Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Labour’s TPP duplicity

October 5th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour deputy leader Annette King said the fact the Government has put the brakes on legislation around plain packaging for cigarettes, while it waits to see whether Australia is successfully sued by a tobacco company, has put doubt in people’s minds.

“It must also be in the Government’s mind at this point because why wouldn’t we pass (the legislation) if we can’t be sued.”

King is being deliberately misleading, The lawsuit in Australia  that NZ is waiting to see the outcome of, is not under an investor state dispute settlement provision of an free trade agreement.  It is under WTO rules and is not a company but a country suing – Ukraine, Honduras, Indonesia, Dominican Republic and Cuba.

These are the same dispute settlement provisions that allowed us to get a WTO ruling that Australia can’t block NZ apple imports on phony biosecurity grounds.

King said the Government had done an “appalling” job of handling public confidence and public information over the deal.

“Yes, everyone understands you don’t give away all the things you’re negotiating…but there has been a very high handed and arrogant approach.

“The vacuum (the Government) left by not bringing along the public in some respects has been filled by people who have got information from other sources. It’s their own fault they’ve ended up with a divided public over a deal that they tell us is going to be a high quality deal,” she said.

I love this – Labour scaremongers for months over the TPP, and then says it is the Government’s fault the public has had misleading information!

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Good call Nanaia

October 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

A top-ranked Maori MP has dismissed the show of support for US rapper Chris Brown as a bid by tour promoters to sell more tickets.

Labour’s Maori Development spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta spoke out after a number of Maoridom’s most distinguished women leaders announced they were backing Brown’s bid to come to New Zealand.

“The Chris Brown story is nothing more than the tour promoters trying to influence the outcome of a visa application, promote the tour and sell tickets,” she said.

“Unfortunately, those that have talked out on the issue to support Chris Brown have failed to see it for what it is.

Not often I agree with Nanaia, but she is so right here.

Yesterday, Dame June Jackson, Dame June Mariu, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Lady Tureiti Moxon and former Women’s Refuge boss Merepeka Raukawa-Tait joined Dame Tariana Turia in supporting Brown’s visit.

They seem to have been sucked in by the argument that Chris Brown made a mistake once, and has been seeking atonement. To the contrary, he has carried on with violent behaviour in the last few years, and has even got violent when someone dares to ask him about the domestic violence conviction.

I absolutely agree that a conviction should not mean he can never ever travel to NZ. But the three factors are:

  • How long ago was it
  • How serious was it
  • Has there been a sustained period of good behaviour since

He fails on pretty much all three. It was relatively recent (not decades ago), was very nasty, and he has carried on with violence since.

Good to see Nanaia speaking out so firmly on this.

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PPTA sees sense

October 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The secondary teachers union will drop a proposed move to ban foreign qualifications, saying it was proving a “distraction” from the real issues around NCEA.

A Post-Primary Teachers’ Association paper titled “The NCEA: Can it be saved” previously included lobbying for a ban of Cambridge and International Baccalaureate, alongside a series of other recommendations around how to ensure NCEA remained workable and robust.

The proposed ban has been hotly debated since it was raised, with NCEA supporters arguing foreign examinations undermined our local qualification, while Cambridge supporters argued its system was more robust, and there needed to be a choice.

PPTA members today voted for the paper at their national conference in Wellington, without the recommendation included after executive members decided to remove it.

A good move from the PPTA. Their own credibility would have been badly damaged if they had endorsed the proposal to advocate a ban of foreign qualifications.

Some schools choose to offer international qualifications such as Cambridge. That is a choice their community of parents makes. They should have that choice.

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Incomes up again

October 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

Median weekly income up 4.3%

Median weekly income from all sources was up $26 in the June 2015 quarter from a year ago, Statistics New Zealand said today. Half the population aged 15+ years received more than $621 a week in the June 2015 quarter. 

With inflation running below 1%, that is a very significant boost to median incomes.

If you can keep inflation low, but have reasonable wage and income growth, you can see significant income gains. And if you reduce taxes also, you boost actual disposable incomes even more.

The data above is from the NZ Income Survey that doesn’t go back very far. But Stats NZ has a data series back to 1989 for seasonally adjusted average (not median) weekly earnings.

If you then deduct income tax and ACC levies you get net annual earnings, and adjust for inflation and you get real net income from earnings.

So what was the average real net income from earnings in December 1999 when Labour took office?

  • Gross $29,241
  • Tax $5,702
  • ACC $380
  • Net $23,159
  • Real Net (Q2 2015$) $33,205

And what were incomes six and a half years later under Labour?

  • Gross $36,838
  • Tax $7,183
  • ACC $479
  • Net $29,176
  • Real Net (Q2 2015$) $35,011

So net real incomes went up 5.4% in the first six and a half years of a Labour Government. That’s 0.8% a year.

