A defiant county clerk

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

USA Today reports:

Defying the Supreme Court, a county clerk says she was acting under “God’s authority” Tuesday while continuing to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, whose lawyers asked a federal judge to hold her in contempt of court.

The Supreme Court refused Monday to allow Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ office to deny the licenses because of her religious beliefs. However, on Tuesday morning, she turned away at least four couples.

“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said in a statement on the website of her lawyers, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me, it is a decision of obedience.”

Yet Ms Davis herself is on her fourth marriage!

But her detractors mock her moral stand, noting that Davis was married and divorced three times before marrying her fourth husband.

Pretty sure God says divorce is wrong also.

Davis won her $80,000-a-year office in November, running as a Democrat, and succeeded her mother who served as county clerk for 37 years, according to The Morehead News.

County Clerks don’t get to decide which laws they obey.  Her job is to implement the law, not to place herself above it.

Later in the morning, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union filed two motions in U.S. District Court to hold Davis in contempt of court and compel her to start issuing marriage licenses again to those who apply. They want her to be severely fined, not jailed.

Maybe an $80,000 fine to match the $80,000 salary she is paid.

Regardless of your view on same sex marriage, it is the job of public officials to uphold the law.


Brighter money

September 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Reserve Bank has brightened up our bank notes.




This is the reverse of the $5 note. Great scenery.


This is my least favorite note aesthetically, but favourite monetarily!



I’ve noticed that ATMs now issues 50s not 20s.


Off memory the most common note.


Was this the inspiration for Princess Leia?


My favourite bank note.



The difficult decisions of rare disorder treatment

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

Stuff reports:

A Masterton woman who has flown almost 400,000 kilometres to get life-saving treatment for a rare disease is angry that New Zealand is now the only developed country that does not fund treatment for it.

Mother of three Allyson Lock has Pompe disease, a rare degenerative disorder that can be fatal if left untreated.

As of Tuesday, Australia has begun spending A$40 million ($43.8m) over the next five years on funding treatment for the disease – leaving New Zealand “dragging the chain”, Lock said.

“When you’re on treatment you can plan a life, you can plan things. But when you’re not, all you can plan is your funeral.”

A medication called Myozyme is available for Locke and 10 other known Kiwi Pompe sufferers, but it costs about $500,000 a year and is deemed too expensive by the government drug-buying agency, Pharmac. 

Unless you believe money grows on trees, there is a limited health budget. On a compassionate level I think most of us want people with treatable disorders to get that treatment, and are happy to pay taxes for it.

However there obviously has to be some threshold at which the opportunity cost is too high – that the money you spend on one individual, means dozens of others don’t get their treatment funded.

I’m not sure what the threshold is. I’m glad Pharmac has to make those calls, not me. And it’s awful for those who can’t get their treatment funded.

But if 40 years of treatment will cost taxpayers $20 million, is that affordable? It is for one person, but then does that mean every treatment for every person must get funded? And what if the $20 million only expands life expectancy by five years?

As I say very hard decisions.


The Ashley Madison bots

September 2nd, 2015 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Gizmodo has looked even closer at the data from Ashley Madison, and it turns out that not only were they very few women, many of them were bots.

In a summary they have found:

  • 70,000 female bots would take over accounts created by staff, and “chat” to men
  • The bots sent 20,269,675 messages to men and 1,492 to women
  • There were 70,529 female bots and 43 male ones
  • Around two thirds of male users were messaged by a bot and one third chatted up by one
  • At first the bots tried chatting up gay men and had to be programmed to ignore them!
  • There were special bots who would chat to those who paid $250 for a “guaranteed affair”. Once they paid, they were passed to an “affiliate”, probably an escort.
  • Engineers actually looked at a system where women would get paid a commission for getting men to buy credits to talk to them
  • The bots could speak 31 different languages

So really the website was a giant fraud. While the data hack was despicable in that it revealed individual’s data, it has exposed that the website was basically a scam. Not media gave the company masses amount of free publicity, based on the company’s own claims. Perhaps there is a lesson that media should never just promote a company that claims they are successful, without verifying it.

It will be interesting to see if the executives are prosecuted for fraud. There would seem to be a pretty good case for it.


Gower on Labour and charter schools

September 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

The next time you hear Labour hate on charter schools, don’t believe them.

