Andrew Dickens on Island Bay cycleway

Andrew Dickens drove from Auckland to Wellington. Among his observations was this:

Wellington was more clogged, even on the weekend, than Auckland. It’s like no-one thought people lived and worked south of the Beehive, which is where everyone works. We witnessed the full horror of the Island Bay cycleway. What used to be a broad safe boulevard is now a skinny death trap.

Will Justin Lester fix the skinny death trap or leave it as it is?

A new Solar System

The Herald reports:

Life may have evolved on at least three planets in a newly discovered solar system just 39 light years from Earth, NASA has announced.​

Astronomers have detected no less than seven Earth-sized worlds orbiting a cool dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1.

The six inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C.

Of these, at least three are thought to be capable of having oceans, increasing the likelihood of life.

No other star system known contains such a large number of Earth-sized and probably rocky planets.

As a former astronomy geek, this is very exciting.

British astronomer Dr Chris Copperwheat, from Liverpool John Moores University, who co-led the international team, said: “The discovery of multiple rocky planets with surface temperatures which allow for liquid water make this amazing system an exciting future target in the search for life.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, says: “This gives us a hint that finding a second earth is not just a matter of if, but when.

“You can just imagine how many worlds are out there that could have a habitable ecosystem that we can explore.”

Now we just need to invent faster than light travel, so we can get to them!

Why the Super Board should not be sacked

The Dom Post editorial:

Prime Minister Bill English would be right to sack members of the board of the Super Fund. Their decision to give the fund’s CEO a massive pay increase was a direct challenge to the Government. No state-owned company can defy its owner and expect to get away with it.

Professional directors say their colleagues on the Super Fund board faced a dilemma. The board believed Adrian Orr deserved a massive 36 per cent increase in his potential pay package.The then board chairman Gavin Walker said it didn’t believe the public sector pay scale was the right one for setting Orr’s salary. So it went ahead and paid him the higher sum.

This won’t do. The board is a creature of the state. Board members serve at the pleasure of the Government. If they won’t obey the Government’s wishes they should resign. If they don’t resign, they should be sacked.

I disagree that directors of crown entities are simply there to do what the Government wishes. This is the entire reason we have directors and separate entities, rather than just Government Departments.

Commercial companies (including funds) are there to do what is best for the health of the company. The views of the shareholder, especially a sole shareholder, should be given great deference but should never be binding. Otherwise why have directors.

I’m not saying that some directors might not be reappointed, with this being a factor. But the Dominion Post goes too far by saying that the entire board should be sacked over this one issue.

Little on greedy parasitic employers

Whale Oil blogs:

In 2012, before he had the unions shoe-horn him into the leadership, Andrew Little had quite a bit to say about employers. Back then he said; “The only parasites are employers…”. …

Labour leader Andrew Little took aim at an American food giant, saying a decision to close a profitable Dunedin factory was nothing more than “greed”.

“Cadbury are doing this not because the plant isn’t profitable, they just want more profit out of it. They are doing it for greed.”  

So employers are greedy parasites.

The simple facts are that they are moving the production to the country where they sell most of the goods – Australia. It isn’t that wages are cheaper in Australia (they are not) or less unionised (highly unionised) but that transport costs to their retailers is hugely less.

Taxpayers had paid about $2 million to keep the factory here, and “it would be a pity if this Government, knowing it was going to happen, didn’t do anything about it”.

First I knew of corporate welfare to Cadburys.

Which government paid that? Oh, that’s right, it was Helen Clark’s government. Corporate welfare is evil, and yet again has been shown to be useless.

Agreed.

The difference between scrutinise and abolish

NewstalkZB reports:

The Prime Minister is not comfortable with allowing Green MPs to be part of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

The committee oversees the SIS and GCSB.

They are allowed to be part of it, and have been in the past. Andrew Little is the person who dumped them from the Committee, not Bill English.

With legislation reforming intelligence laws due back before Parliament next month, Labour is pushing for the size of its oversight committee to be broadened to include other political parties.

The Opposition have two seats on it. It is up to the Leader of the Opposition whether to give one of them to the Greens.

