Latest poll

The latest Newshub Reid Research poll:

  • Labour 52.7% (+6.9% from Oct 2020 poll)
  • National 27% (-4.1%)
  • Greens 7.1% (+0.8%)
  • ACT 6.9% (-0.5%)
  • Maori 1.2% (+0.6%)

In terms of seats, it would be:

  • Labour 65 (+1 from election)
  • National 34 (+1)
  • Greens 9 (-1)
  • ACT 9 (-1)
  • Maori 2 (nc)

Preferred PM:

  • Jacinda Ardern 48.1% (-4.5% from Oct 2020 poll)
  • John Key 6.7%
  • Judith Collins 5.6% (-12.8%)
  • Christopher Luxon 2.4%

Note it is usual for the Opposition Leader to drop after an election, compared to during the election campaign.

We may run out of vaccines!

Newsroom reports:

Ministers and officials have flagged the possibility the vaccine rollout could falter in June – despite engineering it to avoid that very thing

As of Sunday evening, New Zealand had around 378,000 Pfizer vaccines available for use. That surged to more than 400,000 with the delivery of 60,840 doses a few days later.

This marked only the second week that vaccine stocks had fallen since the rollout began. Two weeks ago, we had more than 450,000 unused doses in frozen storage.

We may run out, and we have only fully vaccinated 2.5% of the population! By comparison Israel has done 59%, Chile 38%, US 35%, England 28% and Singapore 22%.

Guest Post: Productivity

A guest post from a reader:

From time to time some well-meaning and probably very intelligent and able person bemoans the failure of New Zealanders to improve their productivity. Some time ago, puzzled by this, I contacted a statistician to find out whether it really was possible to measure this very nice word, as the people who wring their hands about it aren’t statisticians. His answer was that it is a very difficult thing to measure, and that is what I thought, and still think. It may even be impossible to measure accurately.

The way I see things is that we are bathing in if not wallowing in ongoing improvements in productivity that we often have no choice but to employ, and otherwise can choose whether or not we employ them. In my working life, in my personal life, in my observation of social life, dramatic changes and improvements in productivity have been all around me, thrust on me. It just seems bizarre to be told otherwise.

Here are some trivial examples, chosen precisely because they are trivial. 1) My car. It was once necessary to have a warrant of fitness check every six months, but improvements in motor vehicles now mean I only need to do this once a year. This means the expense and time involved whether or not repairs are needed are roughly halved. But not only that, the time thinking about it is reduced from twice a year to once. That may be trivial for me, but multiplied by the team of five million it’s actually non-trivial, and in my case it means I can think about something else entirely instead and this may be quite earth-shaking. 

2) Not only that but my rego notice comes through email. I can pay online. The poor old Post Office only gets one opportunity to deliver something related to this once a year instead of three times (letter to me telling me to renew, letter from me including cheque, letter to me with rego). The PO may get a slight boost from being the agency for in person payments but. . .well, you must get the idea. These are very small beer factors in a universe swimming in productivity improvement. 

I worked in journalism for about a quarter century. When I started there were banks of reporters and subeditors using typewriters and carbon paper. When I retired the newsroom where I worked had two rows of subs at one end and two rows of reporters at the other of a vast space once filled with workers. Measuring that is not easy but I know that going from a typewriter to the Atex system on a computer multiplied my output many times. 

Today the print media is mostly online, and there is a great range of copy available. Where once it was pretty much a duopoly there are many choices, some free, some subscription. Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” has been at work; the new technology is cannibalising the old. 

And it seems to me pretty obvious that what has been true of that profession is generally true. 

Everywhere we look just about changes in productivity make our lives different and for the most part sez your admittedly unworthy correspondent, better. New Zealanders are “early adopters” of new technology for the most part, at least as consumers, and “early adoption” means improved productivity, even if it is not the productivity employees, employers or businesses or others (teachers, for example) might like. We can be confronted by these improvements too. They may challenge us, but we accept them in the end.

