Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

The Kiwi jihadist

January 16th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A year after giving away the coordinates of Islamic State fighters on social media, the “bumbling jihadist” Mark John Taylor has apparently resurfaced online and is encouraging others to join him in Syria.

According to a Linkedin profile purporting to come from the former New Zealand soldier, Taylor has been teaching English to children in Raqqa under Islamic State since October 2014.

Taylor claims to have been teaching English to children between the ages of 5 and 12, “teaching with a puppet and enjoyed having fun with the students” .

“Living in the heart of the Islamic State is a good experience and I encourage others to come and see for themselves.”

A good experience for some men, but less so for the women who of course are treated as slaves.

He added: “There’s no danger here and a great place to bring up the family. Except Western Jet fighters that always drop bombs on Civilians!”

No danger here? Mr Taylor should announce he is gay, and then see whether that holds true!

Should all athletics records be reset?

January 14th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

UK Athletics wants all world records to be reset due to the sport’s doping crisis and has announced it will seek to bring in a lifetime ban for any athlete guilty of a serious drugs violation.

The governing body for British athletics has published A Manifesto for Clean Athletics, which calls for hard-hitting measures to be brought in to clean up the sport. It comes after the doping scandal in which Russia has been banned from international athletics, with allegations that former officials from the sport’s world governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations also took money to cover up positive tests from Turkish and Moroccan athletes. Kenya, one of the most high-profile countries in distance running, is also at the centre of doping-related allegations.

Their recommendation is:

A call to the IAAF to investigate the implications of drawing a line under all pre-existing sport records – for example, by adjusting event rules – and commencing a new set of records based on performances in the new Clean Athletics era.

I doubt it would be agreed to, but I think it is a good idea.

Far too many of the world records of the last 30 years were done through doping.

Make them all historical records, but set up a new set of world records from say 2018 onwards, once the sport is truly clean.

AUSA turns down scholarship as it is from a pro-life group

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

Pro-Life Auckland writes:

I’m the President of Prolife Auckland, which is a University of Auckland club committed to advocating for the rights and personhood of unborn children. I’m aware from reading Kiwiblog that you’re personally prochoice, however I think you’ll agree that the issues around ideological capture and groupthink are much broader than that particular debate, and I get the impression that you are generally supportive of freedom of expression.

By way of background, our club is setting up a scholarship to help pay childcare costs for solo mother students. We’ll be fundraising for this in the hope that we can help at least one young woman per semester through her students – obviously financial circumstances can be pretty difficult following the birth of a child. We like to think that our “pro-life” philosophy is pretty holistic so we’re putting our money where our mouth is.

We wanted to offer the scholarship under the auspices of AUSA and to get their support in promoting it, so I approached them sometime in October with a proposal. Imagine our surprise when the official answer we (eventually!) received was that they weren’t interested in helping us to help solo mothers. Given that their entire function is to serve the student population, I think it’s appalling they are prepared to allow ideology to get in the way of student welfare. I also don’t think it’s fair for the student union to hold itself out as representing all students when dissenting opinions are suppressed. It just goes to show, I think, that student union membership should be voluntary.

Oh, and by the way, I find it particularly ironic that this decision was made with the full support of AUSA’s President, Paul Smith, who earlier this year at the Auckland Writers Festival made a speech in his capacity as AUSA President on the absolute right to offend and to freedom of expression. The debate is mentioned here: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/news-events-and-notices/events/events-2015/05/auckland-writers-festival.html however further details can be found here: http://www.kathrynvanbeek.co.nz/blog/yes-but I quote:

“Paul Smith, President of the University of Auckland Debating Society, opened by pointing out that free speech is the cornerstone of personal freedom and democracy. He said that offense is subjective and that people have the option of not engaging with what offends them. Referencing marriage and gender equality, he said that offense can be a catalyst for change and that the veneer of protection against offense is often used as an excuse to shut down ideas.”

I’m pro-choice, but that doesn’t matter.  AUSA should not be refusing a genuine offer of assistance to students, just because they don’t agree with the views of the group.

prolifescreenshot

What this means is that an Auckland student who may have been able to get their childcare costs paid for, now won’t be able to, unless Pro-life can work around AUSA.

Will Obama visit?

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

Stuff reports:

US President Barack Obama hopes to visit New Zealand this year – just the third time in history a United States president has been here.

The visit could have been as early at February 4, for the signing of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. But Cabinet minister Simon Bridges is pouring cold water on that, saying that agreement will be signed by trade ministers, not by leaders.