Bill English said he has not yet seen Labour’s proposal, but expressed strong reservations about the Green Party getting a position on the committee.

“They’ve got a deep-seated hostility to any intelligence apparatus at all, which is not a responsible attitude, and we wouldn’t want to foster it.”

But the Labour Party’s pushing for there to be broader political representation on the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Andrew Little is “very comfortable” with the Green Party being represented on the committee, saying it’d add to oversight of the spy agencies and public confidence.

The trouble is the Greens do not wish to oversee the agencies or hold them accountable. Their policy is to abolish them entirely. Their only interest is to undermine them.

Little appoints himself arbiter of who is kaupapa Māori

Radio NZ reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little claims the Māori Party is not kaupapa Māori after hitching its wagon to National, as a new deal between the Māori parties is signed.

Speaking to Morning Report today, Mr Little said the Māori Party hitched its wagon to National, but nothing had changed in terms of Māori over-representation in prisons and unemployment – so it had no influence over National.

Little sounds very desperate here.

First of all the Maori Party has never chosen National. If they hold the balance of power they would consult their members on who to support. All they have chosen is to serve in Government when offered places by National, even though they were not needed to govern.

Secondly is Andrew Little really saying that the sole test of effectiveness is Maori unemployment and Maori over-representation in prison? Not Maori incomes, Maori education achievement etc etc. And is Little saying that the last Labour Government did nothing for Maori as in 2008 Maori were over-represented in prisons and unemployment?

He said they had conceded on every important issue.

Actually in the 49th Parliament the Maori Party voted more often with Labour than National. They voted with National 50% of the time and Labour 57% of the time.

Mr Little said Labour’s Māori MPs were an integral element of the party.

Really. Tariana Turia left because she found the opposite.

Mr Harawira said the Labour leader’s comments about his deal with the Māori Party were inappropriate and quite nasty.

He told Morning Report he found it quite astounding how arrogant Labour leaders could be when talking about what Māori needed.

“I think what Māori really need is to not have white guys like Andrew Little telling us what to do, and what our aspirations should be

Could you imagine the outrage from Labour if Bill English said that certain Maori MPs were not principled Maori.

Mr Davis said voting for Mana was a vote for National.

A Donald Trump like lie.

UPDATE: A great response from Nikki Kaye:

I strongly disagree with the comments made by Andrew Little that the Maori Party are in his words “hopeless”. I think he is condescending and hugely ignorant of the work and gains that the Maori Party have made in Parliament. I believe New Zealand is far better off as a country having a Maori Party that can work with both the centre left and the centre right to progress issues for Maori in New Zealand.

While there is still so much more to do for Maori and I acknowledge there are issues where the Nats don’t always agree with the Maori Party. I have personally sat at the cabinet table or met with their MPs from Dame Tariana Turia to Sir Pita Sharples to Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox – MP – Māori Party and seen them make their case and win on a huge number issues. These issues include progressing Treaty settlements, improving Maori representation on a range of entities, reducing smoking and progressing towards a smoke free New Zealand (Dame Tari tirelessly championed that), reforming Maori land legislation, improving Maori achievement and ensuring greater investment in Kura, social housing, issues afffecting children, whanau ora and language to name a few issues.

No Government in history has made the progress on Treaty settlements that we have with the Māori Party. The last Labour Government slowed progress massively in this area. Treaty Negotiations Minister Finlayson has led a process where nearly 50 Māori groups have finalised a Deed of Settlement. With some of those settlements still awaiting formalisation through accompanying legislation, and only a small amount of those negotiations started under Labour government. These settlements are crucial for the economic and social progress for Maori.

The progress in education for Maori under our government is getting better and better. For instance the latest Early Childhood Education participation rates among the three largest iwi, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu, range from 93.1 to 97.5 percent. These, and other iwi, are tracking close to achieving the Government’s Better Public Service (BPS) target of 98 percent for ECE participation.

