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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

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Paris Accord Sits Uncomfortably With Aussies!

The entire range of headlines during the week we spent in Noosa centred around how the political elite would maintain “balance and stability” in power supply in the face of the planned closure in 2022 of the giant, and rackety Liddell power station that provides between 10 and 20% of the NSW base-load.

This sounds like a normal sort of decision that any Government would make. But hold on a second – what the Turnbull Government is planning to do is to force the privately owned Liddell (by AGL – an American owned company) to undertake major renovations to enable it to stay open long into the future.

The net result of this is that the Federal Government will be unable to anywhere near meet its clean air target (CET) as proposed by its Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who just happens to setting the targets in accordance with the requirements of Australia’s commitment under the Paris Accord.  The need for power of any shape outweighs any concern about carbon induced climate change - that is a given!

Australia’s commitment to Paris is as flexible and empty as Donald Trump’s – the only difference is his avowed intention to “withdraw”. In the entire week I read both the Fairfax and Murdoch papers from end to end and found but one mention of Paris. Politically, any further risk to continuity of supply is intolerable to all parties, and coal remains king of the base-load sector.

Although there has been huge investment in alternative generation – we passed what appeared to be about a 20h solar panel farm on the outskirts of Noosa, there is simply no way that either wind, solar or storage can be accelerated sufficiently to replace existing base-load coal, no matter how insistent the Chief Scientist.

The air-conditioning demand during the height of last summer in both South Australia and Victoria resulted in substantial shortages leading to cuts that the average Australian (and I guess by extension, us!) find intolerable. Both States had closed major coal fired stations over the past two years, and NSW is determined not be caught in the same jam through closure of Liddell and hence the current row.

What is remarkable is the back-down by Turnbull follows him having accused his opposition of wanting to “socialise power companies”. In the face of AGL’s stated refusal to countenance continuation of Liddell, Turnbull is threatening a takeover – apparently, that falls short of socialism.

What I found remarkable was the universal insistence throughout the media on Turnbull following through with his threat – there was little sympathy for AGL whose decision had been long telegraphed, has major legal ramifcations, and which was based on the huge cost of the necessary upgrade, and its own estimate of coal’s uncertain future.

I do understand the dilemma facing the Australian Government – they simply do not have the percentage of hydro and geothermal base-load that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, but this in no way excuses the lack of foresight and planning that has led to the situation in which they now find themselves. Backing for that comes in a report revealed in today's Fairfax media by Prof. Andrew Blackers of ANU that reveals that only a tiny fraction of 22,000 dam avaialable sites throughout the country would be required to achieve 10% renewable energy.

It is simply that they have taken the easy way out provided by coal in the past, and remain unwilling to make the necessary investment at this point to meet their Paris commitments. Turnbull is about to face a major test in this regard with Liddell - watch this space!

And with Abbott on the come-back trail, Turnbull cannot afford to ignore his pitch to the dinasaur right - even as late as Sunday night in a widely watched interview he described climate chgange as:

"Very much a third order issue, and any attempt to wind back coal in favour of renewables is unconscionable."

He is prepared to cross the floor in Parliament to vote against any attempt to adopt the CET (Clean Energy Target) With back-benchers like him, Turnbull's problems with his independents are but minor.





Aussies In Bind Over Same Sex Marriage 

If there is anything that gets Aussies up in arms, it is matters of liturgical dispute, and that which offends the cloth. Not that they are particularly religious - it is just that the Catholic Church has a residual hold on the determination of matters of morality that barely exists any longer on this side of the ditch. 

We are really an irreligious mob of slobs who are prepared to accept sliding into the grip of the devil, if only it maintains our peaceful and benign existence.

Not so over there - they could not even face a vote in Federal Parliament to get the change recognised  over-riding the states. For contraryness, think back to the shocking events of the Gay Mardi Gras that were adopted with such alacrity by the denizens of the largest city in the land, with only background tut-tutting from the Archbishop of Sydney, (temporarily suspended as the Pope's right hand man - and now up on kiddy-fiddling charges from his time as a priest in Ballarat) now Cardinal Pell - a rightous old bugger if ever there was one!

But even the Anglican's are strong on it - here is today's comment in the SMH by Dr Michael Jenson - Rector of St Mark's Darling Point - a bastion of privilege:

"In a country with a strongly Christian heritage such as Australia, classical marriage is still seen as a gift from God by many people. The Christian Bible, upon which our laws are founded, quite specifically ties marriage to the complementarity of the sexes.

Does this mean "unequal" treatment? It is a different name, certainly. The question is whether it is legitimate to treat differently relationships differently. We certainly do treat those people and institutions we feel need special protection differently.

Classical marriage is just such an institution. It is different. Because it is precious and fragile, and yet a great blessing, it does deserve our protection."

Get the message!

No, when it comes down to it, the influence of the Catholic church in all the major cities, excepting possibly Adelaide where the Angicans rule, is so pervasive, and pernicious, that a substantial section of the population still follow its teachings in this one area at least. The thought of two males, or females coupling appears to offend the deepest sensibilities of this previously convict ridden land.

To avoid a showdown in Parliament, the weak-kneed Liberal-Country Party Coalition instead opted for a non-binding referendum on the matter that is costing millions, and that means stuff-all in the overall scheme of things. But it does delay the matter if nothing else, and enables all and sundry to publicly express their views, and attempt to influence the outcome. The two most prominent are that archduke of conservatism - John Howard (who to his eternal shame was beaten by a woman first-timer the last time he stood for election for Bennelong, just over the Bridge) and his former acolyte and extreme Catholic, (actually, ex-priest!) Tony Abbott.  Their relaionship was reminiscent of that of Muldoon and Peters.

