserve Bank’s 0.7 per cent.

Westpac and ASB have pushed back their forecasts of when the Reserve Bank will next raise the official cash rate to September 2015.

That will be welcome news to everyone with a mortgage.


As this graph from the Reserve Bank shows, home owners have had the longest period of relatively low interest rates in 25 years.


The $800,000 man

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

The Herald reports:

An unnamed ACC employee – understood to be investment manager Nicholas Bagnall, who oversees almost $27 billion in taxpayer funds – got over $800,000 in pay last year, likely making him our highest paid public servant.

The breakdown of staff pay in ACC’s annual report yesterday reveals its highest paid received between $810,000 and $820,000 in the last year.

Some may be surprised that a manager may get less than a CEO, but I’ve seen this before with IT Managers getting paid more than their bosses.

The Herald understands the ACC employee is not ACC chief executive Scott Pickering but a member of the state-owned injury insurer’s investment team, as was the corporation’s second highest-paid staffer, on just over $700,000.

Mr Bagnall has led ACC’s investment team for the past 15 years. He would not confirm he was the employee referred to in ACC’s report but said he was “very well paid”.

I don’t have a problem with Mr Bagnall being paid that much, if he is performing well enough to justify it.

The ACC Annual Report shows ACC has financial assets of $27.6 billion and they got a 6.3% return on investment which is $1.6 billion of income. Paying someone $800,000 a year to manage $27.6 billion of assets seems reasonable. A 0.1% improved return of investment of those assets is worth $27 million.


NZ has highest wealth growth

October 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand has topped the global charts for wealth growth between 2000 and 2014, according to a report by Credit Suisse.

The Global Wealth report said favourable exchange rates meant the median wealth per adult in New Zealand grew by more than 300 per cent, with Australia a close second.

New Zealand had one of the biggest jumps in currency growth against the greenback in 2013-14, up 8 per cent.

In constant currency terms, however, New Zealand’s wealth grew much more modestly, just over 100 per cent and in line with countries like Kuwait.

Not too bad.


Uber in NZ

October 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Controversial smartphone app Uber has struggling taxi drivers moonlighting for them, according to the New Zealand Taxi Federation.

Uber has its official launch in Wellington this afternoon even though it has been used in Wellington for the past couple of months. It was launched in Auckland earlier this year.

Uber allows registered drivers with their own cars to link up with customers through a smartphone app, with fares pre-agreed.

Federation executive director Roger Heale said they “were kind of enjoying” Uber being in New Zealand.

“The people who are driving for them are the taxi drivers who can’t get work anywhere else. They’re current taxi drivers who, if they get a job have to jump out, take the top sign off [the cab], and go around and do the job as an Uber driver.” …

Uber spokeswoman Katie Curran said they were “thrilled with the reception” they had received in Auckland and Wellington from riders and partner-drivers.

“We’re glad the Taxi Federation recognises that Uber is raising the standards of the for-hire transport industry.”

Good to see the NZ taxi industry not being hysterically opposed to new technology and business models, as some of their overseas counterparts have been.


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Our next flag?

October 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


The Kyle Lockwood flag

Stuff reports:

he first of two referendums on changing New Zealand’s flag could be held as early as next year, with a decision made in early 2016.

Prime Minister John Key used his address to the Returned Services Association (RSA) National Conference today, to lay out his case for a new Kiwi ensign.

Talking to media after the speech, he said he would be writing to the leaders of all other parties within four days to ask them to choose a representative to take part in a cross-party panel on the issue.

Key said he had received official advice that outlined a two-step referendum. It would see a public consultation period on possible designs.

The cross-party panel would likely pick the top three to five designs which would go to a referendum to pick the most preferred.

That would then be pitted against the current flag in a second referendum, where people would either vote to change or keep the status quo. 

I think that is the way to go. First have New Zealanders vote on their preferred alternative, and then have New Zealanders vote on that design vs the current NZ flag.

That advice still had to be considered and voted on by committee, but Key said he hoped the first referendum could be held before the end of next year, with a final decision by April 2016.

He gave an assurance to RSA members that New Zealand’s contributions to World War I would be recognised under the current flag at centenary commemorations in New Zealand and Gallipoli next year. 

