Showing posts from August, 2011

National's National Energy Strategy Shocking

The Government's National Energy Strategy differs little from the shocking draft that was released prematurely, fossil fuels remain prominent in the strategy and it even spends time promoting the value of such resources.
While it has to be accepted our reliance on oil and coal can't be totally ignored a weaning process should be an important part of any strategy and this document appears to ignore this. There is a deliberate drive to exploit our carbon based resources to the maximum and make as much profit as possible while the going is good. 
"The Government wants New Zealand to be a highly attractive global destination for petroleum exploration and production investment so we can develop the full potential of our petroleum resources."
While all the content on energy efficiencies, energy conservation and promoting alternatives exists,  it really does appear as if they were things that "politically" should be mentioned but the key strategy is elsewhere. It is …

Invercargill Principals Send Open Letter to Minister

The Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, was in Invercargill today and was visiting the school where I currently teach special needs children on a part time basis. I had hoped to pass on an open letter on behalf of Invercargill primary principals voicing concern at the flawed nature of the National Standards. Unfortunately the Board decided they did not want any political statement made during the Minister's visit to my school and I was not able to pass on their letter in person.

12 out of the possible 13 Invercargill primary principal's signed the letter.

30 August 2011

Open Letter to the Minister of Education, Hon Anne Tolley
Invercargill schools express their concern about the National Standards system
Minister, Invercargill has a proud tradition in providing quality public education for our children. We come from a city that has learned not to rely on support from further north and to become an independent community that responds well to the needs of its people. The Invercargi…

"The Spirit Level" Deserves Attention!

Richard Wilkinson did not sell his book well on Q&A and highlights the point that scientists and researchers are not necessarily the best promoters of their work and in this age of informercials its not about the quality of the goods but the quality of the sales pitch.

The panel responding to Wilkinson's interview did not appear to have read the book or give it much thought and on the whole were very dismissive of his conclusions. I can not see how you can really argue that Wilkinson and Pickett's research does not have a sound basis in fact. All the developed nations that have unequal societies suffer a range of negative consequences:

Lack of trust for others in their communities and a drop in perceptions of personal safety.Higher levels of drug use and poor mental health.Deteriorating levels of health (obesity, third world health issues reoccurring).Growing disparity in educational achievement.Higher levels of teenage pregnanciesGrowing levels of violent crime.High level…

National Wrecks My Children's Future!

The sun was shining and the bagpipes sang as the gowned graduates pranced (marched seems a too regimented verb to describe their progress) their way along George Street towards the Town Hall where they were to be capped. Watching the parade in Dunedin today made me think of all the talented young people we have coming out of our Universities, ready to engage in futures full of promise and possibilities...

...but this National Government is a wrecker of futures and a dasher of dreams. Rather than embrace the talent and skills of our young graduates and use them to help shape and create a sustainable and exciting future they are turning to the fuels and philosophies of a previous era. More and more New Zealand is becoming a modern embodiment of the industrial revolution. Our farms and factories are focussed on wringing huge profits from the "white gold", with lignite powering the factories and effluent flowing steadily into our waterways. Profit, progress and export markets pow…

Carers Deemed a Low Value Occupation

After watching the "Campbell Live" item about the mother who couldn't access financial support for caring for her disabled son (non family carers are supported), it made me realize even more the sort of society we have become. Despite the value they provide in human and economic terms, caregivers languish at the very bottom of the employment spectrum. I would like to tell you about three amazing women I know whose contribution to society is probably greater than your average financial advisor and yet their collective pay would probably be many times less (I have obviously changed their names).

Heather worked for many years as a carer in a rest home. She was well regarded for her work ethic and the  empathy she had for the residents. Heather was able to appreciate the importance of treating the elderly in her care with respect and even if they suffered from dementia she gave recognition to the people they once were. She loved her job and was valued for her wide ranging c…

Jane Clifton Sucked in by the Spin!

In the latest Listener Jane Clifton reveals the extent of her journalistic impartiality. The following statements   from her column are gobsmacking (using her own description of teacher's actions):

"Whatever one's view of the national standards system in primary schools, it is the Government's policy. Teachers are the Government's employees, so they must implement it."

"That a quarter of schools are failing - either through competence or in defiance - to implement national standards is gobsmacking."

"It's clear that teacher unions want to be the ultimate arbiter of educational methods and standards, over the heads of parents and voters.

Jane also calls NZEI Te Riu Roa's TV commercials "expensively sanctimonious".

My reply:

The Editor

New Zealand’s education system is ranked by most international assessments in the top five in the world. Countries that achieve above us do not have the same disparities of income or the …

Child Poverty, NZEI Te Riu Roa Special Report

(image from
One in five New Zealand children is living in poverty. Māori and Pasifika children are disproportionately represented in these statistics. The income gap in New Zealand – the difference between high and low or no incomes – is the sixth most unequal of 23 rich countries (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009) In New Zealand we are lucky to have very few cases of absolute poverty – a complete lack of basic human needs. Unfortunately, for some time now relative poverty – the condition of having fewer resources or less income than others within a society or country, or compared to worldwide averages – is on the rise. The statistics tell us that the proportion of children living in hardship in New Zealand (defined as below 60% of median household income after housing costs) fell from 26% to 19% between 2004 and 2008 (Perry, 2010). However, hardship rates for sole parent beneficiary families remained steady at around 55% and since 2008, the ec…

When is Civil Disobedience Justified?

