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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

 

Associate Member NZ Media Council.   

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Sunday
Sep152019

Why TIME Devoted Its Entire Issue To Climate-Change

Read all about it!!

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep152019

WRC Action On Climate-Change

At last WRC have accepted the inevitable, and joined with a number of activist groups and academics to work together on the 'crisis' we are all faving. This Summit is a very welcome move, 'shows the way' for our own Council that has 'sat on its hands' until now.

A bus will be going from Thames -details later!

MEDIA RELEASE

12 September 2019

Waikato CAN change with the climate

A Waikato climate change summit in Hamilton later this month is setting the stage for activists and academics, student leaders, council candidates and community groups to work together on actions to plan, adapt and thrive in a changing climate. 

The Waikato CAN (Climate Action Now) Summit is inviting people from across the region to participate in the day, scheduled to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Youth Summit and Zero Emissions Day on Saturday 21 September.

People interested in attending are encouraged to email climate.action.now@waikatoregion.govt.nz.

“The climate’s changing and so must we,” said Waikato Regional Council and mayoral forum chair, Alan Livingston. “But climate change, and transitioning to net carbon zero by 2050, is not something councils can address by themselves. All parts of society are required to manage the risks climate change presents.

“That’s why I’m excited about this summit, and especially the opportunity for councils to work with our region’s passionate and energetic young people on developing solutions to such an important and significant issue.”

Last month the Waikato Mayoral Forum threw its support behind the region’s councils working together with the community on a climate change action roadmap, which will step through current and planned regional activities as part of New Zealand’s transition to net carbon zero by 2050.

Waikato CAN organisers are aiming for the event to be carbon neutral and are encouraging people to choose lower emissions travel to the event at Rototuna High School – walk, run, bus, scooter or bike. If there is enough demand, buses will be available to bring people from towns across the region. RSVPs need to be received by organisers to make this happen.

The event will also include a 3D mapping workshop, a creative and engaging approach to developing solutions and identifying actions. The actions will feed into the climate change action roadmap for the Waikato.

“We’ll exchange views and ideas to help us lower our carbon footprint in the Waikato and transfer this knowledge to our communities, workplaces and schools,” Cr Livingston said.

Guest speakers include Professor James Renwick from Victoria University who was awarded the 2018 New Zealand Prime Minister’s Science Prize for communication and Professor Ian White from the University of Waikato, an engaging science communicator and TEDx speaker. They’ll be joined by a number of other speakers providing context around transport, energy, construction, rural land use, the Māori perspective on climate change and how people can turn ‘knowing into doing’ at home.

Cr Livingston said while all councils are factoring climate change into policy, regulatory, operational and corporate support areas, it was important to work together with all Waikato sectors to adopt an agreed roadmap.

The summit has been organised with the support of the Waikato Plan Leadership Committee, Waikato Regional Council, University of Waikato, Go Eco, Xtreme Zero Waste, Enviroschools and School Environment Leaders.

For further information, contact:

Wendy Valois

Communications advisor

07 859 2721 or 021 369 815

media@waikatoregion.govt.nz

The climate’s changing and so must we.

Join us in an informative and hands-on session to map the actions we need to take to survive and thrive in a changing world.

Come prepared to learn and to share your knowledge with a wide cross section of people from the Waikato community.

We’ll exchange views and ideas to help us lower our carbon footprint in the Waikato and transfer this knowledge to our community, workplace and schools.

DATE: Saturday, 21 September 2019

TIME: 10am-3pm

VENUE: Rototuna High School, Kimbrae Drive, Hamilton North

RSVP: by 13 September 2019

OTHER: A light lunch option will be available to purchase at the summit for $5-6. We are investigating options for shared transport to the event. Please indicate in your RSVP if this is something you are interested in and we’ll be in touch.

 

 


 

Saturday
Sep142019

Democracy Up-ended at Napier CC

One of the most remarkable aspects of New Zealand local government is the apparent inadequacy of the Local Government Act in establishing and maintaining councils as democratic institutions that serve their communities, as evidenced by the recent actions of the Napier City Council Chief Executive

The reason for this quite simply lies in the disconnect that allows chief executives to attain power far in excess of their public service equivalents. There is a cohort of often ill-qualified people who appear to have succeeded in confining access to, and circulation within these positions around the country,. They oversee the process of appointment, and salary setting, often by manipulating the process that is carried out in the main by temporary and inexperienced councillors .

I have closely observed this process over a number of years, and marvelled at the manner in which this group have been enabled to act unrestrained as the pivot between councillors and staff over which they preside. I have pointed out on several occasions that the sole determinant of Cchief executive appointment, performance and conditions is these council committees set up periodically to oversee this process. It is almost unheard of for councils to reject or alter the recommendations provided periodically by these committees. 

In turn, chief executives have the sole right to determine the salary levels of their underlings - generally in accordance with a rough formula that results in his/her ability to ensure fealty to his/her unfettered rule. The resulting salary scales within councils are generally far in excess of the norm within the communities they serve, and completely 'out of kilter' with other salary scales elsewhere in both private and public sectors for equivalent responsibility. This is further exacerbated by the lack of any effective oversight by any outside agency such as the Higher Salary's Commission, thatt sets the ollowances of elected members. 

Oversight by the Auditor General is demonstrably lacking in this and other areas as evidenced by its lack of action in regard to the TCDC Depreciation Reserves debacle. And the Minister is 'sitting this one out;' inaction that appears to be the modus operandi of this Government.

What has come to light recently in regard to Napier City Council, is the alleged action of its Chief Executive to have staff trawl Facebook pages to establish whether entries by sitting councillors could be construed as grounds for disciplinary action under that Council's extremely restrictive Code of Conduct. Under this Code, councillors are forbidden from publicly commenting on Council decisions - in this case, its decision to construct a new swimming complex. 

The Chief Executive's reported attempt to suppress democratic comment by Councillors who opposed this decision has been exposed, and severely criticised by academics and jurists alike. He has taken leave, along with the Mayor, in his case apparently to escape the furor that will almost certainly lead to an enquiry that could well result in his dismissal. 

I find this case troubling and relateable to our own situation here where their is a similar swimming complex decision to be taken in the not too distant future that may well involve opposition by a number of Councillors who may feel strongly about the appropriateness of Council funds being spent on a facility that may soon be subject to the effects of sea-level rise.

