Monday, February 24, 2014

Bryan Leyland: The tunnel and the Unitary Plan

Len Brown is determined to commit Auckland to building a hugely expensive railway tunnel even though no independent and objective economic analysis has been made on the merits of the tunnel and whether or not alternative developments that do not concentrate on the city centre at the expense of other centres, would be better. If this is true, then the Council have neglected their obligation to investigate and evaluate all options before they decide upon a plan for Auckland. Given the enormous amount of expenditure involved, this  amounts to a serious dereliction of their duties.

Overseas research on in many urban rail systems reveals that the average cost overrun is 45% and the number of passengers is half the predicted amount. Has the economics of the Auckland tunnel been tested against 45% higher costs and half the passengers? If not, why not?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mike Butler: Tribes threaten action on carbon price

Heh, heh, heh! Tribes accepted carbon credits as payment and those credits have slumped in value -- so the tribes are threatening a $600-million treaty claim, and will take their case to the United Nations in a bid to get the government to revalue the credits. Greedy iwi, global warming stupidity, frequently it appears the chickens come home to roost.

This is how the story has unfolded over the past few weeks. The Iwi Leadership Forum told Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi on February 5, 2014, that it is about to implement a "climate change escalation strategy" which includes a treaty claim for $600-million over the lost value of carbon forestry, according to carbon market newsletter Carbon News.

Matt Ridley from the UK: The sceptics are right. Don't scapegoat them.

Floods and gales in the UK are not evidence of climate change. In the old days we would have drowned a witch to stop the floods. These days the Green Party, Greenpeace and Ed Miliband demand we purge the climate sceptics. No insult is too strong for sceptics these days: they are “wilfully ignorant” (Ed Davey), “headless chickens” (the Prince of Wales) or “flat-earthers” (Lord Krebs), with “diplomas in idiocy” (one of my fellow Times columnists).

What can these sceptics have been doing that so annoys the great and the good? They sound worse than terrorists. Actually, sceptics have pretty well all been purged already: look what happened to 
Johnny Ball and David Bellamy at the BBC. Spot the sceptic on the Climate Change Committee. Find me a sceptic within the Department of (energy and) Climate Change. Frankly, the sceptics are a ragtag bunch of mostly self-funded guerrillas, who have made little difference to policy — let alone caused the floods.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mike Butler: Ngapuhi dollar amount declines

The dollar amount for any Ngapuhi settlement is declining after a prediction yesterday from Labour MP Shane Jones that the government offer would be $250-million -- when the total demanded by claimants on Waitangi Day was up to $600-million.(1) From the Far North, Jones is of Te Aupouri and Ngai Takoto descent, as well as having Croatian, Welsh and English ancestry. Both Te Aupouri and Ngai Takoto have signed deeds of settlement. Jones even worked out for Ngapuhi the amount they would lose each year by not settling.

Without the Waitangi Tribunal's tortured arguments, the Ngapuhi claim for such a vast sum of taxpayers money cannot be justified. Note also that this claim is being negotiated before the Waitangi Tribunal has completed its inquiry into Ngapuhi claims. The government has made a decision without regarding the inquiry.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mike Butler: Mind the facts when debating the gap

It’s election year again and Bryan Bruce was back on TV3 last night with another erratic poverty doco titled “Mind the gap” that appears to want to tax the rich more heavily to give more money to the poor. Some will remember his “Inside child poverty” about effort three years ago. Unfortunately, while Bruce ponders the questions “why is gap between rich and poor in NZ growing faster than anywhere else, and why is that bad for all of us, he is woefully selective or just ignorant when it comes to the data he uses.

Bruce gives example of family in which the dad earns around $350 a week after tax and pays $340 in rent. The mum works part time for an unspecified amount, and they get an accommodation supplement of $250 a week.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: A brave new world of pluri-potent females and redundant males

There was an exciting scientific discovery very recently: mature cells, when immersed in a dilute citric acid solution for half an hour, regress to the state of stem cells which can subsequently be cajoled into turning into specialised cells, such as a nerve cell or a liver cell. These ‘induced pluri-potent stem cells’ (iPSCs, or just iPCs) are not new in themselves, having been around for a few years, but we used to have to make them by manipulating their genetic make-up.

There’s no huge surprises here really. All cells in your body contain the same DNA, so all carry the genetic information needed to become any of the specialised cells. When you’re still a tiny ball of cells 10 days after fertilisation, you’re made of stem cells that are all alike but that start to differentiate into the various specialised types of cells a bit later.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Karl du Fresne: When hardship is self-inflicted

Few New Zealanders begrudge some of their taxes being spent on welfare for people who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times and need a hand to get back on the rails.
Most draw the line, however, at helping people who assume a right to be maintained by their fellow citizens in the lifestyle of their choice. I’m not talking here about the usual sad suspects, such as the women who leave school at 15 and have a succession of children, often by multiple feckless fathers, and rely on the state to pay for their upbringing.

Mike Butler: Ngapuhi -- who gets the money?

The Government has recognised the mandate of the entity known as Tuhoronuku to negotiate the settlement of the Ngapuhi treaty claim, but more than 70 percent of tribal elders refused to attend a meeting on the issue on Saturday. What this most likely means is that all Ngapuhi heavy-hitters are getting themselves in the best position to receive the most money.

According to Radio New Zealand, the Ngapuhi tribal council, or runanga, which set up the Tuhoronuku board in 2011, claims majority support for negotiations but has run into strong opposition from an alliance known as Te Kotahitanga.(1)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Steve Baron: New Zealand's Titanic Problem

Imagine for a moment you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Titanic. You’re in the ballroom having the time of your life rubbing shoulders with other wealthy individuals—the few who could afford such an expensive first class berth on one of the most expensive ships of its day. 

