Archive

Archive for the ‘A Little Blue Marble Called Earth’ Category

Letter to the Editor: Is doing nothing really the best we can hope to achieve?!

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From the Dominion Post, on 3 April, I was struck by the sheer head-in-the-sand attitude of this writer;

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letter to editor - bruce utting - dominion post - frank macskasy

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Sat, 03 May 2014 13:25:47 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" letters@dompost.co.nz 

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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When it comes to a "head in the sand" attitude, Bruce
Utting's letter (3 April) giving excuses why New Zealand
should do nothing to reduce our greenhouse gases emission,
is up there with the worst.

Utting said, "the fact is that no matter what we, in this tiny
country at the bottom of the world, do, or how much oil, gas
or coal we discover or use, it will not make the slightest
measurable difference to world climate..."

If we had adopted that defeatism in the 1970s, New Zealand
would never have led the world in stopping French atomic
bomb testing in the South Pacific.

If we had adopted that defeatist in the 1980s, New Zealand
would not have led the world in it's opposition to sporting
contact with the apartheid regime in South Africa.

New Zealand may be a small country, but our international
reputation is based on "punching above our weight" - not
hand-wringing and whining "woe is us, we're too small to
effect change".

Like the damage caused to the Ozone Layer by human-produced
chloroflourocarbons (phased out in 1992), unless we do our
part to reduce CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, we
will continue to wreak havoc on our environment.


-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

 

 

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References

Wikipedia: Cloroflourocarbons/Ozone Layer


 

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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A message from Greenpeace about Simon Bridges

17 April 2014 2 comments

I received this email today, from Greenpeace;

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Hi Frank,

GREENPEACE

PHOTO: Simon Bridges

We’ve called for Simon Bridges to be sacked over his incompetent mishandling of the Energy and Resources portfolio. The final straw was him opening the Victoria Forest Park up for mining without even knowing it existed.

Within days over 15,000 people have joined the call but we’re missing your name!
 
CLICK HERE NOW TO TAKE<br /><br />
ACTION” width=”171″ height=”33″ border=”0″ hspace=”10″ /></a></strong></span></em></p>
<p><span style= Last time the Government did something this stupid 50,000 people marched up Queen Street and the decision to mine New Zealand’s best ‘Schedule 4’ conservation land was overturned. But it seems they’ve forgotten how strongly we feel about our wild places.

Under the Minister’s watch the Government has opened vast areas of New Zealand’s oceans to risky deep sea drilling, and now he’s opened our largest forest park to new mining and drilling.

The Minister’s obsession with oil at any cost is robbing New Zealanders of the cleaner smarter economy that could create tens of thousands of jobs and provide real prosperity.

The decisions we make about our energy choices today will determine the prosperity of our children’s future. It’s clear that Bridges is not up to the job. He’s making the wrong decisions on really important stuff and New Zealand deserves better. It’s time for him to go.

Use our quick easy form to send a message to the Prime Minister now

- Nick and the whole crew at Greenpeace

 

 

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I was only too happy to oblige, and added my name to the on-line petition.

I encourage you, reading this, to do likewise. (And pass it on to others!)

Simon Bridges’ incompetance is such that he is too dangerous to remain as a Minister of the Crown.

 

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National dance to corporate interests

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Letter to the Editor: National’s response to Green solar policy is sheer hypocrisy!

16 February 2014 3 comments

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FROM:   "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the Editor
DATE:    Sun, 16 Feb 2014 20:31:51 +1300
TO:     "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ HERALD

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The Green Party  policy, to fund the installation of solar
panels on 30,000 homes, is sheer common sense. As power
prices continue to rise and power supply is heavily reliant
on good rainfall in hydro-areas, anything that make homes
more self-sufficient is to be welcomed.

I was therefore stunned and flabbergasted to hear National's
energy minister, Simon Bridges, almost hysterical in his
condemnation of the Green Party,

    “Money doesn't grow on trees, even for the Greens.
This is just back to the old roll out the printing press and
start printing money from the Greens.”

Someone please take Mr Bridges aside and flash the National
Party's Energy Policy document in front of his baby-fresh
face and remind him that in 2009 National allocated $1
billion for home insulation, as part of an agreement with
the Green Party. In  a media release dated 16 May 2013,
Bridges waxed lyrical about the home insulation scheme,

    “Warmer, drier homes provide real benefits to New
Zealanders Mr Bridges says. As well as energy efficiency
gains, insulating homes reduces health risks such as
respiratory illnesses and serious diseases like rheumatic
fever. Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes will help boost
the health and well-being of New Zealanders living in poor
housing and is part of the Government’s response to child
poverty.”

So spending $1 billion  on home insulation is a good thing?

But lending for solar panels for our homes is bad?

Considering that the $1 billion spent by National was in the
form of non-recoverable grants (up to $1,500 per home),
whilst the Greens are talking about low-interest loans, it
occurs to me that the Greens are more fiscally conservative
than the money-splurging National Party, who waste
tax-dollars like it grows on blue trees.

This is the National Party that gifted $30 million to Rio
Tinto and over $90 million to Warner Bros to subsidise 'The
Hobbit'. Both Rio Tinto and 'The Hobbit' have  made billions
in profits.

I'd rather spend our taxes on New Zealanders rather than
subsidising billion-dollar  foreign corporations.

Mr Bridges - breathe through your nose!
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-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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For the actual policy launch, here is Russel Norman’s speech on a Youtube clip,

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References

TV3: How The Hobbit came to stay in NZ

Beehive.govt.nz: $100m for investing in warmer, healthier homes

Fairfax media: $1b Budget warmup

TV3: Labour backs Greens’ solar panel policy

Youtube: Solar Homes policy launch

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vote mana labnour green

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Key’s challenge to Deep Sea Oil Drilling Protesters

11 February 2014 2 comments

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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Key has made a challenge to Deep Sea Oil Drilling Protesters,

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"The comments I made in rebuttle were to the leader look, come to Wellington, spend a week with my ministers and their ministries. If at the end of that week you're proved to be right in the assertions you're making, I'll join your protest. "But if you're proved to be wrong, go out there and tell the protesters, because many of the things he was saying were just simply and utterly not correct. And that's why those people are protesting - because they've effectively got misinformation."

“The comments I made in rebuttle were to the leader look, come to Wellington, spend a week with my ministers and their ministries. If at the end of that week you’re proved to be right in the assertions you’re making, I’ll join your protest.

“But if you’re proved to be wrong, go out there and tell the protesters, because many of the things he was saying were just simply and utterly not correct. And that’s why those people are protesting – because they’ve effectively got misinformation.”

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That’s quite a challenge.

However, issuing such a challenge is ultimately futile. For a challenge to be accepted, there has to be a measure of trust on both sides.

Quite simply, the days of trusting our current Prime Minister – with all his broken promises; bending the truth; lying by omission;  ducking responsibility; shifting blame onto others; telling only half the truth (or less); and outright lies – is long gone.

As just one example. Let’s not forget that when Greenpeace first released their modelling of a deep-sea oil blow-out, it was dismissed as “scare-mongering” by the Prime Minister,

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PM dismisses Greenpeace oil spill report

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Two months later, and documents released by Maritime New Zealand (prompted by an Official Information Act request for Anadarko’s discharge management plan) revealed even more disturbing news – Greenpeace had actually under-estimated the effects of a deep-sea oil blowout!!!

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Oil leak numbers far worse than assumed

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So Key’s dismissal of Greenpeace’s report had been wrong.  Greenpeace’s modelling was not only shown to be correct, but actually under-estimated any disaster scenario.

Did Key admit that his initial assessment of Greenpeace’s report was premature and wrong?

Did Key apologise?

Did the Anadarko report prompt Key to review his support for deep sea oil drilling?

Did Key announce “I’ll join your protest!”?

The answer to each of those four questions is a flat out; “No”.

So this blogger wonders; why should any protestor  take up Key’s challenge when our Prime Minister has already demonstrated he is not to be trusted?

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References

Radio NZ: PM dismisses Greenpeace oil spill report

Fairfax media: Oil leak numbers far worse than assumed

Radio NZ:  PM says deep sea protesters misled

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deep sea oil drilling new zealand

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 February 2014.

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Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part rua)

1 February 2014 1 comment

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Continued from: Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

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One day son al this will be yours

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NZ, Wellington, 24 January 2014 – As Wellington basked in a fine, warm summer day, over two hundred people gathered at Midland Park, in Lambton Quay, in the city’s CBD.

The message from Wellingtonians was simple; don’t mess with our environment;

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The media filmed and recorded, as speakers addressed the crowd, and Wellingtonians lined up to sign the Trespass Notice;

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Oil Free Wellington organiser, James Barber, on the bullhorn;

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TV1 and TV3 camera crews, with Radio NZ’s reporter off-picture;

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The protest march took off along Lambton Quay, toward the offices of Anadarko, several city-blocks away;

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Strangely, the police insisted that protesters keep to the footpath instead of the road.  Which proved more of an inconvenience to other pedestrians than potential  inconvenience to vehicle traffic, of which there was little on the road;

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When some of the protesters spilled onto the edge of the road, this police officer took a strong response to force them back on the footpath – despite the road being closed to  vehicular traffic. There was a momentary face-to-face confrontation between James and this policeman;

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It seemed rather unnecessary, as most  protesters were good natured, middle class Kiwis, rather than “hard-core-fanatical-extremists-hellbent-on-the-destruction-of-Western-Capitalism”.

The marchers moved along Hunter Street, crossing a road. Next stop, Anadarko!

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There was support from by-standers and passers-by, such as this worker who stood across the road from the marchers, expressing her obvious approval by clapping;

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The protestors arrived at the Todd Building, where Anadarko  is headquartered. At this point, the crowd numbers had swelled to nearly 300 (approx);

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The open courtyard quickly filled;

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The Mana Party was well represented at the protest;

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anti-anadarko protest - midland park - wellington - NZ - 24 January 2014

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Meanwhile, as pointed out in the previous part of this blog report – the Labour Party was conspicuous by it’s absence.

Oil Free Wellington organiser and spokesperson, Fi Gibson (in background, with loudspeaker), addressed the crowd and explained that the Trespass Notice would be delivered to Anadarko, who would be urged to pack up and leave New Zealand;

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Ursula and Ruby had their own message for Anadarko;

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An unusually heavy police presence (at least three other policemen off-camera) at a peaceful, low-key protest;

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Had someone from the Beehive given instructions that Anadarko’s offices and representatives were to be protected at all costs? With oil licences worth billions at stake, it’s not unlikely that such instructions were issued from “on high”.

These three young women are members of a coalition of environmentalist student activists from Wellington High School and Wellington East Girls College. From left-to-right, Rheilli, Courtney, and Anna;

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Spokesperson Anna had this to say on the problem posed by deep-sea drilling;

“We’re a coalition between Wellington East Girls College and Wellington High School. We are Oil Free Wellington for Schools…

… We support support Greenpeace,  Green Party,  Oil Free Wellington and any other grass roots or NGO groups in the area, to stop deep sea drilling of our coast. Particularly in the Pegasus Bay area because it’s right where we live and we love the ocean. We want to protect the ocean not only for  us, as children, but for our children and their children, the future generations of New Zealand.”

I asked what they saw as the top concerns around deep sea drilling. Anna replied,

“Well, I’m definitely concerned about the spill risk which is huge. There is no way that this is an environmentally viable solution.

