Sensible proposal for Wairarapa

Stuff reports:

After the fizzer that was the Wellington super-city proposal, the three councils that make up the Wairarapa look set to become one.

The Local Government Commission has published a draft proposal to combine Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils, after its inquiries found there was a public mandate for change.

The new council would be made up of a mayor, elected by Wairarapa district voters, and 12 councillors elected from seven wards, including two rural ones.

Five community boards will also be created for Featherston, Martinborough, Greytown, Carterton and Masterton, comprising 21 members in total.

Sounds sensible to me – one Council for Wairarapa but community boards for the major urban areas.

Morgan’s UBI is actually a means test for Super

Gareth Morgan’s party announced:

all those citizens over 65 years of age – $200 each per week. In addition elders who satisfy a means test will be able to top up to the current NZ Superannuation level by a further $7,500 pa. We will index the top-up to elders’ costs not to average incomes.

This is actually a huge decrease for those on NZ Super. It is not a UBI but a stealth means test.

At present everyone aged 65 gets around $15,000 a year. Morgan is saying he will cut it to $10,000 a year for those who have income of over $50,000 a year.

Personally I support means testing NZ Superannuation, but they are hiding that this is what the impact of their policy is.

The other significant thing is that they are saying they will index the top-up to inflation not average incomes. This means that over time the level of income for retired people will be less than under NZ Super.

Now again I actually support this, but do people realise that this so called UBI is actually a means test and a reduction in the floor?

Damn suspicious

An amazing story at Stuff:

A new business, run by a cake decorator, which had no track record in waste management won a Westland District Council project to build a $7 million sewage plant in Franz Josef, a Stuff investigation has found.

Techno Economic Services, which is based in South Auckland, won the council project in the middle of last year, despite never having provided waste management or construction services before. The company was not a registered company at the time it won the tender. It registered with the Companies Office several months after securing the Franz Josef job.

Neha Bubna, the sole director and shareholder of the company, runs a cake shop in South Auckland, specialising in birthday and special occasion cakes. She is a recent migrant from India.

Incredible.

The process was overseen by Vivek Goel, the council’s assets manager who stood down last month as a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into his activities began. The SFO has declined to discuss the allegations against Goel.

Goel was in charge of organising tenders and supervising contracts for council projects such as wastewater treatment.

The project was not put out to public tender. It is understood three companies were approached for expressions of interest in the project. 

Even if this is corrupt behaviour by Goel, where were the checks and balances? Why was it not public tender? Did the Council CEO sign off on this without even asking what the track record of the winning company was?

Goel’s recommendation would have cost each of Franz Josef ‘s 240 ratepayers over $28,000 each, excluding the costs of running the plant which was estimated at $150,000 a year.

Again how was this approved?

The previous council approved the plan as it progressed from stage to stage, despite intense opposition from the tiny Franz Josef community. Before the contract could be finalised, a new council was elected and in November the incoming council, led by Mayor Bruce Smith, rejected the deal.

Good.

The Stuff investigation shows Goel has a chequered history, including a string of failed businesses, a bankruptcy and a Tenancy Tribunal hearing in which he was forced to pay $650 in damages to a landowner.

His companies, originally based in Auckland, included Goel Holdings, Anvik Liquor, Sai Super Mart and Sai Aden Investments.

In February 2006, Goel declared bankruptcy and all his businesses were liquidated.

So how did he get hired by the Council?

Nasty Trevor

You can tell how worried Labour are that they will lose Hutt South, by how nasty Trevor Mallard is getting on Twitter about Chris Bishop. But his latest tweet was a step too far, and saw him delete it and apologise for it.

So Trevor is saying that you are privileged if you don’t have kids. As one tweeter responded, that means he is accusing Helen Clark of having been privileged for not having kids.

This was not a random tweet. Trevor has been going on about Virginia having children, and Chris being privileged for some weeks on Facebook.

Now if a National MP made some comment about a Labour MP being privileged for not having had children (yet – Chris is only in his early 30s), it would be major news.

A real flood – not

The Herald reports:

It’s one thing to talk about changing allegiance to another country when a new president is elected. It’s another thing to go ahead and do it.