As far as I am aware , the TCDC Code of Conduct does not prevent Councillors explaining their position publicly, or bind them to silence if they disagree with decisions, other than those taken 'in confidence' - generally involving a legal matter, but this may well be a matter of interpretation. Whatever the case, the whole idea of a Chief Executive interfering in such a manner as in Napier is abhorant..

One of the first actions of the new Council will be to elect a Chief Executive Anointment and Performance Committee. This Committee will review the current Chief Executive's performance and determine whether to extend his contract, or call for new applications for the position. This Committee has comprised the Mayor, plus Clrs McLean and Fox for the last two terms, and the new Council needs to seriously consider whether to refresh its membership, should this group be re-elected to Council. 

Chief executives may have inordinate power, but they are in general on three-year contracts which gives some opportunity for councils to review performance, and if necessary 'move on.' The only problem is the limited range of applicants, and the fear of appointing people from outside who may have good qualifications and wide experience other than in the local government area.

Running councils is not 'rocket science,' after all. 

 

 

 

Friday
Sep132019

Transition Town Thames Takes Over

he invitation to the Transition Town Thames Candidate Meeting in the Civic Centre on Sunday 22 October arrived yesterday. I find it disappointing that T3 has again been able to take the initiative in promoting and running the Thames candidate meeting   This has happened because no other group in the town put its hand up early enough to take on the role.,

I would have no objection had T3, mainly represented it seems by the views of Mark Skelding, eschewed attempting to impose its particular agenda on the gathering, which is primarily aimed at allowing candidates to expose and explain their views and what they aim to achieve by standing for office. Such is just about impossible when 3T impose and corral the agenda.

It makes it very hard to be able to judge the views on candidates on the usual functions of Council as laid down in the Local Government Act when T3 list the matters in which they are interested which go beyond this, especially when strict time limits are also put in place.

Mark defines "the core values that are essential to the community." He further sets our the issues that T3 wishes to be discussed:

"Whilst there is considerable concern in regard our readiness in a changing climate, he (Mark) said that there are other significant local issues to be considered.  These include an ageing population, lack of employment opportunities and the silo-ing of community sectors, as well as cynicism, domestic violence and lack of housing." 

This is presumptuous; immediately sets the tone, and restricts the ability of candidates to expand on the issues that concern them.  I primarily want to hear about how prospective candidates intend to oversee the spenduing of the roughly $3,000 a year that we each pay in rates, and climate-change issues - those are my issues, and I suspect those of most other rate-payers., but which appear outside the ambit of T3's agenda. 

Mark then goes on to further defines the occasion in the following manner:

We are hoping for some inspired examples of “joined-up thinking”.  We'll be listening out for ideas that address the immediate challenges in ways which don't lose sight of our national commitments and the global context.  Under the circumstances its difficult to see a future without increased immigration pressure, changing economic conditions, and a need to think differently about energy, food, and waste.”

He also lays down the rules for the evening, about which I have no argument - it is T3's show after all.  But I do take issue with the decision to bring in a high-flyiong Auckland lawyer (and Professor Emeritus of law, with "a deep interest in Celtic spirituality, and who speaks fluent Te reo" no less, amongst other admirable qualitiues) as facilitator?

Do we not have a local quite capable of performing this function? It is insulting in my view, and could be regarded as an attempt to intimidate. This is simply a candidates meeting, not a multi-million dollar arbitration claim. Get real Mark!

The final paragraph of the 'invitation' that has been widely circulated sets out the month long agenda organised by T3  on 'Living Solutions' which again appears to define the agenda prior to the election.

I have no objection to T3 running its program this month in this manner, but it is confusing and unfortunate that it should be associated with the candidates meeting in this manner. I just wish that Mark, for whom I have the highest regard, would 'back-off,' and let the candidates have a 'free hand' to display their wares - not necessarily in regard to the concerns of T3.    

 

Friday
Sep132019

No Sign Of Change On The Way!

Our Jacinda's dopey respones to Labour's dilemma this week finally exposes her shortcomings that should have been perfectly obvious at the outset of her administration, Unfortunately, the majority of us were simply blinded  by the charm and novelty of having a 37 year-old in the chair. Closer examinationb would have revealed nothing that could have cautioned us as to the limits of her abilities beyond emotion, and 'stone-walling.'

Today's Mathew Hooten article in the Herald really says it all, and should shake the confidence of those who are still holding out hope for eventual substance. Here is an extract:

"Ardern's line is that she knew nothing of the full nature of the allegations until she read them on woke website The Spinoff on Monday morning.

This is extremely difficult to believe. Every political tragic has been talking about little else for weeks, including the name, place of work, job description and personal and professional connections of the alleged offender.

Even more improbable, Ardern's story requires us to believe that a Prime Minister with a Bachelor of Communication Studies from Waikato University pays no attention to the mainstream media.

Moreover, her line overlooks that she was personally asked about the allegations more than a month ago live on NewstalkZB by Mike Hosking and by press gallery doyen Barry Soper at Beehive press conferences.

Ardern's story requires her to have been insufficiently mentally engaged in those interviews to understand what was being talked about or for her to have forgotten about being asked on live radio and in Beehive press conferences about allegations of violent crimes by her own staff.

Maybe this is possible. Her answers involved nothing more than her usual platitudes.

Moreover, she is a Prime Minister who confuses GDP and the Crown operating balance and was unable to even precis the three articles of the Treaty of Waitangi when asked at Waitangi on Waitangi Day.

However, if Ardern really were ignorant of the nature of the allegations, the most likely alternative is that she lives in such a smug, sanctimonious bubble of Pt Chev and Cuba St Mall hipsters that she believes long-standing broadcasters like Hosking or Soper would simply make up allegations of violent offences by her own staff as some sort of right-wing smear against her.

That is, it seems Ardern may take nothing seriously until she sees it on The Spinoff. This would explain other aspects of her failure as Prime Minister, including why she apparently heard none of the construction industry's warnings about the KiwiBuild trainwreck.

Ardern's two years of failure mean her hopey-changey "Let's Do This" theme of 2017 is inoperative. Her supporters' hopes have been dashed and she has proven incompetent at change or doing much at all.

