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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 


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Yesterday's Council Meeting Uneventful

Denis Tegg came to public forum to again remind members of the increasing jeopardy facing the Council while it continues to only pay lip-service' to climate change, rising sea levels, and the immediate prospect of coastal inundation at various points around our coast.

Denis has analysed the Tonkin & Taylor Report referred to in an earlier post, and come to the conclusion that it is deficient on a number of levels which he spelt out in his submission to Council, including but not exclusively subsidence, ground water levels, and the increasing incidence of storm activity. Council continues to listen with barely polite tolerance to the warnings that are continually submitted by Denis, but nothing more.

Mayor Sandra's simply cannot wait to dismiss the subject and get on with the next item of business after allowing a couple of desultory questions from Strat, and Rex Simpson - designed more to demonstrate their 'interest' rather than elicit any real information.

I do not have any confidence that our Council has any other intent than to meet the basic and minimal requirements laid down by central government on this issue, and it will probably require another really major 'event' before anything of real substance emerges. It is instructive to see the manner in which they latch onto the imminent arrival of reports to excuse lack of urgency - the current Tsunami Study being the latest.

Whangamata Marae

The staff report and recommendation to reject this proposal gave rise to some pretty heated, but polite discussion with proponents deeply troubled by the reluctance to release the Council owned property at 101 Lindsay Road for the purpose, Clr McLean in particular was outraged at the assumption by the applicants that this was a simply matter of leasing this valuable block (possibly worth $2m) at the  usual $350 community rate.

Most members appeared to prefer that the property be sold, and Marae (really a community centre) purchase the property in the normal manner. The staggering information revealed in the project document was that it will cost $6m plus, financed entirely by grants from a page length list of organisations, mainly agencies of our Government! They then propose a set of budgets indicating a $50k annual surplus - not a good basis on which to to plan a successful $6m project - a fact pointed out powerfully by the CEO who clearly has had experience of previous failures of projects of this nature.

Good sense prevailed in the end, and it was 'sent back to the drawing board' for the CEO and his staff to explore other options, keeping in mind that this land is a 'district' asset - not simply something you 'give away' for the benefit of local board rate-payers - a trap that our Council has fallen into in the past, as Clr McLean loudly declaimed! And regardless of the many magnificent emotional appeals that accompanied the application, together with a $20k report prepared in 2016 by Giblin Associates (yes, the same outfit that Thames Community Board employed to carry out its 'vision' report a few years ago).

Not much mention is made of the Giblin report in this current application, and going by its content, that is probably just as well - they have the reputation of 'digging deep' and throwing their net very wide to secure the credibility they consider a report of this nature requires. Not everyone agrees!

Thames Aquatic Facility

The only other matter of any note concerned the purchase of land for the proposed new Thames Aquatic and Sports Facility, a matter that was Public Excluded on the following grounds:

(48)(1)(a) – That the public conduct of the whole or the relevant part of the proceedings of the meeting would be likely to result in the disclosure of information for which good reason for withholding would exist.

This is of course a matter that will certainly be of great interest to almost every Thames, if not District rate-payer. It apparently relates to land south of Thames Airfield that is said to be free of the (immediate?) flood risk relating to Rhodes Park - originally proposed. Of course, the lesser flood risk is relative, and probably equally contentious in the long term if Denis Tegg's warnings on several levels are given credence, as they should.

Nevertheless, interest in regard to this purchase was heightened by the the earlier outburst by Clr McLean relating to the use of 'District' funding to purchase local (Board) assets - it was clear that this is what he was referring to when he mentioned "other similar matters coming up later in the meeting."

The issue of whether the aquatic centre  is to be a 'district' or 'local' asset has by no means been settled, and will remain one of the most contentious issues facing this Council over the next few months. No wonder they wanted it kept within the Public Excluded.'

The land in question lies between the Airfield, and Totara Palms - opposite the Garden Centre, and is currently being farmed. Heaven knows what, if anything, they agreed to pay for it yesterday - that is information I don't expect to be confirmed one way or another for a day or two, but I bet that either way a resolution was not easy to arrive at,



King Salmon Signals Move to Cook Strait

Monday's Marlborough Express contains the story on King Salmon's imminent move to establish deep sea cage farming in Cook Strait as signalled in my earlier post on the subject. It seems that Chief Executive Grant Rosewarne is confident that Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash will soon take a paper to Cabinet to provide the regulatory back-up to enable the necessary research to take place.

In the meantime , he remains adamant that their coastal farms must move to the outer Sounds because the the coastal water has simply become too warm (I wonder why!), and the depth insufficient to deal with the resulting polution. Slowly but surely, this company is being forced to admit the failure of its coastal aquaculture operation.

The longer term move to the Strait may be its long term saviour in the face of ever increasing realisation of just how damaging its operations have proven to be. Why the outer Sounds will be any better is not quite clear, other than through a great deal of wishful thinking. 

Rosewarne now appears committed to deep sea farming, and to have established links with much larger scale Norwegian operators who are currently installing huge structures off the Norwegian Coast.

What really tickles me is that manner which Rosewarne (and so many other innovators) no longer rely on private capital to fund research of this nature. Admittedly this is really high cost stuff, but I can not understand why Government in one form or another (Cawthorn Institute in this case!) is expected to fund this research while the beneficiaries in the form of shareholders in these magnificent ventures are seldom required to repay this investment funded by tax-payers (or rate-payers for that matter)

I look forward to wonderful success being achieved by King Salmon in moving their operation to the rough waters of Cook Straight, but that is not the only danger being faced - the Norwegians are having to deal with major problems with achieving oxygen levels needed by the fish at depth (50m plus). They simply do not thrive at these depths without artificial bolstering of these levels - or so recent reports indicate. And there remain huge worm infestation problems that are being faced by the entire northern hemisphere industry.

But better Rosewarne's company conducts its activities off-shore - preferably way off-shore.





Nitrogen Overuse Now Biting Canterbury

Long-time readers will recall that I have rabbited on over many years about the short-sightedness of the dairy industry in particular over intensification based primarily on the easy availability of nitrate fertilisers from the giant Kapuni conversion plant - leading to a 1,000% increase in their use since the '60s.

Ignorance and defensiveness within the industry, combined with plaintive and unconvincing claims from its leaders that all would be okay in the end as new farming methods were adopted have led us to the situation where we are now recognised as by far the greatest users of this toxic chemical on the entire planet.

It has enabled great wealth to be achieved by relatively few beneficiaries at a huge long-term cost to the entire community, only now being recognised for what it is on the Canterbury Plains where porous sub-soils have enabled the rapid degradation of entire braided river systems while the industry remains in denial, or suggests that fencing a few tributaries will fix the problem.

Now the NZ Farmer, of all media, has printed a story by Charles Mitchell that 'lays it on the line.'