But that’s exactly what seems to be happening, at least in this little corner of the world.

The number of Americans who applied for a grant of NZ citizenship rose by 70 per cent in the 12 weeks following the election of President Donald Trump when compared to the same period a year earlier, immigration records obtained by The Associated Press show.

Sounds impressive, until you see the actual numbers:

Americans applying for New Zealand citizenship by grant:
November 8, 2016, to January 31,
2017: 170
2016: 100

So in 2016 0.000031% of Americans applied for NZ citizenship and in 2017 it was 0.000053%.

In 1.8 million years everyone in America will have applied for NZ citizenship.

Better Public Services update

The 2016 results for the 10 Better Public Service targets are now available. Some key results are:

  • ECE participation rate gone from 93.6% in 2008 to 96.7% in 2016
  • Maori ECE participation rate gone from 88.7% in 2008 to 95.0% in 2016
  • Pasifika ECE participation rate gone from 84.4% in 2008 to 92.9% in 2016
  • 8 month old immunisation rate gone from 64% in 2009 to 93.3% in 2016
  • Rheumatic fever rates gone from 4.0 per 100,000 in 2009 to 3.0 in 2016
  • Maori Rheumatic fever rates gone from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2009 to 6.9 in 2016
  • NCEA Level 2 achievement rates gone from 74.3% in 2011 to 85.2% in 2016
  • Maori NCEA Level 2 achievement rates gone from 57.1% in 2011 to 74.7% in 2016

These are health and education outcomes that make a real difference.

Key to leave Parliament

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister John Key is leaving Parliament at the earliest opportunity possible – next week.

He is due to give his last speech in Parliament next Wednesday.

He resigned suddenly in December last year but said he would stay on in Parliament long enough not to trigger a byelection – which usually costs about $1 million.

A byelection in his Helensville seat can be avoided if the resignation is within six months of a general election.

Next Thursday, March 23, is six months from the general election on September 23.

His valedictory speech will be very interesting. I’m looking forward to it. He will formally leave Parliament on 14 April.

Should he be kept in solitary?

Just read the sentencing notes of Stephen Williams for his attempted murder of another prisoner. He has been given preventive detention, so will never be released which is good. But what about the safety of other prisoners and guards?

On 11 December 2016, Mr Roper came to your cell to get some tattoos on his back. You did the tattooing while he sat in a chair with his back to you. At some point, you put down the tattoo gun and picked up a piece of a long florescent light tube that you had broken and hidden in your cell. You stabbed it into Mr Roper’s neck so that shards of glass became lodged inside the wound.

You then put Mr Roper into a ‘choker hold’, pressuring the carotid artery in his neck with your arm. He struggled against you, just making it outside the cell, where the CCTV camera captured the ongoing assault.

Mr Roper lost consciousness but you continued to attack him by stomping on his head. You then picked up a broom and struck Mr Roper across the head so hard that the broom broke. At this point, you stabbed Mr Roper in the back of the neck with the sharp end of the broken broom handle. …

You were annoyed when you were told Mr Roper had survived. When you spoke candidly to the Police about your attack, you said you did not like Mr Roper because you believed he had “narked” on you. You admitted planning the assault for months, making it clear that you intended to kill Mr Roper, and you said you could not believe that he was still alive. Indeed, you expressed regret and disappointment that he did not die.

So he openly said he hoped to kill him. And not the first time he has done this:

In 2014, you were sentenced to five years and eight months’ imprisonment for wounding another fellow inmate with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm; you stabbed him in the neck with a sharpened toothbrush.9 In that case also, you expressed disappointment that your victim did not die.

So he has twice tried to kill other inmates.

I wonder if the appropriate response is to place him in permanent seclusion where he can’t be a threat to anyone. He is obviously beyond rehabilitation and other prisoners shouldn’t have their lives put at risk.

Hamilton rates

Stuff reports:

A massive rates hike for Hamiltonians has been thrown out for now, but could soon loom again.

Confused and surprised councillors last week threw out the idea of 12 per cent rate rise for 2017/18, though the pressures of population growth means the topic won’t be off the table for long.