Every other son-of-a-gun has emerged over the last week or two since the High Court determined that the Referendum was 'legal', to attempt to influence the outcome - why they bother is quite beyond me as there is no indication that Turnbull is willing to pursue a positive (currently estimated at 2:1) outcome in Parliament, particularly with his 'back-woods-men' independents, and Country Party MP's have come down strongly opposed.

New Zealand should gear up for substantial increase in lucrative same-sex weddings, though their legal standing will remain indeterminate in their state of origin. Meanwhile, we gaily skip towards purgatory as the perpetrators of ghastly legislation that most of us have barely noticed. Just how Aussies have got themselves into this bind may be puzzling if you had not lived amongst them as I did from 1958 to 1975, and 1998 to 2005 - some 24 years.





Aussie High Court On Dual Citizenship

The challenge against the eligibility of seven members of both houses of the the Australian Parliament has been set down for a hearing in October, and it should make a few waves across the Tasman with even the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce under threat of removal, because his father was born here.

The archaic eligibility rules that were laid down in Section 44 of the 1905 Constitution have always been hanging over the head of these members, and potentially many who have gone before, but only caused a furore when Joyce's eligibility was questioned out of the blue last month.

Boy, and what a furore - everyone racing home to check filial relationships long forgotten, but under strict criteria, nevertheless devastating. Not even belated renouncement of the offending qualification was seen as sufficient to avoid the Sword of Damocles.

They are history, if the High Court deems them so, and from my own knowledge, having done Constitutional Law at Queensland University in the distant past, that Court is quite pedantic when determining how the Constitution is to be interpreted.

Every commentator has a view on how the latest iteration of the Court is likely to react - see Crispin Hull in the Sydney Morning Herald. He is not alone in this view, but the contrary is equally well expressed in other media. 

You can only bet on the fact that there will some very nervous nellies around Canberra when the Court is sitting in October. There is unlikely to be any delay in the handing down of a decision by the 11 person Court - and they will be well aware that a negative ruling on any of the seven in the gun could alter Parliament in a way that could precipitate either a single or double dissolution. 

Coming so soon after the previous double dissolution would almost certainly mean the downfall of Turnbull's government, and the likely re-emergence of the divisive Tony Abbott, but in opposition. Labour are polling well in the lead, and Turnbull will not be forgiven for the weak leadership he has demonstrated over the last term. -- see next posts for evidence of that





Aussie Politics

Tomorrow, I intend to post on the Australian political scene - a sorry state of affairs if ever there was. It makes our pathetic squabbles benign by comparison, but as always, it has or will have substantial consequences on this side of the Ditch before it is finished.

Three issues to start - coal fired base-load power stations, same-sex marriage, and the outrageous provisions of the Constitution that have tripped over well over eight members on all sides of the political spectrum. As Trump would say - Sad!

I intend to make the posts as an antidote to what is now a boring 'back and forth' in the local election scene, and in which my interest has waned..  





Cremator, At Last!

Comisssioner Paul H Cooney has issued his determination on Catran's Cremator today, and the relevant paragraph is as follows: (sorry - I cannot yet access the full PDF decision for an URL)

32.  After weighing up all these factors I am satisfied a Certificate of Compliance can be issued for the proposed crematorium as a permitted activity that may be lawfully carried out without a resource consent on the property at  606-608 Queen Street, Thames.

That should put the kybosh on all the grizzlers, and the members of the Grahamstown Mafia who have ended up costing Adrian Catran well over $40,000 with their idiotic  and unjustified objections. Just what they thought they were going to achieve is quite beyond me, and a perfect example of 'small town politics,' based on self interest, and emotional claptrap.

It is unfortunate that there appeared at all stages to be support for their efforts from within Council. It simply should not have reached this stage, and a straight and generous businessman has had his very existence in this town put at risk through the confused and futile application of provisions of the Resource Management Act. This when it was quite clear with any rational examination of the facts that the objections were a non-issue, and it should have been approved without reference to a series of expensive commissioners, who completely contradicted one another. 

That is surely why we employ expensive planning staff - not to stuff around at the extremes of the Act in an endeavour to satisfy the ridiculous pretensions of a vocal minority.

If they wish to take it on from this point it will cost them an arm and a leg to access the Court system, and unless they think they can raise even more brass to pursue that course, I would suggest that this will probably be the end of it. I can't imagine even the most enthusiastic practitioner being willing to take this one on pro bono, and we are talking not $40,000 but multiples of same. Good luck with that!

 Adrian tells me that he should have the cremator up and running by the end of 2018, and this town and the entire Peninsula will have the advantage henceforth of locally accesible cremation. Hooray!



Noosa v. Thames in Winter - No Contest!

Somehow,  lazing on the beach at Noosa was a far more attractive proposition than attempting to define the next fthree years through the medium of our perennially inaccurate polls. In fact the more you study just how they collect their information, the more you realise the fools paradise that we live in.

I have no intention of going anywhere near the possible result – it seems that the die is cast through the changes to the early voting rules in any case, and the extent to which those at the margins – well beyond the reach of polls, are able to be motivated to enter the booths on Saturday.  

All I will say is that it is certainly to be hoped that we get a result on Saturday rather than be held to ransom for days, if not weeks by Winston Peters as he has done so effectively in the past.





Away For A Week

We are off to Noosa for a week just to see what the sun looks like without rain, and to warm up the tootsies.

I kmow that it is a bad time to be going, and that I wil probably miss some party crisis, but will ignore all news from this side of the Tasman, and enjoy some good Noosa tucker while running the Kindle(s) full on.

Good luck Floridians - our thoughts are with you!





Thames Candidates Meeting

If the reaction of the audience a last evening’s candidate meeting in Thames was anything to go by, National’s Scott Simpson has a fight on his hand for the first time since Jeanette Fitzsimons took Murray McLean to the cleaners a million years ago. That may be a bit of a stretch, but this audience of upwards of 200 -  a really successful ‘sell-out’ by Transition Town Thames, was visibly, and audibly better disposed towards the Greens Scott Summerfield than I have seen in any previous meeting, or election. 

