Pupil power

September 2nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Who said school rules can’t be changed?

The Waikouaiti School board of trustees has thrown out one of its longstanding school rules after two of its pupils presented a convincing case to the board.

Tamati Sagar and Aaron Jones (both 10) love climbing trees, but the practice is banned for safety reasons.

The duo surveyed all the school’s parents and found about 90% of them were in favour of allowing their children to climb trees during break times.

The boys prepared a pie chart on their findings and presented it to the board of trustees and school staff.

Board members were so impressed they relaxed the school rule three weeks ago, and children are now enjoying the freedom to climb trees in the playground.

Great to see aspiring pollsters doing well!

But also great to see a little less nanny state applying at a school. Kids have accidents as part of having fun. The risk should not prevent them having fun.

I recall there was a little fort in a tree at Island Bay Primary School. One of the 4x2s fell off and landed on my head. It hurt and there was a fair bit of blood, but no one said we should ban tree forts. The answer was just to make them more secure!


A cheaper way to increase cycling

August 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte announced:

“The National party yesterday announced a $100 million cycle-way that just happens to go through the marginal seat of Hutt South,” said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“The Greens want to spend many hundreds of millions on cycle-ways. ACT’s contribution to this bidding war for the cyclist vote would double cycle use and cost nothing,” said Dr Whyte.

“We need only abolish the law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory. Since 1994, when Parliament established an instant fine of $150 for failing to wear a helmet, cycling has declined by over 50%. Overseas experience also indicates that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet dramatically reduce cycling.

In fact a study from The Netherlands found that not having a compulsory helmet law has led to much higher levels of bike use.

“This nanny state law does not even save lives,” said Dr Whyte.

“On the contrary, it costs lives. Before the legislation, few people died from cycling accidents and, of those who did, only 20% died from head injuries alone.”

“Research reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal (see http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2012/vol-125-no-1349/article-clarke) shows that, over a 10 year period, only 20 Aucklanders were killed in cycle accidents and only 4 might have been saved by wearing cycle helmets. This same New Zealand Medical Journal article concluded that life years gained from the health benefits of cycling outweighed life years lost in accidents by 20 times” said Dr Whyte.

This is what The Netherlands study found also.

“The diminished health resulting from the reduced cycling caused by compulsory helmet-wearing costs 53 premature deaths a year. ACT would simply abolish the $150 fine for not wearing a helmet. That would save $100 million on cycle-ways in marginal seats, double cycle use and save 53 lives a year,”  said Dr Whyte.

I’d do both.

Note there is a huge difference between saying helmets should not be compulsory, and saying that people should not wear them.

One day I suspect someone will try and mae helmets compulsory for skiing!

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Prohibition in Bhutan

June 28th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Christoper Snowden writes how in 2005 Bhutan banned tobacco sales:

Bhutan’s government enforced the tobacco ban with remorseless vigour using the full apparatus of a despotic state. Nevertheless, a 2011 study found a thriving black market and widespread tobacco use in all its forms.

Prohibition failed with alcohol. It has failed with drugs. It has failed for several thousand years with prostitution. Yet some people think prohibition will succeed with tobacco!

The PM of Bhutan said in 2012:

the simple fact that prohibition has never worked and will not work. That’s why a black market quickly (and effectively) established itself in spite of the draconian provisions of the existing Act. That’s why, in the year since the Tobacco Control Act came into effect, many people took their chances despite the stiff sentences in it. Of the many, 84 people got caught. And of them, 39 people have already been sent to jail. 

So they jailed people for selling tobacco, yet it still didn’t work.

Bhutan’s second parliament is likely to set the history of ‘ban lift’ as it takes steps to do so one after another. Very recently the country lifted ban on import of furniture [!!! – CJS] and alcohol.
Now the country’s Upper House resolves that ban on import of tobacco must end. In a majority resolution on Monday (3 February 2014), the house said ban on import and sale of tobacco products must end to control the black market.
They tried prohibition. It failed. yet in NZ public health advocates say we should ban sugar, ban pies, ban sodas over a certain size, ban RTDs etc.
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Now they want plain packaging for fizzy drinks

May 31st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

The statistics have sparked debate on whether plain packaging for sugary food products should be introduced, like that being argued for tobacco products.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast, Auckland University marketing expert Dr Mike Lee says plain packaging for sugary drinks could come into play over the next ten years.