Now what were incomes when National came in in December 2008?

  • Gross $41,435
  • Tax $8,113
  • ACC $580
  • Net $32,741
  • Real Net (Q2 2015$) $36,651

And as of June 2015:

  • Gross $50,229
  • Tax $8,089
  • ACC $728
  • Net $41,412
  • Real Net (Q2 2015$) $41,412

So over six and a half years of National Government, the average real net earnings are up 13%. That is 2.0% a year.

So the average real net income for a working New Zealand is 13% higher than in 2008. That is a significant achievement.

Now the increase in earnings has little to do with the Government. That is more a function of the labour market. But the Government does set tax rates, and Government policy does impact inflation significantly. The combination of those three has benefited working New Zealanders greatly.

If you take away percentages the average net real earnings are up $4,760 since 2008. That’s an extra $92 a week.

And by comparison they went up only $1,806 in the first six and a half years of Labour.


It’s about what is best for students, not schools

October 2nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

News the Government is funding another 600 places for teenagers to learn a trade will limit their choice of subjects at school, a Hawke’s Bay teacher says.

A funding transfer from the Youth Guarantee fees-free programme has made room for hundreds more places at Trades Academies from the beginning of next year.

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced the extra funding of $21 million, which comes from a drop in demand for the Youth Guarantee scheme, at the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) annual conference in Wellington on Thursday.

But Havelock North High School deputy principal Maria Neville-Foster said schools couldn’t financially sustain paying for teachers in subject areas where class rolls significantly dropped on the days some students went to Trades Academies.

“The class still exists but the funding for a kid leaves when it goes off to Trades Academies,” Neville-Foster said.

She used an example of a small school and a class of 12 students, six of which attended Trades Academies on a Friday.

“You can’t sustain it financially to have a teacher for the six remaining kids so you have to collapse the class so therefore there’s less subject choice for kids.”

“I’m in a school with 927 students and it’s an issue we’re faced with. It’s particularly problematic in small schools.”

With fewer subject choices students’ learning options become more and more limited, she said.

Actually the Trade Academies give them more options.

But Parata said the Government already “significantly supplemented” Trades Academy places to “recognise exactly that concern”.

“The funding for Trades Academy places was way above what the funding is for a student who is not going to a Trades Academy place, to recognise a school needs to have basic funding to maintain its programme.”

And there is funding for the displacement.

Parata said a report by the Education Review Office showed Trades Academies were delivering “overwhelmingly positive outcomes” for students.

“Trades Academies not only lift student achievement, they help students into further education or careers in industries such as building and construction or the primary industries,” she said.

That’s what matters – the outcomes.


Prisoners do lie

October 2nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Another Serco-run private prison is under fire after prisoner allegations that serious assaults are going unreported.

Labour’s Kelvin Davis told Radio NZ that an inmate at the Auckland South Corrections Facility at Wiri alleged prisoners were being locked down for long periods of the day and serious unreported beatings were happening in the prison.

Prisoners make lots of allegations, including that they are all innocent.

At Mt Eden some of the allegations have been proven false, while some have been substantiated, and there is an independent investigation into these.

But this does not mean allegations from a single prisoner at another prison are credible, especially when they appear to be contradicted by the evidence.

Davis told Radio NZ Wiri was well on its way to becoming like Mt Eden, which the Corrections Departments took over the running of when evidence of fight clubs and contraband were revealed.

Complaints about Wiri were detailed in an email to Davis sent from an inmate’s wife.

“He’s very concerned – he’s said there’s already serious beatings happening – and he doesn’t believe they’re all being reported.

“There are also units being locked down for 23 hours a day, there is no staff on the floor so you can never find anyone and no-one is ever observing what the inmates are doing,” Davis said.

Would be very easy to check if they are locked down for 23 hours a day. Has he checked, or just gone with the allegation?

However McNairn said all prisoners at Wiri are in work, education or training and “the majority spend busy purposeful days in vocational training, work or attending courses, as well as family and legal visits, sporting and cultural activities”.

In-cell technology means that prisoners can continue to learn even when they are locked up, he said.

Some MPs visited Wiri prison a few weeks ago and on the surface everything looked fine, Davis said.

“But we don’t know what happened once the gates were closed behind us.

So Davis himself has been there and saw nothing to back the allegation.

Prisoners have telephones in their cells and can use them to raise any concerns including contacting the Inspectorate and the Ombudsman to lay complaints via an 0800 number.

Wiri is also subject to “daily scrutiny from four experienced Department of Corrections staff working as prison monitors and a relationship manager, as well as independent oversight,” McNairn said.

I think the Corrections staff would have noticed 23 hour lockdowns.

