Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Trotter calls for coalition of the left

April 29th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

The bitter truth is that if a beneficent angel were to uplift the best politicians from Labour, the Alliance (before it disappeared) the Greens and the Mana Party, and drop them into a divinely crafted political entity that might – or might not – continue to exploit the still potent Labour brand, then the Government of John Key would be in real trouble. The current Labour Party bleats on (and on, and on, and on) about being a “Broad Church”, but the sad truth remains that its reservoir of recruitment has never been shallower.

A genuinely “broad church” party of the Left would balance off Andrew Little with Hone Harawira, Jacinda Ardern with Laila Harré, Stuart Nash with John Minto, Kelvin Davis with Annette Sykes, Grant Robertson with Julie Anne Genter and Annette King with Metira Turei. The whole spectrum of alternative power: from Soft Centrists to Hard Leftists; would be covered.

While I have serious doubts about the electoral appeal of such a group, Trotter has a point that Labour is attracting relatively few denizens of the left.

That Labour’s fatal apostasy [the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle] has rendered such a divinely appointed caucus little more than a pipe dream is the besetting tragedy of progressive New Zealand politics. Its embrace of neoliberalism in the mid-1980s left Labour with the political equivalent of syphilis. Sadly, every one of the many attempts to administer the Penicillin of genuine progressivism (God bless you Jim, Rod, Laila!) was rejected. Consequently, Labour’s bones have crumbled and its brain has rotted. Small wonder that the other opposition parties are reluctant to get too close!

They’re at 27% in the average of the polls, which is 6% worse than three years ago.

 

The Antipodes email

April 29th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key’s personal lawyer cited a conversation with the Prime Minister when lobbying a Minister about a potential crackdown on the lucrative foreign trust industry.

Ken Whitney, the executive director of boutique trust specialist Antipodes, wrote to then-Minister for Revenue Todd McClay on December 3, 2014, over concerns Inland Revenue were sizing up the sector.

“We are concerned that there appears to be a sudden change of view by the IRD in respect of their previous support for the industry. I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this and he advised that the Government has no plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime,” Mr Whitney wrote in an email.

“The PM asked me to contact you to arrange a meeting at your convenience with a small group of industry leaders who are keen to engage to explain how the regime works and the benefits to NZ of an industry which has been painstakingly built up over the last 25 years or so.” …

Mr Whitney denied any conflict of interest between his role working for John Key and lobbying the government, or any preferential treatment from Ministers.

“As you can imagine, naturally, I do speak to the PM from time to time on personal business. So I just used the opportunity to bring it up, to inquire – and who we should we talk to. And his response was ‘Minister McClay,'” he told the Herald.

Mr Key said there was nothing unusual or inappropriate about Mr Whitney raising the issue with him or referring to the discussion with the Prime Minister in his letter to Mr McClay.

“No, because that happens all the time. There’s nothing unusual about it. People ask me about particular issues. I don’t live in a vacuum. I do what is absolutely the correct thing to do, which is send them off to the minister. There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done on a million of other occasions which was to direct them to the minister and let the ministers get on to do their work.”

Mr Key said his talk with Mr Whitney followed a story which said Inland Revenue was changing its approach to foreign trusts – a report Key said was inaccurate.

“There was a story in the Herald, he asked me about it, I said to go and see the minister. After that I never had any involvement. I didn’t even know what he’d done. I just knew there weren’t any changes as far as I knew.”

The Prime Minister’s Office stressed he was not involved in any subsequent discussion about reviewing the foreign trust industry.

While the substance of the story might be trivial (PM referred his lawyer to the appropriate Minister), the perception is pretty horrible. It gives the opposition an avenue to tie the PM in.

I think this makes it more likely there will be law or policy changes, as the Government won’t want to be seen to be doing nothing.

Having said that it is still far from obvious to me that there is anything wrong on the NZ side. NZ shares all information on trusts with other countries so long as we have a tax agreement with them. The problem is a few countries like Panama have chosen not to have one.

A hipster tax to fund Tieke recovery

April 28th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton writes:

It is very, very easy to break a beautiful tax system. Here is the recipe for doing it.