The proposal for plain packaging for tobacco products has caused an uproar with concerns it could spill over into fast food and alcohol products, says Mr Lee.

“There is the worry from companies that we are going to become more and more of a nanny state,” he told the programme.

That is the game plan. Anything they disapprove of will be banned, or plain packaged.

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Why does Labour think gambling is bad?

February 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard has said:

New Zealanders are the fourth biggest gamblers per head of population in the world – a shameful figure that Peter Dunne must take action to remedy, says Labour’s Internal Affairs spokesperson Trevor Mallard.

Why is that shameful?

If we were the 4th biggest spenders on coffee in the world, would that be shameful?

Around 0.3% to 1.8% of the population are problem gamblers. But that doesn’t mean all gambling is harmful, and that NZers spending a lot of money on gambling is bad.

80% of the population do enjoy buying a lotto ticket, taking part in raffles, the odd bet at the TAB, a night out at a casino, playing some pokies at a pub, sports betting at the TAB etc, and are not problem gamblers

Does Labour now regard all the enjoyment several million NZers get from gambling as shameful?

It is quite legitimate to say we should reduce the level of gambling harm. It is nanny state paternalism to however condemn all gambling as shameful and claim that NZers overall should be spending less.

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Ryall says no to nanny state

December 16th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand is getting fatter – with three in every 10 adults now regarded as obese.

A leading diabetes researcher has called the new figures alarming and has accused the Government of failing to take the problem seriously.

However, Health Minister Tony Ryall has rejected “nanny state” measures, instead arguing that providing information and support to people is enough.

“In the end, the Government can pass all the laws it likes but unless people eat less and exercise more, things won’t change,” Mr Ryall said yesterday in response to the new figures.

Exactly. The Government’s role is to inform and support, not dictate and ban.

The Government focus for new nutrition programmes has been on mothers and babies. It is also spending more on screening for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and on providing more “green prescriptions”, in which GPs and nurses encourage patients to get more exercise and improve their diet. Some health advocates have called for more radical action, including taxing sugary drinks and fatty foods.

The one and only fat tax implemented in the world was a disaster that was scrapped after barely a year. But that doesn’t stop the advocates.

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Beware the regulation

December 2nd, 2013 at 7:43 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

In themselves, the Government’s proposed amendments to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act contain a reasonable degree of common sense. What can be wrong with changes that aim to reduce the risk of children drowning? And if the new law would mean even portable or inflatable pools need to be fenced off, isn’t it right to encourage parents to adopt best practice and empty them after each use?

The only problem is that the proposal is a further sign of a Government regulatory itch that is now of eczematous proportion.

A fair point.

Regulation appeals to governments because it is the easiest response to a problem. But each affects people’s freedom in some way. At their worst, regulations can also skew patterns of investment and the use of economic resources. That is why any government is right to question whether a planned restriction is strictly necessary. And if one is implemented, it should watch it in practice, not least for unintended consequences, and continue to ask if it is justified.

The Government should, therefore, be asking if changes to the swimming pool legislation are necessary when the most stringent fencing will not save young children from all potential water hazards. Many pools are, after all, not far from beaches or lakes, which cannot be barricaded in the way that private pools are meant to be.

Kids can drown in baths. Maybe we should require baths to be fenced off. Also maybe Councils should have to fence off all streams, rivers and lakes. And kids have been known to fall down drains, so perhaps we need to fence off all drains as well.

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Now paddling pools need to be fenced off!!

November 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Parents with inflatable paddling pools could face $500 fines if they ignore council orders to fence them off or empty them after use under proposed rules to be unveiled today.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson will announce changes to the 1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act which, if passed next year, will introduce a new enforcement regime, including $500 fines for those who don’t fence off their pools properly.

The new law will mean any pool where the water is more than 30cm deep – even portable and inflatable – will need to be fenced off.

I can understand fences for permanent pools. But do you have to construct a fence when you have the paddling pool out for a couple of days? Ridiculous.

Officials estimate there are about 60,000 portable pools that will be affected. The Government hopes the changes will encourage parents to adopt “best practice” and empty and store portable pools after each use.

It will encourage 60,000 parents to get rid of their paddling pools.


Paddling pool nuttiness

November 28th, 2013 at 10:30 am by Jadis

The Herald reports that homeowners may be fined $500 for no fencing around paddling pools of a depth of 30cm or more.

