Showing posts from March, 2014

Transport Poverty, Bicycles Needed.

I spent last Saturday helping out with a cycling promotion in an Invercargill community market. The market occurs monthly and has been largely driven by a community minded, and recently elected city councillor, Rebecca Amundsen to revitalize a less affluent part of the city and generate a sense of community. Through her leadership the market has become an established event and the car park where the market is held has received extra funding for landscaping and public toilets have been built.

The idea of the cycling promotion was that children could bring their bikes, grab a 'bike licence' and collect stickers for completing a quiz, an obstacle course, a skill test and have their bike checked for safety. If all were completed satisfactorily then they got a bag of bike related goodies (bike bell, puncture repair kit etc). I was managing the skill test or 'Turtle Race' which involved taking the longest possible time to get between two points in a straight line without fe…

TPPA, Protesting from Whangarei to Invercargill!

The Green Party treats any so called 'free trade agreement' with healthy suspicion. Such agreements are promoted as means of gaining access into new markets and our free trade agreement with China and the  CER agreement with Australia are used as successful examples.

I was interested to note when I attended a talk from the Deputy Governor and Head of Operations of the Reserve Bank (Geoff Bascand) that he wasn't prepared (when questioned) to categorically say that it was the trade agreement that was responsible for our increase in trade with China. No research had been done to confirm it and we do produce reliable quantities of protein that they need.

Australia has not benefited from their free trade agreement with the US. The resulting trade has been to the advantage of the larger power and one would have to wonder how many Australian companies have folded because they can't compete with the influx of American goods. The US continues to protect their farmers and few t…

Problem Gambling Foundation Too Successful

The Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGF) succeeded the Compulsive Gambling Society in 2001 and rapidly became a highly effective organisation with 12 offices spread throughout the country. It employs over 70 staff and has helped over 25,000 problem gamblers.

The PGF is internationally regarded as one of the largest and most effective organisation in the world for dealing with the issue of problem gambling and its operations have a base in university research. It identified early on that if gambling was considered an addiction, like any other, the best way of reducing the problem was to limit the numbers of gaming machines and control their use.

The PGF spends much of its time working with communities and councils to have a sinking lid approach to gaming machines. No community has demanded to have more pokies and all have been enthusiastic in reducing the numbers. The effectiveness of the PGF can be shown by the ongoing reduction of the gaming machines and a corresponding …

Life Beyond Supermarkets...

For a number of years I have supported my sister's harvest festival in Riverton. From humble beginnings it has become an iconic event in the south and is a great celebration of biodiversity. In a province where dairying is continuing to expand at a worrying rate, and supermarkets have a stranglehold on food supply, it is reassuring to know that there is an increasing number of people growing their own food. It is also great to see the growth of an underground (excuse the pun) economy with many trading food, seeds and plants with little money changing hands.

My small part in the festival has been to lead a workshop on urban gardening in Autumn, based on my own experience in our 1/4 acre Invercargill section (the photo above is an example of my own modest harvest the day before). I don't call myself an expert by any means and I find that the general discussions and sharing that occurs between workshop participants are possibly more informative than I can provide (I always learn …

National Slumps in Polls As Ministers Struggle

In an earlier post I questioned the danger of reading too much into polls and predicting elections based on a couple of polls months out from an election.

Many commentators were claiming that National was too strong to lose the next election and were making heaps of assumptions regarding Labour's poor results and the Greens drop to 8% in one rogue poll. Few looked at multiple polls, accounted for the margin of error nor the trends over past months. Even John Key expressed caution about National's 50+ results (the last time National had more than 50% support in an election was in 1951 under a First Past the Post system).

The last fortnight has seen a complete turn around in National's fortunes with the latest Roy Morgan Poll seeing them plummet from the Colmar Brunton result of 51% to 45.5%. The Greens have apparently leapt 6 points to a solid 14%.

National have every reason to be worried because most polls tend to favour them and their results are probably always at the t…

Greens Support Innovation and Hi-Tech Wood

In any competitive activity it is always a good idea to play to one's strengths and when it comes to industry and trade, New Zealand's strengths are a temperate climate, an abundance off natural resources and innovative people. Our major exports reflect the first two strengths only, powdered milk, meat and logs earn the majority of our income and 70% of all goods exported are primary products with little added value.

When I was growing up in the sixties in Southland I remember being aware of many amazing innovators and innovations. The Hamilton Jet was still a relatively new and exciting invention; George Begg lived down the road and sometimes tested his internationally competitive racing cars past our house; Burt Munro was breaking speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats and the prefabricated Lockwood homes (see image above) were popping up all over the place. New Zealand was often referred to as the Scandinavia of the Pacific because of our egalitarian society and our re…

Gerry Brownlee, Making Stuff Up Again!

Gerry Brownlee has struggled to defend his $12 billion Roads of National Significance (RONS) when questioned by the Green Party's transport spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter.  Time and time again Brownlee has been reduced to bluff and bluster when Julie Anne has demanded evidence and the economic rationale behind the motorway projects.

There was the memorable occasion when Julie Anne demanded that Gerry produce his evidence to support the RONS, when all data available from the NZTA show that traffic volumes are stagnant. Gerry was not able to produce any evidence other than that roads were important and people wanted them. When Julie Anne used a point of order to force him to properly address the question, Lockwood Smith (Speaker at the time) intervened to explain that the Minister was saying that the motorways were being built because HE thought they were a good idea.