Key would not support any change that undermined the role of the defence force, but he did not believe a new flag design would do that.

“If you got to any of the Commonwealth war graves [in Europe] what you actually see on the war graves is the silver fern. It’s not the New Zealand flag. 

“When people say New Zealanders were buried under that flag, that’s technically correct when the flag was on the coffin, but it’s not true in terms of being on their headstones,” Key said. 

The silver fern has become a de facto symbol for New Zealand and New Zealanders. It is time we had it on our flag.

The Prime Minister had softened his preference for a silver fern on a black background, saying it was unlikely to be a popular option.

He had swayed more toward a design by Kyle Lockwood, which retained New Zealand’s current flag colours, with a Silver Fern and a southern cross. 

My preference is still for the silver fern on black, as it would be as instantly recognizable as the Canadian Maple Leaf. However also a big fan of the Kyle Lockwood design and see both as vastly superior to the status quo.

I’d love to do a poll of 1,000 non New Zealanders and Australians, and show them the NZ Flag and Australian flag and ask them to pick which flag belongs to which country. I suspect the proportions getting it right will be barely more than the 50/50 of random guessing.


NZers in overseas jails

October 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff has a list of the 53 known New Zealanders serving time in overseas prions. The summary is:

  • Australia – 8
  • Cambodia – 2
  • Canada – 3
  • China – 6
  • Colombia – 1
  • Ecuador – 1
  • Fiji – 1
  • Indonesia – 1
  • Japan – 4
  • Peru – 2
  • Philippines – 1
  • Samoa – 1
  • Thailand – 6
  • UAE – 3
  • US – 12
  • Vanuatu – 1

Most are for drugs crimes or sex crimes.

I’m sure there are more than eight Kiwis in jail in Australia. I imagine only the high profile ones get reported.

No tag for this post.

Food prices down

October 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

Food prices fell 0.8 percent in September 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today. This fall follows a 0.3 percent rise in August and a 0.7 percent fall in July.

“Lower food prices in September came from seasonally cheaper vegetables, partly countered by a rise in meat prices,” prices manager Chris Pike said.

Fruit and vegetable prices fell 6.5 percent. Lower vegetable prices (down 11 percent) were the most significant contributor to the monthly fall in food prices, with price falls for lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and capsicums. …

Food prices decreased 0.1 percent in the year to September 2014, following a 0.7 percent increase in the year to August 2014.

In the year to September 2014, grocery food prices decreased 1.6 percent, influenced by lower bread prices (down 14 percent).

Food prices don’t have a lot to do with the Government, more the market. But it is good to reflect that it has been several years since we have had serious food inflation.

In the last three years food prices have only increased 0.8%. This compares with a 18.1% increase from 2005 to 2008.

A remarkable difference.


Maori Youth Offending

October 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The new Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell is calling for a review of the justice system as young Maori become increasingly over represented in youth crime statistics.

Fewer young offenders are fronting the judge but young Maori are making up more of those who do pass through the justice system.

Latest Ministry of Justice figures show the number of children and young people charged in Youth Court is the lowest in 20 years. However, as the number drops, the figures show the proportion of young Maori compared with non-Maori is rising.

Six years ago, Maori represented 48 per cent of youths facing charges in the Youth Court. The latest figures reveal that has jumped to 57 per cent.

While the Government lauds the decrease in youth crime, Flavell, who is also co-leader of the Maori Party, said the New Zealand justice system continued to be stacked against young Maori.

It is important to note that while the proportion has increased, the numbers charged has decreased significantly – just not as much as non-Maori.

In the last six years there has been a 46% reduction in the number of young Maori who have been charged in court. That’s a great result. The reduction for young non-Maori has been 63% which is even larger. But if both of them are heading in the right direction, I don’t think it is a problem if one is reducing faster than the other. It would be different if both were increasing.


Hopefully the trend continues.


Guest Post on the Crewe Murders

October 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by regular commentator Flipper:

The Fisher “expose” piece in relation to the Crewe, Thomas, and Hutton saga, in this morning’s Herald, has one element of truth of which Fisher is unaware – that relating to inside information given to Muldoon. But, importantly, that revelation adds to, and supports what Flipper was told (by an impeccable Royal Commission source, of which more later) at the time. Much of what follows has been previously published in other Kiwiblog threads. But today we have something new – a something that fills an empty jigsaw space.