As a parent I have a few questions about this interesting new development:

To meet the fencing requirements what is the cost to fence versus the cost of a paddling pool?  I bought a pool last week for $30.  It now requires a fence and a gate.  The fence will cost more than the pool.  Water is one of life’s cheapest toys.  We also run the risk of water shortages if people choose instead to empty the pool each time it is used – but I am guessing that unintended consequence was never assessed.

Why isn’t a full perimeter fence around a home enough?  Surely I get to decide which children get to come into my property.  They have parents too who can decide whether it is OK to come into my property.

What happened to personal and parental responsibility? I choose to supervise my children (and their friends) when they are in the pool.  Good parents and responsible adults do that – as do those who are responsible parents at the public swimming pool, the river or the beach.

Should we fence off the sea and our rivers and lakes too?

Of the six children who die each decade, how many die because of poor supervision? And how many die in paddling pools versus permanent pools, lakes, ponds, buckets etc?

Yes, it is important we keep our children safe but there needs to be a bit of reality in our policy making.  I don’t want children to die but I do believe we need balance in policy making.

There is another option – we could educate our own children on the dangers of water, teach them to swim and recognise that good parents generally supervise their children in all circumstances and assess the dangers of all situations?  What’s next?  All dishwashing powder must be in a special lock box because children can ingest and get very very ill?  I had better not give them too many ideas.

*Yep, another post by Jadis so don’t all freak out that DPF could be a parent.



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$5 million to tell us kids see lots of adverts

November 9th, 2013 at 11:31 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand children will wear cameras in a world-first study to monitor the daily advertising bombardment of junk food and other unhealthy products.

More than 200 schoolchildren will be equipped with tiny video cameras that they will carry for a year.

The study follows a pilot survey that revealed an assault of promotions on billboards, shelters, dairies and the back of buses.

Researchers hope the results will be used to help formulate health policy in a country where the obesity rate among children aged between 5 and 11 jumped from 8 to 11 per cent in just six years.

With 99.9% confidence I can predict the proposed policy will be to ban advertising of foods that our health overlords deem bad for us.

Part of a $5 million collaborative programme between Otago University and Victoria University researchers, the study will produce millions of images to be analysed using a computer algorithm.

$5 million to produce shock horror headlines that kids see 27,526 advertisements a year for food, and the inevitable conclusion than advertising of non-approved foods must be banned.

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Now they want plain packaging for food!

July 17th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

GRAPHIC images and plain packaging for junk food may be forced on consumers, as food industry heavyweights debate tough measures to combat obesity.

A panel of food science, nutrition and manufacturing experts will tackle whether tobacco’s plain packaging approach would help curb the state’s growing obesity epidemic at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology convention today.

This is my concern over proposed plain packaging for tobacco. It sets a precedent that will be used in other areas such as alcohol and then food.

In New Zealand, Otago University professor of marketing Janet Hoek said tobacco use there had halved since the introduction of policies to restrict the way plain packaging was marketed.

But we don’t have plain packaging for tobacco implemented in NZ, so crediting it for a halving of the smoking rate is preposterous.

She called on the NZ Government to do the same for junk food, telling the New Zealand Herald“it makes sense to examine the potential these policies could have in reducing consumption of foods associated with obesity”.

Why not just have the state decide what foods we’re allowed to buy, what portion size is acceptable and have them deliver the approved foods to us every week?

UPDATE: The Australian it seems misreported Professor Hoek, and their article now says “tobacco use there had halved since the introduction of policies to restrict the way it was marketed”.

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Labour’s next policy after the man ban?

July 8th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Jewish News reports:

The Left Party, a political party made up of socialists and feminists, in the County Sormland, Sweden, is pushing for making standing urination for men, illegal, for those who use public restrooms of the Provincial Government.

Why you wonder?

Party officials are pushing for the installation of sitting only toilets in men’s restrooms.

Local supporters of the proposal said they feel that sitting only urination is more hygienic and promotes male health. This will help eliminate the problem of puddles on the floor and spray stains in toilets. They also argue that urinating while sitting will help promote men’s health because it allows men to empty the bladder more effectively. Sitting urination according to advocates reduce prostate problems in men.

Men must not use urinals! They are bad for you!

I await this policy being adopted in New Zealand.


Mandatory scooter helmets

June 13th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A ten-fold increase in the number of children seriously injuring themselves on push scooters has sparked a call for a law change that would see youngsters made to wear helmets while riding.