But my main  concern is that we’ll all  be contributing to global warming.

Already out of the 3,000 available giga-tonnes of carbon fuel-reserves we can only afford to burn another 500 of those [giga-tonnes]. Those are the ones we already have. We have no business digging up more.

We can’t raise the temperature above 2 degrees, otherwise it could mean mean catastrophic climate change [and] out  of control situations.”

I was mightily impressed by Anna, and her friend’s knowledge and dedication to environmental issues. If the young people of New Zealand are of the intelligence and passion of these three young people, then the future of this country is a bright one indeed! (No, not John Key’s “vision” of “bright”.) They’ll have to be – our generation will be leaving our children and grand-children a hell of a mess to clean up.

Before dispersing, people were invited to leave messages for Anadarko on the courtyard floor and footpath (in removable chalk);

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The messages varied,

“Solar energy is the way”

“Go home Anadarko”

“Frack off”

“[peace sign] world peace”

“Stop killing our oceans”

“Keep out greed”

“No deep sea oil”

“We’re better than oil”

“Leave our sacred land”

“Enough is enough”

“You’re on the wrong side”

“Leave the sea alone”

“No future in oil mate”

“Don’t drill just chill”

“How do you sleep at night?”

“Blood is on your hands”

“Fuck John Key”

“Deep sea drilling is a criminal act”

“We [heart] this planet”

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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On the issue of Labour’s visible absence; if the Labour Party wants to set itself apart from the Left – as well as general mainstream, middle-class Kiwi society – by supporting the phenomenally risky practice of deep sea drilling, as well as adding to greenhouse gases – then the Labour leadership should not be surprised if they find their fortunes falling in the polls. Whilst at the same time, unsurprisingly, the Greens will be the rising star.

I was intrigued by the make-up of the crowd who protested. Most seemed to be ‘ordinary’ New Zealanders – the sort who would be working in offices; shopping in malls; taking their kids to school; etc. And a large majority were women.

I believe that the leadership of the two main Parties have mis-read the concerns of the public on this matter.

I believe it will become an election issue.

And I believe the Green Party (with perhaps Mana) will stand to gain from their more cautious, common sense approach to this unpopular practice.

I would also offer a word of caution to the Labour leadership; if between now and the election we suffer another major oil spill of our shores, do they really want to be ‘tarred’ by the same oil-brush that National will inevitably be?

Another oil spill will spell the doom of this National government for the next decade at least. Labour would find itself dragged down with the Nats – because they have placed themselves on the wrong side of history.

The protest on 24 January through the streets of Wellington may have been small. But the constituency of the marchers reflected the greater constituency of the country as a whole.

Just in case any Labour and National MPs reading this are in doubt, they should look a little closer at the faces of the people in the pictures in this blog-report.

They are the faces of New Zealanders.

New Zealanders who vote.

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 January 2014.

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References

Oil Free Wellington | website

Oil Free Wellington | Facebook

NZ Herald: NZ not 100% pure but aspires to be, says Govt

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Oil Free Wellington is requested.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

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One day son al this will be yours

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NZ, Wellington, 24 January 2014 – Summer arrived just in time for a gathering of Wellingtonians protesting at deep-sea oil drilling and Anadarko’s presence in New Zealand.

It was a mild, warm day with a light breeze, as protesters gathered at Midland Park in Lambton Quay, down-town Wellington, and mingled with office workers having their lunch on the grass; concrete steps; and nearby Astoria Cafe;

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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People came with printed banners;

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Others made their own;

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Regardless of style and provenance, the message was crystal clear;

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“Expect resistance” – Kiwi style – which will be demonstrated at the ballot box, later this year;

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Political parties, that ignore public concerns at the dangerous practice of deep sea drilling, do so at their peril.

Some came dressed for the part, like this “sea gull”;

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Aya (center) and two fellow Young socialists – the next generation of leaders on the Left. They will be leading the charge against irresponsible corporate, government, and capitalist activity which threatens our planet’s environment;

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The message for all politicians, whether from the Left or Right;

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Wellingtonians were invited to sign a Trespass Notice, to be delivered  in person to Anadarko;

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Many in the crowd who did not take part in the protest were still eager to add their name to the Trespass Notice;

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A simple message, delivered in a clever way;

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So when did the notion of clean water; un-polluted seas; and respect for the environment become a “radical” thing? Isn’t New Zealand supposed to be proud of it’s “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green” reputation? Or, as National suggested,  are those “aspirational goals” only?

Young Arlo, standing behind his dad, Green MP Gareth Hughes, as he addressed the protest rally,

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Gareth spoke without a prepared speech, and said that this was about protecting the environment for children “like my son, Arlo”. His sentiments were well recieved by the crowd.

Arlo,  holding his simple message for what it’s all about;

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Gareth was followed by Wellington Regional Councillor and environmentalist, Paul Bruce;

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Paul gave the science behind global warming and said that with  humans continuing to load up the atmosphere with CO2 and seas continuing to warm, it was time to call a halt.

After Paul, Mana Party member and campaigner, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati took the loudspeaker;

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Ariana began by repeating the simple truth; “Aotearoa is not for sale!” She said that deep sea drilling was part of the neo-liberal agenda to “mine it, drill, frack it”.

Ariana said that neo-liberalism was a failed economic system that exploited our resourtces for the benefit of the One Percent. She said bluntly,

No one has the right to prostitute our land!”

Arians expressed her disappointment that Labour had not ruled out deep sea drilling and urged Labour supporters “to work on their Labour MPs“.

Many New Zealanders  will not accept dangerous decisions from politicians who, after all, are only seeking short-term gain and solutions to complex problems. When ‘ordinary’, middle class New Zealanders are expressing opposition to deep sea drilling and all the risks entailed, politicians who ignore their concerns run the risk of being tossed out of office.

Voting is resistance;

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Green MP, Gareth Hughes, interviewed by a TV1 news team;

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Kevin Hackwell, representing one of New Zealand’s most formidible and credible environmental protection organisations, Forest & Bird,  speaking to  members of the public;

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In fact, only one group was conspicuous with it’s total absence: the Labour Party.

And I think we know why.

Continued at: Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part rua)

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 January 2014.

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References

Oil Free Wellington | website

Oil Free Wellington | Facebook

NZ Herald: NZ not 100% pure but aspires to be, says Govt

TV3 News: Oil companies welcome Labour backing

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Oil Free Wellington is requested.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Guest Author: A Citizen’s Submission on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme

- Paula Fern

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milk prices-pollution

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Plan Change 6 and RWSS Submission

Representation

Paula Fern

Introduction

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My name is Paula Fern and I am a resident of Waipawa, where I’ve lived with my family since December 2011. My family ties to this area go back to my great great grandparents, James Davey and Susan Stubbs who originally settled in Dannevirke after the birth of their first child, my great grandmother Minnie, in Havelock North. This is my 9 year old daughter Marni who wanted to come along today so she could see for herself who would be responsible for deciding the fate of our river, the Waipawa. Your decision directly impacts the future of my children, and all the other kids in our community.

“Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au – I am the river, the river is me” is a true description as our water is daily a part of us; our townships water supply comes from two shallow bores adjacent to the Waipawa River. As such maintaining a healthy river is essential for our community.

According to the latest published compliance (1) our water supply is ungraded, and it doesn’t comply for E.coli or Protozoa, and no official P2’s, such as nitrates, are even tested for. In light of the current situation in Canterbury it would be appropriate to know what else we’re actually drinking.

As a family we spend a lot of time in and with our river, whether it’s walking with our dog, swimming, or fishing. Marni’s older brother is becoming quite the expert at enticing trout onto his line, and releasing them afterwards.

We realise how fortunate we are, being able to walk just down the road to what is a vital asset. It gives so much to us, and we believe that it should be protected and enhanced, not turned into a toxic dumping ground and over allocated for irrigation, which has been the fate of so many of our waterways. It will be the fate of many more if we don’t stand up and say no, and that’s the message I want to convey to you all; the risks of this particular proposal outweigh any perceived benefit.

Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme

The first part of my submission I’d like to speak about concerns the RWSS.

I am opposed to the dam in its entirety because of the unacceptable risk it exposes my community to, and other matters.

The first time this scheme impacted on me was when I went to see a local business to see if they had any part time work available and within 5 minutes I was told that if I didn’t support the dam then I wouldn’t be employed, and that the dam would be the saviour of businesses and retail in Waipukurau township. I was then shown a large map of the dam site. To say that I was left a little perplexed by the experience is an understatement. Apart from knowing that I couldn’t work there, I also knew that I would have to find out more about this golden goose.

It’s been a slow process as information hasn’t been overly forthcoming.

I was reading the Assessment for Environmental Effect in July 2013 when I read about the risk assessment for the dam. It made me take notice, and then I found the final draft of the Dam Break Analysis dated March 2013. Some facts that I instantly grasped were the Potential Impact Category (PIC) is High, the Population At Risk (PAR) is approximately 1000, so roughly half the population of Waipawa. But of course the location of those at risk isn’t exclusive to Waipawa, it includes those that are in the potential inundation path directly below the dam who wouldn’t have any warning or time to evacuate, and includes people in the Lindsay Road area of Waipukurau, and other low lying areas which are pointed out in the maps. It would affect the lower part of Waipawa, with depths up to 5 metres in some parts; there is no real difference between the Sunny Day failure as opposed to the Rainy Day.

There have been lots of words bandied about since, like the chances of failure are small, they build on fault lines all the time. From one now ex regional councillor when I asked his opinion of the potential dam failure, and pointed out the population at risk and that there is actually a fairly good chance that it will fail, his response was,

Well I guess they’d be dead, but we need the water.”

There are several questions that need to be asked; how would insurance be affected for those that own property in the zone? Will premiums go through the roof, or could insurance companies refuse to cover properties completely? Will house values fall, and will homeowners be able to sell with the potential risk hanging over their property? These are all unknowns because QVNZ and insurers won’t comment until a decision is made.

However I did contact a cousin who has been working in insurance on the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery. He asked if this will be noted on the district plan in the future, and noted against the property titles as being in a hazard zone. He also noted that a low-level flood would cause more damage from sewerage overflow and spread.

So why would it fail?

Earthquake:

The Dam is being built approximately 800m from the Mohaka Fault, which according to Kyle Bland of GNS is a “very, very active fault”. For a geologist charged with looking for oil and gas deposits that is probably a very good thing, but for building a major piece of infrastructure that can potentially kill a thousand people or more it’s not such a fantastic prospect. The Mohaka Fault, which is what the Makaroro reservoir would sit directly on top of, is classed as a 1 on the Recurrence Interval Class along with the Alpine and Wellington faults, which means a recurrence of under 2000years. The scale goes down to 6 which is a RI of between 20,000-125,000years.(2&3)

On the Civil Defence Hawkes Bay page there’s also some very clear information on potential earthquakes on the Mohaka fault(4) situated in the proposed dam site area over a 475yr return period, and 5000yr return. The 5000yr return represents the Maximum Credible Earthquake which has a Modified Mercalli Intensity(MMI) of 11, and a peak ground acceleration(PGA) of 1.1.

The description of a MMI 11 is that it’s Extreme. Few if any structures remain standing. There would be numerous landslides, with cracks and deformation of the ground.

A PGA of 1.1 is violent shaking and the potential damage is very heavy.