Because the truth is a wedge of Labour actually thinks charter schools are all good. And this group is led by none other than its associate education spokesman Kelvin Davis.

The attendance of Davis and fellow MP Peeni Henare at a fundraiser for a Whangarei charter school is about much more than them defying the orders of Andrew Little.

It shows a major policy divide within Labour.

One side, led by education spokesman Chris Hipkins and the teacher unions have a pathological hatred for the privately run schools.

The other side, led by Davis, see that the schools can work particularly in Maori education.

Davis is not captured by the unions.

Charter schools are hated by the teacher unions because they are privately run and don’t have to use registered teachers or conform to the rules like other schools.

But this kind of independent schooling is not new to Maori – Kura Kaupapa schools have been a different model with different outcomes.

If you view charter schools with a Maori focus as an extension of this then it is not so controversial.



It is no surprise that the most progressive iwi, Ngai Tahu, is looking at setting up a charter school. So is Tuhoe, the most independent iwi.

Instead of listening to the unions, it seems Davis is listening to his people when it comes to charter schools.

And don’t forget that Davis is a former Northland principal with a deep understanding of the educational issues out there.

If Little was ballsy, he’d make Davis the Education Spokesperson.

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Scandinavia not such a socialist paradise

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

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

In her final column for the New Zealand Herald, Dita De Boni lamented that New Zealand is becoming an uncaring nation whose compassion compares badly to the world’s “best-run countries”.  She didn’t specify which countries these were in the column but, acting on a hunch, I queried whether she was referring to the “Nordic countries” (being Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland).

She was.

So Liam looks at Sweden:

Sweden, in particular, is often held out as an exemplar of social democratic excellence.  The radical British journalist Polly Toynbee once declared the country to be “the most successful society the world has ever known”.

These hosannas to Nordic virtues are often made as a reproach to those countries that are considered to have a more “neoliberal” disposition. This sometimes includes countries like New Zealand and Britain which have moved from largely state-directed to free enterprise economies. More commonly, however, the example of countries like Sweden is held out as standing rebuke to the supposedly corporate-dominated, compassionless and backwards United States.

But the reality:

It’s certainly true that Sweden pays for its generous welfare state through stiff levels of taxation. The burden of these taxes, however, does not fall on the wealthy to anything like the extent Left-wingers normally like to see.

According to 2014 figures, Sweden only has the 25th most progressive income tax in the OECD. New Zealand is not far behind at 26th. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the supposedly plutocratic US actually has the eighth most progressive income tax in the developed world. So in spite of the prevailing media framing of things, high-earning Americans contribute a much higher proportion of their country’s tax revenues than high-earning Swedes do.

What about corporate profits? We are constantly told that the American government is in the pocket of big business. If that is true to the extent that the media makes out, then it’s hard to see why the US government taxes corporate profits at a rate of 40 per cent, the highest such rate in the free world (and much of the un-free world to boot). New Zealand’s rate is 28 per cent. Sweden’s in 22 per cent.

Defenders of the one-size-fits-all model of education often attack the introduction of “American-style” charter schools in New Zealand. It is true that the charter school movement has attracted a lot of support from politicians across the political spectrum in the US and that this has played a large part in putting the issue on the political radar. However, it is also true that charter schools are very common in Sweden and that the country was an important pioneer in their development as an alternative to more bureaucratic, traditional forms of schooling. In fact, a cursory review of the Swedish education system shows that it offers levels of choice and consumer freedom that the ACT Party can only dream about.

Not quite the socialist paradise.

Finally, we come to issues of racial politics. New Zealanders like to roll their eyes and snigger at the rise of Donald Trump as a potential nominee for next year’s presidential election on the back of strident, anti-immigration media statements. This is taken to be proof of the notion that Americans are a uniquely bigoted and prejudiced people.

But did you know that an anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, was the top-polling political party in Sweden this month?

Yep, in one poll they got 25.2%, beating the Social Democrats and Moderates. Their policies are:

  • cultural assimilation rather than integaration
  • Pay immigrants to leave Sweden
  • Lower tax rates for the elderly
  • Against special privileges for the Sami ethnic minority

The point Liam makes is that people like Dita write columns about how awful life is in NZ, because they don’t like the Government or neo-liberalism. But if you look around the world, there are not a lot of countries that have wonderful socialist societies where people want to live.