Push scooters have become increasingly popular with school-age children over the past two years but the rise has seen a corresponding increase in the number of scooter-related injury claims for children up to 14 years old.

ACC figures show the number of claims has risen from 697 in 2008 to 6474 last year.

The increase has alarmed child safety group Safekids, which is campaigning for the introduction of a compulsory helmet law for scooter users.

That would be a good way to kill off scooter use all together.

Why stop there. Let’s pass a law saying it is illegal to allow kids to go outdoors unless they are wearing a full body suit to protect them from dogs, falls etc?

Ministry of Transport land transport safety manager Leo Mortimer said it was unlikely that legislation would be changed.

“In the same way that we have not considered compulsory helmets for skateboarders.

Don’t give them ideas!

“Scooter riders must comply with all the rules applying to other road users, however, unlike cyclists, they don’t need to wear a helmet or use a light at night.”

No lights? Scooters must be fitted with lights. Also we must ban using a cellphone on a scooter. And eating lollipops whil scooting.



Kid’s play

May 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A misguided health and safety culture is threatening to render children’s play meaningless, early childhood providers are to be warned.

The United Kingdom-based founder of Outdoor Play and Learning (Opal), Michael Follett, says a “policy of fear” has reshaped play to the extent that children are losing out on vital learning.

“You are taking away their ability to learn through primary, first-hand experience, which is how children actually learn.

“They need to fall over, they need to cut themselves, have bumps and bruises.

“If you over-protect, they don’t learn resilience.”

So very true.

Mr Follett, who is a board member of advocacy group Play England, said the situation in the UK had become ridiculous.

“People are saying tree roots are dangerous … “

As a father of three, he said, he understood nobody wanted to see children hurt.

“Some of the health and safety stuff came from a genuine response to children getting killed and seriously hurt, and that is very sensible. But what’s not sensible is the idea that you can eliminate risk.”

The focus should be on the high end stuff. I think you need a resource consent today to build a tree hut!

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They want the soda size limit here also

March 15th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Martin Johnston at NZ Herald reports:

Obesity experts in New Zealand are dismayed at the legal clamp slapped on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s law to ban super-sized sugary soft drinks in restaurants.

They should have a large soda to drown their sorrows.

His law would have limited cups of sugary soft drinks sold at restaurants, cinemas and other food service establishments to 453ml.

That is approaching close to two standard measuring cups (500ml) and is well short of the large and super-sized sugar drinks sold in New Zealand fast-food shops.

McDonald’s “large” soft drinks contain 651ml and the biggest offering at Wendy’s is around 1200ml, although Wendy’s says it doesn’t sell many of these mega-drinks.

How evil. They must be banned, along with large easter eggs.

Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokeswoman Dr Robyn Toomath said it was a great shame the mayor’s bid to help halt the growth of New Yorkers’ waistlines had been thwarted.

Yes it is a great shame that human beings have been allowed to choose for themselves what size drink they want. We must protect them from themselves.


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Nanny state charging ahead

March 12th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A terrifying op ed in the NY Daily News by a Marion Nestle:

Barring any late legal surprises, Mayor Bloomberg’s 16-ounce cap on sugary sodas goes into effect on Tuesday, March 12. After that, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and food carts will not be permitted to sell extra-large portions of sugar-packed drinks.

Stay calm. This does not signal the end of democracy in America. This is not the nanny state gone out of control.

Actually is is the precise definition of nanny state out of control.

If we want Americans to be healthy, we are going to have to take actions like this – and many more – and do so soon. It’s long past time to tax sugar soda, crack down further on what gets sold in our schools, tackle abusive marketing practices, demand a redesign of labels – and extend the soda cap, no matter how controversial it may seem. This must be the beginning, not the end, of efforts toward a healthier America.

Be scared, be very scared

I’m amazed she doesn’t just advocate making soda drinks illegal.

The soda size cap is a nudge in that direction. You will still be able to drink all the soda, and down all the sugar, that you want. The cap on soda size makes it just a tiny bit harder for you to do so.

That “tiny bit harder” is its point. If you have to order two sodas instead of one, maybe you won’t. If you have to add sugar to your coffee drink yourself, maybe you will only add one or two teaspoons instead of the 10 or more someone else put in there for you.

Oh, so she also wants it to be illegal to sell coffee with sugar in it?

