Brownlee fined $2,000

November 18th, 2014 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Cabinet Minister Gerry Brownlee has been fined $2000 over an airport security breach.

Two parliamentary aides who were with Mr Brownlee at the time were given formal warnings.

The Civil Aviation Authority launched an inquiry following an incident at Christchurch Airport before the election, when the then Transport Minister and two of his staff deliberately bypassed airport security in order to catch a flight.

Civil Aviation Authority director Graeme Harris said today: “The subjects of this investigation are now fully aware of the importance of abiding by airport security rules, and the consequences of breaching these. ]

“The publicity surrounding the incident should also act as a warning to the travelling public that any airport security breaches are taken very seriously by the CAA.”

This is a good outcome. It shows that Ministers are not above the law.

If there had been no penalty for the incident, there would be potential ongoing resentment over the perception that Ministers can bypass security checks. But a fairly significant fine will satisfy most people that this is not the case.

Having been fined, it would not probably be tenable for Brownlee to have continued as Transport Minister. But as this portfolio went to Bridges after the election anyway, the issue is not now at an end I’d say.

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Brownlee and Airportgate

July 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Prime Minister John Key says he was “really disappointed” after Gerry Brownlee bypassed airport security this morning, but he has been quick to back him.

Mr Brownlee and two of his staff deliberately bypassed airport security at Christchurch airport this morning. He offered his resignation as Transport Minister, but that was swiftly rejected by the PM.

I don’t think what happened is a sackable offence, but on balance I think it would have been better for the PM to accept the resignation. It wouldn’t have been resignation as a Minister (which would be ridiculous) but it would be resignation from that portfolio – which I think would have been justified on the grounds of the portfolio including responsibility for airport security.

Incidentally I think that we should abolish almost all security on domestic flights anyway.  We were fine for many years without them, and I don’t accept that what happened on 911 has increased the risk profile for domestic flights in NZ.  I accept we need stringent security for international flights, but why for domestic?

As it happens they don’t have them for domestic flights outside the three main cities. So flying to Hamilton has no security, yet flying to Auckland means you have to go through the x-ray etc.

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Clustertruck continues

April 15th, 2014 at 5:18 pm by Jadis

* a Jadis post – by now you know the drill.  DPF will return one day

So it turns out that yet again Cunliffe and the Labour team haven’t checked the numbers or the unintended consequences of a policy announcement.  Ministry of Transport analysis shows that under Labour’s new policy many motorhomes would actually be charged higher Road User Charges – not lower as Cunliffe tried to suggest earlier today.  Brownlee explains this latest clustertruck from the Labour team:

“But analysis by the Ministry of Transport shows that based on the difference between average and maximum weights for trucks versus motorhomes, the owners of many motorhomes would end up paying more for Road User Charges than they do today.

“Road User Charges already assume that a vehicle travels empty about half of the time, as trucks frequently do travelling from a depot to pick up a load, or returning to the depot.

“Motorhomes, however, generally carry their furniture, fittings and other material at all times, which means they weigh more than an equivalent unladen truck.

“The 4.6 tonne average motorhome is in a weight band required to pay Road User Charges of about $57 per 1000 kilometres.  If paying by actual weight, Road User Charges would typically be between $50 and $70 per 1000 kilometres, depending on the exact weight of the vehicle and its fit out.

“So this policy would see many motorhome owners penalised rather than compensated, in some cases by as much as 22 per cent.

I wonder, was this Cunliffe’s intention?  May be he is doing us a favour by stealth and getting those slow motorhomes (and tourists) off the road.  The attack on the truckies was just a cunning sideshow.  Yeah, nah… I call Clustertruck on this one

 

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Self-selecting sample

November 8th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has signalled he is losing confidence in the Earthquake Commission (EQC)’s chief executive, demanding a “full inquiry” into how disgruntled homeowners were excluded from satisfaction surveys.

The issue arose after EQC critic and homeowner advocate Bryan Staples provided The Press with a document which appeared to show a system whereby EQC earmarked dissatisfied customers to leave them out of potential survey pools.

Brownlee yesterday told reporters at Parliament he was “quite annoyed” not to have been given information about the exclusions sooner.

The disclosure followed an Auditor-General’s report this week which quoted an EQC survey saying 80 per cent of homeowners were satisfied with the Canterbury home repair process.

Brownlee later said EQC was doing “pretty well” and yesterday stood by the comment.

Asked what level of confidence he had in EQC chief executive Ian Simpson, Brownlee refused to comment, but made it clear that confidence was at stake.

“It’s one of those things that I think goes to the heart of confidence and I’m very, very annoyed about it,” he said.

“I’ve asked the State Services Commissioner to conduct a full inquiry and he’ll be reporting to me in the next couple of days about how that’s going to be progressed.”

 An inquiry is warranted. The integrity of the sample is crucial to the reliability of a poll or survey. The exclusion of those who were recorded as being in a dispute with EQC means that the survey results were not representative.

What will be crucial is whether the report disclosed the sampling method, and the fact some home owners were excluded.

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It’s the Anglican Church, not Gerry, who decided on the Cathedral

November 5th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reported:

Cabinet Minister Gerry Brownlee’s Catholic background has been brought up at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Christchurch.

Local Labour MP Megan Woods has noted Mr Brownlee’s St Bede’s education while discussing the potential demolition of the city’s historic Anglican Cathedral.

“So if you get the chance, delegates, I’d like you to remind Gerry that they stopped giving out papal knighthoods for destroying Anglican cathedrals several centuries ago.”

That’s so sad. Trying to stir up resentment against Gerry because of his religion, but even worse trying to blame him for a decision which was not his. It is the Bishop of Christchurch who made the decision.

Is Ms Woods stating that if she was in Government, she would have legislated to over-turn the decision of the Anglican Church? Is that what she thinks Gerry should have done?

