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Showing posts from September, 2011

Students and Soldiers Suffer Through Shonky Governance

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I am extremely angry about two events that occurred over the last twenty four hours, both were catastrophic and both avoidable.

The first regards the death of another New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan. I am half way through Nicky Hager's latest book "Other People's Wars"and with 73 pages of notes and references, this is no throwaway opinion piece as suggested by the Prime Minister.

Nicky is very complimentary about the professionalism and decency of the majority of our armed forces but is very critical about the reality of the war in Afghanistan and the modus operandi of the United States Forces. Too many times our servicemen have found themselves in compromising and unethical situations and well outside of the public brief around their involvement. Such has been the enthusiasm of our military hierarchy to be involved with our ANZUS allies that they have turned a blind eye to the realities of the war and have manipulated the information to the government and the pu…

Aged Care Workers Undervalued

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There are two occupational sectors that I feel are possibly the most undervalued and poorly treated of all, school support staff and aged care workers.

On Tuesday Sue Kedgley met with group of picketers at Parliament. They were protesting about the paltry response from the government to address their issues of poor pay and conditions. I have posted on this issue before but felt compelled to write yet another letter to the Southland Times:

Dear Sir
There have been many damning reports regarding aged care in New Zealand over the last few years including those from the Auditor General and the Health and Disability Commissioner. Green MP, Sue Kedgley and Labour MP, Winnie Laban, travelled around New Zealand to see first hand the realities of aged care in different communities. Their report made a number of recommendations that focussed on greater accountability and monitoring of the aged care sector and improved pay and working conditions for workers.

Since then New Zealand Consumer revea…

National is stealing My Children's Future!

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This government does not see young New Zealanders as important or regard their future with any sense of responsibility. The cuts to tertiary and early childhood education are seriously restricting opportunities for vulnerable young people at important times in their lives. Quality early childhood education can make a big difference to thousands of children experiencing poverty in their homes and when unemployment effects 27% of our youth, education and training opportunities are vital for self respect. Even if they get into tertiary education the support systems provided by student associations will be gutted by the crazy VSM bill. The fact that we now have the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD must surely suggest Government policy is failing and will only get worse. National Standards are strangling our primary schools, the unnatural focus on literacy and numeracy doesn't reflect the different learning styles and interests of children and the holistic approach to education t…

Southern Green Campaign Cranks Up!

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From left: Dora Langsbury (Te Tai Tonga), Metiria Turei (Dunedin North), Rachael Goldsmith (Clutha-Southland), Myself (Invercargill). 
Sue Coutts (Waitaki) left just before the photo was taken. Shane Gallagher (Dunedin South) and Alex Kruize (List Candidate) had work commitments that kept them in Dunedin.

This weekend we held one of our regular "Quarterly" provincial meetings in Invercargill and had five of our southern most candidates present. It was a great opportunity to compare campaigns and see where we could co-ordinate our efforts.

We had a number of people present to us over the weekend to provide different environmental, iwi and local government perspectives. The presentations confirmed to us that our three main election priorities have local validity and provided us with some "close to home" stories to support their existence.

One of the most compelling stories came from Michael Skerrett's presentation. Michael has a number of leadership positions with…

Emergency Team Argue While Waituna Dies

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The Editor
The Southland Times


Dear Sir
For those who care about New Zealand’s most significant and internationally recognized wetland there is a huge level of frustration at the apparent impasse between local farmers and Environment Southland and most especially the inaction from central government. It appears that the only national crisis that deserves the full attention of our government is a waterfront party in Auckland. While there is the potential for international embarrassment around not being able to lay on a decent booze up, surely there should be greater embarrassment around letting one of our most significant environments fester and die. There is also no logic in spending $11.6 million for an attempt at resuscitating the already dead Lake Ellesmere when the Waituna Lagoon is still living.

The science is irrefutable and we have many practical solutions such as those suggested by Ciaran Keogh (Southland Times 22/9/11). When Fonterra’s profits are sky rocketing and the governme…

Green Jobs For New Zealanders

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100,000 green jobs for New Zealanders GREEN PARTY PRIORITY 2011
The current situation We need a pragmatic economic strategy to help New Zealand succeed in a competitive global economy — a global economy that is turning increasingly green. The OECD has recognised that New Zealand’s long term competitive advantage lies in safeguarding our natural resources through mutually supportive economic and environmental policies. They recognise that our economy is our environment and that our 100% Pure brand is invaluable in a world worried about carbon emissions, water shortages, and contaminated food. The current Government’s economic approach has been to risk our brand for the sake of a quick buck. The majority of our lowland rivers are now polluted due to the unregulated expansion of our dairy industry. Three lignite plants are under consideration and will escalate our contribution towards climate change. The Government is spending $20 billion on new state highways while our trains remain an intern…

Reinstate Passenger Rail Services to Invercargill!

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I had my first political forum of the election campaign in Invercargill last night, it was organised by the CTU and their national president, Helen Kelly, was a guest speaker as well.