For all three iwi, NCEA Level 2 achievement rates have improved compared to 2014. Achievement rates for the three largest iwi in 2015 ranged from 69.4 percent to 76.6 percent, up from 66.9 to 72.9 percent in 2014. Recently, in youth development I announced a significant youth partnership with Ngai Tahu.

There is still much more to do for Maori and all New Zealanders. However, I believe the Labour Party’s strategy of criticising and trying to kick out of Parliament one of the most constructive, effective and hard working group of Maori leaders in the Maori Party is not good for New Zealand. Both sides of the political spectrum benefit from their voice and the initiatives that they deliver. I understand there will be contest around the Maori seats and Andrew Little wants his Labour candidates to win them. However, my concern with Andrew Little is his constant ability to overreach and be extreme with his comments like calling the Maori Party hopeless when they are not. Helen Clark was someone who could be much more balanced that’s why people respected her.

Dotcom personally attacking the Judge

Very unwise to accuse a Judge of having made his decision due to political pressure and saying he should effectively be sacked.

Guest Post: Why, in Ohariu, I`m voting Green and Peter Dunne in 2017

A guest post by Dave Crampton:

I have lived in the Ohariu electorate since Helen Clark became Prime Minister on 27 November 1999.

I remember that date well.  It was my wedding day.

 I cast a special vote and voted for Peter Dunne.  The National Party did not put up a candidate. Labour had a union boss as a candidate.  Dunne went on to support the Labour government.    

He doesn’t now – but this year I am voting Dunne again despite now  being a Green Party voter for many elections and Dunne’s apparent support for National. This post explains why.

First, a bit of background.

1n 1999 Peter Dunne had been the area’s MP for 15 years, first as a Labour MP, and since 2002, a United Future MP. I spent the weeks before the wedding covering the 1999 election for the media.

In 2002 Dunne continued to support the Labour Government, with his party getting 6.69% of the vote. Most Ohariu residents voting for Dunne, however, split their vote – and continue to do so. I was a first-time Green party voter.

Since 2008 Dunne has supported the National-led government, but an increasing number of people want him out of parliament altogether, despite his very good record as a local MP advocating for local electorate concerns  – and the 2017 election seemed the right time to do it, provided Labour put up a decent candidate.

Then Labour and the Greens waded in and spoilt the party. First Labour chose  a candidate – former Police Association president Greg O’Connor –  that many party activists in the electorate simply do not like. Both Nationals Brett Hudson and  Peter Dunne are superior on social  issues. Green candidate Tane Woodley certainly is.

Some Labojur supporters   were all set to vote for Woodley – assuming he was lined up to be the Greens candidate – or, alternatively,  not voting for any candidate  –  while party voting Labour.

Then the Green Party pulled its candidate. Woodley, got more votes in 2014 than sitting MP Gareth Hughes did when he stood.  Maybe its because he lives in Johnsonville. The Greens got the highest party vote in the electorate ever in 2014 – 3000 more than its candidate. Labour only got 3150 more Ohariu party votes.

So who were Labour voters to vote for now?

Many Green voters vote for Peter Dunne – and Dunne is getting my electorate vote this year as I consider he is the best on offer to be my local MP. I don’t care what political party he is from in that regard.  

He is getting my vote for three reasons. He is the most progressive candidate on offer, he has been a pretty good liberal local MP, and has stuck up for his community on issues such as Transmission Gully and the Petone to Grenada link road.

I can’t vote for O`Connor and the Greens should have done their bit to try and keep him out. He’s simply the wrong candidate for  the electorate.  I can’t party vote Labour as it does not appear ready for government and, unlike the Greens, you don’t know what you are getting with Labour. I certainly do not want to vote National – I think the last time I did that was 1993.

I might add if it was a First Past the Post election and all we had was National’s Brett Hudson and Labour’s Greg O’Connor as realistic offerings, I`d vote for Hudson for reasons stated.

While I`m voting for Peter Dunne in 2017, I`d go further and suggest that if National is to do a “deal” where Hudson suggests voters cast electoral votes for Dunne,  perhaps Dunne would like to suggest left-leaning Ohariu voters party vote Green to keep Labour’s vote down.