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Brownlee in General Debate

September 19th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In yesterday’s General Debate, Gerry Brownlee revealed the extent of the fixation Clayton Cosgrove has with him:

That leaves just one possibility as a dead cert to be dropped off the front bench, and that is my Canterbury colleague the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. This comes as a deeply disturbing thing for me because Clayton Cosgrove has spoken in the House 21 times since the beginning of 2012—not a bad sort of record for substantial speeches in the House. In every one of those speeches he has mentioned my name multiple times. It is almost a fixation that the poor man has. In the imprest supply debate he mentioned my name six times. In the Environment Canterbury bill it was five times. There are many threes, there are many fours, and there are many fives. I got mentioned six times in the Canterbury schools debate. But, somewhat inexplicably, he mentioned me five times in the debate on the State-owned energy companies and delay of sale of Mighty River Power—five times. Then when it came to the Mixed Ownership Model Bill in Committee I got nine mentions—nine mentions. These were 5-minute speeches and I took up most of them. In the Address in Reply debate this year he outdid himself. In the Address in Reply debate he outdid himself. In a 10-minute speech I got 11 mentions. That is one a minute. It is quite clear that the man thinks of nothing else but me. Clearly, he is a man who does not have his eye on his policy portfolio issues and who has a certain fixation with me, which is worrying because the deputy leader once had one of those as well. 

We await the caucus reshuffle on Monday with interest!

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Brownlee on Christchurch Town Hall

June 17th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee writes in The Press:

The Christchurch Town Hall is broken and unusable, and fixing it would be an expensive challenge, says the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee.

it would cost around $130 million to repair it, and insurance would cover only half.

In April 2012 we established the Christchurch Central Development Unit, of which the Christchurch City Council is a part, with the Crown and Ngai Tahu.

Council staff advised and played a significant role in developing the blueprint, ensuring it reflected what Christchurch residents told them. There was strong community support for a performing arts precinct, which was developed into an anchor project.

In 1974, Christchurch opened the premier performing arts facility of its generation.

The Christchurch Town Hall was state of the art for its time. The ultimate compliment was paid when in 1975 the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington was commissioned using the same architects and acoustic engineer.

A building younger than me, is not a heritage building.

Today the Christchurch Town Hall is badly torn apart.

What is left of it sits on some of the worst land from the geotechnical perspective in the central city – in part why it is so seriously damaged. It lies broken and unusable, and fixing it would be an expensive challenge.

We have a clear choice: try to recapture the magic of the past and patch up the town hall, as some want to do; or deliver modern facilities that could again have Christchurch leading the world for quality performing arts spaces.

The blueprint proposes developing an arts and entertainment complex with multiple theatres and performing arts spaces.

It would deliver auditoria of differing sizes, for multiple purposes, across a range of entertainment genres and with the performing arts community’s needs in mind.

This proposal encompasses the things Christchurch residents told the city council they wanted through the Share an Idea process.

It would incorporate space for our music schools.

It would have space for art house cinema and documentaries.

Performance spaces of varying sizes would take some risk out of mounting shows; if more seats were required, they would be at the same venue.

Sounds a much better plan to me, and something that would be used by many many more people than the old Town Hall.

But I have no doubt the Council will vote the other way.

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Christchurch consenting

June 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Nicole Mathewson at The Press reports:

Christchurch city councillors will head into a crisis meeting next week after learning the council is on the brink of losing the power to grant consents.

Yesterday, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee revealed the council was sent a letter from International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) on May 30, which said it had until June 28 to improve its processes or it would be stripped of its accreditation as a building consent authority.

The letter is here. You would have thought that Councillors would immediately be informed of such a serious development.

It is of huge concern that the Council can not even meet its legal requirements for consenting, which is why it has provisionally been told it will lose this power.

Again this makes me wonder about the monumental lack of judgement it shows in some politicians who have spent three years saying that the Council should have more power, and the Government less power in the rebuild. Such slogans sound good, but the consequences could be severe. If the Council is unable to even meet its core remaining responsibilities, how do we think things would have gone if they were in charge of the overall rebuild?

Councillors were unaware of the letter.

Amazing.

Brownlee told The Press last night that it was “utterly appalling” councillors had not been told about IANZ’s warning before he published the letter yesterday.

“It shows there’s a culture problem in the council or at least this part of the council. This is very serious and no-one should attempt to downplay it.

“What annoys me a bit here is I’ve been asking about this for some time … but I’m continually told everything’s well, everything’s fine.”

Problems had been identified with the council’s building consent authority during a routine assessment by IANZ in October 2009, and in November last year an audit identified 17 failings in the way the council performed its building control functions.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had become involved with the council several times since February 2010 to offer support and advice.

“It seems as soon as they walk out, everything falls back into the old ways. At the moment we’re not in a good space,” Brownlee said.

Consenting work would fall to other councils if Christchurch did lose its accreditation, he said.

This would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Any consenting would still be done in accordance with the plans, policies and rules set down by the Christchurch City Council. It would just be the staff of another Council who would issue consents in accordance with those rules.

I actually think there is considerable merit in allowing Councils to compete with each other in offering consenting services in a region. The body that sets down the rules doesn’t need to be the body that does the consenting.

UPDATE: Good to see the Council taking it so seriously:

Mr Parker says the Government needs to cut the under-resourced council some slack. It has taken on extra staff, and currently has 120 people processing applications.

“There’s something of a huge overreaction going on here – it’s a bit like, as far as I can see, we’ve been given a parking ticket for an event that’s taking place in two weeks’ time that we weren’t going to anyway, and if we were, we’d take the bus.

Parker thinks a provisional loss of accreditation to issue consents is like a parking ticket?

You know if I lived in Christchurch, I think I might actually vote for Lianne.

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100 actions in 1,000 days

May 30th, 2013 at 12:45 pm by David Farrar

Tomorrow is 1,000 days since the first Canterbury earthquake. Gerry Brownlee has produced an interesting list of 100 things the Government has done in that time. Some are significant, and some of course less so.

