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Showing posts from June, 2012

Worst Gang Not Covered by Bill

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The leader of our most notorious gang talks tough while surrounded by his heavies.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay's private members bill to ban gang insignia in Government premises was drawn today. It is concerning that the most dangerous gang that currently exists in New Zealand is not covered by this bill and will continue their threatening and damaging behaviour with impunity.

“The bill introduces restrictions around gang insignia being displayed at places such as Government departments and council facilities, including Work and Income and Housing NZ offices, as well as the grounds of public schools and hospitals,” Mr McClay said. “Gangs serve no legitimate purpose in our society, and the public has a right to be protected from their intimidation.”

While I totally agree with McClay's sentiment that society needs to be protected from gang intimidation the use of gang insignia as the method of doing this is flawed. Our country's worst gang are clever enough to avoid traditional a…

Te Anau, Turmoil and a Tunnel

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Around 300 Te Anau residents crammed into the conference room of the Distinction Hotel to hear a range of presentations regarding the Milford Dart tunnel and the Fiordland Link Experience monorail. While the Glenorchy community have united in a substantial campaign against the proposed tunnel, Te Anau, at the other end, has been slower to mobilize. Many possibly felt that both proposals were so ludicrous that they wouldn't go ahead but now that we are into the second term of this Government, they are not so certain.

Most of those attending the meeting were concerned about the environmental effects that would result from such intrusive projects and the many local residents could see the damage to their livelihoods if tourist traffic was diverted away from the town. Local hoteliers, tourist operators and guiding businesses felt especially threatened.

More than 1200 submissions were received by DoC regarding the tunnel project and over two thirds were opposed. The majority of those …

Wrap-Around Services Unraveling

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Primary education is becoming a problem for this National led government. Government revenue is falling and whether this loss is largely self induced, as I believe, or genuinely because of an economic recession, the need to cut spending is paramount. All other public sectors have been taken a funding hit and education has had to accept its share. The Ministry of Education lost $25 million, Early childhood has been dealt to more than once and Primary Education needs to suffer as well.

The difficult issue with cutting the budget to the primary sector is deciding on where the cuts can occur. The Government is committed to spending an extra $1.5 billion on rebuilding and repairing leaking schools and, given the state of many of them, this spending can't be compromised. Private schools can't be touched either as these are attended by Government MPs children (in fact these schools got a $35 million increase). The major part of the primary education budget goes to teacher salaries, …

New Zealand, Slavery and Being a Good Global Citizen

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The US can hardly be held up as a bastion of human rights but it is still a concern that their Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, can release a report naming our country as one of the worst for supporting human trafficking. Not only do we have a thriving industry in underage prostitution but the exploitation of workers on Korean-flagged fishing boats, operating in our waters, has been likened to modern slavery. Clinton's report even documents advertisements for runaway fisherman and likens them to those used for escaped slaves in the 19th century, even including rewards. New Zealand once had the reputation of being an enlightened society that led the world in promoting human rights and social justice and this image has been seriously tarnished. The employment problems within our fishing industry has been known for years and the inaction from both Labour and National led governments has finally caught up with us.

For the last thirty years successive government's enthusiasm f…

School League Tables Lack Logic

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I wonder what really motivates our Prime Minister John Key and his colleagues regarding their intense fixation with education (although I do have my theories)? Considering the huge issues we have with child poverty, a budget that won't balance, an ACC system that is highly dysfunctional and a city struggling to rebuild after an earthquake and we see eduction receiving all the attention instead.

Hekia Parata, the Minister for Education, has made it clear that the major priority for this government is the achievement of Maori and Pacifika children and yet I am not aware of anything they have introduced that will realistically address this issue. National Standards have not helped, shutting down residential schools and health camps haven't helped, sacking most of our advisors hasn't helped and under-resourcesing Ka Hikitia (which was designed to actually address the problem) hasn't helped either. The government even tried to increase class sizes by claiming it would impr…

School Deciles Cause Racial Divide

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In the early 1990s schools were provided with a decile ranking based on the socio-economic data on the school community. The intention was to provide more funding to schools where communities lacked financial resources, the lower the decile, the greater the funding. The intention of the ranking was to create greater equity across schools by targeting funding to schools with greater needs, however, it has had the opposite affect.

