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Showing posts from January, 2012

Bernie Napp Continues Lignite Debate

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Bernie Napp, Senior Policy Analyst, Straterra.
Dave Kennedy challenges me (January 28) to name New Zealand towns that have achieved average to above-average prosperity directly through mining coal or lignite. The real comparison is between a "mining town", if there is such a thing today, at that same town before mining.

In the case of Waihi, an aerial photo shows that the town has been built around the open pit. Were it not for this gold mine there would be little or no town at all.

Perhaps the closest thing to a mining town in New Zealand is Reefton (gold, coal), which had many new houses and freshly painted houses when I visited in 2010.

Mr Kennedy accuses me unjustly of an "attempt to misinform the Mataura people" by including oil and gas in the resource sector median-salary figure. Skilled underground coal and gold miners in New Zealand can earn more than $100,000 a year.

But to offer a vision for Mr kennedy, if mining was properly encouraged and managed in new…

Christchurch CEO Pay Debacle Continues

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National radio provided some interesting listening this morning when it revealed that the 14% increase to Christchurch CEO's pay followed concerning performance reviews. The $68,000 increase granted to Tony Marryatt had already provided a slap in the face to struggling Christchurch ratepayers but the revelation that there was documented evidence of declining performance was a shocker. This debacle highlights two issues in my mind, firstly the need to review the true value of CEOs in the public and private sectors and secondly the quality of decision making processes at local government level.

The most prevalent argument in support of excessive CEO salaries is that there is a competitive international market for competent leaders and if we are not prepared to meet "market" rates we will not attract quality applicants and will lose those we already employ. This line of thinking has led to exploding salaries at the top end and has seen the ratio of the average pay of CEOs …

More Misinformation About Mining

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Bernie Napp, the senior policy analyst from Straterra, attempted to dismiss comments from Green MP Julie Anne Genter, however the obvious duplicity revealed in his letter to the Southland Times is almost farcical.

I would like to correct Green MP Julie Anne Center on her bizarre claim that no mining town in New Zealand has ever enjoyed benefits (Mataura split on mining benefits, January 25).
In 2010 the New Zealand Insti- tute of Economic Research report- ed that the median wage for a mining employee, including in oil and gas, was $57,320 in 2008, compared to the New Zealand median of $33,530.
It is wrong to use Waihi as an example of a mining town because people in that industry in Waihi also live at Waihi Beach, Katikati and elsewhere.
Consider also the benefits to users of resources.
As matters stand, New Zealand gas and coal are essential inputs into the dairy, wood and timber processing, horticulture and other industries. Indeed, if there were no energy and minerals, whether imported…

Transparency and Truth will Win Lignite Debate

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Solid Energy have money and the Government on their side but very little else and the closer one looks at the facts and the arguments the more obvious this becomes. The four days spent at the Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival made this crystal clear.

Solid Energy (as an SOE) are lucky to have a Government overseeing them with an energy strategy that promotes the exploitation of fossil fuels and the belief that mining (just about anything) will be the economic saviour of this country.  The National Government has had a long record of ignoring environmental advice and setting the balance between economics and sustainability heavily in favour of short term profits. The facts about the poor quality of lignite as an energy source are well documented, especially by our Environment Commissioner (Dr Jan Wright), and yet the projects continue to be supported.


The Coal Action Network of Aotearoa (CANA) is a growing national organisation dedicated to responsibly phasing out the use of c…

Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival

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Having a National Government voted in again we know that their Energy Strategy will continue to lead our country's energy priorities for the next three years. Sadly the government's support of Solid Energy's plans of turning the Mataura Valley into huge, opencast lignite mines will probably continue. So far Solid Energy have successfully blocked public involvement to establish their briquette plant and will probably continue to operate in a similar fashion unless enough of us make a strong stand.


The New Zealand Institute's report card on how our country measures up compared to other developed nations shows we rank 26th out of thirty nations for our carbon emissions per capita. For Jeanette Fitzsimons, ensuring that her grandchildren will have a real future on our planet is what has driven her since retiring from parliament and she sees the management of our carbon emissions as the most important issue in determining that future. One of the world's most respected cl…

New Zealand Becoming a Banana Republic

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"The wealthy continue to spend up large on new luxury cars, shrugging off the effects of the global economic turmoil. Official figures show sales of luxury brands such as Bentley, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari grew by more than 8 per cent last year."
Despite considering myself green and being hugely aware of the environmental consequences of the internal combustion engine, I have to admit to my admiration for a well made car. I was brought up by a father for whom the car you drove, and how you cared for it, defined you as a man. I think the fact that I  preferred self propulsion as a means of transport was always a bit of a disappointment to him and while at one time my father owned six cars I have ended up the proud owner of five bicycles.

My father's influence, however, did instill in me a fondness for British cars and I can still recall the distinctive smell of leather and woolen carpets in the stately Humber Super Snipe we owned briefly (the Queen used a similar vehicle fo…

NZ Report Card Reveals Much

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The New Zealand Institute is a privately funded "think tank" that claims to be politically neutral and appears to be largely supported by New Zealand's business leaders. The report is based on readily available  data and internationally accepted assessments to compare New Zealand's performance in 16 key areas with other developed nations within the OECD. The report card is intended to prioritise the areas most needing our attention and encourage discussion around potential solutions. I have referred to the report in an earlier post but given the fact that we have re-elected a National Government for another three years I thought it timely to revisit it.

Given its mainstream economic background I would have thought the Institute's findings would be taken seriously by our government and the areas where we are performing worst should get the most focussed attention. Sadly it appears the reality is to ignore those aspects that are particularly dire and look at major …

Sir Peter Gluckman's Advice Ignored

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I have just finished listening to a repeat of a Chris Laidlaw interview with the Prime Minister's science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, and found that his his views on Science and how it can be supported in the New Zealand context made a lot of sense. I didn't hear all of the interview but the following points he made stood out for me:
Science can be both the cause of many of the world's problems and the solution.New Zealand's minimal increase in productivity can be related to a lack of investment in research and development. We shouldn't restrict our scientific research to what can be directly related to economic development because "blue sky" science still has relevance. There are two types of science "applied science" and "yet to be applied science" and what can be seen as random scientific discoveries can often result in producing useful but unintended applications.While there should always be some management of research spending th…

Dairy Industry Cannot Be Trusted to Self Regulate

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The editorial in today's Southland Times refers to the lack of honesty from the dairy industry in reporting their progress in fencing off waterways. The dairy industry has been adamant that self regulation is the best way forward in ensuring environmental protection and that they would be more likely to be proactive in this area without tight regulation and constant monitoring from local authorities. My discussions with Russell McPherson, Southland Federated Farmers Dairy Chairman, revealed a similar strong view from local  dairy farmers that Environment Southland over regulated and were over zealous in their policing of those regulations. Russell claimed most dairy farmers were responsible and environmentally aware and should be left alone and trusted to do the right thing. Fonterra has also made reassuring claims in their statement on environmental sustainability:

We’ve also set ourselves clear environmental targets to monitor our progress and make ourselves more accountable. An…