Showing posts from August, 2012

Ending Child Poverty is Not Dopey!

It has been estimated that the cost to our economy for poor child outcomes is around 3% of our GDP which equates to around $6 billion a year. This includes costs in health, welfare, remedial education, crime and justice expenditure and lower productivity. We have one of the lowest expenditures in the OECD on children in their early years and one of the poorest records for child health and safety.

A universal weekly payment of around $120 for all children under six would cost the country around $2 billion a year, the same amount as it has cost us annually to provide tax cuts to the wealthy. It cost $1.7 billion to bail out South Canterbury Finance and the government is spending around $14 billion on roads that we largely don't need.

A $2 billion investment in our children when they are most vulnerable and most deserving of support (the first 6 years are crucial for their long term prospects) will obviously pay dividends over time. Given that most families with young children are s…

"A View to the South" BERL Report

This evening I attended the launch of the WWF funded BERL report, A View to the South: Potential Low Carbon Growth Opportunities for the Southern Region. With Solid Energy having purchased around 5,000 hectares of arable land with the intention of mining lignite, many in the South have been led to believe that this is the best option for growing jobs and boosting the local economy. WWF saw this report as a useful document to present other alternatives for economic growth that would be low in carbon emissions and more sustainable in the long term. The report was prepared by Dr Ganesh Nana, a very respected business and economic researcher and analyst, and his colleague Fiona Stokes.

Dr Nana presented the report to a packed meeting room in the Invercargill Library and he provided an overview of his approach and the intent of the document. The report initially looked at the current economy of the region and produced projections based on existing activity and continuing a business as usu…

Shocking Unemployment Figures revealed!

Over the last few months we have had more evidence of the growing inequities that exist in New Zealand society. We have had the release of the NBR rich list which has shown that New Zealand now has a considerable group of very rich people who, for the most part, have suffered little from the world's economic down turn. The collective wealth of this group is considerable ($52 billion for the top 100) and, with a fortune of over $50 million, Prime Minister John Key doesn't even make the top 150. Most are still seeing steady increases in their wealth over and above the 20% average increases recorded last year.

When the government decided to reward our wealthiest with tax cuts, it not only reduced the tax take by an average of $2 billion a year since, but put the tax rate for upper earners below Australia's. It is generally accepted that a large proportion of our wealthy generate their income through untaxed property investment and most of them would be investing in property …

Worrying Similarities Between Milan Brych and National

While watching the docudrama about the medical fraudster, Milan Brych, I realized some strong similarities in this story with the National Party's governance of our country. It may appear to be an over the top comparison, but please bear with me as I explain how I came to this conclusion and you will see that it isn't that far from the truth.

In both cases we have a smiling benevolent facade, making claims that appeared convincing but had little substance behind them. The only real difference between Brych and the National Party is how they arrived into their position of power, Brych arrived from nowhere and with no proof of his past, whereas the National Party do have a documented past that includes Nicky Hagar's "The Hollow Men". However, in both situations people had got carried away with the promise of better things and were willing to ignore evidence (or lack of it) and take a gamble. The National Party promised a "brighter future" and Brych promi…

Fiordland or Disneyland?

John Beattie, Director of FiordlandLink Experience (monorail), wrote a reply to my earlier letter in the Southland Times directed to the Minister of Conservation. He took exception to my "selective approach" that favored conservation over commercial development and oddly referred to section 6 (e) of the Conservation Act as if it somehow justified the construction of his monorail.

This is my reply:

Dear Sir
John Beattie (August 24) claimed that I was being very selective in my approach then attempted to do the same thing himself to justify the construction of his monorail.