Fisher quotes A A Thomas’ brother, Des, claiming today that Muldoon had received a detailed deathbed confession from one of Hutton’s conspirators. This is in relation to the content of a letter strongly advising against any pardon on the grounds that one would be to make a mockery of our system of justice

“…. Mr Thomas would not comment but his brother Des, who has spoken for the family, said there was a strong case to be made that Sir Robert had inside knowledge. He said there was evidence Len Johnston, one of the detectives implicated in the planting of evidence, had confessed on his deathbed in the late 1970s. The story – ruled out as true by the police review – saw the confession to his vicar passed to a bishop, who passed it to Sir Robert.”

Des Thomas said the story was credible despite police dismissing it because it explained why Sir Robert appointed Anglican Archbishop the Most Rev Allen Johnston as one of the royal commissioners.

That conclusion is supported by several things:
• The Solicitor General, Richard Savage, and Crown Law, did not appear at the Royal Commission, and it appears that they were instructed to remove themselves from involvement;
• The Crown prosecutor, Morris, had his own, personal, legal representation
• According to one of the Commissioners, Rt Hon Peter Gordon (aka “Hiss and Roar”), former Archbishop Johnston personally penned the words used in their report to condemn Hutton.

Then Solicitor General, Richard Savage, in a letter to Rob Muldoon….” said [Muldoon was Rt Hon “, not “Sir” then] could do nothing, he could refer the case with its report back to the Court of Appeal, or he could grant a pardon. He (Savage) told the Prime Minister: “I feel to pardon or release Thomas on the basis of this report would be to make a mockery of our system of justice. He said there was “nothing new” in the two reports which had not been before the courts.

Mr Savage said …. “To substitute his (Adams-Smith) opinion … for that of the juries and the courts would in my opinion be quite wrong.” He said Sir Robert’s other options were to refer it to the courts, which would allow the Government to base further action on a court decision and “not that of one man who, of necessity, could not hear the opposing points of view argued”.

He said the most “justified” response would be to take no action. He also suggested Sir Robert publicly announce it would be up to Mr Thomas to take the reports to the Governor-General to ask for a pardon.

Mr Savage’s opinion for Sir Robert was dated December 10, 1979.

“Exactly one week later Mr Thomas was pardoned. He was paid $950,000 compensation. The subsequent royal commission of inquiry into the conviction found that Mr Thomas should never have been arrested. [Fisher, as with much of what he writes, is wrong, The compensation was agreed later, following a separate RC hearing on that matter – Report of the Royal Commission ToR 6 – Paras 474 – 513]

“What did Muldoon know in order to get Adams-Smith to do the report? Did Len Johnston confess on his deathbed?”

As some will be aware, Flipper has previously posted details in relation to the internal manoeuvring of the Thomas Royal Commission. I know some of the inside, publicly undisclosed detail, from luncheon and dinner table conversations with more than one of the actual participants.

Let me state at the outset that the efforts of Booth, Sprott, Yallop, et al kept the issue in front of the public at a time when the judiciary had closed ranks and walked away. The inquiry by Adams-Smith was at the direction of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, and was made over the objections of Crown Law, Crown Prosecutors, and Police.

But it was the senile former Justice McGregor whose door step dismissal of Muldoon that sealed the fate of the Thomas conspiracy. When the man previously tasked with reviewing all evidence in the Thomas case, looked at Muldoon and said he did not know who he was, it became clear to RDM that McGregor had simply done “the decent thing” for his judicial brethren — at the cost of the continued incarceration of an innocent man.

[There is a real similarity to what Savage’s wrote in defence of his legal brethren – no doubt with one eye on a Judicial appointment]

The first Adams-Smith report was widely published with only one section (then still under investigation) being redacted. The second resulted in a conversation between Muldoon and McLay. (Then Savage’s letter hit RDM’s desk) The latter (McLay) was instructed not to involve Crown Law or the Police prior to Cabinet discussion and decision. Muldoon took his recommendation to The Cabinet, had it endorsed, and instructed McLay to attend to the paper work. It was done, almost that quickly, and the Police first learned of the pardon from news media.