It is true I am not young. But look – virtually everyone living today will experience the entire life cycle of productivity improvements. In my case this includes the fax machine, the video cassette, the sound cassette, the CD-Rom, the electronic typewriter, certain diseases*, and who knows what all. In my case I also have seen the end  of life of many other cycles, including the typewriter, but many many other once vital tools of daily life.

Karl Marx – yes, that one! – claimed that our species “only sets itself such problems as it can solve”. He went to great lengths to illustrate this and his observations really do repay the effort. An example of this in our time, it seems to me, is the present pandemic. This has been a wrenching experience  on every level and of course very tragic for those who’ve been ill or worse. It was caused as a global phenomenon by the very existence of a global economic system (as was the influenza epidemic after WWI). Its solution has also been global and the challenge has in viral terms been met. Typically vaccines need quite a number of years to be developed yet more than a few are now out there after one. Who is measuring that productivity? How are we going to compare that against the loss and distruption?  The problems thrown up by it, social including economic, will be solved in the end. That’s how the system works! Until it doesn’t work any more. The aforementioned Karl M said it’s only when the capacity to meet needs is exhausted that this can happen, and of course that’s a matter of subjective judgment. Certainly it’s not here today, in our place.

So here we are, confronted by ongoing, one could say relentless improvements in productivity, and we’re told that we’re not doing well enough. “Work smarter, not harder”! We are doing both, as we should. But it seems to me that New Zealanders are given far too little credit for how they manage in this world, far from markets, and needing to maintain infrastructure and its ever increasing demands in a country the size of Britain or Japan with a fraction of the population. We’ve got problems without doubt. Auckland for one! Dear reader, do you realise that New Zealand is the only developed economy of any geographic size with so much of its population in one place? That’s the elephant in the room, caused by productivity demands, yet the productivity worshippers don’t seem to notice it. Still, I’m with Karl on that one.

*(I was a “Salk baby”, one of the first to get a polio vaccination in a city rife with this terrible disease, which is now apparently out of circulation. How does one measure my productivity as a walking human being instead a life-curtailed one in an iron lung? Don’t answer that, but think about this: Charlie Haden, a truly great bass player, took up the instrument instead of making his living as a singer after getting this disease affecting his throat. How do you measure that?)  

Labour were warned not to spend it all

Stuff reports:

The Government was left with a $47 million contingency in its $6.8 billion NZ Upgrade transport package after $211 million worth of rail projects were put into the package at the last minute.

This was despite repeated warnings from officials the contingency might be too small to pay for any cost blowouts.

A contingency of 0.7% is criminally low.

Those warnings were prescient, as new cost estimates for the transport projects have led the Government to back away from promises to build everything they proposed a little over a year ago – something that could have been avoided had the projects been given larger contingency funding.

So they made the promises despite being warned there would probably not be enough money for them and are now using the lack of money to back away from them.

Green MP calls for destruction of Israel

That slogan, from the river to the sea, is an implicit call for the destruction of Israel, and inevitable genocide (again) of the Jewish people who live there. It is a slogan used by Hamas whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

The slogan is a rejection of a two state solution and a call for Palestine to be established on all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is a rejection of both the 1948 UN mandate and the 1967 boundaries recognised by the UN Security Council.

I need not remind people the Jewish people have already faced one genocide. To have a New Zealand MP tweeting a slogan that calls for the destruction of their homeland is terrible.

Guest Post: An Input-Output-Outcome framework for Greenhouse gas policy.

A guest post by Sean Devine:

The Climate Change Commission, has produced its 2021 draft advice for consultation (January 2021) on managing New Zealand’s contribution to human induced global warming. But the advice is conceptually flawed, putting its long-term credibility at risk.

The critical problem is that the policy framework is based on what is called the “carbon dioxide equivalent” emissions of the different sources of greenhouse gases. The carbon equivalent of methane is 28, as a 1kg pulse of methane traps the same heat as 28 kts of carbon dioxide.

While the target for carbon dioxide is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero by 2050, this cannot be the target for methane emissions from New Zealand’s pastoral animals such as cows and sheep, as these emission can be made net-zero by capping emissions at say, the 2017 level. Methane emissions from these animals recycles. What then is the basis of methane management?