I’ve read the evidence of Trevor Matuschka, Philip Carter and Maria Villamor Perez. The specifications that they are quoting don’t appear to be of the degree of MCE that we are expecting. In Mr Carter’s evidence, 3.3

(a) The dam site is located around 750 m from the primary active Mohaka Fault which has an average recurrence of fault movement of around 1300 years and this together with other active faults in the vicinity, pose a credible shaking hazard to the dam site. GNS has recommended a maximum credible earthquake (MCE) of magnitude Mw 7.5, equivalent to 7.1 on the Richter scale. This would produce an estimated 84th percentile peak ground acceleration at the dam site of 0.77 g.

(b)The MCE is defined as the largest earthquake that can reasonably be expected to be generated by a specific source on the basis of the available seismological and geological evidence. It represents the earthquake hazard level used for design and evaluation of critical features of high hazard projects.

(c)Modern dam design guidelines, including the New Zealand Society on Large Dams (NZSOLD), adopt a two level design approach. A dam must be able to withstand the effects of earthquake shaking that could reasonably be expected to occur in the life of the dam with none or minimal, easily repairable damage. This level is known as the Operational Basis Earthquake (OBE) and is taken equal to earthquake shaking with an average return period of 150 years. The dam must also be able to withstand, without uncontrolled release of the reservoir, earthquake shaking associated with the earthquake source capable of generating the highest level of ground shaking at the site (in this case the Mohaka Fault). This is known as the Maximum Design Earthquake (MDE).

As the 5000yr return is considerably larger than this and could occur within the life of the dam then surely that is what should be the MDE, not what Mr Carter is quoting that GNS have recommended?

Can a dam be built to withstand an earthquake of this size?

How can the dam designers be confident their finalised design would survive such a catastrophic event?

As far as I know, there are no examples of a dam in this fault scenario surviving an earthquake of the magnitude expected. In fact I found a paper penned by the current and two former chairs of ICOLD, Martin Wieland, A. Bozovic and R.P Brenner (Mr Wieland is someone that Mr Matuschka refers to in his evidence several times) that also supports my assumption. In it they state,

As a general guideline, if significant movement along a fault crossing the dam site is accepted as a reasonable possibility during the lifetime of the dam, the best advice is to select an alternative site, less exposed to geodynamic hazard. Such standpoint is supported by the fact that no dam, foreseen to successfully survive the shearing action of a fault slip in its foundation, has ever been exposed to actual test under such event(10).”

This appears to contradict the evidence of Mr Matuschka, 2.2(iii) I consider a CFRD is a good option for the site. This type of dam is inherently capable of withstanding high levels of earthquake ground motion, the design can accommodate displacements, and even if the upstream concrete facing is damaged the embankment will not fail. Also in his evidence it is stated in a letter to Tonkin and Taylor under site selection, “there are no ideal dam sites in the project area.

There seems to be contradictions at every turn.

There has been an attempt by HBRC to show the effects on Waipawa should the dam fail and breach in the kind of earthquake which comes along once per century in these parts, but their downplaying publicly of the risk is irresponsible in my opinion. In the event of an earthquake we’re fortunate that our townships are small in that we have no high-rise buildings, and the majority of dwellings are wooden structures on raised foundations.

They crack but don’t tend to collapse like brick or concrete buildings. An EQC research paper I read from Dec 1995 reaffirms this,

Fortunately, except for the Wellington area these faults lie mostly on the eastern margin and within axial ranges. They pass mainly through farmland, areas of forestry and the Ruahine Range. It is possible that some farm houses in close proximity to the faults will receive damage but structures built on the fault may be ruptured or buried if in the path of any earthquake triggered landslides (7).”

The chances are that those in the identified inundation zone would survive, some may be trapped and/or injured in collapsed buildings, but they’d be alive. Add a wall of water to the scenario and the chances of survival lessen.

A more likely scenario than dam failure and inundation is that Reservoir Triggered Seismicity will cause an earthquake. Mr Carter, and Mr Matuschka refer to the Zipingpu Dam as being an example of a CFRD that has withstood a catastrophic earthquake. What they both failed to mention was that the Zipingpu, or specifically its reservoir, is held by many to be the cause of the Wenchuan Earthquake that it survived (5&6). Over 69,000 people were confirmed dead and over 18,000 were never accounted for as a result of the Mw7.9 earthquake that occurred on May 12, 2008.

It wasn’t the dam failing that killed these people; the area that the Reservoir Triggered Seismicity destroyed was far wider than a projected inundation path and as a consequence far more deadly and destructive.

The effects of this go much wider than just people in the way of a rush of dam water.

An earthquake from RTS is certain to be very shallow because of the way the fracture is triggered, so the surface shaking would be very intense and will certainly kill people.

Living in fear of a random dam break is one thing – why should we live in fear of an earthquake caused by the dam as well? It’s not right. I don’t think the risk has been investigated at all, and the risk is very real, no matter how much the promoters of the dam wish to downplay it. Who are these people to say we have to have it? Even if they are ok to be personally at risk they don’t speak for me, and for the sake of my family and my community, I’m not okay with this. Many of the people involved with this process do not have to physically live with the consequences, and I wonder how their perspective would alter if they did.

Why are we being used as guinea pigs?

Other Issues

Emergency Action Plan:

It hasn’t been written yet. Are there going to be sirens along the river? Is it going to be the volunteer fire fighters that would be expected to take on this duty too?

Final Design:

The fact that the design wouldn’t be completed until after consent was granted, and that HBRC and CHBDC would have the final say adds to my total lack of confidence that the design would come under enough scrutiny.

Creating a Low Wage Economy:

John Hayes National MP for Wairarapa column from June 5th,

Australian workers will get a 2.6 per cent rise to $A622.20 a week or $NZ750.50 at the prevailing exchange rate. That’s $A16.37 ($NZ19.75) an hour for Aussies’ 38-hour working week compared with $NZ13.75 an hour or $NZ550 for Kiwis’ 40-hour working week. I note that the Labour Party spokesperson on Labour issues is wringing her hands in despair at this news.

I think we should celebrate because a rise in the minimum wage in Australia makes our labour force more competitive and will be helpful in attracting investment and jobs to New Zealand. About 18 months ago CHB Mayor Peter Butler and I approached Australian based food processors with the suggestion of moving across the Tasman to establish plants in New Zealand to process food produced under newly irrigated areas.

We established that Australian food processors are interested to do this when our new irrigation is in place. A driver from the Australian perspective is that the New Zealand labour force is well educated, more productive and less unionised than their Australian counterparts. Getting our new irrigation schemes up and running is vital for our collective wellbeing. Irrigation and energy development will be real game changers for New Zealand.”

My interpretation of this column is that the local Mayor and the current MP both are promoting a low wage economy for Central Hawke’s Bay. If they were looking to the best interests of the community and wanted to revitalise retail then they should be encouraging innovative businesses here that pay their employees at the bare minimum a living wage. People on the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour are struggling to afford even the basics, there is no discretionary income, so supporting the flagging retail in Waipukurau definitely wouldn’t be on the agenda.

Other issues that concern me are the following, but have been covered extensively and very well by others so I’ll keep it brief:

Flushing Flows

Flushing flows imply to me that it’s moving the problem downstream, but it won’t make it magically disappear. Would the algae be carried all the way to the coastline, or would it end up being pushed into the bends in the river along the way?

I can see the increased amount of flow will create a danger for recreational users of the river, the swimmers and anglers. I’m also concerned about the birds like the Banded Dotterel that nest on the gravel islands.

Loss of Forest and threat to terrestrial ecology

Losing another piece of lowland forest and its biodiversity, which Central Hawke’s Bay is pretty much devoid of, is a tragedy. One of the things that I noticed when we moved to CHB was a lack of native bird life. When we lived in Napier, a stone’s throw from the city centre, it was a common occurrence to have several Kereru in the backyard at once, Bellbirds, Tui etc. I had a bellbird that used to land outside our home office window everyday when the Echium was in flower which to me was special as I’d never been that close before. Here we see Tui and fantails very occasionally because of a lack of habitat.

Dam Decommissioning

The cost of decommissioning a dam is more than the cost of construction, so if you allow this to be built you’re not only burdening this generation with the cost, you’re inflicting a bigger debt on Marni’s children and grandkids. The life expectancy of a CFRD is 50 to 100 years, depending on silt and gravel build up, maintenance, earth movement from seismic movement etc. So if you allow this to proceed it will return to public ownership just in time for it to be decommissioned.

Increasing Debt and the Associated Risk

With land values on the increase, and the added pressure of paying high prices for irrigated water, traditional farming is becoming unaffordable. According to an article from Stuff 14-11-2013,

Loans by registered banks to dairy farmers this year totalled $32.37 billion. Total agriculture on farm loans $49.2 billion and agriculture as a whole owed banks $50.5 billion.”

That’s a lot of risk being carried by dairy, and what happens when it falls over, because it will eventually. It’s only a matter of time that a “scare” becomes a reality, and that will decimate the industry. Bringing in supplementary feed from countries with foot and mouth for example increases that likelihood, not to mention financing the decimation of another countries ecology, but that’s another story. It’ll be the small guys with the big loans that get hit first, and the corporates will walk away.

One last thing which may seem really trivial to some, but if Dairying increases in this area there’s another side effect, increased danger on our country roads from tankers. I had actually forgotten what it was like to see so many milk tankers until recently when I was in the Manawatu, and from Dannevirke, suddenly they’re everywhere.

Plan Change 6

The second part of my submission that I would like to speak about is Plan Change 6. I am opposed because nitrate levels are set too high and other matters.

In my opinion this is a management plan that ignores a major contributor of degrading water quality in our rivers. With levels of Nitrogen, or nitrates exceeding safe drinking water standards in Canterbury and Waimea(8), and to learn that this is an accumulative problem should raise alarm bells with everyone. HBRC’s admission that site’s they have tested in the Ruataniwha catchment will exceed safe drinking standards by 2052 should also make everyone realise that existing practices need to halted, and farming intensification will speed up the degradation of our water.

Why are levels being set at the bottom-line? Why are they not being set instead at the optimum health for the whole aquatic system? I understand that allowable Nitrogen levels will be increased by almost 500% from what they are currently. I’m not a scientist, and I’ll leave the experts to their qualified explanations, but what I can say is what I’ve witnessed for myself.

During last summers drought we were frequent visitors to the river. We swim upstream of Waipawa, well upstream of the town sewerage treatment plant. The water levels were very low and green algal growth covered large parts of the remaining water in the slower flowing parts of the river. I heard an interview with someone from Federated Farmers blaming townships, and sewerage outfall specifically and its phosphorus content, as being a major cause of algal blooms. North of Waipawa, to my knowledge, there is no township that discharges anything into the water, so where do you think the nutrients are coming from? Green algae isn’t the problem though; Cyanobacteria is the main concern when you have children and dogs in or around the river. We were unaware that it was in the Waipawa as the signs were beside the Tukituki at Waipukurau, but we’ve since found out it is here too.

Last summer provided perfect conditions for algal growth; high temperatures, low water levels and the high nutrient levels. Climate change, bringing higher temperatures and increasing the frequency of drought and flood events will only make this worse.

The way water is allocated needs to be addressed, which means looking at land usage (9).

In 2010, 78% of allocated water was used for irrigation, 11% for Industrial use, 8% for drinking water and 3% for stock, which I perceive to mean drinking water for livestock.