The rest were eminently forgettable, except perhaps for Top’s Buddy Mikaere from Manaia - a surprisingly articulate and believable candidate who was a credit to the ‘other Morgan’s’ Party.  He spoke a great deal of common sense about the dairy industry in particular.

The candidates were granted a five minute presentation by Chair John Tegidga - not long, as they all kept reminding us, but it was long enough to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

NZ First’s Anne- Marie Andrews from Tauranga is a credible candidate, but delivered a prepared speech – a real ‘turn-off.’ Her five minutes was not well spent.

Scott Summerfield went extemporaneous, and carried the crowd by making good points on climate change and likely effect on the Peninsula, and the local area in particular. He enunciated the Green’s well established policies on carbon and the environment – all with good humour, and improved and credible presentation skills. I like this guy more and more and believe that if he can keep this up, he will secure a great deal more party votes that the Labour candidate, and thus push himslf well up the Green’s list the next time around.

Labour’s Nathaniel Blomfield is an unfortunate charisma vacuum who deferred to Scott Summerfield as having “said what I was going to say!”  He was hesitant and hopeless at articulating Labour’s policy platform, and a more uninspiring candidate would be hard to find. A real Party vote loser – bad choice in a neck and neck election.

Scott Simpson used his usual ‘over the top’ presentation skills – waving a booklet that apparently explains National’s policy on the environment in very clear terms. The problem is that he did not explain it in such terms. It was the same British consultant report that he bandied about at the meeting at the meeting organised by T3 on 17 May – a totally unconvincing recital of what we already know, and very light on where we should be heading.

Scott is becoming a very boring and predictable incumbent, unlikely to be challenged unless he really steps out of line with the Party, and probably not looking forward to the prospect of years in the wilderness on the opposition benches.  

The Maori candidates for the Labour (Hauraki) and Maori Parties mostly agreed with what Scott Summerfield had said, so I won’t bother further reporting on their performances. There did not appear to be many of their constituents present in any case. 

My choice of candidate by a country mile after last evening’s performance is Scott Summerfield. I believe that he has what it takes, is intelligent and credible. He is saddled with some Green’s baggage that may not appeal to all, but it is time that Party took on more people of his calibre.

He along with the rest of us will probably have been dismayed at the manner in which the 'hard liners' disposed of Dr Kennedy Graham, but that is party politics!

Finally, I did not stay for the audiance questions - they do tend be rather repetitive, and a final course awaited at a friends generous table. 




Dry Court Story Just Gets Worse By The Day

It appears that the Dry Court is anything but - based on the stories circulating about the delayed opening.

As the story goes, the ceiling panels were incorrectly installed, along with the insulation paper. Moisture started appearing almost immediately, and the wet season would not not have helped, other than to convince the Council the the roof would need to be re-laid - what a job.

Just whose fault will I am sure be the subject of countless expert reports, and I doubt that the builders will be a financial position to 'wear it' in any case. The trouble is that it appears that our staff 'signed off' the construction, thus placing our Council in some jeopardy when it comes to liability.

What a shambles - I wonder just who is 'running for cover' right at this moment, and have some sympathy for Rob Williams coming into this mess long after the 'die was cast' on the construction, and contractor.

Clearly, 'heads should roll,' but they won't be if experience is anything to go by. Everyone will be covering their own and everyone else's backsides in order to minimise the 'fall-out.' But eventually, the Council will have to deal with it, and no doubt a full, but carefully written report will be being compiled as I write this.

God only knows when the opening will follow - some considerable time off I suspect, and the impact on rate-payers will be equally considerable - running into hundreds of thousands I suspect, if not more, and the collection of 'pledges' will be equally quantified by perceptions of incompetence.





Richard Prebble - Reality Check!

Just in case you all have been under the impression that I had gone a bit gaga over the presentation skills of the new Labour leader - "smile and wave" surely takes on a new meaning under the onslaught, and "tax and spend" takes us back to the old days of Lange/Clarke, but never mind, there are other important issues on the table that I will not repeat here.

What I will do is repeat some of the warnings issued in Richard Prebble's 'reality check' in today's NZ Herald, that are worth keeping in mind as we appear likely enter into this brave new World, if the trends already indicated continue with tonight's Colmar Brunton Poll.

To paraphrase Richard, here are the some other issues that he raises that in some ways follow in the footsteps of some of the stuff announced 'on the run' during the course of the campaign.

Taxes announced without detail is "outrageous" - can't disagree with that, but the example of the Dotcom mansion, and a holiday caravan plot is a little disingenuous when what we need to know is the detail about the land - in or out? But he is right about 'tax-creep' - ie GST!

Personality politics surrounding Jacinda's sunny outlook, but doubtful experience is valid, but to date, as I opined earlier, she has hardly put a foot wrong, so that it hard to eliminate her on that score. She has footed it with Bill in every respect in my books, exponentially helped by Stephen Joyce's  $11b "hole" blunder.

"Capital Gains tax is the tax of envy" - a bit hard to quantify that argument. Property price increases  do need need to be 'tagged' in my view, equally with decreases - it may not be the entire 'brake system' - Richard quotes Sydney and Vancouver to counter the rationale, but it remains a useful tool, and revenue source.

Race relations is certainly a weak spot with some pretty scary pronouncements, or avoidance on immigration in particular, but his water analogy on collecting levies from Maori landowners is hardly relevant in the overall scheme of things. I am sure that that can be worked through. In any case Richard, water is 'on the table' whether you like it or not - just look at the polls if you need convincing!

Richard is right to point out the vulnerability of Labour's fully extended expenditure plans - no room there for an anticipated recession resulting form the mercurial 'Trump effect' on trade in particular.