The problem is that the policy framework, without scientific justification, is articulated in terms of the inputs – the emission equivalents carbon dioxide for each gas, not the outcome, the global temperature.

Policy should be articulated in an “input-output-outcome” framework to determine the critical parameters. Policy must focus on the causes of the increase in temperature (manage the outcome), which is driven by the output, (the actual level of gas in the atmosphere), not equivalent emissions.

Should I use a sheep or a petrol-powered mower to mow my grass, if their equivalent emissions are identical? The answer is: “the sheep”, as in terms of gas levels in the atmosphere, the methane produced by the sheep recycles, turning into carbon dioxide and then into grass.  On the other hand, carbon dioxide from the mower, persists in the atmosphere with about 20% remaining in 1000 years (See Joos Figure 5).  It is not the equivalent emissions that count, but the level of gas in the atmosphere.

Suppose there is a society with two communities, one of which is sustainable with only two children per couple, the other producing 10 children per couple.  If the population is unsustainable, the growing population must first be reduced, not the sustainable population. 

So too with methane and carbon dioxide for an economy like New Zealand. Because methane produced from a fixed number of pastoral animals is recyclable, it is sustainable. If the number of animals is capped, the methane emissions become net-zero and and no longer increase the global temperature.  No matter what governments might promise, it will be extremely difficult to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to net-zero by 2050, yet pastoral methane emissions could be made zero now.

The Commission’s approach ignores the scientific fact that reducing pastoral equivalent emissions by 10%, actually lowers global temperature.  In contrast, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent amount just delays the temperature rise by 14 years over 100-year period.

Emission equivalents are no longer needed, as a recent article by Allen et al. (2018) provides a better equivalent – that of the output, the level of gas in the atmosphere. This equivalent, known as the carbon dioxide-e*, can be used to determine the actual warming due to that gas. For example, in terms of the level of gas in the atmosphere, a change of methane emissions by 1 kt per year warms as much as a one-off injection of 28 x 100 kts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The output, the level of methane in the atmosphere, stabilises over the 100-year period.

But the important factor it is the change in methane emissions that changes the global temperature. If pastoral methane emissions are capped there is no consequential increase in global temperature.

A policy of reducing pastoral methane emissions in New Zealand by 30%, is equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions (36 kt/yr) completely for the next 28 years. This is bizarre.  On what basis should we do this?  This illustrates the muddled conceptual framework. Of course, pastoral methane emissions should be reduced as far as possible, perhaps by breeding or appropriate diet.  Also, other sources of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture still need to be managed.  But the inconsistent policy framework is not defensible scientifically, or in terms of equity.

Don’t just listen to the scientists, understand both the science and policy, otherwise there will be no long-term societal buy-in. Somethings have to look right, this is one that has to be right.

Allen, M.R.;Shine, K.P.; Fuglestved, J.S et al. 2018. A solution to the misrepresentations of CO2-equivalent emissions of short-lived climate pollutants under ambitious mitigation. npj Clim and Atmos Sci. 1;16.

Joos, F.; Roth R,; Fuglestvedt, J.S. et al. 2013. Carbon dioxide and climate impulse response functions for the computation of greenhouse gas metrics: a multi-model analysis. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13;2793-2825., 2013. Table 5.

Sean Devine

Sean Devine was originally an infrared researcher in both New Zealand and the UK, spending 25 years in research in what was DSIR.  After studying economics, Sean moved into science management. Following his role as Executive Director of the Association of Crown Research Institutes, Sean joined Victoria University as a research fellow and taught strategy for a number of years.  Recently Sean from a systems’ perspective has published a new approach to economics, that sees an economy is a far from equilibrium system sustained by energy. He is no not quite retired, having had a book published on Algorithmic Information theory in 2020. 

I can only agree that treating a gas that only stays in the atmosphere for 40 years the same as one that stays for 1,000 years is bizarre.