The introduction of National Standards into our schools was a shock to the teaching profession. We had developed a professional culture where an evidence base and an inquiry approach determines our practice. Our curriculum was developed using a co-construction process between the Ministry of Education and practicing teachers over a period of five years. The Ministry also produced a series of Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) publications where different areas of professional practice were defined and analysed based on existing research.

To suddenly have an assessment system forced on us that was politically driven, had no research base and did not fit with anything else we were working with was a real shock. The initial reaction from the profession was to look at what was being introduced to see if it was actually fit for the stated purpose (raising the academic achievement of our struggling children). Our leading educationalists and academics studied what was being proposed and unanimou…

A Child's Life.

Harley's mother was eighteen, when he was born, unmarried and no close family where she was living. Harley was her first child and she struggled to breast feed. Hospital midwives tried to give support but after  two days she was sent home. Plunket provided some home support and noted that Harley's mother was barely coping, was bottle feeding and the flat that they were living in was cold and damp.

Harley suffered from respiratory problems throughout his early years and had a several stays in hospital due to asthma. His mother had a series of part time jobs and couldn't always afford childcare, so Harley would be left with a friend who had a number of small children of her own. The children spent much time watching TV, there were few toys and little interaction with adults.

Harley's Mother had a relationship with a man for a few years, who showed little interest in Harley, and would often become violent after prolonged drinking sessions. Harley witnessed a number of vi…

Chris Trotter Holds Fast to Past

My debate with Chris Trotter regarding his claims that the Green Party is deliberately purging itself of leftwing MPs and taking a softer more centrist position continues. Chris criticizes me for inaccuracies of political history but continues to make sweeping judgements with little basis in fact. His arrogant responses to my requests to provide some substance to his arguments demeans his status as genuine commentator of the left. I cannot be confident that he will allow my last comment to appear on his blog so I have published it own my own as well.

I'm sorry, bsprout, but if I responded to every comment demanding I do this, that, and the other, I'd never do anything else.

If you are interested in learning why I think the way I do about your party, then I suggest you read a few of my many postings about the Greens on this blog.

Remember, you're the guest here.


I have read all your posts on the Green Party over the years, Chris, and they all reflect a great fondne…

Intelligent Cities/Intelligent Economies

This Time magazine article on Stockholm provides a model for where Christchurch and New Zealand should be heading:

Northern Star. Stockholm runs on green energy and wants to export it to the world
Call it recycling opportunity. After their failed bid to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, Stockholm city leaders decided to turn a would-be sports village in the Hammarby Sjostad district into one of the world's most successful eco-villages. The practices of powering buses with biogas, recycling rainwater for irrigation and using organic waste for fertilizer spread to other districts of Sweden's largest city. Today the city's water is so clean that fishermen actually stand on bridges in the central business district, catching fresh salmon and trout. Stockholm was named the first European Green Capital in 2010. Since then, green innovation has become a pillar of Swedish national competitiveness. With its target to become a fossil-fuel-free city by 2050, Stockholm hopes to turn green i…

Chris Trotter and Conspiracy Theories

Chris Trotter, well known political analyst and media commentator of the left, has made some bizarre claims about the Green Party. His suggestion that a coalition deal between National and the Greens is not that unlikely drew this response from me and the following discussion:

     I can imagine Key making that call, but when trying to imagine Russel (or Metiria)
     making a positive response, images of flying pigs and frozen flames come to mind


Well, bsprout, I think you need to give your imagination a bit of a workout.

Ask yourself why the Greens have, over the past three years, very sweetly, but quite ruthlessly, purged themselves of their left-wing MPs?

Ask yourself why their image managers have consistently repositioned their leaders as mainstream, non-threatening, politicians?

Ask yourself why their conference, flying pigs and frozen flames notwithstanding, refused to rule out a coalition agreement with the National Party?

Believe me when I say …

My speech: A choice between two clear futures!

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this public meeting to discuss the future of our New Zealand environment.
I want to talk about the political context around our environment. This is an election year and in less than 3 months we will be deciding on how we want our country to be led for the next three years. I would like to briefly cover where we are heading under the current National government, the potential impacts on our local region if National wins another term and what a Green alternative would look like.
How will we be if we continue under a National Government?
According to the polls New Zealand now regards politics as a presidential style competition than one based on policy. People would rather have John Key as our Prime Minister although they feel more comfortable with other parties’ policies. However the cost of maintaining a likable guy at the top will be huge environmental degradation.
We have to look behind the rhetoric and do some spending comparisons to see where …