Showing posts from October, 2011

Green Leaders Show Initiative

The Green Party has firmly established itself as New Zealand's third largest party. The party is now 21 years old and firmly established as a party that is here to stay. We are not a party based on personalities, but policy and principles and when our leaders and MPs retire we have competent and capable people to shift immediately into their places. We are a stable party and although we do have turnover and change within our leadership positions we do this only when necessary and certainly not through overnight coups, undercover plots and individual ego trips. We do not flip flop with policy according to popular whim, our policy is based on research, consultation and wide ranging advice.

Russel and Metiria have constantly proven themselves as capable leaders and politicians of substance. Political commentator, John Hartevelt, described Russel a few months ago as "the real opposition finance spokesman..." and the Q&A panel in the weekend thought that Metiria should n…

National's Employment Policy is "Back to the Future" Stuff!

Eric Roy promotes National's new employment policy as though it will be the saviour for many of our unemployed youth who currently suffer a 27% unemployment rate. This terrible situation is largely because of the frozen budgets for tertiary education and cutting back on places in our Universities and most importantly because there just aren't the jobs being created.

Bringing back youth rates will only see a repeat of common situations like capable youths finding themselves in positions of responsibility and managing staff older than themselves, but earning less. I can also see lots of older workers losing their jobs to younger cheaper options as happened when youth rates existed before. If someone does the same job as another and to the same level of performance they should be paid the same.

We are rushing steadily further into an low wage economy and even further behind Australia, this is "Back to the Future" stuff.

My reply to Eric:

Eric, as someone who has 15 years…

Folding Bike Fun

Young English relatives were staying with us a couple of years ago and I was intrigued by the passion one had for his folding bike. Ed works in London and has to travel to work each day on the underground and would cycle the last part of his journey. Folding bikes are easy to carry onto public transport as the best of them are very light and can fold into a manageable size. If the weather was fine he would cycle a larger portion of the trip or take a more scenic route home.

Ed owns the Rolls Royce of folding bikes, a Brompton, and he has even competed in the annual Brompton World Championship Race. This race occurs around Blenheim Palace and all competitors must wear suits and ties, despite this it is still very competitive and many professional racing cyclists take part.

I became interested in the concept as I often have to fly to meetings and use taxis and buses to complete my journey. The idea of having my own transport available on arrival, and be truly independent, strongly appe…

Waituna Revisited

Kevin Hague and myself standing on the Waituna viewing platform
The fate of the Waituna Lagoon will be the real test of this National Government's resolve around the state of our rivers, lakes and wetlands. There are enough environmental reports, including one from the Auditor General,  to indicate that we have reached a crossroads in terms of our freshwater management, especially since 80% of our lowland rivers are now significantly degraded.

The Waituna Lagoon is at the point of flipping and earlier this year Russel Norman spent considerable time talking to all interested parties, from farmers through to DoC, to get a real grasp of the realities of the situation. Since that time there was some hope that the government's Fresh Water Management Policies would give regional authorities some regulatory teeth. Sadly (and please forgive the pun) the original document was watered down to the extent it is largely ineffective for dealing with any crisis.

Southlanders are becoming inc…

National Government Hides TPP Terms

I have learned through experience that often when information is withheld because of commercial sensitivities it is generally because of other reasons. I have already expressed concerns about the secret TPP negotiations and the potential threat to Pharmac due to the intense lobbying by pharmaceutical companies.

Unless National is more open about what they are prepared to trade off in the negotiations we will be voting blind, this is too an important issue to leave to a party thats is prepared to sell our state assets for a quick buck, we need some assurance that they can be tough when act in our interests! The US and other countries party to this agreement have been more open about the terms and yet we have a void of information ourselves except for a leaked document that gives great cause for concern.

Pharmac is the envy of the United States people who are often financially crippled by their drug bills and it looks as if we will soon be suffering from a similar situation.

Russel Nor…

Industrial Relations, Good Faith & Fairness?

It is a fact that in times of economic downturns, employment conditions and security are actively eroded by employers and governments. It is also a fact that many large businesses accrue huge profits during recessions because of reductions in employment costs. It is an employers market and higher unemployment means that employers are able to dictate the terms, so they do. It is during these times that governments should take a lead and ensure that vulnerable workers are protected and employers don't abuse their unfair advantage. Unfortunately National Governments do not generally support working people and John Key has openly stated that unions will not be happy with the changes they intend to make in their second term.