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Key endorses Clark, not Rudd

October 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

At a meeting with Key in New York on Thursday (NZT), Clark said she would “neither confirm nor deny” she would be seeking the top job – “as was said about nuclear weapons for many years”.

But Key is offering his wholehearted backing should she decide to throw her hat in the ring, saying Clark would be the best person for the job. 

“I’m doing everything I can and will do if she becomes the genuine runner for secretary general … I genuinely think she will be a great leader of he UN and hope she gets there.”

That included having a word in the ear of other world leaders including “one or two I play golf or hang with”, Key said – a reference to US President Barack Obama, who he has joined on the golf course previously.

Key said it would be huge for New Zealand if Clark won the job and the fact they were once rivals “wouldn’t stop me having a lot of pride in her” if she succeeded.

I think it will be someone from Eastern Europe, but if the regional rotation system breaks down, then of course we should back Clark. Regardless of your views of her as PM, having a NZer achieve the top UN job would be huge.

A rival challenger could be Australia’s Kevin Rudd, whose move to the US has fuelled speculation that he intends throwing his hat in the ring.

Key said he had heard the speculation but had not spoken to Rudd about it.

Asked if he would support Rudd’s bid Key said: “If he stood and no one else did we’d back him.”

Oh that is hilarious – we’d back Rudd if no one else stands. Laughing out loud. Talk about damning with faint praise.

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Labour scaremongering over Kermadecs

October 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour can;t even be positive over the Kermadecs announcement. They seem to think you win elections by being the prophets of doom and Armageddon.

Rino Tirikatene said:

A lack of consultation with important iwi stakeholders about the establishment of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary could lead to legal challenges, says Labour’s Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene.

“Labour welcomes the establishment of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary but we do have concerns the Government’s carefree approach is denying iwi involvement and could lead to legal challenges.

“Te Ohu Kaimoana hold significant quota for Maori in an area affected by the sanctuary and yet they weren’t consulted. This is a breach of Treaty of Waitangi obligations. 

I guess Labour also think stopping quota holders from using slave ships for fishing was a Treaty breach.

But anyway Labour are just making things up to try and find a negative.  Nick Smith has pointed out:

Claims by the Labour Party of insufficient Government consultation with iwi on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary announced yesterday ignore the strong support of iwi for the new protection, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says. 

“Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri – the two northern iwi with connections to the Kermadec Islands – both indicated their strong support for the new sanctuary prior to its announcement. These two relevant iwi have been pushing for the sanctuary proposal and so Labour’s criticism that they were not consulted does not make sense,” Dr Smith says. 

So the two Iwi connected support it. Does Labour? They claim they do, yet also seem to claim Iwi should be compensated even if Iwi support it!

“Te Ohu Kaimoana were also advised of the Government’s decision prior to its announcement. Official records show that no fishing by Te Ohu Kaimoana has occurred in the sanctuary area over the past five years.

Typical idiotic negativity from Labour.

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Clark says “unthinkable” for NZ to not be in TPP

October 1st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says it would be “unthinkable” for New Zealand to be left out of the TPP, as ministerial talks to try to get the deal signed off this week continue in Atlanta.

It is hard to think of a stronger phrase of endorsement.

She rarely comments on New Zealand domestic issues, but made an exception when asked about the TPP, which began under the former Labour Government as the P4 with Chile, Singapore and Brunei.

“What always haunts a Prime Minister is ‘will there be a series of trade blocs develop that you are not part of?’ Because that is unthinkable for New Zealand as an export-oriented, small trading nation.

“So of course New Zealand has to be in on the action with the TPP and go for the very best deal it can as the agreement expands beyond the original four economies to a wider regional agreement.”

Sadly the Labour Party of Clark which proudly signed an FTA with China has become a Labour Party which promotes hysteria and nonsense against the TPP.

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MFAT’s Hawaii Mansion

October 1st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

For some reason NZ has a Consul General in Hawaii.  Their main job appears to be working with Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, so I wonder why they are not located on one of those islands.

But even if you do need one in Hawaii, do they really need a $6.2 luxury home?

I didn’t have a problem with the New York apartment for $11 million because we have a major mission in New York, and apartments there are hideously expensive, and it will be used for diplomatic meetings and receptions.

But I really can’t see why you need that in Hawaii? It looks wasteful. It has heated pools, waterfalls and marble.

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Curran rules out mayoral bid

October 1st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Ms Curran, Labour’s sitting Dunedin South MP, has been linked to a tilt for the Dunedin mayoralty by a variety of sources speaking to the Otago Daily Times.

The rumour is said to have come from inside Ms Curran’s office, although she vehemently denied the ”mischievous” suggestion when contacted.

”You will not see my name on the ballot paper next [local body] election.

That a very firm denial.

