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Author/Moderator - William (Bill) Barclay 

 

Associate Member NZ Media Council.   

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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.

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

Wednesday
Aug212019

James Shaw Backs 3NOP To Combat Methane 

James Shaw has been rabbiting-on about a chemical 'quick-fix' for the dairying methane problem called 3NOP. . But as Peter Fraser and Dr Mike Joy of Victoria University write in today's Newsroom,' silver-bullets' are not always what they seem at first glance.

"This ‘silver bullet’ is a compound known as 3NOP, developed by Dutch giant DSM, which is pushing for fast-track approval.

Irrespective of whether 3NOP works (or not), there is a fundamental problem with its prospective application he: as it permits a ‘business as usual’ approach to farming when that is neither ecologically sustainable nor economically desirable. Methane is only one of a raft of dairy industry problems – one can quickly add soil compaction, pugging and sediment loss, nitrate contamination of drinking water, unswimmable rivers, the despoliation of previously iconic landscapes, the creation of a Ponzi scheme in rural land values, and misdirected – and debt-fuelled – investment.

Given these problems all need to be addressed, silver bullets like 3NOP (or, for that matter, nitrogen inhibitors or managed aquifer recharge) are like continuing to smoke five packs a day while waiting for Pharmac to subsidise a new lung cancer treatment. 

It is fundamentally the wrong approach.

Rather than hope for any number of silver bullets to address any number of symptoms, what is needed is a clear understanding of the actual problem. The answer is simple: New Zealand has too many cows for a pasture-based system. (my bold)

Having intensified and overstocked areas suitable for dairying (Taranaki, Waikato), farmers have relentlessly expanded into completely unsuitable areas (Canterbury, the McKenzie Country, Southland). 

This is why New Zealand imports over two million tonnes of palm kernel annually and nitrogen fertiliser use has increased 800 percent in 30 years.

The result is not just an unmitigated environmental disaster but an economic catastrophe too. While it is intuitively obvious the ‘flipside’ of too many cows is reduced water quality and increased greenhouse gas emissions, what is less well known is the debt-fuelled nature of the dairy expansion. 

Since 2000, on-farm dairy debt has increased by over 400 percent yet milk production has increased by less than 65 percent. (my bold)

And over the next decade much of this expansion will need to be reversed.

The solution is simple: reduce stock numbers – as fewer cows = fewer nasties.  But this is where we run into the entrenched vested interests: with the incessant mantra being “fewer cows = less money”.

While seeming sensible, it is actually wrong. If the starting point is too many cows then it is possible to have fewer cows producing fewer n"

There is simply no escaping the need to reduce stock numbers - of that there is no doubt, and giving farmers hope of a magical alternative is simply creating false hope.

 

 


Monday
Aug192019

Coastal Management Plan

I was unable to attend the recent  Thames public meeting on this extremely important issue.. This was the firdt opportunity for the public to meet with the Dutch consultants who have been awarded the $1.3m contrcat to 'scope' the works required to ensure the safety of our coastal communities.

I did manage to obtain a report from a trusted source as to the proceedings that took place at Te Puru where a separate meeting took place to deal with concerns of that group of residents.

Here is his excellent report:

"I was surprised and actually quite pleased to see probably over 100 people at the meeting in Te Puru.  I got the feeling that TCDC were a little surprised also, judging by the absence of staff.

I did notice Sally Christie in the audience (although she very much kept her head down) and potential Councillor candidate Murray Wakelin was there - good bloke but will be on a sharp learning curve if he gets in!  Most of the audience were retirees from Te Puru, very interested and engaged, given the impact from the last storm event. The purpose was to introduce the Shoreline management plan to the locals - the concept, the intent, the timeline, and so on.  What was presented was pretty much what is on the TCDC website.  

There were a couple of things that I found very notable from the presentation. 