But all is far from lost for Labour. Fear is at least as strong an emotion as hope. Given Simon Bridges' conservative social views, Paula Bennett's history in welfare, Paul Goldsmith's aversion to public debt and the likelihood of a major economic downturn, expect to see Ardern 2.0 on the campaign trail next year."

Like most I wish it were not so, but to date, we hve been given no reason to hope that change is on the way.

 

 

 

Thursday
Sep122019

Time Magazine Devotes Entire Issue To Climate-Change

Here is a story today from Brian Skelter's highly regarded Washington DC media blog :

"Human nature, like journalism, is deadline-­oriented," TIME EIC Edward Felsenthal writes in this week's letter to readers. "Our intent with this issue—only the fifth time in our history that we have turned over every page of a regular issue, front to back, to a single topic—is to send a clear message: we need to act fast, and we can." The full issue dedicated to climate will come out Thursday morning... After 7am ET, it'll be live at this link...

Of note: Felsenthal says in his editors' letter, "what you will not find in this issue are climate-change skeptics. Core to our mission is bringing together diverse perspectives. Experts can and should debate the best route to mitigating the effects of climate change, but there is no serious doubt that those effects are real. We are witnessing them right in front of us. The science on global warming is settled. There isn't another side, and there isn’t another moment." 

The time has arrived to really put this entire issue at the top of the agenda. We ignore the warnings at our peril.

 

 


Wednesday
Sep112019

Thames School 'Strike For Climate-Change' Initiative

In a commendable show of initiative, the Thames School Strike for Climate Group set out to obtain a written response on the vexed question of candidate intentions in regard to climate -change, as part of the World-wide Strike on 27 September to Demand Climate Action. 

As the result of this survey, I have chosen to withdraw my support for Murraty Wakelin and Cherie Staples, with a question mark against Rex Simpson.  As far as I can tell, evryone else for whom I have indicated support has accepted the pledge in full, excepting two Thames CB candidates whose names are hidden on the schedule I was sent. I had in any case refrained from indicating any choice for this Board.  All 'the usual suspects' are amongst those who refused, failed to reply, or were uncontactable. 

Each was sublitted the following questions:

#1  I pledge to implement an ambitious Climate Action Plan that aims to make our district zero carbon as soon as possible (candidates were also asked to indicate a date eg 2035, 2040, 2045, 2050).


 

 

#2  I pledge to begin building community and ecosystem resilience now, through regenerating the natural environment in our region, creating local climate change education projects, and developing more connected, smart and sustainable towns and cities. 

#3  I pledge to meaningfully incorporate the views of youth, Tangata Whenua, Pasifika, structurally oppressed communities in Council decision making on climate change to ensure that no one is left behind in the transition to a regenerative and renewable local economy. 

#4  I pledge to support signing the Local Government Leaders Climate Change Declaration.

The following candidates did not respond:

Sandra Goudie, John Morrisey, Debbie Farrell, Tony Fox, Murray McLean, Kim Brett, David Foreman, Peter Lawrence Pritchard, Graeme Matthews, Bill McLean, Barry Swindles,Cherie Staples, Graeme Smith. 

The following could not be contacted by email (which in itself says a great deal about their suitability as candidates:

Tony Brljevich, Jan Bartley, Terry Walker, Rex Simpson*, Jean Ashby, Jan Autumn, Pamela Grealey, Jeremy Lomas, Leanne Quest, Warwick Brooks, Chris New, Evelyn Adams, Kay Baker, Gaye Barton.                                      

The following candidates who responded refused to sign:

Neville Cameron, Murray Wakelin. and 3 other Mercury Bat Community Board candidates.

The following signed in part only::

Ken Coulan,(1,2, & 3)m, David Ryan (1,2 & 4), Alison Chappin (3 & 4 only),  

All the others signed as accepting the pledge. 


                   



 

Monday
Sep092019

The 'Other' Councillors!

I have refrained from making comment about the other candidates for election to the seats other than those for Thames. But several people have asked me about my views of individual performance having attended all the  meetings of the current Council.

The caveat is that meetings have been so curtailed by the determination of the Mayor to avoid any degree of confrontation within the Chamber, that it is difficult to judge just where councillors stand on major issues, never mind the finishing of 'open' business before morning tea on most occasions. This results from hiding away behind the closed doors of 'workshops' - a practice which stretches the limits of the Local Government (Meetings) Act.

In addition, the Chief Executive's Meeting Report has become a useless narative-free fancy presentation of bar and pie-charts worthy of an under-graduate essay. He would never get away with it with any competent board of directors, or council for that matter.

I would therefore prefer to divide the Council into the groups that voted for and against the Climate Declaration in April, even though substantial failure can be separately laid at the door of members of the Audit & Risk Committee for one, chaired by Tony Fox.

I can tell you of the attitudes and stolid opposition by a majority of councillors to taking any action in regard to the LGA Climate Declaration that came before the Council in April. The result probably fairly represented the views of the majority of our aging demographic who have demonstrated distinct reluctance to face up to the accepted scientific facts, Trump and his cohort excepted! But that does not excuse a complete lack of leadership.

It was clear that the internal National Party trend towards promoting 'Climate-Inquiry' as opposed to 'Climate-Denying' has now become the default position of this cohort, leaving 'anthropogenic' interference to one side as 'un-proven.'

I find this gutless, but convenient position rapidly becoming accepted as a perfectly satisfactory argument for a significant section of the population to avoid having to 'face-up' to the situation that we are now in. I believe that letters to the various editors on the Peninsula are reflective of this position, and in the main are prompted by fear of lowering house values, and rising insurance premiums. 

It is why a considerable number of candidates will find difficulty if they 'over-emphasize' the dangers during the campaign, no matter what their personal beliefs. Never under-estimate the innate selfishness engendered by the ballot-box. We only have to see the clear antagonism generated by the 'school-children's petition' to understand the depth of this feeling. It was certainly patently obvious in the fraught atmosphere evident during their presentation to Council in April.

The five councillors who supported the Mayor's motion to reject the Declaration were Bartley, McLean, Fox, Walker and Brljevich, and each of  those who spoke gave quite spurious reasons for their opposition while claiming the legitimacy of their views. They all followed the line of least resistance related to the "lack of clear evidence of human influence on climate change." Those who voted in favour of the Declaration - Peters, Simpson and Christie failed abjectly in their arguments, and mostly sat mute in the debate. 