He won’t, though. Then again, such a strategy will probably be more effective than  the Greens strategy of supporting a Labour candidate  they don’t like in a party they don’t  want their supporters to cast party votes for  – on the basis that it is more likely to change the government.

It is nothing of the sort.

Bomber’s Top 20 Green List

Bomber Bradbury has blogged his top 20 list for the Greens. They are (with change from 2014 ranking in brackets):

  1. Metiria Turei (nc)
  2. James Shaw (+11)
  3. Marama Davidson (+12)
  4. Jan Logie (+6)
  5. Gareth Hughes (nc)
  6. Julie-Anne Genter (+2)
  7. Barry Coates (+9)
  8. Mojo Mathers (+1)
  9. Chloe Swarbrick (new)
  10. Damon Rusden (new)
  11. David Clendon (nc)
  12. Eugenie Sage (-8)
  13. Golriz Ghahraman (new)
  14. James Goodie (new)
  15. Robert Stewart (new)
  16. Sam Taylor (new)
  17. Julie Zhu (new)
  18. Elizabeth Kerekere (new)
  19. Stefan Grand-Meyer (new)
  20. Jo Wrigley (new)

Bomber would sack current MPs Kennedy Graham and Denise Roche. Also no ranking for Hayley Holt.

 

Dom Post says no to hate crime law

The Dom Post editorial:

Police Commissioner Mike Bush wants to see if there is a case for hate-crimes legislation in New Zealand, and is prompted by a horrible incident in Huntly, fortunately filmed by the Muslim woman who was the primary  victim. The sight of a woman threatening and abusing a Muslim woman sitting quietly in her car is shocking and dreadful.

However, it is clear that the incident is already covered by the law. A 27-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to assault, assault using a can of alcohol as a weapon, and behaving in an insulting manner likely to cause violence. It seems obvious that the incident that sparked the concern is not a poster for hate-crime legislation.

Bush wants more research to establish whether there is a need for hate-crimes legislation. He is concerned about a rise in reports of hate crimes around the country, but also concedes that the data is limited. “A lot of it is anecdotal.”

Given this, the Government is right to resist the idea of special hate-crimes legislation. Justice Minister Amy Adams says there is a very low level of such behaviour and when it does come up the law is able to deal with it.

That certainly seems to be the case. So far, the xenophobia that is sweeping the United States,  Britain and many parts of Europe does not seem to have erupted here. Despite a very large wave of immigration and a high percentage of foreign-born people in our population, no serious trouble has occurred.

In some ways there is less apparent tension than 20 years ago, when there was an outbreak of semi-hysteria about the (absurdly misnamed) “Asian invasion”. That led to a spike in support for New Zealand First. But the populist Winston Peters is failing to make much hay with the subject nowadays.

So it is broadly true, as Police Minister Paula Bennett says, that New Zealanders are in many ways more tolerant of differences than they used to be.

Since that is the case, there seems no obvious reason for hate-crimes legislation. Freedom of speech, after all, is a cornerstone of democracy. This freedom includes the right to be offensive and insulting.

Absolutely.

The best way to handle a xenophobe is simply to let them rant and then to dismember their case in moderate and informed speech. Bigotry should always be challenged and rebutted. Freedom of speech allows the bigot to speak but allows sensible people to respond.

The answer to bad speech is good speech, not less speech.

Guest Post: Health and Safety now religious dogma

A guest post by David Garrett:

In our now thoroughly secular society new “religions” have replaced the old Christian based ones. The one which preaches loudest – and thus gets the most attention – is of course Environmentalism and its closely related schism, Climate Change – anthropogenic of course. Like all religions, this one  has its holy tenets: the planet must be put above all other considerations; almost everything we do is bad for Gaia; and of course humans are responsible for the catastrophic climate change which will engulf us on the Green equivalent of Judgment Day, unless we radically alter our behavior by next Thursday.

The other religion  constantly gaining ground is Health and Safety. Everything we do after getting out of bed is now seen to be surrounded by Risk, and Risk Assessments and Task Analyses – and other secular sacraments – must be constantly practiced, not just in the workplace, but at the school gala day and at the local playground.  Activities which were once seen as entirely pleasurable are now seen to be problematic, with Hazards – with an emphatic capital “H” –  now all around us.

