School decision tests Green principles

I was appalled when James Shaw announced the $11.7 million funding for a private school. The fact that it was a 'Green School" promoting strong environmental credentials made no difference to me. Having worked in education for most of my career, and many years on the executive of NZEI Te Riu Roa, the value of a strong public education system was a fundamental concept.

I spent many years fighting against the destructive, ideological policies of the last National led Government and its wasteful spending on Charter Schools. Any support of private education is an anathema to me.

Clarence Beeby's 1940's vision of a quality education was one where teachers were expected to meet the individual needs of each child in equitably resourced schools ensured New Zealand was a world leader for many decades.

"Every person, whatever the level of his academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has the right, as a citizen, to a free education of a…

Will Job Budget Address Inequities?

The Covid-19 lockdown has enabled us to examine work, social inequities and essential infrastructure from some useful perspectives.

The first observation was regarding our ability to manage a national health crisis. I remember an interview recently with a surgeon who became emotional when describing his relief that we had managed to avoid a total collapse of our medical system (a real concern). If we had not locked down as soon as we had, it would have revealed how little real capacity we had in the system.

The lack of investment in our hospital infrastructure has meant we are now ranked in the bottom 25% in the OECD for beds per 1,000 people. For example we have 2.6 beds for every 1,000 inhabitants and Italy (which was overwhelmed) had 3.2. Germany (with 8 beds per 1,000) has coped well with the sudden increase in patients and its death rate is well below Spain (3 beds) and France (6 beds). Before the pandemic our hospital system was already struggling to meet demand as our populati…

Composting - the circular economy starts at home.

My two bin composting system
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many households to look at how they can operate more sustainably and reduce the need to venture outside the safety of their home "bubble". During my last visit to a local garden centre before Level 4, I was pleasantly surprised that there had been great demand for vegetable plants. Obviously growing food at home was seen as an essential element of  lock down self-sufficiency.

It is great to see more people wishing to grow their own food, as it such a rewarding thing to do. Food that is harvested fresh from a home garden has so many advantages compared to supermarket bought produce:
You know where it has come from The food miles or carbon foot print needed to get it to you are minimalYou can grow produce that is not common in supermarkets (gooseberries, rhubarb, heritage varieties...)Fully ripened, freshly harvested produce tastes so much better than store boughtMore health giving nutrients are contained in fresh fo…

The muddied waters of the winter grazing debate

The winter grazing issue is becoming a highly-sensitised one that I hope will not become so politicised that it delays solutions and results in the suicides of some very stressed farmers.
Winter grazing has hit the headlines after a determined campaign, including the release of a video of some very common scenes around the country at this time of year. It recorded many examples of poorly managed grazing causing discomfort and stress to stock and graphically demonstrating the environmental degradation that this method causes. The campaign helped to motivate the Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor into announcing the formation of a task force to respond to the issues around the practice.
There has been some politically questionable responses to the campaign and the Minister's announcement and most especially from Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker. He described the taskforce as "more money down the drain" and unfortunately related the conditions of winter grazing as si…