In general, I consider that none of the sitting members warrant support for re-election - the Council would do well with a complete 'clean-out' of its incumbents, and a new, younger, fresh and 'ready to think and act' group replace them. Should this happen, such a group would need to be really 'on its mettle' to, if necessary, combat our reactionary Mayor on issues that are important to our District, and ensure that democracy prevails despite some of her more antediluvian attitudes.

 

 

 

Monday
Sep092019

The Fluoride Battle Is Never 'Won'!

Out of the blue has come another raft of oversized billboards around the country warning pregnant women of the dangers of fluoride to the children's IQ.

Tocay's Nresroom  catrries Farah Hancock's story on the subject - a story that shows that fluoride advocates must forever remain vigilant and be ready to counter the spurious propaganda propagated by the small but extremely effective, and well-funded  group calling itself FluorideFree NZ.

The story debunks most of the Canadian study on which the study is based, principally in the manner in which statistical; evidence has been manipulated for the published study. Nottingham Trent University professor Thom Baguley calls the claims made in the paper false, and University of London professor Rick Cooper points out "the children's IQ scores used include what are referred to as outliers, that should have been eliminated." 

The final nail in the study is driven by University of Leeds professor of environmental toxicology Alastair Hay who sees "the lack of validation in the study as a crucial flaw." And plenty of other evidence pointing to flaws in the study are referenced that once again point to the desperation  of the 'antis' in their quest  to find validation for their 'shonky,' and dangerous propaganda.

We may have won the battle here in Thames several years ago, but the war carries on, and our new Council will undoubtedly be targeted in the same way as the last. Local government elections always bring on this onslaught, and candidates need to acquaint themselves with the facts before they succumb to the rubbish directed at them.

The sooner the legislation putting the matter in the hands of the health boards, the better it will be for all concerned, otherwise the ignorance that lies below the surface of all councils will continue to be exploited.

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep082019

'Inquirer' Comes Up Trumps On Smart

Every reader should pick up this cover story published this week by The Mercury Bay Inquirer.

It represents a courageous attempt by editor Stephen Brosnan to get to the bottom of the Smart Environmental story which I first drew attention to in a post on 3 August following an investigation published in the Weekend Herald.

I do not intend to even paraphrase Stephen's story - it needs to be read from start to finish to see just how evasive both the Company and our Council have been in revealing what is going on, and in particular, the content oif the contract that TCDC has with Smart that is suspected as having provided the Company with an unfair advantage over any possible competitor. This is reasonably based on the alleged content of a similar contract with the Matamata-Piako Council.

Brosnan has placed his small Whitianga newspaper at risk with this publication - a legal risk that appears to have been threatened by former Smart owner and Chief Executive - Graham Christian, who Glenn Leach appointed to our Council's Economic Development Committee, along with Mr Hopper of Whitianga Waterways.

Mr Christian may have secured an advantageous sale of his Company, but the buyers are now left to face the music with the fallout from this scandal, just when important new contracts are coming up for renewal.

 

 

.

Sunday
Sep082019

Depreciation Reserves

One of the most egregious (but no means the only!) holdovers from the Leach years was the extraordinary action, apparently taken with the active co-operation of our finance people, and Hammond - the Chief Executive at the time to 'dip into' depreciation reserves in order to purchase assets and undertake other activities other than for which the reserves were accumulated in the first place.

I drew attention to this practice on several occasions following an examination  of the Annual Accounts in 2016 which showed the reserves having dipped from over $100m to below $10m, thus putting a large number of 'replacement' projects at risk, or requiring substantially greater borrowing to fund.

I heard 'not a squeak ' from the the Council administration or within Council meetings over the entire time that the matter was extant. In fact the silence. and subsequent departure in 2017 of senior staff gave the impression that there was substantial embarrassment at having been 'caught out' by a mere blogger on such an important matter.

But suddenly, the matter is 'out in the open' with the election statement of Terry Walker - a candidate for re-election to the South Eastern Ward, and a current member the Audit & Risk Committee of Council,  containing the following:

"I have championed for a better deal for our rates contribution, prioritised infrastructure improvement and increased levels of service while dealing with coastal erosion, sea rise, increasing project costs and stopped Council from using depreciation reserves for funding new asset" (my underline)

It is quite remarkable that this deliberate mis-handling, and mis-allocation of reserve funds never elicited any comment from either the Audit Committee, or the Auditor General in his annual report on Council finances that was ever made public. I suspect that it was simply 'pushed under the carpet' at another of those famous 'workshops'!

The whole rationale for funding of projects by way of 'internal' borrowing  - genertally against deprecistion reserves, is one that is fraught with risk, and needs a thorough 'externa;' review, and tight guidelines to be established - a theme that has been played over and over on this blog since 2012 with minimal effect.   

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep082019

Thames Community Board

The Board comprises four members PLUS the three councillors - seven all-up!

These seven elect a chairperson who automatically (at this stage) joins tthe Council as a 'non-voting' member,. This position carries a salary of approximately $16,000 as opposed to the roughly $8,000 paid to the other Board members. Councillors receive roughly $34,000, plus allowances for chairs of both committees (Audit & Risk; and Infrastructure) of approximately $4,000. These will all be re-set following a determination by the Higher Salaries Commission following the Election.

The Community Board has five nominations for the four available positions, so that voters really only get to decide who to leave out. I find it very hard to distinguish between the candidates who all appear to have a similar level of qualification

Here are the nominees in list order

Michael Brewerton -  An architect who lives on the Coast who talks about 'lifestyle,' and his "level of communication, nationally and  internationally." which is apparently good, but he provides no indication in his 160 words of any understanding of the issues facing our Council, let alone mention his attitude towards 'climate-change' essential in my view,

He is only 50 years of age, which is a real plus in my view, and he appears well disposed towards business in general  which is good. It seems to me that he may become bored with the prolix proceedings of our community board, but he does not appear to have done a great deal of research that may have revealed that to him.

