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Kiwis, Cows, and Canadian singers…

31 January 2012 3 comments

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A little bit of recent history first…

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As the dust settles over the sale of the Crafar Farms to Shanghai Pengxin, it may be worth looking at some aspects of how this government handled the sale, and it’s aftermath…

For starters, a time-line on the sale process,

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5 October 2009: Crafar Farms placed into receivership, owing $216 million to creditors.

22 December 2010: Government  blocks  bid by Natural Dairy to buy the 16 Crafar farms on ‘good character’ grounds.

27 January 2011: KordaMentha accepts offer from Shanghai Pengxin International Group Ltd to buy Crafar Farms.

13 April 2011: Shanghai Pengxin lodges application with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the Crafar farms.

26 September 2011: Crafar farms receiver KordaMentha  rejects a conditional NZ$171.5 million offer for 16 central North Island dairy farms from a group led by controversial former merchant banker Michael Fay.

27 January 2012: Government ministers approve Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase 16 Crafar farms.

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The first matter that arises is the length of time from Shanghai Pengxin’s initial application (13 April 2011), to consent being issued by relevant Ministers: over nine months.

(Strangely, 13 April 2011 was a Sunday. Is it usual for government offices to be open in the weekend?)

The OIO (Overseas Investment Office) sets time limits for itself to process application,

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Estimated decision times

There is no statutory timeframe within which an application for consent must be decided. However applications generally fall into one of three categories according to complexity with category 3 being the most complex. These categories provide a guide for how long it may take for a decision to be made:

  • Category 1 applications, where the OIO aims to make decisions within 30 working days from the date of registration. Examples include: (a) applications for consent to purchase significant business assets,
    (b) “sensitive land” decisions delegated to the OIO by Ministers that don’t fall into the categories below,
    (c) variations to existing consents.
  • Category 2 applications where the OIO aims to make decisions within 50 working days from the date of registration.  Examples include: (a) “sensitive land” applications for consent requiring Ministerial consideration e.g. the purchase non-urban land greater than five hectares in size, where it includes or adjoins other sensitive land, such as conservation land, reserves etc
    (b) applications for exemptions,
    (c) applications where the overseas person is intending to reside in New Zealand indefinitely.
  • Category 3 applications, where the OIO aims to make decisions within 70 working days from the date of the registration.  Examples include: (a) applications to acquire an interest in fishing quota,
    (b) applications that involve special land being land that includes foreshore or the bed of a river or lake,
    (c) where the applicant intends to establish a purchasing programme such as a series of land acquisitions in a specific area for a specific project,
    (d) applications in respect of which a third party submission has been received by the Ministers or the OIO,
    (e) applications where the Ministers or the OIO have decided that consultation with third parties is appropriate in considering whether or not to grant consent.

Note that these targets apply to high quality, well prepared and analysed applications, and excludes the time where the OIO is waiting for the applicant to provide further information and the time for Ministers to consider and make decisions on relevant applications. 

Source

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Even if the Crafar farm sale had been considered as a “Category 3″  application – there is considerable difference between 70 working days (deadline around 17 June 2011) –  and nine months.

A cynic might suggest that  Ministerial approval was delayed because of last years’ election. There is considerable public opposition to farm land sales to non-New Zealanders and this would have had a profound impact on National’s electoral support.

I would go so far as to say that National would have lost another couple of percentage points (minimum) in Party Votes – and therefore lost the election itself.

It is therefore National’s “good luck” that the decision to approve the sale to Shanghai Pengxin came two months after the General Election.

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A lot of Racist Angst or Righteous Anger?

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The first media reports that Ministerial consent had been granted for the Shanghai Pengxin appeared around 11am on the morning of January 27.

At 11.23am, Interest.co.nz published a web story, headed, “Govt Ministers rubber stamp Overseas Investment Office approval of Shanghai Pengxin’s Crafar farms bid” .

At 11.28am, TVNZ’s website reports, “Turning down Crafar sale ‘unlawful’ – Key” .

Ten minutes later, and Scoop.co.nz, reported, “Sale of Crafar farms to Pengxin is approved”.

At 2.22pm, TVNZ’s story appeared, “Fay group fights Crafar farms sale to Chinese”.

And this appeared on TV3’s website at 4.02pm, “Parties slam Crafar farm sale to Chinese”.

There were other stories on this issue – but these carried the gist was what the media was reporting. It was undoubtedly the lead story of the day.

Media reporting on this issue was prominent and widely discussed. The nationality of the purchasers was mentioned – but mostly only  in passing.

Criticism, of which there was plenty,   rested on two major points,

  1. Loss of profits overseas,
  2. Loss of sovereignty, and the dominance of our FTA with China over local decision-making.

Both are critical issues that have a real bearing on our country’s future.

With regards to Point #1 – profits lost overseas – Green Party Agriculture spokesperson Steffan Browning said,

As food prices rise globally, selling off our productive land − such as the Crafar farms − to overseas bidders is economic folly. Foreign ownership of the Crafar farms means that the profits will flow overseas, adding further to our current account deficit. In the 12 months to September 2011, $15.2 billion flowed out of NZ to overseas owners of NZ companies and debt.” – Source

This is an issue of considerable weight, considering that New Zealand’s credit rating was downgraded last year by two credit-ratings agencies.

Anything that increases the outflow of profits from New Zealand worsens our current account.

The question then becomes – why allow it to happen if we can avoid it? Especially since we will end up paying for offshore investors’ profits, by way of increased interest rates.  Our current account deficit matters – especially when it impacts on businesses and home owners via  the interest they pay on their loans.

With regards to Point #2.  John Key stated,

And had they turned it down on the basis simply of being Chinese on their desk it would have been not only be unlawful but unacceptable.” – Source

And in the NZ Herald,

Mr Key also pointed to the Free Trade Agreement with China negotiated by the former Labour Government that contained a clause known as the Most Favoured Nation status.

That meant Chinese investment in New Zealand could not be treated differently to any other country.” – Source

So if it is true that China (or any other nation for that matter) has a “Most Favoured Nation” status, and that they are able to compete with local New Zealanders for land, businesses, contracts, etc, then I think we have a problem.

For one thing, it seemingly makes Parliament and elections an irrelevancy if we cannot restrict purchases of our assets to New Zealanders only..

Secondly, no New Zealander can hope to compete with rich overseas investors, should they have a mind to bid for an asset. Michael Fay is one of New Zealand’s richest men – and his consortium was outbid by Shanghai Pengxin by (reportedly) $30 million.

But most importantly, FTA’s are not democratic institutions. No New Zealander voter for it. Very few had a hand in agreeing to it.  Yet our FTA with China appears to take pre-eminence over Parliament?

That is a dangerous position for New Zealand to be in. Especially when we possess natural resources that other nations may covet. Our naivete may yet be our down fall.

Up until 7pm on Friday, the debate had been framed – for the most part – in economic and nationalistic terms.

Then, Maurice Williamson (Minister for Land Information/ Overseas Investment Office) and Cedric Allan (spokesman for Shanghai Pengxin) were both interviewed on TV1’s “Close Up“, that night,

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[click on image]

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Williamson succeeded in re-framing the debate over the Crafar deal. From economic and national sovereignty, he turned it into a race-based debate.

Williamson said,

“…New Zealanders were happy for Shania Twain to own 23,000 hectares or whatever.” – Williamson, 6.04

Actually, that’s just not true. Minister Williamson has either forgotten, or is fibbing,

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Full Story

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Williamson continued,

When the Americans, a huge number of Americans,  were buying it [land], not mutter. Not a murmur. Not a whisper from all of your opponants out there. But as soon as the word ‘Chinese’  was mentioned, we were opposed to it. And I have to say  that is bordering more on racism than it is on xenophobia.”  – Williamson, 6.11

The charge is repeated by agri-journalist, Richard Rennie,

We’re talking tens of thousands of hectares bought by the Italians, the Germans, even the Brits and Americans. And yet we haven’t heard a murmur from anyone in New Zealand about that.” – Source

Again, none of it is true,

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“… I didn’t hear this level of protest when huge tracts of land was being sold under the Labour government…  ” – Williamson, 6.30

Then Williamson contradicted his 6.04 statement,

Well of course the public don’t like any of our land being sold to foreigners and I understand that...” – Williamson, 8.56

Maurice Williamson had been well-prepped by his media advisors. Instead of being drawn into a debate over economics, he had succeeded in reframing the issue as one of racism. And most liberal minded New Zealanders would think twice before uttering a criticism that might be construed as racist. (Those in our society who are already racist wouldn’t care a hoot and would probably vote ACT or National anyway. They are not Williamson’s intended audience.)

This is where the racism/xenophobia meme started: Friday evening, on “Close Up“, by Maurice Williamson.

Even when  we finally got to the nub of the truth, about China’s actual long-term goals, the real point by now had been lost amidst Williamson’s echoing cries of  ‘racism!’.

For the record, Shanghai Pengxin representative, Cedric Allan said,

China is looking for energy, it’s looking for water, it’s looking primarily for food…” – 7.22, Allan

Of course it is.  And the OIO decision had nicely  set in concrete China’s very long-term goals of securing food-supplies for the future,

The conditions

…Milk New Zealand must use reasonable endeavours to assist Landcorp to extend its business to, and market its products, in China” – Source

Pengxin announced in April 2011 after launching its bid for the farms that it planned to increase milk production from the Crafar farms by 10% and wanted to capture a bigger share of the Chinese market with branded, dairy-based consumer products. It said it planned to spend more than NZ$200 million to buy and upgrade the farms. It then planned to invest a further NZ$100 million on marketing cheeses, ice creams and baby formula for the Chinese market.” – Ibid

Is there anything wrong with increasing dairy exports to China?

Normally, no.  Fonterra has been developing and building our exports to the Chinese market for the past decade. With revenues of nearly $20 billion in 2010, it is one of our major industries and export earner.

But, as mentioned before, any export-revenue to China by Shanghai Pengxin-owned  farms will not come to New Zealand. They will end up in offshore bank accounts, and will be of little benefit to New Zealanders. In fact, most of the profits will vanish off-shore just as the dairy products will.

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And topped off with some rich irony.

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The Right have been leading the charge to support the Shanghai Pengxin deal, and accusing detractors of naked racism…

Meanwhile, the Left has countered with (credible) concerns about loss of export income…

The Right are not usually renowned for sympathatic understanding of racism against ethnic groups. They are usually more relaxed with “trashing the treaty”, mixed with a bit of Maori bashing, as  their usual ‘sporting activity’. After all, the right wing party ACT was adamant that Maori were not going to get tangata whenua-based seats on the Auckland Super Council.

The Left, on the other hand are not usually in a position where they find themselves arguing on behalf of economic benefits; current accounts; export earnings; and sound commercial practices. What next – Socialist International on the Board of Goldman Sachs? (Actually, they might not do a half-bad job, to be honest… )

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But the final verdict?

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Lies with the voting public.

Somehow, I doubt if the public are terribly reassured by Key’s pronouncement on this matter,

If we saw a significant buy-up of New Zealand farms, then the Government’s response would likely be to further toughen the regulations or the Overseas Investment Act, but at this point, we’re not really seeing that.” – Source

When John Campbell asked Dear Leader what constituted “a significant buy-up of New Zealand farms” (7.47) – Key was left floundering. He couldn’t name a figure. He could only waffle about vague trends. However, by the time a “trend” is established, how much of a mess will we have created for ourselves?

How much is too much?

And will our elected representatives have the wit to know when to say, “No more”?

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The Law

Overseas Investment Act 2005

- Section 16

- Section 17

- Section 18

The OIO Decision

Decision required under the Overseas Investment Act 2005: Milk New Zealand
Holding Limited

Previous Blog entries

The road to poverty?

The Great NZ Sell-Off Continues

How to lose $5.3 billion dollars without any effort at all

The second colonisation of New Zealand

The Crafar Farms – Why the delay from the OIO?

Farms, politicians, and emails

Competing against the Chinese Government…

Is this man a complete fool?

As predicted

Land Sales – a Sorry Saga of Sheer Stupidity

Mum & Dad investors?

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And from our “Only in New Zealand” files…

31 January 2012 3 comments

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This article from today’s “Dominion Post” deserves re-printing in full,

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Complaints as nudists hit Peka Peka

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KAY BLUNDELL

Last updated 05:00 31/01/2012

Nudists parading on Peka Peka Beach are again sparking complaints to police.

The complaints come ahead of a “skinny-dipping by moonlight” event being promoted to mark the next full moon.

