Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Herald on Catton

January 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The lesson to be drawn from the controversial remarks of author Eleanor Catton is perhaps that those who do their thinking on paper have more to lose when they open their mouth. She should be allowed to live down her comments to a literary audience in India this week.

Far from living them down, she wants to amplify them – as is her right:

In future interviews with foreign media, I will of course discuss the inflammatory, vicious, and patronising things that have been broadcast and published in New Zealand this week. I will of course discuss the frightening swiftness with which the powerful Right move to discredit and silence those who question them, and the culture of fear and hysteria that prevails.

I find it strange that people think that their harsh critical remarks about others are free speech, but if people then in turn make critical remarks about the speaker it is not free speech, but a conspiracy to silence.

The same rationale was in Nicky Hager’s book. Basically people who have centre-right views should not criticise or attack people who say things they disagree with.

Eleanor Catton has every right to travel around the world decrying NZ as a neo-liberal hell-hole. And other people have every right to point out she is speaking nonsense. This Government is so far from neo-liberal it isn’t funny. The last budget was more money for free under 13 healthcare. The announcement this week was an extra 3,000 low income families to get larger subsidies for the rental properties. The Government spends hundreds of millions on subsidies for arts, science, innovation and the like. And the welfare system is one of the most generous in the world.

There is nothing frightening about people exercising their rights to free speech and criticizing someone. Just because you are an artist (or an academic) doesn’t mean you are beyond criticism.

Back to the Herald editorial:

Among many accolades she received in New Zealand, the Herald named her one of its New Zealanders of the Year. We remain proud of her and do not believe she misunderstands these gestures in a country that was proud of her.

Nobody has claimed her achievement “belongs” to the country. It was hers alone.

Her book is a novel set in New Zealand, authentic in its setting in time and place.

Every country takes pleasure in art that reflects it well and counts itself lucky to have artists capable of doing so, especially if its population is small.

As I said yesterday, it was pride in her achievement that saw NZers celebrate her prize, not a desire to minimise the fact that it was her personal achievement.

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Fran calls for Genter to replace Turei

January 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

If the Greens are intent on becoming a mainstream political party with sufficient cachet to be a credible Government partner they should persuade Metiria Turei to join Russel Norman in resigning. Norman’s resignation – announced with a great deal of dignity yesterday – has switched the focus to Turei. …

Turei’s personal brand is associated with oppositional politics.

Many centrist voters would vote for a true Greens platform if they were sure it wasn’t going to be accompanied by the resurfacing of Alliance-style policies. Arguably that won’t happen until the Greens elect a modern politician whose focus is square in the mainstream – like Julie Ann Genter – to a leadership role.

Genter has built a strong constituency in Auckland which is starting to transcend party lines. She’s a credible commentator on transport and could easily take a ministerial role in a future government if the Greens get serious about getting into power.

A Shaw and Genter co-leadership of the Greens would give them youth and energy, and allow them to build appeal outside their core hard left constituency.

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When will the Northland by-election be?

January 31st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Governor-General must issue a writ for the by-election within three weeks of the resignation (s129(2)). So the writ could be issued anytime between Monday 2 and Friday 20 February.

The writ must be returned within 50 days (s 139(4)) so that is between Tuesday 24 March and Thu 9 April.

The polling day must be 20 to 27 days after nominations close (s139(2). And while not specified in statute it has to be at least 12 days before the writ must be returned, to allow time for special votes. Nomination day by convention is a Tuesday.

The earliest date for the by-election would be Saturday 28 February. The last feasible date would be Saturday 28 March.

I look forward to the bye-election with the Labour candidate campaigning on Labour’s policy to scrap the Puhoi to Wellsford expressway and divert the funds into Auckland public transport. It is such an unpopular policy up North that even Kelvin Davis has attacked it. But in a by-election, you can’t have a candidate campaigning on different policy to the party, so it will be interesting to see if Labour scraps their policy.


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Lusk on choosing a party

January 30th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Lusk has published the second chapter of his book on campaigning. It is available on Amazon.

He says he is happy to help candidates for parties he disagrees with, with the exception of the Greens. He labels them as the most unsuccessful minor party in NZ – not in terms of votes, but achievements.

He points to the significant policy wins that NZ First, the Alliance, ACT and the Maori Party have managed, and contrasts that to the Greens who have almost nothing to show for 15 years in Parliament.