Read this excellent article, and you may think that it would become a 'wake-up call.' If you do, you are  falling into the trap that has been laid by farming interests to persuade us that this is the price we must all pay to ensure the continuation of our standard of living. We have been blinded by this argument for far too long, and bought into fiction promoted by those same interests glorifying conversion from other forms of farming into the outrageous lie surrounding the virtues of dairy. 

The same industry leaders that have led us down this road are represented as a majority on the nations largest company board  that is suddenly being seen for what it is a - a giant stack of cards represented by the satisfying sight of enormous stainless steel silos and factories from one end of the country to the other. They are of course an illusion that could become severely tarnished overnight in the event of a severe downturn in the industry for whatever reason, including international events

These people, inadequately described as 'directors' are mere novices when their skills are put up against those who direct Nestle, and Danone, let alone the Chinese who appear to have been playing a 'long-game' totally on a different level to the tyros of Fonterra. They will all be devising ways and means of picking up the pieces in the event of what is rapidly giving the appearance of being the 'end-game' of our dairy giant, despite hollow assurances to the contrary by its Chair and a/Chief Executive.  

Whoever imagined that having a company controlling 90% (now 80%) of the industry, while protecting farmer pay-outs against the vicissitudes of the market, and at the same time attracting capital requiring a normal market return was bonkers - that is what happened when our Government permitted Kiwi to be  combined with the NZ Dairy Co-op, and it subsequenty dabbled in the capital market through the Stock Exchange with a tame minority of outside directors selected by the farmer interests. 

It was a nonsense of course, and devotion to Co-operative principles in the face of market realities a total illusion. International experience with this form of structure has been universally disastrous, other than where it has been possible to preserve monopolies. Anyone who imagines that Theo Spierings was unaware of the futility of attempting to turn this around when he came aboard is in 'cloud cukoo land.' Hence his splendid and iron-clad remuneration and exit strategy.

But I digress - the story here is of the destruction the entire Canterbury Plains by this form of agriculture. And don't get complacent - the Waikato is not far behind, having commenced intensification far sooner. It is simply that we are looking here at a sixty year plus time-frame due to sub-soil structure, rather that what has been virtually an overnight phenomena in Canterbury - and some would say Southland to a lesser extent.

Scientist Mike Joy, who industry leaders prefer to vilify, is again the voice in the wilderness. Let us hope that the new Government has a plan where the influence of farming interests are sufficiently balanced by the scientific evidence that is now, like climate change, conclusive.  





Tararu Flood Protection To Proceed

Residents will note works commencing today at the end of Wilson Street to re-establish the long gone groynes that will provide a degree of protection from the rolling waves that caused the damage on 5 January. The rock wall in front of the two residences at the end of the street have already been restored, but the groynes with provide additional protection.

The groynes have existing resource consent, dating from when they were originally built, and Council staff are co-operating in an exemplary manner to ensure that the works are compoleted in accordance with all the provisions of the existing consent. The next few days will provide the necessary low spring tides conditions that will enable the contractor to get in and get the task completed

It should be noted that this entire operation is being carried out under the auspices of the South Tararu Flood Committee that was recently formed for the purpose of raising funds and overseeing the works. It is a local initiative involving all those people who propertiers were  damaged, or endangered on 5 January, and it is a true example of a community based initiative that deserves every support of the Council to ensure that the entire funding required for the task is in place. The Community Board will consider the application by the Committee for a Community Grant at its meeting set down for 1 October at Te Puru Hall. 

But what is significant is that the Committee has already raised over $20,000 from its members, including a $10,000 residual from the previous flood several years ago. This has been nurtured by committee members from that time, and the current Committee has ensured that all the necessary arrangements have been made to access those funds.

All in all, it is a splendid example of a community initiated action to deal with community problem, and already meeting minutes indicate just how well these arrangements are being implemented with great skill and volunteer input from locals with engineering, surveying and managerial skills. 

Here is a summary of the last Minutes (No.2) to indicate just how comprehensive this work has become:

Committee Members

Andrew Austen (Chair) Tom Fox (Deputy Chair), Debbie O'Connell (Secretary/Treasurer), Bruce Smith, Barry Cropp, Fabian Steel, Gordon Battson, Peter Hoffman, Bob Cox & Bruce Miller (acting as advisors being part of the orinal Committee) 

General Business

We have the prices in for the repair work to be done as per the drawings done by the previous committee member Max Bossleman Engineer and Bruce Millar – Surveyor

Stage one the Groins is ready to go

To repair the Groins and lift the height of the wall at Robert Street - $19,095.75

Stage two

To purchase mat and 450 tonnes rock for the wall along the foreshore & cartage– 450 tonnes . Estimated contractor to purchase and place the mat and rocks  - $42,250.00

 We have applied to the Community Grants for $30,000.00 which we expect to hear back from in October

 Our Chairman and Bruce Millar have met frequently with the TCDC and Waikato representatives to ensure we can do this work within our current Resource Consent

Exciting News

The contractor is starting the groins and the wall on Robert Street property on September the 10th. They expect to be finished by the end of that week.

As he is restricted by the tides and safety it would be greatly appreciated if you are down there having a look to leave plenty of room for them to work.

The company is Ground and Pound and they meet all the legal and safety regulations to work for us within our Resource Consent .

You may see them using my place on occasion at 102 Wilson Street that is all fine.

So far 28 residents have contributed $12,700.00 in a little over a month, With the balance that was in the bank we now have a total of $23,900.19

These contributions have enabled the committee with the help of the Council and Bruce Millar to have the first step of the repair work done by the end of September

 Thank-you all - that is fantastic My next bit of news is also extremely positive

 The TCDC has met with Andrew Austen and Bruce Millar with regard  to  the Robert Street and Wilson Street TCDC owned land - this is coming soon.

They are fixing those in their financial year as they said at the Public Meeting

Andrew and Bruce have been working with them to join both projects to get the best outcome

The Council has agreed for the use of their land for our contractors to get to the beach and once we have done our work with the groins we will work together

With surveying , contractors plans etc. Once the Chairman has dates and more information we will let you know what will be happening.  For those of you that have donated I will be sending a letter of acknowledgement by email or dropping in your letterbox.

It  took a while for the mandate to get to the bank and for the old and the new committee to get time off to meet at the bank , this only happened last week. At this stage we are waiting for our internet access so if anyone has contributed since last Thursday I work in Auckland most days and will go to the Bank this  Friday for an update.

 Once again many thanks for all the contributions and if you wish to contribute or help in any way or would like to know anything else please contact us

 The bank account is BNZ Thames- Thames South Flood Protection Committee 02-0456-0009118-00

Our next committee meeting is the 27th of September  -  if you would like anything discussed please contact one of our members and we will do that for you.