Start by finding some product that seems a little frivolous – a bit of a luxury – and preferably one that’s mostly used by people that the typical voter does not really like anyway. Say, for example, the fancy beard oil used by hipsters to maintain their elegant facial appendages.

Then, find some cause that nobody could object to. Something really motherhood and feijoa pie. Tieke recovery. Who doesn’t love the New Zealand saddleback and support its recovery? Nobody.

Add the two together and propose a tax on hipster beard oil to help fund Tieke recovery programmes. Who could object? Hipsters are at best a mild nuisance, and at worst a looming threat to national identity; beard oil seems the height of frivolous consumption; and Tieke are a perennial entry in Bird of the Year competitions.

The bundle is an economic abomination. If Tieke recovery is the best use of the next public dollar, it is best regardless of whether we tax hipsters’ beard oil. And if a tax on hipsters’ beard oil is the most efficient next tax to impose, then the government should tax it regardless of whether the money raised is used to cut other taxes, fund Tieke recovery, or fund something else entirely.

Many countries have a tax system where hundreds or thousands of different products have different tax rates applied to them. I’m glad we don’t in NZ, and hope we don’t change.

My starting point for anyone advocating a new tax, is that they should identify an existing tax to eliminate or reduce so that overall tax levels on families and businesses doesn’t increase.

MPs expenses Q1 2016

April 28th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The quarterly disclosure is out. The highest expenses for non-Ministers is:

  1. Andrew Little $36,009
  2. Kelvin Davis $24,016
  3. Nuk Korako $23,984
  4. Metiria Turei $23,011
  5. Kanwaljit Snigh Bakshi $21,350
  6. David Carter $21,027
  7. Jacqui Dean $20,749
  8. David Cunliffe $20,613
  9. Stuart Smith $20,406
  10. Meka Whaitiri $20,357
  11. Clayton Cosgrove $20,296
  12. Nanaia Mahuta $20,157

For Ministers (domestic travel) the top are:

  1. John Key $41,886
  2. Te Ururoa Flavell $38,941
  3. Steven Joyce $35,807

Chiefs of Staff

April 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar
Reflecting further on the departure of Andrew Campbell as Greens’ Chief of Staff. The CoS role is a crucial one – more important than most MPs.
 
The Greens have been fairly stable with COSs – just two or three in the last seven years. They went through several before 2009 but then had Ken Spagnolo for eight years and now Campbell and then Campbell’s replacement.
 
Labour has had lots. So many I couldn’t even keep track – I had to check to remember all their names. There’s been Matt McCarten, Wendy Brandon, Fran Mold, Alistair Cameron, Stuart Nash, GJ Thompson and Murray Wainsborough – that’s seven in seven years.
 
By contrast National has had only one Chief of Staff for the last 11 years. Says a lot.
No tag for this post.

Land tax vs stamp duty

April 28th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A top New Zealand property expert opposes a land tax and says a stamp duty is a far better option.

Dean Humphries, a national hotel broker and a former Auckland University lecturer, was responding to PM John Key talking of a land tax and said that would not resolve the issues around foreign buyers purchasing houses here.

“Stamp duty is a no-brainer and could bring in tens of millions of dollars annually. Land tax is the most draconian thing I’ve ever heard of. Where does the Government get their advice from? Stamp duty is so easy because you pay up front at the time of purchase and just a percentage of what you’re paying. It’s just the easiest thing to do and the tax can be used for a multitude of things,” Humphries said.

Key is threatening to apply a land tax to foreign-based house buyers if there is evidence they are pushing up New Zealand house prices – and it could also apply to Kiwis abroad.

Actually a land tax is better, in my opinion (and that of Tax Working Group).

A stamp duty can be avoided by having a trust purchase the land, and then just changing the trustees. Also stamp duty would encourage people to never sell their properties, while a land tax encourages people to use their properties (not land bank them).

However this is all premature. The Government has said that IF the data shows there is a high proportion of foreign buyers, then a land tax is the best option.   The data may show that relatively few buyers are non-residents.