Interestingly he referred to section 6 (e) of the Conservation Act, as if it opened the door to projects like his own and interprets the phrase "tourism is not inconsistent with its conservation"as meaning anything goes. Until recently there were vigorous controls on new tourist ventures, however one only has to talk to recently retired or sacked former employees of DoC (and there are a nu…

Brownlee Suffers Knockout in Transport Debate

Julie Anne Genter continues to grill Gerry Brownlee about the evidence he has used to determine National's $12 billion dollar investment into the Roads of National Significance (RONS). Yesterday there was another dismal effort from Brownlee, who could produce no research or evidence to prove that the roads were the best value solution for our transport needs. As far as he was concerned we need them because there is some congestion and the only evidence necessary was the electoral returns in 2011. When Genter called for a point of order regarding the fact that Brownlee had not provided specific evidence, the Speaker (with a rueful smile) explained that he didn't think she would get a better answer other than the Minister believed the motorways were a good idea and that was what he was basing his decision on. He invited the Minister to respond to the point of order but got no further explanation.

In the process of asking her questions, Genter provided a range of evidence that wo…

Kate Wilkinson, the Minister of Consternation.

Conservation Minister, Kate Wilkinson, had a stern response to Lesley Soper's claim that DoCs decision to grant initial approval to the Fiordland tunnel and monorail was inappropriate. In Today's Southland Times her letter explained that the public hearings and acceptance of submissions had allowed proper process to be followed. Her letter concluded with:

"For Ms Soper to suggest this as being "inappropriate" is erroneous both in fact and law".

Sadly Kate Wilkinson is doing what many National Ministers do, reinterpreting the law and ensuring the "facts" are shaped to suit their agenda. Considering the amount of stress and anxiety she is causing amongst those of us who care about preserving our natural heritage within our conservation parks I felt obliged to write another letter:

Dear Sir
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson attempted to reassure us all in her letter (21 August) regarding the good process and public consultation being followed for …

National Making Huge Splatter/Zombie Movie

This National led Government likes to fast track change, they claim they need to act with urgency to save us from wasteful spending and to improve front line services. Within the last four years they have attacked numerous state departments and sectors, slashing budgets and demanding greater efficiencies. To them the process is simple: take away the money, set targets and tell people to work harder. The trouble is, change isn't that simple and simple thinking does not necessarily lead to positive outcomes. 
A difficulty with ongoing change is that we are continually looking forward to prepare ourselves for the next wave to hit and have little time to look back to see the resulting debris. Well, I have looked back and it isn't a pretty sight. The earthquake damage to Christchurch City was bad enough but National has wrecked havoc across the entire country with social structures and government infrastructures crumbling and literally thousands of people emerging from the dust an…

Norman Reveals Threats to Privacy and Democracy

Russel Norman has exposed the truth behind this National led Government's inability to plan ahead and their total disregard for basic rights of privacy. Apparently if something hasn't happened, and is therefore "hypothethetical", then they can't actually determine a policy to manage it and anyone who dares to criticise the government stand to lose their anonymity and rights to privacy.

Russel used examples of real and hypothetical situations regarding the release of personal information  by government ministers to establish this horrifying reality. He began his series of questions, addressed to the Prime Minister, with one that established what a person must be prepared to do under this Government if they question any of their policies or initiatives:

"Does he agree with the statement made by the honorable Bill English, in relation to the release of Natasha Fuller's private details by his Social Development Minister. that, 'People who enter into pub…

15 Ethical "Fails" Under National!

What is ethical behaviour?

Ethical behaviour is characterized by honesty, fairness and equity in interpersonal, professional and academic relationships and in research and scholarly activities. Ethical behaviour respects the dignity, diversity and rights of individuals and groups of people.

Ethical behavior is the standards that you hold for yourself of the attributes of honesty, responsibility, and how you treat others in all facets of your life. The same standards are applicable to whatever position you hold in commerce, in your community, and even behind your own doors where only you know what you do. Ethical behavior is applying these standards even when it is inconvenient to do so.

Read more:

I am continually astounded by the National Party Ministers who brazenly approach their responsibilities as if governing should only only involve the barest legal or fiscal considerations. Conflicts of interest are br…

Rail is Worth the Investment!