On another occasion Julie Anne suggested that the $12 billion budgeted for motorway construction placed New Zealan…

The Destruction of New Zealand's Public Education System

In 2008 New Zealand was internationally ranked in the top seven for educational achievement, and when you compared us with other countries that were also culturally diverse and experiencing growing inequality, we were extremely successful.

At that time our Early Childhood sector had received a much overdue boost in funding from the Labour Government after being underfunded (as a % of GDP) compared to other OECD nations for years. The sector was working towards a target of having 100% qualified teachers in all centres.

We were also in the process of implementing a new National Curriculum and a complementary curriculum for Maori (Te Marautanga o Aotearoa). Teachers were excited about putting all their energies into the new ideas and approaches that were espoused in these co-constructed documents that had taken around seven years to review and write. Evidence, research and practitioner input had created something that would allow us to prepare New Zealand children to become resilient in…

Q&A Norman vs English

Russel Norman and Bill English were each grilled by Corin Dann on Q&A this morning regarding what should be done to better manage our economy.

Russel Norman came across as having a clear understanding of where we are economically and what we need to do so that all sectors will benefit. Bill was defensive, had no new ideas and was happy to have the Reserve Bank continue to operate with a limited tool box.

Under National Government debt is now well over $60 billion, our current account deficit is the 2nd or 3rd highest in the OECD, we have a huge shortage of affordable housing and power prices continue to rise above the rate of inflation. Russel was very critical of National maintaining tax cuts as a priority rather than paying off debt.

Bill was asked if he was happy with an increase in interest rates that will cause our dollar to rise in value, result in higher mortgage interest rates and put pressure on exporters again. He looked uncomfortable and said that the Reserve Bank opera…

High Rollers, Rollers and Cycling

The National Party are 'high rollers' in their manner of governance, they like to spend big on things that attract them (Hollywood and big oil) and they like to gamble. They borrow big and spend big, we now have government debt of over $60 billion and $12 billion being spent on roads that will have low odds for seeing a return on the investment. If gambling funds run short then selling a few assets ensures a flow of cash and desperation can mean selling things below value (Genesis Energy).

The Government's education spending is typical of their approach, $359 million being thrown at a few privileged teachers and principals who will be prepared to support the failing National Standards policy. In the world of the High Roller, money is is always the key motivator and financial incentives and competition is how the world operates. The creation of an elite group of educators and administrators will make little difference to the learning needs of children and yet our teacher a…

Collins, Conflict of Interest and Trust

The Judith Collins conflict of interest affair has revealed again how this Government operates: lies, coverups, shifting blame and (only when the evidence is irrefutable) reluctant admissions. It is not in a National Minister's DNA to be able to admit fault or accept responsibility when mistakes are made.

Collins has not managed her Oravida activities well and it has taken some dogged questioning and background research to reveal the true extent of Collins' deception. The worrying thing is that it needn't have ended as badly if she had owned up in the first place. Collins even stated herself that it was hard for her to ever admit she is wrong:

"What's probably extraordinary is I am saying 'I apologise'. That is extraordinary for me."

The fact that she would say this is worrying in itself, apologizing is not failing, it demonstrates the ability to recognise one's fallibility and the decency to take ownership of a mistake. An honest approach and th…

Greens Hit the Ground Running

I am not sure what circles Josie Pagani circulates in, because they obviously aren't green ones. In a Pundit post Pagani suggests that the left were caught on the hop with the election announcement and were not able to fully take advantage of it to launch their campaigns. I obviously can't speak for the Labour Party, but the Greens have been in campaign mode for some time and few will have missed our recent policy announcements regarding our schools as hubs and solar homes initiatives (both very well received). As soon as Key announced the September date the above image was immediately circulated throughout social media.

This is a new era for the Green Party and we are now operating at a level that can clearly compete with National and Labour. Our party machine is no longer reliant on a few volunteers and we now have our numerous committees and networks managed by employed staff.

If anyone should question the ability of the Green Party to govern (or our credibility regarding…

Educational Ideology and Collateral Damage

The Ministry of Education is tightening the National Standards net. Until now it was largely the comprehensive ERO reports that determined the performance or success of a school, now it is mostly about achievement levels in literacy and numeracy.

It was recently revealed that schools have been placed into three categories, those doing particularly well were to be called "no touch" schools, some were going to receive a "light touch" and the worst performing would need a "firm touch" from the Ministry. Principal Pat Newman caused some hilarity when he asked where the touching would happen and who would do it, and "what legal recourse will a touchee have if the touching doesn't come up to expectations".

In reality it is no joke, while the original titles for each group no longer exist, many Principals have discovered (around 800) that they meet the criteria for a firm touch. It became clear that practically all those notified were low decile s…

Government Spin and Hidden Secrets

This National led Government has seriously mismanaged things and is desperate to hide the true effects of its governance over the last five years. I half suspect many of the retiring National MPs are jumping ship because they don't want to be around when the proverbial hits the fan.

National have carefully constructed showy facades that hide flimsy realities and I have attempted to give some examples below:


The facade:A Rock Star Economy

The Reality: We are enjoying the the dairy commodity boom, another property bubble and the activity generated from the Christchurch rebuild. Agricultural markets fluctuate, all our eggs are in one agricultural basket and all we need is another embarrassing contamination and we could lose markets quickly. Overblown property prices only benefit a few, a later crash is inevitable and Christchurch is a temporary phenomenon. The recovery is an unequal one, only 36% of those participating in a Stuff survey feel that they are better off and for…