A Hurricane on a charter school

April 27th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Buried in a rugby piece was this nugget:

From the Hurricanes’ perspective, Fatialofa began exceeding expectations the moment he arrived.

The 23-year-old lock was preparing to play for Auckland in last year’s provincial premiership final when the Hurricanes called. He’d figured a chance in Super Rugby had passed him by again, until that offer of a wider training group berth in Wellington came through.

It was in February’s pre-season match against the Blues in Eketahuna that Fatialofa first began to indicate he would be more than just a body to hold hit shields at practice.

“That was actually a funny story, old Eketahuna, because I wasn’t meant to play that game,” Fatialofa said.

“Then I found out on the morning of the game that I was in the 23 and then much closer to kickoff I found out I was starting. Two other locks were meant to play but James Blackwell went down and Blade [Thomson] went down and I ended up playing 80 [minutes].

“But that was probably the chance I needed to show what I’m about.”

This time last year the 2010 New Zealand Secondary Schools’ representative was working as a teacher aide in west Auckland. He was grateful for it too, given how hard it can to find gainful employment when you your provincial side requires you fulltime for four or five months of the year. 

“It was a pretty cool school, a charter school,” said Fatialofa.

“The kids there were on their second or third-chance school but I enjoyed them. They were mostly Pacific Island and Maori.

“It was testing times for the first couple of weeks, while they were sussing me out. But I ended up really enjoying that job and was pretty gutted when I had to leave when the ITM Cup started.

Remember that Labour, Greens and NZ First want to close down every charter school in NZ.

National and Labour on housing

April 27th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

There are some differences between National and Labour’s policy responses to the housing shortage but the fact is that much of it is by degree. There is more commonality between their policies than difference on addressing supply.

Government partnering private developers on Crown surplus land is equivalent to KiwiBuild policy.

It requires state intervention in the private market in a bid to rapidly boost supply. It is the Government’s most important current policy in terms of potential for growing supply.

Within five years, the Government expects to be delivering 15 to 20 per cent of the new houses into the Auckland market.

National has also embraced Labour’s urban renewal programme in Tamaki and encouraged large-scale development programmes such as in Weymouth and Hobsonville. They have few differences there.

The crossover goes both ways. Labour has now accepted National’s long-held view that restrictive planning laws in Auckland have been a key driver in limiting urban boundaries and driving up land prices. It was a major concession and Twyford announced new funding schemes to spread the cost of development infrastructure across generations, rather than piling it into the cost of a new home.

Labour hasn’t yet decided how it will vote on the current RMA reforms before a select committee, aimed at relaxing consenting rules but there’s a good chance it will support it.

A few years ago the parties were in quite different positions. National was focusing mainly on increasing supply and Labour on decreasing demand.Now both parties are promoting policies to both increase supply and decrease demand.

A third senior Green staffer departs

April 27th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Green Party has lost its third senior staff member in as many months after chief of staff Andrew Campbell announced his resignation, saying it was time for “fresh legs” to take over his role after two elections.

Mr Campbell has held critical back-room roles in the party for the past five and a half years, first as chief press secretary and then as chief of staff after James Shaw took over the leadership from Russel Norman after the 2014 election.

It follows the resignations of chief press secretary Leah Haines for family reasons, and former communications director David Cormack who left after just six months in the role to set up a public relations company.

This will be a loss to the Greens. Andrew is very respected can capable. His move into Chief of Staff was seen as a good one.

Mr Campbell denied the string of resignations was due to discontent in the Green camp. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I love politics, I love elections but you get to a point where you need to take a break from it. That’s it in a nutshell.”

He did not yet have another job lined up but had made it clear to the Green Party after the 2014 election that he intended to leave, partly because he felt it was time for ‘fresh legs’ to take on the role after seeing the party through two elections.

Regardless of how you spin it, it’s not a good look to have your Chief of Staff resign less than a year after he takes up the role.

I don’t think it is due to internal discontent, more a realisation that the chance of the Greens getting into Government is pretty bleak. Even if there is a Labour-led Government, they’ll need Peters and he’d veto the Greens being Ministers.