  1. The meeting was driven by the consultants.  The lead consultant is Royal Haskoning DHV, but there were also two other "sub consultants" present - an ecologist and some sort of planner.  They made a big deal of the fact that this was a $1.3m contract.  When asked from the floor how long it was going to take, they proudly announced "three years".  Wow, that went down well -- it looked like the 3 consultants had proudly found the /goose that lays the golden egg’!
  2. There was only one TCDC staff member present who barely spoke (the two staff involved with reserves management plans were sitting to one side and not part of this address). So for me the alarm bells are already ringing about the nature of their contract - how prescribed, and how ‘watertight’ is it?  How compliant is it with the requirements of the LGA?  How was it tendered?  Was it tendered?  Where were senior TCDC staff, who should have been there because this contract is so significant in terms of dollars and outcomes? 
  3. Have the key agencies DOC, Waikato Regional Council and NZTA been approached for involvement?  Do they understand their level of involvement? To be fair, there was a Regional Council rep at the meeting, and I think he is probably wondering what he has let himself in for!  My view as you know is that Regional Council should be very much driving something like this as Catchment Management is very much their statutory responsibility.
  4. There was some good news though - they said Iwi has already been briefed, although I'm also cynical about that.  If you want to get off side with Iwi right from the start of one of these projects then say you are consulting with Iwi.  The correct protocol is to PARTNER with Iwi.
My general observation was that the consultant started well, but totally lost the audience after about 30 mins.  I think he was genuinely surprised with the level of pushback!  There was general consensus that the project was too long, very expensive, and even after three years, would not actually solve any of the ‘on ground’ issues - plus a couple of people realised that there was no guarantee it would even be adopted by Council at the end of it (bit like Blueprint ay!).
People quite rightly raised that some of this work had already been done through things like Blueprint, catchment plans, WRC work (modelling of Waihou outflow up coast), and so on.  The consultant was keen to "find" all this stuff - well, its all there, you just have to look.  Shame that all the staff who completed this have moved on!
I think the audience were expecting delivery on the night of an action plan.  There is a group in Te Puru (its a watchdog group) which has been recording measurements for years and already have some localised solutions, I hope the consultant talks to them!  They made themselves known on the night, so that's good.
A couple of folk focused on management of streams and rivers better (this has been neglected up the coast for years), particularly around mouth clearance, and pointed out that the inundation that occurred during the Jan 5 event could have been prevented if the stream mouths were clear.  I don't think that the consultants have even considered the inundation impact from the streams on the Thames Coast (and in Thames for that matter).
They are intending to break the whole coast into localised segments for management, and this caused a lot of discussion around how you decide the boundaries of this.  I was more concerned that they were coming up with solutions before the problem has even been defined, but there you go.  

All and all, a bit of a shambles, and I'd love to be a fly on the wall when they are having their meetings on the east side!!  I can see this being re-scoped big time, and clearly a new Council should be looking at this very closely.  Failure to achieve anything on the ground in the next cycle will not be tolerated by the rate-payers I suspect.  

If it were me, and if we are serious about this, I'd get a separate specific Shoreline Management Plan for the Thames coast, from Wilson's Bay to Kopu, not try and get it all done in one big District-wide document.  You would move a lot quicker, it would be cheaper, and community ownership would be greater.  It could be driven at Board level, but funded at District, with Council endorsing at the end."

 

 


Saturday
Aug172019

The Disproportion of Superannuated Councillors Must Be Corrected This Time Around

Here is an excerpt from a Charles Mitchell article published today in Stuff tthat outlines research into age, gender and ethnicity of current elected members over the entire country. It is very disturbing - particularly when overlayed against our own age gap . The proportion of members over 50 is ridiculous, and reflected in some of the recent decision making.

The October election is the opportunity to correct siome of this age dis-proportion in partiucular, and should be taken, even if we know very little about some of the younger aspirants.Read the whole article, and observe some of Charlies pie charts to really get the picture

"As of 2019, the number of councillors nationwide who are either 37 years old or younger is approximately 32, nearly seven times fewer than would be expected given their share of the population.