The future is not much brighter. They refuse to work with National, and if Labour can win in 2017, they will be dependent on NZ First who will again block the Greens from Government.

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Mike Sabin resigns

January 30th, 2015 at 12:07 pm by David Farrar

Northland MP Mike Sabin has resigned as MP for Northland for personal reasons. There have been media reports that he has been under Police investigation over an assault complaint or complaints, so it seems a logical deduction that he is resigning to be able to focus on the allegations.

Always sad for an MP to resign over something like this. I think he has made the right decision to resign. It would be very difficult to remain an MP in such circumstances.

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Russel Norman resigns

January 30th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News has just tweeted that the 11 am press conference of the Greens is the resignation of Russel Norman.

UPDATE: Andrea Vance has said he is leaving in May. Staying on as an MP for now, but resigning as co-leader.

He has been male co-leader for eight years and apart from any personal reasons, I guess he realises that his chances of ever becoming a Minister are dim. Even if the left wins in 2017, Winston is likely to block them from becoming Ministers.

Kevin Hague is the obvious choice to replace him as male co-leader. Well respected by MPs in all parties. If the resignation was in 2016 or later, then James Shaw would be a good contender, but might be too early for him as a new MP. Having said that, Norman become male co-leader before he was an MP.

Norman cites wanting to spend more time with his family as a factor. being a (co) leader is very time consuming and hard on family life.  He’s had eight years in the (co) top job, so the decision is quite understandable. By coincidence just last week I was talking to someone about whether Norman and Turei would contest the next election as co-leaders, and who might be their successors.

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Dollar at four year low

January 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The New Zealand dollar dropped, touching a four-year low, after the Reserve Bank abandoned its bias for raising interest rates and said a rate cut was a possibility.

The kiwi fell to 73.27 US cents at 5pm in Wellington and earlier fell as low as 73.18 cents, from 74.52 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index declined to 75.83 from 76.79.

Not that long ago some politicians were demanding that the Government intervene and presumably spend billions trying to move the currency level. This is a good reminder how variable the exchange rate can be, and that calls for the Government to intervene are silly and potentially very costly.


Think how much money you can lose by trying to manipulate the exchange rate to get it to the level some politician thinks it should be.


Mana’s conspiracy theory

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


Mana News (appears to be published by Hone and Minto) have produced this little tinfoil graphic showing how the National Party controls the media in New Zealand. They call it the NZ media dictatorship.

The funniest line is when the lament:

It is unnatural for the press gallery to be uncritical of a seven year old government.

If they think the gallery isn’t critical of the Government, then they really are in a different dimension. Since the election the coverage has been way way more negative than positive of the Government.

The wingnuts also believe that the fact National ran advertisements on the Herald’s website before the election means the Herald is part of National’s media team.


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NCEA achievement increasing

January 29th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Hekia Parata announced:

The provisional results, released by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), show the achievement rate for NCEA Level 2 increased from 85.7 percent in 2013 to 86.8 percent in 2014. Since 2010, Year 12 achievement rates have risen by 7 percentage points.

The same data shows that the 2014 Level 1 rate is up by a hefty 7.6 percentage points since 2010 and the Level 3 rate is up 4.4 percentage points over the same period

So Level 1 achievement rates are up 7.6%, Level 2 7% and Level 3 4.4%. Good to see them all heading in the right direction.

Level 2 is regarded as the minimum necessary for school leavers so having that almost hit 87% is welcome. The more we can do to reduce the under-achieving the tail, the better.

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Seymour on inequality stats

January 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Seymour makes a good point:

We can congratulate Mr Little on focusing on the need for wealth creation, but not for his use of entirely bogus statistics from Oxfam on global wealth distribution, suggesting that the richest 1% will soon exceed the bottom 99%. The Oxfam data shows that China has zero people in the lowest decile of world income, while the US has 7.5% of their population in that bracket. Why? A modern financial system. Because these statistics don’t count human capital, every student borrowing to get an education has negative net worth, which puts them below all those people in China and India with zero net worth. The same applies to every entrepreneur, and many small businesses which are borrowing and investing to build up a business. If Labour is going to embrace small business, they should start by understanding it.

A good example of how flawed the data can be.

The rhetoric included the usual bogus statistics on the incomes of the top 10% versus the bottom 10% in New Zealand. But we know that, as with wealth data, these aggregate statistics mainly show age distribution. Most of us over the life cycle go from negative net worth and very low incomes, to a peak in income in late middle age, a gradual decline until retirement, with net worth peaking around retirement age. That is largely what these statistics are measuring.