Naturist group Free Beaches is inviting people throughout New Zealand to cast off their inhibitions and enjoy swimming without togs “when the great ivory ball creates a silver, rippling path across the dark blue sea” on February 8.

Sergeant Noel Bigwood, of Otaki, said police had responded to two complaints around Peka Peka during the holiday period. The first was from a father concerned about a nude man parading in front of families at the northern end of the beach.

Mr Bigwood went to look for the man but could not find him. While at the beach, he spoke to two young women, both aged about 20, asking whether they had seen a nude man walking along the beach and whether they had been offended. They told him: “Oh yes, because he was old and ugly.”

Mr Bigwood, 58, said that was a bit tragic. “The man was described as about 45 years old. You can imagine how I felt – not great.”

Nudity is allowed on Kapiti beaches as long as it is not offensive to other beachgoers.

Police also responded to a complaint about two nude men spotted near the Te Hapua Rd beach entrance, north of Peka Peka, which is a popular spot for gay men.

“As long as they keep out of the face of families and stay in reasonable seclusion, who can be offended?”

Asked about the full moon event, he said: “Skinny dipping per se is not a problem. Without revealing too much, I can highly recommend it. My only concern is water safety.”

Source

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Nice to read a bit of worldly humour from our local “Bobbies“. Too often our police are presented in a dour, negative, or critical manner in the media.  Occassionally though, we see a glimpse of their humanity and the humour which – I guess –  would be major requirement  to do the kind of work so necessary for our society’s wellbeing.

I also felt  Sergeant Bigwood’s “pain”, when the young women in the Dompost piece said,

“Oh yes, because he was old and ugly.”

I cringed as well.

Perhaps I’ll be thinking twice before hitting our local beach in the near future? Is there a beach reserved exclusively for 50+ “old and ugly” males? Where we can dive carefree into the waves – instigating mini-tsunamis in the process, that will eventually find their way to  shorelines in South America and Antarctica?

I had the pleasure of a brief chat with Sgt Bigwood. And yes, folks, I can report that his sense of humour is not mis-reported in the Dompost.  His light-hearted personality came through and even over the phone, he came across as a likeable chap.

Those on the wrong-side of the law in Otaki  must have a hard time dis-liking the Sergeant. It would be enough to make someone go straight!

Sgt Bigwood confirmed that he regularly patrols Otaki Beach, going “under cover as a flabby, paunchy middle aged” man…

I enquired where he might put his police ID number, and where he might hang his… [comment withheld for good taste].

He laughed and replied that he always patrolled the beach fully clothed, “for the benefit of everyone concerned”.

I replied that I understood, and suggested that with his sense of humour he would be welcomed as our local  “bobby”.

Sadly though, the sergeant replied that he was due for retirement in June, and would be heading of overseas to his “exotic wife’s homeland”.

Thailand? Morroco?

“No, Britain,” he replied.

However, Sgt Bigwood fully intends to return to New Zealand in a year or two after his “Big OE”, as he has too many grand children to leave behind.

We wish the sergeant all the best for the remainder of his career; his impending retirement; and a safe journey overseas. We hope he eventually returns in good health, and humour. (The latter would be a ‘given’, I’m thinking.)

The only thing is, if I ever meet up with Sgt Bigwood on Otaki Beach, would I recognise him without his uniform…?

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Mum & Dad investors?

30 January 2012 4 comments

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John Key laments that he could do nothing to stop the sale of the Crafar farms to overseas investors because of our Free Trade Agreement with China.  Shanghai Pengxin had as much right to bid for, and have their bid accepted, as any other bidder in this country,

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Full Story

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Key says that attempting to halt the sale would have meant the Chinese suing us for breaching the FTA, as he was quoted in the Otago Daily Times,

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“Ministers could have overturned that decision, but there were no reasons to do so. The OIO correctly interpreted the legislation, and had they turned it down simply on the basis of being Chinese, it would not only be unlawful but unacceptable and would have been overturned in the courts.” ” – Source

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In which case, how will John Key ensure that Kiwi “mum and dad” investors are allowed first option to buy shares in soon-to-be privatised state power companies – without Chinese demanding the same right to bid,

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Full Story

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Won’t we be sued by China  if “mum & dad” investors get first preference over countries with which we have a FTA with?

It will be interesting to see how our Dear Leader resolves this little dilemma.

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When the future arrived…

30 January 2012 2 comments

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Global warming… pollution… over-population… decaying inner cities… rising crime and mass poverty… food shortages…  collapsed fish-stocks… corrupt government and police…

It’s hard to tell whether this is a description of current human civilisation, 2012AD… or the nightmarish vision of humanity in 2022AD,

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As nations scurry to gain control of arable farmland in Africa, New Zealand, and elsewhere,  we may have taken another step closer to the dystopian futureworld of  “Soylent Green“,

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Full Story

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Unfortunately (for us), as CO2 levels,  temperatures, and acidification rise, these will impact on the state of our oceans. What profound impact these changes will have on the oceans’  eco-systems is anyone’s guess – but it’s not looking too flash for us,

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Even if global warming doesn’t kill of the fish stocks – human over-fishing, it seems, will do the job. And by the year 2050AD – when the human population is expected to rise to an estimated 9 billion – is precisely when food supplies will be desperately  needed more than ever.

Little wonder, then, that demand for farmland to grow protein for burgeoning populations is rising.

We may have sold our farms too cheaply.

 

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Land Sales – a Sorry Saga of Sheer Stupidity

29 January 2012 10 comments

That was then…

27 July 2010

John Key stating that he could not see how foreigners owning New Zealand farms would be in our best interests, and he would not want to see New Zealanders “tenants in their own country“…

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[click on image]

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This is now…

27 January 2012

John Key explaining why it is a good thing for overseas investors to be buying up New Zealand farmland – and hey, anyway, government is “powerless” to stop these buy-ups.

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[click on image]

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Which raises two important issues;

  1. Why should anyone trust a single word to escape from John Key’s mouth? That man has demonstrated on so many occassions that he simply cannot be trusted – he will say one thing, and then later, do the complete opposite.
  2. When did New Zealand cede sovereignty to overseas corporate interests? I can’t remember this ever being discussed or debated.

Have we actually signed away our sovereignty; our right to determine who we can or won’t sell to?

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If  the NZ-China Free Trade Agreement – that John Key refers to – is constraining us from being unable to  stop the sale of the Crafar Farms to Shanghai Pengxin,  (and remember – this is John Key talking) – then we need to re-visit those Agreements.

Because, as sure as day follows nights – the Chinese do not permit their land to be sold to foreigners. So why are we being coerced into selling our land to them?!?!

Does anyone know the answer to this very simple question?

Because I sure as hell don’t.

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In reply to Williamson & Key…

Much has been made of the nationality/ethnicity of the buyers of the Crafar Farms. National’s John Key, Maurice Willamson, et al, have played the “race card” in their favour, trying to paint criticism of the buy-up as somehow “racist”.

Yet, as media reports show, the gradual alienation of our land to foreigners has been carried out by various nationalities…

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2002

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2004

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2005

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2009

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2010

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2011

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2012

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And yet, as recently as April, 2010, the Real Estate Institute of NZ was warning us that “overseas investment would compete with young farmers“,

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When even a very wealthy man such as Sir Michael Fay cannot outbid a Chinese-government backed buy-up of New Zealand farmland – then we are in very serious trouble. No young New Zealander can hope to compete with German corporations; American billionaires;  Chinese government-corporate proxies.

In effect, we are witnessing the forfeiting of our farming heritage to our children. And we are allowing it to happen. If this is not sheer stupidity, then I don’t know what it.

This is why the governments of Middle East oil-producing regions re-nationalised their oil fields. Allowing oil companies to own the oil fields; extract the oil; process it; and sell it, allowed companies like BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, etc, to reap billions in profits.

Meanwhile, the countries upon which the oil fields rested made only a small amount in “royalties”.

The Arabs wised up very quickly that they were being ripped off.

New Zealanders, it seems, still don’t understand what is happening.

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The Law

Overseas Investment Act 2005

- Section 16

- Section 17

- Section 18

The OIO Decision

Decision required under the Overseas Investment Act 2005: Milk New Zealand
Holding Limited

Previous Blog entries

The road to poverty?

The Great NZ Sell-Off Continues

How to lose $5.3 billion dollars without any effort at all

The second colonisation of New Zealand

The Crafar Farms – Why the delay from the OIO?

Farms, politicians, and emails

Competing against the Chinese Government…

Is this man a complete fool?

As predicted

Additional

NZ Herald: The $47 billion rural hangover

NZ Herald: For sale: The Kiwi farm

Tim Watkin: Crafar Farms deal ticks the boxes – but where does it end?

Tumeke:  Why we need to sell Crafar farms to China

Germans dominate small dairy buys

RNZ: 2% of pastoral sector land  sold to buyers from overseas

Email addresses

Prime Minister, John Key: john.key@parliament.govt.nz

Letters to Editor, Dominion Post:  letters@dompost.co.nz

Letters to Editor: Waikato Times: editor@waikatotimes.co.nz

Letters to Editor, NZ Herald: letters@herald.co.nz

Letters to Editor, The Press (ChCh): letters@press.co.nz

Letters to Editor, ODT: odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz

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Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies

Presenting a short video on economic inequality and implications…

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We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.”

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Note where New Zealand is positioned.

Hardly surprising, is it?

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Blood from a stone?

27 January 2012 4 comments

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Full Story

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Why do I get the impression that this story just screams desperation, from this government?

Aside from the fact that many sceptics voiced doubts last year about National’s optimism to “balance the books”, and considered it nothing more than election propaganda for gullible voters, Dunne’s comments on this issue beggar belief,

“‘We just had public consultation on the use of mixed assets such as holiday homes and launches, and we’ve been doing other work looking at the tax treatment of various forms of activity.”

”That programme needs to be ongoing… what we should be doing is making sure we are collecting all the existing taxes which are due and if there anomalies and loopholes we need to be closing those to make sure the system is fair to everyone.’

It was estimated the Government was missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue a year.” – Ibid

Whut?!?!

We just had public consultation on the use of mixed assets such as holiday homes and launches

“…what we should be doing is making sure we are collecting all the existing taxes which are due and if there anomalies and loopholes…”

Isn’t this precisely what Labour was suggesting last year with it’s Capital Gains Tax?

The Green Party certainly made that connection,

“Bill English has failed to close the single largest remaining loophole in our income tax system. A comprehensive tax on capital gains (excluding the family home) is hugely progressive and would help close the growing gap between rich and poor,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“Treasury advice to Bill English in 2009 made it clear to him that capital assets are owned disproportionately by higher income families. The advice said not taxing this income is regressive. That’s Treasury’s way of saying that a capital gains tax is incredibly fair.

“Both John Key and Bill English have consistently defended the tax loophole, however, preferring to ignore growing inequality in our society…”

…“The largest proportion of capital gains is earned by those at the upper end of the income spectrum. This income currently remains untaxed,” said Dr Norman.

“This tax loop-hole for those that can afford to own multiple properties needs to be closed.” ” – Source

So much for John Key stating last year,

Scrapping the top income tax bracket reduced the value of highly leveraged investment properties as a tax shelter, while tougher rules on depreciation and LAQCs also reduced their relative attractiveness as investments.

Labour, Prime Minister John Key declared on Monday, is “fighting a problem they had when they were in office, not a problem we have today”. ” – Source

Yeah right, Prime Minister. Unfortunately, simply saying that didn’t make the problem go away, did it?

Gareth Morgan pointed all this out to us, last November,

It’s difficult to detect any sort of principle – liberal or otherwise – in the economic policies we could reasonably expect to address the widening income gap. Gaping loopholes in our tax system permit those with wealth to earn tax-free gains – putting them further ahead than ever.

While the Government sees fit to give a handout to working families earning $100,000 per year (nearly twice the average wage), those who can’t meet bureaucratic hoops miss out on support altogether and we have abandoned targeting in toto for the politically powerful (the elderly).

Equally worrying, current tax policy incentivises investment for capital gains, causing excessive investment in property at the expense of business – something which has hindered the long-term outlook for incomes and jobs.” – Source

So for United Future leader Peter Dunne to try to excuse their inertia by saying  “that the Prime Minister could not have foreseen a dramatic slide in global economic conditions“, is disingenuous.

No. Not disingenuous. Let’s call it for what it really is: bullshit.