Instead, it appears Obama will tack his New Zealand visit onto one of two trips to Asia: either May or September.

if President Obama does come, he could dedicate or open a US memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

Should not need to go to court to fell a dangerous tree

January 13th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Environment Court has refused an Auckland man’s application to remove a huge tree from his heritage property Valhalla because of a legal technicality – despite it presenting an “undeniable presence of risk to human life”, according to a judge.

The tree has caused thousands of dollars of damage, including branches spearing through the home’s roof during a storm, narrowly missing people inside.

Auckland Council last night seemingly contradicted the ruling, saying it would not prosecute if the tree was removed because of the risk it posed.

The Norfolk pine, on James Gilderdale’s $1.1 million Heritage NZ-listed property in Woodward Rd, Mt Albert is protected because it is listed as a notable tree on the district plan and one of a neighbouring pair, each estimated to be 39m tall.

It is good the Council are saying they won’t prosecute, but it is wrong that he even has to go to court to get permission to remove the tree. The law should allow a home owner to remove a tree which poses a danger to human life.

In 2015, a branch estimated to weigh 80kg was blown down and missed hitting the applicant by only 2m. “The insurers have understandably threatened to review the availability of cover.”

So he has been almost killed by the tree, and risks losing insurance for the house – yet still can not legally fell the tree. Ridiculous.

UPDATE: The tree is being felled. The poor owner has been trying since 2014 to get permission!

Rugby player gets off assault

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

Stuff reports:

A promising young rugby star has avoided conviction after punching his ex’s date in the head.

Teariki Ben-Nicholas debuted for New Zealand’s under-20 team at the Oceania junior champs last year.

The No 8 also plays senior club rugby in Wellington and for the Hurricanes under-20 team.

Ben-Nicholas moved from Auckland to Wellington to study law and commerce.

According to court documents released to The Herald, Ben-Nicholas was out drinking in Wellington, following a “rugby success” in October 2014 when he found out his ex girlfriend was at a Wellington bar with her new boyfriend.

A “slightly intoxicated” Ben-Nicholas went to the bar, approached the other man in the toilets and punched him in the head.

The 20-year-old admitted a charge of common assault in relation to the incident and made a “full and genuine apology” during a restorative justice meeting, The Herald reported.

At sentencing in the Wellington District Court, Judge Peter Rollo granted an application for a discharge without conviction.

Judge Rollo said the consequences of a conviction would be out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence.

However, police opposed the application for a discharge, arguing the assault was serious and any effects on travel plans and work as a professional rugby player were not certain.

During last month’s sentencing Judge Rollo said: “The information which is before me suggests that you have every opportunity to pursue a professional rugby career at the top level, maybe even rising as far as the All Blacks if your development continues.”

This is pretty appalling.

It was an unprovoked assault, due to jealousy. He should get a conviction for that.

If he really is a good rugby player, he’ll be able to travel to play for a top team. It just means they’ll need to get a visa. An assault conviction is not an automatic travel ban.

The judiciary is far too happy to let criminals off without a conviction if they are a sportsperson.

Guest Post: Flag Referendum

January 10th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Anthony Morris:

The result of the first flag referendum was very close, with the country being split down the middle on whether we prefer the red and blue silver fern design or the black and blue sliver fern, The red and blue flag was a clear favourite on first preferences with 580,241 votes to 559,587 for the black and blue. The black and blue design only pulled ahead after the second preferences of the voters for two lowest ranking flags were added. The final tally, also adding in the second preferences of the red peak voters, was 670,790 for the black and blue design to 655,466 for the red and blue – only 2.3% behind.  

Given the result was so close I think it is time to pause the legislative process and allow for further consultation to tweak the final design. Surely we need more of a consensus on the preferred new flag before having a final vote? 

Design wise, I think a large area of black only works on a pure black and white flag. I can understand the desire to see the silver fern partly as we are used to seeing it on a black and white flag, but the black and blue design is not inspiring and the blue also looks too pale. Perhaps we can come up with a compromise? I have tried with the design below which takes the darker blue of the red and blue design and adds in a red contour to reduce the expanse of black. The contour could represent many things.

black fern mod

For my 2c I disagree. We’ve had a referendum and one design won. Merging the 1st and 2nd designs means a new design no one voted for.