But his rubbishing of NZF and the Greens is hilarious. He nails Winston - "When the department concludes that you are 'gaga,' it waives the fine for a false declaration," so Winnie is safe. But as he points out, Metiria is still in the mix - if the Greens get up over 5%, and form  Government with Labour, she will still be influential on the Greens 'poverty' agenda regardless of it currently eschewing the plank in favour of its core environmental issues of "plastic bags and whales."  Dear me Richard - you are playing with fire there.

He writes the remainder off as Jacinda fodder, other than David Seymour, and who can argue with that based on current figures.  He doubts that the 'Jacinda wave' can be turned back, but he is right to draw attention to the rough water ahead with a new and very inexperienced administration.

But nothing could convince me to suddenly back National regardless of Richards caveats, in the light of its appalling environmental record, and lack of vision. Bill's record of 'same as, same as' is just too frightful to comprehend for another three years.

And as for Scott Simpson - his performance under questioning on conservation issues has been that of a performing seal. Sorry Scott, you can, and should do better than that - it is not as if your seat is at risk - you have a base that would vote for the Devil if told to by Central Office. 





Dr Jan Wright Retires In October

If ever there was a public servant who deserved our thanks and appreciation, it is Dr Jan Wright - Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who retires in October..

May she become a Dame, together with an appropriate Order of NZ to follow.

Were you aware that Dr Wright, who has been ten years in that role, is one of only three officers of Parliament who along with the Auditor General, and the Ombudsman answers only to Parliament, and is independent of the Government of the Day? She carries out investigations on environmental topics of her own choosing, and makes recommendations for change that may be unpopular with, but beyond the reach of the often grubby hands of the ruling party.

She, along with her staff can take as long as she likes to undertake her investigations because they are working to their own timetable - often longer than she would like, but getting it right is paramount. Hence the reluctance of many who would otherwise like to tear her reports apart to raise anything other than anguished squeals, as in the case of her report on 1080 which basically established that there is no alternative to its use. She recently acknowledge that she was in a unique position to produce this report as no Party would otherwise have had the guts to sponsor it - too many votes in it!

The report produced on sea level rise, and consequent inundation is one that is exercising the collectives mind of central and local governments, with sad to say, little or no progress on just who is responsible for planning and funding amelioration. The incoming Government will be unable to avoid this issue any longer - the consequences are just too great. One can only pray the the second Cat. 5 hurricane in one season - an unprecedented event, that is due to hit Florida this weekend will concentrate a few minds.

Fact : Although hurricanes may not be s direct result of climate change, the higher sea levels that global warning has produced make storm surges more intense.

Dr Wrights last report called for a Climate Change Act to map out action needed to reach  emission reduction targets by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. This crucially needs to be agreed to by all political parties to avoid 'back-sliding,' and 'slipping' of undertakings in response to pressure from vested interests, and we all know who she means in that regard.

Dr Wright hands over to Simon Upton who has returned to the country with impressive additional credentials. May he carry on the good work in a similar manner, and achieve the goals that have already been put in place, along with many others that will be required if we are to avoid a future climate catastrophe.

(I acknowledge the Spring 2017 Forest & Bird story by David Brooks in compiling this post.)




Jacinda Cannot Dissemble Forever

There are a number of uncertainties about Labour's taxation policy that need to be cleared up before they attain the Treasury benches, and their tentative proposals are consigned to the the tender mercies of the proposed "panel" behind which Jacinda apppears determined to hide.

Her proposed front bench are no better at explaining just how this raft of proposed new taxes will operate, and effect us - the voters who will in the end determine their fate.  One which is very troubling is Twyford's suggested 'land tax.' Sorry Jacinda, it is simply not good enough to deflect questions about the effects of this new tax on the family home though the sneaky device of separating the house value from the land value - something that councils have done for years, and either included or excluded for the purposes of calculating rates. TCDC excludes the house value - a contentious policy that tends to  favour the wealthy, and disadvantage certain communities. 

That aside, to continue to avoid answering the questions of interviewers who are endeavouring to get to the bottom of what is being proposed is simply unconscionable, and raises real issues as to the integrity and believability of the interviewee - in this case Jacinda.

I have heard this technique of avoiding the question used now on several occasions, and it raises a real issue in my mind as to just how well she has come to grips with Labour's campaign. Does it mean that Robertson and Twyford are really manipulating from behind the scenes, and using Jacinda as a puppet?  If not, why does she simply not come out and state categorically that the family home, including the land it stands on, will be exempt under the proposed policy on both capital gains and land tax, if they survive to the review process. 

Let the Panel work out how that applies in the case of family homes that are also part of farms, or some other ownership arrangement - that should not be difficult.

As it stands, we keep hearing about the family home as if it was some kind of floating entity, separate from its immediate environment. It simply cannot carry on like this if we are to have clear choices going into this election. I for one am getting heartily sick of Jacinda's equivocation on the issue.





Re-cyling Myths

This is a 2015 post that I put up regarding the futility of much of TCDC's recycling effort.

As often happens, an overseas blogger John Hawthorne) has picked up on the post, even two years old, and offered a link to his own post which explains some of the points I made in greater detail.

John makes some good points, and it is well worth a read.





Al Jazeera Show's Us Up!

Anyone who watches Al Jazeera may have caught the two part documentary NZ Rivers - Polluted Paradise.

It is a bit of a kick in the slats for those of us who prefer the rest of the World to remain ignorant of the true situation that has developed in this country over the last few years.

But it is timely, and as far as I can see, a fairly accurate representation of the actual situation, and a wake-up call coming as it has just prior to the election. It is critical for voters to understand just what has been going on from an outsiders point of view, and Ruataniwha is a metaphor for the entire pollution dilemma. 

You have to wonder just why our documentary makers are apparently incapable of producing work of such quality? Or is it simply because Government funding is not available for such controversial projects? We don't often see people in this country put 'under the hammer' to this extent, and note the predominance of elderly while males taking part.

