Showing posts from September, 2013

Exclusive Brethren Will Test Govt Priorities

The Exclusive Brethren have removed their children from the state system so that they can provide an educational environment that supports their religious beliefs. They have 24 sites, or satellite schools, that operate under one school administration (Westmount School) that already receives $2.9 million of Government funding. The Decile 8 school has applied to be fully integrated at an estimated cost of an extra $7 million (or around $4,300) per student.

The Exclusive Brethren have been accused of operating as a cult and many members who have left the church have cited, bullying treatment. The story of the Brethren's treatment of gay journalist Craig Hoyle is especially shocking. The Exclusive Brethren have also had a long connection with the National Party and their privately produced election pamphlet in support of the Party for the 2005 election was mentioned in Nicky Hager's The Hollow Men. The Pamphlet was highly critical of Labour and the Greens and made a number of wil…

J K Rowling on Single Parenting

Harry Potter writer, J K Rowling, reveals that persecution and discrimination against solo mothers isn't just a New Zealand issue. In an article for Gingerbread, a charity that provides support for single parents, she makes the following observations on her own experience in the UK:

"Although I have been married for much of my adult life, I have the greatest of respect for single parents. Raising children can be a challenge with a partner on hand to share the load – doing so solo, while also having to find or hold down a job, keep a roof over all your heads and put food on the table is a real achievement and one of which every single parent can be proud."

"Single parents – especially single mothers – have so frequently been the targets of suspicion and soundbite. The sofa-bound single mother in pursuit of housing benefit is a tabloid stereotype but one that bears little resemblance to the lives of most real life single mothers, comparatively few of whom actually chos…

The Importance of a Strong Third Party.

The Liberal Democrats have held their annual conference during my stay in the UK and it has been interesting to see how Nick Clegg has managed to put a good case forward for his party's continued existence. He claimed in his closing speech that the Lib Dems exist to put an end to the two party system. Clegg then proceeded to list the policies and legislation that the Conservatives had attempted to progress that they had blocked:
Inheritance tax cuts for millionairesBringing back O levels and a two tiered education systemProfit-making in schoolsNew childcare ratiosFiring workers at will, without reasonScrapping housing benefits for young peopleDitching the Human Rights ActWeakening protections in the Equalities ActClosing down the debate on nuclear weapons Smaller parties in any coalition tend to suffer from criticism that they are ineffective and lose support. Their own members are frustrated when important party policy cannot be progressed and they are blamed for not stopping the…

Small Businesses and Thriving City Centres

While Britain certainly has its share of chain stores and shopping malls (that seem the same no matter where you are) it is the old shopping centres, markets and small business owners that make shopping here an enjoyable experience.

Exploring the narrow streets and 'snickle ways' of York, Hull and Beverley has been full of surprises as the most amazing small businesses appeared before my eyes. Many exist in shops that are so small they barely hold more than a couple of customers at a time and some that extend through several stories of creaking wooden staircases.

Market squares are often full of colourful stalls selling everything from hats to olives and the same spaces have been used for this purpose for over 1000 years.

New Zealand will never have streets that could compete with the character of old Britain and our earthquake regulations are causing the loss of many of our old shop frontages, but it may be possible to develop a resurgence of small local enterprises.


Transport Options, Sharing the Road

New Zealand has developed an aggressive car culture that becomes more obvious when one travels overseas. In New Zealand the majority of car drivers appear to believe that roads belong to them and woe betide any pedestrian who attempts to use a pedestrian crossing or cyclist who wishes to use the road as well.

On average 36 pedestrians are killed and around 1000 injured on New Zealand roads every year and many are killed or injured while legally using marked crossings. Every year around 10 cyclists will die through collisions with motor vehicles and about 300 will be hospitalised. Obviously for both pedestrians and cyclists there will be many more accidents that went unreported. Anti-cyclist views are common, and despite attempts to lay the blame on some cyclists' behaviour, only 23% of accidents involving bicycles and motorcars are the fault of the cyclist.

