Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gerry Eckhoff: Who owns the “Commons”?

There is currently an ongoing but very private high level debate between Maori and the Crown as to ownership of fresh water. The public are excluded from this debate presumable until Iwi and the Crown reach an agreement. Once the occurs, we the people will then be “consulted” as to whether we all agree with the Government to transfer our use rights in the commons to Iwi ownership and management. The Waitangi Tribunal agrees with Iwi that they have justifiable claims to fresh water.

The “Commons” is referred to in literature as a place in our world that has a public good dimension; is free for people to enjoy and is owned by everyone who claim a share of its use and management.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tony Abbott's Anzac Day Speech

Here is the moving speech given by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli to commemorate the 100 years since Australian and New Zealand troops came ashore:

It’s one hundred years since Australians and New Zealanders splashed out of the sea, right here. So now we gather in the cold and dark before dawn; wondering what to say and how to honour those whose bones rest in the hills and the valleys above us, and whose spirit has moved our people for a century. Year after year, we journey to what’s now a peaceful coast to remember things that, normally, we might try to forget. Year after year, from all over our country, from every walk of life, from every background, young and old make this pilgrimage.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Karl du Fresne: Ordinary men who did extraordinary things

I recently watched several episodes of the National Geographic documentary series Last War Heroes. The programmes covered the decisive period of World War II from the D-Day invasion of Normandy to the arrival of Allied forces in Berlin, the black heart of the Third Reich.
The title might give the impression that the series glorified war, but no. It was unflinchingly honest in its depiction of what war was really like. In addition to the terror and tension of combat, soldiers had to endure bitter cold, hunger and even boredom. We tend to think of the Allied advance into Germany in 1944 as a triumphant, unstoppable roll, almost a jaunt, but it was nothing of the sort.

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - wave power

Things you know that ain't so - wave power will soon provide substantial low-cost generation.” The first wave power machine was made in the early 1900s. It was mechanically complex and was a commercial and technical failure.

With the OPEC oil crisis in the 1970s, there was a resurgence of interest in wave power. The most notable of the of the prototypes was “Salter's Duck” that had a number of segments shaped floats rotating central axis. In theory, it looked really good. But Prof Norman Bellamy, who built a prototype and tested it, reported that the mechanical complexity was greater than expected and the power output was about one third of expected. He went on to develop a new device consisting of floating hinged steel tubes that faced into the waves and generated electricity from hydraulic rams at each hinge as the wave passed along the device. Prototype tests on Loch Ness revealed serious problems with designing and manufacturing a device that could withstand a storm and still generate useful amounts of power under normal wave conditions. So he abandoned that option and switched to a system with air bags that was much more promising. A prototype was built and was quite promising that he eventually abandoned it to pursue more attractive options.

Richard Epstein: The Problem With NYC’s Landmark Preservation Laws

This year, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with, not surprisingly, a triumphant summation of its many achievements: fostering civic pride, protecting property values, attracting tourists, and strengthening New York’s economy.

The Commission’s activities over the past fifty years have indeed altered the landscape of the city. There are now some 1,347 individual landmarks, 114 historic districts, and 10 scenic and 117 interior landmarks. Today, about 27 percent of buildings in Manhattan have the dubious honor of landmark status—dubious because of the enormous costs associated with that designation. Surely, New York has many buildings worth preserving for the cultural and aesthetic benefits that they bring to the city. But it is one thing to accept as legitimate the public ends of the landmark statute and it is quite another to endorse the heavy-handed methods that the Commission uses to apply its mandate.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Cutting the crap – dealing with illegal migrants in the Mediterranean

There has been a lot of hand-wringing over the fate of illegal migrants who board flimsy boats or old rust-buckets somewhere on the North African (usually Libyan) coast and set out to sea in the expectation of being ‘rescued’ and taken to Lampedusa or some southern European port, from where they hope to make their way to any of a number of destinations.

Those intent on getting into Britain spend some time at a squatter camp in Caen before getting themselves smuggled in on Channel-crossing lorries. But sometimes these grandiose plans get scuttled and they end up in the drink, sometimes because of the boat capsizing and sometimes because other illegal migrants throw them overboard. (One lot went down in a boat in which they had been locked in the hold last week.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Frank Newman: Speak out to avoid massive rates increase

I have been asked for guidance on making submissions on the Whangarei District Council's Long Term Plan. The process will be similar for other councils around New Zealand.  

The long term plan lays out, among others things, Council’s intentions regarding rates and spending. It is proposing to increase its rate take from $65m today to $119m in 10 years. To the average householder paying $1,500 in rates, that means they will be paying close to $3,000 in 10 years time -  and a  renter about $30 a week more in rent. The increases average out at an annual rate of 6.3%, or about three times the rate of inflation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

David Round: Questions of Water Rights and Ownership

Water! Cool clear water. Adam’s ale, the first and most delicious drink of our ancestors; the water of rebirth, the cleanser, the gift of life itself. And in our own over-populated, drying, increasingly desperate days, ‘the new oil’. 

Some of us may remember the film Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski ~ that takes you back a bit ~ with a plot hingeing around the huge amounts of money to be made by manipulating the Los Angeles water supply. The story was not implausible. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vincent Gray: My Letter to Sir Peter Gluckman

I have just sent this letter to Sir Peter Gluckman, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the New Zealand Government.