Yep. Those who argue incomes must be more equal are saying the 16 year old must be paid almost the same as the 45 year old with two decades of work experience.

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Should there be a stand down?

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

Stuff reports:

Mike Sabin, the MP under police investigation for assault, is set to grill senior cops as part of an annual review.

Sabin is chairman of Parliament’s law and order select committee. His boss, Prime Minister John Key indicated this week he was “happy” for the Northland MP to remain in the job. He is refusing to confirm Sabin is under investigation or comment on the second-term MP’s future.

So little is know about the alleged investigation, that it is hard to be categorical about what should happen. Generally I think it is best to play it safe and do a stand down. When there were allegations against Darren Hughes, I think Labour erred by not standing him down immediately.

But it is unknown if these allegations are anywhere of the same seriousness, and whether the complainant is credible. I recall a parent at an Auckland school make an assault allegation against Alfred Ngaro, and it was very obvious from the outset he was doing it just as part of his campaign against the school generally.Standing Alfred down would have been inappropriate.

Whether the allegations against Sabin are serious and credible enough to warrant a stand down, is not yet publicly known. But as he is Chair of the Law & Order Select Committee, I would have thought it is best to err on the side of caution.


Dear Eleanor

January 29th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

First of all congratulations for winning the Man Booker prize last year. It’s a tremendous achievement, and as you point out on Live Mint, it was your individual achievement, not New Zealand’s achievement.

Like many others I have purchased a copy of The Luminaries. That  makes me a customer and a fan I guess.

You made the point:

So many people have talked in the media and me directly in ways of 2013 being the year that New Zealand won the Man Booker Prize. It betrays an attitude towards individual achievement which is very, uncomfortable. It has to belong to everybody or the country really doesn’t want to know about it.

I’m a big believer in individual achievement, and sympathise with you on that. Ironically your party of choice tends to be more a believer in achievements being a collective responsibility, not an individual one, but let’s put that to one side.

But I think you misunderstand the NZ habit of trying to own achievements by New Zealanders. I see it is as a mark of tribute and reverence, not lack of respect.  When I trekked the Himalayas, so many locals associated us with Sir Edmund Hillary, as if his achievements were NZ’s.  When the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup, we celebrated as a country – and didn’t just see it is a victory for 15 players. And last year when yourself, Lorde and Lydia Ko all dominated the world in your respective fields, yes we appropriated your achievements as NZ achievements. But that is because we’re so damn proud of you. As a small country, we do get very proud when one of our citizens wins global fame. Call it small country syndrome.

You also said:

I feel that in the last year I’ve really struggled with my identity as a New Zealand writer. I feel uncomfortable being an ambassador for my country when my country is not doing as much as it could, especially for the intellectual world. It’s sort of a complicated position to be in.

You’ve got every right to express your views on such an issue, and it is ridiculous Sean Plunket has called you a traitor. However could I gently suggest your timing and location is a bit churlish.

We don’t tend to mind criticism at home, but we do get worked up, when people knock their country overseas. Again call it small country syndrome.  I don’t think you would have got much of a negative reaction if you had made your comments domestically.

At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, (I dominated by) these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.

You campaigned for the Green Party at the last election, so your comments are no surprise. Good on you for having political beliefs and advocating them. You did the right thing by appearing at the Green Party campaign launch and advocating a vote for them.

But again your choice of forum to talk politics is perhaps not the best. A campaign launch is an excellent choice to talk politics. A global literary festival seems rather inappropriate for you to rage against the so called neo-liberal agenda in New Zealand. Also I would make the point that the moment anyone starts ranting about neo-liberalism, I regard that as a sad victory of sloganeering over substance.

So my unsolicited advice to you is not to stop saying what you believe. Far from it. But to perhaps reflect on what speech is most appropriate for what occasion.  If an All Black in 2008 had got up at an international test match and devoted his after match comments to how much he hated the nanny state policies of the then Labour Government, well they would have been criticised greatly also. To quote Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Also I noted last year you said you would be happy to taxed at 40% to help young Kiwis. You may be unaware of this, but you can voluntarily pay more tax than you are obliged to. Just calculate the extra 7% on your income and send it to The Treasury, 1 The Terrace, Wellington and I am sure they will send you a receipt.