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Rankin’s Auckland policies

October 1st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Ngapuhi’s David Rankin has announced he is standing for Auckland Council:

Ngapuhi leader David Rankin has announced his intention to stand for the Auckland Council in next year’s local body elections.

“This Council is broken – it lacks imagination and integrity, and is driven by Len Brown’s vanity projects, which will drive Auckland bankrupt,” he said in a statement released tonight.

His five policies are:

  1. put an immediate end to the inner-city rail loop, and invest the funds instead on roading.
  2. extend the urban limits of the city to allow the supply of more land for housing. The aim will be for a radical drop in land prices due to a huge supply of residential-zoned land
  3. disband the current Maori statutory board and replace it with a five-member advisory board with a total budget of $150,000.
  4. Restore the access to all the volcanic peaks as it existed in 2011
  5. Halt all future cycle lanes, and remove existing ones where they obstruct traffic and a bicycle registration system will be introduced so that future cycle lanes will be built when the fund accumulated from cyclist registrations allows for it.

I like 2, 3 and 4.

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I’m on Australia’s side

October 1st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It could soon be time to introduce laws to treat Australians in New Zealand as poorly as Kiwis are received across the Tasman, the Maori Party says.

If this means deporting Australians who do serious crimes, I’m in favour.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met New Zealand counterpart Murray McCully and Prime Minister John Key in New York this week.

Afterwards, she said the Australian Government would talk further about its policy of detaining and deporting non-Australian offenders who have served a prison sentence of a year or more. Ms Bishop said she would ask Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to speak to New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse but gave no indication that the policy would be reviewed. That meeting has not been scheduled.

If Australia was deporting people for incredibly minor offences such as say one shoplifting offence after 30 years of living there, then that would be stupid. But to get a jail sentence of one year or more requires a relatively serious or persistent level of offending, and why would Australia want to keep criminals they don’t want to?

If you are a Kiwi living in Australia and don’t want to be deported back to NZ, then there’s two ways you can do that.

  1. Stop committing crimes
  2. Become an Australian citizen, which you can do after four years in Australia

Slimmer is better

October 1st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Christchurch’s new earthquake recovery authority will be substantially smaller than its predecessor.

It is understood Regenerate Christchurch, confirmed in an announcement on Friday, will consist of about 30 staff. It will be complemented by the Christchurch City Council’s newly-established development company, Development Christchurch Ltd, and a new Crown entity – CrownCo.

Good to see a Government entity getting smaller!

CrownCo will oversee the Crown-led anchor projects, such as the convention centre, metro sports facility and east frame, and some other objectives for Crown-owned land. It will be established under the Public Finance Act.

Even combined, Regenerate Christchurch and CrownCo will likely be much smaller than Cera. As of July, Cera had about 360 full-time and seconded staff.

Who came up with the name – CrownCo? Not going to win originality awards!


GCSB opens up

September 30th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has a copy of the speech by GCSB Acting Director Una Jagose who has given more details of Project Cortex.

Cortex is mostly automated, with machines using information and patterns gleaned from previous attacks to scan data and systems for points of weakness and possible intrusions.

Of all data analysed, less than 0.005 per cent has to be reviewed by GCSB staff, Ms Jagose said, and there were “extraordinary” controls about how it was handled.

“Rules limit the number of people who can access it – all of them who can are computer defense specialists – who must indicate and show they have a clear understanding of the rules.

“And the Inspector General [of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn] can view all of it. She can see a complete log of what has happened, and recorded reasons why any of that activity has been taken in relation to that data, or why an analyst is viewing that data.

“We cannot and don’t use it for any other purpose. That intelligence – sorry, that information gathered – is used for defending out networks. It is all about cyber security.”

Asked if customers of a company that is protected by Cortex were likely to understand that data may be reviewed by GCSB staff, Ms Jagose said organisations had to advise those who interact with their security systems that communications may be accessed for security purposes.


It is good to see the GCSB being more open about what they do in the cyber-security area, and also the safeguards.

Worth reading the full speech – it is very interesting.


A good u-turn by Christchurch Council

September 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Beachside Christchurch residents are celebrating “democracy at its best” after a plan to deal with long-term flooding and erosion risk was dropped.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Environment Minister Nick Smith and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel announced that plan changes affecting property owners as a consequence of future coastal hazards would be dealt with through normal planning processes and not through the fast-tracked District Plan review process.

The Christchurch City Council sparked anger and anxiety among coastal property owners in July when an assessment it commissioned of the long-term threat posed by sea level rise identified 6000 properties that could be susceptible to erosion and nearly 18,000 that could face coastal inundation over the next 50 to 100 years.