A very active disabled man

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

The Herald reports:

A disabled Gisborne man has been arrested after allegedly deliberately driving into a marae, causing several thousand dollars worth of damage, before attacking a passer by’s car and threatening to set himself alight at a petrol station.

How is he disabled?

At some point, the vehicle became stuck in a ditch and the man, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, made his way on to State Highway 2.

So can he walk without it? He made his way to SH2.

When a concerned motorist stopped to give the man assistance, he smashed a wing mirror from the person’s car and was left behind when the vehicle drove off again.

Seems pretty active there.

Soon after, the man was given a ride to Gisborne by another person.

Some time later, he entered a service station and left without paying for a pack of cigarettes.

Again pretty active.

I am curious as to whether the man is deemed so disabled he is unable to work, because from where I am looking, he seems to be pretty capable.

 

No tag for this post.

Kiwi dairy farmer doing well in Colorado as a cannabis farmer

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

Stuff reports:

John Lord once walked into a federal government building with $2 million in cash in his backpack to pay his taxes for the cannabis he sells. 

Due to federal laws, he couldn’t get a bank account to bank his drug profits. It’s different now. His customers still have to pay cash, but he can now transfer money to the Internal Revenue Service come tax time.

Lord is the chief executive of Livwell – the largest marijuana dealer in Colorado, one of a few states that have legalised cannabis.

He sells in excess of $80 million worth of product annually. He won’t talk profit margins.  

Not too bad for a one-time Te Aroha dairy farmer. He moved to the States back in 1998, first to manufacture and sell baby products. He sold that business in 2008. Cannabis is much more lucrative.

Lord has a staff of 500, owns 20 retail stores and is acquiring more this month.

500 staff is a pretty large business.

“The business itself has grown. The company pays full health care, which is a big deal over in the States. We have a retirement plan for employees, paid leave and we try to train and hire from within so it gives our employees the chance of climbing the ladder.

Sounds better than being a black market operator.

But like any good drug dealer, he knows his products inside out, not least because he uses it.

“It’s not a product that had touched my life. I was ambivalent to it. I was aware of its existence. I just wasn’t interested in trying the product then. 

“I was 54 when I first tried it. I use cannabis topically every day. I’ve got a busted up knuckle from rugby days.”

He’s not the only senior citizen who uses the products. Every week, a bus load from the local retirement village hobble into his stores to stock up. 

Heh, the best outing of the week.

When cannabis was legalised in Colorado, he opened up a shop and undercut the gangs. They buy off him now, after they taught him how the business worked. They then take the product to sell it in states where it’s still illegal. 

“Those meetings were interesting. Never held in a boardroom – that would have intimidated them,” Lord said.

Not only have the gangs gone, Lord said crime has dropped in Colorado. And alcohol consumption is down.  

“Just a couple of months ago, cannabis taxes exceeded alcohol taxes in the state by double. It’s huge,” he said. 

Lord has a vested interest but I’ll be very interested to see an analysis of the change in crime rates, health problems etc after say three years of legalisation.

“New Zealand and Australia controversially legalised prostitution and the world was going to come to an end and it simply did not and so society was mature enough to handle it. The same has happened with cannabis in Colorado and several other states and we just haven’t had the social problems.

“Those who are using the product are usually those who were traditionally using the product prior to legalisation anyway. And those people are now using a safe product, at a safe retail store and a well-lit-up car park outside and a security guy standing there and not a dark alley somewhere. It’s made for a safer situation for something that was existing anyway. 

It sounds like it has worked well, but again this is a vested interest.

As of a month ago, the Colorado Cannabis Industry was directly employing 25,500 people in legitimate, high-paying jobs.

“It became a little difficult for politicians who were perhaps feeling out of their depth, once they understood there were a huge number of genuine jobs coming from this and people were not sitting around in a circle singing Kumbaya and were doing a great job, with prospects, with benefits, all of that sort of thing. 

“It’s been interesting watching the evolution of the politicians in their regard to the industry.” 

Local law enforcement is with the industry, too. 

“The local police have embraced the legalisation completely. If they go to break up a party, they usually put their backs to the giggly guys in the corner and watch the drunkards in the other corner. And I think you would find every policeman would tell you that.

Probably true, but the mix can turn some people very aggressive.

“It’s a polarising topic. Other people sell alcohol. Other people milk cows. I grow cannabis. You can turn around and rail on any industry. You can turn around to somebody brewing beer and say: your product causes all sorts of social problems. With cannabis, we are finding way less social problems compared to alcohol and the great Colorado social experiment is proving that.”