Strat Peters - Clearly, Strat stands out as the 'experienmced' one - he is almost 'part of the furniture,' and vacillated between standing for the Board and Council over many months. Strat has vast support in the town as affable and avuncular who can 'do no wrong.;' My concern is that he will automatically expect to be returned, and then appointed chairperson by dint of his experience. He has published a good 'flyer' that outlines all the outstanding projects with which he has been involved, except that not many have reached fruition, and some carry huge question-marks.

I don't think there is any doubt about where Strat stands on 'climate-change,' but his support for the 'Declaration,' along with Sally and Rex appeared 'half-hearted' at best. I would claim to be a 'good mate' of Strat's, and I totally support his election to the Board, but I think the new Board need to think very carefully about how they want to be represented at the next Council table by their non-voting chair.

Sheryl Fitzpatrick - Has lived and worked assiduously over a huge range of social sector activities here in Thames for some 30 years. She is well respected and well liked in the community, and is very capable of 'holding her own' on issues involved with this sector. Her wide circle of contacts would stand her in good stead as a Board member.

I cannot determine Sheryl's competence in the financial and governance areas, but this is not quite so important at Board level as at Council as it operates within a confined budget. I am sure that Sheryl would be a strong advocate on 'climate-change' issues which readers will have correctly surmised I place as a top priority for all elected members.

Peter Revell  Peter's main 'claim to fame' appears to lie in the area of music promotion at the Kauaeranga Hall, following retirement as an executive in the IT industry, but once again, his Statement appears to emphasize 'well-worn' clichés at the expense of telling us what he knows about the problems facing our Council, including 'climate-change.' I hate to sound repetitious, but this must surely be the principal concern facing all our incoming elected members, and they should be able to show some interest in the area.

I have no idea as top Peter's age, but he looks like another candidate for the older age- group of whom we already appear to have a surplus.

Cherie Staples - Cherie is the Office Manger for Scott Simpson, who 'carries the can' for the undistinguished environment and 'climate-change' portfolio for National. But that is not Cherie's responsibility. She 'talks the  talk' in her Statement, and emphasises her "hard-working, younger eyes," which is good, and she advocates for "balanced representation, loaded with purposeful, focused inspiration" which is certainly desirable.

Cherie, along with all candides will have to adapt to the slow-moving and ponderous, but nevertheless  co-operative style of most local government agencies. 

I offer no choice as to who deserves to 'go-down' in this election. It is a toss-up, to be honest!

 

 

 

Saturday
Sep072019

Thames Councillors 

There are six candidates for the three positions available who all appear to bring different attributers to the table. But my inclination is towards a mixture of comparative youth and experience.. I have already criticized the predominance of superannuants on our Council – an obvious factor in the reluctance to back the ‘climate emergency’ motion that now places our Council a clear minority of two councils overall, and the only one with shoreline.

This election is the only opportunity we have to bring a little more rationality to the table to ‘face down’ the prime ‘denier;’ who appears likely to return to the Chair. More substantive motions relating to ‘climate change,’ are just around the corner.

Both the incumbents who are standing again – Rex Simpson, and Sally Christie voted for the lost motion, but failed to speak out strongly in its favour – they meekly submitted, and deserve no particular plaudits for their stand. But I would like to emphasize that a great number of contentious issues were discussed behind closed Workshop doors – a device long favored by our Mayors..

My conclusion is that despite the desirability of having experience, on this occasion, we need a completely new slate of councilors, and my recommerndations will become clear in the following.

Here are the candidates in List order:

Rex Simpson – Rex has not distinguished himself in any way that I observed. Some would describe him, as a ‘time-server’ who turns up to meetings and ‘openings,’ but little else. He certainly does not ‘hold his own’ in meetings, and repeats platitudes in his Statement. To describe environmental and climate pressures as providing “some challenges” completely understates the case.

The only attribute that I can detect is that of experience – he knows the systems, but does not show any particular interest in fiscal or governance issues – he certainly does not ask the relevant questions that need asking. My feeling is that he has done insufficient to warrant my support for re-election – particularly when there are younger and more interesting candidates.

Murray Wakelin – An interesting candidate who at least is under 60, with a background of work as an ordained Elim Church minister. He has been on school boards and other community organizations which would stand him in good stead, and he has a ‘good bloke’ reputation in this District where he runs a guest-house on the Coast. He emphasizes his ‘trustworthiness’ in his Statement, which should go without saying!

I feel well disposed towards Murray – I think he is someone who deserves a chance to ‘prove his mettle’ on Council, and show that he can stand up to the more conservative elements.

Sally Christie – Comes into contention ‘under a cloud’ of having been a member of the Waikato Health Board that was removed by the Minister earlier this year and replaced by a Commissioner. The Board has been severely criticized for having failed in its prime duty of selecting its Chief Executive – the only appointment for which it is responsible. It failed abysmally in its responsibility to undertake a thorough ‘background check’ that would have revealed his shortcomings.

As far as I am concerned, this demonstrated shortcoming should eliminate Sally from all elective positions – people have to be held responsible for such an important failures. Her Statement is a litany of blathering that fails to mention this blemish, and I simply cannot recommend her candidature for this reason alone. .  

Robyn Sinclair – I am supporting Robyn because on the one hand, she is the youngest candidate, and on the other there is nothing in her limited record of a negative nature that I can detect. She appears to be supported by Transition Town Thames which is heavily into environmental issues, and represents a group of people who appear deeply frustrated with the amply demonstrated resistance of our current Council to any progressive climate-change initiatives..

Robyn works for Age Concern which should give her real insight into the problems facing the disproportionately aged section of the community, and is well connected to a young vital sector that badly needs representation.

Allison Choppin – A active member of a wide range of Thames organizations, and a background as a finance manager at Placemakers.  Allison is well respected and appears to have a particular interest in Search & Rescue, and in particular the Wanderlust Trust which appears to serve the very useful task of assisting the ‘disorientated,’ which I assume means Alzheimers sufferers.

One thing that impressed me about Alison’s Statement is her reference to the Shoreline Management Strategy – this shows a level of interest in Council issues not demonstrated by any other candidate. I just hope that her claim of “having a practical and balanced approach” does not indicate a willingness to ‘roll over’ in the face of stolid resistance to fundamental change needed on our Council.     

Certainly worthy of consideration.