OECD Covid-19 death rates

Covid-19 deaths/milNov-20May-21IncreaseNov 20 RankMay 21 Rank
South Korea1037270%3534
New Zealand550%3636

This table updates the stats I published six months ago (data from here). Some huge changes.

The worst three countries are now from Eastern Europe. Hungary has the highest death rate on the OECD followed by Czechia and Slovak. Hungary has gone from 15th highest to first.

The UK has dropped from 4th to 7th and US from 5th to 9th. Sweden is now middle of the pack on 17th.

The three countries that have had almost no increase are Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. The fact they are all islands is not a coincidence. South Korea has done very well but I guess it could be considered a semi-island as only land border is with North Korea which has no people crossing.

Perhaps the most impressive border controls have been Norway which has a land border with Sweden but has had relatively few deaths.

Of course New Zealand has the lowest death toll in the OECD which is a great place to be.

Just $8 million more

Newshub reports:

International mining experts have sent a report to the Government outlining a plan to go further into the Pike River mine where they believe human remains and critical evidence could be found.

An independent advisory group working with the families of the 29 men killed at Pike River in 2010 has just been sent to the Prime Minister, the Pike River Minister, Police, the Department of Labour, and families of the men.

It’s estimated to cost up to $8 million and only take 12 weeks to complete.


Here’s what they say was needed:

  • 2017: $23 million
  • 2018: $36 million
  • 2020: $51 million
  • 2021: ?$59 million
  • 2022: ????

$35 million spent on Auckland light rail, for nothing

Newshub reports:

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on Auckland light rail since Labour came to power, despite there being no shovels in the ground to build it. 

Information released by Waka Kotahi-NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) shows $34.8 million has been spent since October 2017 on business cases, project management, legal costs, office space and equipment, and Ministry of Transport funding. 

And despite those tens of millions of dollars going into the project, Labour announced in March plans to start from scratch, with a new six-month consultation process launched by Transport Minister Michael Wood. 

That’s $35 million just flushed down the drain.

RIP David McPhail

Stuff reports:

Popular television actor and comedian David McPhail has died aged 76.

“It’s with the deepest sadness that I share with you the news that our wonderful husband, father and grandfather David McPhail died in his sleep last night,” McPhail’s son Matt McPhail posted on social media on Friday morning.

“He leaves a great big hole in our lives but not in our hearts. A truly beautiful man.”

Very sad news. David McPhail brought me and so many others so much happiness. I grew up loving A Week of It and McPhail and Gadsby. Best political satire of a generation. Also loved Seven periods with Mr Gormsby.

His portrayal of Muldoon was unmatchable.

Thoughts go to his family and friends.

Hamas fires 850 rockets into Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The Israeli military carried out waves of airstrikes overnight Wednesday, targeting senior Hamas leaders and destroying their homes after several Israeli citizens were killed in rocket barrages towards the center of the country.Over 850 rockets crossed into Israeli territory after being launched from Gaza, another 200 fell inside the Hamas-run coastal enclave. Several rockets have made direct hits on buildings and cars in Israel, killing five Israelis.

No country can tolerate 850 rockets being fired at its civilian population.

UPDATE: It’s now 1,500.

Cancel culture spares no one – not even a black leftist woman who made a mistake as a teenager

Graeme Wood at The Atlantic writes:

Condé Nast, the publisher of Teen Vogueannounced that Alexi McCammond, a 27-year-old former reporter for Axios, would not be taking over as editor of the magazine after all. She had been done in by her own social-media posts, little time bombs she’d unwittingly armed when she tweeted them at age 17. Those posts groaned about her “stupid asian T.A.” and mocked Asians’ “swollen eyes.” She apologized for the tweets in 2019. The Teen Vogue staff discovered these comments, spurned the apology, and revolted.

So these tweets were done by here a decade ago when she was a teenager at school. She had publickly apologised for them two years ago.

I suppose a magazine aimed at teens and preteens would strain to acknowledge what every adult knows, which is that the entire point of being a teenager is to make and correct the most mortifying errors of your life. “The sooner you make your first five thousand mistakes,” the artist Kimon Nicolaїdes once wrote, “the sooner you will be able to correct them.” Then, at some vague point when the first digit of your age is no longer a 1, you experience a cleansing bonfire of your sins, and your adult permanent record begins.