The Royal Commission faced an initial legal challenge (I will be kind and call it “clarification request”) from the CL/Police establishment on the meaning of a free pardon – a clarification that served to aid Thomas as time went by. The Royal Commission (Taylor, Gordon & Johnston) was faced with obfuscation, lies, and half-truths (a reminder that Fisher [former HC Judge and QC), not the Herald’s Fisher] had a piece of that), but they saw through them all. And, as I have previously commented in other threads, the former Archbishop Johnston was the original author of the words condemning Hutton. He would have gone further and linked Morris, but as one of the Commissioners (Peter Gordon) told me, “We could not link all the dots.” Morris , having been told that Crown Law had received instructions not to become involved, appointed his personal legal counsel to protect his interests.

The judicial pin-head dancing is all very well, and may, of course, be important.

But the judiciary does NOT exist to protect only the State or the Crown. It exists, does it not, to oversee the just administration/enforcement of New Zealand law? Recent events in relation to at least three other high profile cases suggest that nothing has changed. If Adams does take her new responsibilities seriously, she will move to adopt the Law Commission’s recommendation on the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission – Stet.


Hamilton Gardens

October 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Last week Hamilton Gardens was named Garden of the Year at the prestigious 2014 International Garden Tourism Awards in Metz, France. It’s too big a stretch to say the almost 50ha site on the city’s Cobham Drive is the best public garden in the world, but it’s right up there, nominated and chosen for this honour by a global jury network.

They are a somewhat hidden treasure. I went there around two years ago and they’re a great place to spend half a day at.  The different country themed areas  especially works well.

Hamilton Gardens is the most visited tourist attraction in the Waikato with approximately one million visits per year. Half of these are tourists and those numbers are constantly increasing: 50 per cent are Hamiltonians; 30 per cent rest of New Zealand; 20 per cent international.

Annual 2013 Hamilton City Council budget for Gardens’ upkeep: $2.378 million.

Not too bad for 500,000 tourist visits a year from out of towners.


Another legal loss for the anti fluoride campaigners

October 10th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A High Court Judge has thrown out an application by opponents of fluoride trying to force the Ministry of Health to treat it as a medicine and regulate the amount added to tap water.

Anti-fluoride group New Health New Zealand had claimed it was absurd that fluoride tablets were deemed a medicine under the act but fluoride added to tap water was not.

However, Justice David Collins ruled when Hydrofluorosilicic Acid (HFA) and Sodium Silico Fluoride (SSF) were added to domestic water supplies in New Zealand to produce fluoride concentrations within the current allowable level of 1.5 milligrams per litre they were not medicines within the meaning of the Act.

The application for declaring them as medicines was therefore dismissed, he said.

The court ruling said that the concentrations would have to be at least six times higher at 10 mls per litre, for them to have to be regulated by the Ministry of Health.


Pitmen Painters

October 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Pitmen Painters is a play based on the true story of a group miners in Ashington who went along to an art appreciation class run by the Workers Educational Association. The class soon turned from theory into practice, and the miners became sensations in the art world.

It is written by Lee Hall, who may be better known for Billy Elliott.

The Circa production was very well done, with a deft mix of humour, politics and art. Copies of the original artworks were displayed at various times on projectors.

The miners are deeply socialist, as most miners of that era were. The organiser has a tendency to revert to the rule book at every opportunity in deciding what is and is not allowable, including the offer of an attractive young woman to pose nude for them.

When one of the miners is offered a paid patron, this divides the group. Should one be allowed to stand out? The political theme runs throughout the play, but does not dominate it.

The play is reasonably long at two and a half hours, but it never gets stale. The continual conflict between the miners, but also the appreciation of the rarity of what they are doing, makes the play a very enjoyable experience.

It runs at Circa until Sat 8 November.

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I hope she has lost the kids

October 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Judge Neave said a concerned neighbour called police because she noticed the woman’s infant son playing on the road naked.

The court was told associates of the woman then arrived and found the young boy playing naked in the driveway.

They took him inside and heard screaming coming from the bathroom.