Recent Ministry of education figures have revealed that low decile schools now have half the number of pakeha children attending them than in 2000, revealing a growing racial divide between high and low decile schools. The reasons are many and cannot simply be described as "white flight", as many have labeled the movement, but has more to do with income and perceptions of quality.

Maori and Pacifica families dominate the numbers of families on the lowest incomes and tend to live in areas of cheaper housing. Most of our cities have seen greater defin…

John Key Has No Mandate For Asset Sales!

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Looking skyward and whistling is not listening!

When the National led Government struggles to explain or justify its policies it resorts to its trump card "we have a mandate". 
This claim was first used when the introduction of National Standards in Eduction met widespread criticism. National had indeed promoted the Standards in their 2008 election campaign and there was broad support for them, but there was no detail in the policy and the justification for them had no professional basis. What was introduced as the National Standards has struggled to deliver the clarity of reporting that was claimed nor have they made any perceptable difference to those struggling children who were purportedly going to benefit from their introduction. The National Party has still not delivered on this "mandated" policy. 
The National Party received a tenuous mandate to govern when elected in 2011, their claim that the election was a resounding victory is a huge exaggeration. In one of…

TPP Fears Realized in Leak

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Leaked Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) documents show that the Government is allowing overseas companies to sue our country for policies that may cause them to lose money. Australia has refused to agree to a similar clause and it exposes New Zealand to potential litigation from the likes of pharmaceutical companies who have long criticized Pharmac's control of drug imports.

This is just another sign of dodgy governance where New Zealanders are not being served well because National is more concerned about the flow of money than the potential environmental or social damage that may ensue. Examples abound:

Petrobras was able to do drill exploratory wells without providing an emergency response plan, the responsibility for mitigating any leak fell on Maritime New Zealand (and therefore the taxpayer).A deal with Warner Bros involved putting aside New Zealand's immigration law and reducing the employment conditions of our actors.A back room deal is done with Sky City in exchange fo…

Lessons from History!

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There was an economic recession and New Zealand had a Prime Minister who lacked vision and often made embarrassing pronouncements that had no basis in fact. The government he led responded to a drop in revenue by cutting public spending and public sector staffing was slashed. Unemployment steadily grew and beneficiaries had work requirements placed on them. Family and child poverty became common place, with many families living in substandard housing. Although financial assistance was available for struggling families it was suggested that not all deserved support. Many businesses took advantage of the straitened times by laying off workers and re-employing them under reduced conditions. In the middle of this recession an earthquake hit an urban environment, killing 256 people and demolishing much of the central business area.

Sound familiar? This actually describes New Zealand in the early 1930's, "Honest" George Forbes was the Prime Minister and Napier suffered the ea…

Pure Advantage and the Green Race

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Sir Stephen Tindall was interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on National Radio this morning. Sir Stephen was speaking on behalf of Pure Advantage, an alliance of business leaders who support green growth as best way to ensure and sustain the wealth of New Zealanders. Those involved are notable and influential business personalities and as well as Sir Stephen include Rob Fyfe, Sir George Fistonich, Jeremy Moon, Justine Smythe, Mark Solomon and Joan Withers. This is not a group that can be easily dismissed.

Sir Stephen spoke with some frustration at the lack of foresight shown by successive governments to lead the country in a way that recognizes the importance of our green brand or promote the opportunities that green business can bring.