Before Christmas I took my son to the Helensville Christmas parade; usually a jolly enjoyable and impressive affair for such a small town. We made what turned out to be the  grave mistake of turning up early  in order to gain a good vantage point.  For almost an hour before the parade started, we were harangued over the PA by a retired teacher who exhorted us to “keep the young ones safe” and make sure no children ran in the road because of the dreadful Hazard of floats moving – when they moved at all – at 3 kmh.

Lolly scrambles are of course  a thing of the past because of  the risk of children being run down as they retrieve the treats from where they have been scattered. Has anyone reading this ever heard of a child being killed or injured during a lolly scramble? Anywhere in New Zealand?  Anywhere at all for that matter?  I certainly have not, but lolly scrambles have now gone, very soon I am sure,  to be followed by the right to let off fireworks in our own back yards.

The latest manifestation of the heresy of taking risks is the latest developments in the Pike River mine saga. Yesterday saw what I regard as the ludicrous development of the chairman of directors of Solid Energy now saying he would resign if forced to allow those who wished to risk their lives trying to recover whatever might remain of their loved ones, even if he and his fellow directors were legally indemnified against any and all liability.  What an absurdly patriarchal and condescending position to adopt!

What this man is saying can be boiled down to this: “Even if I am absolved from any and all consequences of what I regard as your fool’s errand, I will resign my position if I am forced to allow you to risk your own lives”. Presuming he is fully indemnified, what bloody business is it of his what risk those wishing to enter the damn thing choose to voluntarily take? How have we reached the position where adults, fully informed of the risk, and fully aware that no help will be forthcoming if they find themselves in peril, are not allowed to take those risks?

A few weeks ago saw the 50th anniversary of the Strongman mine disaster in which 19 miners lost their lives in January 1967. Illustrated news articles showed tough looking men – most with a roll your own cigarette accompanying their cup of tea – taking a break before heading underground again to try and recover the bodies of their mates. In a much less informed era, without robots or precise analysis of what atmosphere they would be facing, there was no question of trying to prevent the workmates of the dead from recovering them. Indeed had anyone tried to stop them, I have little doubt that person would have been brushed aside if not laid out cold, whether they were a policeman or a politician.

Fifty years later we have another disaster in an industry sadly bestrewn by them.  Those wishing to enter the mine are enormously better informed than their compatriots of fifty years ago – and yet there is endless debate about whether they should be “allowed” to risk their lives, even if the legal environment is  altered so there is no risk to anyone else, and no legal or other consequences will befall others  if they fail or find themselves in peril.

There are endless red herrings bandied about, by politicians, journalists, and surprisingly for me, even commenters here, a place where one would presumably find the greatest concentration of clear thinkers and those of a libertarian bent.  It is entirely irrelevant whether the plan is sound or not – those promoting it wish to take the risk. It is entirely irrelevant what the precise composition of the  atmosphere in the  mine is – those wishing to enter it  wish to risk entering it  regardless. It is even less relevant how much – if anything – remains of the 29 dead; it is important to their families and workmates to make the effort to try and recover what they can.

Seventy five years ago New Zealanders fought in  the greatest aerial conflict the world has yet seen. Almost 3000 New Zealand airmen lost their loves over the skies of Europe, either on their way to or returning from bombing missions over Germany. Often there was little left of  the doomed crews of crashed bombers – but brave French, Belgian and Dutch civilians literally risked execution to recover what they could of the crews, and give them a proper burial, even if all that remained was a limb and part of a uniform.  I see the Pike River situation as little different.

Miners are a tough breed working in an environment which is always subject to numerous perils. There are and sadly will always be accidents where men lose their lives. It is clearly a part of mining culture that absolutely everything must be done to recover one’s lost mates. The survivors of the Strongman disaster of 50 years ago still lament the mates they were forced to leave behind in that mine.