Of all political issues outside of welfare it is the status of our railways that most appears to polarise political ideologues. For those on the right any form of state owned transport is an anathema and nothing brings more joy to them than fleets of privately owned trucks roaring along newly constructed motorways. For those on the left the railways represent the pinnacle of state enterprise and a unionized workforce providing thousands of jobs across the country.

From the fifties the dominance of rail for transporting freight and passengers has steadily eroded because of the competition of improved roading, air travel and deregulation. In the 1950s the New Zealand Rail department had more than 1,530 railway stations and employed almost 30,000 workers, by 2001 Tranz Rail cut employees to 4,000 workers and only 100 stations remained in use.

KiwiRail's CEO, Jim Quinn, was interviewed on Q+A regarding the viability of our rail system and the wisdom of outsourcing the construction of…

The Facts Around the Fracking Frenzy

Over twelve months ago very few New Zealanders had heard about fracking and now it is becoming one of the most hotly debated issues involving a good deal of emotion. Gareth Hughes has become the face of the opposition to fracking and has had to endure some fairly strong personal attacks from right wing bloggers and even the Taranaki Regional Council have seen fit to openly criticize him.

With L&M looking at the potential of fracking in Southland the issue is becoming something closer to home. While the industry claims that the process has minimal environmental effects it was recently revealed that some worrying, uncontrolled fracking has already occurred in our region. In 1995 two fracking wells were set up just south of Ohai, resulting in a toxic mix of chemicals (mainly formaldehyde and coal residue) being poured into a nearby stream.

The Minister for Energy and Resources, Phil Heatley, and the former Conservation and Environment Minister, Nick Smith,  have been very dismissiv…

Teachers, Petulance and Political Agendas

NZEI Te Riu Roa President, Ian Leckie
Today's Southland Times editorial accuses teachers of petulance and operating under political agendas after a decision from the Chief Ombudsman. Dame Beverley Wakem has unfortunately decided that schools should follow the directives provided by the School Trustees Association (STA) rather than the advice of the New Zealand Eucational Institute.

It is difficult to provide all the information needed to to refute a lengthy editorial in a 250 word letter but I had a go:

Dear Sir
The editorial (Friday 10th) claim that NZEI and primary teachers are reluctant to release because of petulance and a political agenda couldn't be further from the truth. It is the Government that has the political agenda.

While our education system isn't perfect it is still highly regarded internationally and is consistently ranked in the top five. None of the highest performing …

Yin and Yang Applied to Governance

The importance of balance has probably been recognized since the first people wandered through the African savanna. Much of Chinese and Eastern philosophy is based around the concept of Yin and Yang, the idea that opposite but complimentary forces are needed to allow the world to properly function. Natural dualities such as dark and light, hot and cold, male and female and fire and water are regarded as manifestations of Yin and Yang. When one element dominates the other then the natural balance no longer exists and there are negative consequences.

Our society, our economy and our environment are suffering because the ancient understandings of balance have been ignored and the consequences have become even more pronounced over the last 4 years. I have already written about my concerns regarding gender based discrimination but an article in the latest Listener has emphasized this further.

I am involved with a number of organisations at a governance level and in each there exists a goo…

Addressing the Failures of Rio

17 year old New Zealander Brittany Trilford speaking to the conference on behalf of her generation.
Kennedy Graham has published a series of posts on Frog Blog where he has described his experiences of Rio's 3rd Earth Summit, expressed frustration at the lack of determination and resolve from the attending states (our own government sent a junior Minister) and offered his own solution to addressing climate change.

I have huge respect for Kennedy, he is very experienced at operating in international and diplomatic forums and is very knowledgeable about international law and process. He suggests an organising framework that will enable a closer working relationship between the scientific community and the United Nations and greater powers and commitment to address the anthropogenic causes of climate change: 
UN Security Council attention to all components of the Ecological Crisis as a threat to international peace and security;an empowered Secretary-General, taking more personal initia…