Suddenly the ship lurches and you wonder what the hell happened. Then you bump into Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (authors of The Spirit Level). They’ve just come up from below deck and tell you there’s a massive rip along the side of the ship and it’s taking on water fast. The Captain then makes an announcement over the ships intercom; “Don’t worry, we’re just taking on a little bit of water but the pumps are working well. By the way, we’ve rearranged the deck chairs and the band will play its latest hit song, so you can all sit back and relax without a care in the world”.

Ron Smith: Suicide warriors and the laws of war

What should we make of the offer by Japanese authorities of a collection of letters from WW2 Kamikaze pilots to the UNESCO World Heritage ‘Memory of the World’ document collection?  Unsurprisingly, the offer has not been well received by some of Japan’s WW2 adversaries, China describing it as a glorification of Japanese militarism.  

In view of China’s enormous losses in the 1930s and the 1940s, and present tensions between the respective states, this is hardly surprising.  But we still might ask whether this is an appropriate criterion to apply to the preservation of documents and artefacts, which might have historical, or legal/moral significance, in the matter of the way we view war.

Mike Butler: $21.04m soothes 'egregious' failures

A grovelling apology by the Crown delivered to Far North tribe Ngati Kuri at Ngataki on Friday, February 7, 2014, featured in a settlement that includes financial redress of $21.04-million. Ngati Kuri, one of five tribes whose traditional area is the region from the Hokianga Harbour to Mangonui, north, claims 5757 tribal members. The “egregious”, failures by the Crown being “settled” relate to:
1. An alleged failure by government agents to include Ngati Kuri when it bought the 86,885-acre Muriwhenua South block in 1858, reserving “only”100 acres for Maori use.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: Americans talking about single parenthood contribution to growing inequality

Good. The Americans are talking about growing inequality and the association with single parenthood.

Statistically single parents are the poorest group in society in NZ so this NYT article has enormous relevance.

Mike Butler: How treatyist avoids scrutiny

A government program is the nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth, according to the late United States President Ronald Reagan. One such eternal-life programme in New Zealand concerns treaty settlements. The architect of that programme is Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who tells how he set up the process in his new book titled Reform – A Memoir. Regarding critics as racists, he set the policy in motion when his boss was out of the country, he incorporated a redefined version of the treaty into law, and did all that without any regard to the financial and social impact these policies would have.

Sir Geoffrey is an aging white liberal who has spent his entire working life cocooned in a privileged environment, and whose conscience appears to drive him to improve the lot of those he deems less fortunate. But his cocoon means he does not really know much about those he purports to help.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Viv Forbes: Green Energy - Not Fit for Purpose.

Germany’s wind and solar power generation came to a standstill in late 2013. More than 23,000 wind turbines ran out of wind and most of the one million photovoltaic systems ran out of sunlight. For a whole week, coal nuclear and gas-powered plants generated an estimated 95 percent of Germany’s electricity.

Britain has 3,500 wind turbines, but during a period of extreme cold they produced just 1.8% of UK’s electricity. But, gluttons for punishment, politicians intend building more.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mike Butler: It’s bribe-a-tribe day

Big dollar amounts are being bandied about after Prime Minister John Key used his main national day speech to bribe Ngapuhi, New Zealand’s biggest tribe, into settling their grievances with the Crown. It’s election year and the lolly scramble has just begun.

Key offered an interim financial payment to “incentivise” the 125,000-member tribe to settle quickly. Ngapuhi runanga chair Sonny Tau gave a figure of $500-$600-million as he responded.

Karl du Fresne: Sauerkraut in Masterton - who would have thought?

I was mooching around in the kitchen the other day, generally getting in the way, as I do, when something caught my eye. It was a vacuum pack of German sauerkraut that my wife had bought at a local food outlet. Now who would have thought, in the New Zealand I grew up in, that in the future you’d be able to buy German sauerkraut (for the uninitiated, that’s fermented cabbage, which sounds gross, but it’s not) in a provincial town like Masterton?
I think back several decades to when I first lived in Wellington. Even in the capital city there was only one place where you could be confident of finding exotic foods such as sauerkraut, Gouda cheese and Bismarck herring.

Michael Coote: Unitary Plan deadline fast approaching

Just weeks remain before submissions on the proposed Auckland unitary plan close on Friday, February 28, 2014. After that, those who have failed to get their word in edgeways and asked for the right to speak at subsequent Resource Management Act (RMA) hearings will be shut out of direct input into the process.

The deadline is salient not least because Auckland Council under mayor Len Brown is attempting to use the unitary plan to foist a race-based constitution upon Auckland that will permanently elevate its part-Maori inhabitants to legal and public policy supremacy over all other residents and ratepayers.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Matt Ridley: China's one-child policy was inspired by western greens

As China’s one-child policy comes officially to an end, it is time to write the epitaph on this horrible experiment — part of the blame for which lies, surprisingly, in the West and with green, rather than red, philosophy. The policy has left China with a demographic headache: in the mid-2020s its workforce will plummet by 10 million a year, while the number of the elderly rises at a similar rate.

The difficulty and cruelty of enforcing a one-child policy was borne out by two stories last week. The Chinese film director Zhang Yimou, who directed the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony in 2008, has been fined more than £700,000 for having three children, while another young woman has come forward with her story (from only two years ago) of being held down and forced to have an abortion at seven months when her second pregnancy was detected by the authorities.