 I would also like to thank the many people who have come forward with ideas and offers of help for fundraising, it seems this may need to happen so if you have time to help or ideas drop me an email or call me on 0275310468 so we can start this as well.

Sincerely yours

Debbie O’Connell- Secretary - Thames South Flood Committee




The 2018 Ratepayers Report Is Now Out

This is the report prepared annually by the Taxpayers Union Inc., and it is well worth a look.

Our Council does not show up well this year, or in many other years to be honest.

Just comparing some basic information with other councils in the Waikato Region shows just how diligent our Council has been in ensuring that its salaries and rates are kept at the highest levels regardless of the fact that our population remains the sixth higherst (29,000) out of ten in the Region.

For instance, we have :

  • The third highest paid CEO of the 10 ($345,000 p.a.) Only Hamilton's CEO (($386,000) and Waikato DC's ($347,000) are paid more.
  • The second highest number of staff paid over $100,000 on a population basis (852). Only tiny Waitomo District Councils figures (540) are worse. The average figure for all the Waikato Councils is 1434. 
  • The second highest councillor remuneration ($37.982) - only Waikato District Couyncil with twice the ratepayer base pays more.
  • The second highest average rates ($2,567). Only Waitomo District Council with a ratepayer base of 6,315 is worse ($2,728). The average figure for all the Waikato Councils is $2,304.

This is just a small small sample of the overall analysis available through the tables provided. Overall, we do not stack up well, and they indicate an unacceptable level of profligacy. This stuff needs to be trotted out when the elections come round. Exercising control over these levels of expenditure are exactly why we elect councillors, and if they are not doing the job, they need to be replaced.

For those unfamiliar with the process, a Staff Committee of Council sets the salary of the Chief Executive that is ratified by Council, and he in turn sets those paid to his underlings - salaries down the line are then set within parameters set by the CEO, and his senior staff. The 'rule of thumb' is generally 75% at each descending level of report in the upper echelon - generous, eh!

It is a really outrageous piece of 'back-scratching,' with no effective outside controls set by anyone like the State Services Commissioner. The emoluments of councillors and board members are set by the Higher Salaries Commission by contrast and in accordance with well established principles.

You can see how powerful the CEO is in this situation - they are notorious throughout the industry for the manner in which they exercise this power at our expense.

Roll on 2019!





Hahei Carparking Now Out For Submissions

The simmering dilemma facing the residents of Hahei that has led to a by-law change that applies only to this township is now out for public submissions, and undoubtedly it will raise hackles well beyond Hahei. Witness today's article in the NZH

The protesters are likely to be those who are concerned about the principle of having to pay to "visit the beach" - an emotional touchstone equivalent to "fishing for a feed for the family," and about as relevant

Anyone who has visited Hahei on a good day over recent summers will understand just what its residents have had to put up with - a parking shemozzle of Eden Park proportions, with determined parkers determined to get to either Cathedral Cove, or Hot Water Beach regardless of the comfort or rights of anyone else - just park, and be dammed!

The local Residents and Ratepayers Association headed up by Bill Stead and John North have provided exemplary leadership in arriving at the current solution as exemplified by the proposed by-law - it has been an object lesson in arriving at a solution to suit as many as possible - you are never going to achieve unanimity in this situation.

The charges for the designated spaces will cause concern of course, but it is the only fair way of achieving the objective of getting as many cars as possible into the Council owned carpark outside of town that has absorbed considerable Council resources. 

The eventual hearing will be heated no doubt, but it seems to me that the proposal has substantial merit, and support that will no doubt be expressed, along with equally passionate opposition.

Mayor Sandra has indicated that "the Council decision will come down to the quality of the submissions" - I am sot quite sure where she stands on the issue - as with any increase in restrictions through by-laws, she tends to 'keep her counsel.' Having seen what the Hahei R & R have been through on this, I can see any other locality attempting to emulate Hahei having real hurdles.

The entire East Coast needs to be concsious of the 'chicken and egg; situation arising from the relentless promotion of tourism, with every one expecting the Council to solve the resulting problems. A little more forethought by all concerned is called for, but the damage caused by Leach's Council in this regard is now there for all to see. By the way, what has happened to all his grand legacy projects?     





Pollen Street Buildings Under The Hammer

A meeting of building owners in Pollen Street was told last evening by Council personnel that the inspections for earthquake preparedness are now well under way, and will be completed shortly.

They were told the conditions and requirements that would have to be met to pass, or qualify for delayed approval. Most of the wooden buildings appear likely to pass, but certain buildings with un-reinforced masonry will certainly have severe restrictions applied.

One such is rumoured to be the Embassy Theatre which is apparently 'critical', and likely to require  substantial changes and upgrades if it is to achieve certification.

That is a great shame as David has made huge strides in getting the facility up to 21st century standards, and we have all benefited. It may require a huge community effort to assist him to get up to standard. But in the end, it may well prove to be an uneconomic proposition, as safety is 'bottom-line,' and it may have to be accepted that closure is inevitable.

Finding an alternative facility will be difficult, but surely not impossible. David needs every support we can give him to keep it going - it is the one facility that most of us regard as 'essential' in this town.





The Long Arm Of Rupert Murdoch

Let no one be under any illusion - the events of the last few days in Canberra were triggered by no-one else but the long-time Chair of News Corp. He arrived in Sydney just ten days ago on his annual visit from New York - an arrival that usually precedes a seismic shift in the fortunes of those at the top of The Australian,  and all his other multifarious media interests, including city tabloids, provincials, radio and television (Sky).

He is considered to have become fed up with Turnbull, and initiated the spill through his editorial control over content of all his interests - Australians are well used to this phenomena, and seem to fall into line exactly like Trump's 'base.' He is reported to be have daily discussions with Trump, so have no illusions about where he stands on the political spectrum. Alan Jones (remember - WallabiesI coach) on 2GB is one of his favourite acolytes, and he exerts huge influence - especially in outer Sydney, at least as great as that of Hosking here. .

Reports so far indicate that Dutton was his choice to replace Turnbull, with Tony Abbott as agent provocateur and Morrison may be a contentious choice inasmuch as his editors long labeled him an economic 'wet' during his term as Treasurer from 2015. He is steadfastly opposed to any of the Turnbull's policies on same-sex marriage, and he is a fervid supporter of the coal industry which will tell you where he stands on climate change. No-one in the Coalition these days stands a chance of leadership by adopting any other position, and this along with his having instigated the 'closed ('Sovereign') borders' policy, he has yje luke-warm support of the true right.

But Dutton would have expected the numbers and will be extremely disappointed - the 45/40 score-line will mean that he will always remain a danger to Morrison, particularly as he is widely believed to be strongly supported by Tony Abott. He will likely dispense with Dutton in the Immigration portfolio if only to placate international criticism, and the antagonism of human rights groups - and even pin-pricking from New Zealand.