Since 4 September 2010 we have:

1.         Passed two pieces of special legislation allowing the Crown to respond appropriately to the Canterbury earthquakes

2.         Established a dedicated government department, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority

3.         Passed 24 Orders in Council to amend or suspend laws to affect timely recovery

4.         Hosted 250 public community meetings, speaking to at least 30,000 people

5.         Had the Ministry of Social Development begin an outbound calling campaign to evaluate the immediate needs of older and vulnerable members of the community and get help to them.  Contact was made with over 20,000 people this way in the days after the February earthquake

6.         Zoned 181,000 residential properties in greater Christchurch according to degree of land damage

7.         Created a website identifying residents’ land zoning, landcheck.org.nz

8.         Received an incredible 5.11 million views over its first 24 hours of the landcheck.org.nz website operating

9.         Hosted two expos covering insurance advice, council information and a winter wellness programme

10.       Hosted a Rebuild and Recovery Expo attended by over 5000 people

11.       Held 43 residential red zone land decision meetings for thousands of residents

12.       Held 20 residential red zone offer workshops for hundreds of residents

13.       Held 10 other red zone-related meetings

14.       Held two orange zone meetings for people awaiting final zoning

15.       Held six residential green zone land decision meetings to inform residents what the zoning meant for them

16.       Held 43 residential green zone technical land category meetings

17.       Held 21 Port Hills white zone meetings explaining the basis for investigating final zoning

18.       Held 15 Accessible City Transport briefings for members of the public

19.       Held 15 special workshops with professional and technical experts on a range of issues related to geology, geotechnical investigations and information we believed the residents of greater Christchurch wanted to know

20.       Produced 320 different CERA publications

21.       Produced and distributed over 1 million CERA newsletters highlighting major recovery news and initiatives

22.       Produced and distributed 36,000 CERA information and assistance brochures to specifically inform residents of the Crown offers, Technical Category 3 information, earthquake support services and other information about recovery

23.       Translated our factsheets and brochures into seven different languages; Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Samoan, Simplified Chinese, Traditional  Chinese and Tongan

24.       Sent out 6160 CERA tweets

25.       Held two celebrity bike races to celebrate the re-opening of key city streets

26.       Zoned 7860 homes red, as being on land unsuitable for residential occupation, and to date have entered into sales and purchase agreements with 7082 property owners

27.       Carried out maintenance at 6021 residential red zone properties

28.       Overseen demolition or removal of 2153 houses in the residential red zone

29.       Completed vegetation scopes of 795 properties and identified 975 individual trees and plants that will stay in place

30.       Planted 12 tonnes of grass seed in the CBD and the residential red zone as part of our clearance and maintenance programme

31.       Removed and recycled 200,000 metres of fencing from red zone properties

32.       Spent $1.2 billion purchasing residential red zone properties and been so proud to see those people moving into warm homes on safer ground – most of them still in Christchurch.  That’s right, they didn’t leave!

33.       Completed 30 individual cordon reductions

34.       Reduced the CBD cordon by 352 hectares

35.       Demolished 1470 commercial buildings across the CBD and suburbs

36.       Assisted 196,000 public visitors into the Cathedral Square area via bus tours and walking tours

37.       Registered 7309 cases with Earthquake Support Co-ordinators

38.       Answered 13,000 calls to the 0800 Earthquake Support phone number

39.       Undertaken 15,188 appointments through the Avondale and Kaiapoi earthquake assistance hubs

40.       Built a temporary stadium in 100 days – a stadium which this weekend will receive its 300,000th paid customer

41.       Hosted 20,000 local kids and parents at a free stadium open day with a range of fun events and refreshments

42.       Ordered 301 emergency demolitions through Civil Defence

43.       Established the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS)

44.       Assisted with 3392 CETAS requests for accommodation

45.       Built three temporary accommodation villages with a fourth under construction, which will bring the number of dwellings available for temporary stays while houses are being repaired to 123

46.       Had over 350 households stay in our temporary villages

47.       Granted 2163 temporary accommodation allowances, equating to an average $333,614 being paid each week

48.       Issued 97 CERA press releases

49.       Issued 127 Ministerial press releases

50.       Live-streamed seven press conferences

51.       Responded to over 4500 individual media enquires

52.       Conducted a Wellbeing Survey in conjunction with local councils, the Canterbury District Health Board, and Ngai Tahu which 2381 residents completed

53.       Published the Wellbeing Survey’s results and put in place initiatives to address areas identified as needing greater effort

54.       Co-ordinated 70 ‘Summer of Fun’ events over summers of 2011 and 2012 for kids and families hit by the quakes, many of them in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs

55.       Received 682 Facebook likes for the ‘Summer of Fun’ events, and 2874 likes on the main CERA page

56.       Hosted over 30,000 local kids and parents at those ‘Summer of Fun’ events

57.       Hosted 200 emergency services personnel and their families at a Christmas lunch

58.       Posted 158 educational and informational videos on the CERA website, ranging from five minutes to two hours in duration, resulting in 230,237 individual viewings

59.       Had 521 of those videos shared by viewers through their own social media channels

60.       Got agreements in place to purchase $228 million worth of central city land so we can build the anchor projects identified in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan

61.       Got contracts or agreements in principle now achieved for 43.4 per cent of the total land area required for the anchor projects

62.       Reached final settlement on 31 CBD properties required for the city’s rebuild

63.       Signed contracts for the purchase of a further 33 properties

64.       And reached agreement in principle with the owners of another 48 properties

65.       Spent $231.6 million on CBD land purchases required for rebuilding the city

66.       Begun construction on the first phase of the Avon River Precinct

67.       Got seven onsite Development Plans approved for the CBD’s Retail Precinct

68.       Completed a draft concept design of the East Frame – one of the priority anchor projects in the CBD

69.       Released an Expression of Interest document for potential tenants of the city’s Innovation Precinct

70.       Sent 1100 big yellow Amazing Place resource packs to Canterbury school children so they could compete in designing what we think will be the coolest kids’ playground anywhere in the world

71.       Had 6000 Canterbury children take part in the Amazing Place Playground Competition – and we thank every single one of them

72.       Announced that the playground will be named in honour of the amazing children’s author Margaret Mahy ONZ

73.       Completed over 96,000 EQC repairs in total, including emergency repairs

74.       Installed 18,740 heating systems

75.       Received a total of 467,135 EQC claims, 116,660 of which have been settled and closed

76.       Paid out $5.3 billion in EQC claims

77.       Established the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT), an alliance of CERA, Christchurch City Council, NZ Transport Agency, as well as City Care, Downer, Fletcher, Fulton Hogan and McConnell Dowell, to fix Christchurch’s destroyed underground water and wastewater infrastructure, and the battered roads

78.       Completed 257 SCIRT projects worth $122 million dollars

79.       Laid 23 km of fresh water pipe – that’s 33 per cent of the fresh water damage repaired

80.       Laid 161 km of wastewater pipe – 24 per cent of the damage

81.       Laid 10 km of storm water pipe – 40 per cent of required repairs

82.       Laid 211,083 square metres of road pavement – that’s only 16 per cent of the work to be done

83.       Had 8978 face-to-face interactions with locals about SCIRT work

84.       Distributed 1382 SCIRT work notices to 353,637 residents

85.       Got another 129 SCIRT projects worth $467 million dollars underway

86.       Issued 33,000 CERA passes to individuals

87.       Issued 1500 of those CERA passes for access to the residential red zone

88.       Issued over 200,000 renewals of CERA passes

89.       Held 18 elected members’ meetings for 120 councillors, community board members, CDHB members, Ngai Tahu representatives and Environment Canterbury commissioners