Tepid recommendations from the 2014 general election inquiry

April 27th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Justice and Electoral Committee has made some recommendations arising from their inquiry into the 2014 general election. Overall it is barely tepid with no significant changes recommended despite massive problems in the area of enforcement (The Police simply don’t enforce electoral laws, and no one else is able to).

Here’s their major recommendations:

  • Having more advance voting places available over 12 days
  • Enabling voters of Maori descent to change between general and maori rolls every three years instead of every five as present. This is a bad recommendation as boundaries are done every five years and running the Maori option out of sync with the boundaries review means you may get some gerrymandered seats with very low or very high electoral populations. If however they also review boundaries every three years, then it is okay.
  • Considering providing clarification or exemptions to the restrictions on broadcasting election programmes to address satirical, humorous, and creative programmes. (this is good)
  • Prohibiting campaigning and the display of campaign material within, and in the immediate vicinity of, advance voting places. (this is good)

Overall it is more about what they didn’t recommend, such as finally sacking the Police as the electoral law enforcement agency after their incompetence or unwillingness to enforce electoral law in the 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 elections.

 

 

Latest poll

April 26th, 2016 at 8:28 pm by David Farrar

Roy Morgan’s monthly poll is out and blogged here.

Quite different to Colmar Brunton. CB has National up while RM has National down.

Both CM and RM have Labour down, and well under 30%.

CM has NZ First down 1% while RM has NZ First up 3.5%.

Some fiscal discipline for Auckland

April 26th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Victoria Crone has announced:

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Vic Crone has announced her first set of policies, fiscally responsible commitments she says are fundamental basics of building a world class city.

The policies were jointly developed with Auckland Future and the announcement includes lifting council performance in four key areas: keeping residential rates low, cutting waste, reducing staff costs and controlling debt – essentials that council needs to get right.

“Last year ratepayers faced a 9.9 per cent average rates increase, for some it was a shocking 15 per cent. As Mayor I will cap average residential rates increases at 2 per cent per annum for the next three years,” says Ms Crone.

So Victoria Crone and Auckland Future are pledging a maximum rates increase of 2% annually for the next three years.

Having rates go up massively end endlessly is a political choice. Len Brown and the current Council chose to increase rates by 9.9%.

This year Aucklanders should check out all candidates for Council and the Mayor, and ask if they have made a pledge on rates increases. If they won’t make a pledge, then don’t vote for them unless you want more further massive rates increases.

Vic Crone’s leadership will deliver at least $500 million in savings with a focus on reducing back-office waste, efficient procurement, cutting duplication and imposing a Mayor-led Line-Item Review programme.

As a start, Crone will reduce staff costs by 5-10 per cent over the next three years and cap staff numbers at current levels, saving up to $80 million.

“It’s concerning that every year for the last three years council has exceeded its staff cost budget line by over $50 million. I will put a stop to this trend while protecting frontline staff, core services and key capital investments.”

This can be done. If anything, one could be even more ambitious with reducing staff costs.

 

No surprise – Dalziel running again

April 26th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says she will “not walk away from the city”.

Dalziel confirmed on Monday afternoon that she would seek a second term as Christchurch’s mayor in October’s local body election.  

She had been overwhelmed by positive feedback from the public in recent weeks, which helped make her decision, she said.

“The challenge of bringing about the change that we have managed to achieve in the last two-and-a-half years hasn’t come without its cost, but I am prepared to continue to serve the city for another three years if that’s what the city chooses.”

This is no real surprise. Very few people stand for Mayor and only do one term.

What will be interesting is if there is any challenger. It is quite possible there won’t be.

NBR on small passenger review

April 26th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

As someone in the pro-Uber, pro-disruptive technology, I was hoping the government would side with Uber but I’m surprised at just how emphatically Mr Bridges has backed the newcomer.

Last night, the transport minister said he would take the “lightest touch” possible as the new rules were finalised.

“I’ve always thought that in politics you’re on the side of the angels if what you’re doing is good for consumers, and ultimately this will be,” he said.