In the supposedly racist US, for example, the unemployment rate is about the same for immigrants and the native born. New Zealand does slightly worse than America on that score. In Sweden, however, immigrants are almost three times as likely to be unemployed than the native born adults. The only OECD country that does worse is Norway.

I could go on to talk about things like the Swedish penchant for privatisation, its lack of a national minimum wage and its slashing of public spending in years gone by. By now, however, the point should be well made. There might be many things the Left finds attractive about the Nordic model, but it is not the socialist utopia of their imaginings.


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Quin on Labour

September 2nd, 2015 at 10:19 am by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the Herald:

Despite a considerable souring of economic sentiment, Labour, under Andrew Little, has barely moved in the polls since last year’s historic drubbing. His personal popularity lags behind predecessors David Cunliffe and David Shearer – and Little is more than 20 points adrift of where John Key stood at a comparable juncture in Helen Clark’s third term.

Nine years ago in September 2006, National as opposition were at 44% and Labour at 39%. And that wasn’t Key – that was Brash.

So in Labour’s third term they trailed the major opposition party by 5%, while in National’s third term the Government leads by 22%.

On the TPPA, Little’s Labour has adopted an unapologetically protectionist stance. On the substance, Jane Kelsey may be right that you could drive a bus through the party’s much-touted five preconditions to supporting the deal, but there’s no mistaking Labour’s desire to appear hostile. Why else would the frontbench feature so prominently at anti-TPPA rallies, or Labour press secretaries go out of their way to chastise journalists who fail to adequately emphasise Labour’s opposition? The sound bites alone have been fierce; Health Spokesperson and deputy leader, Annette King, speculated that the impact of the TPPA on Pharmac will cost lives – inflammatory language that echoes Sarah Palin’s warning of “death panels” under Obamacare.

It is no small matter for Labour to abandon decades of enthusiastic support for trade liberalisation, long seen by politicians across the spectrum as a key to New Zealand’s current and future prosperity.

if the China FTA had been negotiated by National, not Labour, I suspect today’s Labour would oppose it.

Labour’s release of leaked Auckland housing data in order to highlight the prevalence of Chinese-sounding surnames is perhaps the singular event of Andrew Little’s tenure to date (full disclosure: I resigned from the party over the issue).

It was an audacious and high-risk gambit. Little himself conceded he knew it would attract accusations of racism – but public polls suggest it has fallen well short of being the game-changer Labour had hoped. Now, having alienated an important and growing minority, not to mention causing consternation among diehard supporters like myself, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion Labour has sacrificed considerable moral authority for a measly return.

It was no Orewa.

Perhaps nothing showcases Labour’s defensive crouch better than its decision to oppose the referendum on the New Zealand flag. Of course, ditching the Union Jack in favour of a more indigenous, authentically Kiwi national standard is a symbolic act. It won’t improve our schools or get young graduates into better paying jobs. But symbolism matters in politics, just as it did when Norman Kirk, in defiance of the French, sent a Cabinet Minster into the Mururoa nuclear test zone in 1973, or when David Lange donned a tuxedo to defend the country’s nuclear-free stance at the Oxford Union.

Labour’s historic mission is to forge a proudly independent national identity for New Zealand. It’s depressing to see Labour cede this turf to John Key for negligible political gain.

Labour have let their obsession with Key blind them.

By playing up fears about the perils of globalisation or an impending Chinese invasion, Labour will encounter furious and vocal agreement. This shouldn’t be mistaken for a groundswell. Voters don’t reward parties who merely echo and reinforce feelings of despondency without offering real solutions.

Labour, in particular, thrives when it approaches the future with gusto, not trepidation. Merchants of doom and gloom might fill the airwaves, but they rarely win elections.

Key won in 2008 by being optimistic and saying NZ can do better, but not saying NZ has is facing doom or crisis every month.



Childhood workers and corrections officers – really?

September 2nd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The country’s biggest education union is following midwives in to court with legal action in the pipeline for largely female education support workers over unequal pay. 

“We welcome the initiative by the country’s midwives to file for court action over pay discrimination.  And we’ve also been watching developments in the case of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett who last year won in the Supreme Court against her employers over pay discrimination,” New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) national secretary Paul Goulter said. …

In 2008 a Pay Equity Commission job evaluation report compared the wages of 600 education support workers employed by the Ministry of Education who had roughly equivalent emotional and physical demands and skills and responsibilities as male-dominated corrections officers and found they were paid as much as $8 an hour less.