As I said I look forward to some independent reviews.

Sir David Fagan

January 4th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Joseph Romanos writes:

Since shearer David Fagan’s knighthood was announced in the New Year honours list, there have been some surprisingly ignorant questions posed, particularly on social media.

Fagan? What about Dan Carter or Brendon McCullum? That’s a common sentiment.

Our honours system is disappointingly flawed, partly because it has become so political. However, the decision to knight Fagan was good.

Unlike our cricketers and rugby players, who compete in a massive media spotlight, and are supported by marketing and comms staff, shearers are semi-anonymous figures. 

Fagan won 16 Golden Shears crowns (the Wimbledon of his sport), plus 11 world titles. Yet he could walk down Queen St or Lambton Quay and hardly a head would turn in his direction.

I think it was a great call, knighting him.

I once asked farmer and former All Black captain Brian Lochore how shearing compared with rugby as a sport.

“Shearing at the pace they do in competition is very, very difficult,” he said. “There’s the hand-eye co-ordination and the whole body has to be working.

“You’re holding the sheep with your legs and your concentration has to be full-on. At that speed, if you make one slip, you’re gone.

“It’s physically very gruelling and then having to bend over like that makes it even tougher. David Fagan is up there with our greatest sportsmen.”

High praise indeed.

I love how our shearing champions come from places like Lawrence, Rakaia, Apiti, Frankton, Te Puke, Alexandra, Wellsford, Gisborne, Milton, Puhoi, Orepuki, Taumarunui, Pio Pio and Riversdale – far away from the flashing lights and big-city media.

Fagan is a Te Kuiti man, as is another New Zealand sports knight, Colin Meads. They sometimes run into each other at the pub on Friday nights and share a beer. Good down-to-earth blokes. 

Meads has for decades rightly been feted as one of our All Black legends. 

Now Fagan has found himself not on the farming pages but the front pages, not a television news curiosity, but a lead story.

Yes, the All Blacks were magnificent in 2015, and so were Lydia Ko, Lisa Carrington and others. 

But David Fagan sits comfortably alongside them in the pantheon of sports greats.

A very New Zealand Knight.

So who was arguing Chris Brown should be allowed into NZ?

January 4th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Chris Brown has reportedly been accused of punching a woman on Saturday morning in Las Vegas.

The 26-year-old singer is a suspect in a battery case after he allegedly struck the victim’s right eye with his fist after she reportedly snuck her mobile phone into his private party in his suite at the Palms Hotel and took a photo of him.

The victim has claimed she left the bash immediately after the incident, which took place at around 10:20 am, and contacted police a few hours later, according toTMZ.com.

Law enforcement officers have confirmed they are investigating the claims and Chris is the main suspect.

Meanwhile, the alleged incident comes less than a year after the rapper was accused of punching a man during a basketball game at the Palms Casino Resort last April.

All those prominent people who wrote in support of Chris Brown being given special dispensation to come to NZ, may want to rethink their stance.

A media take

January 4th, 2016 at 5:53 am by David Farrar

Phil Wallington, Producer of Media Take writes:

I don’t suppose that you folks are at all keen to rectify mistakes or to publish retractions of factual errors.

That is the practice I have followed in my half-century as a professional journalist.

If you were so inclined, you might consider the attachment which might enlighten the readers of this benighted blog.

I suspect you will do nothing…

Start off with an insult and finish with one also. How to win friends and influence people.

It is my observation that blogs have been far far more willing to publish corrections or allow rights of reply, than traditional media outlets. I can’t recall ever refusing.

Anyway to the substance:

As usual Kiwiblog has the facts wrong.

Average viewers per episode (based on Nielsen data):

  • Q+A 99,000 – No It’s 70,600 average viewers for the first play and a further 20,500 for the second play so 91,100 over the two plays.
  • The Nation 49,000 – No it’s 22,900 average viewers for the first play on the Saturday and a further 34,400 for the second play on Sunday so 57,300 total over the two plays.
  • Backbenches 25,400 – No it’s 17,500 average viewers per episode for the first play and a further 2,200 for the second play so 19,700 total over the two plays.
  • Media Take 1,900 – No it’s 5,000 average viewers per episode (20 episodes) for the first run and a further 2,400 (13 episodes). As the last season wasn’t repeated in full you can’t really add these two figures together.