Martin Rodley – Martin appears an outstanding candidate with an excellent business and community service background. Ten years on school trustee boards should count for something, and his voluntary work with the Music and Drama Society, and Kauaeranga Hall indicates an excellent service attitude.

Martin’s background as an IT consultant would certainly bring a skill to the table that is currently lacking. I am impressed with his Statement, and age, and believe that he would be a valuable addition to our Council..

My first choices for what it is worth would be Martin, Robin and Murray. 

Tomorrow - The Community Board

 

 

 

Friday
Sep062019

Waikato Regional Council

Of the four candidates for the Regional Council, two are new to local body politics, and one  - Clyde Graf  had one term before being soundly beaten by the current incumbent  - Dal Minogue. All have quite different backgrounds – the two newbies – Denis Tegg and Liam Kedzlie both have law degrees, but only Denis has practised..Graf reveals no previous experience, while Dal was had several terms as a District councillor before taking on the regional role.

Here they are in the order they appear on the Council candidate list”:

Clyde Graf – The very epitome of a ‘single-issue’ candidate who has been at the forefront, along with his brother, of the anti-1080 campaign for many years. He claims to represent ‘Rates Control,’ but he appears to be the sole member!

His Statement refers to many achievements in the 2013-16 Council, none of which are particularly relevant today, and his claims that the current Council have approved up to 25% rate increases appears positively Trumpian – tell a real ‘porky’ and hope that it sticks.

Clyde will almost certainly take votes by ‘coming through the middle,’ but his support is likely to be confined in the main to the gun lobby (pig hunters in particular), and the large group of anti-1080 people who have kept a low profile of late.

Dal Minogue. – Dal has done a very workmanlike job on all the issues facing this electorate, though many do not understand the limitations imposed on regional councils under the Act. For instance, its role in regard to climate-change and sea level rise is confined to harbours and catchments,, including drainage.and stop-banks. Coastal protection is otherwise the responsibility of district councils..  

I believe that Dal fought strongly on environmental issues in the face of determined resistance by a majority farmer controlled Council determined to avoid further inroads through the inspection process.                                            

Dal has also demonstrated an excellent grasp of fiscal and governance issues. I do not believe that it is desirable to change direction by electing new councillors after just one term , and hence my support for Dal.      

Denis Tegg – Denis has provided strong, and at times almost solitary leadership on the most pressing climate-change issues facing our Council, with mute and determined opposition that I have myself observed at first hand. He has also worked assiduously in the anti-mining issues with considerable success. .

But I cannot give Denis my support for the position for which he has nominated precisely because I believe that he would have been far more effective  mounting an ‘all-out’ campaign for Mayor, even if the incumbent appears to have a unassailable lead. It is counter-productive in my view to seek to remove an incumbent as effective as Dal, and in the light of the respective roles of the two councils in regard to climate-change.

Denis also indicates an incomplete understanding of the WRC role in regard to transport – a complete review of which took place in the last twelve months. Denis is an excellent candidate and would certainly be my second choice, but he could be seen as a ‘one-issue’ aspirant, along with Graf. 

Liam Kedzlie – Liam is qualified in law but has never practised - unlike Denis. His experience to date has been mainly in Japan in the education sector, and his Statement gives no indication of any real understanding of the issues facing the Council. He will almost certainly take votes from Dal, and he may have been better to stand for the Thames Community Board to get some experience ‘under his belt./

Liam’s appointment as a member of the Trust Waikato Board in 2017 – a purely political appointment by the Minister for Finance would seem to support the view that he may well  be a  ‘dilettante/’  Certainly, his ownership of a local newspaper (Matarangi) would suggest that he will need to be cognizant of ‘conflict of interest’ issues in carrying out his functions  should he be elected to the Council.

First and second choices - Dal and Denis

Tomorrow - Thames Councillors

 

 

 

Friday
Sep062019

Creditors Finally Lose Patience With Stanley

As if Mr Parker did not not have enough on his plate dealing with the fallout of sea-level rise, and the questionable placement of his new multi-story Richmond development, his main contractor - Stanley Construction of Matamata, have finally 'had the plug pulled' along with all its associated companies in what was a predictable liquidation. 

Richmond first stage apartments remain unfinished as Stanley appeared to have pulled out all its assets a couple of weeks ago, and the liquidators will no doubt be searching for same in order to satisfy at least a tinyl proportion iof the creditors. The last time they 'went through' several years ago, they ended up with an 'arrangement' that returned them 13.03 cents in the dollar.They missed liquidation by the skin of their teeth on that occasion.

It could just as easily have been our Council that was left in this position since Stanley was awarded the 'dry-court' contract in Thames, and struggled through a massive roof repair job following 'completion.' Our Council appeared at the time totally unaware of the hazard involved with dealing with this company - both staff and members of the Audit Committee, some of whom are still around,  displayed consumate ignorance of their 'due diligence' responsibilities at the time. See my post on the subject, and  other relevant posts available here through the Search facility - simply  enter "Stanley"!

Why construction firms with this reputation can continue to operate beggars belief, and once again, the liquidators are left with a maze of associated companies to deal with, anb 'subbies' will be left, as usual, to 'carry the can.'

It will be interesting to see the  level of 'fall-out' at the huge Tamaki development in Panmure / G;en Innis with which Stanley is apparently quite deeply involved. Things have by all accounts gone strangely quiet on that front of late. 

 

 

 

Thursday
Sep052019

The Candidates

I have refrained from commenting on the elections since the closure of nominations in order to let the dust settle. My intention from the outset is to comment on the mayoralty, the two council elections – TCDC and WRC, and finally, Thames Community Board.

My initial comments are based on the published statements promulgated through the council websites, and on flyers and billboards, and limited personal knowledge of the people involved. I emphasize therefore that this is by its very nature very much a personal assessment of their qualities, having obsedrved every meeting of this CVouncil excepting the last. I intend to later deal with emerges during the course of the debates as they evolve. during the campaign.

The statements are in themselves quite revealing, and in many cases shocking in the manner in which many  reflection of the lack of understanding of the issues facing each of the electorates, Shocking because one would have expected serious candidates to have examined the recent activities of each council, or board to establish the ‘what and why’ of issues that they are facing.,

No-one should be expected to take a position on anything until they are in full possession of the facts, but they could at least show a level of interest through their research. To simply express well-worn platitudes as most seem to think sufficient to get themselves  elected is naive and disrespectful, and I will indicate where I believe this attitude is indicated.  

