Showing posts from June, 2013

Solid Energy, The Damage Continues...

The Government's early encouragement of Solid Energy's mad lignite schemes and poor oversight of their financial management has caused an almost $400 million debt and the loss of hundreds of jobs. While National Ministers publicly blame the company, they are holding no one responsible (the "perfect storm") and ex CEO Don Elder has become New Zealand's most highly paid gardener.

Bill English enthusiastically helping Don Elder dig a huge financial hole
The suffering of families who built their lives around Solid Energy's fossil fuel empire will continue for some time as they search for new jobs and possibly head for Australia, where coal mining is also struggling.

In Southland, where the company poured millions of dollars to promote the lignite industry, we have been left with the memories of great promises and a dodgy $29 million lignite briquetting plant. While it is claimed that the plant is a going concern and has potential, locals have witnessed truckloads…

Government Still Messing With Auckland Transport

John Key's backdown on his Government's refusal to support Auckland's rail loop was inevitable. Similar to his reversal of the decision to increase class sizes, Key has seen that public support for the rail loop has remained strong. The decision to delay funding was a clever tactic to take the heat out of the Government's opposition by appearing to support the scheme yet refuse financial support for another seven years. This allows Brownlee and Joyce to continue with their crazy motorway agenda and in speaking to the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill, Transport Consultant and MP Julie Ann Genter clearly explained the folly of it all.

The flagship of all the Government's growth stimulation initiatives are the Roads of National Significance (RONS) and building motorways has become an ongoing obsession that has transcended reason. Some excellent questioning and research from Genter has revealed that the motorways that the Government are so determined to build …

Russel Explains Green Economics

Russel Norman spoke in support of the Public Finance (Fiscal Responsibility) Amendment Bill and while it wasn't supported by Labour (for what it didn't include), there were actually many positive elements. In his speech Russel highlighted the best parts of the bill and also explained how it could have been greatly improved through using a Green economic approach.

The fact that the bill promoted efficiency and fairness as major considerations in the development of revenue strategy, it would logically support progressive taxation and a capital gains tax. Since many of our wealthier citizens pay very little tax on much of their income then such taxation would more fairly share the tax load.

Recognising the interaction between fiscal and monetary policy was another positive element and, while this was the aspect that caused most concern for Labour, in Russel's view, the amended version covered the economic relationship between the two well. It makes sense that a more holistic…

Poverty, Blaming Easier Than Fixing

I do think it is important to debate major issues confronting our country through public forums and involve influential and knowledgeable people. I remember in the 70s Brian Edwards used to front such programmes where an expert panel would debate an issue and a representative audience could also have opportunities to speak. These programmes were a great sharing of ideas and very informative. TV3's "The Vote" obviously was set up with a similar intention but I have been disturbed by how the format has actually limited robust discussion and ridiculously simplified the issues.

Last week the moot was, "Our kids: the problem's not poverty it's parenting".  It was painful to watch some highly respected and knowledgeable individuals having to argue a simplistic view rather than deal with the complex and varied reasons why many children are suffering in substandard environments.

Dr Russell Wills, our current Commissioner for Children, has been involved in leadi…

Gareth Hughes in Invercargill

The Green Party's energy spokesperson is the very energetic Gareth Hughes. He is no longer the youngest MP in Parliament (that honour goes to National's Jami-Lee Ross), but with his boyish grin he claims he is the youngest looking. Gareth maybe younger than most of his parliamentary colleagues but he is already into his second term as an MP and is currently the Green Party Whip. Like all of our younger MPs, Gareth's apparent youth belies an intellect and knowledge that surprises those who challenge him. He is regarded as one of the few MPs in Parliament who actually spoke knowledgeably about the issues around the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill and won a lot of support from the IT community for reflecting their concerns. Gareth's strong stance against poorly regulated fracking and deep sea oil drilling has also attracted strong negative attention from those who see New Zealand's future is in the extraction of fossil fuel.

Gareth escaped the Wint…

Manufacturing Crisis, Who to Believe?

The joint manufacturing report from the opposition parties was released at the same time that the Government was attempting to celebrate an economic upturn. For those who listen to the spin rather than looking at the detail it appears to be all rather confusing; the Government is celebrating an economic upturn that they claim is the result of their good management, while the opposition is claiming things aren't so good and major changes are needed.