So-called “nanny-state” measures – like bans on driving while drunk, smoking in public places and, now, selling absurdly large sugary drinks – help to level the playing field. Such measures are about giving everyone an equal opportunity to live a safer and healthier life.

Again, she can’t see any difference between measures about preventing harm to others (killing people while drink driving, passive smoking effects) and measures to control how people live their own lives.

Fix the price differential. A 7.5-ounce can of soda costs twice as much per ounce as a two-liter bottle, and you can’t buy just one; it comes in an 8-pack. Price determines sales. If a 16-ounce soda costs a dollar, a 32-ounce soda should cost two dollars.

They should also abolish large chocolate bars being not the same price per kg as small chocolate bars. In fact let’s just regulate all food pricing. No volume discounts for any food except broccoli.

Actions like these will evoke ferocious opposition from the soda industry, and it will spare no expense to make sure such things never happen. We would surely hear more and more howls of “nanny-state” from those who insist Bloomberg has led us to the brink of a public health police state. Polls say that many New Yorkers oppose the 16-ounce cap and would oppose measures like this, too.

But I can’t tell whether the opposition comes from genuine concern about limits on personal choice or because soda companies have spent millions of dollars to protect their interests and gin up histrionic, misinformed opposition.

That’s easy. Its is genuine concern about personal choice – something that the author seems to regard as having no weight at all.

Hat Tip: Eric Crampton

UPDATE: Great news. A Judge has invalidated the ban on large soda drinks. The NY Post reports:

“[The city] is enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling ruled.

The judge said Bloomberg and the Board of Health overstepped their bounds, to enforce rules that should be established by the legislative bodies.

“The rule would not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it,” Tingling wrote. “Such an evisceration has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened drinks.”

“It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on suspect grounds, and the loopholes inherent in the rule, including but not limited to no limitations on refills, defeat and/or serve to gut the purpose of the rule,” Tingling wrote.

The regulations are “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences,” the judge wrote.

A defeat for the nanny statists. But they will try again and again.

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Nanny New York

February 26th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar



The New York Post reports:

Nanny Bloomberg unleashes his ban on large sodas on March 12 — and there are some nasty surprises lurking for hardworking families.

Say goodbye to that 2-liter bottle of Coke with your pizza delivery, pitchers of soft drinks at your kid’s birthday party and some bottle-service mixers at your favorite nightclub.

They’d violate Mayor Bloomberg’s new rules, which prohibit eateries from serving or selling sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.

Absolute fucking madness.

This is what some taxpayer funded lobby groups push for in New Zealand. It isn’t the thin end of the wedge – it is the thick end.

Typically, a pizzeria charges $3 for a 2-liter bottle of Coke. But under the ban, customers would have to buy six 12-ounce cans at a total cost of $7.50 to get an equivalent amount of soda.

Imagine how many cans you will need to drink 10 litres a day!

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Pets in bars and cafes

January 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rachel Young at Stuff reports:

Bar and restaurant owners may soon be able to decide whether dogs are allowed on their premises.

The Food Bill, now before Parliament, would give proprietors the right to choose whether man’s best friend was welcome or not.

The Food Hygiene Regulations 1974 say that “no animal is permitted” on premises where food is prepared or sold.

However, some Christchurch hospitality operators spoken to took a relaxed approach to the rules, welcoming dogs on to their premises as long as they did not cause trouble.

A spokesman for Primary Industries Minister David Carter said the bill, which would replace the regulations and the Food Act 1981, would require operators to take responsibility for food safety in a way that was appropriate for their businesses.

“Obviously they will need to keep unwanted animals out of their restaurants, and especially the kitchens and food-handling areas, but in many cases there will be little risk to food safety if, for example, pet dogs are allowed into outdoor dining areas.”

James Jameson, owner of the St Asaph St Kitchen and Stray Dog Bar, said business owners should make their own decisions.

Absolutely. I was unaware they were banned. I think some bars that get known as pet friendly could do very well commercially.

Good to see the law change to focus on the outcome (hygiene) and not be overly prescriptive on how it is achieved.


Oh please ….

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

Stuff reports:

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said there was a fine line between being overzealous and exercising caution.

She wanted a government body to investigate how a mental health patient managed to walk along a 192-metre-high Sky Tower platform over the weekend.

“I think the appropriate response should still involve a government department taking an interest because adventure tourism, and tourism generally, is so important to the New Zealand economy.”