A 12% rates rise was totally unacceptable. How many hosueholds have had a 12% increase in income? Councils have to learn they can’t continue with rates increases well beyond inflation and wages.

No taxpayer subsidy for new Auckland stadium

The Herald reports:

An Auckland central city stadium wouldn’t get Government funding, Prime Minister Bill English says.

A stadium is back on the cards after Auckland Mayor Phil Goff commissioned work on the feasibility of a new central city site costing up to $1 billion.

This morning English said the Government’s position remained the same – it would not put up any money towards a stadium.

“Our top priority right now is this billion-dollar housing infrastructure fund, which we’re in intense negotiations with the council about right now. That’s going to take all our attention and cash for a while,” English told The Am Show.

“It hasn’t been raised with us. It’s not a high priority. We’re not aiming to put money into it.”

Good.

Second Scottish Independence referendum

The Scottish Government has said it will vote for a second independence referendum in 2018 or 2019.

The last referendum was meant to be a once in a generation vote and it is far from clear that Scotland will vote any differently this time, even with Brexit. In fact it is far from clear that Scotland would remain in the EU even if it leaves the UK, as they would have to apply to rejoin.

Personally I’m relaxed about Scotland leaving the UK, as it would force Scotland to live off its own income, rather than rely on subsidies from England.

The no vote won by 10% over the yes vote in the last referendum, which was a better result than the polls had indicated which was a 5% margin to no. Current polling has no at 5% to 7% over yes so at this stage hard to see a different result.

Public Polls February 2017

The monthly newsletter summary is:

Curia’s Polling Newsletter – Issue 106, February 2017

There were two political voting polls in February 2017 – a One News Colmar Brunton and a Roy Morgan.

The average of the public polls sees National 19% ahead of Labour in February, the same as in January.

The current seat projection is centre-right 59 seats, centre-left 49 which would see The Maori Party hold the balance of power.

We show the current New Zealand poll averages for party vote, country direction and preferred PM compared to three months ago, a year ago, three years ago and nine years ago. This allows easy comparisons between terms and Governments.

In the United States the net direction sentiment in the United States has improved significantly in the last two months, but is still negative.

 In the UK Labour has fallen to 25% and Corbyn’s personal ratings remain very low.

In Australia Labor’s TPP lead over the Coalition has increased from 4% to 8%. Turnbull’s approval ratings have dropped further.

In Canada support for the Liberal Government and Trudeau continues to drop in the wake of a broken promise on electoral reform.

We also carry the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

This newsletter is normally only available by e-mail.  If you would like to receive future issues, please go to http://curia.us10.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e9168e04adbaaaf75e062779e&id=8507431512 to subscribe yourself.

Have house prices peaked?

Interest.co.nz reports:

Median house prices declined in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga in February, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

Although the price declines were small, combined with a big drop in the number of homes being sold and a rise in the volume of unsold stock on the market, the outlook for the housing market over the rest of the summer selling season looks weak.

In Auckland the median selling price was $800,000 in February, which means it has declined for four consecutive months since it peaked at $868,000 in October (see chart below). Over that period, the Auckland median is down $68,000, or 7.8%.

Until we’ve had a full year, I would not rush to conclusions. But the data to date does suggest finally house prices may be stabilising, which would be good.

Fake free range eggs

A great investigation by Newsroom:

A Newsroom investigation has revealed that millions of free range eggs sold at Countdown before this year were likely to have been laid by caged hens.

They were packaged as Palace Poultry brand free range eggs laid at a South Auckland farm, but Newsroom’s Morgan Tait and Melanie Reid reveal a large quantity are from caged egg suppliers.

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating. …

Stocked in about 70 Countdown stores in the upper North Island, the small print on the Palace Poultry cartons says the eggs are “produced, graded and distributed by Ararimu Free Range Poultry” in Steels Road, Ararimu, South Auckland.

However, a Newsroom investigation has found more than half of the eggs in the pale yellow cartons were not produced at the Palace Poultry farm in Ararimu.