My speech mainly covered the Green Party's three election focus areas; green jobs, saving our rivers and lifting 100,000 children out of poverty. A representative from the Maritime Union asked a question regarding different transport options, especially coastal shipping and this led to a general discussion around the appalling obsession this government has with roads. I briefly described the Green Party's policy on transport and suggested how wonderful it would be to have the old Southerner Train service returned between Invercargill and Dunedin. This comment received the most positive response than anything else I said during the evening.

We no longer have flights between Dunedin and Invercargill and the only public transport we have currently are bus services. This has become problematic sinc…

NZ, the Unethical Investor

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New Zealand is not wealthy in a global sense and our Government's investments would barely rate against many international corporates but our Crown Financial Institutions, like our $19 billion Superannuation Fund, do have a global impact. It is important that our money has a positive influence on the world and that we use reasonable diligence to ensure our investments are well vetted.

Norway has a similar population to New Zealand yet it has taken a far more responsible approach to how it has invested its oil riches. Norway uses a Council of Ethics to closely evaluate its state pension fund investments against strict ethical guidelines. The guidelines are based on two premises. The first being that future generations will benefit from current oil wealth and that the return from invested funds are contingent on sustainable development in an economic, environmental and social sense. The second is a commitment that the fund should not allow a risk of investment that could contribute…

Landcorp Leads Sustainable Farming Practice

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In my numerous roles I end up flying reasonably regularly, not ideal for a greenie, but unavoidable. What I find is a positive consequence of this traveling is that I often end up sitting beside interesting people from whom I learn a lot during our shared flight.

On my most recent trip I ended up sitting beside someone with a management position in Landcorp. He wasn't phased by my admission of being a Green candidate and enthusiastically explained how his SOE has a responsible and forward thinking influence on the farming industry.

Landcorp makes a sizable investment in R&D and much has a focus on environmentally sustainable farming. Any proven advancement in practice is quickly promoted within their farming community and a commitment to "best practice" is taken seriously. It is in their best interests, I was told, to always be ahead of environmental expectations rather than making excuses and avoiding compliance to new regulations for as long as possible.

In terms of…

Selling State Assets, Unlearned Lessons

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Bill Rosenberg was appointed Economist and Director of Policy at the CTU in May 2009. He holds a B.Com in Economics, a BSc in Mathematics and a PhD in Mathematical Psychology. Bill was previously Deputy Director, University Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Canterbury, a Member of the Institute of Directors, a Commissioner on TEC, and was a member of the Regional Land Transport Committee of Environment Canterbury.

His history lesson reproduced here is one worth remembering:

The New Zealand Rail sale in 1993 was organised by Faye Richwhite who then proceeded to benefit from it hugely by taking a substantial shareholding – a conflict of interest fit for a post-Soviet state. The main shareholders of the purchaser, TranzRail, were Faye Richwhite, Berkshire Fund and Wisconsin Central of the US, and Alex van Heeren. They bought a company which had been freed of debt by a $1.6 billion injection by the government. The price was $328 million, of which they paid only $107 mil…

The Lignite Salesman

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A well dressed sales man in a business suit, carrying a heavy sack, knocks on a door. The door is opened by the householder.

"Wanna buy some fuel?"

"We do have a multi-burner, what kind of fuel?"

"Lignite."

"No thanks, that stuff is rubbish, it doesn't put out much heat, leaves heaps of ash and is really dirty stuff."

"I'm selling lignite briquettes, they're almost as good as coal. We've taken all the moisture out and made them into these." The salesman reaches into the sack and pulls out a hand full of small dry nuggets.

"Surely the energy to make those must almost be the same as the energy they put out. What is your energy source for drying them?"

"Coal."

"What about all the carbon emissions, I've heard that lignite is one of the worst for this."

"We haven't sorted that out yet, but it doesn't really matter because most of the stuff will be exported to China and it becom…

Tame Iti the Terrorist

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I have observed Tame iti from a distance and met him once. Tame iti scares the hell out of many New Zealanders, his full face moko, his bum baring, spitting and his shooting of the flag understandably cause discomfort. He is a passionate advocate for Tuhoe and knows that if you want to get media attention for your cause, but do not have heaps of cash, then theatre and outrageous behaviour gets you noticed. It is easy for many to label him a dangerous terrorist but he is also a 55 year old, caring family man and a diabetic.

I have no doubt that the New Zealand police had intercepted some worrying communications and that it could easily be construed that "terrorist" training was happening in the Urewera bush. I also believe that his training camps were poorly thought through, fantasist and probably a bit silly, especially when he knew he has been a closely watched man for many years and it wouldn't be likely that any of his activity would go unnoticed. In the US playing w…

RWC Powered by Goodwill, Volunteers and Youth

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New Zealand is a world leader in volunteerism, in 2008 1,250,000 of us served as volunteers, around 1/4 of our population. The kinds of roles we are prepared to do for no remuneration vary immensely and firefighting, search and rescue, St John's Ambulance, Red Cross, PTA's, meals on wheels and a myriad of sports organisations are some examples.