National’s tinkering with the tax system is not going to address the shortfall in government revenue. We will simply see more of the above headlines in future media, as the core-problems in our taxation system go unaddressed.

National simply does not have the intestinal fortitude to address taxation problems in any meaningful way. If they did, they would,

  • Implement Labour’s capital gains tax
  • Stop Trusts from being tax havens
  • Reverse the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts for those earning above $70,000
  • Implement a Financial Transactions Tax
  • Review Working for Families payments for families earning over $100,000

Unfortunately, none of the above will happen. Generally, only reformist Labour governments have the inclination to make radical changes when they become blindingly obvious as necessary.

It also takes a collective frustration from Voterland to “connect the dots” and realise that voting for National will not achieve longterm reforms.

In the meantime, Dunne will tinker; National will continue cutting services; government workers will continue to be sacked; and we’ll see more of the following, as our economy stumbles along like a diabetic with low blood sugar,

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Full Story

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Additional

NZ Herald: The case for a tax revolution

Gareth Morgan: Capital gains tax best way to tackle rot

Gareth Morgan: Reviving the values of an egalitarian society

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As predicted…

27 January 2012 2 comments


As predicted in my post, Farms, politicians, and emails ,

This blog predicts that National will allow the OIO to permit the sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin, and will try to “sweeten” the deal with sale-conditions designed to satisfy public concerns.” – 24 January

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Source

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It is little wonder that this decision was released some nine months after the application was lodged with the Overseas Investment Commission – John Key knew that if this decision was released before November, that they would have lost the election.

This is the sort of manipulative shyster we have as our Prime Minister.

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Is this man a complete fool?

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5 July 2010

As a general and broader principle I think New Zealanders should be concerned if we sell huge tracts of our productive land.

“Now, that’s a challenging issue given the state of the current law and quite clearly it’s evidentially possible and has been achieved that individual farms can be sold. Looking four, five, ten years into the future I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country and that is a risk I think if we sell out our entire productive base, so that’s something the Government will have to consider.” – John Key

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26 January 2012

What ministers are looking at is: Does the bid by this Chinese entity meet the regulations. If it does, they have no grounds to turn it down because if they do turn it down, then they would be subject to judicial review and they would almost certainly lose.”

“If we saw a significant buy up of New Zealand farms then the Government’s response would likely be to further toughen the regulations or the Overseas Investment Act. But at this point, we’re not really seeing that.”

A deal between Pengxin and Landcorp “could be” a good commercial proposition for the state-owned company. – John Key

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It appears that the John Key of July 2010 is not the same John Key of January 2012. Somewhere along the way, aliens have abducted the 2010 John Key and replaced him with a doppelganger. Dang dastardly, these aliens. (Please take away that damned  clone. And you can keep the original.)

The following story is full of “Keyisms” – half-truths, mis-representations, and fudging the issue,

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Full Story

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Some of his statements are breath-taking in “bending” the truth,

Prime Minister John Key says he would not have a problem with state-owned Landcorp running the 16 Crafar farms under Chinese ownership. That would “not necessarily” be a case of New Zealanders becoming “tenants in their own land”, he said.”

Whut?!

Prime Minister, the definition of “tenant farmer” is as follows,

A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management; while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying amounts of capital and management.” – Wikipedia

Ergo; if Shanghai-Pengxin (or any other foreign investor) owns the land, and Landcorp works the land – then Landcorp is a tenant farmer.

Is there any part of that simple truism that escapes our Prime Minister?

If so, I can ask some school children to draw him some pretty pictures in coloured crayons, a-la “Seven Days“.

John Key then says,

He “had a feeling of what might happen”. “

Yeah. I bet he does.

Key goes on,

“The Government is not in one sense the arbiter of the decision about yes or no for foreign ownership of the existing Crafar Farms – that is a recommendation from the Overseas Investment Office. What the Government’s role is to determine whether the Overseas Investment Office followed the law properly,” Key said. “

To maintain the rural theme of this blog-piece: Bovine excrement!

The OIO’s rules are crystal clear,

Estimated decision times

There is no statutory timeframe within which an application for consent must be decided. However applications generally fall into one of three categories according to complexity with category 3 being the most complex. These categories provide a guide for how long it may take for a decision to be made:

  • Category 1 applications, where the OIO aims to make decisions within 30 working days from the date of registration. Examples include:  (a) applications for consent to purchase significant business assets,
    (b) “sensitive land” decisions delegated to the OIO by Ministers that don’t fall into the categories below,
    (c) variations to existing consents
  • Category 2 applications where the OIO aims to make decisions within 50 working days from the date of registration.  Examples include:  (a) “sensitive land” applications for consent requiring Ministerial consideration e.g. the purchase non-urban land greater than five hectares in size, where it includes or adjoins other sensitive land, such as conservation land, reserves etc
    (b) applications for exemptions.
  • Category 3 applications, where the OIO aims to make decisions within 70 working days from the date of the registration.  Examples include:  (a) applications to acquire an interest in fishing quota,
    (b) applications that involve special land being land that includes foreshore or the bed of a river or lake,
    (c) where the applicant intends to establish a purchasing programme such as a series of land acquisitions in a specific area for a specific project,
    (d) applications in respect of which a third party submission has been received by the Ministers or the OIO,
    (e) applications where the Ministers or the OIO have decided that consultation with third parties is appropriate in considering whether or not to grant consent.

Note that these targets apply to high quality, well prepared and analysed applications, and excludes the time where the OIO is waiting for the applicant to provide further information and the time for Ministers to consider and make decisions on relevant applications.

Source

So John Key is trying to pull a fast one in attempting to evade responsibility for any decision making on this issue.

Applications for “sensitive land” requires ministerial consent. It’s there, in black and white (and highlighted in red). If Key doesn’t understand the workings of the OIO, he has no business being Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Key waffles on,

“What ministers are looking at is: Does the bid by this Chinese entity meet the regulations. If it does, they have no grounds to turn it down because if they do turn it down, then they would be subject to judicial review and they would almost certainly lose.”

No, Prime Minister. Parliament is sovereign. Parliament makes the rules – not our Chinese (or American or Australian or German) cuzzies.

If we don’t want to sell our land – we don’t have to. Just as the Chinese Government has the ‘smarts‘ to have precisely the same laws in place in their country.

If you are telling us that we have lost control over the sale of our own land, to a foreign power, then we are in serious trouble,  Mr Prime Minister.

The Government had spent “a long time tightening up the law” around foreign ownership of land.”

Has it? Has it really?! Because I’ve emailed the government on precisely this issue and have yet to receive a reply of any description.

There is no indication whatsoever that this government has “tightened” any aspect of “foreign ownership of land”. (Except in JohnKeyland.)

Labour had negotiated the free trade agreement with China, which had given the Chinese the same rights to invest in New Zealand as the British, American, German or Australian investment.

In which case, Mr Prime Minister, why are the Chinese able to deny foreigners from buying land in China?

We cannot say we are not going to accept a bid because someone is Chinese. We can say it’s because they don’t meet certain regulations and conditions in the Overseas Investment Act but we can’t say it’s because they’re Chinese.”

Which is why many critics are also opposed to German, American, Australian, etc, buyers of our farmland. The German buy-up of Southland is also cause for concern.

We always have the power to disagree with the Overseas Investment Office but we couldn’t disagree because we don’t like the ethnicity of a buyer. We’d have to say it doesn’t meet these regulations or these terms.”

There was “a degree of subjectivity” in the tests but it was “for the most part, pretty clear cut“.”

There are plenty of reasons why Government can decline an application. Economic. Social. Environmental. Ethnicity is a straw-man argument which only John Key seems to be dredging up.

“If we saw a significant buy up of New Zealand farms then the Government’s response would likely be to further toughen the regulations or the Overseas Investment Act. But at this point, we’re not really seeing that.”

The sale of the Crafar Farms was “a significant transaction in terms of a one-off purchase” but in the overall context, it was not.”

One wonders what constitutes “a significant buy up of New Zealand farms“? Any sensible person would look at sixteen farms as being fairly significant.

If not – what is “significant”? 17 farms? 20? 50? Half the country?

A deal between Pengxin and Landcorp “could be” a good commercial proposition for the state-owned company.

With that stastement, John Key has just made a complete 180-degree ‘flip flop’, from decrying being a tenant in our own country – to being a “good commercial proposition”.

This is the man who is our Prime Minister. One who changes his values and position on issues, to suit circumstances and monetary gain. The term “amoral” only barely describes a politician of Key’s nature.

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Competing against the Chinese Government…

26 January 2012 6 comments

Cont’d from: Farms, politicians, and emails

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Full Story

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New Zealanders should take note of the following, which was reported in the above article,

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“It is understood Pengxin has been conditionally approved to buy the farms, and management by Landcorp is thought to be among the conditions.

“We are in play, as we speak, doing due diligence on those farms,” Mr Kelly said. “We will then attempt to enter into a management contract. If we can’t, then that’s the end of the story. It’s extremely busy, but we’ve been asked by Pengxin to do our best and that’s what we’ll do.”

There was minimal risk to Landcorp in the deal. The only capital investment was likely to be in farm equipment and stock, which could all be absorbed back into the business if things fell apart.

New commercial opportunities in China could also open up later on as a result of the deal, Mr Kelly said.

Investigations into Pengxin are believed to have shown it to be a reputable trader with access to cheap credit from the Chinese Government.

“They’re not a Mickey Mouse outfit. What they’re doing is, without any question, advancing Chinese Government policy,” a source familiar with the company said.” - Ibid

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There we have it.

The Chinese government is pursuing an agressive policy to buy up farmland where ever possible, to pursue it’s own narrow, nationalistic agenda.

To facilitate this form of commercial neo-colonialism, it is funding nominally “private” companies (eg; Shanghai Pengxin) with cheap loans – loans that New Zealand companies do not have access to. These “private” companies are acting as de facto arms of the Chinese Government.

The questions that remain to be asked are;

  1. What is the policy of the Chinese Government in buying up farmland around the world? What is the purpose of this massive buy-up?
  2. Will our government accede to the Chinese government and permit the alienation of our own productive farm-base to a foreign government, pursuing unknown, hidden agendas?

In pursuing their agenda, New Zealanders cannot hope to compete with the vast resources of a major economic power. If one of New Zealand’s richest men (Michael Fay) cannot out-bid a foreign investor – then there is no way that ordinary Kiwis can compete.

We will be out-bid every time a foreign buyer (whether German, Americam, Chinese, etc) wants a piece of our land.

The result will be that that, in years and decades to come, New Zealanders will become tenants in their own country.

Landcorp is setting itself up to be the first tenant in a foreign own farm.

Will this  be our future?

And will  we permit it to happen?

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Email addresses

Prime Minister, John Key: john.key@parliament.govt.nz

Letters to Editor, Dominion Post:  letters@dompost.co.nz

Letters to Editor: Waikato Times: editor@waikatotimes.co.nz

Letters to Editor, NZ Herald: letters@herald.co.nz

Letters to Editor, The Press (ChCh): letters@press.co.nz

Letters to Editor, ODT: odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz

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Farms, politicians, and emails…

24 January 2012 3 comments

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January 14

To re-cap:

The second colonisation of New Zealand

The Crafar Farms – Why the delay from the OIO?

The time-line thus far;

5 October 2009: Crafar Farms placed into receivership.

22 December 2010: Government  blocks  bid by Natural Dairy to buy the 16 Crafar farms on ‘good character’ grounds.

27 January 2011: KordaMentha accepts offer from Pengxin International Group Ltd to buy Crafar Farms.

18 April 2011: Shanghai Pengxin lodges application with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the Crafar farms.

26 September 2011: Crafar farms receiver KordaMentha  rejects a conditional NZ$171.5 million offer for 16 central North Island dairy farms from a group led by controversial former merchant banker Michael Fay.

To date, nothing further has been heard on this matter.

I have emailed Bill English again,

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from: [email]
to: bill.english@parliament.govt.nz
date: Sat, Jan 14, 2012 at 5:59 PM
subject: Crafar Farms

Sir,

Shanghai Pengxin lodged an application with the Overseas Investment
Office (OIO) on or around 18 April 2011, to buy the Crafar portfolio
after Natural Dairy’s application was rejected.

Normally, applications take up to 50 to 70 working days to process, as
per OIO guidelines. (Ref:LINZ, Application Assessment & Timeframes,
Estimated decision times,
http://www.linz.govt.nz/overseas-investment/applications/assessment#estimated)

It has now been nine months since Shanghai Pengxins lodged it’s application.