“What I want to see is a regime that allows for new technological innovations but is safe. Some change is required but we’re open to where that goes.”

A very welcome focus on what is best for consumers, not what is best for industry.

More broadly, some fear quality will drop under his laissez-faire proposals. But at least Uber drivers have the incentive that they are constantly being rated by passengers. And, in contrast, we’ve all had rubbish taxi drivers at times who have poorly maintained cars and/or an inability to work a simple GPS. Often the difference is nothing, given the number of taxi drivers who do double duty, whipping off their magnetic taxi badging when they get an Uber hail.

The New Zealand government’s approach is a happy contrast to some countries, like France, which are trying to ban or crack down on Uber; or Australia, were insanely complicated and expensive arrangements are being established (in South Australia, the state government is paying 1137 taxi drivers $A30,000 each as compensation for a law making ride-sharing apps like Uber legal. The $34 million move is being funded by a $A1 tariff on taxi fares that will, of course, make Uber seem even more attractive. Western Australia is introducing annual fees for Uber drivers. New South Wales is introducing a stonking $A250 million taxi industry compensation package, with a $A1 a ride special tariff for five years).

So well done, Mr Bridges.

A very good outcome from Bridges and Foss.

A land tax on foreign based land owners?

April 26th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

In a dramatic shift in position, John Key is threatening to apply a land tax to foreign-based house buyers if there is evidence they are pushing up New Zealand house prices – and it could apply to Kiwis abroad.

I think a land tax on all land owners is a good idea economically. However only if other taxes are reduced so that NZers are not taxed more overall.

The evidence on foreign buyers could be just two weeks away.

A land tax to dampen demand by foreign-based buyers would be a complete flip in the Government’s insistence that overseas speculation has not been a problem in the heated property market, and a switch from its focus on increasing supply.

The Prime Minister told the Herald any land tax could also apply to Kiwis abroad with property in New Zealand after an exemption period of perhaps three years away.

But such an exemption could potentially contravene New Zealand tax treaties with other countries.

If it did, the tax would apply at the same time to all foreign-based buyers who are tax residents elsewhere, including Kiwis abroad.

“Subject to our capacity to do so, New Zealanders living abroad would be exempt but you could do it for a period of three years at which point if they retained the property, they might have to start paying [the tax].”

Quite a novel approach – actually gather evidence to see how big a problem there is, and then decide based on the evidence.

 

Quote of the week

April 26th, 2016 at 9:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“Socialism states that you owe me something simply because I exist. Capitalism, by contrast, results in a sort of reality-forced altruism: I may not want to help you, I may dislike you, but if I don’t give you a product or service you want, I will starve. Voluntary exchange is more moral than forced redistribution.”

– Ben Shapiro

The quote of the week is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

Bill strikes a nerve

April 24th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman reports:

Finance Minister Bill English touched a raw nerve when he spoke of a cohort of individuals who are “pretty damned hopeless.” He was pilloried by the Opposition, and other commentators were quick to condemn the Govt for its failure to lift these unemployed out of their hopelessness. It’s an issue which divides NZ. Evidence came in the flood of emails to English’s office supporting what he said, more in a day than he had received all year.

That’s a lot of e-mails.

Hide on Niue deal

April 24th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

Labour Leader Andrew Little this week got the political blunderbuss out and blew off both feet and then his arms. He never grazed his target.

In my view, his was a disgraceful display of nastiness and political incompetence not expected of a rookie opposition MP and gobsmackingly awful for a would-be Prime Minister.

I refer, of course, to what Little would have you believe was Niue-gate.

It was a spectacular own goal.

The trustees of the resort are New Zealand High Commissioner to Niue Ross Ardern (Labour MP Jacinda Ardern’s father); MFat Deputy Secretary Jonathan Kings and former NZ High Commissioner to Niue (and Wellington Mayor and National MP) Mark Blumsky. The trustees appoint the board of directors of Matavai Niue Limited (MNL), responsible for the resort’s operation. They are Ian Fitzgerald (chair), Bill Wilkinson, Toke Talagi (Premier of Niue) and John Ingram.

That’s a distinguished list.