Out of that 78% for irrigation, 76% was used for pasture, 13% Horticulture, 4% for both Arable farming and Viticulture, 2% was other and not specified, and 1% Recreational.

Estimated actual water use from consented takes in Hawkes Bay from 1999 to 2010, went from approximately 23,000 hectares to 47,000 hectares. Canterbury in the same period went from 400,000 hectares, to just under 700,000. Irrigation is a greedy consumer of water, and especially pasture irrigation. For areas that will experience drought in ever increasing cycles is it really the best choice for our finite resources?

When it comes to producing effluent cows are extremely gifted; 1 cow equals 15 people, so with 6.5 million cows approximately that’s the equivalent of 90 million people. That’s a rather mountainous pile. What sort of impact do you think unrestricted increases of dairy herds are going to have on this areas water catchment? If we want to care for our water then we definitely do not want intensification, and we need far better controls in place to handle what we do have.

We do need a comprehensive water plan that protects water quality for the ecological health of the river; unfortunately Plan Change 6 as it stands is not it. We need proven, robust science in place that puts the environment first, not measures that put commercial interests above the health of our river.

It’s interesting to me that Iain Maxwell has changed his opinion from the days when he was employed by Fish and Game. From an article that he wrote concerning the Taharua river at the headwaters of the Mohaka, that appeared in the August 2009 issue of BayBuzz he stated,

In the late 90’s large areas of the valley were converted from light pastoral farming and forestry to intensive dairy platforms. Since the conversion of land to dairy farming, the quality of water flowing down the Taharua River has declined, with increasing levels of nutrient (mainly nitrogen) in the water. The initial evidence suggests that this is not a coincidence and the changes are related.”

Conclusion

It’s always a good thing to try and identify a positive from any situation you find yourself in, and mine from all of this is it has started me on a journey. I’ve learned a huge amount over the last few months, met some wonderful people, and discovered this discussion has raged in other parts of the country for quite some years while I, like others, have been blissfully unaware.

So what specific outcomes would I like to see happen for the good of my community and district? Plan Change 6: I would like the health of the river and its ecology put to the forefront, optimum levels set, rather than just bottom lines which if detected have already been crossed.

I would like our water protected and enhanced, so dual management of both Phosphorus and Nitrogen.

Riparian planting has to be wide enough, and this along with the fencing of waterways needs to be actioned without delay; we also need more wetland areas.

Planning and resource consent need to be looked at so a broad mix of agriculture is encouraged and implemented. Large tracts of farm land being sold to corporate
concerns for intensive farming needs to be discouraged as it will not benefit this area economically, socially or environmentally.

Our changing climate and the strain it will put the river and aquifers under needs to be recognised.

My request for the dam is that you do not allow it to proceed. The risk is too great.

There are other alternatives for water storage, and they are small scale and locally controlled without the huge risk involved. They also don’t involve transferring what is held in commons for all being privatised for the financial benefit of a very small minority.

I have heard certain people say that this is a fait accompli, although I believe that you, the board, are approaching this with an open mind, and once you have heard all opinions you will come to a very different conclusion, that this isn’t the magic pill to cure all ills, or a golden goose. It’s more of a dead duck. There are other options without the negative impacts.

Works Cited

1. http://www.drinkingwater.esr.cri.nz/supplies/supplycomplyforcy.asp?ccode=WAI005

2. http://peer.berkeley.edu/events/2009/sfdc_workshop/Langridge_PEER_Hawke’sBay_RML.pdf

3. http://www.earth-prints.org/bitstream/2122/2409/1/824.pdf

4. http://www.cdemhawkesbay.govt.nz/PicsHotel/hawkesbaycdem/Brochure/EngineeringLifeline/Facing%20the%20Risks_Chap%202_Earthquake%20HazardsPt2.pdf

5. http://probeinternational.org/library/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Fan-Xiao12-12.pdf

6. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2009/02/early-warning.html

7. http://www.eqc.govt.nz/research/research-papers/neotectonics-ruahine-and-mohaka-faults-between-the-manawatu-gorge-and-puketitiri

8. http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/richmond-waimea/9202933/Dam-plan-fuels-nitrate-debate

9. http://www.parliament.nz/mi-nz/parl-support/research-papers/00PlibCIP151/freshwater-use-in-new-zealand

10. http://www.waterpowermagazine.com/features/featuredam-design-the-effects-of-active-faults/

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Key – will he put his $55m where his oily mouth is?

21 December 2013 1 comment

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

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Some wisdom from our current Prime Minister,

Yes, it is true that Anadarko Petroleum Corporation had a 25 percent ownership of the company or one of the companies that had a problem in the gulf. I think it is also worth remembering that in the Gulf of Mexico since 1947, 50,000 wells have been drilled, and to the best of my knowledge that problem in the gulf was the one major one that most people can remember.” – John Key, 23 October 2012, Parliament

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That statement seemed so factual; so reassuring; so level-headed.

A shame, then, that it was also utter rubbish. Yet again, Dear Leader has made another statement that is simply untrue. Whether through ignorance or more likely willful lying, Key has once again misled the public.

This time his ignorance/lying is on a scale that beggars belief.

Because even as you read this blogpost, an offshore drilling well owned by  US company, Taylor Energy Co,  has been  leaking oil into  the Gulf of Mexico only 18 kms off the southeast Louisiana coast  – and has been doing so  since 2004 (see: Lawsuit proceeds against Taylor Energy over a 9-year Gulf leak).

The number of oil spills in the Gulf is considerably more than just “one” – whether or not people can remember them.  (And since when did a problem or risk simply “go away” because people forgot about them? Is that how National conducts it’s risk analysis – whether the public can remember an incident or not?)

Despite  Key saying that “out of 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico, there had been a problem with only one of them”, Radio NZ reported otherwise,

But official US figures show that between 1964 and 2012 there were 259 spills of 50 barrels or more from various Gulf wells. They also show the deeper the wells went, the higher the chance of a spill.

Source: PM wrong on deep sea oil risks – Greens

And in the same Radio NZ report, an industry specialist  Dugald Roberts, who has 30 years of  experience in  US and Middle Eastern oil exploration, described Dear Leader’s  claim as “nonsense”,

“… one in every 20 wells will have containment issues and even that’s a conservative figure.”

On Fox News (hardly a left wing or “greenie” media outlet), a media report stated,

According to government statistics, from 2006-2010, there have been 40 spills in the Gulf of Mexico of 50 barrels or more. No spills that large have occurred this year, but if a spill does occur, industry officials say they’re ready.

Source: Gulf Oil Spill One Year Later: Clean-Up Continues, Oil-Soaked Memories Remain

Key’s reassurances therefore ring hollow – especially as he is misleading the public on the risks.

Interestingly, Environmental Minister, Amy Adams, appears better informed than our former currency-trading Prime Minister,

A study based on Gulf of Mexico oil wells and provided to the minister last year showed that the risks of an incident massively increased at a depth of 1500 metres, which is proposed in the Pegasus Basin off the South Island’s East Coast. It said that there was a 10 per cent chance of an incident within the first year at a depth of 300m – the level of exploration in Taranaki. When the depth was increased to 1500m, the risk rose to 70 per cent.

When challenged on this finding in the House yesterday, Ms Adams said the incidents in the study referred not only to oil blowouts but also lesser problems such as property damage, equipment failure or worker injuries.

She said the risk of a well blowout was closer to 0.25 per cent. This was based on a rate of 2.5 blowouts per 1000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

Source: Advice on oil-drilling risks misleading, says minister

In trying to minimise the risk, Adams has inadvertantly  revealed her own Leader to be ill-informed or a liar.

It would not be the first time that Key has been either badly informed (some might say woefully ignorant) – or wilfully mis-represented the truth (some might say outright lying).

National has engaged in risky policies in the past. The ‘reforms’ and de-regulation of  building industry codes and the dis-establishment of the mines inspectorate – all in the early 1990s – has resulted in over $11.3 billion dollars worth  of leaking and rotting homes, and the Pike River mining disaster.

Every time National de-regulates, it is left to the rest of the country to deal with the consequences; pick up the pieces; and pay the cost of fixing a mess.

This was never more so than with the Pike River disaster and the leaking homes crisis.

As I wrote in November 2012, in response to former ACT MP Heather Roy’s outrageous comments on TVNZ’s Q+A on de-regulation,

“The up-shot of  the [...] report (Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited) is that instead of actively policing mines and their safety standards, it was all left to individual companies to address. Instead of being “prescriptive” as the DoL laments, individual companies were to adopt a “a performance-based approach” and to “to take ‘all practicable steps’ to ensure health and safety, leaving it to the discretion of the duty holder how they achieve that standard“.

Well, we know how that turned out.

Twentynine men paid dearly for the liberalisation of safety regulations, in one of the most dangerous fields of  work on this planet.

The current state of our mines inspectorate is now so bad that even state-owned coal-mining company, Solid Energy publicly expressed it’s dis-satisfaction and called for the process to be handed over to Queensland for safety oversight…(Solid Energy wants Australia to run mines inspectorate)”

See: Heather Roy – head down the mine shaft?

Well, this blogger has had a royal gutsful of politicians implementing reforms that result in death and damage. Especially when, as Bill Birch did, they walk away and blame others for laws that they themselves passed.

As I wrote in May this year,

“It simply beggers belief and defies understanding that a Minister of the Crown – Simon Bridges, to be specific – could utter words like this,

At the time of Pike River there’s been serous systemic failures in the old Department of Labour, and as a health and safety regulator they were clearly dysfunctional and ineffectual.

But the problems were truly systematic and no one person was to blame.

Acknowledgement:  Fairfax Media – Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister

So  how on Earth has Bill Birch –  when he was Minister for Labour in the 1990s and was  the architect of de-regulation of the mining sector – gotten off so lightly in the media?

For Birch to say,

It raises the question of why weren’t they addressed if they were obvious deficiencies in the legislation – I don’t believe they were. I think systemic failure is more about people not putting the systems in place.

- is a travesty of everything that decent New Zealanders believe in.

Basically, what this “gentlemen” is saying is that because we, as a country, were lucky enough to get away with no disaster in our mines up until the day that Pike River Mine exploded in a flash of explosive methane – that his “reforms” cannot in any way be blamed?!?!

How in gods’ name does that make any sense whatsoever?!

Why on Earth has the media  not jumped all over this?!

The record of Birch’s “reforms” is readily available for those with the eyes to see, and the inclination to use those eyes.

[...]

The gutting of the mines inspectorate and permitting self-regulation by mining companies,  had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government –  where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act”, in 1992.

Under the guise of  “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities…”

See: National’s disdain for taking responsibility

And now Key and his mates want us – the tax-paying public who will eventually have to shell out (again) for any deep sea disaster clean-up – to trust them that they have assessed the risks properly and implemented appropriate safety measures?

Like hell.

Because it wasn’t too long ago that Anadarko’s own corporate affairs manager, Alan Seay,  made a startling admission on Radio NZ.

On 23 October, Seay admitted  it would take two weeks before an oil blow-out and spill could be capped. Listen to Seay answering Kathryn Ryan’s question at 15:45,

Ryan: “How long Alan, to bring in [equipment] and cap any spill?

Seay: “Well, you know, there are so many what-ifs involved in that, but you’ll have seen estimates of up to 14 days, or, yes, two weeks to bring say a capping stack into New Zealand and get that into place. So there’s a great deal of equipment that’s available in specialised locations...”