“It’s a crime that these workers are not paid as much as the comparative group. There’s a terrible ongoing failure when you’re dealing with people in support roles,” Goulter said. 

Really, they compared education support workers to corrections officers? That’s effing barmy.

The is entire notion of comparing one industry to another to claim what the pay level should be is old fashioned socialism.

Jobs pay what employers are willing to pay, and employees are willing to work for.

The days of doing the one job or one industry for 40 years are long gone – that thinking is a relic of the 1970s.

If you don’t like the pay in your job or industry, then move to a different one.


General Debate 2 September 2015

September 2nd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Petrol margins sky rocketing

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


This data comes from MBIE.  Margins are well over double what they were a few years ago.

There is obviously not sufficient competition between retailers in NZ. You shouldn’t see that sort of margin increase when there is. This may be because people don’t tend to shop around enough, and just fill up at the local.

But regardless the Government should be looking to see what it can to get better competition, so margins reduce to their normal levels.


Yay – taxpayers to be saved

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

Stuff reports:

There are no immediate plans for New Zealand to host its fourth Commonwealth Games, the country’s Olympic Committee secretary general Kereyn Smith says.


The best way to have a Government lose hundreds of millions of dollars, or billions of dollars is to host a Football World Cup, then an Olympics Games and then a Commonwealth Games.


Consents up

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

Stats NZ reports:

There were 2,824 new dwellings consented nationally in July 2015, up 24 percent compared with July 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“This was the highest number of new dwellings consented in a month since March 2005,” business indicators manager Neil Kelly said. “It was boosted by apartments and townhouses, flats, and units.”

New dwellings consented in July 2015, compared with July 2014:

  • nationally, up 542 (24 percent) to 2,824
  • Auckland, up 267 (31 percent) to 1,116
  • Waikato, up 85 (40 percent) to 296.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number was up 20 percent from June 2015.

It’s good to see the growth in consents, as that is a pre-requisite to increasing the supply of houses and apartments, and reducing pressure on prices.

I always prefer annual data to monthly. Here’s what the annualised data looks like.


So consents fell pretty consistently from 2004 to 2009. They were then level at around 25,000 for around three years, and in the last two and a half years have increased by 75% or so.


The final four

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


The Flag Consideration Panel has announced the four designs that will be voted on in the first referendum. Their job is now mainly done, and time for New Zealanders to vote which ones they prefer, for the second referendum.

I like them all. I’m not sure what order I’ll rank them in. At the moment my order of preference would be No 2 (left to right), No 1, No 4 and No 3. But I my change my mind. No 3 is growing on me. However at the end of the day i think the silver fern is our national symbol, and has been for over 100 years. It’s what kiwis around the world use and regard as representing New Zealand, and I would like it on our flag. However as I said, I like all the design above.


Could the NZ Third XV win the World Cup?

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

Kevin Norquay writes at Stuff:

Here’s a New Zealand team that could win the Rugby World Cup, all made up of leftovers from the All Blacks.

Do I hear you say “that’s mental?” You are so right, it is mental and that’s why this team could win the title.

For a start, they would not be scarred by the pressure of defending the cup – something that’s never been done.

This team would have a point to prove – left out of the All Blacks, they would be out to claim rugby scalps.

So who would be in the left overs team?

  • 15. Israel Dagg
  • 14. Cory Jane
  • 13. George Moala
  • 12. Ryan Crotty
  • 11. Charles Piutau
  • 10. Lima Sopoaga
  • 9. Andy Ellis
  • 8. Brad Shields
  • 7. Ardie Savea
  • 6. Matt Todd
  • 5. Jeremy Thrush
  • 4. James Broadhurst
  • 3. Nepo Laulala
  • 2. Hika Elliott
  • 1. Joe Moody

That would be a pretty damn good team.

I remember in Dunedin the club leagues often had a University A and University B team compete in them, and the final would often be between them. Wouldn’t it be fun if a second NZ team could compete in the World Cup,  and the final was the All Blacks vs New Zealand B :-)

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Well done Sky City and Unite

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

The Herald reports:

Auckland’s SkyCity casino has become the latest employer to abandon zero-hours contracts.

The company, New Zealand’s biggest single-site hospitality employer with almost 3500 staff on its Auckland site, has agreed to give its 800 part-time and on-call staff guaranteed hours of at least eight, 16, 20 or 32 hours a week, at their choice.