I’m sorry but what nonsense. The Sky Tower near-suicide is in a totally different category to the ballooning tragedy where there was a failure on the part of operators.

The man involved was a customer and removed his harness and threatened to jump. To paint this as a safety issue is ridiculous. It is a mental health issue. Calling for an inquiry is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The Herald editorial also goes down this path:

SkyCity and the company that runs the SkyWalk adventure on its tower have said very little since the incident on Saturday when a disturbed man paced the platform for five hours threatening to jump. There is not much anybody can say for the organisation that allowed this to happen.

The company’s director said it was reviewing its systems to see “whether there can be any improvements made to our systems to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future”. There had better be improvements. The organisers must find a foolproof solution if the platform is to be reopened for these attractions.

That should not be hard.

Nobody should be able to get outside the tower for the SkyWalk or the controlled SkyJump unless they are in a safety harness they cannot remove. There is no conceivable sensible need for customers to be able to release themselves from the harness once they are on the narrow platform 192m above the street.

The precautions seem so obvious they might have been assumed to be in force.

I’m sorry, but again this is raving bonkers. The Herald is saying that people should be padlocked into a safety harness? Why not handcuff them so they can’t try and remove it? Or use straitjackets?

By this logic, we should ban pedestrians from bridges, in case a mentally ill person tries to jump from one.

And all office buildings over one story in height must have windows which are unable to be opened in case anyone tries to get out of one.

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Weight and death

January 5th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Obese most likely to die early but those classed as overweight have better survival rate.

For older people, body weight could be a positive sign of being well-nourished. Photo / Getty Images

Overweight people have surprisingly beaten out your normal Joe Average on the mortality scale, a statistical survey of medical studies has shown – despite a well-established link between weight and sickness.

When talking of health, “death is a rather crude tool”, said Auckland District Health Board clinical director Robyn Toomath, who is sceptical of the paper.

Death may be a crude tool, but it is a pretty important one. It is one that public health advocates use all the time in campaigns about the dangers of smoking for example (which I agree with them on).

The best way to reduce public health costs for the country was still to help people eat healthy and stay slim, by restricting the marketing and value of junk foods or promoting nutritious foods, she said.

No, the best way for people to stay slim is for them to eat less and exercise more. Nanny state policies to “restrict” the marketing of certain foods should be resisted at every stage.


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Iceland Nanny State

January 4th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Call her the girl with no name.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named.

In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment.

Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

How ridiculous. An approved list of names and a special committee that can decide on exceptions.

I’m not against the state having a power to refuse very offensive names that would harm a child, such as if someone tried to call their child “fuck me” or “bitch”. But the default position should be any name at all is allowed, unless judged harmful. Having a list of “approved” names is just bureaucratic nonsense.

On his thirtieth birthday, he bought a full-page advertisement that read, “From February 1, 2006, I hereby change my name to Curver Thoroddsen. I ask the nation, my friends and colleagues to respect my decision.”

“I can understand a clause to protect children from being named something like ‘Dog poo,’ but it is strange that an adult cannot change his name to what he truly wants,” he said.


Talking of names, DIA has the list of most popular names in 2012. Olivia and Jack No 1. Noah was No 10!

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Cycle helmets

October 9th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NYT Sunday Review:

One common denominator of successful bike programs around the world — from Paris to Barcelona to Guangzhou — is that almost no one wears a helmet, and there is no pressure to do so.

In the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God’s truth. Un-helmeted cyclists are regarded as irresponsible, like people who smoke. Cities are aggressive in helmet promotion.

But many European health experts have taken a very different view: Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury. But such falls off bikes are rare — exceedingly so in mature urban cycling systems.

On the other hand, many researchers say, if you force or pressure people to wear helmets, you discourage them from riding bicycles. That means more obesity, heart disease and diabetes. And — Catch-22 — a result is fewer ordinary cyclists on the road, which makes it harder to develop a safe bicycling network. The safest biking cities are places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where middle-aged commuters are mainstay riders and the fraction of adults in helmets is minuscule.

That’s one anti-obesity measure I’d agree with – remove the legislative requirement to wear a cycle helmet or get fined.

I note helmets are becoming more common on ski fields. I dread the day when some official or NGO proposes making them compulsory.

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No compulsory medicating of bread

September 3rd, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Kate Wilkinson announced last week:

The fortification of bread with folic acid will remain voluntary, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson announced today.