As the Minister responsible for the OIO, can you explain why Shanghai
Pengxins’ application has not yet received a decision? I have written
to you previously on this matter, and received on an acknowledgement
of receipt of email, but nothing further.

Information on this matter would be appreciated.

Regards
-Frank Macskasy

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It is my guess that the decision by the OIO was deferred last year  because of the General Election. The sale of the Crafar Farms is a contentious issue, to put it mildly, and would most likely  cost National the election had the OIO granted Shanghai Pengxin’s application.

I am betting that the OIO will make it’s decision in February or March, and will grant consent. I’m further “betting” that the consent will be made with some sort of “sweetener“, such as Landcorp managing the farms.

The result, however will be the same;  productive farmland alienated into foreign control; valuable produce shipped off to Chinese consumers; and profits lost to Chinese investors.

Gain to New Zealand? A few dozen employees’ salaries.

I am reminded of John Key’s pronouncement on foreign ownership of our productive landbase,

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The sell-off of our country continues.

That, coupled with the on-going de-unionisation of our workforce, is further indication of where our New Right government is heading.

Truly, we are in the midst of an ideological “civil war”.

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UPDATES

January 25

No response has been recieved from Bill English or any other Minister on this issue. The only conclusion I can reach is the following;

  • this government is ducking for cover,
  • this government intends to allow the Shanghai Pengxin purchase to proceed,
  • this government instructed  the OIO to delay making a decision on Shanghai Pengxin’s application, because  of the sensitivity of this  as an election issue,
  • this government has manipulated and interfered with the OIO process – just as National’s appointee to the Board of NZ on Air attempted to interfere with the broadcasting of a documentary, because it was considered as ‘embarressing’ to National,
  • this government has accepted donations from Chinese businessmen connected to Shanghai Pengxin,

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Full Story

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This is not the first time that National has benefitted financially from doing questionable “deals”,

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Full Story

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Full Story

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This blog predicts that National will allow the OIO to permit the sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin, and will try to “sweeten” the deal with sale-conditions designed to satisfy public concerns.

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From Totara trees to shiny, pretty, plastic

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New Zealand prides itself on it’s Clean & Green image.  As a nation we trade on that image in a $5 billion tourism industry as well as localised film production. Our natural wilderness beauty was practically a co-star in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

But when we say we like our environment Clean & Green – what does “green” actually refer to? Surely not this,

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Source

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It is interesting that UHCC Parks Manager, Brett Latimer, states that the removal of the totara  was “outlined in the plan approved by the Council”.

I can find no reference to any removal of any totara trees from the Maidstone Park development in the District or Annual Plans.  In fact, there is no reference to the removal of any native trees in either document, that I can readily find.

The only reference to the removal of trees is unwanted exotics, such as pine trees.

From the Upper Hutt City Council Annual Plan,   2011-2012,

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Source

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No mention of felling totara trees.

The District Plan, though, is quite clear on the protection of native trees,

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Source

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The Council’s tree protection policy page is mysteriously unavailable to view,

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Source

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Which raises some pertinent questions on this whole curious issue. Questions which I have put to Upper Hutt’s mayor, Wayne Guppy,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Wayne Guppy <wayne.guppy@uhcc.govt.nz>
date:    Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 11:39 AM
subject:    Draft Annual Plan/Parks & Reserves/Maidstone Park

Wayne Guppy
Mayor,
Upper Hutt

Sir,

In the recent edition of the “Upper Hutt Leader” (18 January), Rosemary McLennan reported on the felling and removal of two totara trees from Maidstone Park.  Both trees were estimated to be approximately 80 years old.

UHCC Parks Manager, Brett Latimer, stated that the removal of the totara  was “outlined in the plan approved by the Council”.

I have looked at , and can find no reference to the removal of native trees. The only reference to removal of trees is under the heading “Ongoing revegetation of Maidstone Park”, which refers to pine trees.

The removal of the totara would appear to conflict with the District Plan (2004); Subdivision and Earthworks, which states in part,

“9.2.3
That subdivision, earthworks and vegetation removal do not adversely affect significant natural landforms, areas of significant indigenous natural vegetation or significant habitats of indigenous fauna.
Land disturbance in sensitive locations can seriously damage or denigrate the visual amenity of the environment. In the case of Upper Hutt, the eastern and western hills are an important component of the landscape and visual appeal of the City. The scarring of land, whether urban or rural, detracts from the visual quality of the City.
Land disturbance in sensitive locations can also seriously damage or destroy the ecological values of the environment.”

My questions are;

1. Is it Upper Hutt City Council policy to fell mature native trees, when they show no sign of disease?
2. What protection does UHCC give to trees on Council land, considering that trees on private land may be protected under the District Plan, Schedule of Notable Trees?
3. Can you point to where Brett Latimer’s statement, the removal of the totara  was outlined in the plan approved by the Council?
4. Was formal permission granted to remove these trees, and if so, by whom?
5. Does Council intend to remove any other native trees from Council reserves, parks, etc?
6. Will Council act to protect remaining native trees from felling?

And lastly, do you think it is appropriate that two mature native trees – totara in this case – should be destroyed to make way for artificle turf development? Does it not seem somewhat bizarre that natural, native, fauna is removed and replaced by what is, essentially, a form of plastic?

I look forward to your response.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger,
“Frankly Speaking

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Upon receipt of a response from the Mayor of Upper Hutt, I will update this blog-post.

However. Based purely on the story in the “Upper Hutt Leader” and information on the Upper Hutt Council’s own website, I am led to the following conclusion,

  1. The destruction of two mature totara trees – free of disease, and not an immediate threat to life, limb, or power lines – so that artificial “turf” can be laid, beggars belief. This is a form of vandalism that I had thought we had left behind.  Clean & “Green” does not mean artificial grass.
  2. The Upper Hutt City Council seems unaware (or willfully ignoring of) their own policies regarding mature native  trees.
  3. There  seems no sane purpose in planting native trees, at ratepayers’ expense,  and  as Council policy dictates – only to have  them later felled and removed because of “convenience“. It took an estimated eighty years for these magnificent trees to reach their mature state of development – and in eight hours they were destroyed.

One wonders what  is the point of the Upper Hutt City Council having a Schedule of Notable Trees, to protect trees on private properties, if Council itself is not willing to lead by example.

It will be interesting what explanation – if any – Mayor Guppy has on this issue.

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Updates

Acknowledgement from Mayor, Wayne Guppy,

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from:    Wayne Guppy Wayne.Guppy@uhcc.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 8:16 AM
subject:    RE: Draft Annual Plan/Parks & Reserves/Maidstone Park

Thank you Frank for the email.I will follow it up and get back to you shortly

Thanks Wayne

Wayne Guppy
Mayor Upper Hutt City

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Acknowledgment

Thanks to Sharlene for bring this issue to my attention.

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Waka Valour Heartwarming!

20 January 2012 1 comment

Continued from; Waka vandalism heartbreaking! Time to pitch in and help!

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In December, this story caught our attention,

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Full Story

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The damage to the waka was utterly senseless. How could  children be expected to understand the motivation of moronic vandals who found “joy” in such destruction?

The look of sadness on their faces was sufficient to motivate this Blog to make some quick enquiries and find out how we could help. So a few phone calls and emails later, and we had the banking account details for the group, Te Rau o te Rangi ki Otaki.

Fairfax media kindly permitted us to post a notice on their Comments Board,  linking back to this Blog…

… and the rest was up to the community.

And people responded magnificently!

Jacque – one of the organisers – said,

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“My children and I are watching the comments and seeing the donations, and talking about the article on Stuff and discussing some of the comments.  I’m never one to pass up an opportunity for them to learn about life…”

Absolutely grateful for the contributions guys. My kids (four of them, aged 8, 10, 12 and 14) paddle for this club and were gutted when they found out. They have been ‘hardout’ fundraising, and training for the Nationals next month. Will post some race details up after the racing in January. Will also follow the blog Frank!!

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Jacque has since contacted us, expressing her appreciation and thanks to everyone who sent donations. She wrote,

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Hi Frank

I promised I would send an update.

“We took away 5 teams, under the age of 16.  They paddled hard and represented our club and our region well.  I am very proud of all of them.”

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“This is a photo of our youngest team, they won silver in the National Midget Womens W6 250m sprint!!

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“It is seriously humbling to see how much people want to give.  In this economic climate, with the worst ‘state’ of affairs literally in this country, and so close to Christmas?  Who would have thought. 

`”Nei ra te mihi nunui ki a koutou katoa nga kai panui o te korero ipurangi o “Frankly Speaking”, te hunga e tautoko ana ki a matou nei a Te Rau o te Rangi.  Ka nui te aroha, ka nui te koha kua tae mai nei ki a matou.  Ma te koha, ka haere tonu te kaupapa.”   [Translation: Please accept my heartfelt thanks to all, the readers of Frank's Blog,  who supported our club Te Rau o Te RangiThank youfor your awesome generosityBecause of your kind donations, we are able to continue to help kids achieve sporting success.]

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Last night, Jacque confirmed,

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“”We received a total of $6145.00 in anonymous donations…

… including one contribution of $1500 from one individual.”

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Jacque’s appreciation of peoples’ assistance is evident in the emails recieved by this Blog. She seems “blown away” by peoples’ willingness to help total strangers.

Indeed, this would not have been possible without the generosity of spirit from those good people who send donations to Te Rau, which permitted the children to pursue their dreams.

Anyone who doubts the positive benefits of peoples’ generosity need only compare the two images above.Their spirits are positively beaming in the lower pic, as they celebrate their silver medal.

This blog congratulates the children for their hard work and sporting achievement; the Trust who guided the young folk through their challenges;  Stuff.Co.Nz;  and, as importantly, those good folk who gave generously – and anonymously! –  to help the children achieve their dreams.

Everyone give yourselves a good, decent, pat-on-the-back!

By god, you deserve it!

Well done, folks!

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Additional

2012 Waka Ama Sprint Nationals

 

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

20 January 2012 3 comments

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Continued from Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

The decision from the Electoral Commission  was inevitable really,

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Source

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Why was the decision from the Commission inevitable? Two reasons spring to mind,

  1. Common sense. Often a quality missing from politicians and their  fellow-travellers and groupies. Common sense tells us that broadcasting a documentary dealing with a critical social problem such as child poverty, during an election,  is as appropriate as broadcasting rugby during the recent RWC tournament. Crushing critical tv documentaries may be the  norm in places such as Putin’s Russia – but in New Zealand?!
  2. The Electoral Commission – unlike NZ on Air – is an independent body. It has no National Party apparatchiks on it’s Board, pulling strings. The Electoral Commission is made up of Chairperson,Hon Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC, Auckland. KCNZM, LLM (Hons), LLB; Deputy Chair Jane Huria, LLB, FIODNZ, FNZIOD; and Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden, Wellington. BA/LLB (Hons). Not a Party official or hack anywhere to be seen.

By contrast, NZ On Air’s Board is heavily stacked with National-friendly businesspeople, and Stephen McElrea, who is a prominent figure in the National Party.  He is not just the  regional deputy chairman of the National Party – but is also John Key’s electorate chairperson in the National Party Helensville Electorate branch.

Bryan Bruce is correct: TV3 deserves an immediate apology from “NZ on Air“.

Furthermore, as I posted previously, Stephen McElrea must resign immediatly from the Board of “NZ on Air“. His position on “NZ on Air” is no longer tenable and his continuing presence taints that organisation with political partisanship and interference.

McElrea has no alternative.

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UPDATES

25 January

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An interesting response from NZ On Air, to a simple question posed on their Facebook page,

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Related Blog posts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

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When Women’s Weekly Was Wonderfully Well-done!

19 January 2012 3 comments

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It’s easy to look down on women’s magazines. Compared to “Time“, “The Listener“, “National Geographic“, “International Train Spotters Guide“, et al,  women’s magazines tend not to be held in terribly high regard.

After endless stories on Brad & Angelina; Kate & William; All Black X and wife/girlfriend X; some local celebrity or Hollywood star’s personal crisis; latest recipes/latest diets;  etc, etc,  etc, it’s easy to overlook these magazines as the “McDonalds” of the literary world…

But every so often, sitting on the shelf at your local supermarket, is a lovely surprise that is not only refreshing – but positively uplifting.

I refer to the January 16 edition of the “New Zealand Woman’s Weekly“,

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A cover story featuring the marriage of a male gay couple?!

Fan-bloody-tastic!