Listen: Reaction to Greenpeace-commissioned oil spill modelling report

Two weeks.

That is Anadarko’s own admission as to how long it would take to bring in specialised equipment to cap a blow-out.

Because none of that specialised gear exists in New Zealand.

Within that time, two weeks of uninterrupted oil would be gushing into the sea off our coastline, and eventually would end up on our beaches and estuaries.

As happened with the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in 2010.

Or these other instances of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico,

3 June 1979: Gulf of Mexico: exploratory oil well Ixtoc 1 blew out, spilling an estimated 140 million gallons of crude oil into the open sea. Although it is one of the largest known oil spills, it had a low environmental impact.

8 June 1990: off Galveston, Tex.: Mega Borg released 5.1 million gallons of oil some 60 nautical miles south-southeast of Galveston as a result of an explosion and subsequent fire in the pump room.

16 September 2004 (to present):  Oil is continually leaking from the site of a Taylor Energy platform (Platform 23051) that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and the Ocean Saratoga rig is back on site working to plug the leaks.

27 July 2010:  Abandoned oil well  leaks oil into a Louisiana bay about 35 miles south of New Orleans after a barge crashed into the structure.

Source
Source

Anyone thinking they can rely on Maritime NZ should think again. Despite being mandated to take charge of any oil-well disaster – Maritime NZ has no specialised equipment to speak of (see: Anadarko Oil spill equipment grossly inadequate).

Neither Anadarko nor Maritime NZ has anywhere near this kind of equipment, as used in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf blow-out,

Nearly 2,000 personnel are involved in the response effort with additional resources being mobilized as needed.

79 response vessels have been responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts. In addition, six fixed-wing aircraft, 11 helicopters, 10 remotely operated vehicles, and two mobile offshore drilling units have been deployed. Two C-130 aircraft equipped with aerial spray systems were en route Friday afternoon, according to the Defense Department.

More than 217,000 feet of boom (barrier) has been assigned to contain the spill; an additional 305,760 feet is available.

Source: Gulf Oil Spill, by the Numbers

This is the risk that Key  is irresponsibly exposing our country to.

Well, this blogger has an answer to this problem (I refuse to refer to it as an “issue”).

It’s called taking personal responsibility.

National is very, very Big on Responsibility.

So, let’s apply it to those making the Big Decisions: John Key and Energy Minister Simon Bridges.

My plan is simple: should a spill or blow-out occur, those Ministers responsible will be held to account and made to contribute to clean-up costs.  Even years later, after they have left (or been thrown out of) Parliament.

That would involve placing a lien over John Key’s amassed $55 million dollar wealth and his properties in Parnell, Huapai, Rodney, Hawaii, and London and Simon Bridges’ home in Matua, Tauranga.

In fact, under the principle of Cabinet Collective Responsibility the assets of every single National and Coalition Minister should be made available to be used to pay for damage and clean-up of the environment and affected people’s loss of earnings and loss of property values.

Let’s start applying National’s notion of taking Personal Responsibility to those individuals who have the power to affect our lives, society, and economy in ways that no other person or organisation has in this country: Ministers of the Crown.

It is time to hold government ministers to account and to make them all directly responsible for their actions and decisions. It’s called “strict liability“.

Let’s see the same accountability from our politicians that they demand from us.

Now let’s see how fast permits are granted for deep sea drilling in our coastal waters.

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 December 2013.

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References

Roberts Oil Company Pty  Ltd

Scoop media: Anadarko Oil spill equipment grossly inadequate

NZ Herald: Advice on oil-drilling risks misleading, says minister

NZ Herald: Anadarko protest: Technical issues delay deep sea drilling

TV3:  Key dismisses Anadarko protesters as ‘rent-a-crowd’

NZ Parliament:  Oil and Gas Exploration—Deep-sea Oil-drilling and Consent Process

Radio NZ: PM wrong on deep sea oil risks – Greens

Fox News: Gulf Oil Spill One Year Later: Clean-Up Continues, Oil-Soaked Memories Remain

CBS News: Gulf Oil Spill, by the Numbers

Huffington Post: Lawsuit proceeds against Taylor Energy over a 9-year Gulf leak

Other research

Congressional Research Service: Oil Spills in U.S. Coastal Waters: Background and Governance

Listen to

Radio NZ: Reaction to Greenpeace-commissioned oil spill modelling report

Previous related blogposts

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

The Bad Oil

National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

On the smell of an oily rag

A lethal lesson in de-regulation

Health and safety jobcuts? Haven’t we been down this road before?!

W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

National’s disdain for taking responsibility

Heather Roy – head down the mine shaft?

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Gen Zero at the Bucket Fountain: “What’s the hold-up?”

13 August 2013 1 comment

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what's the hold-up

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A statement from the Generation Zero website,

Right now, we have the opportunity to lead the way to a safe climate future. The evidence shows it’s 100% possible to create a thriving New Zealand beyond fossil fuels. So what’s the holdup?

We need leadership at every level, from our communities to the politicians we choose to elect. That’s why Generation Zero brings you ‘What’s the Holdup?’, a nationwide speaking tour connecting climate solutions with the people to make them happen.

We’ll be presenting smart energy and transport solutions, discussing obstacles, and showcasing New Zealand’s opportunities to move beyond fossil fuels. Our speakers include high profile experts and young Kiwis who are working on solutions. Join us to find out how we can get moving on climate change, and create a smart, healthy and prosperous Aotearoa beyond fossil fuels.”

We believe that we’re at a crossroads, and that we can choose to make a story that’s worth telling. We’ll make it happen, but only if we all work together!

source

NZ, Wellington, 10 August – Generation Zero activists were at the  Cuba Mall’s Bucket Fountain, promoting their nationwide speaking tour “on getting New Zealand moving on climate change”.

The first thing to catch my attention, was this message on the Mall’s brickwork pavement,

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gen-zero-cuba-mall-10.8.2013

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… followed by a Godzilla-sized Godzilla towering over-head.  A great eye-catching, attention-grabbing technique to arouse the attention of passers-by,

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gen-zero-cuba-mall-10-8-2013

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Paul and one of his colleagues in the “gen Zero” movement proudly displaying their banner for passers-by,

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gen-zero-cuba-mall-10-8-2013

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Spokesperson for the group, Paul said,

“We’re here  promoting the nationwide speaking tour which is coming to Wellington on Monday. And we’re been travelling around the country talking to people about  getting New Zealand moving on climate change and the opportuinities we’ve got to do that.”

I asked Paul about Fonterra and how it relates to our environment,

He said,

“I think it just just shows, you know, that we need to start diversifying our economy a bit  and not depending so much on one industry. It’s risky, and moving into the future we really need to be looking at the opportunities of a low carbon economy. And there’s alot of benefits to that, as I think the Fonterra saga demonstrates.”

I referred to the brand that New Zealand has built on the “100% pure” image, and asked Paul his views on that issue,

Paul responded,

“We’ve been riding on this reputation that we haven’t been living up to and it’s going to come back to bite us, well  it is coming back to bite us now. And we need to start taking it seriously.”

The enthusiastic team from Gen Zero were handing out leaflets, informing the public of an upcoming public meeting;

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leaflet 1

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The local body elections – due in October – will be an ideal for people to make thier concerns known to candidates – and to vote accordingly.

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leaflet 2

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Gen Zero’s public tour of speaking engagements are listed below.  They invite all New Zealanders to take part, as environmental problems affect our country more and more;

Join our nationwide tour getting NZ moving on climate change.
13 events Dunedin to Auckland, July 15th to August 6th
Free entry and free food. See below for exact locations & dates
RSVP now at http://generationzero.org.nz/whatstheholdup

Did you know?
– NZ’s wind energy potential is 3 times our total electricity demand.
– 95% of Kiwis could do their average daily travel in the range of electric cars available today.
– Denmark has a plan to be fossil fuel free by 2050, and achieving this will only cost 0.5% of their GDP.

It’s 100% possible to build a thriving New Zealand beyond fossil fuels. So what’s the hold up?

We need leadership at every level, from our communities to the politicians we elect. Generation Zero brings you “What’s the Holdup?”, a nationwide speaking tour showcasing New Zealand’s opportunities to move beyond fossil fuels. Together we can create a smart, healthy and prosperous Aotearoa beyond fossil fuels.

RSVP now at www.generationzero.org.nz/whatstheholdup!

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Speaking tour map

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Environmental issues affect us all. The recent Fonterra fiasco shows how fragile our “clean and green” reputation can be. This is becoming a problem of crisis-like proportions as the international community becomes more and more aware that our “100% Pure” brand has been built on a lie.

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Sri Lanka demands DCD testing on NZ milk powder

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Faith in New Zealand 'shattered'

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New Zealand's Environment-Friendly Image Marred By Dairy Contamination

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New Zealand's green claims are pure manure

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This country will be in even deeper trouble if we do nothing.

Gen Zero is doing it’s bit.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 August 2013.

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See also

Website: Generation Zero

Facebook:  Generation Zero

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Generation Zero is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Green Party action on deep-sea drilling

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Deepwater Horizon and Rena Stranding

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The Green Party is considering  further action on the problematic issue of deep-sea drilling of our coasts.  Environmental spokesperson on Mining and Toxics, Gareth Hughes writes,

The Government is currently taking bids from oil companies to explore 189,000 square kilometres of our coastal waters.

The Government should know that Kiwis don’t want their beaches threatened by the risks of oil drilling, so we’ve set up a competing bid, the Kiwibid to allow Kiwis to voice their opposition to these plans.

If you’re ready to take action on deep sea oil drilling, join me for a live online Q and A session about what’s happening and how you can help. Join the Q and A session to discuss ways to encourage New Zealanders to sign up to the Kiwibid, and find out other ways we can work together to stop oil drilling.

When: Next Wednesday, 26 June at 8:00pm
Where: At your computer, live and online
Watch the livestream online:   Here

If you have questions about deep sea oil drilling and how you can help, I would love to hear them.

Email me your questions (kiwibid@greens.org.nz) then tune in to see the answers.

Thanks, and I hope you can join me next Wednesday.

Gareth Hughes

Deep sea drilling is an issue – and potential crisis – that I believe has not yet filtered into the public consciousness (too much bloody X Factor, Seven Sharp, and cooking porn on TV).   Should a worst case scenario come to pass,  our coastline could end up facing a crisis surpassing that of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010.

Consider for a moment  that it took the most technologically advanced nation on this planet; with almost unlimited resources and wealth; nearly three months  to cap the oil gush.

This was my suggestion to the Green Party on this problematic issue,

Like many New Zealanders, I’ve taken the stranding of the m.v. Rena on 11 October 2011, and the subsequent oil spill,  as a clear warning that New Zealand is incapable of containing such a disaster. Regardless of the mealy-mouthed reassurances by National ministers (none of whom have soiled their own hands to help clean the East Coast beaches of Rena’s oil), it’s fairly evident that if we couldn’t cope with the Rena – then a Deepwater Horizon type disaster would be utterly beyond our resources.

An oil spill of Deepwater Horizon proportions – which took the Americans EIGHTYSEVEN days to contain – would be an immense enviromental disaster of our coast.

So how to prevent National from implementing it’s policy of permitting deep sea drilling/prospecting?

1. Put all oil companies on notice that any contracts will be cancelled by an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government and that there will be no compensation.

This gives them fair warning of potential change of government policy.

After all, if National can change legislation such as labour laws, which previous governments have implemented, then a progressive government has the same sovereign right.