Here are the URLs: (these are both for the first episode - the other comes later, I think!)

This information was circulated by the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers Inc, who may or may not have been instrumental in inspiring the interest. It is part of the Al Jazeera People & Power series, and produced by an international media company on their behalf.




Post Debate - The Hangover!

If ever their was a rationale for my having promoted the Green Party vote, it came today with the train crash unfolding with Kelvin Davis in front of the cameras,

A great deal of the universal aclaim achieved by Jacinda last evening was neutralised today on TV1's AM show as Kelvin Davis put on a display of either total ignorance, or deliberate sabotage of his leader. Has he really in such a short time come to believe that he has achieved the allegiance of the Labour 'heartland' to the extent of being able to outflank his putative leader on Capital Gains.

No, of course not - he is just a blithering idiot who deserves to be be put right back in his box by Jacinda - which she appears to have accomplished with aplomb by lunchtime - not bad when you think about it.

But what it demonstrates is the fragility of the alliances with the Greens. If Davis can do that with Capital Gains. imagine what the remainder of the pack who have been locked behind steel doors for at least three weeks could do if they were let loose to pull her up on all the other "decisions" that she has made - particularly those that are strictly in the Greens' Territory.

There is no evidence of her having sought or obtained Party support for any of those policies on water and climate change that are so dear to our hearts, and which the Labour stalwarts have barely thought about before Jacinda came along and gave them a bloody good kick in the pants. 

Can you imagine the undercurrents of rancour within the ranks as each and every delegate considers where they stand and just how Jacinda's independent steak conflicts with their deep-seated feelings of democratic decision-making. I know plenty, and I just know how they will be biding their time to pull her back into line.

And that is where we as recent supporters of Green policies must keep an eye on reality. What Jacinda says may not actually represent Labour long term policy, and it is absolutely critical for the Greens to get sufficient of the Party vote to enable them to hold the Labour tootsies to the flame.

This post verges on the facetious, but I am deadly serious, and ask every reader of this blog to give the utmost consideration as to how they place their Party vote.  I have no more confidence in the fidelity of the Labour caucus than the average Joe Blow, but I do believe that even without the redoubtable Kennedy Graham, that the Greens have the ability to keep them honest - or at least more honest that the Nats together with Winston and his no-name cronies.

Think about it!





NZEI 'Cracks The Whip'

When I saw the circa $1,000 advertisement in last week's HH advertising tonight's 'Candidate Meeting on Education,' I wondered  what was going on. 

I decided to attend to see for myself. I need not have bothered - it turned out to be an NZEI (NZ Education Institute) 'lovefest' to enable teachers, of whom there appeared to be a majority of retired and current in the room, and on the platform to get their gripes 'off their collective chests' 

And of those there were plenty, but at the same time, the Colmar Brunton Poll announced at 7pm gave rise rise to great joy in the room, and any suggestion of a debate was well and truely knocked on the head. In the absence of the sitting member, that was not difficult - he had advised that he was "engaged on electoral activities." But I suspect that he may have been present at similar meetings elsewhere organised by the same Union, and realised that he was on a 'hiding to nothing'

So what we had was a recital of all the gripes about the present Government's education policy, starting of course with assessment in all its guises. I gathered that teachers are not in favour of it (I actually knew that already) but the depth of disgust and disfavour came as a surprise. It has nothing to commend it, even if many parents of those in higher decile schools tend to love it. That is sufficient evidence of its basic 'in-equality.'

It will be "gone by lunch-time,"according to Catherine Delahunty, who took a prominent role in proceedings even though her time in Parliament is over by choice. She obviously believes that Scott Summerfield needs her helping hand, though that was certainly not obvious. Scott was reduced to  grabbing the microphone at times to get his message across. Perhaps he should tell her to bugger off - her contribution does not help him.

Why retiring MP's who have their necessary nine years under their belts to qualify for the full pension feel it necessary to regale us with all their higher motives for retiring (family, time has come etc etc.) I will never know. Catherine was no exception.

It was far from a debate, and even though Wallace Chapman brought some of his 'Back-Bencher' skills ro bear on proceedings, it was clear that boredom was setting in after an hour, and he wound it up so that the 40-50 present could get home to the Leader Debate on TV.

Look, I don't wish to be overly critical, but this so-called debate was disaster, and to be frank I would not vote for any of them, other than perhaps Scott who showed that he has come a long way in getting himself prepared for the rigours of a proper campaign. The remainder all knew far too much about the subject - they all sounded like teachers, and would have been better off addressing an 'in-service' day.

The thing is that in describing how they would spend unlimited billions building all manner of facility, subsidising vast activities, and giving kids an education that they would "really enjoy," we heard not one word about 'cutting the coat according to the cloth' - it was all spend, spend, spend. It is only when you attend these types of meetings that you realise just how far removed from reality that candidates for office can become.

The recently announced Government policy on additional languages was 'rubbished' - Te reo was really the only 'other language' favoured, and "should be universal at every level - not 'additional.'" I heard "why Mandarin"?  from several quaters in the room. Not a great sentiment I would have thought in a teachers forum - reminiscent of Twyford's "Chinky" faux pas..

I won't commit to Scott until I have heard a proper candidates debate which I understand Transition Town Thames are organising early September. Tonight was an aberration - hardly worth the time spent attending. What I gleaned is that everything that the current Government has put in place over the last few years on the education front will be 'out the door' if NZEI and this lot have their way.

I need to know what other policies they have all signed up to to see where the 'balance of good v. evil' lies. The local 'candidate' vote is pretty 'ho-hum' in the overall scheme of things, but it is useful in indicating to parties just how good their candidate selection has been.

In the meantime, I in no way resile from having decided to promote the Green 'Party' vote - that is a given, for good strategic reasons





Houston - The 'Facts'

Here are a few facts that relate to Houston - just to get you 'up to date,' and as reported on its "Official Website."

