Sunday, June 29, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: Property rights underground

The government is consulting on whether to amend the law so that you cannot stop a gas or geothermal company from drilling a horizontal well a mile beneath your house, though you can get paid for it. Lord Jenkin of Roding last week pointed out that, under the common law, ownership of your plot reaches “up to Heaven and down to Hades”. Is the government justified in weakening this aspect of your property rights below a depth of 300 metres?

Yes. When air travel began in the 1920s the United States passed a “uniform aeronautics law” to prevent planes being charged with trespass for flying over private property. In this country judges made case law that overflight was not trespass. This is a similar case — shale gas extraction would not work if trespass was held to happen deep beneath your feet.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mike Butler: The permanent wallow in grievance

A key promise of the treaty settlement process is that as a society, we deal fully and finally with past injustices, achieve “closure”, and move forward as one people. The National Party took this further by setting a deadline in saying that this would all take place by 2014 – yes, this year.

However, there are more financial incentives for claimants, law firms, historians, and politicians, to continue to wallow in the past than there are to build a future. Despite around $2.3-billion being paid in treaty settlements little appears to have been settled.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mike Butler: Old Hauhau Kereopa gets new shine

Yet another chapter in the history of New Zealand was re-written last week when the old Hauhau fanatic Kereopa Te Rau was quietly given a statutory pardon for involvement in the killing of Reverend Carl Sylvius Volkner at Opotiki in March 1865.

The pardon does not change the past because Kereopa remains executed and Volkner remains murdered but it does mean that Ngati Rangiwewehi could use it to help squeeze $6-million in financial redress from the government as their settlement deed was passed into law.

Mike Butler: Ways to cut local govt waste

If you thought local authorities had no clue on how to cut waste, save money, reduce bureaucracy, and ultimately lower rates, you are not alone. The Taxpayers' Union has produced such a guide for local authorities titled Rate Saver Report: 101 Ways to Save Money in Local Government based on similar reports published in the United Kingdom.

Mayors Ray Wallace (Lower Hutt City) and Tim Shadbolt (Invercargill) contribute forewords that show some degree of agreement with the recommendations.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ron Smith: On being 'fracked'

The London Times, quoting NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, reports that, “Russian agents are secretly working with environmental groups campaigning against fracking to try to maintain Europe’s dependence on gas imports from Moscow.

It should be no surprise to us.  This sort of manipulation of left-leaning activists was a characteristic and quite successful ploy during the Cold War period, when, for example, western anti-nuclear groups were exploited to protest against the dispositions of NATO forces in Europe in the 1980s.  The successful resistance to these pressures by (in particular) President Reagan and Prime-Minister Thatcher, led to the ultimate collapse of the ‘evil empire’ that was holding a substantial part of Eastern Europe in what then seemed perpetual political subservience.

Stephen Franks: Labour-Liu legal loophole?

Since the link between Donghua Liu and David Cunliffe surfaced early this week there has been widespread speculation that Labour breached the law in failing to declare two campaign donations made by Mr Liu in 2007.

Though Labour maintains it has no records, the Herald has reported that in 2007 Mr Liu contributed $15,000 for a book signed by Helen Clark, and an unknown amount of money for a bottle of wine.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: Income inequality is falling, globally

There was a row last week between the “rock star economist” Thomas Piketty and Chris Giles of the Financial Times over statistics on inequalities in wealth — in this country in particular. When the dust settled, the upshot seemed to be that in Britain wealth inequality probably did inch up between 1980 and 2010, but not by as much as Piketty had claimed, though it depends on which data sets you trust.

Well, knock me down with a feather. You mean to say that during three decades when the government encouraged asset bubbles in house prices; gave tax breaks to pensions; lightly taxed wealthy non-doms; poured money into farm subsidies; and severely restricted the supply of land for housing, pushing up the premium earned by planning permission for development, the wealthy owners of capital saw their relative wealth increase slightly? Well, I’ll be damned.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Piketty - new poster boy for the Left

Hands up all those who have read French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First CenturyAs I thought – not many of you. Perhaps you were put off by the fact that it runs to a dense 685 pages. I admit I haven’t tackled it either, but I’ve read enough reviews to have a pretty clear idea what the book is all about.
The English translation was published only two months ago but already it has made Piketty the international poster boy for the Left. He contends that unequal distribution of wealth – a current political preoccupation throughout the Western world – is the inevitable result of a system which, over time, concentrates economic power in the hands of a tiny few.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mike Butler: Report hypes family violence

Sir Owen Glenn's $2-million inquiry into family violence that suggests considering alleged perpetrators guilty unless they can prove they are innocent is a 163-page waffle that tends to blame the police, courts, booze, and all of us, while absolving poor choice of partners and poor life skills.

This first report of The Glenn Inquiry (1), issued on Monday, has found 500 people, mostly Caucasian women aged between 41 and 60, who had experienced domestic violence and child abuse, to blame New Zealand's court system’s structure and processes, and the people working within it for re-victimising and re-traumatising victims.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Has the Radio NZ reshuffle backfired?

I NOTICE someone has started a “Keep Jim Mora in Afternoons” page on Facebook. I wonder if this is the tiny tip of a rather large iceberg. Mora, of course, was for several years the popular host of Radio New Zealand’s Afternoons programme. In the recent reshuffle that followed the arrival of a new chief executive, Paul Thompson, former Morning Report co-host Simon Mercep took over most of Mora’s show. 
Mora still hosts The Panel, the late-afternoon segment in which guests comment on the issues of the day, but it seems that many RNZ listeners are pining over his absence from the rest of the show.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: Calls to restore benefits to 1989 level baseless

A new book called Child Poverty by Simon Chapple and Jonathon Boston will be published next week, so the pre-release media activity has begun.