Good to see. Note it was done by negotiation.

“In the past it’s been a much more confrontational relationship between the unions and the casino,” he said.

“They genuinely took a constructive approach to us this time around. I think we managed to make a bit of progress on things that we wouldn’t have done previously.

“What’s going on in the background in the public arena is, of course, the zero-hours campaign. Also there was just an acknowledgement that they wanted to do what’s best by their employees… I think it’s just a realisation that part-time and zero-hours contracts are quite costly when you allow for engagement and training costs.”

He said the company still employed some genuinely casual staff as well, but had agreed on mechanisms by which they could become permanent part-time workers.

It’s important not to confuse casual staff with zero hours contracts.

Casual employment agreements are vital flexibility for both employer and employees. There is no obligation of the employee to work any particular hours, and no obligation on an employer to guarantee any hours.

Zero hour contracts are where it is one sided, where the employee must make themselves available to work as the employer demands, but in return has no guarantee of any minimum hours.

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$9 airfares

September 1st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A domestic air fare war is underway, after Qantas low-cost carrier announced it would launch new routes to regional New Zealand.

Jetstar is using $9 fares to promote the unveiling of Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North to its regional network. Air NZ responded immediately, matching the $9 fares on its ‘grabaseat’ website.

I love competition.

It now costs more to park at airports than to fly out from it!

Obviously they won’t last for ever, but price competition will make them a lot cheaper than they have been.


A wall to keep the Canadians out also!

September 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker said on Sunday that building a wall on the US northern border with Canada was “a legitimate issue for us to look at”.

Asked in an interview on NBC if he wanted to build a wall on the Canadian border, the Wisconsin governor cited his experience talking to voters “including some law enforcement folks” in New Hampshire, an early voting state in the Republican primaries. Such people, he said, were concerned about terrorists potentially crossing over from Canada.

“They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago,” Walker said. “So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.”

So a 2000 km long wall on the southern border and one of the same size on the northern border.

But what about the east and west coast? Terrorists could come in by boat.I think they need a 100 metre high wall along both coasts.

New Zealand may have to look at this also. We have no wall preventing Australian terrorists crossing over the Tasman Sea by boat.


Quote of the week

September 1st, 2015 at 9:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“I worked digging wells one summer, which is kind of like a metaphor for government work – that’s where you start from ground level and you work down rather than up and when you succeed you fail, because when you find water they fire you. Not a great incentive programme!”

– Brian Tracy

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.

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General Debate 1 September 2015

September 1st, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Kelvin puts kids ahead of his leader

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

The Herald reports:

Labour’s associate education spokesman, Kelvin Davis, has attended a charter school fundraiser – despite his party being bitterly opposed to the controversial schooling model.

The $250-a-seat fundraiser was for a school run by the He Puna Marama Trust in Whangarei.

Charter or “partnership” schools are publicly-funded but privately-run, and are strongly opposed by education unions.

Labour has pledged to scrap charter schools and its education spokesman Chris Hipkins has frequently attacked the model during Parliamentary question time.

Despite this, Mr Davis, the party’s associate education (Maori education) spokesman, attended the fundraiser with fellow Labour MP Peeni Henare.

That was despite leader Andrew Little asking them not to.

Good on them. They know that some charter schools are making a real difference with Maori kids who have been failing in the public school system. They decided to stand by their constituents, rather than their party.

He Puna Marama is considered by government as a successful example of the charter school model, used most recently by the Productivity Commission as a case study of why New Zealand should privatise social services.

It gained favourable NCEA marks last year, with at least 85 per cent of students achieving across all NCEA levels.

Yet Labour wants it closed down.

However, the trust has drawn criticism from the Labour Party and teachers’ unions, who say its schools are funded at a higher rate than state schools, which is unfair.


False. They get the same or less funding of a state school of the same size, decile and age.

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Standard author says All Blacks are a drain on rugby and not supported by working class

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

Working class lawyer Micky Savage writes at The Standard:

Back then Rugby was king in New Zealand.  All Blacks were deities and were instantly recognisable.  Test matches were waited with anticipation for weeks in advance.  The whole country used to shut down while test matches were being played.  And provincial and club rugby was watched by huge numbers.

Now things are different.  More kids play soccer than Rugby.  The game is highly professionalised and commercialised and the All Blacks suck huge resources out of the game.