They found the woman’s young daughter with soap in her eyes, clothed and in a bathtub overflowing with cold water, Judge Neave said.

The friends were forced to kick the bedroom door open because the woman, who was hungover, had barricaded herself in, he said.

The mother did not wake up, so the associates clothed the children and took them away from the house, he said.

Police arrived at the house and questioned the woman but she became abusive and refused to discuss where her children were, he said.

A miracle the kids are alive. I hope she does not keep custody, unless she can show remarkable change.

This is the sort of child poverty we should be focusing on – and it is not one that would be fixed by increasing the benefit by $60 a week.


Is the Kiwifruit lawsuit falling apart?

October 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two of the five members of a committee leading a claim to sue the Government for negligence over the PSA kiwifruit disease have resigned.

Allan Dawson, the managing director of Katikati coolstore Aongatete and Murray Gibson, a Te Puke accountant, were both part of a five-member committee behind the Kiwifruit Claim.

The claim, backed by a litigation fund, is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation over the PSA outbreak in 2010 which caused massive loses to the Bay of Plenty industry.

However, marketing organisations Zespri and a number of other groups have urged growers to think carefully about signing up.

An open letter to Prime Minister John Key opposing the claim, originally sent yesterday, was amended and resent today with the inclusion of Dawson as a signatory.

The vast bulk of the industry is against this claim, which appears to be acting for an international local litigation fund.

Gibson meanwhile resigned last night.

“The feedback I have received from clients in recent days and visits I have made to clients to hear their thoughts give me no choice but to resign. The potential impact on my business and professional reputation is a risk I am not prepared to accept,” Gibson wrote, asking to no longer be referred to in material sent to the media.

It is generally wise to listen to your clients.

Hooton insisted the claim would go ahead, with the statement of claim due to be filed in the Wellington High Court next week.

“This is all going as planned,” he said.

Losing 40% of your claim committee was the plan?


Should this be a crime?

October 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A brother and sister who met as young adults have been sentenced for incest as they co-parent their child in Christchurch.

The sister has been put on community detention that will keep her at home at night caring for her daughter – a healthy baby – and she must do a year of intensive supervision.

Her older brother’s sentencing was put off at the Christchurch District Court sentencing today because his probation report had not been done.

Judge David Saunders told the brother that he must not go within 100m of flat where his sister is living unless he has prior approval of the Community Probation service.

The sister has the child for five days a week, and the brother has it for the other two days. He will be sentenced on December 2, on charges of incest, wilful damage, and a breach of a community work sentence.

Judge Saunders told the sister at her sentencing that it was not the more common incest situation where an older man had taken advantage of a daughter.

In this case they were siblings and there was only a small disparity in the ages.

While incredibly yucky, they are both consenting adults. I find their decision abhorrent, but I don’t think my moral judgement should have the force of law on them.


Now the PGF is after Lotto

October 8th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new daily Lotto game that offers tickets for $1 has been called unnecessary by anti-gambling campaigners.

Lotto New Zealand calls Play 3 “a fun, new game that’s unique from our other games”, but the Problem Gambling Foundation and budgeting services say it is not needed and increases the risk of harm.

Lotto already has three daily games, plus its big draw nights on Saturday and Wednesday.

The new game, which has a top prize of $500, involves picking a 3-digit number and matching it – either exactly, out of order or with two digits the same.

Players pay $1 per ticket, with the number drawn at 6pm each day. The first draw took place last night. There is no age limit, in common with all other Lotto games except its Instant Kiwi scratchcard.

In its briefing to incoming Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne in February, Lotto said it estimated Play 3 would increase revenue – which is close to $1 billion a year – by 1.1 per cent.

It is part of a strategy to grow sales that includes negotiating the sale of tickets at supermarket checkouts.

Problem Gambling Foundation spokeswoman Andree Froude asked whether a new game was justified.

This makes me think that the (taxpayer funded) PGF wants a world where we are not allowed to gamble. No Lotto, no Instant Kiwi, no casinos, no bingo, no horse racing, no sports betting. It would be a world without problem gambling, but also a world without fun.

We should help those who have an addiction, but not take away choice from millions of New Zealanders.