90.       Received 1958 letters to the Minister and 1377 letters to CERA’s chief executive

91.       Responded to 22 oral and 197 written Parliamentary questions about earthquake recovery

92.       Received 593 requests under the Official Information Act

93.       Funded dozens of key exporters to rapidly visit their key clients overseas so they knew their businesses were open, and how much their custom would help the recovery.  This resulted in a continued flow of business, and in some cases resulted in new business

94.       Directly supported 8000 businesses and 63,500 individuals (employees and sole traders)

95.       Paid $214 million in wage subsidies following the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes, which bought businesses time to adjust to the events and avoided massive redundancies which would have caused great harm to Christchurch’s economy

96.       Established the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust, which has raised over $100 million in pledged and received funds and has funded more than 100 projects so far

97.       Helped bring business back to the CBD by launching the Re:START container mall project, with a $3.36 million interest-free loan from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust to help fund it

98.       Completed the Government share offer of Mighty River Power, which raised $1.7 billion for the Future Investment Fund, which will help fund important rebuild activities including more than $900 million in new capital funding for Christchurch including the Christchurch and Burwood hospitals redevelopment, funding for the justice and emergency services precinct, and tertiary education institutions

99.       Announced a $600 million plus redevelopment of the Christchurch and Burwood Hospitals, with the Government contributing $426 million towards it

100.    Announced the Government is investing $1 billion in restoring and renewing the education sector in greater Christchurch, including building or rebuilding 16 schools

Gerry also announced today that the Government has purchased almost two thirds of the land it needs for the CBD priority projects rebuild. The last two times I’ve been to Christchurch all the activity has been demolitions. Hopefully next time I’m down there, there will be some buildings going up!

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Hysteria

March 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is demanding answers after EQC’s “unprecedented” privacy blunder while his Labour counterpart has called for his resignation.

Brownlee said last night he would meet EQC chief executive Ian Simpson and chairman Michael Wintringham this morning to insist on answers.

Brownlee, who found out about the 73,000 extra claimants only at 2.21pm yesterday (the media conference was at 3pm), said the blunder was embarrassing and he had a “lot more to find out”.

“On Friday when we first learned there had been a mishap, it was in the realms of being a forgivable mistake but when you learn that rather than 9700 claims affected it’s more than 80,000, well, that escalates it a little bit further to say the least.” …

Labour earthquake spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said Brownlee needed to “make an appointment with the Prime Minister and hand in his resignation notice”.

A staff member didn’t notice that his auto-complete function had inserted the wrong recipient name, and sent an attachment to the wrong person.

And Dalziel thinks this is a case for the Minister to resign.

All I can say is that Labour will need a very large caucus if they get into Government, because I expect Ministers will be resigning every week or so based on this new hysterical standard.

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The Press on Council housing

March 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

On the face of it, the attack last week by the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, appears to be amply justified.

While there may be room for quibbling about the exact numbers, the pace with which the Christchurch City Council has repaired and replaced the social housing damaged by the earthquakes has been slow.

Quoting from the council’s own latest report, the council has closed 327 social housing units but has managed, in a programme that is supposed to be urgent, to repair and relet only six of them.

Astonishing.

Brownlee is quite right to draw attention to it and to try to set a fire under councillors to get something done about it.

His singling out of Cr Yani Johanson for criticism was, however, misdirected. It is possible to understand the minister’s temptation to target Johanson. In the political spectrum of the council, Johanson sits on the gadfly Left wing.

After some years in office, he still has the slightly bumptious and irritating air of the student politician about him. He is also not slow to criticise the performance of others.

Indeed.

So when the council fails in a serious responsibility he appears to be in charge of, one can see how taking a swipe at him would be hard to resist.

It is, nonetheless, unfair.

For one thing, while Johanson is chairman of the committee that is in charge of the social housing stock, he is only one councillor among the others. He is not like a minister of the Crown. Any failure with repairs to social housing lies not with Johanson alone but with the other councillors on his committee and with the whole council.

I agree, Johanson is not solely responsible. However his share of responsibility must be greater than other Councillors as he chairs the committee in charge.

Taking the opportunity provided by Brownlee’s broadside to have a dig of his own at Johanson, Cr Aaron Keown suggested there were tensions between Johanson’s committee and council staff that were impeding progress on repair work.

If that is correct, the remedy is not, as Keown suggested, to transfer the work to the committee on which Keown sits, but for any difficulties to be identified and fixed. Council staff must provide councillors with prompt, accurate, complete information, and councillors must provide staff with clear and precise directions.

It is hard to say what the solution is, until we know what the problem is. The Council needs to clarify why it has only been able to fix six houses in two years and what changes are necessary to speed this up.

It was almost exactly a year ago that Brownlee lit a rocket under the Housing Corporation for its apparent lethargy on getting state houses repaired and replaced. More action quickly followed.

Beleaguered city council tenants will be hoping his latest blast will be as effective.

That would be good.

Personally this reinforces my belief that Councils should not be landlords. They tend to be very bad at it, and providing community housing is better done by Housing NZ and community groups. If the Council was not the owner, I suspect many more of those houses or apartments would be repaired by now.

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Clifford Bay

March 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee spoke this week to the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce on the possibility of the terminal for the Interislander ferries moving from Picton to Clifford Bay. He stressed no decision has been made, but his speech was all about the benefits of doing so and suggests that a positive decision is likely. Some extracts:

By bringing travel times down between our major population centres, we could increase trade between the two islands and in doing so increase economic prosperity.

We have made no decisions, but information to date has suggested we need to further test the viability.

Clearly any benefits must be weighed against the cost of developing and operating a port.

It would need to be a commercially viable and sustainable operation.

Decreased travel times is good for trade and tourism.

By way of comparison a Clifford Bay terminal would cut 30 minutes off the ferry trip between North and South Islands.

The road trip from Wellington to Christchurch would be 50 minutes shorter and the same rail journey would reduce by 80 minutes.