A thorough eight-week public consultation process by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) resulted in 134 submissions, of which 88 supported voluntary instead of mandatory fortification.

“In making my decision in favour of voluntary fortification, I read all the submissions and the clear message is that people want choice,” Ms Wilkinson says.

I am pleased with this decision. Personally I hope bakers decide to include folic acid in the bread they sell, but it has to be a choice. Any other decision could have been a slippery slope.

Women’s red blood folate levels have increased in the past few years under the existing voluntary fortification. Between 2008 and 2011 the level of women with blood folate levels that put them at risk of having a neural tube defect (NTD) affected pregnancy has nearly halved.

“Folic acid plays an important role in reducing NTDs in babies, but fortification of bread is only one part of a wider package of initiatives.”

We encourage parents in New Zealand to vaccinate their children, but we don’t make it compulsory.  This is in keeping with that tradition.

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Thank God they saw sense

June 25th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Iain Lees-Galloway blogs at Red Alert:

National’s irrational fear of being tagged with the ‘Nanny State’ label they successfully over-hyped against Labour has just jumped the shark.

3 News reported tonight that optics man Steven Joyce pulled a last minute flip-flop on making life jackets compulsory on small boats.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges, sounding like he was on morphine, gave National’s reasoning as not wanting to over-regulate.

What the hell? We have tragedies like  this happening all the time because our laws are inadequate and wearing of life jackets is unenforceable.

Oh my God, I can’t believe that Labour wants to have water police motoring around and fining people for not having a life jacket on at all times.

Having life jackets on board at all times is essential. But making it compulsory to wear them at all times would  be a step too far.

I recall the last time I went out fishing. It was a beautiful day as we caught fish, cooked the fish and ate it. I also dived off the boat and swam around a bit before coming back on to dry off in the sun. Having to have a life jacket on at all times, would have seriously got in the way of fishing and sun bathing. As adults we made the decision that the boat was sturdy enough (close to the 6 metre limit for the proposed law) and the conditions calm enough that it would be ridiculous over-kill to be wearing life jackets. If I was in a two metre dinghy on a stormy choppy day, then I would wear one. It is called judging the conditions.

Yes it is sad when people die at sea. But going to sea always has an element of risk. Swimming at the beach is bloody risky also sometimes. I do not want to live in a society when the only goal of the Government is to eliminate risk, at the expense of choice and enjoyment.

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Unintended consequences

February 10th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Shabham Dastgheib at Stuff reports:

The mandatory bicycle helmet law has cut the number of cyclists in half and contributed to 53 premature deaths per year, new research says.

The research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, found a 51 per cent drop in the average hours cycled per person from the 1989-90 period when compared to 2006-09.

Colin Clarke, the honorary secretary of the Yorkshire Region’s Cyclists Touring Club in England who produced the research, has worked as a safety instructor and cycled in more than 20 countries including about 8000 kms in New Zealand.

Clarke estimates the 1994 law has translated to about 53 premature deaths per year (through adverse health effects from not cycling) and promotes discrimination in accident compensation.

He said safety should be improved through policies supporting health, the environment, and without the legal requirement to wear a helmet.

I actually think people have the right to risk themselves. Hence they can bungy jump, climb mountains, swim, work as salvors etc. That right should extend to wearing no helmet while cycling, and no seatbelt while driving.

With cycling, people should be able to judge for themselves whether the extra enjoyment they get from cycling without a helmet outweighs the probability of more severe damage if they crash. If you cycle 10 hours a week, and you have say only a 5% chance of a serious crash over your cycling life, then it is may be a reasonable decision to not wear a helmet.

Now some may argue that the decision is not one of people’s rights to take risks, but an economic one. That as we have a socialised health system, we should force people to minimise their chances of disease and injury, as otherwise we end up having to pay for their bad choices.

I have some sympathy for that argument, but it can be slippery end of the slope. You could use economics to justify making condoms compulsory for sex to reduce the prevalence of STDs.

But this story above, is a nice reminder that even if you do accept the economic argument to reduce risk by say banning cycling without a helmet, you run the risk of unintended consequences. In this case, the unintended consequence is alleged to be fewer people are cycling, and hence unhealthier, which has actually led to more premature deaths and a greater cost to the economy.

This is another reason why we should be extremely reluctant to interfere with people’s personal choices. You may have the best of motivations, but you don’t know what the impact will be.

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