Yet according to Little all part of a deal that stinks to high heaven. I didn’t realise the Premier of Niue is one of those Little has effectively accused of corruption.

In 2013 Auckland firm Horwath HTL did an independent review for the board and, among other things, recommended the appointment of a hotel management company.

The following year, on behalf of the board, Horwath ran an Expressions of Interest and Request for Proposals process that culminated in the consideration of two proposals with the recommendation of Scenic Hotels. The board agreed.

The transaction was not just arm’s length, several oceans of separation lay between the political donation and the management contract. There is no evidence of impropriety. The process would appear a model of probity.

Meanwhile, Little has besmirched a successful and highly regarded business couple, a New Zealand business success story, senior government officials, his own MP’s dad, and the Premier of Niue.

National sails on untouched. Little is on camera weaving and dodging the obvious questions and backpedalling on his original concerns.

Politics can be nasty. It’s often incompetent. Somehow Little has managed to plumb new depths.

If Little or his staff had done their homework, he could have handled it very differently – still calling for the AG to investigate, but avoiding smearing those involved by declaring it stinks to high heaven.

MPs occupations

April 24th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Blackland PR has looked at the backgrounds of our 121 MPs:

The study, by political researcher Geoffrey Miller and public relations expert Mark Blackham, researched and compared the career histories of all 121 Members of the current Parliament.

They found that business owners, agriculturalists and unionists have a falling share of voice in their traditional parties, and have been replaced by people with no specific career interests, or careers limited to government and politics.

Miller said 23% of National MPs had experience working in a business, and only 10% of Labour MPs had worked in a union.

“National is no longer dominated by business experience and Labour no longer by unions.

“In fact, the whole of Parliament is now dominated by generalists, people of no specific experience, and government specialists – people whose only experience is working for government or in politics.

This is not a good trend – the rise of the professional political class.

mpsoccs

I’ve compiled this table from their data. The percentages add up to over 100% as some MPs have had multiple careers.

Little’s conspiracy gets even larger

April 23rd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

As for McCully’s handpicked appointees, these are the members of the Niue Tourism Property Trust whose members are indeed appointed by McCully on behalf of the Niue Government.

It has already been widely reported that they include the likes of the island’s High Commissioner and former police officer Ross Ardern. (Ardern also happens to be the father of Labour MP Jacinda Ardern so one would assume he’s not embedded with the National Party).

But this is where it gets complicated.

The Niue Tourism Property Trust appointed a board to oversee the running of the hotel and according to one of the four board members the agreement was negotiated and signed between Scenic Hotels and the board rather than the trust itself.

The tender process itself, meanwhile, was run by consultancy group Horwarth (which did the early feasibility studies for Auckland’s international conventional centre). So again, a step removed from the government appointees on Niue property trust.

Little is right when he says that it is his role as Opposition leader to ask questions when a big political donor is awarded Government contracts.

But suggesting it “stinks to high heaven” takes things to a different level.

Even if there hadn’t been a number of steps between the minister and the decision to award the contract, Little’s claim appears to rest on the assumption that everyone involved in the process – from senior diplomats, to government agencies and senior politicians – was either swayed by the donation, or leaned on by the minister.

In the absence of a whistle blower, or any documentation, leaked emails or other evidence so far to support that view, that’s a pretty serious accusation. Seemingly, it relies solely on the fact that Hagaman donated money to the National Party.

This is dangerous territory for Little and not because the Hagamans have threatened legal action.

With the involvement of Horwarth, Little’s allegations only stack up if the conspiracy involves McCully, the two Hagamans, the three trustees (including Ross Ardern), the four board members and the staff of Horwarth.

Little was right to ask the question but wrong to leap to judgement before the Auditor General decides even whether to take a look.

If Little had just asked for it to be reviewed, no problems. But he rushed to judgment and declared it stank to high heaven, and insulted the trustees by effectively referring to them as McCully’s handpicked mates when one of them is an MFAT Deputy Secretary and another the High Commissioner (and father of a Labour MP).