To get a sense of how low this is, the number of elected members named John is around 33, as is the number of councillors named Michael. This means if you picked an elected councillor at random, they would be twice as likely to be named John or Michael than to have been born at any point since 1981.

The number of young elected members has been lower in the past. Based on periodic elected member surveys (which, as a note of caution, includes community board members, who tend to be younger), the proportion of elected members under the age of 40 was just 2.2 per cent in 2001 (compared to 6 per cent now).

The current proportion, however, is the same as it was in 1998, and slightly lower than in 2010. If it's getting better, it's doing so very slowly. So which age group is taking up the council seats? Unsurprisingly, they are overwhelmingly occupied by people aged between 51 and 70. 

In the absence of specific age data, post-election surveys are the best source for figuring out how old councillors are. Following the 2016 election, the proportion of surveyed elected members older than 51 was around 83 per cent, despite that age group making up less than one-third of the overall population.

The elected members of this age group are predominantly men; women members tend to be younger, with around 65 per cent of female members older than 51. 

Only one age cohort is fairly represented in local government, and that's people older than 71; they comprise around eight per cent of elected members, roughly the same as their share of the overall population.

What can we take from this? The average councillor was born closer to the end of World War I than to the current day."  

 

 


Saturday
Aug172019

Mathew Hooten & Brian Gaynors on Fonterra

The following ultimate para in Mathew Hooten's columm in yesterday's Herald needs to be taklen aboard by both sides of Parliament - how likely is that?

"Paradoxically, fixing Fonterra involves removing some of its ongoing legislative constraints. It should no longer be required by law to collect milk from new entrants or those who want to expand — which only leads to overproduction, including at the peak — nor to sell raw product to its competitors.

It should be set on its path to being a completely normal company. That requires tough decisions and bold leadership from Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson and Damien O'Connor, or perhaps Simon Bridges, Paul Goldsmith and Todd Muller.

And it will require tough decisions and bold leadership from more dairy farmers. If they want to play it safe as commodity price-takers, the co-op will always be there for them.

But if they ever want the returns expected by shareholders of a2 or even Pic's, they will need to abandon that safety blanket and take a risk with something new, less conservative and less constrained."

And Brian Gaynor's ultimate columm in the today's issue;

"The new chairman and chief executive have adopted a more realistic attitude towards Fonterra's businesses, but the co-op's main flaw remains the same as identified by Allison and Fernyhough 18 years ago. That is "that other people's capital and ideas are essential for baking a bigger cake".

Kerry Group (previously the Irish dairy co-operative ) started down its road to success in 1986 when the co-op transformed itself into a limited liability company and listed on the Dublin Stock Exchange. This allowed it to attract "other people's capital" and a wider range of skills at the board table.

It has also aligned the interests of management and farmers as Kerry Group's senior management team has been successfully incentivised through the company's numerous share schemes.

Fonterra will only pull itself out of its huge rut when it is willing to accept "other people's capital and ideas".

This involves transforming itself into a limited liability company and appointing directors with significant consumer foods expertise, rather than relying almost totally on farmer directors."

Boy, that stubborn determination to maintain the flawed co-operative structure is beginning to look terminal. To repeast my earlier comment - they simply do not have the commercial nouse to dig themselves out of this hole, and Government will eventually have to step in to force a re-structure- our economy depends on it.

 

Friday
Aug162019

Peter Dunn (Remember Him?) Emotes

Peter Dunn makes some interesting observations in today's Newsroom that strike at the heart of modern day debate in our House of Representatives. It is not pretty, and certainly not reassuring to know that this how decisions are now made - particularly on the vexed conscience votes.

His calling out of Simon Bridges for his rather too casual interpretation of 'facts,' and Adern for her "unctuous emoting of just about everything" is too close to the truth for the comfort of anyone familiar with the normal process of breaking down argument into easily quantiable 'facts.'

Our system of Government depends on it - the alternative is hairy, and scary, and will eventually lesd to chaos - "never mind the cost, feel the cloth."

