Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mike Butler: Going digital

Hawke’s Bay is a guinea pig area for digital television and the switch-over takes place on Sunday, September 30, before it is rolled out to the approximately 1.6 million households in New Zealand, so what has the experience been like. But first, why is it being done?

If you talk to an installer, someone from the government agency Going Digital, or a politician, you will hear about the marvellous things you will be able to make your TV do. You can access the net, watch programmes you missed via On Demand on your TV rather than your computer screen, you won’t need to record shows etc.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Frank Newman: Housing for the poor?

According to an article appearing in today’s NZ Herald government officials have been in touch with the country’s largest house builders to ask them what is “stopping them putting up big swathes of new housing, particularly aimed at the more affordable end.”

What is unusual about the question is that they need to ask it at all. The reasons are pretty obvious to anyone living on planet earth. The Minister is reported to have said, “The most unfair aspect of it is that there's no housing being built for people in the lowest quartile of income. Like none”.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gary Judd: MMP threshold should be raised

Given that we have MMP whether we like it or not, it seems to me that the threshold is the critical issue. As it is almost impossible for a single party to win majority support this gives rise to an inherent instability, and it delivers 'kingmaker' power to parties representing small factions. The obvious way of mitigating these evils is to raise the threshold.

What I have been able to glean from the Commission's website is that there were a few submissions advocating raising the threshold, but I have been unable to locate the actual submissions.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jordan Williams: Lobbying bill will distance people from MPs

Green MP Holly Walker's Lobbying Disclosure Bill is being sold to the public with the best of intentions.  But as drafted, it constructs such a barrier between MPs and members of the public that it will take us closer to the American-style lobbying industry the bill's supporters are hoping to avoid.

The bill makes lobbying activity a criminal offence for all but those preregistered with the auditor-general.  It requires all communications, even informal conversations, to be publicly disclosed with the client's identity and interests detailed.

Muriel Newman: MMP – the case against lowering the party vote threshold

In the lead up to last year’s referendum on our voting system, New Zealanders were re-assured that if MMP was preferred, the system would be reviewed and improved. This promise is likely to have persuaded many people who might otherwise have voted for change, to vote for MMP.

A key issue of concern is that all MMP governments are coalitions. This results in broken promises, backroom deals, instability, and unpredictable governance. The lower the party vote threshold, the more the door is opened for radical forces to achieve parliamentary representation and have a direct influence on political decisions - at a cost to the greater good of the country. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fiona Mackenzie: Who are these Maori?

With recent claims of Maori ownership of water, wind and the digital spectrum - combined with the concerning prospect of a new, race-based constitution being developed for our country - I am left pondering: Who are these “Maori”?  Who are these people who want to separate themselves from other New Zealanders while thinking they are entitled to take more than their fair portion of the public pie?

I look around at those I share my life with - in our families, our neighbourhoods, at the shops, in school, at the gym, wherever – and can’t imagine how this separatist policy is supposed to work at street level.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mike Butler: The hunger for a special Maori deal

At some stage demography will trump the apparent insatiable appetite for a special deal for Maori, and there is a hint of this in ethnic projections near the beginning of “New Zealand’s Constitution – the conversation so far”, a discussion booklet released by the Constitutional Advisory Panel on September 11. The mid-range population projection by self-identified ethnicity, shown on page four of the booklet, expects Europeans or other to make up 70 percent of the population in 2026 with Maori making up 16 percent, the same as Asian, and ahead of Pacific Island at 10 percent. Aside from the curious unexplained fact is that these figures total 112 percent, the notion of an equal partnership deal between the government and 16 percent of the population based on an 1840 agreement looks increasingly quaint and poorly founded.

Such a demographic doomsday appears not too far away considering the panel leading a Constitutional review was been told a bicultural focus on the Treaty of Waitangi won't be fair to Pacific and migrant communities, according to a Radio NZ report on August 21, 2012.

Mike Butler: Constitution 101 questions to ponder

Our Bill of Rights Act, the number of MPs, the term of parliament, election date, the number and size of electorates, electoral integrity legislation, and whether we should have a written constitution are all up for discussion and the Constitutional Advisory Panel released a booklet on September 11 to introduce the issues.

The booklet, titled “New Zealand’s Constitution – the conversation so far”, is an easy-to-read introduction to our constitutional make-up and includes the sort of information that would be helpful in a compulsory civics class at high school.

