Showing posts from November, 2012

Aspiring to Become Average

New Zealand used to lead the world in so many things: GDP per capita, education, being the most equitable society, environmental stewardship, child health and welfare, human rights, the least corrupt society...  However the world moves on and other countries have caught up and passed us over the last forty years. We are now the fastest growing inequitable society in the OECD, we have dropped from 1st to 15th in environmental management, we have one of the worst records amongst developed nations for child health and welfare and while we used to be in the top four for education achievement I now hear us being described as in the top 7.

Obviously there are many who are concerned that 25% of our children are suffering from poverty and 80% of our lowland rivers are polluted through intensive farming and are making their concerns known. This Government and their many supporters are enthusiastically defending our decline and the damage to our 100% pure brand by emphasizing the fact that the…

Fracking Report Flags Issues

Green MP Gareth Hughes has received much criticism for his energetic opposition to fracking, this industry has been the saviour of the US in terms of energy independence and is a rapidly growing industry around the world and in New Zealand. After passing the peak of easily available oil, the industry has had to look at more environmentally challenging sources to meet demand. Drilling in deeper seas has resulted in some catastrophic accidents in terms of environmental damage and lives lost and less productive and environmentally invasive sources have been exploited (like the Canadian tar sands).

The discovery that previously uneconomic deposits of oil and gas could be accessed by hydraulically cracking rock and connecting smaller pockets of fossil fuel was a revelation. This was achieved by drilling down into oil rich rock and forcing a mixture of water and chemicals into it so that it causes widespread cracking and allowing the oil or gas to flow.

While fracking is very productive th…

Lest We Forget: The Real Hobbit Story

Peter Jackson is a hugely talented director and Warner Bros makes some wonderful movies and I will probably go to see the Hobbit when it comes to Invercargill. I must say, however, that I have lost a good deal of respect for Sir Peter Jackson and was extremely disappointed in the behavior of the National led Government in regards to the treatment of our New Zealand actors and film workers. When I view the Hobbit I will be admiring the skill and capabilities of all those who worked on and off the screen, but have had to work under an employment regime that does not properly recognise or support their real contribution.

The Hobbit actors and crew were employed as contractors even though their actual status was as employees, this enabled Jackson and Warner Bros to escape most obligations as good employers. Warner Bros had refused to meet or bargain with the local actors union and ignored the usual expectation of operating in good faith. It was the Company not the actors that was the rea…

Valuing Workers and Increasing Productivity

In 1914 New Zealand was the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita and we were still ranked third in 1960. According to the IMF we are now 25th, just behind Italy, and the United Nations make us 29th, below New Caledonia. While I accept that the international markets we have had to compete within have changed (the EEC, trade protectionism and the growth of multinational monopolies), I do think there are internal factors that have caused a drop in productivity and competitiveness. If we look at only one aspect, New Zealand's workforce, we have been experiencing dropping productivity (around .3% annually) since 2006. While the Government claims that the global recession and the Christchurch earthquake are responsible for our lack of productivity and economic success, I think this is a copout.

There are seven factors that I think have a large impact on our low levels of productivity:
Low wages.Poor employment conditions Growing income inequityFewer high value jobsStr…

Mike Joy, Traitor or Martyr?

Dr Mike Joy is one of a number scientists who have been thrust into the public arena because their work and research conflicts with their Government's economic agenda. Last year it was my privilege to support the hosting of Dr James Hansen, NASA scientist and climate change advisor to the US government during his speaking tour of New Zealand.  During the 1980s Dr Hansen had presented to the US Congress the large body of evidence and peer reviewed science that revealed the dramatic impact human activity was having on the Earth's climate. He was shocked to discover that rather than accepting and acting on the information he had provided, Congress and President George Bush swiftly censored his work so that the public communications of his presentation were far less threatening. The Government had decided that the short term interests of business and the nation's economy took precedence over the health and viability of the planet.

Like the majority of scientists Hansen operated…

Sage Advice For Saving Our Estuaries

Russel Norman started the Dirty River Tours a few years ago to highlight the declining quality of our waterways. He visited the Mataura River in Southland a couple of years ago but his southern focus shifted from rivers to the Waituna Lagoon and wetland area when it was revealed that the bigger environmental catastrophes were occurring where the rivers ended.