2. Set up a Crown-owned entity which will have all off-shore leases transferred into their ownership. This crown company should be independent; funded through the Remuneration Authority (so that political interference can’t choke of funding for company directors); and a contract made between Government and this Crown company to hold all leases in perpetuity. The Board of Directors should comprise of Iwi, environmental groups, local bodies, and representatives of other groups. If National can attempt to commit future governments to a contract with Skycity to build a new conference centre, then a center-left government should be able to do likewise.

If Option 2 is unworkable, then option 3,

3. Demand a US$1 billion bond per oil drilling facility; demand that each company commit to long-term corporate-entity representation in New Zealand (so legal papers can be served locally, if necessary); demand that all disputes be covered under NZ jurisdiction; demand that fully staffed,  state-of-the-art oil containment technology be held in each distinct area where deep sea drilling is being undertaken. And any other safety, legal, financial matters not covered here.

4. Hold accountable every Minister of the Crown who signs a deep-water oil drilling consent. Accountability to include being charged with negligence, malfeasance, and contributing to any resulting oil spill. Prison terms to be considered.

Option 4 is particularly relevant.  Considering that the Pike River Mine disaster was a direct consequence of National’s “reforms” to the Mines Inspectorate in the early 1990s; and considering that none of the Ministers responsible were ever help accountable (Kate Wilkinson’s token resignation  being only a sacrificial goat); and considering that 29 men lost their lives as a result of National’s policies, it is evident that government ministers need to be held to account for their actions .

I especially have a fondness for Option 4:  Hold accountable every Minister of the Crown who signs a deep-water oil drilling consent…  Prison terms to be considered.

It is high time that government ministers who enact legislation that eventuate in  dire consequences, should be help to account.

If government Ministers were held personally responsible it might slow down the process of so-called “reforms” and reduce Bills passed under “Urgency”.

After all, National demands the same responsibility from the rest of us.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 June 2013.

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The Bad Oil

25 June 2013 4 comments

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Deepwater Horizon

Gulf of Mexico, Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, 20 April 2010

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The stats;

Event: Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion & oil spill

Date: 20 April 2010

Human death toll: 11

Animal death toll: unknown

Est. Oil Spilled: 4.9 million barrels of oil

Depth of water: 1,500 metres

Depth of well: 10,680 metres

Time to cap oil spill: 87 days

An international petroleum drilling expert, Stuart Boggan, has advised  an  oil and gas conference in New Plymouth  that capping an oil blow-out, similar to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, would take two weeks;

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Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from UK

Acknowledgment – Radio NZ –  Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from

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Two weeks.

Assuming that a similar disaster occurs here, of the east coast of New Zealand, at the Raukumara Basin – which is deeper than the Gulf of Mexico – how much oil could be released in those two weeks?

A simple bit of math:  4.9 million barrels divided by 87 days equals: 56,322 (approx) barrels per day.

At 56,322 barrels per day, that would see 788,500 barrels over two weeks.

One  barrel of oil is equivalent to  158.9 litres (approx).

788,500 barrels equates to  125,292,650 litres. One hundred and twenty five million litres.

By comparison, the  oil spill from the grounding of the M.V. Rena on 5 October 2011 released 1,800 litres (1,700 tonnes) of heavy fuel oil and a further 213 litres (200 tonnes) of marine diesel into the sea (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’);

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Oil-Spill-Grows-In-New-Ze-001

Acknowledgment – The Guardian – New Zealand oil spill – in pictures

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The oil spill affected a coastline from Mt Maunganui to Maketu – and further beyond;

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nz_oil_spill_v4_464 coastmap

Acknowledgment – BBC –  Salvage crew returns to New Zealand oil spill ship

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It took hundreds of volunteers several weeks and months to clean up a mess caused by “only” 2,013 litres of oil and diesel.

Now imagine the horror of  125 million litres gushing from a deep-sea well at the Raukumara Basin that could be five to six times deeper than the position of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Remember the the depth of water at the rig was around 1,200 to 1,500 metres.

The Raukumara Basin in some areas extend to over 6,000 metres (6 kilometres) in depth;

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raukumara-basin-map

Source: Ministry of Economic Development –  Raukumara Basin Fact File [699 kB PDF]

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When, on 24 October 2012,  Prime Minister John Key was challenged in Parliament over the safety of deep sea drilling, this was the exchange,

Questions for oral answer

5. Oil and Gas Exploration—Deep-sea Oil-drilling and Environmental Risk

5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement, “We’re not environmental bandits. If we don’t believe drilling can take place in a way that is environmentally sustainable and wouldn’t put at undue risk the environment, we wouldn’t go with it.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I stand by my full statement, which included that we want to balance our economic opportunities with our environmental responsibilities; because it is true.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when just this month Dayne Maxwell of Maritime New Zealand said about the Government’s oil response equipment: “Most of the response equipment that we have is designed for near-shore sheltered conditions, and really there isn’t available internationally any equipment specifically designed to operate in the rough kind of conditions offshore that we have in New Zealand.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, that is one person’s view. I think it is also worth remembering that if somebody gets a permit to go and undertake these activities in the exclusive economic zone, not only would this Government be filling a gap that was previously left open but also there would no doubt be conditions on that. Finally, as I said yesterday, there have been 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Is the member arguing that all of those wells were a high risk and should have been closed up?

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when the head of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said in April 2011: “You know, there is no absolute guarantee that disasters won’t happen, and if you had a major catastrophe, it would be just as bad as you have in North America.”—aka Deepwater Horizon?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I mean, the member asked me yesterday about the head of Anadarko. One of the things he did say to me in the meeting was that there were a lot of learnings that had come out of that situation, and that they can be applied so that those things do not happen again. Secondly, if the member is reflecting on a comment by an individual that basically says there are no guarantees in life, well, actually, that is true, but, on the same basis, the member will never get on a plane again, never get in a car again, never get on a train again, never do a lot of things he does, because the risk is that something very bad can happen.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk when a leak at 2.5 kilometres under water cannot be fixed by divers, and companies are forced to rely on robots and relief rigs, and this is diametrically different from operating in shallow water, like the case in Taranaki, where the deepest production well is only 125 metres deep?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All of those issues in mitigation of any risk would have to be considered as part of an application to drill in the exclusive economic zone.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, given that the Gulf of Mexico disaster was stopped only when a second rig drilled a relief well, and this Government will not require a relief rig to be on site during deep-sea drilling operations in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is jumping to conclusions. He does not know what conditions will be set. But, in the end, I mean, this is really the fundamental problem, is it not, with the Green Party. What Green members are arguing is that everything contains some risk, so they do not want to do anything, except that they want to give lots and lots of money away, which is why they come up with the only solution that that person could come up with—print it!

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not a question about the Prime Minister’s former job as a currency speculator. It was about deep-sea oil production. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think we will consider it a draw at that point.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that the Prime Minister is putting enormous weight on this new piece of flimsy legislation, the exclusive economic zone Act, how does he think that this particular piece of legislation will plug an oil leak at 2.5 kilometres under water? Does he plan to shove the legislation in the hole? Does he think that might work?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is unlikely a couple of bits of paper will work. But let us cut to the chase here. We are a Government that is actually filling a gap that has been missing from our environmental protection. That member has been in the House for how long? And how many members’ bills has he put in about this issue? Oh, that is right—none. What he is focused on is printing money. That is his focus of attention.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about the Prime Minister’s currency speculation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion I invite the member to reflect on the question he asked. It kind of invited the sort of response he got.

Dr Russel Norman: Why has this Government taken a major anti-environmental turn since the 2011 election; is it because of the rising influence of Steven Joyce and others—environmental bandits within the National Party—who now dominate Cabinet and the Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Shock, horror! It is Steven Joyce’s fault. No. It is because this is a Government that wants, in an environmentally sensible and considered way, also to grow the economic opportunities for New Zealanders. That member wants to go down to the West Coast and say it is really bad that people are losing their jobs, potentially, at Spring Creek, while at exactly the same time he is stopping them getting a job down the road. I call that hypocrisy.

Source: Parliament – Hansards

I have re-printed nearly all the text of that exchange to show the reader that,

  • National has no answer to critical safety issues surrounding deep-sea drilling,
  • National is willing to engage in risky commercial behaviour for short term gain,
  • John Key has a cavalier, foolish attitude when it comes to serious issues like this.

In the Radio NZ article above, Stuart Boggan said that deep water drilling is not that complicated and Anadarko has been doing it successfully for 15 years in 15 countries.

Early last year, a  US Federal Judge made  a determination that flatly contradicted  Mr Boggan’s optimism;

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Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Which makes this comment by Energy and Resources Minister, Simon Bridges a dangerous farce,

These obligations include comprehensive environmental assessments, extensive safety case requirements and also detailed oil spill contingency planning.”

Acknowledgement – NZ unprepared for deep water oil spill – Greens

What kind of “comprehensive environmental assessments, extensive safety case requirements and also detailed oil spill contingency planning” can possibly exist  when an industry insider admits that no such safety “assessments”, “requirements”, or “contingency planning” is available should a Gulf of Mexico-style blow-out occur?

John Key, Simon Bridges, and other National ministers are either badly informed or outright lying.

This government is engaged in risky, reckless policies that – if a disaster occurs – could have repercussions that would dwarf the Rena oil spill.

In fact, Energy Minister Bridges’ only response to this potential crisis has been to criminalise any sea-going protest against deep sea drilling.

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Crackdown on drilling protesters

Acknowledgement – TV3 –  Crackdown on drilling protesters

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It’s like a bad, bad dream… Except it’s all real.

Truly, the lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 June 2013.

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References

NY Times: Gulf Spill Is the Largest of Its Kind, Scientists Say (2 Aug 2010)

Fairfax Media: Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’ (11 Oct 2011)

Wall Street Journal:  Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill (22 Feb 2012)

Fairfax  Media: NZ unprepared for deep water oil spill – Greens  (4 March 2013)

TV3:  Crackdown on drilling protesters  (31 March 2013)

Radio NZ: Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from UK (6 June 2013)

Previous related blogposts

On the smell of an oily rag (11 Oct 2011)

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails (5 Dec 2012)

Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges (23 May 2013)

Other blogs

The Jackal: Eyewitness account of the Gulf of Mexico disaster

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Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

 

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

 

 

 

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On TVNZ’s Q+A last Sunday, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“,

 

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Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

 

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

 

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In plain english, Bridges was referring to  activists and local people who tried to stop Petrobras and Anadarko from deep-sea prospecting of the East Coast of New Zealand.

 

To refresh the reader’s memory;

 

Anadarko is the same company that, it was revealed in November 2011, Dear Leader  John Key was meeting in secret talks,

 

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Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet

 

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(Funny how Key habitually meets corporate businessmen in secret…)

 

Anadarko is the same company that was involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men on the platform; injuring 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.

 

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Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

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Petrobras – the target of sea-going protesters in March and April of  2011 (see: Protest flotilla taking on oil giant ) – intercepted and protested against  Petrobras’ prospecting-drilling ships at the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of the North Island. The water at the Basin is deeper than those of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig  blew apart.

 

During the protest, on 23 April 2011, the skipper of the ‘San Pietro‘, Elvis Teddy, was arrested (see:  Charge laid after oil protest).