But it is not just the workplace and Christmas parades  which have become infected by obsession with health and safety. The wreck of the cruise ship “Mikhail Lermontev” has already claimed the lives of several divers exploring it. Each time a fatality occurs there are mutterings about “banning” people diving on it because of the risk. 

So long as they are properly informed of the risks they face, it’s nobody’s bloody business how risky it is;  we supposedly live in  a free society  where we are allowed   to risk our lives – so long as we don’t expect others to put their lives at risk to bail us out if it all goes wrong. Those who wish to re-enter Pike River are all adamant that the risk they wish to take is theirs alone. They  don’t expect anyone to come in after them. They will sign whatever document is required to absolve all and sundry for any liability or consequences of their risk taking.

They will not rest until they – like the fully informed brave Dutch of seventy five years ago –  are allowed to try and recover  the remains of their comrades. Rather than coming up with endless reasons why they can’t, “We” should be allowing them to get on with it.

The Maori-Mana deal

The Herald reports:

In a bid to win back all seven Maori seats, Mana Movement will contest only the Te Tai Tokerau seat at this year’s election while Maori Party will not stand in that electorate.

The announcement was made this morning as the two parties signed an agreement in Whangarei.

Peace moves between the two parties have been going on since last July when Maori Party president Tukoroirangi Morgan approached Mana’s leader Hone Harawira.

Lisa McNab, Mana Movement president, said the agreement would allow the two parties to carry a strong mandate to win all seven Maori seats.

No surprise this. What might it mean in the seven seats:

First a caveat. We should not assume that having one candidate drop out will mean their votes go to the other. Labour MPs will probably pick up some of the votes of the candidate not standing. Also other factors are who actually stands this time for the Maori Party and how good a job the Labour MP is seen as having done.

The three seats most at risk are Tamaki Makaurau, Te Tai Tokerau and Te Tai Hauauru. The combined Maori and Mana vote exceeds the Labour candidate vote.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Te Tai Tonga look fairly safe for Labour unless Maori Party has a star candidate. Hauraki-Waikato extremely safe and Flavell safe of course to retain Waiariki.

Latest poll

I’ve blogged the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll at Curia.

It shows the center-right with 58 seats, centre-left with 49 and NZ First with 13 which would just give them the balance of power.

Dotcom loses extradition appeal

The High Court has dismissed the appeal against the decision of the District Court that Kim Dotcom is eligible for extradition.

This is no surprise, as the appeal can only be on matters of law.

There is no right of appeal to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court but no doubt Dotcom will seek leave to appeal in a desperate bid to delay the extradition for as long as possible. He is looking to again spend a lot of money on the upcoming election, to try and get a Government that will refuse the extradition order.

Trump and Muldoon

Tyler Cowan writes at Bloomberg:

What would you think of a Western democratic leader who was populist, obsessed with the balance of trade, especially effective on television, feisty and combative with the press, and able to take over his country’s right-wing party and swing it in a more interventionist direction?

Meet Robert Muldoon, prime minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984. For all the comparisons of President Donald Trump to Mussolini or various unsavory Latin American leaders, Muldoon is a clearer parallel case.

Berlusconi is another good comparison.

Some of the similarities are striking. Muldoon often made rude or unusually frank comments about foreign leaders (including U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Australian prime minister), and his diplomats worked hard to undo them.

Muldoon insulted numerous world leaders. He once told the Commonwealth Secretary-General to do something he is qualified at, and take the minutes and shut up.

His most significant initiative was called “Think Big,” and, yes, it was designed to make New Zealand great again. It was based on a lot of infrastructure and fossil fuels investment, including natural gas, and it was intended to stimulate the country’s exports and remedy the trade deficit.

And his protegy is Winston, of New Zealand First – Trump’s slogan is America First.

Muldoon’s biographer, Barry Gustafson, noted that the prime minister ended up being criticized for his “apparently dogmatic arrogance of executive power”; Gustafson also tells us Muldoon “was often reluctant to take expert advice.”

Sounds very Trump like.