The council immediately amended Land Information Memorandums for those properties to indicate they were in a coastal hazard zone and announced it was proposing through the Replacement Christchurch District Plan (RCDP) to limit new development in the areas considered most at risk. 

That sparked concern people would not be able to develop their properties, values in coastal areas would dive and it would become harder and more costly to get insurance.

Christchurch Coastal Residents United spokesman Tim Sintes said the decision to step back was “fantastic news”.

“To get a result like this, it’s democracy at it’s best.

“It has to go this way, with a national standard, rather than ticking off one town after another.”

The issue of sea level rise is a complex one, and not one Councils should be doing in isolation, and rushing through.

Smith said Christchurch had enough on its plate and did not need to have the added burden of leading the country and the world on how to deal with the issue of climate change and sea level rise.

The Government was proposing both legislative changes and national policy guidance on such hazards as part of its Resource Management Act reform programme.

“More time will also allow contestable advice and normal appeal rights to the Environment Court. It makes sense for the timing of this work to be aligned with national policy. I am satisfied that the existing plans provide adequate interim measures to deal with these risks in the immediate future,” Smith said. 

We have robust data showing there has been sea level increases in NZ. From 1900 to 2000 the sea level in Auckland increased 16 cm, or 1.6 mm a year. While this rate has been increasing globally, in Auckland it does not yet appear to be accelerating. It will to some degree, but we don’t know to what degree. And hence rushing through LIM notations on properties when the data is not yet clear, is unwise.

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English on housing affordability

September 30th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

An insightful speech on the housing market by Bill English. Some extracts:

A strong focus of our policy is to make sure our markets work.

And over the last 30 years New Zealand has done a reasonable job of this.

Over the last seven years our labour market has been tested.

It has accommodated a significant recession in 2008, and a pickup in demand particularly in Christchurch following the earthquakes.

The labour market was able to respond quickly to those shifts in supply and demand conditions.

Today New Zealand’s proportion of the working-age population in employment is among the highest in the OECD.

Another area that is now working well is the energy market.

For a long time, New Zealand energy markets were over-regulated and poorly-regulated.

Extensive government ownership further stunted price signals.

For instance, water management in the hydro-electricity system was, compared to today, very poor. …

We’re shutting down excess capacity, and excess capital is being withdrawn and returned to the owners of that capital.

After years of litigation and legal contest over the rules, the energy market is now starting to work.

Which brings me to the housing market.

This is probably the largest market in New Zealand where the rules need to be reshaped.

The most evident indication of a problem is Auckland house prices.

I’m yet to find a housing market anywhere in the world where prices go up at over 20 per cent a year without stopping and then starting to come down again.

So why is the housing market important:

Over the last five years, the Auckland housing market has been the single biggest imbalance in our macro-economic system.

It takes around eight years for the housing market to respond to a shock to demand.

In part that is because changes to council plans can take years, in some cases over a decade.

Resource consents on a housing development regularly take 18 months, including pre-application times excluded from the official statistics.

When combined, those very real delays can exceed the length of the house price cycle.

The point is that when the supply of housing is relatively fixed, shocks to demand – like migration flows increasing sharply as they have recently – are absorbed through higher prices rather than the supply of more houses.

And the main cause:

This has been borne out by extensive studies in the United States following the Global Financial Crisis.

What they’ve found is that, across different markets subject to rules which vary by state, more-intense regulation of urban development is associated with higher house price volatility.

That is, the steepest price increases and the sharpest falls are in areas where regulation is strongest.

The effects of planning rules can extend to the macro-economy.

Cities are one of the extraordinary inventions of the human race.

Studies have shown that cities are an engine room of growth. Incomes in cities are higher than elsewhere. That is one explanation for high rates of urbanisation.

Research indicates that when planning rules prevent workers shifting to higher-productivity locations, then there is a cost in terms of foregone GDP.

It’s only relatively recently that economists and politicians have understood the scale of those effects.

So when we’re talking about something as apparently dry as the Auckland Unitary Plan, we’re talking about a set of rules that will have a major impact on the city, on current and future residents – but also on the wider economy.

So the unitary plan is important.

In my view, poor urban planning is one of the significant drivers of inequality.

Poor regulation of housing has the largest proportionate effect on the lowest quartile of housing costs and rents.

So when we’re having the debate about whether there is sufficient land available, we have to recognise that the people who lose the most from getting that decision wrong – and who stand the most to gain from fixing those decisions – are those on the lowest incomes.

Income inequality in New Zealand has been flat for 20 years, but the gap between incomes measured before housing costs and after housing costs is growing.

Housing costs are becoming a larger proportion of incomes – and that matters the most at the bottom end of incomes among people who have few choices.

So one of the best ways to tackle inequality is to free up land.

Planning is often seen a public good activity that must address the needs of those who are most-vulnerable and have the lowest income.