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Swney in court

October 8th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland’s Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney has been charged with tax evasion totalling almost $2 million.

Swney, 57, who heads the publicly funded organisation, faces 39 charges laid by the Inland Revenue Department alleging he did not pay $1.8 million in tax. Penalties of $1.4 million was also allegedly owed.

He appeared in Auckland District Court today where he denied all the charges and his lawyer David Jones, QC, did not apply for continuation of name suppression.

Mr Jones indicated the matter would progress to a judge-alone trial.

There is obviously a trial to go through, but I note:

It is alleged that from 1994 Swney provided management services as a contractor for the incorporated society while at the same time running it.

Court documents detailed the charges which the IRD said came from a failure to provide income tax or GST returns.

In September 2011, during a routine review of a GST refund claimed by Heart of the City, an invoice under the name of Security Management Specialists was uncovered but the GST number did not match that of the company.

This sparked an IRD investigation into Swney’s tax affairs.

A court summary of facts said Swney admitted falsifying the invoice and others like it but the charges were denied in court today.

If this is correct (noting the trial), then that’s disgraceful behaviour for the head of a business group.

Heart of the City board chairman Terry Gould announced today that Swney’s contract had been terminated.

“The board has already commenced the process for appointing an independent, interim chief executive and an announcement will be made in due course.

“The termination of Mr Swney’s contract last week occurred as soon as the Heart of the City board learned about allegations against him of improper invoicing.

“The board has appointed McGrathNicol which has begun an independent forensic examination of the organisation’s finances and activities.

“Due to the independent investigation, and the continuing judicial process, the board is constrained in what it can say publicly at this time.”

Those actions seem appropriate. But there will be questions about board oversight, if these charges are correct.

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On welfare for 22 years

October 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Waikato’s worst benefit fraudster says she never spent a cent of the nearly $300,000 she stole on herself.

Huntly woman Ruth Pitovao Pomate, 46, who was sentenced to nearly three years’ jail yesterday, says she was under pressure to provide for not only her six children, but also her parents over the 22-year period she stole $296,000 from the taxpayer.

Pomate told the Waikato Times before she was put behind bars that she was not “a bad person” and was trying to do her best for her family.

She said had never spent a cent on herself and didn’t even own her own clothes.

Pomate now holds the dubious title of Waikato’s worst benefit fraudster after exceeding the total clocked up by Sokha Ly who was in August jailed for defrauding $220,000 over a 12-year period.

The Huntly District Court heard how Pomate was first granted a sickness benefit in 1992 before going on to receive the domestic purposes benefit from 1996 through to January 14, this year.

The fraud is of course criminal, and it is appropriate she has been prosecuted.

But for me it is equally an issue that even without the fraud, she has spent 22 years on welfare. It appears she has not worked since 1992.

Before going into court, Pomate stressed that she was not a bad person.

“I have already told my kids that it is going to be embarrassing for them. But they also know that I never did it for me, it’s always been for them so that they always have a home.”

Or she could have got a job.

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Give pokies money to Lottery Board to distribute

October 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Several charitable trusts linked to an Auckland family which distribute millions of dollars in pokie money for community events are being probed by a Government agency with “serious concerns” about where the money has gone.

Thousands of people have attended Diwali, Bollywood and other free community events organised by the South Trust, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from gaming societies. …

Two cultural events organised by the South Trust cost $85,000 and $90,000, according to the records for the 2013 financial year.

The Herald has learned that the South Trust got nearly $500,000 over two years from the Akarana Community Trust Ltd, a gaming trust set up by Mrs Kular’s brother Harjit Dheil.

In turn, Akarana is part-funded by pokie machines at bars owned by Mrs Kular’s other brother, Hardesh Dheil.

Nearly $5.5 million in pokie money has been given in the past two years to Akarana, which in turn distributes it to other charitable societies

Akarana has also given $300,000 to the Kiwi Indian Community Trust of which the Dheils’ father, Sohan Singh, is a trustee.

This is a great example of the problems with the status quo. While pokie machines are an invaluable source of revenue for many local charities, there have been numerous cases where the proceeds go to people with a conflict of interest.

