Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Child sponsorship in NZ

Variety has started up a scheme for New Zealanders to sponsor a New Zealand child. The money involved is the same as international sponsorship - $35 monthly. I'm not going to write in criticism of the scheme. It's charitable and voluntary. Whether the 'need' being met could be sorted differently, or whether meeting the need will just grow more of it, are issues for consideration. But assuming donors have thought through these, it's their prerogative to give.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mike Butler: Buying votes at Ratana

In late January every year, political party leaders join the pilgrimage to festivities at Ratana Pa at Turakina to try to buy votes, and this year was distinctive in that the pitches were blatant and unashamed. Prime Minister John Key told the faithful that National reached significantly more treaty settlements in the past four years than the last Labour government did in nine.

Mike Butler: Green sub-prime housing

The latest Green Party policy-for-votes initiative, a rent-to-buy housing scheme, appears to have been created by someone unable to work out the numbers involved. Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy on January 24, 2012, at Ratana festivities. The scheme involves building about 10,000 state houses for up to $300,000 each, in conjunction with tribal corporations, local government, and community groups, which families would live in and eventually own. The Crown would initially own all the equity in the house because families would not need to pay a deposit.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ron Smith:Little hope and no prospect of change

Just after the US election last November I wrote a blog speculating about how Congress and the newly re-elected President would face the looming fiscal crisis.  I hoped that the Republicans would see the need to accept tax increases on the ‘rich’ as part of a broader deal to address ballooning deficits, notwithstanding widely-held convictions that raising taxes in a time of economic stagnation was not a good idea.  With many misgivings, they did.  On the other side, I hoped that President Obama would accept the need to seriously address the ‘entitlements’ problem.   I even used his own infamous aside to (then) President Medvedev to argue that since he (Obama) would personally require no further electoral support, he could defy his own left to achieve, in the national interest, a grand bargain with the Republicans.  Boy, was I wrong!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Reuben Chapple: Maori Seats

The Maori Party wants the Maori Parliamentary seats entrenched forever in law. In a manner chillingly redolent of apartheid-era South Africa, it also wants every New Zealander classified by ethnicity (presumably on the basis of boxes ticked on the census form), and all 18 year olds of even remotely Maori descent placed automatically onto the Maori electoral roll. Yet there is no such thing as an ethnic Maori. Today, anyone claiming to be “Maori” is actually of mixed European-Maori descent, but has rejected one group of ancestors for the cultural identity of another. The Maori Party’s half-American Tariana Turia is a case in point.

Kevin Donnelly: A guide to education jargon!

With schools about to start in a couple of weeks it’s a good time for parents to brush up on education fads and gobbledegook. Every profession and job has its clichés and jargon words.  Canberra politicians talk about ‘at this point in time’, ‘ moving forward’ and ‘having a big agenda’.  In business, consultants talk about ‘synergy’, ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘leverage best practice’. Primary schools and teachers also have their own special way of talking that often makes it impossible for parents to work out whether their kids are learning or not and whether the school is the best place for their child.

Matt Ridley: The greening of the planet

Satellites confirm that green vegetation is increasing. Did you know that the Earth is getting greener, quite literally? Satellites are now confirming that the amount of green vegetation on the planet has been increasing for three decades. This will be news to those accustomed to alarming tales about deforestation, overdevelopment and ecosystem destruction.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mike Butler: Waikato greed, double dipping

A Waikato-Tainui tribal spokesman is demanding a bigger top-up payment than the government has offered and a Waikato clan has secured a further settlement of grievances that have already had two full-and-final settlements. If anyone was in doubt, greed and double dipping appear to be part of the government’s grand scheme to atone for alleged sins of the past.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ron Smith: Knowing the Truth

An anonymous commentator on my 13 January blog concerning the UN expert committee report on the health consequences of the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima (“Radiation, Fukushima, and the Future of Nuclear Power”) says (amongst other things):
“Actually those figures are terribly wrong . USS Reagan sailors required bone marrow transplants after exposure to Fukushima fallout, and are presently suing TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant’s owners).  Many people have died from radiation exposure from Fukushima in Japan.  It just isn't in the media - because the media is being muzzled.”  What are we to make of this?

David Round: The Hobbit - and Chris Trotter

You are a very fine person, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!’
  ‘Thank goodness!’ said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.
                                                           ~ The final lines of The Hobbit, by J.R.R.Tolkien

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kevin Donnelly: Freedom of religion and faith-based schools

Secular critics argue that religious organisations such as faith-based schools, especially Catholic schools, should not have the right to discriminate in relation to who they enrol and who they employ. Wrong. One of the fundamental rights in any democratic and open society is freedom of religion.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Karl du Fresne: Council bureaucracy frustration

Everyone I know seems to have a story about the frustrations of dealing with council bureaucracies. Try to build a simple garage to keep your car out of the weather, and you’re bombarded with engineering requirements more appropriate to the construction of a nuclear reactor.
Apply for consent to build a standard house – which these days requires submitting hundreds of pages of documents – and you can expect to wait the full 20 working days allowed before getting a response, only then to be told that you’ve overlooked some minor technical detail and will have to put your builder off until it’s been rectified.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Phil McDermott: Congestion, Density, and Transit– Have we got the mix all wrong?

The compact city/transit answer to the urban sustainability question

Expensive – and usually loss-making – public transit is enjoying a resurgence in the face of uncertainty over the supply and price of oil, concerns about the proliferation of private vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions, and  questions over the sustainability of our cities.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ron Smith: Radiation, Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Power

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) reported to the General Assembly in December 2012.  The content of this report will provide the basis for advice on national radiation safety policies, and, as such, it could be extremely significant in the future development of nuclear power around the world.

The UN expert report began with some detailed assessments of the health consequences of the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima.  For readers of earlier commentaries on this site, the committee’s conclusions will come as no surprise.  On the other hand, for those who depend on the main-stream media it might produce shock and utter perplexity.