In fact there is a strong argument to say it does exactly the opposite.

Poor planning favours “insiders” – homeowners – on high incomes and who have relatively high wealth.

It is the old unexpected consequences.

Today we spend $2 billion each year on accommodation subsidies. 60 per cent of all rentals in New Zealand are subsidised by the Government.

The state owns around $21 billion worth of houses.

One house in every 16 in Auckland is a Housing New Zealand property.

Many of these are three bedroom houses on quarter-acre sections only a few kilometres from the CBD – a massive misuse of scarce land. And all at the taxpayer’s expense.

So these are the reasons why the Government pays attention to the housing market and issues stemming from poor planning.

Yet they protest when their highly subsidised quarter acre section is turned into more housing.

For those among you who are economists, I would go so far as to say that while the justification for planning is to deal with externalities, what has actually happened is that planning in New Zealand has become the externality.

It has become a welfare-reducing activity.

And as with other externalities, such as pollution, the Government has a role to intervene, working with councils to manage the externality.

This is a key sentence and indicates English is very serious about tackling the planning rules.

Recent studies have shown rules setting minimum floor space requirements and minimum balcony requirements add $50,000 to $100,000 to the cost of an apartment.

That’s in addition to costs associated with other rules, such as rules setting minimum ceiling heights.

Some progress has been made. A study examining minimum car parking requirements in Auckland showed the costs of that planning rule exceeded benefits by a factor of at least six.

That’s a rule that should never have been made. It has probably cost the economy millions of dollars.

Fortunately, now that we’re digging in to these issues, that rule has been mostly scrapped – and credit is due to Auckland Council for doing so.

So a start has been made, but much more to do.

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The inaugural Greg King Memorial Lecture

September 29th, 2015 at 4:52 pm by David Farrar

For those in Wellington tomorrow, could well be worth attending:

The Justice Hot Tub, in association with Victoria University, are proud to announce the inaugural Greg King Memorial Lecture, to be held at Victoria University Law School on Wednesday 30 September (at 6 pm).
The organizers are hoping that the event will become an annual “must attend” event for anyone with an interest in the criminal law and victims’  rights. The inaugural lecture is entitled “Three strikes – five years on”, and is to be given by Professor Warren Brookbanks of Auckland University Law School.
“I asked Warren to give the inaugural lecture on ‘three strikes’ for several reasons. Firstly, his is a well qualified and  credible voice, and  Warren can by no stretch be seen as a mouthpiece for the Sensible Sentencing Trust” said event organizer David  Garrett.
“Secondly, Greg King was – like Warren – opposed to the three strikes legislation when it was enacted five years ago. I believe Greg was somewhat altering his view of it  prior to his tragic death. I will be very interested to hear Warren’s take on how the law is working five years on. If Greg was still with us, I know he would be too”  Garrett said
“While Greg was best known as being a high profile criminal defence lawyer, his involvement with victims’ rights groups was less well known” said Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar.
“I first met Greg when he  attended a victims  conference organized by the Sensible Sentencing Trust. At that event, Greg knew he would be coming face to face with the victims of some of those he had defended. I thought that showed incredible  courage” said  Garrett
“Greg King was a fantastic human being. We sincerely hope he can be remembered every year by a lecture in his name given by someone who  commands the same level of respect as Greg himself did” said Garrett. 

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Rodney’s 10 reasons on why Winston should be PM

September 29th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

An amusing sarcastic column from Rodney Hide on why Winston should be PM.

  1. It’s his turn
  2. Experience
  3. Entertainment
  4. Good for journalists
  5. His integrity is not in question – we know he lies
  6. Partnership
  7. Historical prophecy – hailed by Muldoon
  8. A Kingmaker can make himself King
  9. What else can he do?
  10. We deserve him, as people keep voting for him
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Tame wrong on sugar tax

September 29th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jack Tame writes in the Herald:

We are definitely too fat. Our diabetes rates are too high. Our heart-disease numbers are terrible. We’re fat and we need to tax sugar soon-as.

News flash: taxing stuff works. If you haven’t been to Europe lately, you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that cigarettes are generally much cheaper there than they are in New Zealand.

You’ll also not be surprised to hear more Europeans than New Zealanders haven’t yet kicked the smoking habit. Funny that.

Tame is write that if you tax something people consume less of it. But where his argument falls down is substitution.

Mexico is doing better. It’s one of the few countries fatter than us. The average person gets through half a litre of fizzy drink every day.

In Mexico it’s not unusual to see someone drinking Coke for breakfast.

But Mexico slapped a 10 per cent tax on sugary drinks. In just a year, sales dropped 6 per cent and in lower-income communities where people are generally more affected, the impact was even larger.

Tame is wrong on two fronts. The first is that actually consumption of soda drinks has not decreased in Mexico.