I bought it immediatly to show my household and we were all blown away by the richness and beauty of the story.

We were thoroughly impressed that “Woman’s Weekly” took a risk at putting a non-heterosexual couple’s wedding on the cover.

They’ll probably get a few brickbats from some individuals who feel threatened   – but I think most folk will see the nature of the story and value it for what it is.

Congratulations “Woman’s Weekly“, on a great story, and on your courage. Your magazine has  set a memorable milestone in journalism.  (And maybe, I’ll learn not to be quite so smug about women’s magazines.)

Oh, and congrats to Tamati and Tim. We wish them a long and loving future together. All the best to you both!

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

18 January 2012 7 comments

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Cont’d from: Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

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This blogger has written to Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss on this issue,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss <craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:44 PM
subject:    NZ on Air

Sir,

Is it simply outrageous that NZ on Air – and more specifically – Board member, Stephen McElrea, is attempting to interfere with  the broadcasting and programming of television documentaries, citing that it might contravene NZ on Air’s impartiality. Specifically, NZ on Air has criticised and condemned TV3’s broadcasting of a documentary on child poverty four days prior to last year’s election.

This is absolute rubbish. It is also dangerous.

It is not – and should not – be mandated to a state owned organisation as to what New Zealand citizens are/aren’t allowed to watch, and when. Then is North Korean or Syrian style of government.

Furthermore, it appears that Board member, Stephen McElrea, is involved in attempting to empower NZ on Air to have authority to determine when specific programmes may be broadcast by independent media,

““The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.”” – http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/96173/nzoa-accused-of-political-bias-over-poverty-show

This is outrageous and unacceptable. More so because because Stephen McElrea is deeply connected to the National Party, in his role as a Regional Deputy Chairman, and as John Key’s Electorate Chairperson in the Helensville Electorate.

This is totally unacceptable. Not only is this a gross conflict of interest, but it places NZ On Air’s independence into serious question.

This entire situation demands the following;

1. A new system of appointees to state bodies be set up which may make impartial appointments based solely on merit, rather than political connectivity. Such a reform is necessary if the public are to maintain confidence in our state structure and bodies.

2. Stephen McElrea must step down immediatly from NZ On Air. His position is simply not tenable, and casts a dark shadow over the impartiality of that organisation.

I sincerely hope that the suggestions and comments I have made here are brought to your attenton, as I believe this issue demands your utmost attention.

Regards,
- Frank Macskasy
- “Frankly Speaking“”

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Any response from the Minister’s office will be published here.

A copy of the email has also bee sent to various media, as it might be of interestr to them that a call has been made for Stephen McElrea’s resignation from “NZ on Air“. I suspect I may not be the only one making that call.

Tom Frewen has also come up with an interesting little matter of the only person to have complained to “NZ on Air“;  a person by the name of  “Alastair Bell”. As Frewen has written, is this the same “Alastair Bell”  who is on the National Party’s Board?

To clarify this matter, I have written to Mr Bell, at the National Party,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Alastair Bell <alastair.bell@national.org.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:53 PM
subject:    NZ on Air

Kia Ora, Alastair,

Regarding the matter of an email sent to the board of NZ on Air, regarding a complaint about the broadcasting, by TV3 of a documentary, (“Inside Child Poverty”), can you confirm that you are the same Alastair Bell referred to in NZ On Air documents, as released under the Official Information Act?

Regards,
- Frank Macskasy
“Frankly Speaking”

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Again, any responses will be published here, as I believe it is important to clarify this matter. Keep checking back, for updates.

19 January

Acknowledgement from the Minister’s office, recieved earlier today,

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from:    Kartini Havell (MIN) kartini.havell@parliament.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 2:43 PM
subject:    FW: NZ on Air
mailed-by    parliament.govt.nz

Dear Mr Macskasy

Thank you for your email of 18 January 2012 to the Minister of Broadcasting.  The Minister will consider the issues you have raised and respond as soon as he is able.

Best regards

Kartini Havell
Private Secretary – Broadcasting
Office of the Hon Craig Foss
Minister of Broadcasting
Private Bag 18041
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON 6160
DDI  04 817 9022    Fax  04 817 6518

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Response recieved from Chris Foss, nearly a month later,

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I’m not sure if anyone would buy the Minister’s assertion that “the expectation is that all Board members put their political or other affiliations aside when they participate in Board activities“.

Stephen McElrea most certainly did not ” put [his]  political or other affiliations aside ” when he attempted to interfere in TV3’s programme-scheduling over the child poverty documentary.

 

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Additional

Email address for Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss: craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz

Related Blog post

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

18 January 2012 9 comments

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Last year, in March,  is a NZ Herald’s business writer and media commentator,  John Drinnan, raised the issue of possible conflict-of-interest surrounding the appointment of  Stephen McElrea to the Board of NZ on Air,

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Neil Walter, NZ On Air’s  chairperson  denied that there was any conflict of interest,

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Full Story

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Well, there was and there is, most certainly a conflict of interest, as events are now showing.

Stephen McElrea is a prominent figure in the National Party.  He is not just the  regional deputy chairman of the National Party – but is also John Key’s electorate chairperson in the National Party Helensville Electorate branch,

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McElrea is obviously  well connected.

So it is not surprising therefore, that NZ on Air’s Board, which is already heavily stacked with National-friendly businesspeople, has issued an unprecedented condemnation of TV3’s decision to broadcast Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty last year, in the week leading up to the Election.

For those who have not seen Bryan Bruce’s excellent, thought-provoking documentary, it is something worth watching. It is highly critical of New Zealand’s growing poverty which is having far-reaching, dire effects on our country’s children. The documentary looks at Sweden, and how the Swedish society ensures that problems such as poverty-related diseases, hunger, damp housing, etc,are not allowed to affect children.

And it looks at how New Zealand society has arrived at a stage where children go to school hungry, bare-foot, and sick with disease caused by poor housing; poor nutrition; over-crowding…

We used to think of New Zealand as a great place to bring up kids. Not anymore.

Multi-award winning documentary maker Bryan Bruce spent 6 months investigating why the current state of child health in New Zealand is so bad and what we can do about it. This is his controversial report.

What’s gone wrong and how can we fix it?

His journey begins in East Porirua, just 15 Km from Parliament to discover what the Free Market economy has done to the health of children living in lower income families.

Skin infections and respiratory illnesses he discovers are rife. Children living in damp moldy rental houses are suffering the highest rate of Rheumatic Fever in New Zealand.

In search of an answer Bruce travels to Sweden to find out why they are Number 2 in the OECD for child health and we are third from the bottom.

“What I discovered” says Bruce “ is that they work smarter. They know that for every dollar they spend on prevention they save about $4 on cure. They have a completely free health care system for children and they feed every child a free, healthy lunch, everyday. For the Swedes child health is a moral responsibility not a political issue.”” – Source

The documentary does not (if I recall correctly) attack any parfticular political party.

That has not stopped  NZ on Air from  attacking  the timing of TV3’s broadcasting of  “Inside Child Poverty“,  stating,

“”We are barred by legislation from seeking to influence editorial content of the programmes we fund.

“We’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but in this case we felt that we’ve been dropped in it by the decision to put that particular programme on just days out from voting.“” - Source

When someone sez, “we’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but—”  - what they’re actually  saying is that the preceding part of their statement (the bit before the “but” is about to be trashed.

It was fairly obvious that the documentary had political content. It’s also fairly obvious that the issue of child poverty transcends pilitics, and is probably the most important socio-economic crisis facing this country.

Why?

It is the most pressing crisis we face, not because of it’s far reaching consequence (which are many) – but because as a nation we seem spectacularly inept at (a) recognising that the problem exists (b) creating a plan to fix this problem, and (c) doing it.

We’re more pre-occupied with penguins, tax cuts, and victim-blaming.

This is cause for deep concern,

The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.” – Source

It is preposterous and arrogance in the extreme that a tax-payer funded, state  organisation is attempting to set  itself up to determine  when it shall be appropriate to broadcast a programme. Especially one that is extremely relevant to our society.

It is even more outrageous that this is apparently a blatant, unconcealed, attempt by a National Party functionary to make this happen.

It is obvious to all but the most staunch National Party apparatchik or supporter, that NZ on Air’s attack on TV3 and Bryan Bruce is politically motivated. The nice, pretty words of  taking  its “political impartiality very seriously and now stands accused of political bias” is bullshit.

No one has accused NZ on Air of any such thing (to my knowledge), and if complaints were laid to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and/or Electoral Commission –  relating to  the timing of the documentary – those were most likely undertaken by National Party supporters. The  Nats have a habit of  deriding and being dismissive of  criticism.

One wonders how NZ on Air reconciles it’s critricism of the timing of the documentary’s broadcast, when current affairs programmes such as “Q+A” and “The Nation” were being screened into the living rooms of our country from Kaitaia to Stewart Island, almost up to Election Day?

Will NZ on Air be reviewing the timing of those programmes as well?

Perhaps we shouldn’t have any documentaries at all – especially if it might be seen as critical of the government-of-the-day? (Not that there are very many docos left on our free-to-air TV anymore… )

Who’s up for another re-run of “FRIENDS“?

The law of the land is crystal clear on the broadcasting and transmission of political matters. Political issues can be discussed in the media, and by political parties, right up until midnight on Friday, on the day before Election Day.

NZ on Air has no mandate to determine when documentaries shall be broadcast. It cannot and should not have a say in TV or radio programming. (At best, this is a matter from the Electoral Commission to assess, not NZ on Air.)

NZ on Air is not the arbiter of the public’s right-to-know.

And NZ on Air is not an arm of the National Party.

When a government attempts to dictate to independent media what they may/may not broadcast, and when, then it is apparent that state interference in our lives has transcended any quaint notions of “nanny statism”. This is pretty darn close to fascism.

At the very least, it is blatant political interference when Stephen McElrea writes, in his capacity as a NZ on Air board member,

“Was NZOA aware that this doco was to be scheduled 4 days before the election? If not, should we have been? To me, it falls into the area of caution we show about political satire near elections.” ” – Source

It is fairly apparent that the entire system of political appointees to various state bodies must be reviewed.  A system of impartial appointees must be looked into – because it appears that National’s influence has gone too far, this time. (Plus, it seems fairly bizarre that a National Party official considers a documentary on child poverty, as “satire“?!)

This is entire disgraceful affair has been a politically-motivated attack on Bryan Bruce, and TV3. It is obviously that Stephen McElrea’s position on NZ on Airs Board is untenable. He has lost all credibility as an impartial member of NZ on Air’s board and any decision from that body is now highly suspect.

As McElrea himself said,

Other than this, the Government should butt out of television broadcasting and leave it to the industry. ” – Source

Stephen McElrea has no other option: he must resign immediatly.

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Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

Link: Stephen McElrea

Radio NZ: Listen to Radio New Zealand’s political editor on Summer Report

Radio NZ: Listen to Checkpoint interview with Neil Walter

NZ on Air

NZ on Air Board

Facebook: NZ on Air

National Party: Helensville Electorate

NZ Herald: MediaWorks works overtime to woo Henry

Kiwipolitico: Hearing No Evil

Tumeke:  Key’s electorate chairman attempts to censor political docos at NZ on Air

Pundit: NZ on Air gets it back-to-front on political docos

Pundit: Because politics is the LAST thing you need to see at election time!

NZ Herald:  Poverty trap set at birth – study

NZ Herald:  Political round-up: January 18

Related blog story

Unfortunate Outrage

Continued at

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

.http://www.linkbusiness.co.nz/Brances/Brokers/tabid/74/id/87/Default.aspx

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What is wrong with (some) people?!?!

16 January 2012 1 comment

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Perusing the on-line news section of  Radio NZ, I was struck by this short story,

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Source

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Help me out here, folks, ‘cos this is another one of our recent (?) behaviours that has me utterly perplexed. Now call me kinda old fashioned… But what kind of moron doesn’t let an ambulance pass?!?!

Perhaps it’s just another one of those human behaviours that has been with us, since the first Cave Child graffitied a nice piece of cave wall-art, about a zillion years ago.

Or, perhaps it’s an unpleasant reminder of the quantum-shift in some peoples’ thinking, that they are more important than anything/anyone else – including an ambulance with lights and sirens blazing/blaring, as the medics try to save some poor schmuck who is bleeding to death…

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the  Ayn-Randian-Me-First attitude, that neo-liberalism espouses, than someone who refuses to move over because… well, because they don’t want toHell, I pay my taxes! I have a right to be on the road!! Screw everyone else!!