Estimates put the value to our country of volunteer efforts to be around $3.5 billion. I was surprised to discover that the age band that is most likely to do volunteer work is actually the youngest, those aged between 12 and 24 years average around 70 hours annually in non paid service. I think the enthusiasm and efforts of the student army after the Christchurch Earthquake caused many to reassess how we regard the capability and sense of community that exists amongst our youth.

Watching the opening of the RWC I was impressed by the fact that much of the entertainment and enthusiasm behind the hugely successful extravaganza was relian…

"Legal" Temporarily Trumps "Ethical" in National Standards Standoff

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I attended a meeting this evening that consisted of a good number of Southland's primary principals and board of trustee chairs. It was a sombre meeting as many board chairs shared the horror and frustration of the last week.

Despite a stated obligation to negotiate with boards that had not included National Standards in their Charters, the Ministry had decided to short circuit the process and demand that all schools that were currently noncompliant had to do so in a matter of days. Those schools that actually managed to get Ministry officials to front up and talk to them found that they could not get satisfactory answers to most questions and that the majority of the answers provided were heavily scripted.

Boards that were strongly committed to meeting the needs of their children and could find no educational advantage in the Standards have decided to include them in their charter and comply. Not to do so would came at a cost most boards were not be prepared to pay. The situatio…

Public Not Fooled by Tolley's Spin

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The Chair of Invercargill's Licensing Trust, Alan Dennis, wasn't fooled by the Education Minister's response to the open letter the other day. Alan has been instrumental in ensuring that the trust has shifted from a strong sports bias in their previous funding support to an increasing focus on education and he has a fair idea of what makes a difference for children. In a letter to the Southland Times he suggests it is the Standards themselves that are the political stunt, not the action from Invercargill principals.

Here is Alan's letter:

Standards kill education

It was with interest I read your headline "Education criticism political stunt". It is possibly the most accurate  description of the Government's National Standards policy to date.

The relationship between the Ministry of Education and the education profession seems at an all-time low. The Minister, Anne Tolley, seems to be continually criticise the profession and would do well in my opinion to …

"Just a Political Stunt," Claims Tolley

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It is interesting how any activity opposing National Standards is a "political stunt" according to the Education Minister. The 750 principals who voted no confidence in the Standards at their conference, the myriad of academics who have written about their concerns and around 350 schools that initially refused to include the Standards in their charters.

While it was unfortunate that my political background gave the Minister an opportunity to dismiss a letter signed by almost all the primary principals in Invercargill, it stretches credibility to accept that all of those principals are at the beck and call of the local Green Party candidate. The Minister also ignored the collective action taken by many of the same principals without my involvement.

The Minister again provided her standard lines of misinformation:

"The vast majority of schools are implementing standards..."
This ignores the fact that they have been forced onto schools as a legal requirement and most …

Comparing Party Lists

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National's candidate list has been questioned regarding how it reflects New Zealand society so I thought I would compare four main party lists for how truly representative they are.

I should clarify that my personal view is that ability to do the job should be the driving determiner of any selection process and it is the duty of each party to ensure that they encourage participation of capable people from the full breadth of our society. The level of diversity is also an indication of how comfortable a range of people feel within the party itself.

Here is a breakdown of the top 15 for each party as I see it and I am open to any corrections:

National
12 men
3 women

Act
11 men
2 women
2 unidentified

Labour
9 men
6 women
2 Maori
1 Pacifika
1 aged under 35

Greens
7 men
8 women
3 Maori
2 aged less than 35
1 Deaf

I did consider including those from the LBGT community but this was problematic for a number of reasons. I didn't include the Maori Party because of their unique representatio…

Wasting Our Waste

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A local blogger highlighted how we are potentially wasting our waste with potential energy sources being dumped with little regard for their potential value. http://cracker666.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/waste-to-energy-again/#comment-2985 
My comment developed into a blog post:


Quite right, Paddy, there are so many lost opportunities regarding our management of waste, whether it be farm, industrial or domestic. I think there has been some progress over the years but we really need strong leadership and determination from our national and local governments. A large part of this is the difficulty of making long term commitments to initiatives that may not be initially viable but make sense over time. For Invercargill we went through a relatively robust process, led by Geoff Piercy, ( http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.com/2010/08/two-bins-or-not-two-bins-that-is.html ) yet the council lost resolve at the last minute and the resulting system will need to be changed again in the next few year…

Federated Farmers Discredit Waituna Science

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Allan Baird from the Federated Farmers' dairy section sparked a flurry of responses in the Southland Times when he suggested that the science behind the deterioration of water quality in the Waituna catchment needed to be reviewed because the scientists involved had vested interests. There was a prominent article, an opinion piece from Ali Timms (the Environment Southland Chair), a letter from the ES director of environmental management and a letter from a concerned political activist.

Environmental reporter, Scott MacKay, got a response from Environment Southland Chief Executive Ciaran Keogh who explained the multiple agency, peer reviewed nature of the science gathered. This should have discounted Mr Baird's suggestion that the science wasn't robust, however, he has since claimed that it was the peer reviewing that caused the issue.


"When spoken to yesterday, Mr Baird said the original Environment Southland report about the lagoon was not alarmist, but when peer rev…