Dear Sir Peter

I would like to comment on the speech Trusting the Scientist  published at a summary of which you delivered to the recent seminar Scientists Speak Out organised by the New Zealand Association of Scientists.  

You begin with the following statement:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bryan Leyland: "Things you know that ain't so” - self driving cars

Things you know that ain't so - self driving cars are a long way in the future.”

Most people believe that self driving cars will not be available for many years and will not have any major effect on the transport of people and goods within their lifetime. Not so.

All the major manufacturers are researching self driving cars and most new cars incorporate some aspects of the technology. You can now buy cars that will: follow the car ahead in a traffic jam; ensure that you stay in the lane on a motorway; automatically apply the brakes if you are about to run into another car or a pedestrian and so on.

Donald Kendal: Why Environmentalists Will Eventually Hate Renewable Power

The proliferation of renewable energy will never please environmentalists. In fact, the more efficient and inexpensive energies like solar and wind become, the more environmentalists will fear and eventually hate them.

Currently, arguments against renewable energy are based on the accurate claim they are too inefficient to become widespread. The technology behind solar and wind power are just not where they need to be to justify widespread use.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mike Butler: Key delegates water give-away

Prime Minister John Key is moving towards granting preferential water rights to government-created tribal corporations, thus running the risk of losing the support of large swathes of voters who supported the National Party’s previous one-law-for-all position.

A report commissioned by the Iwi Leaders Group calling for "an equitable, permanent share" of water allocations was released today, following a recent Cabinet Paper proposing criteria to give "preferential access" to private tribal companies that pay little tax on a case-by-case basis.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Frank Newman: Changes to building code

The latest review of the Building Act 2004 has brought some significant changes for builders and their customers. The changes (which came into effect on 1 January) form part of a wider push to improve building standards and consumer protection. Here is a summary of the key points.

There are now four documents that all builders will have to provide where the value of the work is greater than $30,000 (incl. GST and work carried out by sub-contractors), and where their customer is the home owner.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bryan Leyland: "Things you know that ain't so” - hydropower

“Hydropower is safe and nuclear power stations are dangerous”
In fact, the reverse is the case. Per TW-year of electricity generated, the figures are:  for 0.04 deaths for nuclear, 1.4 for hydropower and 160 for coal-fired generation. (New Zealand generates about 0.005 TW-year of electricity per year.)

Large hydropower needs large dams – much larger than any in New Zealand – and they pose a major long-term threat to the environment and populations downstream.

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: Traditional forms of teaching make a welcome comeback

WHO would have thought? Based on research detailed in a recent report entitled What Works Best, the NSW Education Department and Education Minister Adrian Piccoli have identified what constitutes ­effective classroom teaching and learning.

Apparently, teachers need to teach, students need a clear understanding of what is expected, classrooms need a disciplined, focused environment and there needs to be a rigorous curriculum embodying high standards.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so” - electric cars

“Things you know that ain't so”: “electric cars have a bright future”

No. The reality is that electric cars are a solution in search of a problem. Electric cars exist because they have attract large subsidies for their development and for tax rebates and grants on the sale price. The subsidies paid in the USA, UK, Germany, Norway and other countries are costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mike Butler: Airport share offered to Mana Ahuriri

Questions raised by Mana Ahuriri’s bid to get their name included in that of the Hawke’s Bay Airport led to the revelation that the government had quietly offered that group a 50 percent shareholding of the airport.

Mana Ahuriri signed an agreement in principle on December 19, 2013, that includes financial redress of $19.5-million. The Hawke’s Bay Airport posted a net worth of $16.6-million and annual revenue of $4.01-million in its 2014 annual report. (1)

Ron Smith: Iraq deployment - second thoughts

In a blog I wrote mid-February (‘Fighting Islamist Extremism’), I argued that it was right for us to commit a small New Zealand training force to the war against ISIS.  There was continuing atrocity going on in ISIS-occupied Iraq and, as good international citizens (members of the Security Council, no less) we had an obligation to contribute to an international effort to resist what was, effectively, genocide.  I also spoke of a continuing obligation to traditional allies, although, even then, I expressed doubts about the commitment of some of the leading players.
Be that as it may, the fact is that the situation in the region has changed radically in the last six weeks.
  To begin with, Iran has now intervened in the fighting in Iraq (around Tikrit), in support of Iraqi regular and irregular (militia) forces.  This throws up a number of questions, particularly since there have been reports of substantial atrocity by the Iraqi/Iranian forces.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Yemen and Islam’s internecine war

Yemeni President Hadi: rebels are ‘stooges of Iran’ – BBC

By regional standards, Saudi Arabia and its allies moved like lightning to intervene in Yemen. Countries outside the Arab League have also pledged to throw in their lot if needed, including Turkey and Pakistan. Compare this burst of energy with the sluggish (or non-existent in some cases) regional response to ISIS. And yet the Islamic State is surely a much greater regional threat than a bunch of renegades grabbing power in one of the world’s poorest, least influential and most shambolic nation-states, hardly worthy of the epithet, occupying the bottom end of the Arabian Peninsula. So why the flurry of activity? What threat do the Houthi pose that ISIS doesn’t?