If that’s the case, I hope such people are a tiny, tiny, tiny minority. But, judging by the selfishness expressed on many internet fora – I sadly think not.

Just like the able-bodied person who parks in a Disabled Person’s carpark… “Hey, I’ll only be a few minutes!” Or, “Hey, why should they get all the best carparks?!”

Or the smoker who doesn’t care a hoot about lighting up in a car, with children in the car beside him/her  (I’ve seen this myself)… “Hey, f****n nanny state isn’t going to tell me where I can or can’t smoke!

And of course, there are the drunk drivers (those that are still alive) who drink; drive; and just don’t care.

It’s all human selfishness.

Once upon a time, selfishness was deemed an undesirable virtue. Now, there is practically an entire political ideology built around it.

Anyway, the point is simple: People! See the ambulance? Get out of the way! It could be your friend or family member they’re racing to assist!

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And if you see some idiot holding up an ambo or fire appliance, despite  lights and siren going full tit…

Use your cellphone; dial *555; and report the idiot.

The next life you save could be someone precious to you.

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Support & Donations

St John Ambulances

Wellington Free Ambulances

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From a fellow-blogger, @ Dimpost…

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Fellow blogger, Danyl Mclauchlan, from the excllent “Dim-Post“, was a guest on Radio NZ, this morning.  The discussion revolved around poverty; the growing wealth-gap; and why “growing the pie” is an abject failure under current New Right social and economic conditions.

His comments are insightful and crystal clear to understand, and I recommend folks to have a listen, here.

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Additional links

Radio NZ

The Dim Post

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Kiwi Hero: Jazmine Heka

15 January 2012 4 comments

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or,  good women!

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One thing that I find about writing this Blog, is reporting on all the unpleasant things that are happening in our country; our communities; at this very moment. Whether it’s high unemployment; pollution in our rivers and coastline; constant attacks on welfare beneficiaries; racism; cutbacks in our social services; the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor; a rather nasty anti-union campaign on Auckland’s waterfront… after a while, I can fully understand why 100,000 of my fellow New Zealanders shipped off to Australia.

Half the time I wonder why I’m still here.

Nah, I ain’t going anywhere. It’s too hot over there; they have snakes; crocodiles; spiders the size of a small car; dinosaurs, mutant kangaroos, and god knows what else. Plus, they speak funny. (It’d take too long to teach our Aussie cuzzies  how to speak proper English – like we Kiwis do.)

Anyway, every so often, there is a ray of sunshine that pokes through the gloom of bad  news. Like this one, the story of Ms Jazmine Heka. She’s 16 years old. And she has more compassion and wisdom than half the adult population in this country. She certainly shows greater awareness than our current batch of political leaders.

Because Jazmine Heka, at age 16, and when other young women her age are out flirting with post-adolescent boys with acne and over-powered cars, is different.

Jazmine Heka cares.

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Full Story

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Full Story

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Jazmine watched Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty – and came away disgusted; angry; and confused as to how something like this could be happening in our own country. And well she might; New Zealand was supposedly a wealthy country with an abundance of food and resources.

What has gone so terribly wrong?

Jazmine’s response to the documentary was perfectly normal. Any sane, compassionate,  person would have viewed Bruce’s documentary about our crisis in poverty, with similar feelings of outrage and disgust.

Those that viewed it – and simply shrugged it off  – did so because they have become inured to life’s hardships and uncertainties. For many of us, poverty and other social ills have become a normal aspect to everyday life. For many well-off, middle-class folk, poverty is “somewhere over there” and “beyond our ability to deal with“.

For many of us, we have “normalised” poverty; inequality; poor housing; lack of food; lack of adequate incomes; and lack of hope.

Those living in poverty live the same “train wreck” of their lives; day-after-day; week-after-week; their families; their community – and no hope of ever getting out. For these families, a life of poverty is also “normalised“.It’s all they’ve had and all they are likely to ever have.

Meanwhile,  products and images of products of a wealthy, consumerist society is all around these poverty-trapped families.

Eventually, those who suffer such hardship cannot cope any further with the constant stresses,  of their dismal lives. Some cease to care. Others lose themselves in anger, fueled by cheap, plentiful alcohol and drugs. Brutalised beyond any measure of comprehension by Middle New Zealand, they commit acts of self-harm and violence to others that the rest of us find inexplicable.

Try to explain to Middle New Zealand why a bunch of young people would torment an infant until it died from it’s injuries and internal bleeding – and you’d get a blank look.

Or, most likely, it is blamed upon the parent(s) and immediate family for abusing to death their child. Only then do we, as a society,  take an interest in that family, as they are put through the Court system; paraded on our television “news” each night; and we shake our collective heads in dismay and wonder what kind of “animal” kills it’s own young.

A stressed, abused, mal-treated “animal” – that’s what kind.

When things go terribly bad in poverty-stressed families, it is not the start of a crisis – it is the end-result; a culmination, of years of living in squalid conditions that few of us have ever experienced.

That is poverty. Or, at least, a visible part of it.

Most families, of course, don’t end up killing or bashing their children. As Jazmine quoted, 22% of children in New Zealand live in poverty. And most families do the best they can, with limited money, and constant demands for that money; rent, electricity, food, medical bills, school costs, transport…

Most families  survive. Even our Prime Minister grew up as a child to a solo-mother in  State House. Of course,  John Key not only had a state house over his head, but had the benefit of a free, tax-payer funded tertiary education.

That’s right folks. Mr Key went to University prior to 1992, before student fees were introduced. He may even have had access to a student allowanvce that was commonly accessible those  days. And his mother didn’t have to pay for prescription medicines – those were free, before Rogernomics came into play.

State house. Free education. Free prescription medicines.

That was all replaced with User Pays. National sold off about 13,000 state houses in the 1990s. And medical care became more and more expensive.

At the same time, taxes were cut seven times since 1986; gst was introduced; and User Pays and higher government charges made living more and more expensive for those on low incomes.

As the economy was de-regulated in the late 1980s, factories that had once employed locals to produce locally made goods closed down – and instead we had them produced and imported from China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Fiji, and other low-wage economies.

That’s called “exporting jobs”.

In return, we got cheap shoes from China – and growing poverty in New Zealand. Most unfair of all, it is children growing up in poor families that bear the brunt of our 27 year old free market economy.

Though that’s not to say there haven’t been success stories. For a few, anyway,

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Full Story

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It’s not hard to see who benefitted most from seven tax cuts in the last 26 years.

In turn, Fonterra plans to re-introduce milk in low-decile schools – something not seen in New Zealand since 1967. A return to school milk seems indicative where we have arrived as a nation: full circle since 1937, when free milk was first introduced in schools throughout the country to fight poverty’s effects on children.

And here we are – back again.

Even National was promising something similar,  in  February 2007, when John Key was Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps this was a political “stunt” – who knows,

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Full Story

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But it’s even more of a harsh reality now.

I’ve even emailed John Key, to ascertain what happened, to his “Food in Schools” programme,

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from:    [email]
to:    Prime Minister John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM
subject:    National launches its Food in Schools programme

Sir,

On 4 February 2007, you released a Press Release headed, “National launches its Food in Schools programme”.

As outlined in Bryan Bruce’s document, “Child Poverty”, there is a growing problem of poorly fed, malnourished children in NZ.  Could you please advise what progress your government has made in the area of providing meals for children in low-decile schools?

This issue is a critical one. Poorly fed children do not do well in the classroom, and this results in difficulties further along in their lives, including social dislocation; poor education;  unemployment; and more expensive interaction with government services.

Thankyou for your time,

-Frank Macskasy
 Blogger, “Frankly Speaking

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I’ve received an acknowledgement and that the email was passed on to Education Minister Hekia Parata. But nothing further.

This, to me, is why it is so important that good men and women like Bryan Bruce, Jazmine Heka, KidscanChild Poverty Action Group, etc,  raise our consciousness on these matters. These problems will not go away by themselves. They must be resolved with planning, determination, and  money.

But more importantly, Bryan Bruce and Jazmine Heka need our collective voices to aid them, and to back them up. Bryan and Jazmine and many others are working to fix a problem that should never have been allowed to grow and fester. But it’s here now, and we have to deal with it.

As Judy Callingham wrote on Brian Edwards’ blog,

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The government has prioritised a number of policies to stimulate the economy in an effort to get us out of the current recession. None of these policies, to my mind, tackles head-on the most urgent task of all – eliminating ‘child poverty’.

This should be the number one priority. Nothing is more important. Nothing is going to stimulate the economy better in the long run than having our kids grow up healthy and well educated.  It’s a damn sight more important than ultra-fast broadband and super-highways.”

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Or Jacqui, a mother in Otangarei,

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I think it’s amazing what you’re doing. A lot of our people are disheartened, they’ve given up. The standard of living of people in New Zealand is shocking, people are struggling. It’s something the government needed to address a long time ago. If adults say it they think we’re just complaining, or it’s our own inadequacies. Her voice will get through, that’s the cool thing.

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Last year, the combined raised voices of Wellingtonians stopped the Wellington Airport from erecting a silly sign on the Miramar hillside. (Instead, they erected a marginally less-silly sign.)

And the year before that, in 2010, the collective anger of New Zealanders stopped the National government dead-in-its-tracks to mine on Schedule 4 Conservation lands.

I believe that with the same support for Bryan, Jazmine, and other community groups fighting poverty, that this government can be made to pay attention to this problem.

I believe that, acting together, there is no reason  why we cannot achieve our common goal of beginning to solve this growing crisis in our communities. None whatsoever.

So let’s help Jazmine to help New Zealand.

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Additional

National launches its Food in Schools programme (4 February 2007)

Milk and Honey off the menu

Jazmine Heka – Hero of the Week

Radio NZ: Teenage child poverty activist (31 January 2012)

Contact Jazmine

Email: childrenagainstpoverty@hotmail.co.nz

Facebook: Children-Against-Poverty

Snailmail: PO Box 585, Whangarei 0140.

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Why wharfies are striking – in their own words (+ photos)

- Simon Oosterman

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Articles and photos by Simon Oosterman. Hi-res photos are available here. Please feel free to distribute.

The media have given plenty of space to Ports of Auckland management, but nobody has canvassed the opinions of those most affected by the company’s decisions, the workers. Here we get behind the news to the men, their wives and the children affected by the Ports of Auckland actions and proposals.

For the background to the dispute read the Maritime Union of New Zealand and Council of Trade Union fact sheet and the Port of Auckland’s industrial dispute updates.

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The Thorton family: “They want drones when we are actually parents”

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FAIR ROSTERING: From the left – Max Thorton (5), Shaun (43), Nina (4), Amy (5), Leah (37) and Ben (9). Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Shaun Thorton, 43, drives a straddle at the Ports of Auckland where he has worked for 18 years. He met his wife Leah at the port where she worked before becoming a fulltime mum looking after their four kids: Ben (9), twins Max and Amy (5) and Nina (4).

“We want predictability so we can have a family life,” he says. “We only get one weekend off every third weekend meaning I work 35 weekends in the year. I’m striking for the kids.”

Leah interrupts: “and for the marriage”.

“Shaun’s work is a nightmare for me and the kids,” she says. “Dad only went to two soccer games last year and couldn’t come to the preschool Christmas party. We’ve learnt to live with it but it’s far from perfect.”

“It’s clear from the ports casualisation plan that they want drones, when we are actually parents. You can’t sustain a family as a casual and deal with the everyday stuff parents have to put up with. One of our kids has a chronic illness and another is getting progressively deaf in one ear. I should be able to count on partner to help out with hospital visits and specialist’s visits.

“Everyone complains about irresponsible teenagers going out on town and they wonder where their parents are. They are hereThe Wallace family: “It’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too” and in other unsociable jobs. The only other option to this work is working on the minimum wage.

“It astounds me that they are trying to increase productivity by ruining our work life balance – do they want people sleeping on the job?” she says. “Can I complain to the company about not having annual leave or sick days?”

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The Wallace family: “It’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too”

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FAMILY TIME: From centre left – Mark Wallace, Ashley (9), Rebecca (7) and Katrina. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Mark Wallace is a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He worked his way up from a casual to a permanent crane driver over 18 years. Mark and wife Katrina have two children, Ashley (9) and Rebecca (7).

“I’m trying to protect my family life,” he says. “The company wants the right to tell me at midnight, eight hours before a shift, that I don’t have the shift anymore. How can I plan a family life around that?”