 

With Petrobras’ track record of oil spills elswhere in the world, it was hardly surprising that people on the East Coast were angry that their coastal waters were under threat,

 

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Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

 

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

 

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Six months later, the MV Rena would run aground the Astrolabe Reef, spewing 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel into the east coast waters, and onto beaches (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’)

 

No wonder many New Zealanders wanted no part of deep sea drilling of our coast. Well, most New Zealanders,

 

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

 

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Meanwhile, on 11 April 2011, Dear Leader Key had a rush of blood to his head and took on quasi-fascist overtones when he threatened to unleash our own military forces on protesters. As Fairfax Media reported,

 

Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out using the Navy or Air Force to ensure multi million dollar oil exploration work off the East Coast continues.

Key today hit out at groups protesting against exploration by oil giant Petrobas by saying the company should be able to carry out work it was legally entitled to do.

 

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – PM hits out at Petrobras exploration protesters

 

Not since the 1951 Waterfront Lockout has a New Zealand government used the military on it’s own people.  This is the sort of man that our Prime Minister is.

 

However, the Nats have become more cunning, and instead  are proposing to  amend the law, criminalising sea-going protests with heavy fines and terms of imprisonment. As Simon Bridges said on TVNZ’s Q+A (31 March 2013),

 

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

 

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

Jessica Mutch  challenged Bridges on this,

 

JESSICA Isn’t this just about putting commercial interests, though, ahead of the rights of New Zealanders? We saw this- the Government doing this with The Hobbit as well.

SIMON No, I don’t think so at all. Look, I think what you’re seeing is a desire to ensure that really reckless, dangerous acts out hundreds of miles from the shore don’t happen. I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think most New Zealanders would think it on. They’d agree with me, I think, that it should be treated as criminal behaviour.

 

And then a glimpse of truth came out,

 

JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

JESSICA Well, that’s interesting because Phil Heatley said, ‘Protest action played no part in the company’s decision to quit New Zealand.’ So what does it even matter?

 

At which point, Jessica Mutch laid it on for Bridges, who could only deny, deny, deny,

 

JESSICA Are you basically trying to send a message to mining companies to say, ‘Hey, look, don’t worry. The Government’s got this. We’ll take care of the protesters. Come on down and have a look around’?

SIMON No, because what’s quite clear, as I’ve already said, is that there are many ways that Kiwis can protest if that’s what they want to do – fill their boots with protest. There are many ways they can do that, but as I say, look, when you’re talking about this dangerous kind of activity where lives could be lost, and I’m not putting that too highly, I think it’s right that we make it criminal behaviour and seen as criminal.

JESSICA You’re clearly looking to help out mining companies…

 

For full transcript, read here: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

Bridges and Key can deny all they like, but the proposed law changes – like the ‘Hobbit Law’, Search and Surveillance Act, etc, are all designed to stifle dissent and increase corporate and State power.

 

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty authoritarian, government.

 

This is the sort of threatening behaviour we have previously seen from National Ministers. Instances such as Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who on 27 September 2011,  warned protesting university students to keep their “heads down”,

 

“My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students’ Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you’re doing OK.”

 

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister to students: ‘keep your heads down

 

If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.

 

Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.

 

I suggest he read up on history. Like the 1981 Springbok Tour.

 

Red Squad anyone?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 April 2013.

 

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Previous related blogposts

 

Corporate Welfare under National

 

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

 

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

 

On the smell of an oily rag

 

Additional reading

 

Meet Anadarko, The Oil Company Struggling To Get Off The Hook For The Gulf Spill

 

Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

 

Brazilian oil explorer Petrobras faces refinery pollution charges

 

Nats plan greater gas and oil exploitation

 

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

 

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Horizon Polling on Criminalising sea-going protests – Part Rua

17 April 2013 1 comment

Continued from: Horizon Polling on Criminalising sea-going protests

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Horizon Poll - Crown Mineral Bill - sea protests

Note: this header-image above was not partof the Polling Questionnaire in any way, shape, or form. Are you paying attention, Slater? Step awaaaaay from the computer terminal…

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The results for the Horizon Research Poll*, on criminalising sea-protests via the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill;

79% want sea protest law change reviewed or stopped

16 Apr 13

Credit: Element Magazine

79% want sea protest law change reviewed or stopped

Surveys finds New Zealanders uncomfortable with sea protest law change

Overall 79% of New Zealanders, regardless of their political alignment, believe a bill restricting rights to protest at sea should now go back to a Parliamentary Select Committee for more thorough scrutiny and public submissions or be dropped.

The Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill is due to go through its third and final reading at Parliament today (April 16).

The Horizon Research survey of 1,308 New Zealanders aged 18+, between 12:26 pm on 13 April 2013 and 10:30am on 15 April 2013, finds:

  • Overall, 51.4% oppose a proposed new law which would make some currently lawful protest activities against petroleum and minerals activities at sea unlawful
  • Support for the law change is 30.5% while the remainder are neutral or undecided.

The changes were introduced to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Amendment Bill 2012 in Supplementary Order Paper No 205 (SOP No 205). The proposals contained in SOP No. 205 were first outlined in a media release on 31 March 2013 and the Supplementary Order Paper itself was released on 2 April 2013 by Hon Simon Bridges – Minister of Energy and Resources.

Meeting as a Committee of the Whole on April 11, the changes won support by 61 votes to 59 in the Parliament.  The bill is now set down for its final reading on Parliament’s next sitting day, Tuesday April 16, 2013.

The Horizon survey finds

  • 49% of respondents were not aware and 51% were aware of the proposed law changes before doing the survey
  • Overall, 60% think the law change process has been undertaken too quickly, and
  • 52.3% believe the bill should be sent back to the Select Committee.  A majority of those who support parties who voted for the change think that the bill should be sent back to the Select Committee
  • Overall, 79% support either sending the bill back to the Select Committee or withdrawing it entirely.

The National, Act and United Future parties voted for the SOP in the House on April 12, Labour, Green, Maori and Mana parties against.

Q7. Thinking about the proposed law change, which of the following actions would you support?

TOTAL

Supporters of:

Parties who voted for the SOP

Parties who voted against the SOP

The bill should become law immediately

20.1%

37.1%

6.0%

The bill should be sent back to select committee for more thorough scrutiny and public submissions

52.3%

51.6%

52.2%

The bill should be withdrawn and not passed into law

29.7%

13.5%

42.2%

Something else should happen

7.3%

2.0%

7.4%

Support and opposition to the changes proposed to the bill are strongly aligned to support for political parties.  Support comes primarily from those who support the parties that voted for the changes; opposition largely from those who support the parties who voted against the changes.

Overall, however, a majority of respondents, regardless of their political alignment, believe the bill should now go back to the Select Committee for more thorough scrutiny and public submissions. 

There is general acknowledgement that many important environmental protection initiatives arose from protests at sea, including the moratorium on commercial whaling, the bans on dumping nuclear waste at sea and on using of driftnets, New Zealand’s nuclear free status and the end of French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific.  While that acknowledgement is stronger among the opposition, a majority of supporters of the change feel that way as well.

Opinion on the harshness or otherwise of the change and associated penalties is again politically aligned.

There is also an indication that more discussion and better information about the change may lead to people being less neutral about it.  While support remained a minority overall, respondents were a little more supportive at the end of the survey that at the beginning.  Similarly, more opposed the change at the end of the survey than at the beginning.

A Horizon Research report on the survey can be downloaded here.

 

* Reprinted in full from Horizon email-out to respondents.

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References

NZ Herald: Protester law avoids public submissions and Bill of Rights vetting  (3 April 2013)

Previous related blogpost

Meanwhile, back on Planet Key

To be followed up at The Daily Blog

See upcoming blogpost:  National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

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= fs =

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, back on Planet Key…

3 April 2013 9 comments

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1. Treasury, IRD, tax cuts…

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income tax - tax cuts - IRD - Treasury - Bill English

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald: Income tax cut tipped as best bet

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It appears that right wing bureacrats in the ‘zoos’  we know as Treasury and IRD are, once again, advocating tax cuts.

A recent report by Treasury and IRD are once again pushing for tax cuts as a ‘panacea’ for our low economic growth. As Brian Fallow reports,

They conclude that cutting personal income tax would be the most effective in boosting economic welfare.

“Boosting economic welfare” for whom? We already know that there is a widening wealth/income gap in this country. (see:  NZ rich-poor gap widens faster than rest of world, see:  Gap between rich and poor highest ever, report shows)

So really,  that argument is ideological clap-trap. In fact, New Zealanders have enjoyed six tax cuts since 1986, and the mantra of “ cutting personal income tax would be the most effective in boosting economic welfare” seems as much an empty promise as ever.

The report next claims, that tax cuts,

“…would increase incentives both to work and to save and invest.”

No… the real incentive to save (via Labour’s Kiwisaver) was the $1,000 kick-start which government is offering ever New Zealander who opens a Kiwisaver account.

Other tax cuts have simply given people more cash to pay of debt; invest in mortgages (rental properties) or buy imported consumer goods. None of which contributes to our economy. In fact, our private debt continues to skyrocket,

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private sector debt 1988 - 2009 (% of GDP)

Acknowledgement:  Treasury – 4.2.2  Private-sector debt and factors affecting it

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At the same time our savings record has been abysmal, as Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Alan Bollard,said on 14 June 2010,

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Based on our Monetary Policy Statement, we forecast New Zealand household savings to improve from a very poor position to one that has improved, but is still in significant deficit. We believe that since the crisis, New Zealanders have decided they are over-exposed to property assets and to high debt, and they are prepared to constrain consumption to improve their savings. But we are unclear how much rebalancing they contemplate, and for how long.

Acknowledgement: Reserve Bank  NZ – New Zealand’s Economic Recovery, External Vulnerabilities and the Balancing Act Ahead

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The report also suggests altering the “fiscal drag” – whereby an increase in salary/wages ‘bumps’ the earner into the next highest tax bracket,

That would have to be some big ‘bump’,

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IRD - Rates for tax year 2012-2013

Acknowledgement: IRD Income tax rates for individuals 2012-2013

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Families receiving Working For Families pay much less tax, as the report clearly stated,

“And for a couple with two children and one earner, who is on the average wage, the tax burden was just 0.6 per cent, with Working for Families tax credits, compared with 26.1 per cent across the OECD.”

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald: Income tax cut tipped as best bet

The report recommended,

“A simple change to current thresholds in 2015, to correct for five years of fiscal drag since the 2010 tax reform, is estimated to cost around $1.5 billion per annum.”

If the report’s suggestions are to be taken seriously and implemented by National, the result would be a massive one-and-a-half billion loss in tax revenue.

Where have we heard this before?

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Govt's 2010 tax cuts 'costing $2 billion and counting'

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts ‘costing $2 billion and counting’

Which then led us to this,

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Treasury lowers govt's forecast for 2014 2015 surplus to NZ$66 mln

Acknowledgement: Interest.co.nz: Treasury lowers govt’s forecast for 2014/15 surplus to NZ$66 mln from NZ$197 mln on Budget day

See also

Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ (13 Sept 2012)

Govt deficit up as tax take dips (5 Dec, 2012)

Now in case any National/ACT Party supporters are reading this and are still sceptical, I refer them to this piece from the United States,

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Tax Cuts Don't Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Acknowledgement: The Atlantic – Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

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Basically, in a nut-shell, the findings of the study in that news item stated,

In 2001 and 2003, President Bush cut taxes, and we faced a disappointing expansion followed by a Great Recession.