I repeat some of Peter's thesis here because I think it is worthy of close examination as we go into another election cycle.                                                                                                                                

"What seems to be far more important is that those making the claim “believe” what they are saying broadly accords with the facts. Or as Simon Bridges said unusually succinctly recently, “One person’s misinformation is another person’s fact.”

What is most disturbing about the Bridges’ comment (made about his fellow MP Chris Penk’s outlandish claims about late-stage abortions) is its unapologetic nature. Bridges appeared not to be so much criticising his colleague’s unfounded comments, as justifying them. The difference between misinformation and the facts, he seemed to be saying, was in the eye of the beholder and not really all that important.

Conscience debates always used to be regarded as the apogee of Parliamentary debates where MPs shed their restrictive party cloaks and spoke about the issue at hand as they genuinely saw it.

Broadly, the end-of-life and abortion debates so far have not lived up to that standard. The previous dispassionate discussion of the relevant facts, the weighing up of the various arguments, and the reflection of constituency sentiment, all leading to a  balanced outcome, one way or the other, that was largely in line with the evidence, seems to have given way to the often emotional expression of individual personal experiences. And those personal experiences have become translated to be assumed as the experiences of the community as a whole that Parliament should act upon.

In so many ways, we are seeing the replacement of evidence-based approaches to policy by new approaches based on the mere look and feel of policy. Whereas pragmatism was once criticised as too much “if it works, it must be right” today’s norm seems to be “if it feels right, then it is right”.

For example, early in its tenure the current Government replaced its predecessor’s ten Better Public Service targets, meaning it had no way of measuring whether key public services were meeting their goals, and if not, what changes might be required. Ministers were assumed to know instinctively what was working and what was not, and how to correct things.

Similarly, the response to the current row about the funding of life-prolonging cancer drugs owes less to what is the best and most sustainable way forward of dealing with funding the ever-increasing pipeline of inherently expensive innovative new medicines becoming available, than it does to dealing with the extremely understandable concerns of an affected group of patients right now.

Our MPs are elected to implement policies that will materially benefit as many of their people as they can. They are not elected to implement their opinions, or worse still their prejudices. Too many are failing to see that distinction.

All of which leads back to the critical importance of evidence as the backbone of policy. Yet Simon Bridges’ apparently acceptable juxtaposition of misinformation and fact and the Prime Minister’s unctuous over-emoting on just about everything are a worrying recognition that the death of evidence-based policy is nigh, and that future political discourse will be about how things look, rather than what they really are."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

Friday
Aug162019

Denis Tegg To Stand For Regional Council

Denis has advised me this morning that he ihas nominated for the Regional Council. This has scome 'right out of left field,' but should have been expected considering his action to wind up his legal practice in the last month. I just wish he had decided to take Sandra on  - clearly a strp too far, but he would have had far greater influence in that role, and he may have under-estimated the support he would have had.

I happen to believe that it is an ill-considered decision on his part in tthe light of the fact that Dal Minogue has (in my view!) done a good job. and deserves another term. But more important, Denis will almost certainly draw votes form Dal and allow the 'single issue' Graf anti-1080 bloc through the middle. That would be a great shame, and counter-productive in achieving Denis's primary climate-change agenda that most of us support with a passion. 

The problem is that Dal has fought a good 'rear-guard' action on climate-change issues during is time on Council, and I fear that Graf would throw his lot in with the dairy farmer bloc that already dominates the Regional Council in order to achieve his campaign to eliminate 1080.  They are 'shaky' on this issue because most appear to believe that they are on top of the TB threat,- a totally false premise of course.

Okay, so some of you will believe that I 'over-think' these scenarios, but is it worth the risk? I don't think so, and I will therefore have great difficulty in supporting Denis in the circumstances, even if normally, I would I would be behind him 'boots and all.'

All I can say is "may the best man win," but not Graf, please God!

 

Thursday
Aug152019

Now For The 'Bad' News!