Mike Butler: Advisors' 'rangatiratanga' error

Open letter to Bill English

I am writing to you as one Minister in charge of the Constitutional Advisory Panel to let you know that “New Zealand’s Constitution – the conversation so far”, released last week, includes a fundamental error in the assertion on page 9 that: "The treaty records an agreement that enabled the British to establish a government in New Zealand and confirmed to Maori the right to continue to exercise rangatiratanga".

This is incorrect. All the treaty actually says is that the Queen is sovereign and Maori are her subjects, with the rights of subjects, including possession of property. That is all, in both English and Maori versions. Since then, moreover, the Queen and her successors have exercised sovereignty for 172 years.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mike Butler: $170m Tuhoe deal looks like a U-turn

An agreement to pay Ngai Tuhoe $170-million to end their complaints has no mention of a lump sum payment of £100,000 made in 1958. The transfer of the Urewera National Park out of Crown ownership into a co-governance entity looks like a U-turn after Prime Minister John Key had already ruled out giving the National Park to Tuhoe.

The Dominion Post thought the deal heralded a brighter path while noting that if hunters and trampers found access impeded or fees charged, and if there is any hint that the state has connived in creating a slush fund through handing over delivery of social services to tribal providers, the government of the day and Tuhoe will feel a backlash. (1)

Steve Baron: United we stand, divided we fall.

As I sat in a café watching two young families from two different races enjoying each other’s company, along with what looked like a 1 year old and a new-born, it made me contemplate. It seemed like only a year or two ago that I was in the same position; yet next week my 1year old turns 25. No doubt, sooner or later, it will be my grandchildren I will be looking at and this makes me consider my future and theirs.

The world has become very complicated. Nothing is simple any longer; each of us, and our many societies’, has baggage. And let’s face it; if there is no baggage then there is no life of any significance. What complicates matters even further is that races have many different cultural practices, cultural heritages, perspectives and traditions. This makes it harder for us all to get along and it is often hard to see eye to eye with each other. It was only today that an elderly person pontificated to me that she could see a civil war in New Zealand. Maybe not in her time she said, but to her, it seemed inevitable as she perceived a growing divide between Maori and European New Zealanders.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Phil McDermott: The Answer Is Urban Consolidation – What Was The Question?

Perpetuating the Myth
The Green Party is perpetuating the claim that development beyond Auckland’s “city limits” imposes a high cost on ratepayers.  A spokesperson claims that the current Auckland plan which allows for some new development outside the current urban area, “will cost ratepayers $42b billion to 2042, an annual levy of $200 per ratepayer”  according to a report in the New Zealand Herald.   

But is just so happens that  study on which these calculations are based is a flawed commissioned report rather than a peer reviewed academic study.[1] 

Michael Coote: National underestimates tribal ambitions for racial superiority

Potential investors have been rightly dismayed by the racial water rights fiasco that has engulfed and contaminated proposed partial sales of Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy. The supposedly slick, market-savvy National minority government of prime minister John Key has been left looking feckless, outflanked and amateurish in the process.

It will be remembered that the three publicly-owned electricity generators, along with ailing Solid Energy, were touted as partial equity selldowns by National without any serious thought given at the time to Treaty of Waitangi contingencies embedded in the State-owned Enterprises Act. It was the beginning of the end when National was subsequently cornered into putting a Treaty clause into the enabling legislation for the mixed ownership model (MOM) of SOE partial privatisation.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Martin Devlin: A Government in Crisis?

Belatedly, our pathetic media has finally cottoned on to the enormous and sinister implications of the Waitangi Tribunal report on fresh water ownership claims by Maori. A snippet in the Dominion Post of 6 September by a reader sums it up beautifully:

“Did I miss the coup? Who decided a few unelected bodies could stop democratically elected governments following through on their election promises? - signed Paul Rayner, Wadestown.”

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gerry Eckhoff: Hone H

The thought of Hone H streaking across the political scene in the conventional sense is just too horrible to contemplate yet that is exactly what he does. One can be grateful he does at least have the good sense to remain fully clothed but his actions are precisely those of the fad of some years ago. HH sheds the inhibitions that most people sensibly retain, in order to gain personal attention and disrupt the main game - wherever possible.

His latest description of National Members of Parliament of his ethnicity as “niggers” is simply and coolly designed to attract attention to himself as the real game in town pauses briefly to digest his most recent disgrace.