They suck resources? I’d suggest it is the money the All Blacks and Super teams make that allows the NZRFU to fund other levels of the game. But I’m sure Mr Savage knows best.

Club rugby, once the backbone of the game, is now nothing more than a talent spotting opportunity.  Provincial rugby is nothing more than Sky TV filler.  And All Black games can only be seen if you have large amounts of money to buy a ticket or can afford a Sky TV subscription.  Watching the All Blacks is no longer a working class pursuit and is more entertainment for the wealthy.

Thanks to ACT and other like minded MPs, working class fans of the All Blacks can watch the games at their local pubs.

Things have also changed for National.  Instead of keeping politics out of sport they are now happy to politicise the All Blacks on every possible occasion.  Yesterday’s announcement of the All Black team for this year’s world cup is a classic example.  Parliament was opened up at the request of the Rugby Union.  Ministers were there en masse seeking every opportunity to take selfies with All Blacks.  And John Key was obviously in his element.

Mr Savage overlooks that Labour MPs were there also, and in fact Andrew Little was invited to speak.

John Key’s treatment of the All Blacks is as cynical and calculating as Rob Muldoon’s treatment of the All Blacks in 1981.

Yes turning up to rugby games and events is much the same as the Springbok Tour.

And we live in a nation where urgent legislation can be passed so that at 5 am in the morning people can drink beer in pubs while watching rugby.  And pubs could be open continuously for 69 hours.

A law backed by all but six Labour MPs. And good on them for doing so.

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A frustrated broadband user e-mails

August 31st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Got sent by a friend a copy of her e-mail to Amy Adams on her struggle to get rural broadband in Tamahere. It’s rather amusing, and with her permission I’m sharing it here:

Hi Amy

Just wanted to share with you my crusade for the holy grail (holy grail being first world internet speeds):

I live out on xxx in Tamahere, Waikato this has been a well established rural area with a lot more lifestyle blocks being built out here. We are only 7minutes out of the main city area. 

We are hooked up to Sparks Rural Broadband Business unlimited plan. It’s the only broadband that is affordable and that we can get out here. 

  1. A Naïve girl trying to make a difference

My first correspondence starts with trusting the automated voice with putting me in queue for 1hr+ for a ring back. After a solid few hours I get a call. I was currently out running errands. I explained my plight to the “fault and technical issues team” where I got told that it was outside their knowledge to run me through all the troubleshooting steps and that I would have to be put through to the technical team. I informed her that I would not be home for another hr and she said a techy from the technical team will give me a ring around midday. A whole day passed by with no call from Spark. 

  1. Lets fight internet with internet, my experience with live chat

Round two begins a few days following when I was like bugger being put in a queue and leaving a call back to the merchants of chance and fate. I decided to hop on live chat hoping my internet speeds would support such a new age mode of online communication. But to my surprise the internet managed to give me that much. However the Spark live chat gave me nothing much in the way of advice:

00:00:03 Spark : Question:Really slow internet, lucky to get 0.5Mb when we should be getting 5Mb

00:01:10 Chris : ok

00:01:15 Chris : HEy xxx

00:01:23 xxx : Hi, just wanted to be talked through troubleshooting etc in the event you guys need to send a techy out. Our internet is slow and very patchy. 

00:01:32 Chris : can you please confirm the number it’s on?

00:01:50 xxx : yyyyyyyy

00:03:23 Chris : Ok hold the chat and I’ll have someone from the residential team look at this!

00:05:31 xxx : Hi Nicole

00:05:58 Nicole : Hey There xxx. I can see you are having trouble with your internet.What is happening for you?

00:07:58 xxx : Well I moved in here beginning of July, and I’ve known this family for yrs and I know it’s always been rough getting decent internet out here but I recently discovered that given the new work on infrastructure out here we should be gauranteed atleast 5Mb speed. We’re lucky if we get 1Mb and that’s just to the one computer that’s ethernetted, wirelessly connected gets about 0.2Mb

00:10:52 Nicole : Thats not good xxx. This sounds like it is a bit more technical that we originally thought. I can organise for a Specialist to give you a call if you like. 

00:11:19 xxx : Yea I was told some one would call  me at midday…and here I am on here :(

00:11:30 xxx: would be nice if I got a call this time please :)

00:12:38 Nicole : Sure I will organise for someone to call you. They have a 32 min wait at the moment so it shouldn’t take to long. Whats the best number to call you on?