  • Houston was founded on August 30, 1836 by brothers Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou.
  • Houston is the fourth most populous city in the nation (trailing only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago), and is the largest in the southern U.S. and Texas.
  • The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (Houston CMSA) consists of eight counties: Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller
  • The Houston CMSA covers 8,778 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Massachusetts but larger than New Jersey.
  • Founded in 1836, the City of Houston has a 2010 population of 2.1 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau -- Houston's population in 1850 was listed as 2,396.
  • The metro area's population of 5.95 million in 2010 is 6th largest among U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, according to, and a 26% increase since 2000.
  • Harris County's population is 4,092,459.
  • Houston's latitude is 29 degrees 45 minutes north and its longitude is 95 degrees 22 minutes west
  • Houston is 43 feet above sea level
  • The three-airport system served 55 million passengers in 2015, including over 10 million international travelers.
  • If Houston were an independent nation, it would rank as the world's 30th largest economy The Third Quarter 2010 ACCRA Cost of Living Index shows that Houston's overall after-taxes living costs are 9% below the nationwide average, largely due to housing costs that are 21% below the average.
  • Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other city. While here you can choose to indulge in one of the more than 11,000 restaurants ranging from award-winning and upscale to memorable deli shops.
  • Houston has a Theater District second only to New York City with its concentration of seats in one geographic area. Located downtown, the 17-block Theater District is home to eight performing arts organizations with more than 12,000 seats.
  • Houston has a unique museum district offering a range of museums, galleries, art and cultural institutions, including the City's major museums.
  • Houston has more than 500 cultural, visual and performing arts organizations, 90 of which are devoted to multicultural and minority arts and is one of five U.S. cities that offer year-round resident companies in all major performing arts
  • More than 90 languages are spoken throughout the Houston area.
  • 92 countries have consular offices in Houston, the third highest in the nation
  • Houston has professional teams representing football, baseball, mens basketball, soccer, and AHL hockey.
  • Houston is home to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The world's largest livestock show and rodeo attracts more than 2.2 million visitors each year.
  • Houston has among the youngest populations in the nation. The city has the third-largest Hispanic and third-largest Mexican population in the United States
  • Houston boasts more than 40 colleges, university and institutions - offering higher education options to suit all interests.
  • Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, with a local economic impact of $10 billion. More than 52,000 people work within its facilities, which encompass 21 million square feet. Altogether 4.8 million patients visit them each year.
  • The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown MSA's Gross Area Product (GAP) in 2006 was $325.5 billion, slightly larger than Austria's, Poland's or Saudi Arabia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • When comparing Houston's economy to a national economy, only 21 countries other than the United States have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product.
  • Houston ranks second in employment growth rate and fourth in nominal employment growth among the 10 most populous metro areas in the U.S. In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine.
  • Home to and more than 5,000 energy related firms, Houston is considered by many as the Energy Capital of the world.
  • Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in the energy, aeronautics, and technology industries: only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters.
  • 23 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Houston Of the world’s largest non-U.S. Corporations, 63 have a presence in Houston.
  • The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. It is the tenth largest port in the world. The Port handled 220 million short tons of domestic and foreign cargo in 2010.

It ain't 'arf hot either!





'Harvey' Has A Message For All Of Us!

Hurricane 'Harvey' is a disaster for Houston, and increasingly the remainder of the US as apart from anything else it loses 12% of its oil refining capacity - not just for days, but quite probably for months, and in some cases perhaps years as the effects of innundation on extremely low-lying and vulnerable refineries is felt.

This is from Dino Grandoni's Washington Post Energy 202  column, dated today:

"Nothing quite like Harvey has hit the United States before. The National Weather Service said Harvey is "unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.” The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it is probably the worst disaster in Texas history.

But beyond the human toll — which, as it should be, is the immediate concern of both first responders and the reporters covering them -- three questions hang over the hurricane fallout.

How hard was Houston’s oil and gas infrastructure hit? To what extent did climate change exacerbate this storm? And finally, born out of those first two, there’s a final question: What will be the political fallout?

"This is not like anything we have ever seen before:”

Houston markets itself  as the energy capital of the world. Many of the largest firms in the oil and gas sector, including Phillips 66, are based there. And many more, including ExxonMobil and Dutch Royal Shell, own huge refining complexes along the region's coastline. Houston's petrochemical industry turns crude oil and other raw materials drawn from around the Western Hemisphere into gasoline and other petroleum products to be shipped as far away as Asia.

We have some idea of the short-term impacts. The storm has:

  • as of Monday evening, shut down 12 percent, or 2.2 million barrels, of U.S. refining capacity
  • that, in turn, has driven up gasoline prices up as much as 6.8 percent since Friday
  • As of Sunday, Exxon shut down its Baytown refinery, the second largest in the United States
  • Shell has shut down its Deer Park refinery
  • And at least four energy export terminals in Corpus Christi have halted shipments, Reuters reported

But the long-term impacts to the oil and gas sector— how badly, if at all, that infrastructure is damaged —  have yet to be assessed. An extremely prescient piece by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune last year lays out the risk flooding poses to the Texas Gulf Coast petroleum industry:

""Flooding is the most disruptive type of damage an industrial plant can experience from a hurricane. Salty ocean water swiftly corrodes critical metal and electrical components and contaminates nearby freshwater sources used for operations. Even plants that aren’t flooded would likely have to shut down because they depend on storm-vulnerable infrastructure — electric grids, pipelines, roads and rail lines. [After a direct-hit storm] the Ship Channel itself — a crucial lifeline for crude imports and chemical exports — would probably be littered with debris and toxins, officials say. It would have to be cleaned up before ships and tankers could move safely again.""

We may already be seeing the first signs of some of that environmental fallout. As The New Republic’s Emily Atkin reports, “ ‘[u]nbearable’ petrochemical smells are reportedly drifting into Houston.”