PS – I look forward to your next book.


Social Housing announcements

January 28th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The release is here and speech here. Details include:

  • The Government will increase funding for social house subsidies from about 62,000 places currently to around 65,000 places by 2017/18 at an estimated cost of another $40 million a year.
  • A $500,000 cash injection will be available for emergency housing, alongside a wider review of funding.
  • An additional 3,000 tenancy reviews in the next couple of years will focus on market or near-market renters.
  • Engagement and consultation will begin soon, including with community housing providers and iwi with a view to selling between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand properties over the coming year for use as social housing run by approved community housing providers.
  • The Government is committed to maintaining at least 60,000 properties in Housing New Zealand’s portfolio by 2017.

So the Government is actual going to spend an extra $40 million a year helping low income families get into social housing with an income related rental. No doubt Labour and the Greens will decry this as neoliberalism and oppressing the poor!


Little’s state of the nation speech

January 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little’s speech isn’t (or wasn’t) on the Labour website, but The Standard has a copy of it. A few extracts and comments:

The Labour Party I lead is about jobs. Good jobs. Skilled jobs. Well paid jobs.

That’s what a good, fair and wealthy society is based on. And it’s what Labour stands for.

A job is about more than just an income. It’s about dignity.

Indeed, which is why welfare reform is so important.

And it’s why the next Labour government will make sure New Zealand has the lowest rate of unemployment in the developed world.

Let me say that again – the next Labour government will make sure that New Zealand has the lowest rate of unemployment in the developed world.

No Government can guarantee that, or control that. It’s a silly useless pledge. The level of unemployment can be impacted by government policies, but the main influence is how well individual businesses are doing. They are the ones that crate jobs – not the Government.

A lot of people don’t know that small businesses were responsible for nearly one third of New Zealand’s economy last year.

And that 41% of the jobs created last year were created in firms with fewer than 20 employees.

And yet the question of how we can help these vital businesses to grow is very rarely at the top of the political agenda.

Well, I want to change that.

Because as much as small business does now, I want them to do more.

Excellent. So will Labour announce they no longer plan to scrap 90 day trials for small businesses (now available to all businesses). This is credited by many small businesses as giving them the confidence to hire an extra staff member. Without a 90 day trial the cost of a bad hire can be crippling to a small business.

Will Labour continue with its policy to have a massive increase in the minimum wage, which will reduce employment with small businesses who are least able to pass increased costs on?

Rhetoric is easy, but policies are what counts.

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An electoral petition to get him out of prison for a few days

January 28th, 2015 at 6:11 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key’s lawyer has dismissed criminal litigator Arthur Taylor’s claim that Key unlawfully won the Helensville electorate, saying there’s “no evidence to substantiate his claims”. 

Taylor, a serving prisoner with more than 150 convictions, is petitioning the court claiming Key’s election as MP for Helensville was unlawful because about 650 prisoners at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo were excluded from voting in the electorate. 

He challenged the result on the grounds that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was invalid because it prevented about 8600 prisoners in the country’s jails from registering or voting.

After hearing Taylor’s arguments in the High Court at Auckland today, Key’s counsel Peter Kiely made his opening submissions this afternoon, saying there was no evidence to support Taylor’s claims. 

Taylor was not registered to vote in last year’s election, was not entitled to vote and therefore “has no standing” to challenge the Helensville result, Kiely said.  

Taylor is likely to never be released from prison. So he does this various lawsuits as a way to get out occasionally. It’s a joke electoral petition with no possibility of success.

Earlier today, Taylor argued that there was no rational reason to disqualify prisoners from voting, saying punishment wasn’t a legitimate reason, claiming it served the political interests of National to ban prisoner votes, and that the knock-on effect was that many prisoners wouldn’t bother voting once they were released from prison either. 

It doesn’t matter whether or not you think prisoners should be able to vote. The law was changed so they could not. An electoral petition should be about if the law was followed, not a way for someone to say they don’t like the law.

Taylor protested the fact he wasn’t provided a desk in court, unlike the four lawyers representing Key and the Crown, and two friends of the court, who had claimed all the available bench space in the small courtroom.  

He was instead given a desk in the prisoner’s dock for his paperwork.

Poor diddums.

Taylor is presenting his case at the three-day hearing in front of Justice Geoffrey Venning, Justice Helen Winkelmann and Justice Paul Heath despite Justice Rebecca Ellis ruling earlier in September that prisoners being denied the right to vote wasn’t inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Ac

Three days? Ridiculous.