Note that Morrison was (1998 to 2000) employed by the NZ Government, and based in Wellington to create the Office of Tourism & Sport. While here, formed a close association with Murray McCully, and was reportedly responsible for the "100% Pure New Zealand Campaign" - wait to see if any 'deep-diving' Kiwi reporter picks up on that piece of 'background.' 

Short of a change of government brought about by defections from the corps of 'odds and sods' on the Federal backbench, don't expect any major change in policy towards this country. Antagonism will be the order of the day I suspect for some time while we await the inevitable arrival of Bill Shorten, or another putcsh - probably led by Abbott.





Sea-Level Rise Is Universal - Fancy!

Here is a story from a couple of days ago in the Washington Post that gives meaning to the truth behind the fact that sea-level rises here are universal, including in Charleston, South Carolina where the projected rises quoted in the article appear to approximate those being experienced here.   

The article primarily relates to house values in those areas that have recent;y suffered actual or threatened flooding in the vast low-lying areas surrounding Charleston, and in the Miami-Dade County area in Florida. 

Various studies by Harvard University researchers, and from the Wharton Management School reveal conflicting results, but nevertheless, a consistent discount trend on house prices - particularly those that already been affected by flooding right down the Coast from New York to Florida with wealthier and more sophisticated buyers demanding of a sea-level rise margin. The trend has increased over the last five years, with houses at higher elevations generally appreciating faster. 

But the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania - probably the highest ranked business school in the US, and incidentally the alma mater of Donald J. Trump!) Prof of Real Estate Susan Wachter states:

 “You could turn it around, almost,” Wachter said. “Despite all the discussion of sea level rise, and despite the tremendous increase in the number of events over the last years and the destructiveness of the events, coastal building continues and coastal property appreciation continues.”

And a Columbia University head of data science -- Jeremy Porter reports:

Home prices on the coast are “going up along with market trends. They’re just not going up as fast as other places.”

He points out paradoxically that Charleston, for example, has a hot real estate market characterized by high demand even though the city’s historic heart sits at low elevation, is surrounded on three sides by water and has recorded a rise in sea level of roughly a foot over the past century.

The really interesting aspect relating to the story, and one could suggest a fatal flaw, is the absence of any reference to the attitude of the insurance industry - surely essential information in order to obtain a full and balanced report of the situation reflected by sea-level rise on the East Coast of the US. Nevertheless, the information is interesting and instructive.

No matter what its conclusion, arguing against sea-level rise is futile, along with the inevitability of a negative effect on house prices over time. But in the meantime, precipitate and ill-thought-out action on the part of the insurance industry is counter-productive, along with external encouragement.





Pauanui/Tairua Cycleway - Again!

My post dated 11 July regarding the machinations that have led to Council becoming responsible for the Pauanui/Tairua Cycleway has again come to the fore. This was supposedly a project of the Hikuai District Trust – an entity established specifically to develop the walkway/cycleway from Pauanui – an admirable intent had it actually achieved its purpose without falling back on the Council to fund and undertake the work.

As with so many other admirable enterprises in this district (Thames Business Association included!), it started with the best intentions, ran into funding difficulties, and fell back on Council through ‘very close’ associations with community board members and Council staff.

I was approached by Tairua/Pauanui Board Chair – Bob Renton at the last Council meeting complaining that I should have referred my previous story on this matter to him for comment as he would have been able to “correct” some of the facts on which I had based the story. From my discussion with him at that time, I failed to see how he could have changed my view on any of the matters on which the story was based.

Be that as it may, this is a ‘commentary’ blog, and I have no obligation to ‘check’ with anyone when I am satisfied  as to the basis of a story – that is the difference with normal ‘journalism’ where cross-checking sources is standard practice. I certainly do not have the resources to run around getting ‘confirmation in the manner he suggest. As long as I remain vigilant in regard to any possibility of defamation, readers are the sole judge of the veracity of posts.

What is important in relation to this particular story is that having now read the 1 August paper presented to the TP Community Board on 14 August it is abundantly clear that for some time, the Hikuai Development Trust has played ‘second-fiddle’ to the Board and its staff in regard to this track, and it is now quite clear that maintenance of its entire 25km length will be primarily the responsibility of the Council as Controlling Authority.

Involvement by the HRT appears to be entirely voluntary, and secondary to the Council.. What this means is it is now perfectly clear that this has always been a Council project regardless of protestations to the contrary by the Board Chair and staff in their correspondence and dealings with the objectors from around Hikuai – now characterised as a “vocal minority of trouble-makers.”

The good folk of Pauanui and Tairua now have exactly what they always wanted – a Council executed, managed and maintained track. This is not a matter about which I have any ‘axe to grind’ – it is simply outlined here as an example of the manner in which many projects are initiated,  and one way or another get onto the Council’s books without appropriate consultation with all those who are affected.

These often become large-scale burdens that fall back on all rate-payers to fund, and equally often are defended by elected members with a vested interest. I hope that this project is a major success, but I am conscious of the vulnerability, and consequences to this project of major storm damage that will almost certainly need to be funded by the entire rate-payer base, as it already has!






Climate Change - The Long Game!

I can generally be fairly placed in the camp of the subject of the previous post - Denis Tegg, but I would suggest that his latest missive aimed primarily at an article in the Informer about real estate prices in the Mercury Bay area remaining buoyant, is 'over the top.' .

Denis (see his article in TeggTalk through sidebar) questions whether potential buyers may be being led astray by the failure to fully inform them about the likelihood of substantial increases in insurance premiums, or excesses.

I believe that Denis on this occasion is over-stepping the mark, no matter how well-intentioned his motives in continuing to chide our councils and others into taking more effective and positive steps to protect, and warn residents as to the likely consequences of inaction in regard to what is now certain climate change ahead. 

He may be correct in what he states in his post, but he should recognise that people will literally 'turn-off' his warnings when thay are couched in these terms. Who on earth wants to be told that their housing investmentss are about to 'head south' as insurance companies begin the process of re-assessing their risk profile throughout the District.

We are all aware of this danger already, and in most cases, taking steps to defend our position. It does not help to have someone in Denis's position from literally 'on-high' tell us that we are about to become uninsurable. It may well be true, but it does not help to have Denis constantly remind us of this. LIM reports are there for a purpose, and beyond that, the age-old concept of Caveat Emptor.

I recall that recently, T3 brought the Chair of the Insurance Council to town to address a meeting, and I have no doubt that he was fed a tale of woe while he was here, which he proceeded to reinforce. T3 may not be thrilled to know that he has used the Thames example to emphasise his message of insurance doom in public pronouncements ever since, along with South Dunedin - Golly!