“It was certainly worsened by it:”

Because of its unprecedented nature, the storm has again reopened the debate over the link between climate change and hurricanes."

But the upside for us is that it is a timely reminder of just where we are heading in regard to climate change and sea-level rise. We have been literally kidding ourselves on this score (never mind Alistair Brickell's incredible dissembling on the subject), by ignoring the more realistic predictions on which Denis Tegg was initially a lone voice - namely the additional danger and damage resulting from storm and wave ingress on top of sinking landscape as has been proven to be occurring on the Hauraki Plains - up to 10cm a year!

An election meeting in Thames last evening attended mainly by the converted, and addressed by Greens climate change spokesperson Eugenie Sage was I am sure an eye opener for many in regard to the culpability of our present Government. Add to this the hand wringing of councils that feel helpless in the face of  Government indifference as exemplified by Nick Smiths refusal to release the critical updated report on coastal risk that would provide a platform for councils to negotiate effective joint action. 

Sage drew attention to the enthusiasm espoused by by our local Member in regard to the issues surrounding climate change, but which amounts to very little when compared to the actions of the Government for which he is partially responsible through his conservation and environmental roles. In other words - he is all talk and no action, but he has such huge unquestioning support from the generally National leaning local population that he can virtually cruise back into office with a winning smile and little else.

In the light of the rapidly changing polls that are clearly heading away from National domination, we as strategic voters are no longer just facing  a choice betwen Labour and National, but rather one between NZ First and the Greens as partners for Labour. Why I even mention NZ First relates to Winston's consumate skill in turning an aging demogaphic in his direction.

From having been 'in the gun' over the weekend, he has suddenly become 'the victim,' and loudly castigates National ministers for their 'illegal' behaviour over the release of information on his pension payments. Regardless of the veracity of his claims, his ability to seek and obtain the 'sympathy' vote is undoubted, and undiminished. It could be sufficient to confirm his 'Kingmaker' status.

On the other hand, the 'back-story' debacle arising from the Metiria saga has hit the Greens hard, and we all stand to lose out as a result if it provides Jacinda with the excuse to sideline and disavow the 'coalition' agreement in favour of offering Winston a co-goverance opportunity. In the end, it will come down to the numbers.

If that scenario is to be avoided, it is critical for those of us whose primary concern relates to the likely effects of climate change, and in particular, sea level rise in our own back-yard, it will surely be imperative  to have the Greens in Parliament alongside Labour who have suddenly (through  statements by Jacinda, if not through officially sanctioned 'channels') indicated their adoption of the most obvious of the Greens policies in this regard. 

And that is why at the outset I drew attention to the likely fall-out of 'Harvey,' and its effect on the US refinery industry. Only the Greens have previously formally stated sustainable policies on carbon, and  climate change, and more importantly on water, and the inclusion of agriculture in our carbon calculations.

It has been fascinating to watch the manner in which Jacinda has 'cribed' on these issues, but the only policy commitment remains by the Greens, and that is why I believe that it is only by providing the Greens with our Party vote that we can hope to ensure adequate participation, and influence on the new ministry - Labour may have to be held to the flame!

Eugenie Sage provided in her excellent address last evening all the rationale we need to follow this course of action. The thought of another three years of Nick Smith and Nathan Guy determining our future environmental policies, and the continuation of agricultural advantage, and dominance of thinking on the Treasury benches raises a cold sweat.

I implore everyone who reads this blog to consider these issues with great care before casting your vote. THe only possible strategic leverage we have is through the Greens, and their association with Labour. Forget the poverty side-issue - it is extremely important, but hardly compares with generational survival - it is that important. We owe it to our children, and our grand-children.

And if that is not reason enough - here is the latest iteration of the Taxpayers' Union Bribe-O-Meter





Indoor Sports Stadium / Arena / Court?

It is finished - hooray!

Hold everything - it is not finished, there is a problem!

Readers can hardly be unaware of my long held scepticism over the decision making, design/build and contracting process's surrounding the construction of this asset. I won't bore you by repeating my objections here.

On Wednesday last, I decided to ask simple questions related to the final price, and when it would be opened because it had occurred to me that there had been a decided silence surrounds these matters for some time.

No one gave me any heads-up as to what was going on, but long experience has enabled me to smell a rat at fifty metres, and something smelt very odd about our beautiful new structure, the opening announcement having disappeared from the Council website. 

The question/s were:

Can you advise please:

!. Has the final cost of the multi sports facility been established?

2. If so, what was the fin al figure?

3. Has the opening day been established?

4. If so, can you please advise the details?

The response came today, and can I say that I was not surprised in the slightest at this this turn of events:

:In regards to Thames Indoor Sports, excess moisture in the ceiling cavity has been detected and we are currently working with the builder and the designer to address this. This will involve further work on the roof. Once this work has been scheduled we will then be able to plan for the new date for the official opening of the gym. We are still calculating the costs for this work, which we will make public once we have finalised the figures."

To which I responded:

"As for the Dry Court – forgive me when I say that I am speechless.

Is the contractor and/or the designer being held responsible in any way for this defect?

And secondly, my question regarding the cost for the building contract remains unanswered – has that been settled, and if so, how much?"

The reply came later:

"At this stage we are in discussions with several parties about the issues at the Gym, which means we aren't  in a position to make any comment around liability at the moment.

This is also the case around costs  - as these are still being determined as well. As I indicated we will make public the figures once they've been finalised"

So there you have it - there is always a simple explanation, and it appears that once again we are about to be 'screwed over' in relation to this project. And I predict a drawn out legal stoush extending long into the future.

If ever there was blatant case of rate-payer masochism, this is it. We just have to grin and bear it as the level of incompetence deepens.

How long can it be before Rob Williams takes action to remove whoever is responsible for this continuing debacle?