Karl du Fresne: One in the eye for the neo-wowsers

Parliament's decision to keep the liquor purchasing age at 18 was not only enlightened but courageous, given the deafening barrage of anti-liquor propaganda to which politicians have been subjected.
The vote was a resounding defeat for a determined neo-wowser coalition whose motivations range from legitimate concerns about health to a consuming hostility toward business.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Frank Newman: Environmental activism

When the Resource Management Act (RMA) was first introduced it was with the expectation that it would empower communities. It has done the opposite. It’s evolved into a web of rules and regulations created by environmental activists to advance their preservationist views. The effect has been to increase land prices and stifle economic growth and social wellbeing in the provinces. Rural folk are not happy, and are saying so in greater numbers.

The question I ask is how is it that an “enabling” piece of legislation like the RMA has grow into what it is today?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Steve Baron: Do Citizens Have A Right To Know?

The release of serial sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson to the grounds of Kaitoke Prison has raised serious concerns, not just for the nearby Wanganui community, but also for the whole of New Zealand. While some high profile Wanganui representatives may mean well, these representatives need to ensure they do not portray Wanganui in a bad light to the rest of New Zealand. Wanganui is not a hick town with lynch-mob mentality baying for blood, which was unfortunately the impression given at recent public meetings.

 Caution and thought needs to be given to this predicament. Wilson is not the first, nor will he be the last, piece of excrement to be released back into society. While New Zealand Courts may be able to impose minimum non-parole periods, they cannot lock criminals up forever. Sooner or later they must be released.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Karl du Fresne: What makes marriage unique

Few political issues in my lifetime have been more divisive than the Homosexual Law Reform Bill of 1986. It didn’t quite cause the violent convulsions that shook New Zealand during the 1981 Springbok tour, but the debate was almost as polarising.
To many people, legalising homosexual acts seemed a radical, dangerous step. Yet 26 years later, only a hard-core minority would still insist the country made a terrible mistake.

Even many of those who opposed the bill in 1986 now accept that it was wrong to treat someone as a criminal for being attracted to the same sex. The ability to form intimate relationships is essential for a complete life and it seems almost medieval that for so long, homosexual men (not lesbian women, oddly enough – the law didn’t recognise their existence) were denied this right.

Mike Butler: Ngati Toa villainy rewarded

Descendants of the villainous old Cook Strait area chiefs Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata have agreed on a record treaty payout without any consideration of an unpunished atrocity that took place in the Nelson area in 1843, and while ignoring a plan by both chiefs to wipe out the fledgling Wellington settlement in 1846.

Claims by Ngati Toa, a small tribe with 4500 members in 2001 that asserts rights over a tribal area spanning Cook Strait from Rangatikei in the North Island to Marlborough in the south, relate primarily to what they describe as “loss of land and resources” in both the South and North Islands, which refers to territory that their forebears sold. The tribe complains about exclusion from the Tenths estates in Nelson and Wellington, and the loss of the Ngati Toa maritime domain, which refers to the tribe’s habit of paddling canoes around coastal areas to raid weaker tribes.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gary Judd: Undiscovered resources do not constitute wealth

In relation to water rights, at the beginning of Chapter 2 “Wealth and its Role in Human Life” of Reisman's Capitalism*, this appears:

Wealth is material goods made by man. It is houses and automobiles, piles of lumbar and bars of copper, steel mills and pipelines, foodstuffs and clothing. It is also land and natural resources in the ground in so far as man has made them usable and accessible. Man, of course, does not make the material stuff of land and natural resources, but he certainly does create their character as wealth. 

Mike Butler: WOF warning for landlords

Landlords should be alarmed that the “Solutions to Child Poverty in NZ” report proposal of requiring a warrant of fitness for rentals jumped to top of the list in the poverty experts’ media statement, released on Tuesday, and Housing Minister Phil Heatley made noises on Closeup that suggest he would go along with such a scheme that would be paid for by landlords.

The poverty experts, who believe rental property owners only seeking short-term investment gains and tenants seek long-term tenancy stability, when the exact reverse is actually the case, want a capital gains tax for rental property.

Mike Butler: Child poverty not destitution

There is destitution, which involves severe deprivation of food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care, education and information, and there is child-poverty, which, according to the report “Solutions to Child Poverty in NZ”, (1) involves continuing to wear worn-out clothes and being deprived of an overseas holiday at least once every three years, among other hardships.

This nebulous report that was produced by some of the self-described “finest minds” in New Zealand, says “children living in poverty are those who experience deprivation of the material resources and income that is required for them to develop and thrive, leaving such children unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential and participate as full and equal members of New Zealand society”.