We have a problem - our Council has taken the first steps in dealing it, and in the end 'managed retreat' may be the only answer, but Moanataiari is a known particularity, extant ever since the first house was permitted to be built there on mine tailings. The recent long scheduled Tonkin & Taylor report on this situation will provide a real headache for our council, but I see no reason for the entire District to 'grind to a halt' over it.

Let's get some rationality into this situation - recognise the problem by all means, plan for the future and bring central Government along- it can no longer ignore the situation by leaving local authorities to sort it out alone. But in the meantime Denis, for God's sake stop prodding the insurance industry into taking precipitate, and possibly unnecessarily hasty action that will leave a substantial, if not all our rate-payers disadvantaged.





'e' Cars Come In Many Guises

After several querulous posts of mine over the last year or two on the subject, I think that Denis Tegg finally lost patience, and brought his near-new Hyundai Ioniq import around for me to view and to have a drive.

This vehicle is now claimed by Hyundi to be NZ's No. 1 selling electric vehicle - it must have left the Nissan Leaf in the dust in that case, but 'give a dog a bad name,' and it must affect sales in the long run. Nissan's reprehensible refusal to take any responsibility for the battery problems being experienced - particularly by its 30Kva offering had to eventually have an effect, even if they are all imports - it is very hard for 'Joe Blow' to distinguish the difference. 

Okay, so what about the Denis's Hyundi. Well first up, it is a really smooth design - the all-electric model has a closed-in radiator to distinguish it from the hybrid. And his is spectacular red - maybe not so good in view of the age-old problems of retaining the finish on red vehicles, but spectacular nevertheless.

So much for the aesthetics. My only previous experience was in a 25Kva Leaf, with which I was impressed, but not overly. This 28Kva model is a different kettle of fish - a wonderful driving experience - I can't really see how the vastly more expensive (Denis's was $49k at the wharf having come via the UK - it is the top of the line $59k model new off the showroom floor) alternative BMW's and the like could provide a better experience. The Tesla looks like it may require a 777 pilots licence to work the electronics, but there I am showing my age. 

What I can say about the normal functions of normal driving - a relaxing and most enjoyable experience, and one I could certainly get used to, if i could afford it. As Denis explained. the price can really only go one way - down, as the technology becomes more widely accepted, and Government policy more persuasive - the direction in which it appears to be moving.

As for distance driving - Denis told me that he had cruised down to the capital a few weeks ago, and charged at Cambridge, Taupo, Turangi, Mangaweka and Levin.  Turangi was just a 10 min top up,  others 20-30 minutes. Soon there will be chargers at Tokoroa and Tirau. His range is 200 -230km depending on mode and driving habits. That seems reasonable, and again, can only get better - the Tesla is already up to 400km.

Look, I still have reservations about the battery components as I have outlined previously, but I am convinced that these vehicles are a viable, possibly essential alternative to the current propulsion that we have been addicted to for so long. I would have one in a flash if I could afford it, but the next generation may be worth waiting for.

Thanks Denis - I am sold, if not totally convinced!





"All The Queen's Horses"

All you Netflix subscribers who are interested in how local government (or any other!) fraud generally takes place should take the time to take a look at "All The Queen's Horses" - a recent documentary about a small (pop 8,500), ordinary, Illinois town called Dixon - that is until the Town Treasurer took them for $54m over a five year period (actually ten, but almost all over the last five) to fund her quarter horse empire outside of town - reportedly the largest and most successful in the entire US - all supposedly achieved with the benefit of inherited resources. 

Why I bring it to your attention is because of the manner in which the crime was perpetrated, and the various checks and balances circumvented while the townspeople and their elected representatives remained blissfully unaware. By the way, amongst the interesting statistics revealed at the end of the program is that 57% of all major embezzlements in the US are perpetrated by the fair sex. According to the female DI who investigated a major fraud by my finance manager that we detected in an organisation I ran in Australia, the percentage there is far higher. 

Interestingly, the method was almost identical in both cases (but involving only 5 figures in our case!) It also involved false bank accounts, phantom creditors, and forged signatures. But unwarranted  trust was the underlying cause in both cases, which in  my case left me with a life long unwillingness to accept any semblance of a lack of double checking of every single transaction. And no excuses for any lack of transparent audit oversight - a situation to which I have drawn attention here on countless occasions. 

What interested me about the program was the determination expressed in the aftermath to ensure that every incoming councillor (the previous lot were all 'dumped'!) had a modicum of accounting knowledge to ensure that they had some idea of what to expect from their accounting staff, and exercise great caution when the unexpected occurs - something that is almost impossible with the form of accounting and financial reporting currently adopted by our CEO. It is not that it is faulty - simply inadequate with the plethora of bar and pie-charts, and graphs that are currently presented as an alternative to actual figures, mixed in with council performance tables. 

I do not believe it appropriate for both the Finance Manager, and the Corporate Services Manager to whom she reports, to be absent from Council meetings - councillors may be considered too ignorant to understand a set of accounts, but there is no reason, or justification to make that assumption - education and direct contact is the key in my view!

I remain unconvinced as to the oversight of the derivative accounting, and in particular the general oversight of the Auditor-General. Internal auditing does not inspire confidence, and reports that are presumably provided to the Audit Committee are never put before the full Council - a major oversight. 

Dixon's audit was undertaken by a national (US) audit firm that broke every standard audit procedure in the book - only in this manner was the defalcation possible, and again, it was an accounting underling (whistle-blower) who nailed the perpetrator - completely separate from the audit process. Both the unintentionally complicit bank, and audit firm await likely substantial damages judgements. The perpetrator received 19 years in the Federal penitentiary, and some $20m was recovered from the sale of her many assets. 

I would strongly suggest that the entire upper echelon of the Council executive take the time to view this documentary. There are lessons in it for everyone. Councillors could certainly also benefit from watching it during one of their famous public excluded 'workshops.'





Consistency Must Be A Priority

An interesting item appeared in the CEO's "Out Of Cycle" budget approvals to go before Council on Tuesday. It relates to the:

"repairs to Waitete Bay rock revetment wall as the result of storm damage sustained in January 2018 totalling $70,900 funded from loans."

This is interesting in view of the total indifference indicated in the case of the Tararu wall that failed to repell the waves that rolled in on 5 January. Some urgent rock-wall repairs on private property have taken place under insurance claim, but there has still been a refusal to acknowledge any responsibility, even where structures are on actual reserve.

Tararu residents affected by the 5 January event met last week to discuss the dilemma they face in rebuilding their protective structures - walls, bunds and groynes. All these date from 2004 when the last major event caused residents to contribute to a fund to erect defences. Their funds were used to seek and obtain a resource consent, and erect groynes off the end of Wilson St. The Council undertook bund work on its own land from the Yacht Club round to point where the previous reserve had been totally washed away. From there to Wilson St, where the Bupa facility (and bund) now begins was regarded as 'private' because of the absence of reserve, and a variety of defence structures were erected.