But even if it has, that does not mean Mexicans are less obese. They just eat or drink something else.

In NZ only 1.6% of total energy intake comes from sugar drinks. You could tax them or ban them all you like, and it won’t reduce obesity at all. In fact sugar consumption has been dropping in NZ, while obesity rates are increasing.

It’s draft woolly thinking that you can reduce obesity by targeting just one area of energy.

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The climate change “refugee” Labour wants to stay here

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

One News reported:

Ioane Teitiota was sent back to the tiny Pacific island this afternoon after a last minute appeal to let him and his family stay in New Zealand on humanitarian grounds was denied.

However revelations have been made against Mr Teitiota by a former employer saying he sexually assaulted a female co-worker and violently assaulted other colleagues before being fired from a west Auckland market garden.

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Vic academics against free speech

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

Stuff reports:

Israeli soldiers involved in an operation that left thousands of Palestinians dead will speak at Victoria University, to the horror of some staff and students.

But the group of Jewish students bringing the former soldiers out say attempts to stop them coming to the university are an affront to free speech.

Students are planning to picket the Tuesday evening event at the university while 11 academics have signed a letter opposing it, arguing Palestinians would not be able to do the same.

This is just the typical we want to shut down speech from those we disagree with.

Speakers representing the Palestinian view speak regularly on campuses around the world. No one ever ever suggests they not be allowed to speak. But whenever there is a speaker representing the Israeli view, they try to shut it down.

The event, at the Cotton Building, is organised by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS).

Spokesman Caelan MacBeth said it was shameful students were trying to prevent “an open exchange of views on a complex, longstanding Middle East conflict”.

“The basis upon which a university is built is that of debate, open discussion, equality of representation, and the right to free speech.”

The reserve soldiers were now students of medicine and business on holiday in New Zealand and planned to share their experiences of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Wouldn’t it be better to hear their first hand perspective, to ask questions of them, to challenge them if necessary. But instead they just want them silenced.

A letter signed by 11 academics expressed dismay the university would host the event which was “part of a nationwide campaign to justify Israeli crimes in last year’s war in Gaza”.

Operation Protective Edge in 2014 saw an Israel assault on the Gaza Strip in which more than 2000 people were killed. Of them, 1523 were civilians, the letter said.

“The United Nations stated that Israel’s use of heavy artillery against Gaza ‘may amount to a war crime’.”

Educational institutes were damaged and students were among the dead.

“It is astonishing, therefore, that an exercise in propaganda and apologetics for military violence should be hosted at a university setting under the guise of education and learning opportunities,” the letter states.

“This meeting gives a platform to [Israeli Defence Force] soldiers for them to celebrate the very conflict that led to such massive Palestinian loss of life.”

English lecturer Dougal McNeill – who signed the statement – said the event was nothing more than a propaganda project by Israel which, due largely to the rise of social media, was facing a “public relations disaster” after the deadly operation.

Palestinians would not be offered the same freedom, as most were unable to leave Palestine, he said.

While it seemed inevitable the event would go ahead he wished it would be cancelled.

The university has not invited them, but a club. The academics are saying they don’t want students to have the right to invite people they disapprove of. They are a shame to free speech and the hundreds of years of history of universities in promoting free speech.

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Kermadecs turned into one of world’s largest marine sanctuaries

September 29th, 2015 at 6:53 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A vast stretch of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone is being turned into an ocean sanctuary in a landmark deal to preserve one of the most pristine and unique environments on earth.

Prime Minister John Key is poised to announce the deal in New York, and said it would encompass 620,000 km2 in the seas north-east of New Zealand in the Kermadec region.

“The Kermadec Ocean sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life,” Key said.

The sanctuary will cover 15 per cent of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone, an area twice the size of our landmass and 50 times the size of our largest national park in Fiordland.

“As well as being home to a wide range of marine species, the Kermadec region is one of the most geographically and geologically diverse areas in the word. It contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arc and he second deepest ocean trench at 10 kilometres deep,” Key said.

This is a huge decision. It’s a marine sanctuary twice the size of New Zealand. Most decisions made by New Zealand don’t have global impact, but this one does.

The sanctuary will create a no-take, fully protected zone preventing all fishing and mining in the area, adding to the protections already in place. …

Environment Minister Nick Smith said oceans were the new frontier for environmental protection.

“They make up 72 per cent of the globe and are home to half of the world’s species but currently only two per cent is protected,” Smith said.

“There is increased pressure from over fishing, mining and pollution with the populations of fish and seabird species estimated to have halved over the past 40 years.”

Just as New Zealand had set aside significant areas of land like the Tongariro and Fiordland National Parks, it also needed to protect special areas of the sea like the pristine ocean around the Kermadec Islands.