If every big donation is going to be decried as dodgy there seem to be only two alternatives – either barring donors from tendering for Government contracts, which is probably unworkable, or a fully state funded regime, which is where the first option ultimately leads anyway, given the inevitable drying up of campaign funds.

This is what Labour wants. They are broke so they want to force taxpayers to fund their party.

We should charge for water – but for everyone

April 23rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has downplayed concerns over foreign companies bottling and exporting water for large profits, saying only “a very tiny amount” is being sent overseas.

Controversy has been sparked by the Ashburton District Council’s decision to sell a property, with rights to extract 40 billion litres of water over 30 years, to an overseas company.

Opposition parties and environmental groups have called on the Government to charge fees for large-scale water takes which are exported overseas.

Why would you charge only if it is being exported? You charge for all or none.

However, Key told reporters in Beijing that governments had operated under a “long-standing principle” that water did not belong to anybody, and could not be sold by the Crown.

“The point is that no-one owns water, and if we’re going to start charging for it, then arguably we’d have to be consistent and charge a lot of people.

Yep. And we should as the market would be better at allocating water than local government officials.

“That means Meridian, when it gets its water and puts it through its hydro schemes, they would need to pay for that water, and Meridian aren’t going to pay the bill, so you the consumer are.”

Key said the access permits were only temporary, while only 0.004 per cent of all water used in New Zealand was bottled and sent overseas.

It is a tiny amount, and as usual xenophobia is behind it. But again Meridian should pay for the water it uses.

A Penny Bright campaign we might all support

April 22nd, 2016 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

While Auckland mayoral candidate and ex-Xero NZ boss Victoria Crone appears to have backed off from a battle over billboards with Auckland Council, fellow candidate Penny Bright has decided to take up cudgels on her rival’s – and ratepayers’ – behalf. …

Although Ms Crone seems to have conceded defeat on the issue, however, perennial rates activist and mayoral Penny Bright has signalled her intent to battle the billboard bylaw, which she sees as a matter of freedom of expression.

“So here we have Auckland Transport not telling us where they’re putting our money but they do want to tell us where and when we can put our signs,” Ms Bright says.

“I’m actually prepared to fight it on the basis of the Local Government Act 2002 s.155 (3) – that Council bylaws cannot be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act 1990.

“If it had been previously ok for years for individuals to display election hoardings on their private property at any time they liked, what’s changed?

“Who died and made Auckland Transport ‘the boss’ regarding the lawful rights of citizens to freedom of expression?

I agree. The Council and AT can make signs for their own property but it is ridiculous that they ban people from putting up election signs on their own property or on commercial hire sites.

Collins vs Goff

April 22nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police Minister Judith Collins and the police have spoken out against claims that community stations in Auckland and the rest of the country will close, saying that is incorrect.

 NZME had reported that sources within NZ Police had claimed there are plans for the 16 to at least temporarily shut their doors and that some may never re-open.

According to NZME, information provided by independent sources and also by Labour MP and Auckland Mayoral candidate Phil Goff claimed that “police may be under pressure to reduce their footprint and under pressure to close stations”.

Interesting that Goff has been using his parliamentary role to help his campaign by asking numerous parliamentary written questions on Auckland issues.

Collins quickly responded, saying that she was “really disappointed that Phil Goff is touting a false story to the media against New Zealand police”. …

Police  have denied the community station closure saying  that a new set of infrastructure design features are being introduced for safety measures at police front counters.

The new features are designed to deal with the most likely threats at publicly accessible police premises.

“Our review of existing infrastructure has highlighted a number of premises where more immediate practical steps are needed to increase security.  There are 105 stations we have identified in this category around New Zealand,” said Acting Assistant Commissioner District Operations, Bruce Bird.

“In some of these stations, one of the options may be to limit public access at times when constabulary staff are on the premises.

“This does not mean the stations will permanently close, but the public access at some stations may be, as an interim measure, restricted to those times when a constabulary/authorised officer is available to work at the front counter.”

So Goff is attacking the Police for making their staff safer and more secure from attack.

500 trillion litres!