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Under half of super rich pay top tax rate

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

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s super-rich were found liable for an extra $77 million of tax in the last financial year.

The country’s most well-off have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in extra tax to Inland Revenue since it set up its high-wealth individual unit in 2003.

Those who come under the scrutiny of this IRD division must have, or be in control of, more than $50 million.

According to IRD’s investigation and advice manager Tracey Lloyd, the unit has identified 200 people who met the criteria.

Of these 200 people, 93 declared their personal income in the 2013 financial year as less than $70,000 – the point at which one is required pay the top tax rate of 33 cents in the dollar.

This is why increasing the top tax rate doesn’t increase tax revenue, but merely increases tax avoidance. The best tax system is low rates with a broad base.


NZ The Way You Want It

January 27th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

ACT have borrowed a phrase (but not a policy!) from Sir Robert Muldoon and are running a competition for people to state the ay they want New Zealand.

At the Love New Zealand The Way You Want It website, you can submit a video of up to five minutes or a wirrten submission of up to 500 words saying how you would like NZ to be. The top five entries will win $500 each (and present their ideas to the ACT conference) and the overall winner wins $2,000.

Entries close on 7 February.

Some examples of what people might want are:

10 million people? More money? More dolphins, fewer rednecks? Cheaper houses? Old values? New ideas? Better careers? Finally finish off tall poppy?

My vision would be a New Zealand with no tax avoidance as the top personal and company tax rates are no greater than 25%, and with full employment due to the influx of investment.

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Two nominees for Labour President

January 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Auckland University lecturer Nigel Haworth and City Vision chair Robert Gallagher have put themselves forward to be the Labour Party’s next President.

Professor Haworth lamented in 2012 that China, India and Russia joining the global economy in the last few decades, as it has been bad for ordinary working people. Never mind the fact that it lifted hundreds of millions in those countries out of poverty and starvation.

Gallagher is an experienced campaigner and I’d say the favourite. He has strong support in Auckland. I think both will struggle to boost fundraising though, which is a real weakness for Labour currently.

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Brown has one vote!

January 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has told an inner circle of friends and advisers he plans to seek re-election next year.

Sources have told the Herald that Mr Brown made the decision over the summer holiday with the support of his wife, Shan Inglis.

That’s one vote for him. Not sure he’ll get much more than that.

But rather than throw their weight behind the under-fire mayor, it is understood some supporters have told him he has no chance of winning a third term and should step aside.

They do not see any way back for Mr Brown, who has struggled in the wake of an extramarital affair and widespread criticism over management of the city’s finances.

I doubt Brown would ever come second. Maybe third.

One source said if Mr Brown does stand, he needed to start planning his campaign and fundraising. This would be more difficult at the next election, with law changes preventing mayoral candidates keeping donors’ identities secret.

More than $750,000 was raised through the “New Auckland Council Trust” for Mr Brown’s first two Super City campaigns.

Who’s going to donate money to Brown now that he can’t hide it in a trust?

On the left, Mr Brown could be replaced by his increasingly popular deputy, Penny Hulse, or Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff.

Ms Hulse, who went on a health kick last year and lifted her profile outside her West Auckland base, has expressed interest in the mayoralty but said she would never stand against Mr Brown.

“Would I have a crack at the top job? I wouldn’t discount it, but there is an awful amount of water to flow under the bridge and a hell of a lot of time before the next election,” she told the Herald in October.

Yesterday, Mr Goff reiterated a statement he made before Christmas that he would consider contesting the mayoralty next year “but I don’t believe that is where my career path is currently taking me”.

I think Goff will stand. Why would he want a fourth term in Opposition?


Hickey on RMA

January 26th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

I recently had the joy of watchingMonty Python and the Holy Grailfor the umpteenth time.

Among the many hilarious moments are the “knights who say Ni!”. They are a tribe who stop travellers in their tracks.

They demand sacrifices to allow people to pass. They are exceptionally good at chanting Ni! and the mere sound of the word strikes fear into all who hear it.

I laughed because I have known many knights who say Ni!

They are the people who always say no.

They know how to make submissions under the Resource Management Act to stop something happening.

They are the council officials who stop you building a deck or demand an outrageous fee to build a basement.