Taxpayers' Union "League Tables" Revisited 

Last Wednesday, I sent the following enquiry to Communications Manager Laurna White:

"I realise that there are a number of anomalies within these figures, and that they should not be taken literally, but they are nevertheless an indication.

There are some specific anomalies within the TCDC figures that I hope can be explained without me actually drawing attention to them.

Could you please ask Steve and his team if they could explain some of the more obvious of these?

In particular, could they please explain why when many of our costs are well below average (for provincial councils)  why are rates comparatively high?

Is there a simple explanation to this, or has the Union simply got it wrong?

Hope this is not too much of a request."

Today I received the following response:

"In regards to your queries about the Taxpayers Union report, the report relies heavily on publicly available information drawn from council annual reports and official information requests. No information, however, is provided on the different circumstances in which councils operate.

In our case, our rates average was $2,481 based on the Statistics New Zealand return. In an email in early July we pointed out to the Taxpayers Union that 50%+ of our property owners do not reside within the District. They own holiday homes here. Our Council is geared to support a population of up to 120,000 residing in our District over the summer period. This is in excess of four times the number that the Taxpayers Union used in their statistical analysis.

We also indicated in the email that the finance costs in the Taxpayers Union Report indicates that the average $114 they arrived at -  by taking finance costs from our 2016 Annual Report $2.642M and dividing by 23,182 residential ratepayers - was flawed as it took our total finance bill but divided it by a subset of our ratepayer base. This is an extremely misleading number. The same applies to our revenue and personnel costs and total operating costs.

We also suggested to the Union that placing these figures in league tables and reporting publicly the results would be extremely misleading without the appropriate disclaimer on the measures for all Councils with high proportions of non-resident property owners. They decided not to do this.

Another influencing factor is that our residential properties form the majority of our rating base, whereas councils like Hamilton, Auckland and Hauraki have a large commercial or non-residential base."

Here are extracts from a is a PR put out today by the Local Government Association: (I have deleted stuff that I considered irrelevant - go here to read the entire document!)

"Taxpayers’ Union doesn’t trust ratepayers with the truth -

It’s hard to tell if the Taxpayers’ Union is again being deliberately obtuse in its latest analysis of council finances or if it’s plunging to a new low by misinterpreting data to make unfair comparisons of their financial performance.  This week it released already publicly-available data on local councils in what it calls a “Ratepayers’ Report”.

The organisation got its first attempt at this data fundamentally incorrect in 2014.  While this year’s attempt is an improvement on the past the effort nonetheless still falls short of being useful.  For example, the report divides performance factors by the wrong number or type of ratepayers, and the accompanying media releases criticise performance without providing even a tiny degree of context.

The Taxpayers’ Union’s analysis is as about as accurate as judging the fairness of car prices without knowing whether they’re electric vehicles, SUVs or Formula One racers.   
Firstly, the basis of comparison is wrong.  Dividing factors such as debt, rates and salaries by what the Taxpayer’s Union calls “residential ratepayers” creates a number of problems.  For a start it ignores the fact that businesses and farmers also pay rates. For example in Central Hawke’s Bay there are less than 8,000 ratepayers however only 25 per cent of these are residential – this grossly inflates the cost per actual ratepayer when we start examining factors such as assets and debt.

New Zealand’s 67 district and city councils are incredibly diverse, spanning Auckland with 1.5 million residents, to Kaikoura with around 3,750.  Each council has different circumstances and has to provide different services based on these.  

But providing useful data and information to ratepayers is important.  This is where we agree with the Taxpayers’ Union.  This is why LGNZ set up an independent assessment programme for local
government.  It’s an excellence programme called CouncilMARK™ which operates in a somewhat similar fashion to the approach used by credit agencies to assess an organisations financial health.
Participating councils will be assessed by independent experts every three years, given an overall rating on a nine point scale from AAA to C, and the results are publicised. 

Unsurprisingly it is a range of factors beyond simple financial metrics.  Councils are placemakers that make communities zing.  Financial performance is important but so are many other things that make life worth living.  The finalised assessments and ratings of member councils are public, placed in context, and constructive – showing where and how an individual council might choose to enhance its value proposition to its community.

There is a democratic process that goes into making those funding decisions every year and a comprehensive long-term planning process every three years.  Ratepayers can also make their judgment on that spending at the ballot box each election.

Dave Cull - President of Local Government New Zealand."

I will simply say this - before the Taxpayers' Union set out to compare the financial performance of Councils, there was nothing - a great big blank sheet that was enhanced neither by auditors' reports, or any other form of independent analysis.

It is no wonder that we welcomed the efforts, faulty and/or lacking context or otherwise, of the Taxpayer's Union to supply this information in league tables by which we could gain some insight into what was going on with our councils. I don't believe that the Union set out in any way to criticise any particular council - it simply presented raw, if faulty data, so Dave Cull's somewhat irascible response is out of order.

I believe that there are still unanswered questions regarding our own Council's performance that required analysis, and I will in due course pose some of those through the OIR system.

In the meantime, readers may care to undertake their own enquiries through these pages, or direct to Council.  I am sure that there will be many who like me, remain dissatisfied with the limited response to date. What is clear is that we as simple town dwellers are held responsible for providing a huge infrastructure and services for visitors from which we as residents derive no benefit, and which is provided without question by our compliant Council on the grounds that "It is great for the tourism industry."

We have on occasion noted with alarm the alacrity with which both staff and elected members appear to regard this as their God-given responsibility to provide. This of course serves to expand the self-importance (and salaries!) of both while we pay the bills The constant reference in the Council response above to the numbers for whom we provide services, as compared to the numbers of ratepayers is adequate evidence of this imbalance.

I for one am very grateful for the manner in which the Taxpayers'  Union has brought this imbalance to our attention, again!We all understand about the danger of accepting 'league tables' without question - that is a given, but the basic anomalies indicated in these figures remain to be fully explained.