So a road trip would be 80 minutes quicker and rail would be 110 minutes quicker – almost two hours. Knocking 80 minutes off a 480 minute journey is 15% improvement – very significant.

Because of the steep terrain between Picton and Clifford bay, there would be a one-third reduction in fuel burnt when transporting freight by rail to Christchurch.

The shorter ferry journey would mean ships could be more productive, making more journeys.

Better for the environment also.

Speed restrictions through the Marlborough Sounds limit the number of return sailings ferries can make each day.

Two of the ferries have ‘grandfathered’ speeds – meaning they do not have speed restrictions – and can complete three return trips a day.

That fleet is nearing the end of its economic life and will need expensive replacements.

And replacements are going to be harder to find, as internationally rail ferries are rapidly falling out of favour with operators.

Larger, faster ships are becoming the norm.

But if the route stays the same those replacement ferries will also be speed restricted.

These restrictions affect operating efficiency and cost, and any potential tightening of the speed restrictions will further constrain ferry services.

If you can’t get as many sailings out of the fleet, more ships will be need to provide the same capacity.

And that comes at a high cost.

That suggests that Picton is just not very viable in the long-term.

I think it is clear the Government would like a new terminal at Clifford Bay. The challenge is who builds is, and for how much.

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Moral hazard

January 29th, 2013 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Marc Greenhill at Stuff reports:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has rejected suggestions he ignored officials’ advice in making reduced offers to uninsured red-zoners.

The Press reported yesterday the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) advised Brownlee last August that property owners in the residential red zone who did not qualify for the initial Crown compensation deal – mainly commercial properties and undeveloped land – should have the same offer extended to them.

A decision was made to offer those in limbo half the rateable value (RV) of their land and avoid the “moral hazard” of a government safety net for the uninsured.

I think it would have been very bad to offer the same price for an uninsured property as for those insured. It would have set an awful precedent and encourage people not to insure.

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said the “low-ball” offers would form part of a formal complaint she had made to the auditor-general about the Government’s handling of the residential red zone.

Labour – campaigning for the rights of the uninsured to get the same payouts as the insured. That’s true equality for you comrades!

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Classic sledge

November 30th, 2012 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

TV3 reports:

Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee in Parliament yesterday compared Auckland’s plan for a city rail link to the infamous monorail episode of The Simpsons.

In response to questions from Labour MP Phil Twyford on the impact of the city’s growing traffic woes, at first Mr Brownlee disputed the economic benefits of the proposed rail link, and questioned the impact it would have on congestion.

But towards the end of his answer, Mr Brownlee slipped in a reference to the classic Simpsons episode Marge vs the Monorail.

“I would consider hiring Lyle Lanley and associates to do a scoping study for us on the city rail link,” he said.

“I know that they’ve done some very good work on some of the projects in Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook, and if they think this stacks up, we’ll give it some consideration further.”

In the Simpsons episode Lanley is revealed to be a conman, building a cheap and nasty monorail which begins to fall apart on its maiden trip.

Mr Brownlee’s quip appeared to go completely over the heads of other MPs in Parliament. …

Marge vs the Monorail first aired in 1993, and was penned by talk show host and comedian Conan O’Brien. It is often cited as one of the long-running series’ greatest episodes.

It’s a great sledge when the other side don’t even realise they have been sledged.

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CERA Powers

July 25th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The High Court has ruled Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee ‘‘stepped outside the legal limits’’ of his earthquake powers in rearranging Canterbury housing boundaries.

In the first legal challenge to Brownlee’s special powers his Canterbury land zoning decisions have been set aside by the High Court.

In a decision released today, Justice Chisholm ordered a judicial review of the process Brownlee took. He also set aside the land zoning changes Brownlee made.

At a High Court hearing in Christchurch early this month Independent Fisheries, several Canterbury property developers and supermarket giant Progressive sought to overturn Brownlee’s post-quake redrawing of housing boundaries.

He stopped short of giving Brownlee directions for reviewing the development potential of appellants’ land saying the court’s jurisdiction was on the scope of Brownlee’s powers, not the outcome.

To me this indicates that while the Government was given wide powers to speed up the reconstruction of Christchurch, the powers are not as vast as people said they were. The fact the High Court was able to over-turn them is proof of that.

But meanwhile the Greens use this to claim:

Sage said the Green Party had called for the extensive ministerial powers contained in the Act to expire after nine months, once the emergency period was over.

One can debate the extent of the powers, but for the Greens to claim there is no need for any special powers at all is sheer madness. They would have Christchurch CBD sitting empty for two decades, no doubt. It must frustrate Labour that the Greens get away with saying such daft stuff, and no one holds them to account for it.

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Touring Christchurch

June 19th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A couple of Fridays ago, I (and around 14 other media) spent a day touring Christchurch as guests of CERA.  I found the day quite fascinating as the scale of the issues is daunting. I’m going to blog some photos and commentary, and also at the end my overall thoughts on Christchurch.

The tour started with an amusing incident as we passed the new McDonalds. Gerry Brownlee said that sadly it was not yet open, as the Council had yet to approve its consent. This caused some amusement, and I wondered if Gerry had considered using his special powers to consent it himself :-)

We started off looking at areas such as Kaiapoi, where in some areas house after house is noticeably damaged and of course abandoned. But we also saw the areas where new sub-divisions are planned, and construction about to start. I believe Ngai Tahu is planning what will almost be a small township of 2,500 on some of their land.

We headed into the Cashel Container Mall, where we met some of the CERA executives such as Roger Sutton and Warwick Isaacs. Sutton is a very quirky personality, who was telling us how the amount of milk he has to drink to cycle to the Port Hills, is equal to the amount of petrol a car would need – in terms of energy. This factoid is new to us, but not new to Gerry and the other CERA people who I gather hear such factoids on a daily basis.

A profile of Sutton in The Press has he has calculated it takes 7 grams of chocolate to run up the 11 floors of HSBC house.

Putting aside the quirkiness, both Sutton and Isaacs impressed with their plans. There were lots of questions from media types, and I found their replies to be realistic. They are well aware that they can not force investors back into the central city, and that the CBD will be smaller. However they are doing what they can to make investment occur, such as working with the former large tenants such as the financial institutions, the law firms, the Government sector to confirm they will relocate back to the CBD if the rental cost is similar to what it was.