It is always a pleasant surprise when I spend time in England and experience a totally different attitude to road use. One w…

The School Journal - Demise of an Icon?

The School Journal is the flagship publication of Learning Media and for most teachers is an essential resource for teaching and learning in the classroom. The School Journal began its life in 1907 when it was often the only reading material available in many schools. While the length of publication is probably highly unique, the content of the Journals are of a quality that is the envy of many countries.

Contributors to the Journal have included New Zealand's most highly regarded writers, poets, playwrights, artists and scientists. Primary School children have enjoyed poems by James K Baxter, plays by Roger Hall and illustrations by many of our most recognised artists such as Dick Frizzell. The School Journal has been able to celebrate the cultural diversity within New Zealand so that most children can read a story that will reflect their own experiences and also allow them to understand the lives of others. The School Journal has also supported all the learning areas including …

Renewable Energy, What Others Are Doing.

I have just arrived in the UK and have had some interesting discussions with fellow travelers and have seen some interesting things since arriving.

I had a conversation with a young Chinese woman who is working in New Zealand. We talked about the differences between New Zealand and her home country and I was particularly interested in how her Government is approaching their energy crisis. China has experienced rapid economic growth that has been largely powered by coal driven power stations, while this has provided the energy needed to support development it has had severe environmental impacts. The Chinese Government has recognised the need to move to more environmental means of electricity production and is now leading the world in its manufacture of solar panels and other forms of renewable generation.

At a domestic level China has encouraged households to become self-sufficient in energy and the price of solar panels has become increasingly affordable. According to my traveling c…

The Economics Behind the Living Wage

Labour's leadership competition has brought a renewed focus on the concept of a living wage and has created a clear difference between the National led Government and opposition parties.

The Government and many business interests claim that a living wage is unaffordable. Despite the unfair discrimination experienced by some groups (such as the female dominated sectors of care, cleaning and clerical work) it is claimed that in a supposed recession fairness is a luxury we can't afford. The fact that many of these underpaid women are also having to support families on their meagre wages (contributing to our shocking child poverty statistics) has become acceptable collateral damage while attempting to "balance the books".

According to the Herald and Statistics NZ almost 40% of all wage and salary earners are paid less than the living wage ($18.40). Over 700,000 workers are struggling on minimal wages and 270,000 children are being brought up in households experiencing p…

Planet Parata and the National Standards

Planet Parata is a very orderly little planet where everyone knows their place and Parata herself is royalty. The people of Planet Parata are very respectful to those who are royalty because they are born to rule. Rulers just know stuff that no one else can know, no matter what their education or experience the loyal subjects of Planet Parata understand that they will never have the intrinsic ability to know what's right and must always follow the directions of one who does.

The teachers on Planet Parata carry around their own personal copies of the National Standards and spend every free moment memorising every level and every sentence. This is the teachers' bible and they know that without National Standards no child will ever know how successful they are and no parent will know how their child compares with others. No one can understand how education ever functioned before National Standards existed, the very thought is unthinkable.

Literacy and numeracy are the basis for …

State of the Nation 2017

The 2017 NBR Rich List revealed another good year for New Zealand's Wealthiest, for six straight years their wealth had seen a steady increase of between 10 and 20% a year. New Zealand now had eight billionaires, up from five in 2013.

The luxury car market continued to grow and and the property market bubble is still to burst, the average house price in Auckland topped $800,000 in the middle of the year.

After faltering in 2013 and losing several markets, Fonterra returned to similar profit levels and the expansion of dairying had benefited from the new irrigation schemes. The number of cows in New Zealand now totals 10 million (2 cows for every New Zealander), thanks to the changes to the RMA that allowed for the faster growth of the industry.

The redevelopment of Auckland's waterfront was almost complete in readiness for the America's Cup challenge the following year. The development had been assisted by the $80 million of Government funding.

Peter Jackson completed fil…