One would think that as productivity increases that workers would have a share of the cake they have had a large part in producing, yet since 1989 productivity has risen by 52% and wages (after inflation) have only increased by 16%. Since Rogernomics workers' …

Occupy Invercargill and Conspiracy Theories

I visited Invercargill's version of this worldwide movement and talked with a small group of enthusiastic young people who are making a stand for what they believe in. I was pleased to hear that rather than chasing them off, our civic leaders are respecting the peaceable nature of their protest and allowing them to stay. Mayor Tim has offered his support by returning the power supply and providing a toilet.

There is more enthusiasm than organisation with the group, but I was impressed with their openness and willingness to listen to different views. I spent an hour listening, presenting Green thinking and discussing world issues. Conspiracy theories dominate much of their world views, especially around banking and money control. I can see how they may form these views, especially after the New Scientist article (hat tip, Robert Winter) that highlighted the research by three systems theorists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich). They found that 1% of companies …

Inner City Planning, a Green Vision?

I attended a very well facilitated public meeting regarding the rejuvenation of Invercargill's inner city last night. Urban planner Kobus Mentz put attendees into three groups and provided us with aerial views of the city, some coloured pens and useful guiding questions. He wanted our thoughts on what could be done and much animated discussion resulted.

I ended up in a group that included Bob Simpson, a local architect (and outspoken critic of current city planning), and Nigel Cowburn, a landscape architect who had recently shifted to Invercargill from Queenstown.

Here is a summary of the issues and possible solutions that came out of the meeting:

The large retail stores, including Farmers and the Warehouse had shifted the retail centre away from the old CBD.Online shopping has hit local retailers hard. Small business are struggling.Closing streets for pedestrians doesn't generally work with smaller cities as there is not the population to support them and retailers suf…

All Black Winning Strategy Has Wider Applications

The success of the All Blacks does much for the general morale of the country, and the pleasure of following a successful team has some value, but at the end of the day it still a sport and any team is only as good as their last game. However, we now have such a culture of success around the All Blacks that losing is not an option. After any loss serious questions are asked and we are not satisfied until mountains are moved and we are regarded as the top team again. There has also been considerable investment in making sure the RWC is a successful event and immediate Government intervention occurred when Auckland experienced one or two hiccups.

Why can't we have similar expectations applied to all that we do, whether it be economic or environmental management, or even education? It appears to me that when our Prime Minister is questioned on our performance in any of the above, he feels comfortable to claim that we are not the worst and he is happy following the lead of other coun…

Maritime New Zealand Underfunded

Proper governance should involve maintaining a high degree of future planning and defining priorities based on evidence and good advice. A government must also make sure that they maintain a strong sense of purpose that will not be swayed by a myriad of of lobbyists, who will all claim their particular interests deserve the most attention.

I have already described the issues around the liberalised regulations controlling our coastal shipping and serious concerns were raised by Laila Harre as far back as 1997. One would think that given the dodgy state of many of our coastal ships, often with crews employed on minimum wages, that the potential for disaster must be increased. The damage caused by the Rena must surely have been predicted as a possibility, given the incidents that have occurred internationally, and yet the funding for Maritime New Zealand has been frozen on a paltry $5.7 million.

I would have to question the logic of this National Government, as well as the previous Labo…

Billboards and Bicycles

The election always brings the creative juices of the various parties to the fore as advertising design is developed and campaigning gimmicks are worked on. The campaigns are always good for re-establishing a sense of community within a party as the shared purpose becomes more focussed and more time is spent working together on different campaign related projects. 
I spent a recent evening with some of our Invercargill Green Team in putting up large billboards in some strategic places. We started in early evening and by the time we were putting the last one up we were working in torchlight. Hopefully our construction efforts will stand the test of time, unlike 2008 when a series of strong winds meant that we needed constant running repairs.
The billboards look great and once again we are receiving accolades for the design, Green creative juices appear to dominate.
Rival candidate and National MP, Eric Roy, came up with the novel idea of walking around the whole electorate (around 300…

Laila Harre Predicted Rena Wreck

An interesting exchange in Parliament, back in 1997, predicted what we are dealing with now. Jenny Shipley's response comes from the National Party bible that is obviously still in use today:

Laila Harre: How can the Minister sing the praises of coastal deregulation, in the total absence of any objective analysis of the costs and benefits of the policy in terms of employment, local business development, and the environment; and is not her answer simply another case of substituting ideology and anecdote for objective and independent analysis?