I’ll come back to the investment challenge, but will note that some of the property investors in Christchurch are very “loyal” and keen to invest if it can make sense for them. The Cashel Container Mall came about because four of the major property owners got together and arranged for all the owners to temporarily donate their land into a trust which charges peppercorn rentals to the current retailers.

We headed into the restricted zone, and saw first hand the deconstructions occurring.

Large areas of the CBD are now clear. CERA believes that within 12 months all the deconstruction will have occured, which suggests that by then the construction plans will be known and pretty finalised.

There is an opportunity here for Christchurch to get a city centre which is an improvement on the old one. Many locals will admit that the sad reality is that the city centre was in decline even before the quakes. One of the reasons for this is because so few people lived in the city centre.

The draft plan for the CBD is to have apartment blocks to allow 30,000 people to live in the inner city. That’s a great plan, and will make a real difference to its vibrancy.

However CERA was quite blunt, that the investment may not happen. The return on residential property is less than on commercial property in city centres. You get less per square metre. We won’t know for some months if there are property investors who will be willing to invest. One of the real problems is that the heightened requirements in the building code, means construction costs will be greater – possibly more than even insurance will cover. So the investment equation may not be there for new residential apartment blocks.

The other thing planned is to have some sort of logical sectors within the city. For example the courts, the police and the law firms will probably all be located next to each other. I quipped it was nice that prisoners would have shorter distances to travel :-)

Part of the Cathedral. I am not an Architect, but having seen its exterior, I reckon anyone who thinks it is safe to preserve it is barking mad. It’s fucked.

The CERA Chief Geologist took us to Redcliffs. Those houses had such stunning views, but are now obviously unsafe to live in.

That’s a mighty big load of rocks that have come down.

Further along, they have this temporary solution of containers, to prevent further rock falls spreading onto the road. A simple but effective idea. Who knew containers had so many uses – prison cells, retail shops and rock guards!

You have to be careful emerging from between the containers as you are straight onto the road. I remarked to Beck Eleven from The Press that it would be bad to get run over here, as all the other media would get to report your being hit by a car or truck. Beck agreed, but said what would really gut her is that she has no camera with her to take photos of my body after being whacked by a vehicle. We agreed that she could take my iPhone from my body, and use it to take and send in photos of the scene :-)

A bit hard to see through the window, but yes that is a large rock in the middle of that bedroom.

What happened is the rock landed here and bounced literally through the wall in the background into the bedroom.

We were told the rocks fall at around 90 km/hr but when they land and splinter, a shard can travel a several hundred kms/hr. So even a small shard can be fatal.

This rock had a cow underneath it. No it did not land on the cow, it caught it on the way down and splattered it at the bottom. I observed that if it landed on a human, you’d probably not even know there was a body underneath it.

Somehow a discussion eventuated about what would have happened if someone was, umm, being intimate with the cow when the rock struck it. The consensus was they would be very dead, or in great pain.

We ended the tour by going to the headquarters of SCIRT, the Stronger Canterbury Infrastructure Rebuild Team. They are the group rebuilding the roads, fresh water supply, waste water and storm water networks. It is an alliance of CERA, the CCC  and NZTA on the government side and Citycare, Downer, Fletcher, Fulton Hogan and McConnell Dowell on the construction side.

The scale of the work they have on is staggering. Off hand I think their budget is $2.5 billion. but instead of that being one big $2,5b project, this is around 500+ individual projects. Over the next few years I think 40% of the sewers will be replaced or upgraded. When they dig up roads, they are notifying utility companies, so one bright thing has been a lot of fibre or duct for fibre is being laid for little cost.

We finished the day watching the Crusaders play the Highlanders at the AMI stadium. The stadium is superb – you feel very close to the rugby. For a “temporary” stadium, they’ve done a great job. We were hosted by the stadium trust, in their box. At one stage the Highlanders scored a try and as a good former Dunedin resident I jumped out of my seat clapping and cheering. I then noticed that I was the only person in our area doing so, and the Mayor who was seated next to me gave me a very strange glare. I explained I went to Otago University and one has to stay loyal.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and interesting day. I think all the media found it so. The Press has a story online about some of their impressions. There is a lot happening, but the future is of course still unknown. The plan for the CBD is around half way through the 100 day formulation period, and it remains unknown how willing the large property owners and investors will be to build in the new CBD. However there are some confirmed tenancies which will help those decisions.

There were two things which struck me during the day. The first was how much time and energy is spent “fixing” things with the Council. Many many stories were told about issues where they have had to hurry or help the Council do something. Without exception these stories were told with respect for the Council. People often said that it is not their fault – the Council simply is not geared up to rebuild an entire city. They are staffed and structured for business as normal. They simply don’t have the staff, the experience, the flexibility and the funding to do much more than their core competencies.

Some politicians have called for the Council to be given a much larger role in the rebuild. I think this view is woefully misguided, and would be a disaster. I doubt the Council itself even has this view. They simply are not structured in a way where they could perform much more than what they currently do. This is not a criticism of them, just a reality.

The other thing that struck me was the intimate detailed knowledge CERA Minister Gerry Brownlee had on the city and the issues. Over six or more hours on the bus, he was peppered by questions, and could answer pretty much them all. At almost every location he could tell you what had happened, what issues had arisen, and what probably will happen. There were many stories about ministerial interventions to stop something bad happening by some entity. We’re not talking about use of official powers, but persuasion and yes diplomacy. With a rebuild of this size, it is not surprising that so many issues arise.

Now again some politicians have called for there to be a Board for CERA, and have the CEO report to the Board and the Board to the Minister. In my opinion that is also a very misguided and potentially disastrous idea. Apart from the fact there is no other Govt Dept that has such a setup, lets look at what would happen. The Minister would be a remote figure mainly based in Wellington deciding on recommendations from the board. The board would be a group of part-time directors who could only decide things when they formally meet every few weeks. Having a board would be near criminally stupid – it would remove the Minister from an active role, put in place some unelected directors who have no accountability, and slow things down massively. Most of all you would lose the ability of the Minister (and his associate Amy Adams who also showed a high level of knowledge) to perform that all important role of sorting out conflicts and clearing roadblocks.

As I said, the day was very interesting and I learnt a lot. I hope they do another media trip in a year’s time, when fingers crossed buildings in the new city centre will be starting to go up. But ultimately that will depend on if the private sector can get a return on any investment there.

NB – While invited by CERA, like all the other media I paid for my own travel down there.