According to information supplied by Smith’s office, the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected areas. It includes the second deepest ocean trench at over 10 kilometres, deeper than Mt Everest is tall, and an arc of 30 underwater volcanoes, the largest anywhere on earth.

It is also some to six million seabirds of 39 different species, over 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of endangered sea turtles and many other marine species like coals, shellfish and crabs unique to the area.

I’ve blogged in the past urging the Government to turn the Kermadecs into a marine reserve, noting:

There are a number of smaller there, but we could make the entire area a unique marine reserve. There would be little economic loss in doing so (unlike in other areas), and considerable environmental gain.

I’m absolutely delighted the Government has done this. It is arguably the most significant environmental and conservation initiative of any Government.

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Reducing regulatory costs

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

Often requests to reduce regulatory costs are very general – just a moan about regulations generally. Well in response to a request from the PM, members of the NZ Initiative have put forward a very specific list of law changes which would reduce unnecessary regulatory costs.


This is their summary.  There are some really good and specific examples here. I hope the Government takes this report seriously and looks to implement much of it. I don’t agree with every single recommendation, but a few good examples are:

  • exempt reporting by NZ SME entities to the extent that funds are received from NZ Registered Trading Banks that are fully complying with AML legislation.
  • remove Companies Act requirement that a notice in accordance with section 209(1)(b) of that Act must be sent asking if shareholders would like to receive a hard copy of the annual report
  • replacing some or all of the existing purpose based exceptions for copyright with an open-ended flexible exception
  • The  the Electricity (Low Fixed Charge Tariff Option for Domestic Consumers) Regulations cause large low-income households to subsidise wealthier low-user households. The Regulations most strongly benefit those consumers who are not necessarily the households most in need of assistance – instead, they are dual fuel customers, apartment dwellers, and houses with fewer than two people. Replace with a general welfare payment targeted specifically at energy vulnerability and/ or making greater funding available for insulation and efficient heating.
  • The Holidays Act means a person that takes a full 52 weeks extended parental leave earns a full year’s annual leave and also a full year’s entitlement to sick/domestic leave, while not working.
  • KiwiSaver only allows 3%, 4%, or 8% employee contribution rates. Should allow 5%, 6% or 7%, 9% and 10%.
  • Government should remove the ability for councils to control hazardous substances and new organisms (GMOs) from the RMA as this should be done at the national level
  • The desired outcome is a hybrid model (with legislated automatic rights of installation for low impact activities and a “deemed consent” regime for high impact activities), which facilitates fibre connections, whilst still ensuring that property rights are respected.

There’s also some very good tax simplification proposals from Deloitte.

How the Government responds to these will be a good test of whether they have third termitis. It will be easy to find reasons not to act. But a good Government should be prepared to tackle some of these areas.


A reader on pool fences

September 28th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

Nick Smith’s and MBIE’s press releases regarding the Pool Fencing changes have been widely published as circulated and, understandably, cast the changes in a positive light.  But a closer reading shows much of the proposed revision to be shallower than some of the wading pools that are to be exempted.  In fact there is very little relief for the average pool owner who has been long-suffering under the vagaries of council enforcement of the old law.

True, they are getting rid of some of the silliest aspects of the old law which brought derision such as applicability to inflatable wading pools (so long as they are shallow), but by their own admission there is little relief in store for the average punter with an in-ground pool or spa and some significant reason for concern behind some of the claim for added ‘clarity’ (code for less flexible) and cost savings (by councils).  Much of the statistics behind the justification are shallow and difficult to audit, controlled as they are by Water Safe NZ, one of the strong supporters of the bill.  Much of the change is driven WaterSafe Auckland, Water Safety NZ, and Auckland Council enforcement staff, all paid (at least in part) by the public to promote wider and more complete water safety precautions.

One of the most sinister aspects of the change is the granting of wide ranging authority to enter private property for inspections.  This is pretty well established practice for the purpose of commercial and public building WOF’s but is new, and the thin edge of the wedge, when applied to people’s homes.

Also included are infringement notices, instructions to fix, and fines levied by pool inspectors for failure to comply.  The inspectors are not judges and there are often disagreements over interpretation and what is reasonable.  The fencing enforcement team have already earned the reputation as the Pool Stasi.  Watch this space.

There is much wrong with the existing pool fencing regime which starts reasonably enough by wanting to protect children and works its way through layers of questionable logic to the conclusion that this can only be done by sequestering every pool in the country in case a caregiver’s attention is distracted while a child is in the vicinity.

The low hanging benefits of pool fencing have already been realised.  This attempt at reducing the nation’s child drowning rate from 3/Yr. to 2.4/Yr. (really) is unlikely to be a painless and cost effective step forward.

So sounds like still a long way to go.