Monday, March 30, 2015

Frank Newman: Earthquake rules threaten properties

Strengthen or demolish? That's the question many property owners will be forced to answer if a bill before Parliament passes into law.

Reviews by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have triggered aftershocks that are now being felt throughout New Zealand.  Those reviews raised concerns about the lack of information identifying unsafe buildings and urged the Government to make sure that all buildings had at least one third of the strength of new buildings.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mike Butler: Uproar at airport’s new Maori name

Hawke’s Bay residents were hostile to the news, on Monday, that their airport would be known as the Ahuriri Airport Hawke’s Bay to satisfy a request from treaty settlement claimants Mana Ahuriri.

The name-change (the latest in a series that includes Whanganui, Te Wai Pounamu, Te Ika a Maui, Aoraki Mount Cook and Taranaki Mount Egmont) prompted comments on the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper website like “why change the name? If it aint broke, don’t fix it” and “Again, NZ panders to a minority group of radicals.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mike Butler: Maori representation complaint

A Local Government Commission flyer prompted a further complaint to the Auditor General yesterday, this time alleging misrepresentation of the role of the Maori Board and the Regional Planning Committee on the proposed Hawke’s Bay Council.

Napier ratepayer Sarah Taylor, who lodged the complaint, said a full-page diagram depicting the future composition of the amalgamated council on the flyer titled “Hawke’s Bay Councils – proposed changes” completely ignores the iwi appointed representatives on the Maori Board and Regional Planning Committee.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Matt Ridley from the UK: Fossil fuels are not finished, not obsolete, not a bad thing

The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.

These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy. In fact, a more realistic assessment of our energy and environmental situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Religiosity and national happiness ratings

Religion promises you heaven but gives you hell. – Anon.

One could be forgiven for thinking that something as subjective and nebulous as happiness (thesaurus entries range from ‘content’ to ‘exultant’) is pretty near impossible to objectively measure. One could also be forgiven for questioning the credibility of averaged-out happiness measures for entire national populations. But that’s what some statisticians do to earn their pay, and expressions such as “national happiness capital” and the like are now being used in serious academic discourse, and happiness ratings are compiled for numerous countries.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Richard Epstein from the US: Race Baiting And Ferguson

The most recent news from Ferguson concerns what Eric Holder has rightly called the “ambush shooting” of two police officers outside the city’s police department. 

This incident occurred in the wake of two detailed reports released by the Department of Justice. The first report deals in depth with the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The report recommended that the case against him be closed. The second DOJ report contained a scathing indictment of the sad state of affairs within the entire criminal justice system of Ferguson. The combined effect of these two reports is likely to make matters worse in Ferguson by combining the back-handed exoneration of Darren Wilson with the unstinting condemnation of the City of Ferguson.

YOUR VIEWS - from the website


We should spend Earth Hour giving thanks for warmth.

Just thirteen thousand years ago, Earth was in the grip of a deathly ice age. Sea levels were indeed much lower but much of the land surface was covered by thick sheets of ice. Life struggled to survive and many species were extinguished by the sterile suffocating ice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so” - fracking

“Things you know that ain't so”: Fracking is risky and dangerous and should be banned

According to one website, “Fracking brings rampant environmental and economic problems to communities across the country.… Fracking accidents and leaks pollute rivers, streams and underground sources of drinking water.”

Much of the opposition goes back to a movie called “Gasland” that grossly exaggerated the effects of fracking by showing pictures of flaming tapwater, a fishkill caused by coal mine run-off, and so on.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Brian Gaynor: Confidence helping our economy power ahead

The December quarter 2014 gross domestic product statistics, released this week, show the economy was a top performer last year. New Zealand may not have achieved the rock star status that was predicted 12 months ago but it certainly had a higher economic growth rate than most other countries.

GDP, which is a measure of overall economic activity, grew by 3.5 per cent in the December 2014 quarter compared with the same quarter in the previous year.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mike Butler: Opera House safer than driving

In Hastings, a health and safety saga that is likely to affect the owners of around 25,000 buildings in New Zealand involves a push to spend megabucks on earthquake strengthening.

The drama involves two buildings, the Hawke’s Bay Opera House and the Municipal Building which was the council assembly room and offices, both built in 1916. Both buildings withstood the devastating 7.8 (Richter scale) February 3, 1931, Hawke’s Bay earthquake that killed 256 people. Both buildings have been strengthened.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ron Smith: Iran - the End Game

Sometime in the next couple of weeks there will be an agreement announced at the end of more than 18 months of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations (the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany).  

The crucial central question concerns the extent to which Iran will be permitted to retain its on-going nuclear weapons programme.  How much will it retain of its uranium enrichment capability (and stockpile of enriched material) from which it could make weapons of the sort that fell on Hiroshima?  And to what extent will it be allowed to continue with its programme to produce weapons-grade plutonium (the basis of the bomb that fell on Nagasaki)?

Mike Butler: WOF under active consideration

One year of questioning the government under the Official Information Act on a rental property warrant-of-fitness scheme has revealed that amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act to enable such a scheme have been drafted and all information I requested on the scheme remains under active consideration.

Nearly a year ago, I sent in a request to the Minister of Housing, Nick Smith, under the Official Information Act, seeking all advice related to the warrant of fitness scheme for state housing and any proposed warrant of fitness schemes for private sector rental housing”.

Brian Gaynor: Building consents highlight Auckland’s problems

What is wrong with the house building industry in Auckland? Why has the level of construction activity remained low even though the region has a huge housing shortage and house prices have risen substantially over recent years?