Eugenie Sage has taken over Russel's role as the Green MP responsible for water issues and has started her own Dirty River Tour. She had decided to begin her tour in Southland and initially looked at the Oreti River until she became aware of a worrying report from Environment Southland regarding declining state of our estuaries.

The declining quality of our rivers and aquifers is a worrying reality and the infamous BBC interview with John Key, where our Prime Minister dismissed criticisms of our environmental record from respected scientist Mike Joy, revealed this Government's total reluctance to acknowledge the truth. It…

John Key and Don Quixote

John Key attacking yet another neoliberal fantasy!
This National led Government thinks we have an education crisis in New Zealand and has spent millions on supporting private schools, and introducing National Standards and Charter Schools.

This Government thinks we have a roading crisis and has $12 billion earmarked for motorway developments.

This Government thinks we have a crisis with welfare fraud and has pushed through much legislation to limit access and coverage for beneficiaries.

This Government thinks we have a crisis with over regulation and business stifling regulatory bodies and wants to change the RMA, get rid of  environment councils.

This National led Government is spending all its time and energy on crises that are largely a figment of its neoliberal imagination. It has refused to acknowledge or tried to ignore the real crises that are confronting New Zealanders. When it can't ignore these crises it shifts the blame away from itself, ignores the causes and invests …

The GERM is Infecting Our Schools!

Primary Teachers are on the whole a fairly mild mannered lot who generally just want to focus on teaching and the children they are responsible for. When I first started teaching there were are number of issues with our pay and conditions and yet to mobilize teachers to take collective action was really difficult. Most teachers didn't want to draw attention to themselves, disrupt their class programmes or inconvenience their communities. Consequently NZEI members have only gone on strike a couple of times in the 130 year history of the Institute. Many teachers actually have difficulty thinking of the New Zealand Educational Institute as a union as it started as a purely professional organisation and professional work has always been a large part of its activities.

Prior to 2008 teachers generally felt positive about teaching and were proud of our education system. Our ranking for educational achievement, on most international assessments, placed us clearly in the top five (when y…

Defending the Indefensible

The Southland CTU has organised a political debate on the economy in an attempt to get some serious attention applied to the potential loss of around 2,000 jobs to the region. There is considerable concern regarding the down sizing of the freezing work industry and the possible closure of the Tiwai Smelter. The Government has claimed that they can do little to help and there has been a general hands off approach to job losses around the regions. Investing in our own people and maintaining a skilled workforce in New Zealand has not been a priority as seen by the constant outsourcing of contracts, the closure of Dunedin's Hillside Workshops and a 15% loss of workers in the construction industry.

While the Green Party, Labour, New Zealand First and the CTU are being represented at the debate by high ranking members (Turei, Cunliffe, Peters and CTU National Secretary Peter Conway) the National Government is notable by it's absence. Invercargill MP Eric Roy sent a bizarre letter t…

!00% Down the Gurgler

This National led Government cares about the environment a great deal and they even have a special branch or appendage of the party called the "Blue Greens" that is totally devoted to environmental concerns. Such is their passion for the environment that this group have devoted much of their energies to a single project of great national significance, the Meola Creek Restoration Project. They even have an impressive plan of action:
As part of our action plan, we'll be: cleaning up the creek to remove litter and wastemonitoring the creek regularly to gauge the success of plantingclearing weeds prior to plantingundertaking restoration planting at designated site over some planting daysproviding regular maintenance of planted sitesHighlight our activities at the Grey Lynn Festival
I guess for those who live near this creek or attend the nearby Decile 7 Mt Albert Grammar school, they are very grateful for the Blue Greens' efforts. I'm not sure what the St Lukes Enviro…

Federated Farmers and the Professor

I have just spent an interesting morning listening and engaging with a presentation from Agribusiness Professor Jacqueline Rowarth. I was invited to attend the presentation by the local Federated Farmers and listened to some heavy attacks on the Greens, some strong criticisms of regulations and environment councils and some arguments (heartily supported by the farmers present) about why we shouldn't be too hung up about the quality of our rivers. Prof Rowarth made much of the fact that food production is probably the most important industry in New Zealand and how badly treated our highly innovative and efficient farmers are.

You can imagine how well received this presentation was to the farmers present, the fact that she was a vegetarian was immediately forgiven because she could also milk cows like the best of them and her message in their minds was spot on. The professor was an agricultural angel sent from heaven and the farmers present were extremely pleased that I, as a Green…