Instead, it would appear Countdown customers have been buying caged eggs in free range cartons.

If correct, this is indeed fraud. Worth reading the full story that shows a lot of hard work getting and verifying this story.

Poll on abortion

Curia did polling in January for ALRANZ to ascertain views of New Zealanders on whether abortion should be legal in different circumstances.  I thought the results were very interesting with the net level of support (those saying legal less those saying illegal) for each situation being:

  • Pregnant woman likely to die +72%
  • Foetus has no chance of survival +70%
  • Pregnant woman likely to be permanently harmed +70%
  • Pregnancy is a result of rape +65%
  • Pregnancy is a result of birth control failure +31%
  • Pregnant mother can’t afford to have another child +27%
  • Pregnant woman doesn’t want to be a mother +22%

Yardley on Christchurch politics

Mike Yardley writes:

Is it just me or do Cr Raf Manji’s grand designs on Ilam strike you as an expedition of political folly?

First, it was the Green Party’s David Lee, a Wellington City councillor, who startled the horses with his oddball plans to remain residing in Wellington – even if he wins Ilam. No wonder this political goof isn’t on the Green Party list.

At least Cr Manji lives and breathes in the electorate he aspires to represent. But despite all his rhetoric about Christchurch desiring “collaborative, inclusive leadership”, Manji will set his sights on conquering Ilam as a one-man-band, a lone-pony independent candidate. …

Manji also downplayed the need to electioneer in Ilam, signalling he won’t do any campaigning until at least August. “Let’s do it in a short, sharp way – a couple of weeks, bang.” 

I tell candidates who want to win a seat that if they are seriously they should look at campaigning fulltime for six months, preferably nine or more. Not two weeks.

Two years ago, he conceded to me that he wasn’t enjoying his council role. I suspect boredom has given rise to this flight of fancy in Ilam. But it’s rather impertinent and erratic to chase a new political toy just six months after being voted back onto council.

Given his burning ambition to be the “parliamentary voice of the Christchurch story”, why did Raf bother standing for re-election at all?

A fair question.

Guest Post: Stats, Drugs, and Rock and Roll

A guest post by KevinNZ:

Note: Apart from alcohol and peanuts, the substances mentioned are illegal and carry with them maximum sentences of imprisonment. Nothing said in this post should be taken as promoting drug use in any way or in any form. Just because you think that a drug shoud be legalized doesn’t mean you can/should use it. Needless to say drugs are dangerous and can cause harm and even death.

Imagine you’re at a party and for whatever reason it’s your job to hand out, “stuff”. Someone rocks up and asks for whatever you got. You can give him anything you want but your choices are heroin, cocaine, meth, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA (Ecstasy) and peanuts. Yes, peanuts. And you have to give him whatever has the least chance of sending him to hospital.

What do you give him? 

The answer of course is alcohol or MDMA. And if there’s no booze or E left, then the peanuts, then marijuana, followed by meth, coke and finally heroin.

Some stats.

In 2011, in the United States, there were 162 visits per 100,000 to an emergency department involving cocaine. For marijuana the figure was 146 per 100,000, for heroin 83 visits per 100,000, and for MDMA 7 visits per 100,000. And for alcohol 134 visits per 100,000. With regards to meth, in 2011 103,000 meth users went to the emergency department due to methamphetamine.

In 2012 about 1% of the US population used MDMA, or around 311,745,000 users. And in 2011 there was around 21,612,000 cannabis users. The number of alcohol users was around 56,738,000 and the number of meth users in 2012 was 1,200,000. There were 620,000 heroin users and 1,500,000 cocaine users.

And 1% of Americans were allergic to peanuts. 

Putting everything together you get what I call the “Peanut” scale.

  • Alcohol: 0.73%
  • MDMA (Ectasy): 0.73%
  • Peanuts: 1%
  • Cannabis: 2.08%
  • Meth: 8.58%
  • Cocaine: 30.06%
  • Heroin: 41.29%

The Peanut scale basically represents the chances of someone going to the emergency department as a result of taking a particular drug. 

Or eating a peanut. 