My figures are from Neilsen data for late November/early December. I presume Mr Wallington has data for the entire year. It would be great if this was publicly available. I tried to get annual data off NZ on Air but they refused. I am of the view that they should publish average ratings for ever show they fund.

The differences between my data and Mr Wallington’s is minor for the first three shows. There is a larger difference with Media Take. But I am happy to accept these figures as accurate, but would welcome anyone with access to the data for the full year being able to independently verify it.

So the cost per viewer hour is out in every case.

Using Mr Wallington’s data, the cost per viewer hour would be:

So the cost per viewer hour is:

  • Media Take $6.51
  • Backbenches $1.54
  • The Nation $0.39
  • Q&A $0.23

I don’t think it impacts my conclusion.

In 2015 Media Take averaged 5,000 viewers across 20 episodes in a 10 pm slot or later most weeks. Shows on MTS often draw numbers like these so why single out Media Take? 

I wasn’t looking at the channel it was on. I was looking from a taxpayer perspective about value for money. NZ on Air has a limited budget. I support their role in funding good current affairs shows. However spending almost half a million dollars on a show with such tiny viewer numbers is hard to justify. Maybe we’d be better off giving that money to one of the existing shows so they can do more in depth reporting, or to a show that missed out of being funded. There is an opportunity cost to funding shows with such small numbers of viewers.

It’s rare that series are funded by NZOA for MTS (the network favours one-off docs) but in comparison here are some other numbers for other MTS NZOA series (first run only).

I’m unsure that MTS should get any funding from NZ on Air for shows. The reason for this is thar MTS is already completed state funded. The entire channel gets (off memory) $50 million a year or so. They already have the ability to put on shows that are not commercially viable because they are not commercially funded.

Behind the Brush (8 pm) average viewers per episode 4,700

Songs from the Inside (9:30 pm) average viewers 28,000

Te Araroa Tales From The Trails (8:30 pm) average viewers 25,500

Haka Warriors (8 pm) average viewers 4,100

As I said I don’t think the comparison is with other shows on MTS. The comparison is opportunity cost is whether you could get a better impact by spending $500,000 a year elsewhere.

I have no issue with the quality of Media Take. But having said that I have not watched it on MTS. But when it was on other channels I did, and liked it. But I do have an issue with spending almost $500,000 a year on a show that has less viewers than a large blog gets by lunchtime every day.

I’m also a fan of Backbenches, but their numbers are pretty dismal also. I’m not sure that is providing great value for money either. Ratings should not be the only measure of success for shows. In fact the reasons we have NZ on Air is to allow funding of non-commercial shows. But if you are funding a show only around 1 in 1000 people are watching, then it is unlikely it is having the desired impact.

The 20 biggest PR challenges of 2015

January 3rd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

From PR person Mark Blackham:

1. Flag campaign launch — Government

2. 1080 scare — Ministry for Primary Industries

3. TPPA trade agreement — Government

4. SAFE calves campaign — Dairy Industry

5. Rates increase — Auckland City Council

6. Reduced milk payout — Fonterra

7. Foreign driver issues — New Zealand Transport Authority

8. Zero tolerance on speeding campaign — New Zealand Police

9. Red Peak flag campaign — Government

10. Return of Christmas Island detainees — Government

11. Roast Buster report by the Police Conduct Authority — Police

12. Cricket World Cup — Cricket World Cup Organisers

13. Release of Chinese ownership list — Barfoot & Thompson

14. Solid Energy bankruptcy — Government

15. Mount Eden prison fight mismanagement and its contract — Serco

16. Funding melanoma medicine — Government

17. Roast Buster report by Chief Social Worker — CYF

18. Fruitfly operation — Ministry for Primary Industries

19. New wharf — Ports of Auckland

20. Match fixing allegations — New Zealand Cricket / Saudi Sheep Deal — Government

I’d put the 1080 scare first, as that had potentially far more dire consequences of getting it wrong than any other.

No tag for this post.

The New Years Honours List

January 1st, 2016 at 3:57 am by David Farrar

The full list is at DPMC.

Very smart making Richie McCaw a member of the Order of New Zealand, rather than a knight. He deserved the top award (he is arguably the best rugby player in any country of any era), but avoids being titled as such a young age.

No other posts today as I’m at Disneyland :-)

A Family First Netflix

December 30th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Conservative lobby group Family First have launched an online TV service for parents worried about exposing their children to offensive content.

The online streaming service, called “Family First TV”, allows families to rent or buy content with granular controls over who can see what. It also offers a large amount of political content from Family First for free.