00:13:01 xxx : yyyyyyyy

00:14:45 Nicole : Great thats all booked in. Someone will call you shortly. Is there anything else I can help with?

00:16:41 xxx : no that’s it thank you :) 

00:16:49 Nicole : Great have a good day :)


  1. Troubleshooting with the troublemakers

After an hr I receive a call from the techy to run me through all the troubleshooting. They also ran speed tests on the line to show that it’s showing speeds between 3.3-5Mbps. I reset the modem, try the modem in every known jack point in the house to run speed tests on all of them. Low and behold nothing was wrong on our end. The last and very inconvenient part was to test another modem on our internet or use our modem on a different internet connect to test to see if it was our modem crapping up. Otherwise so sad too bad no techy for you. 


  1. Phoneline outage, the cherry on top of the shitty Spark cake. 

In the meantime our phone lines go down and we get told there’s been an outage in our area since the beginning of August. When we get a techy out to fix our phone lines, Brian the account holder and who I live with also relays issues with our internet, the techy checks our modem and runs a speed test. Essentially confirming what we all thought, it most probably isn’t a fault in the line but just the sad reality of being at the end of the exchange and that pretty much every house on this end would be getting these same shitty speeds. He also told us there is actually a Fibre box installed at the end of our road and that it may be worth investigating into when that would get installed. Even suggest we write a letter to spark….umm lol?


  1. Out of the Broadband pan into the Fibre.

Now we come to the events of today (24th August). I checked on the Chorus website and saw that Fibre was installed but not due to be connected until June 2017. 


So I thought I’d give the RBI angle one more go (currently still on the phone and have been writing this email in between being put on hold. Also had to sort out all the penalties and extra charges they put on my mobile phone account despite them never sending me any bills or warnings or jackshit, I got those penalties waived so I guess they managed to fix at least a couple of their muck ups today, have been on the phone now for 2hrs and counting) So I’ve relayed this message to about 3 different people today: 

“I have been through the ringer and essentially this is the situation. We are part of the RBI. I have confirmation that we should be getting between 3.3-5Mbps and it also shows 5+Mbps on the Chorus RBI map on their website. For the past 2 months I have lived here we have never clocked a speed close to 1Mbps and I want to understand why that is and how you can sink in that much $$ into infrastructure and us not see 1Mbps of a result”


  1. Finally I actually get put through to a “specialised RBI team” what ever that means, so is this salvation? Or just another mirage in the rural broadband desert?

I gave her the same speech, now being able to recite it and multitask checking whats on the news. Crazy about police cocking up the Burdett case!? She says she has to run her own speedtest as she cannot pull up the history of my phone conversation with techy at point 3. As I was put on hold for what I hoped to be the last time in the 2hrs I’ve been on the phone, she comes back to inform me that due to a fault that was just registered on our line scheduled to be fixed today she cannot do a speedtest. After 2hr 10mins on the phone I am waiting for a ring back in order to run said testing to be able to file an “investigation” to get a tech guy out (at this point my brain was fighting as to whether or not I should throw my phone across the room) and I should HOPE to get a call back later today confirming.

I did get a call back pretty quick so pretty stoked about that small victory. They’re going to send a techy out to check the exchange in 24hrs. Let’s see what happens, my bet is that there will be nothing wrong with the exchange and the speed is attributed to congestion and distance. 

  1. What have I learnt?

New Zealand is a 3rd world country where farmers are too stupid to realise they’re getting ripped off, or if they do realise they’re too busy trying to sustain a dying dairy farming industry to be on the phone for hrs at a time, multiple days a week. 

Spark customer service runs a competition to see how many teams you can bounce one issue around on.

Treat them like I treat my one night stands, never EVER expect a call back. Expectations only leads to heartbreak and a possible brain aneurism.

I can last approx. 1hr-1hr20 on the phone before I start swearing at them. 

Please 2degrees come back to my life. 

Sorry if this is harsh and some of it expecting too much of Spark. But after a week of getting no where and talking to about nearly every broadband related team with Spark I have a sore back from being bent over and fucked by bureaucracy. 

A very disgruntled and dismayed New Zealand citizen



Sanders closing on Clinton in Iowa

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

The Washington Post reports:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s once-commanding lead in Iowa has shrunk to just seven percentage points, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has surged in the state whose caucuses will kick off the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a poll released Saturday evening.

The Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll, considered the gold standard of Iowa surveys, found Clinton with the support of 37 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers, followed by Sanders at 30 percent.

There is little doubt that Clinton’s campaign is in trouble, and that she is inspiring Democrats.

However that does not mean she will not win the nomination. She almost certainly will. It is more about how much damage she takes along the way.

It’s not good when the most left wing Senator in the United States is only 7% behind you. In May she led him by 40%.

What is interesting is the net favourabilities (with Iowa Democrats) for the three possible contenders:

  • Biden +65%
  • Clinton +58%
  • Sanders +67%

Obama by the way is +79%.

If you look just at those who are strongly favourable, and strongly unfavourable the net differences are:

  • Obama +39%
  • Biden +23%
  • Clinton +18%
  • Sanders +35%

Sanders supporters are more excited about him.

Sanders is also leading the polls in New Hampshire by 3%. So he could win both Iowa (1 February) and new Hampshire (9 February).

However after that it is Nevada and South Carolina, where Clinton should romp home. Sanders has little support outside a small geographic area. However the danger to Clinton is that if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, the media attention he’ll get might move others towards him.

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Punish the village council the same way

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

The Herald reports:

Two sisters in India were sentenced to be raped as “punishment” for their brother running away with a married woman from a higher caste in the latest caste incident to shock the country.

Meenakshi Kumari, who is 23, and her sister, 15, would then be paraded naked with their faces blackened through the streets, according to a ruling from the all-male village council.

The sisters have petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to be protected from the so-called “eye-for-an-eye” ruling from the village council in Uttar Pradesh state, 48km from the capital, New Delhi.

It’s the year 2015, and I can’t believe stuff like this is still happening.

Khap panchayats are the archaic systems of village justice that exist in much of rural India. They are dominated by the Jat caste and are almost always run by male village elders. The “courts” often order honour killings and sexual “punishments” and are frequently allowed to operate completely outside the Indian legal system, despite the Supreme Court labelling them “kangaroo courts”.

Here’s an idea. If you can’t get rid of these kanagaroo courts entirely, then how about announcing that any members of a village council that vote for a sentence that causes shame to their country, then have that sentence applies to them. An eye for an eye indeed.

So if these men are going to vote for rape as a punishment for dishonour, then see how they like it. I suspect after a couple of times where they have to endure their own sentences, they’ll stop making such outrageous decisions.

And no I’m not serious, but I am appalled.

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Maybe the answer is to abolish zoning?

August 31st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland’s two most exclusive state schools have looming roll dilemmas due to a property boom predicted to surge student numbers.

More than 1800 apartments will be completed in the Auckland Grammar zone within three years, with 600 of those also falling in the Epsom Girls’ Grammar area. …

Auckland Grammar’s headmaster Tim O’Connor said it was actively working with the ministry, including talks about the development of new schools.

“We have 2500 on the roll, that’s at capacity. And we don’t want to be any bigger than we are,” Mr O’Connor said. “But there’s no silver bullet. We have to be aware of demand and everyone understands that.”

Act’s Epsom MP David Seymour said he was opposed to zone shifts – he headed a campaign when two nearby schools proposed overlapping their zones into the area last year – and to intensification.

One idea was to make a rule so that students in new houses would not be included in the zone, he said. There was a need to balance the needs of people who lived in Epsom with the “interests of developers who want to develop property and sell an education with that property”.

At present wealthy families buy an Auckland Grammar or EGGS education by paying several hundred thousand dollars more for a house in the zone. This effectively makes those schools more expensive than the most exclusive private schools. However the money doesn’t go to the schools, but to the previous land owners.

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Abolish all zones. Any prospective pupil can apply to any school, and if a school has more applications than capacity, they either decline some, or they grow and become bigger. Not much different from applying to universities and hostels.
  2. Set a maximum distance a student has to travel to school. This may differ in urban and rural areas. It might be say 10kms in a city and 50 kms in a rural area.
  3. If a student is unable to get an acceptance to a school within the maximum distance from their house, then the Ministry of Education has residual power to direct a school to take them. This might not be the very closest school to them, but one within an acceptable distance

This would get rid of the wealth barrier to schools like Grammar and EGGS.  Having rich parents who can afford a house in Epsom would no longer be the only way to attend schools like that.