Each figure is calculated simply by taking the number of people admitted to emergency due to a particular drug and dividing it by the number of users of that drug.

Let’s take a closer look at those numbers, starting with MDMA.

Alcohol is a legal drug. It’s regulated. We have social structures in place which help curb abuse. MDMA has none of those things.

  In New Zealand MDMA is classified as Class B drug. MDMA is regarded as a dangerous drug, and it is. No doubt about it. Then again so is alcohol. Dangers of taking MDMA include serotonin overload and serotonin depletion syndrome. If a side effect of alcohol is agressiveness then side effects of MDMA include paranoia and anxiety. If you do MDMA regularly your chances of committing suicide are 7 times higher than normal. They don’t call it Sucicide Tuesday for nothing.

But what makes MDMA really dangerous is that as a result of it being illegal most Ectasy contains little or no MDMA but instead more dangerous chemicals such as Bath Salts. And of those that do have MDMA the amount of MDMA is increasing as dealers try and outdo each other, with some pills having as mcuh as 300mg of MDMA, or three times the recommended dose. Why there is a recommended dose for a drug that has been outlawed I have no idea, but there you go.

So given that the chances of going to hospital after taking MDMA is the same as having too much to drink, why is MDMA a Class B drug? Not only is it statistically as safe as alcohol, by having regulations users could be assured they were taking MDMA and the amount of MDMA in a pill could be set to a maximum level eg between 60 and 100mg. 

Put simply, if MDMA was legal and regulated, it’s Peanut rating would be even lower – much lower than booze.

Ok, so good news for MDMA users but bad news for potheads with marijuana having over twice the chances of sending someone to hospital than alcohol or eating a peanut. 

But wait. Again, alcohol is legal and regulated with social structures in place to curb abuse. When you have a drink you know how much alcohol you’re having. When you smoke a joint you never know how much THC you’re putting in your body. 

And how high (snigger), really, is 2% anyway? Let’s put things in perspective here.

Everytime you drive you have a 1 in 200, or 0.5% chance of having an accident. Most of us drive a lot more than we smoke a joint, yet driving a car is around 1/4 as dangerous pot. 

If you’re a woman, the chances of being raped is 2.6% or, if you include words, the chances of being sexually assaulted can be as much as 20%. And of those assaults most will involve alcohol. This means that if you’re a woman you’re much safer going to a place that serves cannabis and having a joint than going to a bar.

So why is marijuana illegal and not regulated? Regulation would keep out the gangs and the dodgy mom and pop operators, and users would be able to tell the amount of THC and CBD as it would be marked on the packet. There would be regulations prescribing the amount of CBD vs THC required for something to be considered medical marijuana vs recreational. 

Medicial marijuana debate, over.

Why don’t we at least allow places to sell marijuana under strict conditions, and with the requirement that the cannabis must be consumed on premises?

Admittedly the Peanut scale does not take into account long term harm from using a particular drug. So let’s take a look at drug treatment admissions. In 2008 in the US 23.8% of admissions for drug treatment were for alcohol, 17% was for marijuana, 14.1% was for heroin, and 0.4% was for other drugs. Assuming those figures were roughly the same in 2011 then chances of requiring treatment for a particular drug were as follows: for alcohol 4.33%, cannabis 1.18%, and for MDMA a very low 0.0039%. Or to put in another way if someone’s drug of choice was alcohol, and another’s drug of choice was marijuana, the former would have four times the chance of ending up in treatment than the dope smoker. And if the second person’s drugs of choice was MDMA, then the alkie would have over one thousand times the chance of requiring treatment compared to the MDMA user. 

Finally, sure, figures are rough and from 2011 and from the US. But I believe they are indicative of the relative dangers of the substances mentioned. And if going to a bar is more dangerous than having a joint at a place designed for having a joint, with the first being legal and the second illegal, then there is something seriously wrong with NZ’s drug laws. 

The sources for this article were:

A Super referendum

Pete George blogs:

As soon as practical after this year’s election (next year) we should have an survey type referendum (non-binding)that asks us the public what we want. It should ask questions on:

  • age of eligibility
  • set age or flexible
  • means testing
  • rate of payment – indexed or otherwise
  • Super fund contributions locked in or not
  • targeted assistance for those who have to retire younger for health reasons
  • anything else?