Family First trumpet the granular parental controls as the main innovation within the service. The system is split into four separate five point scales – language, violence, sexual themes, and adult themes.

For example, a “1” on the sexual themes scale signifies an on-screen kiss or a partially naked character, while a “3” signified implied intercourse – such as a “morning after” scene.

Parents can create different profiles for children with fine tuned levels, and assign credits for them to rent or buy the content.

Spokesman Nick Hitchins argued that sticker ratings don’t give parents enough control over the content their children see.

“A PG can be anything from fantasy swordfighting in Puss in Boots through to teenagers kissing behind the bush through to people using some quite colourful language,” he said.

“Instantly,our insights panel gives families the ability to say ‘what is going to occur in this that might concern me’.”

Hitchins points to the M-rated Star Wars: The Force Awakens as an example of this imprecise rating. 

“Parents are suddenly in a quandary. M in my mind suddenly feels like I would tell my kid they need to be sixteen before they can watch that. Now comes Star Wars which used to be pretty much PG all the way through.”

Michelle Baker from the Office of Film and Literature Classification said they were always happy for parents to look up extra information on films they wanted to show their children.

“We would like to put as much information as we can on the sticker, but there are some limitations on the physical label,” she said.

This is a good initiative from Family First. Empowering parents to be more specific as to what they deem suitable. The current classifications are very broad, and a voluntary system that provide more detailed ratings will I am sure be welcome by some parents.

Viewers per dollar for current affairs shows

December 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Have been looking at how many people watch various current affairs shows on television, and how much of a subsidy they get from taxpayers through NZ on Air.

The funding figures for the four shows (from NZ on Air website) are:

  • The Nation $899,000 for 40 hours
  • Q + A $845,000 for 40 hours
  • Backbenches $606,000 for 20 hours
  • Media Take $482,000 for 10 hours

Cost per hour:

  • Media Take $48,200
  • Backbenches $30,300
  • The Nation $22,475
  • Q + A $21,125

Average viewers per episode (based on Nielsen data):

  • Q+A 99,000
  • The Nation 49,000
  • Backbenches 25,400
  • Media Take 1,900

So the cost per viewer hour is:

  • Media Take $12.68
  • Backbenches $1.19
  • The Nation $0.46
  • Q&A $0.21

It is hard to believe we are spending close to half a million dollars a year on a show watched by fewer than 2,000 people a week. In fact the taxpayer subsidy may be even greater than that as it shows on Maori TV, and they also get $55 million a year.

Q&A is the most watched show, and the one you can justify the easiest. The Nation has half the audience for a slightly larger budget. Would we be better served by having just one show, and giving it more resources so it can do more in depth?

I’m a big fan of Backbenches but an audience of 25,000 is pretty small for a cost of over $600,000.

NZ on Air funding should not just be about ratings, but on the other hand funding shows that fewer than 1% of NZ watches (or for Media Take fewer than 0.05%) suggests a problem.

Another good example of a Councillor communicating what they have done

December 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Received this month the annual newsletter from Wellington City Councillor Nicola Young. As with last year, a good example of concise and useful reporting back to constituents:

My 2015 highlights

  • City lanes – I campaigned for Wellington’s inner city lanes to become features, rather than dark corners; it’s been talked about for years, but nothing ever happened. Eva and Leeds streets are now bursts of colour in Te Aro; Masons Lane (between The Terrace and Lambton Quay) has had a much-needed facelift; and Bond Street’s temporary makeover will now become permanent. Wellington’s CBD has about 75 lanes, and rejuvenating them is a big part of being a fun, walkable city – but also a boost for local businesses.
  • Victoria Street upgrade – this reflects the area’s transformation from light industrial to an attractive, high-density residential zone; the upgrade included a major overhaul of the street’s subterranean infrastructure. The new Whitirea / Weltec development on the corner of Cuba Mall and Dixon Street will transform the area even more.
  • St Mary of the Angels – this iconic church has some of the best acoustics in Wellington, so it’s an important venue for music performance. It’s undergoing $10million of seismic strengthening so I am delighted the Council contributed $400,000 from its Built Heritage Fund. You can see photos of the engineering works here.
  • Erskine College – I fought successfully for my old school in Island Bay to be designated a priority ‘Special Housing Area’ so it’s easier for the land to be developed.  After years of inaction, architects are now working on the plans (which preserve the glorious chapel) and construction will start late next year
  • Pandas, etc. – I will continue to fight against wasting money on fantasy projects such as the idea of renting pandas for Wellington Zoo ($400k for the business case and potentially $50million for a 10-year lease) and sponsoring professional sports teams. We need to focus on delivering the core council services things well, and not get distracted by vanity projects.
  • Civic Square revamp – It’s now almost certain the old Town Hall will become a music hub for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Victoria University’s School of Music, with the glorious council chamber returned to municipal use. The seismic strengthening work will cost over $60 million, and will be partially funded by the sale of long-term leases of the Jack Illott Green and the MFC car park.
  • Public Transport – I called for an integrated approach to our buses and trains, instead of decisions being made by WCC, Greater Wellington Regional Council, NZ Transport Association and KiwiRail. It’s likely we will have progress on streamlining this in 2016, and you can read my article in the DomPost here.
  • Cycling – I’ve pushed for more bike locking points: perhaps you’ve seen the 50 brightly coloured ‘cyclehoops’ where restricted space makes it difficult to install normal bike racks. I’ve had bike stands installed at Aro Valley’s Community Centre and at the ticket barriers at the Westpac Stadium, and I pushed for the new bike ‘corrals’ coming soon to the CBD. I support bike lanes in the CBD and neighbouring areas, but fought the Island Bay Cycleway, as it failed to meet NZTA’s funding criteria – I’ve been consistent about this: we need bike lanes where there’s most demand, not least
  • ‘Keep Kate’ – I launched a campaign to save the quirky Kate Sheppard pedestrian lights (near Parliament) when I was told nothing had been done to make their temporary permit permanent. Official Information requests proved my fears were correct, and senior Council officers thanked me – the petition meant we’d secured the lights future in the space of 18 hours after months of inaction!
  • The Wellingtonian councillor ratings – I was delighted when The Wellingtonian rated me as the second-best performing councillor and highest of the newbies – “beating many old hands”, as the paper put it. My friend Paul Eagle (Southern ward) topped the poll.

And a note for the future:

In my two years as a councillor I’ve been shocked at how much time and millions of your dollars are wasted on vanity projects and consultations that are ignored. The cost of this indecisiveness is a major contributor to this year’s average rates hike of 5.1%.

5.1% when inflation is 0.1%.

Herald calls for Dotcom to go

December 28th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders ought to be able to find Judge Dawson’s 271-page decision online as easily as they can download movies and music and other copyrighted material. It explains the methods allegedly used by Dotcom’s Megaupload site to store such material and even reward those who did so. It is said to have provided multiple URL links to the same material and when it received a take-down notice from a copyright owner, it is said to have removed only the offender’s link, not the material.

Again I recommend people read the decision. The way Mega was run bears almost no resemblance to You Tube or Dropbox. in fact they stole hundreds of thousands of videos from You Tube to act as camouflage for what they were really doing – paying people to share commercial copyrighted movies.

It may be that these sort of practices are technically legal but it is in the interests of content providers and users that we find out. We cannot find out until Dotcom goes to the US and faces trial. He should go now.

Interesting that Dotcom claimed to be starved of funds, yet he is also saying they will fight all the way to the Supreme Court. That would suggest he in fact has plenty of funds available for his legal case.

SDHB Funding

December 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

A review of the health funding model has revealed what many long suspected – the Southern District Health Board is not receiving its fair share of health dollars.

A Cabinet paper on the Ministry of Health review was released yesterday.

However, Southern’s proposed increase is relatively minor.

Had it been in place this year, Southern’s share of $11.4billion would have been 6.81%, rather than 6.78% ($775million).

So the formula tweak sees funding go from $772.9 million to $776.3 million – a gain of $3.4 million per annum.

Their deficit is thought to be around $40 million, so the impact of funding formula change is very minor. Other DHBs manage to roughly break even with their funding. The SDHB have been unable to get even close.

A good video by Counties Manukau Police

December 28th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

If kids know it’s wrong, you should too. Please, if you or someone you know is going through a hard time, then talk to someone who can help. We and many other agencies are here to support you. #itsnotOK #safercommunitiestogether

Posted by Counties Manukau Police on Monday, 21 December 2015

Is this innovation?

December 27th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A heavily redacted report on Trends Publishing, at the centre of a legal spat with Callaghan Innovation over a cancelled research and development grant, said the Auckland magazine publisher had previously received hefty government funding to develop a digital platform.