Here we have a situation where one brother owns the bar, another operates the gaming trust and the trust donates the money to other charitable trusts run by their sister and father. There should be no linkages between the pokie operator, the bar and the recipient of the charitable funds.

I believe that situations like this are so common, that a massive change is needed. I’d get rid of all the individual charitable trusts associated with the pokies industry and have all funds from the pokies go to the Lotteries Board, tagged for projects and charities in the local areas the funds came from. The Lotteries Board have a long history of non conflicted decision making on distributing money from gambling to worthy causes.


Wages up

October 5th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The median weekly income increased by $25 this year, Statistics New Zealand says.

That’s $800 a year.

In the June 2014 quarter 50 per cent of people earned more than $600 a week — an increase of $25 from the June 2013 quarter, and the largest annual rise since the June 2007 quarter, Statistics NZ said in its New Zealand Income Survey released today.

Good to see incomes rising the strongest for seven years. Note that the median income includes adults on welfare, studying, retired etc. It is not the same as the median wage.

The number of people receiving government transfers fell by 30,700, despite 17,900 more people aged 65 and over receiving income from this source, the survey showed.

Also pleasing.


RIP Ewen Gilmour

October 3rd, 2014 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Kiwis are mourning “Westie” comedian Ewen Gilmour, who died at his home unexpectedly. He was 51.

Gilmour’s agent, ​Hillary Coe,​ confirmed he passed away last night.

“He passed away at home. It was very unexpected as he had not been unwell but it was natural, he passed away in his sleep.”

How sad and unexpected. Condolences to his family and friends.

I saw him do his comedy show around two years ago in Wellington. He was side splitting funny and I may never turn on a hotel light again! The review of his show is here. A huge loss to the NZ comedy scene.

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Waitangi National Trust not losing money

October 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Visitors to the splendid Treaty grounds at Waitangi probably assume the taxpayers of New Zealand happily pay for the facilities there. What could be a more worthy or natural public expense than the preservation of that place? In fact, it is run by a private trust with income from the estate of a former Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, supplemented by a charge to visitors.

Fortunately the grounds are not completely fenced and it is possible to reach the historic site for no charge, but the convenient entrance has always carried a fee. The entrance has been made attractive and informational, taking visitors through a building containing displays. The $12 door charge caused no audible outrage from the public, but in 2008 Helen Clark’s Government argued, quite rightly, that New Zealanders should not have to pay. The Waitangi National Trust agreed and made entry free for everyone except overseas tourists who would be charged $25 to cover the lost income.

In recent years the trust has struggled to cover its costs, blaming a decline in tourism following the Global Financial Crisis.

It would be useful to check the facts before accepting an assertion.

Their 2013 accounts show a surplus of $306,000 and equity of $13.7 million. The previous surpluses were $80,000, $443,000, $428,000. The last deficit was in 2009.

So over the last four years the accumulated surpluses have been over $1.2 million.

In 2009 staff hours per week were 693 and in 2013 they were 1060 hours per week. Despite the increase they are still profitable but have they considered whether they needed a 50% increase in staff hours over four years, and would trimming the costs not be preferable to imposing a fee?


You can now register .nz names directly

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

As of 1 pm Tuesday, you can register a domain name directly under .nz

You can check the status of any desired name at


The Press on offence

October 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

EnSoc’s critics, and people generally, need to learn not to be too hasty to take offence. Prejudice and stereotyping are seldom effective humour, but howls of outrage can be a sign that a palpable hit has been made against some sacred cow or other. Even if there is no particular point being made, some leeway should be allowable for youthful exuberance.

Thin-lipped disapproval and the po-faced taking of offence are too often used to shut down others’ freedom of expression.

The claim that something has caused offence can be a veil for censorship and an attempt to create a culture in which a bland homogeneity of thought and opinion prevails.

To put it at its loftiest, one of the rights protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is the right to freedom of expression. That must include the right to express thoughts and opinions others may find offensive, even odious.

It is unlikely any such high-toned notions were in the minds of the student EnSoc members when they thought up their tasteless defamations of women and Muslims and they should certainly act with greater regard for the sensitivities of others, but the principle applies all the same.

Well said. I recall Otago University capping magazines that were stuffed full of absolutely offensive humour. There is no right in NZ law not to be offended,

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