In that regard, Bupa needs to get its fingers out and institute remedial work if they are to adequately protect their multi-million dollar investment - and that of their residents, but discussion with them appears minimal, and residents are left in the dark.

There a residual $10,000 left over from the original fund established by the lower lying residents behind the Robert to Wilson St foreshore, that they now intend to now use to re-establish the previously consented groynes. Their Committee is obtaining appropriate engineering advice to undertake this work, along with assistance from the Council's newly appointed specialist engineer - Jan van der Vliet.

But a substantial contribution from the Council along the lines of that provided for Waitete would be appropriate. The circumstances are similar even if the Waitete work is evidently on reserve land.  The Tararu group are really showing initiative in tackling their own problem rather than waiting on Council, and this is certainly in accordance with Para 2.1.3 of the draft "Council Approach to Managing Coastal Hazards" that is the principal document being dealt with on Tuesday.

Para 3.2.3 spells out that landowners are exected to "take the lead in any processes required to determine and implement an appropriate solution." That is precisely what is happening at Tararu.

It should be acknowledged that the situation at Tararu is quite different to that on the East Coast with erosion leading to potential progressive loss of amenity and threat to housing. Periodic inundation on the West Coast must be recognised as a totally different kettle of fish with hard walls, appropriate rock placement, and drainage facilities the primary requirement. Residents recognise that total storm wave exclusion is an impossibility when combined with spring tides - erosion is not the problem.  





STOP PRESS! Myrtle Rust at Two Coromandel Peninsula Locations

Teresa Ramsay has a story on today's Stuff page regardingf the discovery of two Myrtle rust sites on the Coromandel - one at Colville on private property, and at the TCDC office site in Whitianga that will no doubt be repeated in Friday's HH

This is very disturbing given our trelationship to the Pohutakawa. But as you will be aware - that is just the beginning of the potential damage to a whole family of trees both in this District and elsewhere.

The real test will come in spring and anyone who has concerns should take photos - not remove any plant material about which they have concerns, and refer them to the DPI through their disease hot-line 0800 80 99 66.





Waihou/Piako Rates Increases

Rate-payers will soon be in a position to understand the effect of valuation and rating changes put in place as a result of the ten-year plan exercise recently undertaken by both our Councils. This will come as quite a shock to some people – particularly those whose properties have been re-valued recently, but not as great in the case of TCDC had the proposed increase in the Uniform Annual General Rate been adopted.

Concurrent with the TYP, the Waikato Regional Council has been facing the dilemma brought about by storm damage to its principal infrastructure – that related to flood control and coastal protection – upgrades and improvements in the main. The dilemma arises from the necessity to recover the majority of the costs from the area of benefit – in our case, the area covered by the Waihou-Piako Catchment Committee where the costs are by far the highest in the Region proportionate to the population.

The problem does not stop there – it is exacerbated by climate change projections, and the vulnerability of the assets – particularly pumps that are reaching the end of their useful life and for which unexplained, insufficient depreciation has been allowed in the past. Many of these are no longer considered viable because of their reliance on power, and the transformers that are no longer deemed suitable where there is any danger of inundation – an increasing threat as we all know.

Can you imagine the horror of certain sections of our population at the thought of diesel pumps replacing electric just as our recently elected Government has decided to forbid future oil exploration - a paradox if ever there was! And further, the expense of these units has been vastly increased by the need for pumps incorporating fish protection technology to protect spawning stock - the rersult of Fish and Game presssure.

The full extent of this dilemma and the likely effect on Thames rate-payers is only revealed in the actual LTP document which arrived today. And not only for Thames rate-payers – even more so the farmers whose properties are directly in the ‘line of fire’ over the entire catchment, and whose very existence depends on WRC’s ability to exclude the sea, and rapidly dispose of it when it tops the stop-banks, and more importantly, penetrates the peat as sea-level rises over time, and as the peat subsides.

At some point in the future, it appears inevitable that a reasoned rationalization of the very existence of vulnerable dairy units will need to be undertaken. Pond aquaculture may be an unlikely alternative - and cow 'cockies' may need to undertake some rapid re-training!

At the same time, the rationalization for continuing to rate Thames rate-payers for the benefit that they are deemed to derive from inundation and river flood works will come under even closer scrutiny. At the moment, the best argument that I have heard is that it is based on the need to keep open our access and egress across the plains from Kopu to Route 27 – thin gruel indeed when compared with the protection afforded to rural dwellers, and their bovine dependents, .

WRC rating methodology is diametrically different to that of TCDC – you will have realized that from attempting to decipher the hieroglyphics of your rates bill next week, but one thing is sure, we are paying a substantial sum because of our location, quite apart from the increased capital value of our properties that I have been told will equalize with Huraki as progressive re-valuation takes place there next year.

Just to give you some idea of the imbalanced infrastructure expenditure over the fifty years forward – the projection for Waihou-Piako comprises $1.443m (that is nearly $1.5b) compared to the total of $2.817m ($2.8b) over the 8 District catchments. This unpleasant prospect has given rise to consideration of ways and means fringe areas may be able to escape the inevitable rates bulge, and move into adjacent catchments – Tararu into Coromandel is but one example.

But I can assure you that the bureaucracy has diverse means of setting well laid traps to prevent groups of rate-payers from following such an easy destiny, even if there is a process laid down by which a majority of affected rate-payers can seek such a change. One of these revolves around the application of ‘independently verified' rate ‘differentials‘ applying ‘area of benefit’ principles. This is designed to ensure a range of changes that would negatively affect most rate-payers in the short term.

Nevertheless, escaping the dubious benefit of being a member of the Waihou/Piako constituency, and the inevitability of its future rate bulge – likely to be grossly in excess of those being applied elsewhere in the Region, may still be recognized by the majority as a desirable way out.

I look forward to being able to partake in further reasoned discussion of this possibility in due course – hopefully in time to be able to partake in a submission to the WRC in time for due consideration before the next Annual Plan round.

On the wider front, all WRC rate-payers, and more particularly those residing in Waihou/Piakop should be aware, and cognizant of the likely consequences of what their Council is planning, no matter how it is ‘dressed-up’ in any document accompanying your rates demand.  





Australia Is No Longer 'Big Brother' 

The very important Bryce Edwards article in today’s HH, and in particular the acting Prime Minister’s response to press conference questions indicate a severe deterioration in the relationship witrh Australia – a change that should cause concern.

Peters' contention that all inter-country relationships are ‘fleeting’ by their very nature and personality, none more so that that created through the actions of their Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who has the unfortunate habit of throwing his height around on deportations. This is to demonstrate his unrelenting determination to remove as many New Zealanders as possible under their contrived “good character” rule that is simply an excuse for a suspension of universal laws on human rights.