April 22nd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nick Smith released:

The call from opposition parties for a moratorium or a new tax on consents for bottled water plants is typically uninformed and scientifically unsound in respect of dealing with the challenges New Zealand has in freshwater management, says Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“New Zealand has five-hundred trillion litres of fresh water each year flowing through our lakes, rivers, and aquifers, and we extract only two percent of that for human purposes. Ten trillion litres are extracted, made up of six trillion for irrigation, two trillion for town water supplies, and two trillion for industries. The total water extracted for bottled water is only 0.004 per cent of the resource.

So that is 500,000,000,000,000 litres a year. That is 100 million litres per New Zealander. And the opposition parties are scaremongering over it.

The suggestion by the Greens of a moratorium on bottled drinking water takes is about as sensible as pretending you could solve Auckland’s traffic congestion by banning bikes. The New Zealand First proposal for a special tax would be like putting a charge on bikes but ignoring trucks, cars and buses and pretending that it would help traffic management,” Dr Smith says.

As I’ve said many times, I have no problem with a charge on water, but it should apply to all.

“There is also a contradiction by opposition parties calling for a more diverse range of export industries than dairying but then wanting to prohibit the export of bottled water. Each litre of milk takes about 400 litres of freshwater to produce and if the export market is prepared to pay a good price for bottled water, it may be a more efficient and productive use of the resource. It would also be difficult to justify a charge on bottled water but not on a bottled product made with minimal additives of juice concentrate or other similar bottled drinking products.

“There is no case for the bottled water industry to be treated any differently from the thousands of other water users.

A tax or ban on bottled water is simply kneejerk idiotic politics.

Government deregulates passenger services

April 22nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Some really good decisions from the Government on the passengers services. Simon Bridges and Craig Foss announced:

Currently there are separate categories and rules for taxis, private hire, shuttles, and rideshare operators. Under the changes, these services will be regulated under a single category of small passenger service, meaning one set of rules for all.

A good start – one simple set of rules.

“New technologies like smart phones and apps have changed the way the sector can operate. Modernising our rules will ensure they are flexible enough to accommodate new business models,” Mr Bridges says

“The Government has clearly stated our intention to encourage innovation and enable new kinds of services. Freeing up the regulatory environment will allow transport operators to compete on an even footing,” Mr Bridges says.

Some rules that impose costs on operators, but no longer provide any significant benefits, will be removed.

“Removing outdated rules will allow a broader range of transport services to develop throughout New Zealand, giving consumers more choice,” Mr Foss says.

People used to just pick whatever taxi was on a taxi stand. Now many people use apps to book a driver, and will swap firms based on quality.

The regulations being removed include:

  • Signage requirements (including information about fares, mandatory branding, information supplied in Braille)
  • An Area Knowledge Certificate
  • Passing a full licence test in the preceding five years
  • The need to belong to an approved taxi organisation
  • Provision of small passenger services on a 24/7 basis
  • Driver panic alarms, monitored 24/7 from a fixed location

These have all imposed a considerable cost and now little benefit. The q+a explains:

The Ministry’s review found that these requirements no longer add value. For example, GPS and mapping technology means that area knowledge is not as important as it was in the past. Removing these requirements means that the proposed regime will be more flexible, and reduces compliance costs. It encourages businesses to make their own decisions about what their services should include, depending on their customers’ needs.

They have also given an exemption from the silly rule about needing a video camera in the vehicle if:

  1. Providing services to registered passengers only
  2. Collection of driver and passenger information
  3. Availability of driver and passenger information
  4. Retaining a record of each trip.

Drivers still need a P licence and a full Police check. However the time taken to do this has dropped from 55 days to 20 days, and reduce further yet.  And the cost is likely to drop from $700 to under $200 which will make it easier for mreo people to become part-time drivers – say students between lectures or retired persons for a few hours a day.

Really good to see the Government not trying to protect incumbent industries with regulatory overkill, but instead responding to a new business dynamic by reducing regulatory obligations on all participants. The end result is better choices and prices for consumers.

On that note Uber has just announced their prices in Auckland and Wellington are dropping 20%. They are already a third cheaper than most taxis, so this will probably mean around half the price in future – great.