The modern day knights who say Ni! are the Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard) and Bananas (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) who have used the RMA and innumerable plan changes to stop things happening anywhere near them, or to force any development into such a box that it benefits the neighbours more than the occupants.

The RMA knights who say no have been a shadowy tribe until now and it’s been hard to pin much damage to the economy on them.

A great analogy.

Housing and Environment Minister Nick Smith has the Nimbys and Bananas squarely in his sights and has ammunition to argue that 25 years of knights saying no in the forest of the RMA have been damaging.

This week, he cited a study of Auckland developments to show RMA rules, delays and uncertainties added $30 billion to the cost of building and reduced new housing stock by 40,000 in the past decade.

His speech proposing a 10-point rewrite of the RMA cited numerous examples where RMA madness had stopped owners developing their properties, such as:

A medical centre had to spend $57,000 on fees and consultants to get approval for seven new bike stands costing $35 each.


Property developer Sir Bob Jones had to consult 13 iwi and pay $4500 for a resource consent to replace a ground floor window.

A primary school had to spend $100,000 to be redesignated a secondary school, even though the buildings and grounds were not changing.

The study estimated the cost of regulations in a subdivision at up to $60,000 a house and up to $110,000 an apartment.

Smith’s plans for RMA reforms are rightly focused on improving housing supply and affordability. They are also rightly focused on stripping away the magical powers and mystique of the Nimby knights who say No! and who damage the economy and a younger generation locked out of the housing market.

We know the Greens will oppose the RMA changes. But will Labour? This could be a big test for them.

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Call for Australia to change flag also

January 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Australian broadcaster Ray Martin writes:

I recently snapped a shot of Sydney’s iconic Anzac Bridge, with its supersized Aussie and Kiwi statues posted like armed sentinels at the western end, in the dawn’s ethereal light.

It was part of a photo essay I’m cobbling together for April 25 this special year.

The commemoration of Gallipoli — and those first, wide-eyed Anzacs who jumped ashore — is about to wash over our collective emotions, on both sides of the ditch. In 1915 our brothers died on that godforsaken Turkish peninsula at the appalling rate of 45 Anzacs a day.

But. When I focused on the high Anzac Bridge flagpole all I could see was a fluttering Union Jack. The Southern Cross — with it’s familiar Federation Star — was somehow lost in the flag’s folds.

I smiled to myself, thinking how appropriate it was — given that most of the 10,920 Anzac boys who died at Gallipoli had fought under the Union Jack.

Or, occasionally the red Australian ensign.

The mythology — and rampant misinformation — about Australians “dying under the flag” boggles the mind. It’s just not true.

For neither of the two World Wars.

And it is the silver fern which is on most of the graves at Gallipol – our effective national symbol.

In fact the silver fern was used by our soldiers in the Boer War, and was also on the medals presented to soldiers who served in that campaign.

A commenter, Greenjacket, notes:

Are you aware that the symbol of the famous NZ Division in WW1 and WW2 was a white fern on a black background? The symbol on every NZ army vehicle and on every sign to indicate the location of a NZ unit was black square with a white silver ferm emblem. In at least two operations, NZ troops were ordered to conceal their identities by concealing their white fern on a black background symbol, and NZ troops were loathe to do so as they were so proud of it, so the Germans were able to quickly identify where the crack NZ Division was moving. When NZ soldiers identified themselves, they did so with the silver fern on a black background. The NZ Army of today proudly carries on this tradition.

History Geek also has details about the long use of the Silver Fern by the military.

Meanwhile, New Zealand (whom we condescendingly pat on the head as a bit rustic and slow in all but rugby) has decided to seize ‘the one hundred year anniversary’ of Gallipoli to launch a fair-dinkum flag debate.

Unlike us, our Anzac mates have decided it’s time to grow up and become truly independent.

“We want a new flag design”, conservative Prime Minister John Key declared, “a flag that says ‘New Zealand’, in the same way that the maple leaf says ‘Canada’ or the Union Jack says ‘Britain’. Without a word being spoken.”

(Incidentally, the Canadians ditched the Union Jack in 1965.)

Quite frankly, the Kiwis are tired of being mistaken for Australia in the sporting world, with a flag “dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom”.

How refreshingly laudable is that?

It would be great indeed to have a flag that is universally recognised as representing NZ.


Is Key on drugs ask du Fresne?