“The company goes on about caring for its employees, but they treat us like shit. We’ve given them the best container rates ever. If they really cared about us, we’d be inside working. We had to strike at Christmas just to get time off with our kids.”

Katrina, is a self-employed dress-maker who works from home.

“I brought the kids down to the picket show solidarity with my husband,” she says. “But it’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too. The company’s proposed changes would be hard for me and the kids. I couldn’t take on huge jobs because I wouldn’t know day-to-day what Mark would be doing. I wouldn’t even be able to count on him to pick up the kids from school.”

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The Witehira family: “Keeping family time is more important than a pay rise”

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POWER TO THE FAMILY: Jermaine Witehira (31), Jayda (1), Karine (2), Gabrielle (5) and Destiny. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Jermaine Witehira, 31, got his first ever job at the Ports of Auckland where he has been working as a stevedore for 14 years. Jermaine and wife Destiny have three children, Gabrielle (5), Karine (2) and Jayda (1)

“I’m doing this for my family and my mates,” he says. “A 10% pay rise isn’t worth the new casual roster system – family time is more important than a pay rise.

“The company says we earn $91k a year – I‘ve never earned that in the 14 years I’ve been here. I get around $64k but I have to work 24 hours overtime and that costs my family.”

Destiny says Jermaine doesn’t see his kids because he leaves for work at 5:30am and gets back at 11:30pm.

“Being a young family is hard enough, but with his hours it feels like I’m a solo mum,” she says. “If the company gets what it wants I’ll have to put my kids in day care and get a job. The thing is that the job would probably only just cover day care costs and I’d have to find a job that worked around casual hours.”

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Brandon Cherrington

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FAMILY PICKET: Brandon Cherrington and his 1 1/2 year old daughter. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Brandon Cherrington, 38, has worked at the Ports of Auckland for 1½ years. He is a permanent part-timer and is only guaranteed 24 hours a week. Brandon has a 1½ year old daughter.

“This strike is all about our families,” he says. “We are here supporting the boys to keep and improve our conditions. With the company’s [proposed] new flexibility, they want us to be on call and I won’t be able to plan activities with my daughter anymore.”

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Shaun Osbourne

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JOB SECURITY: Casual worker Shaun Osbourne on the picket line. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Shaun Osbourne works at the Ports of Auckland. Because he is a casual employee, he hasn’t had a single guaranteed hour in the eight years he has worked there.

“My shifts are allocated the day before I go to work,’ he says. “I could get anywhere between eight and 48 hours a week which could be in the morning, afternoon or graveyard or a combination of the shifts. I won’t be crossing over. We’ve got to make sure permanent workers don’t end up like us casuals.”

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Wayne Wolfe

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FACTS: Wayne Wolfe has done his research. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Wayne Wolfe, 58, works as a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He has worked on the ports for 35 years. Wayne has three adult children and two grandchildren, including a two-week old baby. Wayne is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“Many of these young fellas are casuals and have had busted up marriages because of their casualised hours,” he says. “When I first joined, conditions were brilliant and I am doing my best to leave it that way.”

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Ron Bell

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PICKET: Local 13 member Ron Bell (53). Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Ron Bell, 53, is a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He will have worked on the waterfront for 31 years this coming April and has been union since he was 17. He has four daughters Jac (20), Katherine (18) and twins Samantha and Amanda (15). He is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“I just want our guys to keep their jobs on decent hours and not get shat on waiting by the phone 24 hours a day,” he says. “People before us made our conditions what they are today and they should stay that way.”

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Ken Ziegler

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STAUNCH: Ken Ziegler standing tall. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Ken Ziegler, 49, has worked as a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland for 12 years. Ken is the main provider for his son Carlos (10). He is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“It’s really simple,” he says. “The company is trying to casualise the entire workforce to keep labour costs down.”

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Napo Kuru

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SOLIDARITY: Casual Napo Kuru stands with permanent workers. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Napo Kuru, 27, has worked as a casual lasher at the Ports of Auckland for four years.

“I’m on $16 an hour as a casual and can get anywhere between 16 and 30 hours a week,” he says. “We have the same fight as the permanent boys. They want everyone to be cheap which will drive down everyone’s pay.”

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Quote

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Additional photos

Simon Oosterman

Related blog items

At gunpoint, maybe?

Harbour battles & casual fear

Support workers & their families

Facebook: Support Ports of Auckland Workers

The Standard:  Meet the wharfies and their families

Facebook: Maritime Union of New Zealand

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The sky IS falling!

14 January 2012 2 comments

Ok, well, maybe not the sky per se – but bits of stuff will shortly be falling from it,

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Full Story

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Thanks for the warning.  Though I do have one question.

What are we supposed to do when we  see ‘space junk’?

Duck?

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Harbour battles & casual fear

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Why is newbie National MP, Jamie Lee-Ross, getting involved in pay negotiations that don’t concern him personally?

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Ports of Auckland is not a state Owned enterprise. Therefore, Mr Lee-Ross has as much to do with that company and it’s employer-employee negotiations as he might with any other company in the country.

Is he intending to comment on the next wages-negotiation between Fulton Hogan and it’s staff? Fletcher construction and it’s employees? Perhaps he might feel inclined to comment on Wattie-Heinz negotiations with their workers?

While we’re about it; Mr Lee-Ross has a very generous tax-payer funded salary; with free travel perks; and a gold-plated superannuation fund that tax-payers (again) subsidise.

His  salary comes to $141,800 – quite generous for these recessionary times. In fact, on 17 November last year, it was increased from $134,800, and back-dated to 1 July 2011.

In which case, so what if maritime union workers are well remunerated? They do a hard, dangerous, dirty job – one that most of us would think twice before doing. Being highly paid is also National Party policy, as John Key outlined in 2008;

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Perhaps Mr Lee-Ross is unaware that the Maritime Union appears to be fulfilling National Party policy?

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With a full-blown propaganda war now in effect between the Ports of Auckland management; right wing politicians; and various reactionary groupies on one side, and the Union, workers, their families,  and  supporters on the other – the first casualty has indeed been truth.

Specifically, the amount earned by maritime union members. First of all, I would point out that the wages paid to maritime workers is actually irrelevant.

It’s really no one’s business what Port of Auckland’s employees are paid. That is a matter between bosses and workers.

After all, how many other New Zealanders would really welcome the glare of public scrutiny on their incomes? (Especially self-employed – many of whom have a tradition of doing “cashies”, which they fail to declare to the IRD.)

The spotlight on maritime workers’ incomes seems to have emanated from the Ports of Auckland, CEO, Tony Gibson, who said,
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“…the average wage for a stevedore is more than $90,000 a year and the lowest rate is $17.12 an hour.” – Source

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Catherine Etheredge, Port of Auckland’s Senior Manager Communications, posted this statement on The Standard,

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I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.” – Source
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Yet, at least one blog-poster at “The Standard”  noticed a discrepancy in Ms Etheredge’s statement, and questioned her figures,

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I’m not sure this bit adds up – would appreciate someone to check my math :) .

For 123 workers to be 53% of the workforce, that gives a work population of 232. But for 43 individuals to be 28% of the workforce, the population is 153. I assume there’s a typo in there somewhere. If 43 workers are indeed on more than $100k out of a population of 232, then that means an actual top-echelon level of 18% of the workforce.

And I’m not familiar with the organisational structure on the port – does this average include only personnel with no personnel that report to them, or does is include the shift leaders or even a tier above small-team supervision?” – Source

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It is further worth noting that Ms Etheredge states,

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This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital…

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“Not covering its cost of capital“? Yet, according to the National Business Review, Ports of Auckland posted a $24.9 million profit in  the year to June – up 2.1% on the previous year.

And in October 2010, Managing director Jens Madsen said that “overall container volumes in the three months to September 30 were up nearly 8% on the same period last year“.

The Maritime Union states,

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A stevedores guarantee for 40 hours per week is $1,090.40 = $56,700.80 per annum @ 260 shifts per year.  To earn the money being quoted by Mr Gibson, stevedores would have to complete an extra 1,377 hours.  Stevedores are required to work days or nights, weekends, public holidays – basically any shifts 24/7 often 16 hour shifts.” – Source

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Helen Kelly, from the CTU says on the same blog-page,

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The first position was that Port workers earn an average of $91,000 for a 26 hour week. This was widely publicised and is now being so seriously challenged they have been flushed out to provide the correct information.

Now it appears the $91,000 is for a 49 hour week and this includes superannuation, medical insurance etc. Assuming the superannuation is 7% then $6,370 of this is a super subsidy, leaving an avearage annual salary of $84,000. Given these “average” workers are working 22.5% more hours than a “normal working week” of 40 hours, then $20,475 of this salary can be considered payment for the extra working hours.

This leaves an avearage wage of $64,155 which includes medical insurance.

The union says a stevedores guarantee for 40 hours per week is $1,090.40 = $56,700.80 per annum @ 260 shifts per year. Regardless, the position has changed dramatically since the Ports first shots rasing questions about the other information they are using to disguise the agenda to make permanent workers into casuals.

It would be great if the Port could provide the avearage salary of the 20% of casuals workers they employ at the port by hours worked?” – Source
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The figures quoted by the Ports of Auckland appear to have been somewhat “massaged” – ie, presented in such a way as to present the best possible “message” for management. Of course, it is difficult to verify what the workers are paid without sighting payslips.

But the wording of Ms Etheredges statement and her reference to “average”, indicates that there is more to this matter than we’ve been told.

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But this isn’t even about a wage-increase – that is a mis-representation by the Ports of Auckland – as the 10% wage-increase was an offer from MANAGEMENT to the Union, in return for casualising the work-force. As the Maritime Union stated,

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The union position is clear. It does not want the 10%; it wants secure, ordered and transparent rosters for its members.”  – Source

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Casualisation would mean that instead of having a 40-hour job (which most New Zealanders aspire to), it  would be part-time, and on-call. Workers would be  sitting at home, waiting for a phone call to come to work.

No one can raise a family; put food on the table; and pay a mortgage with a “McDonalds”-style casual-job.

Jamie Lee-Ross states,

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Every Aucklander has a stake in the Ports of Auckland. It is not a privately owned company. Nor is it listed on any stock exchange. Each and every share in the company is owned by the Auckland Council on behalf of 1.4 million Auckland residents and ratepayers. The destruction in value in one of our city’s largest public assets is alarming and has to be of concern to us all. ” – Source

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Three points:

1. Whilst ratepayers most certainly do own the Ports of Auckland, there is no risk to them, nor the shareholding Auckland City Council.

Ports of Auckland posted a $24.9 million profit in  the year to June 2011. So it is a self-funding operation, and quite a profitable one at that.

2. It is disturbing that Jamie Lee-Ross is not as concerned about the “destruction in value” of jobs. Maritime workers face losing their full-time jobs, and instead turned into casual workers.

How can a workers raise their family when they don’t know what they’ll be earning from day to day; week to week?

3. It’s nice to see a National MP recognising the fact that Ports of Auckland is owned by the people of Auckland. Hopefully, Mr Lee-Ross will remember this when his government colleagues vote to sell the first state owned enterprise, Mighty River Power – which is also owned by the people.

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Despite John Key’s pledge in 2008, it seems clear that National and their business fellow-travellers are content to see wages cut.

Bill English stated as much on “Q+A”, on  10 April 2011, when he seemed to express satisfaction that New Zealand’s wages were more “competitive”, by around 30%, to Australia’s,

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BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it?  I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia.  So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia.  We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact.  We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing.  This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia.  That’s lifting the standard.  They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia.  So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand.  If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

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Bill English seems to want it both ways; lift wages – but yet keep wages “competitive” with Australia. I guess one day he might make up his mind.

De-unionisation is currently proceeding throughout the country. Another industrial dispute is at CMP Rangitikei where contract negotiations between the ANZCO-owned plant and the NZ Meat Workers Union has resulted in one hundred and eleven  workers locked out at their  plant when they resisted pay cuts of up to 20% and reductions in conditions.
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There is a silent war going on in this country. It is a war to destroy any and all  remaining unionised-protection for workers and to increase “flexibility” and “competitiveness”. Such moves will have the consequences of driving down wages even further, and which will increase business profits, and dividends for shareholders. Tough luck, I guess, if it’s done at the expense of staff.

Businesspeople and shareholders: two of National’s core constituents.