Then all parties MPs in Parliament, using the help of an expert group, should work together to come up with a legislative package based on public preferences plus fiscal prudence and social responsibility. Any votes should be on a conscience basis.

The resulting package should then go to the public for a binding referendum vote.

The last time there was a referendum on superannuation, over 90% voted against the proposal.

The Angry Identitarian Left

The Baliocene Apocrypha writes:

The Angry Identitarian Left is the way it is, in part, because its practices are optimized specifically for college campus activism. 

Within a university, the world is controlled by a nigh-omnipotent authority.  If you are a student, it is probable that the authority basically likes you and wants you to succeed; even if the administrators find you annoying, they fundamentally regard you as community members who should be receiving a good education, not as vermin or monsters or fifth-columnists.  If you are a leftist or liberal, it is probable that the authority basically shares your fundamental values; the administrators are basically you, thirty years down the pike.  But the authority is lazy and venal and (especially) worried about disruptions and embarrassments.  By default, you will be denied a lot of the political things you want, because that’s the easiest and cheapest thing, because the most convenient way to keep donors happy usually involves sweeping problems under the rug and not shelling out money. 

Under these circumstances, the most flexible strategic plan seems to involve a two-pronged social assault, with the prongs consisting of “moral suasion” and “extortion.”  You speak with as much holiness and self-righteousness as you can muster, in hopes that you can guilt the administrators into acknowledging the merit of your points, which has a good chance of working because deep down the administrators probably do see the merit of your points.  (They really, genuinely don’t want to be racist or sexist either!)  And you make yourself as annoying and obstreperous as you can, with the implicit promise that you’ll stop as soon as you get what you want, in hopes that appeasing you becomes the easy way out. 

There’s not much to be gained by persuading anyone of anything, or by looking to compromise with anyone, because there’s not really any principled opposition with whom to engage.  There’s also no real downside to using nasty rhetoric and dirty tactics.  In the wider world, that shit causes people to hate and fear you, it alienates potential allies and cements the resolve of your enemies…but within the college, you have no genuine enemies and you don’t have much use for allies.  All that matters is whether you can break through the sloth and self-interestedness of the decision-makers.

A very interesting analysis that makes sense. The tactics that work so well on campus are what alienate and backfire off campus.

RIP Murray Ball

Stuff reports:

Footrot Flats creator Murray Ball has died. He was aged 78.

He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and had been nursed at his Gisborne home for some time. He is survived by his wife Pam, and children, and grandchildren.

Like so many New Zealanders I grew up on Footrot Flats. I owned every single album as it would always be an easy Christmas present from my parents. Horse was of course my favourite character, followed by Dog.

The replacement car key rip off

The Herald reports:

A Kiwi businessman has come out tops over big-time car manufacturer Toyota, after a replacement key remote cost him more than $500.

Businessman Damian Funnell took action after dealership company Armstrongs Auckland charged him $475 and a $50 programming fee on top of that to replace a lost remote for his Estima. …

Fairfax said tribunal referee Clayton Luke said the most – but still reasonable – a key would cost was about $200.

As a result, Toyota will now have to pay the $325.62 difference.

Luke said Toyota’s claim had been misleading and that it did not disclose a “significant portion” of the price charged by the dealership, Armstrongs Auckland.

Toyota breached the Consumer Guarantees Act that outlines that a manufacturer must guarantee reasonable availability of spare parts.

“I am satisfied that the price charged by Armstrongs was not a price whereby Toyota New Zealand could say the keys as spare parts are reasonably available,” Luke said.

“The part is simply not reasonably available when what is being charged is more than 10 times its manufacturing cost and that cost is likely to grow to some 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the value of the vehicle within the reasonable lifetime of the vehicle.’

Pleased to see him win this, and others should do the same if their car dealers try to charge more than $200. They are basically extorting money from you, as if you have paid $8,000 for a car and lose your key, you simply have to get a new key. So they charge $500 for a $30 key.