Mayoralty

I will get the mayoralty out the way at the outset as that appears to be the fairly ‘clear-cut,' and the result pretty-well pre-determined, failing a major miss-step on the part of the the incumbent. As with a number of candidates, Sandra tends towards lauding her achievements rather than explain what she intends to do over the next three years, but that will hardly be sufficient to see her bring her down.

Sandra Goudie claims that relationships have improved with iwi, external agencies and neighboring councils without providing the slightest evidence, and my personal observations are to the contrary., Sandra makes use of the totally spurious ‘surveys’ that are designed to paint every council in a favorable light.

As is to be expected given her antipathy towards the introduction of the dreaded CC (‘Climate-Change’) subject, it is hardly surprising that she completely avoids any mention of this, or the Shoreline Management Plan  in her Statement,

Len Salt  stands on his "long public service in the Coromandel," and his desire to create ”the best possible living and working environment for all the people of the Coromandel.” He does at least pay ‘lip service’ to climate change (“urgent”), mainly it seems aimed at getting central government to ‘pay-up.’

He is obviously well disposed towards business – particularly those involved in environmental work, and claims a “deep respect “ for manu whenua. That’s good!

Ben Parsons .Claims to “support the rights of foragers,” which completely baffles me., but I surmise relates to his ‘green’ credentials, and suppoprts “vibrant arts”,” along with “grass roots sports.” It all seems pretty ‘pie in the sky’ to me, but perhaps I am missing something that will appeal to a great number of voters. He looks forward to encouraging “wider involvements in local government,” through how he plans to do that escapes me.

Ben indicates that he will take a “scientific knowledge based approach …… when faced with conscientious (sic) and challenging issues.” He is also interested in civil defence strategy, which is reassuring, and land use, but indicates no knowledge whatsoever of current issues facing the Council.

Overall, I think that both challengers will will have a real difficulty connecting with voters from all over the Peninsula.

Tomorrow – the regional Council.

 

 

 

Thursday
Sep052019

Now It's Pesticides!

Farah Hancock reports in today's Newsroom  on the penetration of major pesticide types in streams all over the country - particularly it seems in regions where dairy intensification has taken place.

"Two streams in Waikato and one in Otago contained six pesticides and 78 percent of the 36 streams tested contained two or more, some of which are banned overseas. 

In some streams, concentration levels of pesticides exceeded levels considered safe for fish.

University of Otago professor Christoph Matthaei, who co-authored a study into pesticides presence in streams, said groundwater monitoring was regularly completed but streams and rivers were not tested for pesticides."

“This lack of knowledge on the distribution of pesticides and their concentrations in our waterways needs to be addressed. Not only are our freshwater fish species at risk, but so too are the animals they eat - aquatic insects such as mayflies and other invertebrates.”

The study tested 36 streams in agricultural areas over one spring and summer. Matthaei worries that due to a record-breaking drought, the levels detected were an under-estimation of normal levels. He would like to repeat the tests on at least 200 streams for a full year.'

Seven pesticides were targeted in the study. These were atrazine, chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, diazinon, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.

Around 86 percent of streams contained chlorpyrifos, a substance banned in the United States, several European countries and in residential New Zealand."

Environmental Protection Authority CEO Dr Alan Freeth indicated last year that:

"To be honest, we really don't know what is out there".

Hancock reports that an AgResearch study showed that in 2004, 1278 tonnes of pesticide was spread over pastural land - around 38% of which ended up on dairy pasture to combat grass grubs, weevils and beetles. Also, that about 76% of our fish species are threatened with extinction, along with 33% of plants which rely on fresh water, and 25 % of native freshwater invertebrates.

And here is the crunch!

"Without pesticides, the intensification of agriculture could not have happened. "

And:

"Matthaei thinks pesticide levels in water is a topic that's gone under the radar while nutrient run-off, algal blooms and sedimentation has been gaining attention.“I’m guessing with pesticides it will probably take 10 years of research effort as well, talking to policy-makers, talking to politicians""

 

 

 

Thursday
Aug292019

The Next Choice Of Government Is No Choice!

Well we surely don't have much of a choice leading up to next year’s election. Labour’s total failure to achieve its pre-election goals – particularly in regard to Kiwibuild, and endlessly fluffing around, seemingly unable to make up its mind about anything of consequence while continuing to blame the previous administration at every stage is becoming a boring refrain.

On the other hand, the reversion of National’s back-benchers, and many of its leaders to NRA gun law tactics (“It's the person, not the gun,’ and “The perpetrators are mentally ill”), along with the increasing boldness being demonstrated by those, mainly from farming areas, claiming to be “climate inquirers, rather than climate deniers”) is indicative of just how reactionary this Party is likely to be if returned to Government.

Read Glenn McConnell’s excellent Stuff column published today on the subject to understand the increasing level of arm wrestling taking place, encouraged by apparent widespread depth of ignorance, And for those promoting Todd Muller as the future leader, take note of the directuion in which he appears willing to lead this Party on this seminal issue.

It is a depressing thought that this is exactly the line being promoted by our own Mayor whose hold on the handles of power for the next three years appears undimished, givern the quality of her challengers.

McConnell describes Northland MP Mike King's unsubstantiated views as:

“…not only damaging for farmers, whom he purports to represent, but the National Party as well. He and a few other roguish MPs make the party look clownish rather than like a strong Opposition.

King is the worst of a number of MPs who have shown a flippancy with facts. Spin is fine in politics, but facts are facts. Facts are important. You can't campaign in a different reality.

We trust our politicians to make big decisions. Most of the decisions they make will not be campaigned on, will arise through their terms in power, or will go unreported..

The ability, then, to know fact from fiction and to be able to understand science and reasoning is the most basic skill a politician must have. By sharing disinformation, King has exposed that he lacks this basic requirement. He must go”

He goes on to link King’s views to those of:

“...a gaggle of "climate inquiring" National Party MPs are undermining their Opposition colleagues. Senior MP Judith Collins, agriculture spokesman Todd Muller and other junior MPs have adopted unscientific views, which border on conspiracy about climate change.                                                     

Their move to stall action on climate change, question its importance and in some cases deny humans have caused climate change is a concerted one within National, and an irresponsible one. Misplaced opinions cannot prevent a climate catastrophe. The overwhelming scientific consensus is it will happen anyway.