It can't be denied that there is more economic activity than there has been in the previous few years but a closer look at what is driving this makes it clear that the recovery is patchy and probably not sustainable. Three main areas are supporting the current economic upturn; the Christcurch rebuild, Auckland's buoyant property market and our agricultural exports. If you are involved in the construction industry, property investment or the dairy industry, things are looking rosy, but if you are attempting to buy your first home …

PaCT and the Devil

By announcing the mandating of the PaCT assessment tool in 2015, this Government has finally managed to line their National Standards' ducks in a row and satisfy a major element of their GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) agenda. This decision now means New Zealand will no longer lead the world with its child centered teaching and learning approach and will shift to a nationalised assessment regime that has failed in the UK, US and other countries ranked well beneath us. We haven't learned from the experience of others, including Australia, that found that national testing regimes did not have a positive effect on achievement.

The online PaCT tool (National Standards Progress and Consistancy Tool) was never designed, or initially intended, as a system of national assessment. It was designed as just another tool that teachers could use to check the accuracy of their overall teacher judgements. Many schools agreed to trial the system as they could see the benefits of havin…

Crisis Management Governance Failing

Listening to Tim Groser on Q+A this morning just emphasised how little forward planning this Government does. Despite being very open about the fact that we probably lack diplomatic capacity and admitting we need more mandarin speakers when dealing with China, it does make me wonder why more hasn't been done to rectify this before now. Whether it be Novopay or the certification blunder that held up our meat shipments, it was poorly performing bureaucracy that caused the problems. While the Government is quick to blame officials and claim that in retrospect things could be done differently, this doesn't absolve it from responsibility.

Since 2008 the National led Government has not focused on building capacity and performance in the state sector, but saving money. It has been apparent in all ministries and state departments that  reductions in funding have been based on arbitrary decisions rather than ones that have been strategically managed or based on performance reviews and…

Hekia Parata, Mid Term Report

Hekia Parata stepped her high heels gingerly over of what remained of New Zealand's public education system (battered by funding cuts, Novopay failures, sacked advisory services, recent closure announcements, bullying implementation of ideological systems and a struggling Ministry) and sat before microphones and cameras. With practiced composure and a broad smile she announced that the latest National Standards results revealed a "small but incremental increase in reading, writing and mathematics".

The way Parata presented the information one could believe that the data arrived from the heavens and was inscribed in stone and was not derived from roughly moderated teacher judgments and testing systems that had recently been scaled upwards. For all we know the small but incremental increase could just as easily have been a 10% drop in achievement, the data is so flawed.

For teachers to hear this Education Minister appearing to take credit for the apparent gains in achieve…

Climate Losing to Partisan Politics

The news event of the moment is whether Peter Dunn really did leak confidential information or did he just momentarily let his guard down because of the attentions of a young female journalist. While politicians and journalists are falling over themselves to take advantage of the situation or catch the next piece of juicy gossip, worrying stuff is happening elsewhere.

Extreme flooding has hit central Europe effecting Poland, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. Flood waters four times higher than normal have resulted in many deaths and tens of thousands having to leave their homes. People have described unusual tropical weather during a period that is normally very dry.

A series of devastating tornadoes are wrecking havoc through the central US only days after dozens were killed by a massive twister in Oklahoma.

The past year has seen multiple weather records:
Jerusalem saw more snow fall than over a decade and heavy rain saw flooding in parts of the Middle East.The Australian Bureau of…

Greens Play Hardball!

We are six months away from election year and the political missiles are already being fired thick and fast. The fact that the Green Party is being heavily targeted by both National and right leaning journalists is a good sign that our Party has finally made it as a political force. We should be celebrating.

The last two elections it was difficult to get any media time at all and even though we ran a strong campaign and were the third largest party in 2011, it was Winston who hogged the TV with his drip fed revelations about the "tea cups" saga.

During the last election National flirted with the Greens as a potential coalition partner, they actually saw us as a more stable and rational group than the fractious Act Party and for three years our memorandum of understanding delivered some useful stuff (including home insulation, cycle tracks and the Tui Mine clean up). Our Party hasn't changed but National's tactics have. When we publicly declared an interest in a coal…