And Prime Minster Turnbull, as weak a PM as ever in Australia’s recent history, appears totally powerless to reign him in for fear of instantly losing office. Read Edwards article to understand just how serious this has become. And for an Australian view, albeit, that of a Liberal Sydneysider with quite close ties to this country on a number of fronts, see the 30 minute ABC program ‘Don’t Call Australia Home) fronted by ex-Wallaby hooker, and respected journalist Peter FitzSimons.

This deportation process has seen over three years, 1,300 Kiwis by nationality if not residence, locked up in deplorable conditions until they have agreed to be deported to a country with which most have no affinity whatsoever. Many more will follow while the Coalition remains in power, and possibly thereafter. Labour see it as electoral poison to even express an opinion.  

I know that many readers will be dumb-founded at this turn of events, and the hard-nosed attitude demonstrated in Canberra towards their long-time ‘best-mates’ across ‘the ditch.’

Having lived in Australia (and Papua-New Guinea where I worked for the Australian Government) for some 25 years of my life I believe that I am in a position to comment on the underlying reasons for this almost unbelievable state of affairs.

It is not that they actively dislike us – they are simply unaware of our existence for the great majority of time. New Zealand receives almost zero attention in their media, other than  to report on snow conditions in the Southern Alps, and by way of identifying the origin of violent offenders when they pass through the court system.

Try and find anything other than fascination with a baby-producing Prime  Minister, and you look in vain. I know that I am certainly not the first to draw attention to this phenomenon, but it still bears repeating. We simply don’t exist for the great majority of Australians.

Maori have always been regarded as ‘good Abos,” by even well intentioned white Australians. The depth of racist belief, and invective is almost beyond our comprehension, and was something that I had great difficulty coping with when I first arrived in 1958, but you soon learn to shut-up in order to fit in.

It explains why I was recruited in 1998 to head up a Aboriginal run Health Board in the Northern Territory  when the directors indicated that they specifically wanted a New Zealander for what was a pioneering health initiative that unfortunately ran its usual course of Australian Government funding of Aboriginal initiatives – five years to be precise! It precisely reflected the patronising and token attempts to repair 150 years of Aboriginal health neglect, and its very success clearly troubled Canberra.

The level of underlying and insidious racism that affects every aspect of indigenous relationship is pervasive, corroding, and debilitating. The lip-service paid to concepts of ‘country’ during official events are about the only time that the average Australian experiences contact with Aboriginal culture, and it is as meaningless to the average ‘Oz as the didgeridoo.

I am relating my experience in this regard because I strongly believe that Peter Dutton’s efforts to deport as many New Zealanders as possible on ‘his watch’ is actually rooted to a desire to remove as many Maori as possible for the simple reason that they are seen as providing the basis for a myriad of motor-cycle gangs across all the States.

It won’t break the hold of the gangs, many of which are actually based on white-supremacist principles, but it will at least serve the purpose of satisfying a deep-seated resentment arising from Maori being widely seen as ‘trouble-makers,’ and a racial grouping that has managed to become established in Australia through long-standing defective immigration arrangements with New Zealand.

Don’t for one moment assume the vast majority of ‘fair-minded’ Australians stand in the opposite corner, and are simply waiting for an opportunity to dispose of Dutton, and his party. That may happen, but don’t count on it, and don’t for a moment assume that Labour would reverse the policy. No matter what the Average Oz may say, their behavior at the ballot-box is generally quite contrary, and in the main supportive of Dutton's methodology. In fact, he could well replace Turnbull in any spill.   

Little and Peter’s measured responses over the last few days represents a substantial real politic change in our relationship. It was inevitable, and timely, and we all need to understand that we will be no better regarded in Canberra from now on than Singapore, or Malaysia or many others of similar importance to the Australian economy. Our defense and foreign affairs policies need to be adjusted accordingly, and with less deference to ‘big brother.’





Answers To My LTP Submission

Here are the three main objections to the content of the Draft Ten Year Plan that was presented back in February with the answers as provided yesterday by Policy & Planning Manager Scott Summerfield  appended followed by my further comment:

1. The first relates to the long overdue decision to stop using depreciation reserves for building new assets rather than preserving the reserve for the purpose of replacing assets for which the depreciation has been set aside. The net result of this foolish, and possibly illegal policy is that the depreciation reserve cupboard is now bare with a mere $6.8m remaining, and with our Council facing $168m of 'renewals.' 

This reversal, and the stated intent to rebuild these reserves to $124m by 2028, while acquiring new assets of $126m appears contradictory, particularly in the light of the intent to eliminate external debt. It seems to me that this can only be accomplished through internal debt to its mandated limit, and a substantial increase in rates far beyond that already signalled in the financial projections accompanying the LTP.  There is something 'screwy' about these figures that need better explanation, particularly as we appear to have been misled over the term of the last Plan, based on the use of depreciation reserves as outlined above.

"The balances of the depreciation reserves have be  updated in the final plan to $104m by the end of 2027/28. The replacement of assets is estimaed to be $169m.

Counil is addressing the issue of funding for future renewals by only using depreciation for renewals, not new assets...."

[Then followed a whole lot of palaver about "intergenerational equity," and changing the "balance" between internal and external borrowing, but basically I count the response a major win through 'shaming' them into this radical change. Scott goes on to claim that the extraordinary discrepancy between the build -up of depreciation reserves and new asset expenditure - several hundred million dollars, does not signal a substantial increase in rates. 

2. And secondly, the question of asset re-valuations of from $24m to $58m annually, totalling $347m over ten years was raised in consultation at the outset of the previous 2015/2025 LTP, and never satisfactorily explained. Para 87 of the Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the Local Government Financial Prudence Regualtions (2014)  states clearly that "These transactions provide local authorities with no financial resources to meet their outgoings,. Therefore they should be excluded from a balanced budget measure."

The proffered Financial Strategy on this occasion makes no mention of asset re-valuations, so that we are left in the dark as to their effect of the ciurrent projections, and claimed 'balanced budget,' if any. I believe that Council has an obligation to disclose this information for the purpose of consultation, and seek an immediate explanation. I should add that the previous CFO was unable to give an unequivocal assurance at the time that it complied with the Regulatory Impact Statement.

"There is no requirement to disclose asset revaluation information in the financial strategy. Current asset revaluation projections are included in the financial statements in the final LTP."

[My point was to simply high-light what we have all been aware of - that Council has long adopted the habit of assuming regular and substantial re-valuations of assets as a convenient means by which to 'balance the books.' It is not new, or illegal, just illusional accounting that hides the true state of our Council's finances as suggested in 1. above.

3. The other issue that remains the 'elephant in the room' that must be faced relates to the incredible proposal to reduce coastal and hazard management from $6.68m to $3.88m in this period just when all indications point to the need to increase the provision substantially.