January 26th, 2015 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

I have never met John Key, but like anyone who follows politics I’ve been able to observe him via the media. And after studying him carefully, I think I now realise the explanation for much of his behaviour. He’s on drugs.

Not the illegal kind, I should stress, but the mood-calming type that doctors prescribe. This may sound flippant, but consider the following.

In the 2014 election campaign, Key was subjected to possibly the most sustained media offensive faced by any prime minister in New Zealand history. Day after day he was tackled by an aggressive media pack trying to trap him on dirty politics, illicit surveillance and other touchy issues.

His answers were often unsatisfactory, which served only to ramp up the media frenzy. But through it all, he appeared supernaturally imperturbable. He patiently batted away reporters’ questions and accusations with his familiar bland inscrutability. There were no meltdowns, no hissy fits, no petulant walkouts.

This was downright unnatural. No politician should be that unflappable. He can have achieved it only by the ingestion of large amounts – indeed, industrial quantities – of tranquillisers.

Alternatively he may have voodoo dolls of key members of the press gallery :-)


Fairfax’s 2015 predictions

January 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The predictions of the Fairfax press gallery team for 2015 were published on 1 January, but they don’t seem to be on the Stuff website. They were kind enough to send me a copy to blog, as I always appreciate their willingness to go out on a limb and make some predictions. Their 20 predictions were:

  1. Jacinda Ardern will win Labour’s “deputy idol” and be installed as Annette King’s replacement.
  2. Trade Negotiations and Climate Change Minister Tim Groser will retire to concentrate on a musical venture.
  3. The Government will bow to pressure and introduce a register of foreign buyers of houses – though it will tweak its role and name to hide its embarrassing climb-down.
  4. The Reserve Bank’s official cash rate will still be less than 4 per cent by Christmas.
  5. A NZ First MP will fall foul of the past.
  6. New Zealand troops will (still) be in Iraq by the end of 2015.
  7. Tension in the Green Party will spill into the open over whether it should kill or cuddle Labour.
  8. At least one senior MP will signal plans for a tilt at the mayoralty of a major city. (Yes, Phil Goff and Annette King are our top, but not only, suspects.)
  9. ACT leader David Seymour will graduate from under-secretary to ministerial rank.
  10. After February, National will not score more than 50 per cent in any mainstream New Zealand-based polls.
  11. A National minister will be forced to fall on his or her sword over a question of judgment.
  12. The Budget will focus on poverty, including incentives for those moving from benefits into training or work, but will not lift base benefits beyond indexation.
  13. James Shaw, Peeni Henare and Chris Bishop will be the stand-out MPs for their respective political parties among the 2014 year intake.
  14. Labour will be scoring at least 35 per cent in polls by the end of the year.
  15. Corrections Minister Sam Lotu- Iiga’s sentence in the portfolio will be shortened.
  16. Ron Mark will take our gallery bureau’s inaugural Mallard Shield for most ejections from the House.
  17. Marama Fox will make a bigger impact – but a lot more mistakes – than her co-leader of the Maori Party.
  18. Former justice minister Judith Collins will be back in the Cabinet, but not on the front bench.
  19. A former Labour front-bencher will quit politics for private enterprise.
  20. Winston Peters will celebrate his 70th birthday in April by announcing he is standing down as leader. (Worth it to be wrong, just to see his reaction.)
  21. New Zealand will win one sporting World Cup.

I agree with No 1. No 5 is interesting – do they know something, or is it a statistical probability?

For 8 I think Goff is far more likely than King.

No 10 is luckily excluding January.

No 14 is a big call, and a big reach for Labour.

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No rates for Sky City

January 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland mayor Len Brown says the council will not put any ratepayer cash into building or running an international convention centre.

He told the Weekend Herald yesterday that there would be no money for the SkyCity convention centre in a new 10-year budget.

On this issue I am with the Mayor. Sky City has got their regulatory concessions in return for building a convention centre for $405 million. If they say they now can’t do it for that, then it is better to not have it happen, than have ratepayers or taxpayers subsidise it.


Montgomerie on Key

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

Tim Montgomerie interviewed John Key for The Times.

On his own blog, He makes 10 observations about John Key:

  1. Upwardly mobile
  2. No surprises
  3. No security in standing still
  4. Controlled immigration is a good thing
  5. Patriotic
  6. A sensible green
  7. Balanced ticket
  8. Polls, not pundits
  9. Selfie conservatism
  10. Global leadership