On The Nation today Lisa Owen interviewed Children's Commissioner Russell Wills and author Jonathon Boston:

Mike Butler: $200m challenge for HB tribes

Two claimant groups say that the $200-million they will soon receive will hold the key to Hawke’s Bay prosperity although there is no suggestion of how that would happen and there is no evidence that widespread prosperity resulted from big treaty settlements elsewhere.

The Crown has signed agreements in principle to settle historical Treaty of Waitangi claims with seven tribal groups around Wairoa and with the Heretaunga-Tamatea group. Each group will get $100-million.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Barend Vlaardingerbroek from Lebanon: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” – but not ISIS

“My enemy’s enemy is my friend” goes the old adage. It’s been put into practice a number of times in history, such as when Churchill and Roosevelt teamed up with Stalin against Hitler. But this jaded pearl of wisdom has little to offer the new and dire Middle East crisis that is unfolding.

When Fallujah fell to ISIS earlier this year, it didn’t raise that much of a stir. Then a couple more towns including Tikrit went the same way. Now Mosul has fallen and many are sitting bolt-upright. Thirty thousand men of the Iraqi army downed weapons and ran as though pursued by demons, their commanders leading the frenzied dash for safety. Half a million citizens followed.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reuben Chapple: Taranaki Toffee

It has become a revisionist article of faith that the Waitara land purchase which sparked the Taranaki War (and in some measure ignited the subsequent Waikato War) is a primary example of white settler wrongdoing to Maori. The facts of the matter are quite different. In 1827, a number of Taranaki Maori had migrated south to Waikanae, hoping to take advantage of the increased opportunities to trade with Europeans that would come from residing nearer to Cook Strait.

In 1834, the Taranaki was invaded by musket-toting Tainui, who defeated and killed most of the Taranaki Maori still living there. Tainui then returned to the Waikato, taking with them a number of captives to eat on the way or use as slaves and concubines. Small rump groups of Taranaki Maori fled to the offshore islands or to their relations at Waikanae and even as far south as the Nelson-Golden Bay area to escape death or captivity.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Peter Saunders from the UK: Free movement of labour bad for Britain's youth

More than a quarter of British people who voted in the recent elections to the European Parliament voted for the UK Independence Party (UKIP). I was one of them. UKIP wants Britain to leave the EU. It also supports immigration controls in place of the free movement of labour required by EU membership.

A left-wing friend challenged me on this. Wasn't I being inconsistent, arguing in favour of free   markets yet voting for a party that wants to shut down Europe's free market in labour? My answer was that free movement of labour worked well when EU countries were at roughly comparable levels of prosperity (which was the case when the European Economic Community was first set up). But today, the EU encompasses poor countries as well as rich ones. Romania's average wage levels are about one-fifth those in Britain.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Viv Forbes: Poison Propaganda

The environmental debate today is so corrupted by politics and propaganda that facts are too often distorted, and exaggeration of risk is commonplace.

The vicious war on hydro-carbon fuels is a good example where certain substances are labelled “poison” or “pollution” when associated with coal utilisation, but blithely ignored in other areas. For example, climate alarmists have labelled carbon dioxide produced by carbon fuels as a “pollutant” and the US Supreme Court even declared it to be so. But that ignores the simple truth that 100 times more carbon dioxide exists in the lungs of every animal on earth than in the air; it is an ingredient in beer, bread and champagne; it is essential nutrition for all plant life on earth; and this plant life supports all animal life - hardly a pollutant.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mike Butler: More treaty dollars for Taranaki

More treaty dollars were assigned to two Taranaki tribes this week with deeds of settlement signed with Ngaruahine and Te Atiawa. Those who know New Zealand history will recall that a key Te Atiawa forebear both sold most of Taranaki and then went on to oppose land sales, sparking the 1860 Taranaki war.

Te Atiawa will receive a total package of $91-million, which includes a $1-million cultural fund and an accrued interest payment of $3-million. South Taranaki's Ngaruahine will receive $67.5-million. (1)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: More welfare changes on the way

The government has announced a rewrite of the Social Security 1964 Act, which is a massive maze of dated legislation.

I note that the cabinet minutes say:

- a rewrite of the Act would mean all aspects of the benefit system, including recent reforms, would be open for debate through the parliamentary process

- the rewrite [would] include consideration of policy change....[including] providing support for redirection of benefit payments and use of payment cards

Mike Butler: ‘Fishing’ tribes say bill breaches treaty

Tribal business leaders claim the government’s rejection of a recommendation to exempt iwi from re-flagging foreign charter vessels is a modern breach of the Treaty of Waitangi that would diminish the fisheries settlement by between 20 and 30 percent.

About 60 tribal business leaders were to discuss the bill at the Iwi Leaders Forum meeting in Te Kuiti on Friday. The bill had its second reading in Parliament on April 15.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sarah Taylor: Waikato charity's lifestyle spending

Spending by Waikato-Tainui's Ururangi charitable trust reinforces the perception that tribal trust money goes on cars and lifestyle for a favoured few and not on charity.The Ururangi Trust was set up in 2008 by Waikato-Tainui Kauhanganui Incorporated for a range of charitable purposes, mostly limited to purpose (b) as described in section 1.4 of the trust deed, to "carry out the duties and services which uphold and support the head of the Kaahui Ariki and which are for the benefit of Waikato Tainui." (1)

Shares in its sole trustee, Ururangi Limited, are owned by the iwi's governance entity Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated with the beneficiaries listed as “Waikato-Tainui beneficiaries, children/young people, older people”, and “general public”. (2)