A Deloitte review, obtained under the Official Information Act, resulted from a dispute between Callaghan and Trends over claimed expenditure under an R&D growth grant that was cancelled a year ago. Callaghan is seeking to claw back the $383,000 paid out under the contract which had been for $1.3 million over three years.

Trends was in the print media business, producing a range of global home and design publications. With the downturn in media advertising in recent years, it morphed into the digital space, offering both online content and digital marketing solutions for clients.

This to me does not seem innovation. It is what thousands of companies are doing – moving digital. Why should this get a taxpayer subsidy or grant?

To me innovation is something new. Helping a print publication business go digital is not. Is that going to produce anything we can export? Lead to new jobs?

$105 million to reinstate Christchurch Cathedral

December 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

 The report by Miriam Dean QC on Christ Church Cathedral gives two clear options for the quake-damaged building: reinstate or replace.

Dean was brought in by the Government to break the deadlock between church leaders, who wanted to partially demolish the building, and heritage campaigners, who wanted to save it. It was hoped the building’s future would be decided before Christmas.

She managed to get both sides, and their engineers, to agree on the feasibility of the two options and the costs.

The options are:

-Reinstatement, through a mix of repair, restoration, reconstruction and seismic strengthening, which would likely take until the end of 2022 and cost $105 million.

– Replacement with a new cathedral. This could be completed by the end of 2019 and cost $63m to $66m.

I don’t care which option is pursued so long as it is done with private money, not public money. Taxpayers should not fund a church.

If people in Christchurch want to reinstate the Cathedral, then they should fund-raise for it to cover the gap between what the Church has in insurance, and the cost.

Cat returned finally

December 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A public, and at times nasty, tug-of-love battle over an adored pedigree cat has come to an end, with a court order that the chinchilla persian be returned to its original owner.

Social media sensation Caitlin Davidson, known as Caito Potatoe to her almost half a million followers, today returned the cat – via an intermediary and an Auckland vet clinic – to Grey Lynn woman Joyce Quah.

Miss Quah had asked the Disputes Tribunal to order the return of the four-year-old cat, after the purebred ended up in the care of 18-year-old Miss Davidson. This week the tribunal agreed the cat – whom Miss Davidson claimed she found walking the streets of Auckland, named her Darling, and then refused to give up – must be returned to Miss Quah.

“I’m getting my baby back,” an emotional Miss Quah told the New Zealand Herald this afternoon.

“I’m sorry I’m rambling now, but I’m just so happy. It’s the best Christmas present ever.”

Good.

Miss Davidson’s father, Tom Davidson, said in a statement they were disappointed in the decision, but would respect it.

“All we did was rescue a cat, love it and look after it as any civilised person would. However, the way Miss Quah went about claiming this cat was completely uncivilised

The Davidson’s should be ashamed of themselves.

If you find a cat you make every effort to locate the owner. Sure, you look after it if you can’t, but you try. You check for microchips. You may put posters up. You ask around.

And when the purported owner comes forward you don’t refuse to give them their cat back. Even worse you don’t refuse to have a DNA test done, so she can prove it is her cat. That becomes close to theft.

No tag for this post.

Can’t we just deport him quickly?

December 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A man who defaced the MediaWorks building with anti-Paul Henry graffiti was the same man found guilty of shoving and spitting at him, it can now be revealed.

The incident at the Flower St premises came just hours after 35-year-old Diego Chavez was found guilty of assaulting the controversial presenter on December 2.

Christian Marcel Cebolledo-Gutierrez was charged with intentional damage following the incident and, though he missed his first Auckland District Court date, today he pleaded guilty.

Court documents showed the defendants shared the same date of birth and court staff confirmed they were the same person, using aliases.

He doesn’t speak English, so I’m assuming he is not a NZ citizen. As a recidivist offender can’t we just deport him quickly?

 

Why are the Sevens dying?

December 24th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Wellington Sevens seem to be dying.

I recall the days when the tickets sold out in three minutes. The Internet would freeze as Wellingtonians tried to be one of the lucky ones to buy their tickets online. There would be dozens of people queued up outside Post Offices and the like, to buy tickets.

Now the stadium barely gets half full. Even with three months of selling tickets, and huge price drops, less people want to go.

The question is why?

One reader e-mails:

For me the 7s died the day they banned Borat.  It’s essentially been killed by the thought police, rules, regulations and a general ‘we know better’ attitude.  Not to mention the extortionate beer prices and disgusting overpriced food.  Why would anyone want to attend?

What do you think?