Dwelling consent data reveals that only 7,682 consents for the Auckland region were issued in the year to January, compared with 12,459 in the January 2003 year.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bryan Leyland: The world is running out of energy resources

“Things you know that ain't so” - “The world is running out of energy resources”

We constantly hear that our way of life is unsustainable because the world is running out of fossil fuels and other vital resources. It is simply not true. The world has more resources available to it than ever before. 

When the steam engine was first invented people were worried that, quite soon, the world would run out of coal. Now the world is known to have more coal than it is ever likely to use. Modern coal-fired power stations are clean and efficient and have enough coal for hundreds of years. And we don’t even have to mine it: underground gasification can turn coal directly into gas without the dangers associated with mining.

Matt Ridley: More food from less land

New figures from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation show that the world’s cereal harvest, which provides more than half of the calories that humans eat, broke a new record last year at 2.54 billion tonnes — an astonishing 20 per cent higher than ten years ago.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mike Butler: 63 percent oppose amalgamation

A Consumerlink poll shows that Hawke’s Bay voters are 63 percent against amalgamating the five councils in the region. Over the past week Consumerlink asked 985 voters whether they would vote for or against a proposal for a Hawke's Bay Council to cover Napier city, Wairoa, Hastings, and Central Hawke's Bay, which would take over the responsibilities of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, and have five local boards and a Maori board, with headquarters in Napier.

To reflect the proportion of voters in each district, 473 responses were sought from Hastings as 47.3 percent of the total population of the region, 426 from Napier, 58 from Wairoa and 42 from Central Hawke’s Bay.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Stephen Franks: Business lying bad – Official lying OK

According to the Wellington  Regional Council Mayor, not being allowed to lie in official advertising “could drastically restrict how local bodies operate”. She believes that having to live up to the standards expected of business “poses a real risk to robust political debate”. 

Putting aside the inconvenient fact that Council advertising should be informative, not political propaganda, it is incredible that there is no media furore over her further defence that seeking the Advertising Standards Authority ruling was “legal nitpicking”.

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so” - world temperatures

“Things you know that ain't so” - “World temperatures continue to rise at a dangerous rate”

This is simply not true. All five world surface and satellite temperature records that are accepted by the IPCC show that there has been no statistically significant warming over the last 18 years. 

Even the IPCC agrees: it has stated “Models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10 –15 years.” The IPCC also admitted that 111 out of 114 runs of computer models failed to predict this warming. In most areas of science a model that does not replicate reality is abandoned. Not so with global warming!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mike Butler: Titford hatchet job complaint rejected

My complaint about a heavily biased Maori TV item titled What lies beneath regarding Northland farmer Allan Titford, who was forced to sell his farm to satisfy a treaty claim, finally made it through the Broadcasting Standards Authority process although it was not upheld in a decision released today.

What lies beneath that aired on May 12, 2014 “reported on the recent conviction of Northland farmer Allan Titford and examined the cultural and legal impact he had on race relations in New Zealand”, according to the preamble of the decision.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Frank Newman: The wisdom of crowdfunding

The internet revolution is truly a revolution that has transformed almost everything we do - especially the way we interact with one another. That interaction is best manifest in social media like Facebook and Twitter to create a virtual viral grapevine. 

That connectivity is now being embraced by entrepreneurs and creative types seeking funding via the growing number of crowd funding companies.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Richard Epstein from the US: Abercrombie’s Hijab Problem

This past week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a contentious employment discrimination case, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores

The conflict arose when Samantha Elauf, a Muslim teenager, applied for a position as a sales-floor employee for Abercrombie & Fitch. Abercrombie has always referred to its sales-floor employees as “Models.” Ms. Elauf claimed that during the interview she wore a headscarf, or hijab, as required by her religious beliefs. Ms. Elauf’s religious commitment collided with Abercrombie’s long-standing “Look Policy,” which bans models from wearing any black clothing or “cap” on the sales floor.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mitch Morgan: The Man Who Saw The Future

In 1949 a gentleman named Eric Blair published a book that was destined to open the eyes of the world to techniques employed in the art of social engineering; techniques that were used to control the opinions and actions of citizens who remained in a state of blissful unawareness that their thoughts were being covertly manipulated.

The author adopted the pen-name of George Orwell and his novel entitled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ remains among the worlds’ best-sellers to this day - and the adjective ‘Orwellian’ has become synonymous with official deception and the falsification of recorded history by a totalitarian state.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Naiveté Royale 2015 vs. Rivers of Blood 1968

The extent to which [radicalisation] is happening is … alarming … And particularly in a country like ours where you know the values we hold dear. You think that the people who have come here, born here, go to school here, would imbibe those values and outlooks.
- Prince Charles in a BBC interview last month

We have a sarcastic riposte in Dutch when someone indicates that s/he has finally twigged to something already widely known – “the child is waking up”. It seems a highly appropriate rejoinder to the prince’s naïve utterances so I’ll just call him ‘Charlie’ from here on.

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so” - nuclear radiation

As the American humorist Will Rogers said: “It’s not what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” 

Low levels of nuclear radiation are dangerous.

Mike Butler: Amalgamation and race

Hastings Against Amalgamation campaigns on four points – that amalgamation for the five councils in Hawke’s Bay would increase rates, increase debt, reduce representation with powerless local boards, and introduce race-based spending through an appointed Maori board.

I had a phone-call from a Napier councillor who thanked us for campaigning against amalgamation but asked us to stop talking about the Maori board because it upset some people. An earlier email from another person suggested we were “playing the race card”.