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Jumping the shark

April 24th, 2012 at 4:55 pm by David Farrar

The Government today announced:

  • Housing New Zealand has today closed a tender to speed up repair of over 600 of its quake damaged properties
  • The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has just agreed to pay $21 million to Christchurch City Council, its largest individual claimant, allowing the council to begin repairs to around 280 quake damaged properties in its social housing portfolio
  • The Department of Building and Housing (DBH) is making good progress toward establishment of a new temporary accommodation village at Rawhiti Domain in New Brighton, with 20 two bedroom units due to be on site by mid-July and the ability to provide further units as required
  • The Government has already built 63 houses in two temporary accommodation villages at Linwood Park in Christchurch City and Kaiapoi Domain in the Waimakariri District

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn says the package is too little too late (which is a legitimate point of view) but goes on to say:

Brownlee’s inaction and denial means we are going to see a spike in cold-related deaths in Christchurch this winter. People will die needlessly, largely of flu and respiratory diseases, because he did nothing. And that makes him nothing more than a murderer.

This is jumping the shark in a massive way. Its pathetic, and erodes his credibility. I really wonder what happened to I/S so that his hatred of the right makes him so irrational at times.

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In defence of Finland

March 27th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Gerry Brownlee’s comments that Finnish people are uneducated and disrespectful to women have sparked outrage and made headlines in the European nation.

“The story is flaming in the Finnish media,” Juha Parikka, counsellor to the Embassy of Finland said.

Auckland lecturer Merja Myllylahti has even started a Facebook group, calling for Brownlee to visit Finland “to learn some facts”. …

Brownlee’s spokesman said the  comments were made in humour, were based on OECD figures and were part of a general debate.

One Finnish blogger responded:

Just you New Zealanders stop raping sheep, children and your Maori slaves, which is a satirical comment with a shadow of fact in it so no hard feelings, and we’re okay.

People are getting a wee bit sensitive over this. But just in case Finland declares war on New Zealand, I’d better try and make peace, especially as we have no combat airforce left.

Personally I’m very fond of Finns, having spent a few days in Vegas with four young Finnish politicians. Thankfully what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but let’s just sat everyone had a great time.

Now I’m also very fond of New Zealand, and Gerry is right that in several areas New Zealand is the better performing country.

But in one key area, I’m prepared to concede that Finland is the superior country. They clearly have a more impressive armed forces.

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Brownlee v Parker

February 9th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says calling Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker a clown was “over the top” but reflects his frustration with the city council’s problems. …

In yesterday’s Christchurch Mail, Brownlee called Parker a “clown” over comments about possible rates rises in the city.

Parker told The Mail last week the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) Act allowed the Government to force the council to hike rates or sell off assets to fund the city’s recovery.

“Cera has the ability to say, `This is how you have to meet your costs, and can make us take measures such as raising rates or selling assets’,” the mayor said.

Treasury officials had made overtures to the council about a potential rates rise, Parker told The Mail.

Brownlee dismissed the remarks, saying the legislation did not allow the Government to make the council set a rate. “That’s an outrageous abdication of his responsibilities. The Cera Act specifically forbids that,” he told The Mail. 

Brownlee told The Press last night the clown remark was “probably over the top”, but was based on his frustration with Parker’s comments and the council’s problems. “We were going through a quite intense period of getting the council to recognise their responsibilities … I am sick and tired of the council running and telling people what we’re going to do.”

Ironically this will probably make Gerry more popular in Christchurch.

It seems clear the Mayor was incorrect in his comments. Having said that, the remark just adds fuel to an already difficult situation. Hopefully it won’t become a major issue.

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The new CERA chief

May 12th, 2011 at 3:06 pm by David Farrar

I was going to blog on what a good appointment this is, but I can’t do better than what John Pagani has said:

Gerry Brownlee has made an outstanding appointment by getting Orion’s Roger Sutton to take over CERA.

 He’s a hero in Christchurch. Straight up guy.

Well done Gerry on the appointment and kudos to Mr Sutton for taking on such a crucial task.
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CERA

March 29th, 2011 at 2:55 pm by David Farrar

Meanwhile as Phil Goff strengthens his leadership some more, Gerry Brownlee announced:

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the establishment of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) will provide leadership and coordination of the recovery effort following the February 22 earthquake. …

Mr Brownlee said CERA would have wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations which would be used responsibly and for clearly defined purposes related to earthquake recovery.

“These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”

He said the public could take confidence from a number of key elements of CERA’s structure:

  • a four person independent review panel to be chaired by a retired High Court judge to assess all legislative and regulatory changes CERA seeks to make;
  • a cross-party forum of local Members of Parliament to provide advice;
  • a forum of Canterbury community leaders to ensure CERA reflects issues important to local people;
  • a number of appeal rights, with appeals to be heard swiftly by the High Court; and
  • CERA will be subject to the Official Information Act.

Mr Brownlee said many of powers in the proposed CERA legislation, which will be introduced to Parliament in the coming weeks, were based on those put in place when establishing the Queensland Reconstruction Authority following the state’s devastating floods in January.

I like the idea of a review panel headed by a retired judge to vet law changes. Also the two forums for community leaders and MPs from all parties is a good idea. While there will be politics at play, I believe all parties want the same outcome – Christchurch rebuilt to better than before.

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Not a Dunne deal

March 28th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

David Williams reports in The Press:

The Government has moved into damage control after it emerged senior civil servant Martyn Dunne will not be Christchurch’s first earthquake recovery tsar.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed in a press release yesterday that Dunne would not be involved in the new government department.

The department will manage Canterbury’s recovery from the devastating February 22 earthquake.

Brownlee refused to be interviewed yesterday by The Press, including about suggestions Dunne had turned down the role because he would not work with Brownlee.

In his press release, Brownlee said Dunne had been contracted to the State Services Commission to help set up the new department and that media speculation about his role had been “premature”.

It may have been premature but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t correct. When Trans-Tasman published the name of whom they thought was taking the job, the Government said it wasn’t him within minutes.

With Dunne, his name was kept out there for several days. Hence I think one can conclude he was the preferred candidate and had been offered the job. And it is a shame he will not be doing it, as he really does have a good reputation.

However, Paul Holmes, the presenter of television current affairs show Q+A, said yesterday Dunne had “turned down the job, not wanting to work with Mr Brownlee, we understand”.