In the space of one week, we have managed to accumulate five magnificent examples of how our public services (and Fonterra) can 'stuff-up' in a magnificent fashion, and accountability is somehow absent, excepting for the Chief Statistition who has taken her 'medicine,' and walked.

None of these are related, though they do, in common, indicate a disturbing lack of intelligence in our public services,  and famer-dominated Board. All of these reports are taken from various sources in both Newsroom, and the Herald  and are have been 'cross-checked.'

Prison Letters (Newsroom)

"Christchurch terror accused Brenton Tarrant has been exchanging letters with at least one member of a far-right message board from prison, where he is awaiting trial for the murder of 51 people.

The Department of Corrections has confessed Tarrant's letter should not have been allowed to leave the prison, while the Government has signalled it may crack down on the ability of prisoners like him to correspond with the outside world as a result.

Corrections chief executive Christine Stevenson said the letter should not have been able to leave the prison, and apologised for "the distress that this has caused to those impacted by the tragic events of 15 March".

Pastoral Leases (by David Williams)

"Criticised for years for mis-managing Crown pastoral lease farms, it was rapped over the knuckles by incoming minister Eugenie Sage for granting discretionary consents that allowed out-of-kilter intensive farming in some areas – including the fragile Mackenzie Basin – wrecking some areas with significant values. LINZ was seen as a soft touch on farmers, especially under a National-led Government.

LINZ, the agency responsible for managing more than 1.2 million hectares of Crown pastoral land through 167 leases, did no specific inspections for consent compliance, either itself or through contractors, for three straight financial years – between July 2015 and June 2018. Either side of those three years, it managed only 11 inspections in total.

Fonterra Board Failure by Patrick Smel;ie

"Fonterra's failure is most damningly a two decade record of failure by its board, supported throughout by compliant farmer-shareholders whose self-interest has prevented New Zealand's largest company from achieving its potential.

Created by politics with its own act of Parliament, Fonterra has always had one eye on Wellington and one hand tied behind its back thanks to farmer-shareholders' insistence that the primary measure of success be the annual milk price and a requirement to pick up any and all milk.

It is also becoming belatedly clear that two chairmen for most of Fonterra's existence since 2001 – Henry van der Heyden and the now-deceased John Wilson – acted as command-and-control executive chairs.

Evidence that can only be pieced together suggests they paid scant regard to governance norms that even the lowliest charity would ensure occurred: namely, strategic discussions and succession planning.

Former directors report there being no serious strategy sessions at board level under both chairs and no serious discussion of developing the next generation of directors and senior executives."

Police Lose Car (and Glocks!)

"Police in Gore are looking for a man who rammed two patrol cars before getting away on foot armed with the officers' pistols.

In a dramatic pursuit late last night, officers tried to stop a car shortly before midnight.

Instead of stopping for police, however, the driver rammed the patrol car before running off. A police officer chased after him - also on foot.

The man then circled back around, stolen the patrol vehicle, which had the keys left in it, and rammed another police car before abandoning the vehicle a short while later.

The Armed Offenders Squad was also called upon, as was a police helicopter.

Authorities said two police-issued Glock pistols were stolen.

Police say the man "remains at large".

Census ‘Stuff-up’ (Herald Editorial)

"It is in our view that the focus on online responses and overly optimistic view of 'Stay the course. The paper will come', led to insufficient action being taken at the appropriate time," they said.

The report also concluded:

• There was too much focus on the online work and not enough testing

• The design of the survey was feasible but the problem was how it was carried out

• The budget was big enough – but more funding was needed to cover risks for the change of approach

• Leadership lacked strategic direction and there was too much optimism.

• The field workforce was too small – only about 40 per cent of the size of that in 2013.

• There was not enough preparation for offline results – for example only 4800 bilingual packs were printed, making it difficult for Maori to engage.

• The costs and impact of the North Canterbury earthquake – which closed Statistics NZ's offices in November, 2016 – were underestimated.