Showing posts from January, 2014

Key Flags a Clever Distraction

The National party has started 2014 with pockets full of cash, mirrors and a smoke machine. Their intention is obviously to wrong foot the opposition with a mix of left field initiatives and out of the blue distractions. The circus is in town and the flags are flying.

Key's State of the Nation speech included a substantial education spend of $359 million. Despite international assessments and most research indicating that that it is socio-economic factors that are the largest determiners of educational achievement, National have stuck fast to their neo-liberal roots and decided that providing financial incentives to teachers will make the most difference. They plan to identify top teachers and principals and pay them up to $50,000 a year extra to sort out failing schools and struggling teachers. National is sticking fast to National Standards and these are likely to be used to select those individuals who will be rewarded with the money and leadership roles. It is also likely tha…

Green's Practical Response to Educational Inequities

I have recently returned from the education conference "Taking Stock, Moving Forward". The conference was centered around Martin Thrupp's important qualitative research on how schools have managed the imposition of National Standards and the effect it has on school cultures. Martin is internationally well regarded as an academic and he managed to attract other leading educationalists from the US, UK and Australia to serve as a reference group to critique his research and contribute to the conference. When university funding is now largely determined by government priorities it is a brave academic who engages in research that ultimately questions the validity of current policies. Martin's bravery was referred to many times over the course of the conference. The Government and right wing bloggers' efforts to dismiss the National Standards research because it was partly funded by NZEI could be easily countered by the academic rigor employed. Obviously the Governmen…

Boats and Trains and Peculiar Procurement

New Zealand made super yacht
Procurement has become a controversial issue at the moment. The Government has just given the contract to build a 43 metre ferry for the New Zealand territory of Tokelau to a Bangladesh company. This has upset the local boat building industry that has the capacity to build the boat and needs the work.

Steven Joyce claims that the difference between the Bangladesh tender and the closest New Zealand one was just too great and to give preference to New Zealand suppliers at any cost "would be a recipe for economic suicide." Joyce may well have done his homework in this case but his track record and the Government's actions over the last five years shows little consistency or logic in how they approach procurement.

Joyce claims that the difference between the Bangladesh tender of $8 million and the cheapest New Zealand one was $14 million and yet one local firm claimed that they could have built it for a total $14 million. When the Government adve…

Oil Drilling, A Future For Fools!

The Southland Times' front page "cargo cult" celebration of Shell's announcement to drill resulted in three letters to the Editor on the Friday following. I thought that I should follow up on the brief quotes that the paper published from me with a little more information and it was a pleasant surprise to find that other writers from around the province shared my concerns.

Here they are, in the order published:

Risk of loss is ours, the profit is theirs

"We're gonna Drill' or is it 'Drill, baby, drill"?

Your front page story (January 8) was hardly an example of unbiased reporting. Filling the page with a photograph of clear blue water and sky and then positioning a tidy image of a single drilling rig established a hearty "can do" tone for this gas hunt.

The story itself was sourced almost entirely from the point of view of the oil company's spokesperson. One sentence at the end presents the other side of the coin. In that sentence …

Shell and the Great South Basin

The Southland Times devoted the whole of the front page to celebrate Shell's decision to do some exploratory drilling in the Great South Basin. My response was the only one that expressed concern.

Setting aside the issue of continuing to recover fossil fuel when the reality of climate change is becoming ever more visible, what are the potential risks and benefits of Shell's activities? Will it really create an economic nirvana in the south or are there sinister possibilities that have been ignored?

The best scenario that will come from Shell's exploratory drilling will be that they discover a sizable gas field similar to the one in Taranaki. New Zealand has bent over backwards to welcome them and has already provided existing scientific surveys of the area for free. However the royalties we will get from any oil and gas is only 5% of the value of what is sold, almost 40% less than the OECD average
While the oil and gas comes from within our economic zone we will have to…

Ordinary New Zealanders Losing Basic Rights

It is becoming increasingly obvious that there is growing disregard for the rights and status of ordinary New Zealanders, while our wealthy elite are treated very differently.

The privacy of individuals is no longer sacrosanct, Government Ministers get away with revealing personal information to make political points and there has been a huge increase in privacy breaches from and between government departments. According to the Privacy Commissioner, almost half the 54 agreements to share information were not compliant and 10 contained serious breeches. Personal information seems easy to acquire for the Government but if a private individual wishes to access information that directly effects them (like reasons for a school closure) it is almost impossible.

Schools that serve ordinary New Zealanders, or those with high needs, are illegally closed while elite private schools have millions made available despite advice to the contrary. The Education Minister is currently looking at remov…

Good Will and Volunteers Make Communities

For a year and a half we have owned a small property in Waikawa (Catlins). We are slowly getting to know the locals and other crib (bach) owners and feel privileged to have ended up in such a nice community. It is interesting that much that happens in Waikawa depends on good will and volunteers. The fire brigade is all volunteers, and the museum is manned on a daily basis by local people.

One retired woman in particular spends much of her time in the museum and is the 'go to' person for historical information on the area. When we first bought the crib we were given a good description of the past inhabitants and the origins of the first cottage. The Southland District Council had no records on the property due to the 1984 Invercargill floods destroying all records up to that point. Obviously anything done to the property since then was not reported (very little has been done, I can vouch).

When we visited Curio Bay (5 min down the road) to check out the yellow eyed penguins, t…