I’m not sure why Paul said that was the reason. It’s hard to judge how credible that is, without any details. Personally, I’m a bit sceptical because Gerry being the Minister in charge has been known throughout. If that was the problem, I’d expect Dunne to have said he was not interested at the first opportunity.

What might be the cause (and i am just speculating) was the proposed division of powers between the Minister and the CEO.

Regardless of the cause, it is a setback. Hopefully an appointment can still be made quickly.

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Our first Gerryorder

September 17th, 2010 at 1:12 pm by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee has made his first “gerryorder” as our Supreme Overlord. Contrary to rumours he has not jailed John Key and given himself the keys to the Treasury.

His gerryorder#1 extends Civil Defence powers until 29 November 2010. Specifically it maintains (despite the state of emergency being over) their ability to:

  • evacuate, and to exclude persons or vehicles from, premises and places (including public places)
  • enter on, and if necessary break into, premises and places
  • make available prohibitions or restrictions on public access, with or without vehicles, to roads and public places
  • make available powers to remove (and if necessary for that purpose to use force or break into) aircraft, vessels, vehicles
  • make available powers to requisition property
  • make available powers to direct or request persons to stop certain activities or to take certain actions
  • make available powers to examine, mark, seize, sample, secure, disinfect, or destroy any property, animal, or any other thing

The Supreme Overlord denies that he will be ordering the compulsory disinfecting of Opposition MPs in Canterbury.

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Clifton on Parliament

May 27th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jane Clifton writes:

It’s probably safe to say that yesterday was the first time in history – possibly anywhere in the world – that a male Speaker of Parliament has found it necessary to defend his masculinity before the House.

Speaker Lockwood Smith’s unexpected intervention came after Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, unconsciously reverting to a habit formed when Margaret Wilson was speaker of the last Parliament, referred to him as “Madam Speaker”. Dr Smith boggled somewhat, but politely waited until Mr Brownlee had finished his answer – which Mr Brownlee clearly considered to be a particularly witty riposte to pesky questions from the Greens – before asserting his manhood.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone except Dr Smith had noticed the garbled “Madam”, so the general air of shock can be imagined when he suddenly announced to Mr Brownlee: “I need to assure him that I have never had a sex change.”

MPs turned agape to Dr Smith, while a staggered Mr Brownlee struggled with his composure, clearly trying to think how his clever answer about mining could have been interpreted as a slur on the Speaker’s gender.

“I expect not!” he said, floundering. “Or there would have been a statement to Parliament.”

“It’s just that I’m not Madam Speaker,” Dr Smith explained, to everyone’s relief.

Heh classic.

You can see it below on the video from In the House. I have to say I think In the House is a world class service. Being able to find and embed videos from the House within a few hours of proceedings in Parliament is excellent.

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Gerry on mining

April 6th, 2010 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee has an op ed in the Herald on mining. Good to see the Government front footing this to put thiings in context:

Try going a day without any goods or services that don’t require or depend on a product that has been mined.

From your inner-spring mattress to your car (or even your bike), computer, cellphone and medical equipment; the activities that make up our day and enhance our lives are in most cases only possible because someone, somewhere, has mined something.

A good point.

Many New Zealanders will not know that mining already makes a sizeable contribution to our economy. Mining in 2008 was a $2 billion industry and contributed $1.1 billion to exports.

Including oil and gas, the mining industry employs around 6000 people – and those jobs are highly productive and highly paid, relative to other sectors of the economy.

Mining is an important part of regional economies such as the West Coast and the Coromandel.

The Government is currently borrowing around $240 million a week and we have more than 100,000 people unemployed. The tradables sector of the economy has been in recession for the past five years.

That is unsustainable and the Government accepts the challenge of improving our economy and living standards.

Labour have already pledged to lower our living standards by cancelling any mining permits on reclassified land if they get elected.

We are therefore proposing to open up to possible mining just 7058ha of land that is currently protected in Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act.

That is only 0.2 per cent of all the land that is protected in Schedule Four, and it is a tiny amount compared with our total land area.

If prospecting that land showed potential for mining, it’s likely no more than 500ha of the 7058ha would actually be mined. That’s less than the size of the average sheep or beef farm in New Zealand.

But the economic return on that land is many times greater than any sheep, beef or dairy farm.

What I would like to see is an economic analysis for each site proposed in the consultation. I don’t think one can generalise over all sites.

Some people argue that New Zealand would not see any benefit from increased mining and that all the profits go overseas.

Yet the largest mining company in the country, Solid Energy, is 100 per cent state-owned. All its profits go straight towards spending on government services. There are also many New Zealand-owned mining companies active on New Zealand land.

The average ownership structure of resources companies listed on the NZX is 57 per cent New Zealand and 43 per cent overseas ownership. Others that are fully overseas-owned pay both company tax and royalties in New Zealand.

Some argue that the royalties from mineral mining are small, meaning it’s not worth it for New Zealand. But royalties are just an added bonus from mining.

The real benefits from mining are the jobs created and economic activity generated inside the country. That activity generates company tax revenue for the Government as well as economic growth.

This is the data I want to see though, to make a sensible decision. Not just an estimate of mineral wealth, but a range of projections for what mining in a specific area will do for job creation, royalty revenue, tax revenue, increased local consumption, and impacts on the trade deficit, the current account deficit and the level of crown debt.

Now of course it will be ballpark figures as such an early stage, but even that would be good.

Many New Zealanders are rightly concerned about protecting our natural environment and some say mining is inconsistent with that goal. The Government shares this concern and we will make sure any mining on conservation land in New Zealand is done responsibly and carefully.

Mines in New Zealand are subject to strict environmental tests. The higher the conservation value of the land concerned, the stricter the test. That fact will rule out open-cast mines on Schedule Four land.

Modern mining is totally different from its image in the past. Companies are required to rehabilitate the land after they leave and mitigate the effects of their activities as much as possible.

It is worth stressing that point – removing Schedule 4 protection is not an automatic licence to mine. It merely allows an application to be made that goes through the normal RMA process.

The Government believes a small increase in responsible mining could contribute to our goal of improving the economy’s performance and providing high-value jobs.

We want to hear what Kiwis are thinking. I encourage people to have their say by making submissions on the discussion document that you can find at www.med.govt.nz/schedule4.

Don’t complain about a decision, if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to have your say. If you support greater mining – say so. If you are opposed to any change to Schedule 4, also say so. If you are in favour for some areas, but not others again have your say.

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