Showing posts from December, 2013

Transport Choices Limited Under National

This National led Government is strong on providing greater choice for New Zealanders (or so they claim) but when it comes to transport, it seriously fails. Under this Government the preferred mode of transport is cars and each budget ensures that it remains so.

While I do drive a car and appreciate well maintained roads, the $12 billion dollar obsession with building motorways of dubious benefit is a concern. When I travel overseas and experience sophisticated European cities I become aware of how limiting New Zealand is for those who wish to cycle, walk or use public transport. In the 1970's Holland decided that they wanted towns that were safe for children and all cyclists and ensured that separate cycle paths were built, well removed from motorized transport.

In the 1950's cycling was the most common form of transport for getting to work in Invercargill and it was actually cyclists who forced the City Council to properly surface all the streets in the city.

Esk Street, Inv…

A Day of Contrasts

It is amazing how quickly one's perception of the world changes with the weather. Yesterday we hit temperatures of over 25 degrees and ate our evening meal under the shade of our large weeping silver birch. I gloated on Facebook about Invercargill leading the national temperatures for the day and our wonderful long twilights. This morning I met up with a friend and her parents and gave them a tour of Anderson Park Art Gallery. It couldn't have been a better day to show it off, the sky was an intense blue and the gardens looked well tended and sparkled with good health.

Inside the Gallery my guests were amazed at the quality and breadth of the New Zealand Art on display. My friend's father is an architect and he also took a keen interest in the features of the house. It is a unique building and the combination of art and historical features make for an interesting ambience. 
All the photos above come from the Gallery Facebook page.
On returning home and enjoying a lunch wit…

Merry Christmas

For the last five years my son has made a gingerbread creation for our Christmas enjoyment. The fact he is now studying industrial design at Victoria seems to have inspired him to greater complexity and they are edible works of art. As a proud father I thought I would share them with a wider audience and wish all who have visited my blog over the past year a wonderful festive season, whatever your beliefs or family traditions.

The Christmas Experience Not Good for Many

It certainly feels like Christmas in my house at the moment. My son is back home from university and is busy in the kitchen making his traditional gingerbread creation and my daughter has casual job at the Warehouse (often working to midnight) and tells me of the hundreds of dollars people are spending in the jewelry department. Our tree is up and glittering in the lounge, festooned with decorations collected over past decades and still some handmade ones created by our children when they were at kindergarten. My wife has the Christmas cake sitting in the pantry and every morning I am picking strawberries from our garden to eat with our breakfast.

Life in New Zealand seems good, there are regular reports of an improving economy and we have just had a record amount of money spent on art over the past year. Over $20 million worth of paintings have been sold through auction rooms and I'm sure many millions more have been bought from dealer galleries and directly from artists. A Char…

Key Sees Greens as Biggest Threat


2013, A Green Reflection

As another year ends political commentators are reviewing the performances of our MPs and once again the Green MPs generally get less attention as a whole than the likes of Colin Craig (who isn't even an MP). While Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small did give Russel Norman the same performance score of 7.5/10 that they gave John Key, there seems to be a determined effort to ignore New Zealand's third largest political party unless there is a whiff of controversy. Solid, consistent performances don't make headlines.

The year preceding election year used to be a low ebb for the Green Party, in the past we used to receive our lowest support in the polls and our branches had little to focus on. 2013 broke that pattern. Green support in the polls has remained solidly around 12% and occasionally reaching 14% and we have experienced smaller fluctuations than Labour and National. Membership has been steadily growing and we currently have the highest level of paid membership in the Par…

Key Desperately Spinning Referendum Result

It would have been nice to have at least 50% of eligible voters participate in the referendum but given the involvement in local body elections (an average of about 44%), achieving a similar turnout in the preliminary count wasn't too bad. The Government also did their best to time it when people would be least bothered, just before Christmas and near the end of the year. Key and English also claimed that they would ignore the result anyway, so many thought there was no point in making the effort and especially when most of the assets have already been sold.

Down in the six most southern electorates our results made interesting reading. At 46.5% the average turnout was higher than the national average and in two electorates over 50% of voters took part (Dunedin South 53.6% and Waitaki 51.9%).

Three of the electorates are held by National MPs and yet the average 'no' vote was just short of 75%, so three quarters of all those who voted were against asset sales. The stronge…

Westpac Greenwash and the Denniston Plateau

With the legendary Jenny Campbell QSM and the Climate Change Elephant outside Invercargill's Westpac
While the news has recently been dominated by Mandela's death, our education rankings and the latest child poverty statistics, there have been protests outside Westpac branches around the country. I spent most lunchtimes over the last week outside our Invercargill Branch.

Westpac have an interesting history, they are a highly profitable Australian owned bank, they are our Government's main banker and the IRD had to take legal action to recover almost $1 billion of avoided taxes from them. They are also one of several banks that are the subject of a class action to claw back  $1 billion of unfair default fees. In 2011 the New Zealand Westpac CEO earned $5.4 million for the year, but the current CEO is struggling on a reduced salary of $3.16 million (about 7 times the salary of our Prime Minister).

At a recent CTU conference we heard from bank workers (possibly from Westpac) …

Does Paula Bennett Really Care About Kids?

Paula Bennett has been very stubborn regarding calls to measure child poverty. She used to claim they are a Government that does things rather than just measuring things, but she has been asked so often that she now states that they use multiple measurements for poverty. When questioned about what those measurements are and the progress against them, Bennett refuses to give a straight answer.

Regarding a child poverty strategy, the Government obviously has none and resorts to listing the money spent on immunisation, insulating homes and dealing with child abuse. While all the initiatives are useful they hardly constitute a strategy and, in the case of the home insulation scheme, it still hasn't had an impact on the cheaper rental housing that most poor families live in. Obviously most initiatives are just addressing the symptoms of poverty and the real causes are being ignored.

The Government now appears to be alone in thinking that they are being effective in addressing child pov…

John Key and Mandela's Funeral

In 1981 I marched in Invercargill in protest against the Springbok Rugby tour, as many thousands did across the country. Although there were personal costs to myself in terms of my relationships with those locally who had a different world view, it was a small gesture compared to what other activists in New Zealand endured. Mandela was labeled a terrorist by many New Zealanders, including our Prime Minister at the time, Robert Muldoon. Those who marched in support of Mandela were also considered traitors and terrorists by many.

The actions of the anti-apartheid activists in New Zealand actually played a significant role in overturning apartheid in South Africa. When Mandela spoke later of when the news of the protests reached his prison cell, he likened it to sunshine. He was overcome with emotion and hope when people so far away were prepared to stand against their own government and police on his and his people's behalf.

Time has changed Mandela's status from terrorist to s…