Some MPs, such as Muller, have taken an overtly anti-science stance in their comments. In July, after Te Papa opened a new environment and science exhibition, Muller hit out against the national museum. He was angry that an interactive display about how to reduce emissions allowed people to select "less dairy" as one of many options.

He went so far as to say it was "anti-science" to acknowledge the very real fact that dairying emits greenhouse gasses.

Collins, who Politik reports has pre-empted her party by saying she won't vote for the Zero Carbon Bill, supported Muller's comments. She went a step further, saying the museum was "indoctrinating our children".

Collin's announcements places Simon Bridges in a very awkward position in endeavouring to achieve caucus unity on the Party's reaction to the Zero Carbon Bill before it has even achieved its final draft in the Select Committee.  It is no more than a preemptory strike by Collins on his leadership, and will I suspect damage National at the polls, particularly in as yet uncommitted urban margins.

 

 


Tuesday
Aug272019

'A War Story'

How many of you I wonder, who sat down to watch  A War Story on TV1 on Sunday night, and were reminded of the extraordinary exploits of New Zealander Peter Arnett understood the 'back-story’ of just how this came about.

Of course, you  may have known that it was produced by a New Zealand company – Making Movies, and that it was shot in the Maniototo, with some of the tense border scenes in Viaduct Basin. Also, that the extremely chilling performances by the Afghan soldiers and insurgents were actually by Afghani immigrants who relished the opportunity to portray the scenes from their country.

Perhaps the well graded roads were a ‘giveaway,’ but I for one was taken in, and completely absorbed by the performances of the actors taking the parts of Osama Bin Laden, and Arnett. A review this morning questions the authenticity of Arnett’s claims of his ‘love’ for his adopted homeland.  But such criticism ignores the context of 2001, and Arnett’s particular circumstances as a highly respected, naturalized American, Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent.

I have a particular interest in the circumstances surrounding the production for three  reasons.

We were as near as dammit to the scene on 2/11/2001, exactly one week prior to the fateful day. We stood on the small outside viewing area on Tower 2 at around 10am (it was seldom open, and numbers restricted). I recall looking along Broadway, up the Manhattan ‘valley’ to Central Park, and fleetingly wondered what damage a Cessna flying too close could do.

And exactly one week later, still suffering from 'jet-lag,' I was working late in our Darwin apartment when the first news came through. We both sat and watched as the disaster unfolded before our eyes in ‘real time’ – including watching as the second aircraft hit the other tower, and later as the two plummeted to the ground.

It really did feel as if the entire World had entered a new phase, with the millennium to follow!. Sleep was ‘out of the question.’  We returned to the new tower in 2014 as it was opened, but it could not possibly leave the same impression other than as a memorial.

My second remote connection is that I attended Waitaki Boy’s High School with Peter Arnett – he was a boarder - a couple of forms ahead of me, and something of an athlete – an object of some admiration. He left school a little early to go to the Southland Times as a cadet, and where he leant his trade the hard way – the only way in those days. His typing skills were certainly better than mine!.

My third and last tenuous connection is that my nephew, James Heyward, was the Executive Producer of  ‘A War Story,’  and has carried responsivity for its production from the outset. He now has the unenviable task of marketing the program in countries that really don’t wish to be reminded of Bin Laden, or Al Queda.

Arnett has faded into history – just another War Story, though his seminal "Live  From The Battlefield" (Vietnam) will live on as the text for all aspiring war correspondents.

 

 

 .

Friday
Aug232019

IPCC Report Lays Bare Where Blame Lies 

Eloise Gibson’s story today in Newsroom of her interview with Professor Mark Howden of the ANU in Canberra, and the highest rank Australasian on the IPCC that released its Report this week which firmly fixed land-use in its sights as being directly responsible for climate change..

Howden knows as much about farmer attitudes in this country as he does about Australia, and the interview is well worth reading for this reason alone, in regard to New Zealand’s methane debate (see previous Post) in particular, if only because we need to  understand what lies behind ‘denial’ in all its guises.

Here is an important excerpt:

"Newsroom: You gave a great talk recently on the IPCC's special report on land use and you were really careful to say that the report wasn't "calling for" people to do anything, despite all the headlines saying 'IPCC says eat less meat' etc.

Mark Howden: Yes, IPCC reports are not policy prescriptive.

Newsroom: But they do lay out what you might call obvious areas for action. What do you see as the most pressing areas?

Mark Howden: The biggest one is to reduce fossil fuels and not just in agriculture, across the board – energy, transport, industry. That's the first cab off the rank, and to some extent there’s a risk of displacement activity, so that focusing on smaller and more difficult sectors takes the eye away from dealing with the big sector, fossil fuel use.

...[But] methane does add to the net greenhouse gas load, because methane is much more active a greenhouse gas (than carbon dioxide). And most of the nitrous oxide and methane is from agricultural activities."

And:

 “MH: Australian farmers until recently have been fairly out of step with farmers almost anywhere else. I can go to Sri Lanka and talk to a farmer and they will acknowledge climate change, and the same in Vietnam and India, South Africa, in other places there’s a public acknowledgement of the change which legitimises public action as well as private action on the change. Whereas in Australia, up until recently, farmers' public statements have been very biased towards not acknowledging climate change, so for example they were four times more likely than the public average to express views that climate change wasn’t happening or if it was it wasn’t human influenced. There's a strong political driver for these views because there’s strong polarisation in the community. Left/right voting relates to climate acceptance and denial in Australia.

NR: How did we come to this?

MH: It’s a long story. Australia and the United States are outliers in this, the US more so than Australia. But what's happened is that at the same time as the public statements of farmers were biased towards climate change denial, the actions of farmers were actually climate change acknowledgement. The vast majority were doing things that were sensible climate change adaptations. And it's only recently, with groups like Farmers for Climate Action that the conversation has changed. A lot more famers are coming out and saying climate change is real, we have to take action and all of a sudden that’s changed those conversations in the farming community.”