If Teen Vogue, even in its current woke incarnation, does not exist to celebrate this period of still-expungeable error, then it may as well be calling for the abolition of the teenage years altogether. Its staff, as well as many of its advertisers, evidently think its readers deserve no bonfire, no sin jubilee, and should be hounded eternally for their dumbest and most bigoted utterances.

The irony of a magazine aimed at teens won’t allow someone to have made a mistake as a teenager.

What is significant with this episode is the publisher of Teen Vogue knew about her teenage tweets when they hired her. They correctly deemed that all her achievements since then counted as something. This is not a situation where they hired her and then found out later. It makes the decision to sack her even more cowardly.

Also of significance is that McCammond is African-American and of the left herself. Her boyfriend was Joe Biden’s Deputy Press Secretary, So this isn’t cancel culture targeting old conservative white guys, but a young black liberal woman.

This is why everyone should fight against cancel culture. Everyone has led lives of imperfection. I want a society that doesn’t judge people by the worst thing they have ever done, but by their overall contribution.

SFO charges six re donations to Labour

The Herald reports:

The Serious Fraud Office has laid charges after an investigation into donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.

The agency filed criminal charges yesterday against six people in relation to a donation made to the Labour Party.

“The defendants are entitled to seek name suppression therefore the SFO will not be naming any defendants until any name suppression issues have been resolved,” the SFO said.

“We note, however, that none of the defendants are sitting MPs or are current or former officials of the Labour Party.”

Very interesting. It appears to be about one donation only. It may be similar to what is alleged with the National case also, in that one large donation was broken down and donated through multiple people.

If so, all the rhetoric from Labour figures about National at the time (even though no one from National was charged) may come back and haunt Labour.

The US vote

In the US it is public who voted, just not how they voted. But the combination of new census data, state electoral rolls and exit polls has given some insightful data into who voted in 2020.

Voting turnout went from 60% to 67%, so overall voters increased by over 10%. But some races had greater turnout.

  • Asians up 39%
  • Latinos up 31%
  • Blacks up 14%
  • Whites up 12%

The increase in support in each demographic for Biden over Clinton was:

  • Whites +3%
  • Blacks -3%
  • Latinos -8%

So Biden gained with black voters but Trump gained with black and latino voters.

But even though Biden got a smaller percentage share of Blacks and Latinos he still got 90% and 63% of the vote from them and the big increase in voting numbers for them helped him.

In Georgia and Arizona the increased vote from black voters was larger than Biden’s margin of victory. So it was black turnout that won him those traditionally red states.

If you are into data, go look at the link. Masses of it.

Health Ministry misled Parliament and public

Stuff reports:

Health Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield has written to Health Minister Andrew Little apologising for giving him incorrect information concerning an edited-down mental health report.

Little repeated this incorrect information in Parliament in response to a question about the report during Question Time.

He corrected the record on Tuesday and released a briefing from Bloomfield on the botched information. …

Little defended the decision to edit down the report in Parliament, telling National’s Matt Doocey that all the statistics removed were available elsewhere publicly.

But on Tuesday he corrected this to the House, saying further discussions with the Ministry of Health had revealed that there were in fact seven different datapoints released in earlier reports that were not publicly available. …

Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson, who criticised the Government over the move, said the admission from the Ministry of Health was “fairly vindicating.”

Here’s my question.

Someone at the Ministry of Health was responsible for putting together the talking points that falsely claimed all the data was publicly available elsewhere. Has that person had any consequences occur for their actions which led to the Chief Executive and Minister spreading false info?

Govt wants to ban outdoor smoking areas also?

A reader writes in:

MOH want to ban smoking/vaping for all hospo, bar club pub restaurant and workplace outdoors – seem worthy of attention – no pickup by media yet – it is buried in otherwise industry related vaping regulations.

this is coz they keep losing prosection action against bars trying to enforce current regulations – so now they want ANY open area with any partial roof/structure – including awning / umbrella etc to be banned!!

this would put most hospo – think the green man pub in welly – out of business.

Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 Proposals for regulations – Public Consultation Document (

Regulatory proposal 1: 

Defining an internal area Description Under the Act, regulations can be made to define an internal area, which is an area where smoking and vaping are prohibited. In the absence of regulations, section 2 of the Act maintains the existing definition of an internal area as: an area within or on the premises or vehicle that, when all its doors, windows and other closeable openings are closed, is completely or substantially enclosed by: 

1. a ceiling, roof, or similar overhead surface, and 

2. walls, sides, screens, or other similar surfaces, and 

3. those openings. 

Some have concerns that this test does not provide clarity for business owners or enforcement officers to determine whether a space within a premise is an open area (where smoking and vaping are permitted) or an internal area (where smoking and vaping are prohibited). In addition, when this issue has been tested in court, judgments have been inconsistent. 


We are seeking views on the following options for the definition of an internal area. 

• Option a: Keep the status quo, as outlined above. 

• Option b: Define it as an area that is completely or partially enclosed with a roof or overhead structure of any kind, whether permanent or temporary. This means that if an area has any roof or overhead structure, regardless of how much the roof or overhead structure encloses the area, it will meet the definition of an internal area. 

• Option c: Prescribe the maximum allowable percentage of the roof or wall coverage for any premise or structure. For example, a premise or structure could be considered an internal area if the total area of the roof and walls covered more than 50 percent of the perimeter. 

• Option d: Include an assessment tool in regulations that takes into account air quality, as a way of helping to determine whether a space within a premise is an open area or an internal area. Option b is the Ministry of Health’s preferred option because it is relatively simple to understand and administer. 

This means that if a pub has a totally unenclosed outdoor area, but with an awning over it – then it counts as an indoor area and smoking would be banned in it.

I’m all for banning smoking in enclosed places due to secondhand smoke effects. But banning it in outdoor areas also is nanny state.

About time

Stuff reports:

The Government will create new laws to target flashy gang leaders and violent criminals, in a crackdown on organised crime and firearm ownership.

Police Minister Poto Williams and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi announced the Government’s plan to introduce Firearm Prohibition Orders and bolster police powers to seize the assets of organised criminals, at the Beehive on Tuesday.

Only two years after National proposed much the same. Better late than never.

Police priorities

The Herald reports:

Police suspect social media challenges are driving a spate of Mazda thefts in Taranaki.

A group of 30 teenagers – some as young as 13 – are believed to be responsible for stealing more than 100 cars of this brand since January.

The Mazda theft phenomenon first appeared in Taranaki in November and December, when up to 30 were stolen.

Since the start of the year, a total of 200 vehicles have been taken in the province – 108 of them Mazdas, many of the type usually referred to as “nana cars”. …

Given the age of the offenders, the overarching principle for police was safeguarding their wellbeing, Davie said.

Call me old fashioned but shouldn’t the overarching principle be protecting car owners from having their cars stolen, rather than the wellbeing of the offenders?

The Republican litmus test

Stuff reports:

The leading candidate to replace Cheney is Elise Stefanik, who represents a rural New York district. While Trump was president, Stefanik, a moderate by Republican standards, voted for legislation he supported only 77.7 per cent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, a website. She opposed his tax bill, his only major legislative achievement. On policy Cheney was the better ally, backing Trump’s position 92.9 per cent of the time.

Republicans are rallying to Stefanik for one reason: she has been zealous in spreading misinformation about the election and trying to overturn it. Most recently she backed a Republican-ordered audit of the vote in Arizona’s largest county despite several previous audits confirming Joe Biden’s victory. That effort is taking on a whiff of desperation, if not lunacy: auditors are examining paper ballots for any trace of bamboo because of a specious claim that thousands were flown in from Southeast Asia and stuffed into ballot boxes.

Stefanik didn’t even vote for the Trump tax cuts. She is one of the most left leaning members of Congress in the GOP. But that doesn’t matter. All that matters now, it seems, is how willing people are to push the big lie.

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