Little wonder that employment confidence has taken a steep nose-dive,
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One thing should be perfectly clear to every worker in this country; if a strongly unionised workforce such as Ports of Auckland workers, and ANZCO freezing workers,  can have their employment conditions arbitrarily changed, and casualised against their wishes – the question on everyone’s mind must be, “Who is next in line? Is it me?”

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As well as attempting to drive down labour costs by destroying the Maritime Union, there appears to be another, lesser-known agenda at work in the backrooms of various “movers and shakers” – privatisation.

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Note that the above article came out on the same day as the NBR published a report, “Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher“.

It would appear that this is not just a battle for the control of worker’s pay and conditions – but for the  Ports of Auckland itself.

As the National Business Review reports  stated, the Ports of Auckland is a growing, highly-profitable business.

The attack on Maritime port workers by PoA management is, I believe, designed to achieve a single goal, exploiting several methods,

  • Attack workers’ rights and conditions; create chaos on the waterfront; paint the Union as “lazy greedies”; and stir up Auckland ratepayers’ anger, until they’ve had enough and want the Ports of Auckland sold off. Result: easy privatisation of a very valuable asset.
  • Change the current, permanent, workforce into a casualised workforce. Result: reduce wage costs for new, private owners.
  • Drive the Maritime Union of the Ports of Auckland. Result: greater casualisation if the workforce; lower wages even further; eliminate all workers’ protection.

This, I believe is the real agenda.

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Previous blog story

At gunpoint, maybe?

Sources

Scoop: Union Biting the hand that feeds

National Party MP: Jami-Lee Ross – Biography

John Key  SPEECH: 2008,  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviews Bill English (transcript)

Wanganui Chronicle: Overseas labour concerns union

NZ Herald:  Sentiment on work prospects gloomy

NBR:  Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher

NBR: Plea for ratepayers to give up port control

NBR: Increased traffic at Ports of Auckland

NBR:  Ports of Auckland profits hold steady

Additional

Scoop: POAL documents show senior management running own agenda

Chris Trotter:  The Auckland Ports Dispute: An Injury To All

Chris Trotter:  Port bosses sensitive to show of union power

Tumeke: The Manufactured Crisis at Ports of Auckland and why did Len Brown walk into it?

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Thou Shalt not – I repeat, NOT! – be intolerant!

11 January 2012 5 comments

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Ok, back to reality, as determined by this particuular quantum spacetime continuum…

Now, maybe I’m an old fashioned kinda bloke… maybe I see things a bit more ‘grounded’… But the ways I sees it, the things that really do undermine the “future of humanity” involves the following;

  • climate change – all that pollution we’re casually pumping into the atmosphere cannot be good for animals, plant-life, the oceans, and little children.
  • the widening wealth-gap – creating a social dislocation which may ultimately lead to social unrest, revolution,  collapse of governments (hence the Arab Spring and the London riots, last year), increasing number of failed states, and the Rise of the Planet of the Apes! (Ok, the last bit may be a tad fanciful. Or not.)
  • resource wars for oil, water, food… whatever is in short-supply due to the burgeoning human population on this little planet.
  • over-population – which you, Mr Pope, can actually do something about! When Big Bro up in the sky said “go forth and multiply”, he didn’t mean until there’s standing room only! He kinda assumed that we had enough common sense to recognise limits to what Planet Earth can hold and feed. (Hah! Fat chance! This is the Human Gimmee-All-You-Got Race we’re talking about here!)
  • and greed. The Human Race does Greed very well. Heck, there are political parties founded on the ‘Nobility’ of Greed – just ask the Republicans and our own, home-grown, National/ACT parties!

Those are the things I’d be worried about, Pope Bro. Not what a couple of blokes may or may not be doing in the privacy of their own homes. I mean, really, two guys hugging? Even snogging? What do you want them to do instead – don battle-fatigues and go shoot up a village somewhere?

Look mate. I know the Bible sez a few things about gays. Like, stoning them.

But the Bible also suggests that’s it’s ok to call a woman a witch and burn her alive, whilst  tied to a stake. These days, that would be called pre-meditated murder.

Ditto for stoning to death service-station workers who work on Sundays. (Though some might still advocate that for unionised-workers, I’m thinking.)

Time to move on. This is 2012AD. Not 2012BC. Hassling gays is not cool. We don’t do shit like that anymore.

There are worse things in the world today. Like the stuff I outlined above. And intolerance. You know “intolerance”? It’s where a Christian go into a Northern Ireland bar and blows up other Christians, ‘cos they were the wrong brand of christianity. Or a muslim who does the same thing in a mosque, ‘cos the muslims inside were the wrong flavour of Islam.

Now THAT is a threat to the future of the Human Race.

Not Bert and Ernie saying they love each other.

Got that?

Good. Amen.

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Dumber and Dumber for the 21st Century

10 January 2012 10 comments

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philistine  [fil-uh-steen, -stahyn, fi-lis-tin, -teen]

    noun

    1.  ( sometimes initial capital letter ) a person who is lacking in or hostile or smugly indifferent to cultural values, intellectual pursuits, aesthetic refinement, etc., or is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes.

    2.  ( initial capital letter ) a native or inhabitant of ancient Philistia.

    adjective

    3.  ( sometimes initial capital letter ) lacking in or hostile to culture.

    4.  smugly commonplace or conventional.

    5.  ( initial capital letter ) of or belonging to the ancient Philistines.

Source: Dictionary.Com

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In June/July of this year, TVNZ7 – the last remnant of non-commercial, public television – will be erased from the air-waves.

With the demise of the Public Charter for TVNZ, the two channels (TV1 and TV2) have become profit-driven  corporations that are indistinguishable from TV3 or any other  commercial broadcaster. TVNZ is a revenue-raiser for the government and nothing more.

What that means is that “public television” serves up populist pap – usually from the United States – that can sell advertising. That’s all there is to it; the raison d’être for TVNZ: to make money.

It is not obligated to do any of the following;

  • promote our culture in any manner whatsoever (hence seeing endless American crime and/or “reality” shows,
  • present niche programmes that, whilst possibly low-rating, are of considerable interest to many in our community,
  • represent any aspect of communities in New Zealand,
  • promote local acting talent (“Shortland Street” is it, folks),
  • informative programming that broaden our insights of our country, or the world around us,
  • present a News programme consisting of stories that reflect aspects of our communities – unless it involves the Murder-of-the-Day; Court case updates; latest crime story;  local disaster; overseas disaster; and then a celebrity/cutesy animal story. But if you want to know Otorohonga’s latest initiatives regarding youth employment – forget it.

Instead, TVNZ offers the following;

  • a News programme that is primarily crime, death, disaster, and the obligatory cutesy-animal story.
  • grisly US crime “dramas”
  • cooking programmes ad nauseum (followed by ads for weight-loss programmes and latest exercise/torture gadgets)
  • home improvement programmes for DIY obsessives
  • “reality” programmes – though unsure of what “reality” they mean to represent
  • tacky American sitcoms (including the 1 millionth re-run of “Friends“)

TVNZ’s two “current affairs” shows, “Close-up“, and “Q+A” suffer from respective problems.

It is no longer possible to consider “Close-up” as a serious current affairs show. A more appropriate description would be a “magazine”-type show. And by “magazine”, I don’t mean “Time”  or “The Guardian“.  (Think instead  “Woman’s Day“.)

Q+A” is buried on Sunday mornings, at 9am. Too bad, I guess, for those folk wanting a lie-in or getting ready to take the kids out to sport, or the family to some other recreational activity. Of course, there is TVNZ’s “On Demand” – if you can remember to go online and look up the last episode you missed.

Sunday 9am is basically the ghettoisation of TVNZ’s last remaining, half-hearted attempt at serious current affairs programming. Once upon a time, it would have been screened at 7.30 or 8.30pm – but not with the populist pap that we are given instead.

As an example;

Saturday 7.30pm: “Annabel Langbein the free range cook” (cooking show)

Saturday 8.30pm:  “Restoration Man” (reality/makeover show)

Saturday 9.30pm: “Zodiac” (crime movie)

Sunday 7.30pm: “Sunday” (current affairs/magazine show)

Sunday 8.30pm: “The Black Balloon” (drama movie)

Sunday 10.35pm: “Damages” (crime movie)

Monday 7.30pm: “Border Security” (reality law-enforcement show)

Monday 8.00pm: “The Force”  (reality cop show)

Monday 8.30Pm: “Line of Fire” (reality cop show)

Monday 9.30pm: “City Homicide” (crime drama)

Tuesday 7.30pm: “Coronation St” (drama)

Tuesday 8.30pm: “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” (cooking show)

Tuesday 9.30pm: “Real Crime: The Missing” (reality cop show)

Wednesday 7.30pm: “Fair Go Awards” (local programme)

Wednesday 8.30pm: “Castle” (crime drama)

Wednesday 9.30pm: “Real Life: Tribal Wives” (reality show)

Thursday 7.30pm: “Coronation St” (drama)

Thursday 8.30pm: “Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance” (reality show)

Thursday 9.30pm: “Hawthorne” (drama)

Friday 7.30pm: “10 years younger: the challenge” (reality/make-over show)

Friday 8.30pm: “Married, Single, Other” (drama)

Friday 9.30pm: “The Naked Office” (reality show)

(Source: “The Listener“, 16 October 2010 – picked at random)

Slim pickings for folks wanting anything remotely serious by way of documentaries or current affairs. Though “Sunday” is placed at a somewhat better time – if not an odd day of the week.

TV3 is marginally better,  broadcasting their own current affairs show, “Sixty Minutes“, at 7.30, on Wednesday evenings.

And that’s it, people. That is what passes for public television in New Zealand, circa 2012AD; crime; cooking; and reality/make-over shows.

It is perhaps no wonder that New Zealanders are disengaging from the politics of our country, and why we had the lowest voter  turnout since 1887,

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Hmmm, what an intriguing coincidence that the low voter-turned favoured National.

Just as, coincidentally (?) TVNZ7 faces closure by… National,

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And Stratos TV ceased transmission after faces heavy transmission fees by Kordia, a state owned enterprise, whose share-holders are Ministers of… the National government.

Conspiracy? I doubt it. It would be fairly difficult (if not impossible) to keep such a conspiracy secret, in a small country like ours, where practically everyone knows everyone, or is only two-degrees removed from someone else.

Instead, the reason for the demise of anything remotely resembling public television is far more prosaic; lack of interest.

This government simply does not care about public television. Indeed, if John Key’s comment below are anything to go by, this is a government whose core values do not recognise the Arts or Culture, in any meaningful fashion,

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It seems fairly obvious;  if a direct financial benefit cannot be gained from a State, social, or community activity, then this government is unable (and unwilling) to quantify, or just plain recognise, any value from said activity.

Which explains why this John Key-led government appears to be so unconcerned at cutting early childhood education. After all, pre-schoolers don’t vote.

There also seems to be no votes in it for National, to retain TVNZ7.

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Which leaves us with the consequences of a Dumbed Down “public-service” television.

Once upon a time, television had excellent informative, current affairs shows. Just look at this 1984 Leader’s Debate, hosted by Ian Johnstone. Newspapers and magazines contained vast amounts of information – especially of a political and socio-economic nature.

Now, with staffing cutbacks; thinner editions; and reduced circulation, newspapers are no longer the mainstay of informing the public.

And television has totally abdicated any responsibility in this area.

I am reminded of a movie which came out six years ago,

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Idiocracy is a 2006 American film, a satirical science fiction comedy, directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Terry Crews.The film tells the story of two ordinary people taken into a top-secret military hibernation experiment to awaken in a dystopia wherein advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly stupid human society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.” – Source

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Hmmmm, now why does that description sound so hauntingly familiar…?

If you want to counter the drive toward New Zealand becoming even more of an Idiocracy, consider emailing a protest to John Key, and demand that government save TVNZ7. Otherwise, we will get the bland TV we deserve; dumbed down, for a dumbed down audience.

How dumb is that?

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Contacts

Save TVNZ7

John Key, Prime Minister: john.key@parliament.govt.nz

Minister of Broadcasting, Craig Foss: craigfoss@backingthebay.co.nz and craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz

Previous Blog entries

Another stake through the heart of quality broadcasting…

Additional

David Beatson – TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

David Beatson – New Zealand TV – there’s got to be a better way

David Beatson – Stratos is dead – who’s next?

Where to now for NZ public broadcasting?

How the badly maimed BBC can stand up to parasitic Sky

Brian Edwards – The TVNZ Charter – a toothless tiger out of its misery

Bernard Hickey: Free TV’s death spiral

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