Like Trump, Muldoon faced some controversial race issues. The all-white South African rugby team was scheduled to tour New Zealand in 1981, and even after extensive protests Muldoon refused to ban the team. Muldoon’s critics called him a racist, and charged that his intentions in the matter were not entirely benign. Muldoon also continued his predecessor’s policy of arresting and deporting Pacific Islanders who had overstayed their visas.

If we were not an island, would Muldoon have wanted a wall?

It was his philosophy not to bother to appeal to his opponents. The more critics he generated, the more his supporters — known as “Rob’s Mob” — loved him.

Yep.

To be sure, significant differences between Muldoon and Trump can be seen. Muldoon assumed office with political experience in Parliament and the cabinet, and, consistent with his background in accounting, he was renowned for his mastery of detail. For all his bullying, he was not regarded as a threat to democracy in the manner that Trump’s critics have alleged. Muldoon called for tougher policies toward the Soviet Union, and didn’t give his family a Trump-like role as advisers.

This is where Trump and Muldoon were very different. Muldoon actually knew stuff.

One lesson from the comparison is that a leader like Muldoon can be fairly popular, as he stayed in power from 1975 to 1984, winning three terms despite mistakes, antagonisms and policy failures.

And Muldoon, like Trump, won despite losing the popular vote.

Urban Development Authorities

Nick Smith announced:

Public consultation has opened on proposed legislation to fast track the redevelopment and regeneration of urban areas to better meet housing and commercial needs, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“New Zealand needs Urban Development Authority (UDA) legislation to enable faster and better quality regeneration in our major cities. These new authorities need the power to assemble parcels of land, develop site specific plans, reconfigure infrastructure and to construct a mix of public and private buildings to create vibrant hubs for modern urban living,” Dr Smith says.

“These reforms are part of the solution to Auckland’s growth pressures over housing and infrastructure. UDAs would enable major redevelopment projects like those proposed or under way in areas such as Hobsonville, Tamaki, Three Kings and Northcote to occur three to five years faster.

“The international experience in cities like London, Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and Singapore is that UDAs can create vibrant, new suburbs, with greater gains for housing, jobs and amenities than through usual incremental, piecemeal redevelopment. …

This could be one of the more powerful things the Government does to increase the housing supply. Councils are not incentivised to increase housing, but UDAs with a specific mandate to increase the supply of housing could work far better and more effectively than the status quo.

Some key aspects:

The Government proposes that urban development authorities will be able to bring together larger land parcels through a combination of acquiring government or council-owned land, buying land from private owners, and as a last resort asking the Minister for Land Information to use existing powers under the Public Works Act 1981 to compulsorily acquire land in the proposed project area.

And:

It is proposed that urban development authorities would be able to coordinate the planning and development of infrastructure, including connecting with networks outside the development project area. These authorities would also need to pay for infrastructure related to the project. This means allowing authorities the flexibility to raise funds for this infrastructure, outside of how local government normally achieves this, with the ability to levy infrastructure charges on relevant landowners.

As I said, these could make a big difference.

Public Polls January 2017

As you can see National is slightly higher than three years ago and Labour significantly lower. Greens much the same, and NZ First almost double.

The summary of the monthly newsletter is:

Curia’s Polling Newsletter – Issue 105, January 2017

There was only one political voting poll in January 2017 – a Roy Morgan. This means the monthly average reflects that poll only. 

The average of the public polls sees National 19% ahead of Labour in January, up 2% from December.

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

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

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

 In the UK little change in the polls for the parties but they do show the Brexit plan proposed by Theresa May has widespread support.

In Australia the Coalition are now 6% behind Labor.

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

We also carry the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

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

Correspondence and feedback is also welcome to the same address.

 

The Right Track

An interesting graph of the right was wrong direction sentiment in various countries. They did not include New Zealand, but the latest Roy Morgan has right direction at 63% which would put us in 4th place between India and Russia. Of the OECD or developed countries, NZ has (and has had for many years) the most positive sentiment that we are on the right track.

Countries in Europe are especially pessimistic. The proportion saying right track is only 12% France, 18% Italy, 22% Sweden, 22% Spain, 32% Germany, 37% UK.