 "You will note the the decisions document includes additional funding of almost $2.6m has been provided"

[I wiould suggest that that is another major win for which Denis Tegg can legitimately claim the substantial credit.]

I don't consider that there is anything else of note to comment on in this regard, except to say that I consider that Scott has done his job in an exemplary manner - not a common compliment proffered in these posts. It remains to be seem just how well  the decisions are implemented.




Another Patrick Smellie Salmon Booster

A follow-up article by Patrick Smellie in today's NZH continues his PR assault on behalf of the New Zealand King Salmon. This follows his sponsored trip to Stavenger, Norway, courtesy of its Managing Director – Grant Rosewarne. See my earlier post to get an idea of what the visit was all about.

Smellie appears to have fallen into the journalistic trap of accepting his hosts rhetoric, and becoming the plausible mouthpiece of the industry. Pity that, because Smellie has a fine reputation, and he should never have allowed this to happen, let alone while on the industries no doubt lavish tab!

The article concentrates on the alleged economic benefits to be gained from following Norway’s lead as by far the highest producer of farmed Atlantic Salmon – some 2.4m tonnes compared to NZKS’s current 8k tonnes of the apparently more favoured Pacific variety.

Only in the tail of the article does Smellie concede that almost the entire Norway coastline comprising mainly fiords, has conditions suitable for farming salmon, whereas ours are concentrated in the Marlborough Sounds. Even Rosewane concedes that there are few other suitable areas here with sufficient current to to even justify trials. He writes off Stewart Island and our southern Sounds for very legitimate reasons, while resting his hopes on the open ocean of Cook Strait.

This alternative involves submerged cages in open water where there is sufficient, or even excess water flow – the techniques for which are unproven, and only now being explored in Norway. Interestingly enough, the Norwegians were evidently reluctant to reveal their progress in that direction to Rosewarne, or the rest of his delegation, but it does appear to have secured the interest of Environmental Defence Society delegate Raewyn Peart. After all, you could not go all that way on the NZKS tab without having something positive to say.  

The remainder of Smellie’s story appears  to be nothing more than a regurgitation of Rosewarne’s frustration at the manner in which environmentalists have managed to counter NZKS’s ambitions to expand into the outer Sounds. This is a result of having fouled their inner Sound farms benthic (seabed) to such an extent that several are now nothing more than a source of debilitating disease, quite apart from the ubiquitous sea-lice likely to prohibit their use for salmon farming, or any other purpose for decades to come. They are barren, if not diseased. 

Smellie reports the objections of environmentalists in Rosewarne’s view as nothing more than “intemperate” and “emotional vitriol” and “excessive assertions that cease to have any real significance.” He conveniently fails to mention the actual environmental effects that were the principal basis, and clearly laid out in the submissions that went to what he describes as the “highly experienced board of inquiry,” the members of which he infers, agreed with him.

The subsequent  landmark 2014 Supreme Court decision that found against six of the nine new sites being sought was the precursor to the current public relations campaign mounted by NZKS to ‘soft-soap’ the Government into backing its proposals, and this will no doubt be followed by further pressure to allow the open-sea cages in Cook Strait.

The attempt by both Smellie and Rosewarne to conflate the situation on the coast of Norway with that  here in New Zealand must be resisted at all costs. By all means, allow NZKS to follow through on the Norwegian ‘open-sea’ experiments, and replicate them here if possible, and practicable, but I would strongly suggest that these experiments not be used to ease further expansion in the outer Sounds beyond those areas already allowed.  

The clear intent to paint environmental objections as nothing more than "emotional vitriol" should be seen for what it is – an orchestrated and self-serving litany promulgated by NZKS.

And Patrick Smellie should be more aware of when he is being used by vested interests for purposes that are parcelled up as being in the National interest, but which are something quite different. To paint the dairy, red meat and oil & gas industries as “sunset,’ by comparison is grasping at straws, and unworthy.





Free Speech Under Attack Right Here

Many a reader will have been bemused by the 'free speech' debate that has taken place over the last couple of weeks arising from Phil Goff's denial of a venue for Canadian polemecists Lauren Southern and Stephan Moleneux. I suspect that most will have been horrified at this intrusion by Goff into this fraught area where he wouldsurely  have been far better to let matters take their course.

Object, or otherwise to the content of the presentation of these two (and I suspect that most would not have a clue as to what it is they are claiming), it is clear that banning people of this nature who are not advocating violence - simply stating a political (if objectionable to some), standpoint, is deeply redolent of the 'slippery slope.' And I for one make no apology for opposing the tigers of the left who certainly do not lack for platforms. who have done their level best to keep them at bay, with the inexplicable help of Mayor Goff.

I am seldom in the Chris Trotter camp on any matter, but on this occasion was gratified at the totally consistent stand he took in joining and supporting the 'Free-Speech Coalition with other supporters from right across the political spectrum.

In particular, i am totally supportive of Chris's column on the subject from which I have drawn the following:

"It has been dispiriting, this past week, to learn how little people who consider themselves leftists know about fascism.

The cause of this ignorance is, I suspect, generational. Those who grew up at a time when fascism was strong, and who later confronted its armies in World War II, are now very few in number. Their children and grandchildren, lacking their elders’ direct experience of fascism and fascists, have allowed the meaning of the word, along with the historical context out of which it grew, to fade and blur.

As the recent torrid exchanges between the defenders of free speech and the opponents of right-wing Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux have made clear, the word “fascist” now denotes little more than conservative views provocatively expressed.

So torrid did these exchanges become that, by the middle of the week, the opponents of Southern and Molyneux were reduced to making the extraordinary assertion that “there’s no such thing as free speech”.

The argument advanced in support of this profoundly anti-democratic claim is as crude as it is curious. Opponents quote: Quote.

“[F]reedom of expression … is a mirage. Real freedom is not what you say, it’s how you live. And we do not live free lives. The world is not free from poverty, is not free from climate change, is not free from fear. Most importantly, we are not free of capitalism, which profits handsomely from our enslavement.”

Exactly how a world without poverty, climate change, fear and capitalism could possibly be achieved without freedom of expression defies the imagination. Without the ability to speak, write, publish and broadcast freely, independent political discussion and organisation cease to exist.

One certainly does not debate or organise politically in the totalitarian societies where the suppression of free speech holds sway, one simply parrots the party line and obeys without question the orders handed down from politburo or führer."

Strong words, but nonetheless appropriate in this strange Trumpian environment into which we have all been cast 'willy-nilly.' The role of the media has never been under greater social media attack than at present - certainly within the those areas of the World that we have been pleased to designate democracies. 

How far behind are we? Not far, should we fail to recognise the dangers of what Goff has acccomplished by his uncalled for actions.