Pure advantage recognizes that the state of the world's environment and the economic challenges that are being faced mean that business as usual is no longer possible. Most nations are looking at more sustainable ways of operating and there is growing dem…

National's Tenancy Problematic

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We, the New Zealand public, are landlords and every three years we review the performance of those we allow to reside in our parliament buildings and deal to those who have not met the terms of our informal tenancy agreement. We have a three year occupancy clause but when a tenant's behaviour is such that the rent payment is irregular and there is damage to property, direct action may be required before the three years are up. Being a landlord is a difficult role, we need to maintain occupancy but when tenants misbehave removing them can be a protracted and difficult process. For landlords with a social conscience there is also the concern that if we turf tenants out they will have nowhere to go (we do have a chronic housing shortage).

The National Party has proven to be a difficult tenant, it has been disrespectful to its landlords and its poor budgeting has limited rent payments. There have been too many times where National has spent up large partying and gambling with its mat…

Education Questions That Demand Answers!

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The latest OECD report on education has New Zealand still ranked at the top in educational achievement. We are rated 4th in reading and science literacy and 7th for mathematics. England on the other hand has slipped hugely since 2000, having dropped from 7th to 25th in reading, from 8th to 28th in mathematics and from 4th to 16th for science. Australia is ranked well behind us and the US can only manage middle rankings.

It was also revealed that New Zealand spends less on education per student than nearly all 34 OECD countries. The report shows that we still have a spread of achievement, but then again our levels of child poverty remain amongst the highest in the OECD.

Some questions:

If teachers are working in an education environment that is under resourced compared to other developed countries, yet we still manage maintain our top rankings, shouldn't we be celebrating the quality of our teachers?

If England is plummeting in their education achievement, why did we employ someon…

Parata's Future?

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With her announcement today Education Minister, Hekia Parata, finds herself in an interesting place.

Tolley was useful to National because she actually didn't understand her portfolio and was able to arrogantly push stuff through with no lingering doubts that the profession may be right. Parata understands a lot more and her initial engagements with the profession has seen her put aside the tightly scripted speeches used by Tolley and strategically "speak from the heart". She often changes her language to that which is more palatable to teachers and quickly dropped talking about performance pay, for example, and has promoted robust appraisals instead.

I think she was probably handed a lemon with the teacher cuts, lacked good advice from her Ministry (the current CEO obviously does not have any appreciation of the New Zealand education system and culture) and felt obliged to carry it through. For someone who is generally very articulate she was reduced to the sort of ban…

Hekia's Huge Tui Billboard!

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Given Hekia Parata's claims on National Radio, I felt the need to write another letter. I have covered much of this in an earlier post in more detail because the 250 word limit poses restrictions in including all of National's damaging initiatives.
Dear Sir
The National Government is so determined to lift the "quality" of teaching in our public schools that they have: Sent their own children to private schools that received $35 million in extra funding.Gave the rich over $2 billion in tax cuts while allowing a huge increase in child poverty.Cut $25 million from the Ministry of Education budget.Sacked advisors for science and technologySpent $60 million on implementing the flawed National Standards, without a trial and against advice.Employed a Ministry of Education CEO from a country ranked behind New Zealand in educational achievement.Closed our residential schools for children with behavioural needs.Refused to pay…

2012 Green Conference Reflections

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The Green Party's 2012 AGM has just finished and I thought I would share some of the highlights from my personal perspective:

The Values Party Fortieth Birthday Celebrations

I gave the Values Party my first vote and their 1975 manifesto remains a pivotal document in the history of the New Zealand green movement and an influence on the Global Greens Charter. This year is the fortieth year since the New Zealand Values Party became the first "green" party in the world to contest a national election (1972) and a day of celebration and reflection had been organised on the Friday before the Green Party AGM.

The passage of time since the seventies became obvious when the past members arrived with greying hair, walking sticks, hearing aids and even a wheelchair. The average age of those who stood in the 1972 election was 29 years, they were youthful, enthusiastic and idealistic. However, on listening to them on Friday one had to admit that although they had lost their youth over…