Sharing NZ’s progress

Oliver Hartwich writes at NBR:

We should acknowledge the past years have been challenging for New Zealand because of the combined effects of the global financial crisis and the natural disasters that have occurred domestically. Against these odds, New Zealand has done much better than most of the developed world. It has produced solid economic growth, created jobs and thereby established a much better fiscal position than, say, Australia.

As a nation, we have worked hard to get to where we are. Now is the time to share our progress. We have to share it with those who have contributed to it. We also want to share it with our children to whom we want to leave a bright future.

To do so, we want to help those who need it most. For high income earners, the top income tax rate is modest and internationally competitive. But that top rate of income tax is reached relatively early, so we should focus tax cuts in the lower bands and look as much to the effective marginal tax schedules as to the income tax rates. These tax cuts would make a difference to middle New Zealand, particularly at a time when people on ordinary incomes are stretched by high rents and property prices.

I agree. The rate of the top tax rate at 33% is pretty good internationally. While a case could be made for lowering it, I think the better thing is to focus on increasing the threshold at which people move to the top and second top tax rates.

People move onto the top tax rate at $70,000 which is very low. And the second top tax rate of 30% gets hit at $48,000 – below the average income.

Acknowledging this housing crisis, we should use a second tranche of the surplus to help councils deliver more infrastructure quickly. For example, the government could pass on the GST revenue from new housing construction to councils. This would be an investment into the infrastructure that New Zealand needs for the future, and it would address one of the main reasons for the housing crisis.

Some extra spending on infrastructure would be a good thing.

Finally, we should use the surplus to pay down debt. Circumstances beyond our control have increased the Crown’s indebtedness over the past years. We should not leave it to our children and grandchildren to pay for it. Instead, let’s sort out our books now and reduce government debt to where it was before the global financial crisis.

Bringing down the Crown debt ensures the government has fiscal room if another natural disaster strikes.

Or another recession. On average we get one every ten years or so. We have had:

  • 1967 – recession
  • 1976 – recession
  • 1987 – sharemarket crash recession
  • 1997 – Asian crisis recession
  • 2008 – GFC recession

This would be my narrative, to share New Zealand’s progress in equal measure between lower income-band tax cuts, investment in local infrastructure and leaving a better fiscal future for future generations.

This is what I’d like to see from the Government. The parties of the left sadly seem hostile to any reduction in the tax burden. They would blow everything on extra spending. But a balanced Government would have everyone share in the progress the New Zealand economy has had.

Scott Brown likely US Ambassador to NZ

Stuff reports:

The man being tipped to be the United States ambassador to New Zealand under Donald Trump supports waterboarding and once won the title of “America’s Sexiest Man”.

Former US senator Scott Brown, 57, also doesn’t appear to have any ties to New Zealand, but he did tell GQ Magazine in 2015 he “always wanted to go”.

Brown has led a varied life, and was a promising basketball star as a youngster before embarking on a military career where he rose to the rank of colonel. He also spent years as a male model in the 1980s.

Most of the stories on Brown have focused on the trivial. He has a serious political record, and would in fact be a very credible appointment. Some of his background:

  • Active in Massachusetts Army National Guard for 35 years, rising to rank of Colonel in the JAG
  • Member of Massachusetts House from 1998 to 2004
  • Member of Massachusetts Senate from 2004 to 2010
  • Junior Senator from Massachusetts in US Senate from 2010 to 2012

Brown also happens to be the father of singer and basketballer Ayla Brown.

Far from being an insult, Brown would be one of the most politically experienced Ambassadors we’d have. Most recent Ambassadors (and they have all performed well) have been donors, not former elected officials.

Rcent Ambassadors:

  1. Mark Gilbert, donor
  2. David Huebner, lawyer
  3. William McCormick, donor
  4. Charles Swindells, donor
  5. Carol Moseley Braun, former US Senator
  6. Josiah Beeman, former political staffer

Now nothing wrong with donors being Ambassadors – many of them have been excellent. I’m just saying that Brown stands out as having had a serious political career.