Hon. Jenny Shipley: These matters were well traversed at the time that the legislation was passed through the House, and there was a great appeal from the cloth-cap brigade, who argued that no change could be entertained because it would affect different groups of people. What is clear is that new employment opportunities are emerging because of new activity on the ports and in different regions. Every time we can get a reduction in the cost of…

Rena Wreck National's Fault

New Zealanders continue to pay dearly for National's past and continuing incompetence. The $11.5 billion dollar leaky building debacle is directly related to the deregulation of the building industry in 1991 and the Pike River mine tragedy can be blamed on the repealing of the Coal Mining Act in 1993. National governments arrogantly ignore good advice and continue to have the blind belief that less regulation is good and reducing numbers of civil servants, and therefore trusting business to self regulate, is fine. History continues to prove them wrong and yet I don't see evidence of lessons learned, even in their appalling Energy Strategy released recently we find the following statement: 

"The Government encourages development and use of voluntary industry standards to rate building energy performance."
With the Rena disaster both the causes of the accident and the delay in dealing effectively with it can be laid firmly at the feet of the National Party. Again in the …

Silica, not Lignite Should be Southland's Future

Southland is pasture rich and mineral rich and we have choices in how we manage these resources for the long term benefits of the region.

This Government has clearly stated that fossil fuels will support the immediate future of this country and Solid Energy has plans for to convert fertile pasture into open cast lignite mines. Solid Energy and the Government claim we need the urea and diesel that can be extracted from the lignite even though the production process and use of these products will be hugely polluting. Lignite is the worst source of diesel and our rivers do not need more urea pouring into them.

The loss of pasture land to the huge open cast mines that will be created ignores the long term future of the southland region. Once the lignite is extracted there are no plans to restore the land for farming but create a series of "recreational lakes". With huge regions of the world's farmland becoming saline infused deserts, through poor water management and over i…

Sinking Ship Reveals Flaw In Energy Strategy

Dear Sir

The National led Government have thrown all their weight behind oil and lignite mining as their way to make New Zealand prosperous. In their recently published Energy Strategy they state:
 “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."

When the Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, was drilling off our coast the Green Party asked for assurances around environmental protections and were told that it is Maritime New Zealand’s responsibility, not the company, who would have to manage any oil spill. Our ability to manage an oil leak from a wrecked ship does not fill me with confidence and when I think of the lack of planning behind the government’s energy strategy, I too am experiencing a sinking feeling.

Yours sincerely

Greens Fill Vacuum Left by Labour

Labour finds itself between a rock and a hard place. They have spent too many years ingratiating themselves with big business and elements of neo-liberal economics that they have lost their way. It is hard to strongly oppose National when much that is wrong with our economy and society can also be attributed to Labour. Little effort was made to reverse much of the inequitable and environmentally damaging policies of the previous National government during the three terms under Helen Clark. Consequently their election platform has no continuity or overarching vision, it is a hotch potch of vote catching ideas that they hope will not upset the corporate donations too much. The Greens on the other hand have nothing to lose and even refuse to accept corporate donations where there is major conflict with the operations of the business and Green policy. Now that there has been a broad public realization that Godzone is developing huge cracks in credibility and resilience there has been a shi…

Green Transport and Green Ties.

My wife, Vicky, has become our family's main income earner as I have pursued my political aspirations. I was concerned that as the election campaign gets into full swing there will be a lot that she will have to endure, so I encouraged her to join her English family in Italy for a week's holiday. Vicky's great, great Grandfather was Italian and her family had traced a link to a region in Northern Italy and planned to spend some time exploring the area and finding family connections.

Vicky has just returned from her stay in Malcesine, an idyllic village beside Lake Garda and possibly the Italian equivalent of Queenstown. She brought back a wonderful Italian, green, silk tie for me and I intend to wear it as much as possible during the rest of the campaign

Vicky also brought back stories of the Italian lifestyle she experienced; the wonderful healthy food, the abundance of bicycles, the efficient public transport and the general ambience of sophistication and style that exu…

National Measures Balance With Faulty Scales

Every time National Ministers are questioned about the economy, the environment or transport they talk about balance and yet it is balance that is most lacking in their management.

Gareth Morgan and Sir Paul O'Callaghan were largely in agreement about the current mismanagement of our economy on Q & A this morning and it generally involved a lack of balance. An over emphasis of investment in the nonproductive property sector is yet to be addressed and a simplistic focus on dairying ignores the strength of our manufacturing sector. Sir Paul explained how our diverse manufacturing sector earns us more than dairying and he explained the environmental limitations of a continued growth in the latter. Bill English talked about oil exploration and mining as their key focus to lead the development of our economy, ignoring the trillion dollar renewable energy market and the huge potential we have in knowledge and research.

Our spending on research and development is still exceedingly l…