Does this story prove that raising taxes helps GDP? No. Does it prove that cutting taxes hurts GDP? No.

But it does suggest that there is a lot more to an economy than taxes, and that slashing taxes is not a guaranteed way to accelerate economic growth.

That was the conclusion from David Leonhardt’s new column today for The New York Times, and it was precisely the finding of a new study from the Congressional Research Service, “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945.” 

Analysis of six decades of data found that top tax rates “have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

Heck, I could’ve told you that.

In fact… I have.

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2. Rio Tinto, Meridian Energy, Bill English…

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Tiwai Point - Bluff Aluminium Smelter - Meridian Energy - John Key - Rio Tinto

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Tiwai and  Bluff are situated in Eric Roy’s Invercargill electorate – sitting adjacent to Bill English’s Clutha-Southland electorate.

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Invercargill - clutha southland - electorates - bill english - eric roy - tiwai point - aluminium smelter - rio tinto - meridian

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia – New Zealand electorates 2011 election

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In the US, this is known as “pork barrel politics“, where politicians support certain industries in their own constituencies, so as to save their own political necks.

I could imagine the electoral fall-out if the smelter was allowed to close down. English and Roy could kiss their lucrative, well-paid, parliamentary careers goodbye. And might even face a less-than-friendly welcoming committee if they ever showed their faces in Southland again,

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The Mob

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3. Rio Tinto, Meridian Energy, Fran O’Sullivan…

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It’s not a pretty sight when one of National’s tame journalists – in this case NZ Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan – falls out of love with Dear Leader. The shock to her system – when she realised that Key, English, Ryall, Joyce, et al, are dodgy bastards willing to cut secret, back-room,  dirty deals to facilitate their deeply unpopular asset sales – must have made her question her loyalties to  this shabby, so-called “government”.

The use of our taxes to subsidise a billion-dollar trans-national corporation – whilst superannuitants, low income earners, and the poorest of the poor freeze during winter (see: Winter triggers 1600 more deaths ) – must be stomach turning for all but the most dogmatic  National Party supporters.

Plus, this blogger has never read so many, none-to-subtle allusions, to men’s genitalia in one article. I encourage the reader to read Ms O’Sullivan’s entire column – it is eye-opening,

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Govt intervention doesn't cut mustard

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald - Govt intervention doesn’t cut mustard

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When right wing columnists turn against National and the most popular Prime Minister since [insert another prime minister's name here], and write a stinging attack on their inept, ad hoc, policies – then you know the tide has turned.

If National’s ministers are going to strike secret deals with big corporations, giving them access to millions in electricity subsidies, the least they could do is demand a 49% share-holding in said corporation (a  “mixed ownership model” in reverse) so the taxpayer gets something in return.

But then, National’s much-renowned, so-called “business acumen” is nothing more than a carefully-crafted,  self-created myth. In case National voters haven’t been paying attention, the MPs they voted for are inept.

And it’s our taxes they’re pissing against a corporate urinal.

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4. Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges…

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On TVNZ’s Q+A today, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“.

He said, in part,

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Petrobras has already been involved in oil-spills elsewhere in the world,

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Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

It’s little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty, authoritarian  government that is afraid of it’s own people.

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a quasi-fascist state.

This is a desperate, shabby thing that Bridges is doing.

[See more at The Daily Blog]

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5. Solar power, water conservation, irrigation…

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Now, Gujarat to cover Narmada canals with solar panels!

Acknowledgement: The Hindu Business Line – Now, Gujarat to cover Narmada canals with solar panels!

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Last week, he inaugurated a 600-MW solar power project spread across 11 districts. This included a 214MW Solar Power Park, the largest such generation centre at a single location in Asia. Also, Azure Power, leading independent power producer in solar sector, announced a 2.5 MW rooftops project in Gandhinagar.

Gujarat, which invests nearly Rs 2,000 crore an year on renewable energy, has attracted investments of Rs 9,000 crore so far on solar energy projects.

The pilot project has been developed on a 750-m stretch of the canal by Gujarat State Electricity Corporation (GSECL) with support from Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), which owns and maintains the canal network.

Acknowledgement: IBID

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The pilot project will generate 16 lakh units of clean energy per annum and also prevent evaporation of 90 lakh litres of water annually from the canal, an official told Business Line here on Monday. The concept will, therefore, tackle two of the challenges simultaneously by providing energy and water security.

Acknowledgement: IBID

That’s what India – a Third World/Developing nation – is doing.

Why can’t New Zealand do something as bold; as imaginative; and as environmentally-sustainable as our Indian cuzzies? What’s stopping New Zealand from living up to it’s Clean & Green image?

Oh, yeah. I forgot.

This guy,

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Previous related blogposts

 

Corporate Welfare under National

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

On the smell of an oily rag

 

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= fs =

2013 – The Year of The Big Dry – Part Rua

15 March 2013 2 comments

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Continued from: 2013 – The Year of The Big Dry

Looking south from the Kennedy-Good Bridge (Fairway Drive),

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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The river, looking south. Don’t be fooled by the width of the water-flow, as subsequent photos will show,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking down from the bridge, the shallowness of the river is clearly apparent. Note the six stones in the middle of the river,

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March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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A close-up of the the six stones. They are breaking the surface of the water,

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2013-the-big-dry-new-zealand-drought-hutt-valley-23.jpg

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Looking north again, toward the Tararua mountains. The sky is mostly clear, and what few clouds there are, show little promise of water,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Away from the river, the nearby Avalon Park is parched. Again, it looks like something that our Aussie cuzzies might be more familiar with,

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March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Another angle of the Park. Curiously, the park is devoid of it’s duck population. Normally, there are hundreds of the feathered critters all over the place. But this blogger couldn’t find one. Only a couple of dozen seagulls – eternal scavengers and survivors – were standing around, waiting for a free meal from a few people in the park,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Moving north, at the Totara Park Bridge, this horse paddock was as parched as  Avalon Park,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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The river  flowing under the Torara Park bridge, with parched river banks to either side,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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The river, looking north, toward the  Tararuas. Again, don’t let the width of the river fool you – it’s actually quite shallow. Note the patch of rocks, left-of-center, and the one rock in the vcenter of the photo. They are breaking the water surface,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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A close-up of the photo above, showing  stones in the middle of the river breaking the surface,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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The river level is so low that even the river bank plant life is parched,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking south, it’s easy to see how far the rive has dropped. In some places it’s more like a stream than the Hutt River we’re used to,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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By comparison, the Hutt River as it  normally is,

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Acknowledgement: Tourism Properties

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Acknowledgement: The Valley Club

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*** Newsflash***

The entire north island is now officially in drought. See: Drought status for entire North Island.

Our household is supporting local the call from the Greater Wellington Council to cut back on water usage. Specifically,

  • not washing the car (yay!)
  • stopped watering our vege garden or lawn
  • short showers – less than 5 minutes
  • cutting back on washing machine usage
  • only flushing the toilet when necessary; “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down
  • giving dirty dishes and utensils a quick rinse in a bucket (containing water and detergent)  and putting aside to  wash in one big lot
  • not running water when brushing our teeth
  • preparing meals that require minimal water usage

When we’re faced with 20 days of water left – it focuses the mind not to waste the precious stuff. (See: Wellington has ’20 days of water left’ in drought)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

2013 – The Year of The Big Dry

15 March 2013 1 comment

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NZ, Wellinton, 13 March 2013 –  In 2011, it was the Year of the Big Chill, as snow blanketed the entire country.

Two years later, as climate change impacts globally, New Zealand is no longer immune to extreme weather patters. In the Hutt Valley, just north of Wellington, the Hutt River’s levels are significantly lower than seen in a long time.

The following photos were taken on the Hutt River, from  Avalon to Totara Park …

Hutt River, adjacent to the Moonshine Bridge, looking north. The river level  normally swirls around  bridge pillars in the foreground. The pool in the foreground is usually part of the river flow,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Stagnant pools, covered by green slime-algae, where only a few months ago the river flowed,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking north, we see how far water levels have receded,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking south, most of the Hutt River at this point is dry rockbed,

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2013-the-big-dry-new-zealand-drought-hutt-valley-6.jpg

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An overview from a higher vantage point. The river flow normally reaches all four concrete pillars of the rail-bridge,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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The width of  the river at this point is mis-leading; the water is extremely shallow. The water level reached to a swimmer’s  (not in image)  hip’s at the deepest point,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking north, on the Moonshine Bridge. Half the river is dry,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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A view from beneath the Silverstream railbridge (parallel to the Moonshine bridge), with a view of a mainly dry part of the river,

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2013-the-big-dry-new-zealand-drought-hutt-valley-9.jpg

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Looking north: at Avalon, part of the rivebank. Despite being close to the Hutt River, the grass is all dried and dying,

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2013-the-big-dry-new-zealand-drought-hutt-valley-9.jpg

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The grass was so brown and dry, it reminded me of Australia, where “The Sunburnt Country” is a literal description,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking northward; the Hutt River at Avalon.  The water waters are at extreme low-levels. Just how low will become apparent in the next few photos,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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Looking north; the width of the river is illusory. Note the seagulls to the left-of-center in the photos,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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A close-up of the gulls. They’re standing in the water, indicating how shallow it is,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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The river curves around and under the Kennedy-Good Bridge (Fairway Drive). Note the tyre just off-centre, to the right, in the photo,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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A close-up of the above photo. Note the tyre? It’s not floating – it’s sitting on stones. That indicates the low level of the river,

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2013-the-big-dry-new-zealand-drought-hutt-valley-181.jpg

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Looking north; seagulls standing in the water; tyre sitting on stones (bottom of photo) and Avalon TV Centre, near top of pic,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  March 2013 - new zealand drought - the big dry - climate change

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To be continued: 2013 – The Year of The Big Dry – Part Rua

*** Newsflash***

The entire north island is now officially in drought. See: Drought status for entire North Island.

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

National caught out over Solid Energy – changes story on coal prices, debt, and other matters

13 March 2013 18 comments

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SOEs

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When Solid Energy’s financial crisis became public on 21 February 2013, Bill English, Tony Ryall, and John Key were quick to apportion blame. Their high-paid (by the taxpayer) media strategists had done their dirty work.

They blamed;

  1. Solid Energy mis-reading trends in coal prices
  2. The previous Labour government
  3. The Board and management of Solid Energy
  4. The Global Financial Crisis
  5. Mrs Teagle, the tea-lady
  6. Sunspots

Everyone was to blame. National’s hands were clean. The world is a bad place.

So, let’s go through the points above.

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1. Solid Energy mis-reading trends in coal prices

One of National’s constant lines –  in an attempt to smear  Solid Energy’s Board as incompetant – was the SOE’s  inability to “read trends in world prices for coal”.

As Dear Leader, John Key said on 25 February,

Asked at his post-cabinet press conference why Solid Energy was in such dire straits, he said its directors grossly over-estimated what they thought coal would be worth.

“They got it completely and utterly wrong, and up to the middle of 2012 they still rejected the international view of where coal was likely to go,” he said.

Source: Solid Energy got coal price wrong: Key

On 21 February, Little Leader, Bill English said,

“World coal prices have dropped significantly which has contributed to the deteriorating financial position that Solid Energy is in now.

“These discussions are required because the position of the state-owned enterprise has continued to deteriorate despite the restructuring that has already taken place,” Mr English says.

Source: Bill English & Tony Ryall – Statement on Solid Energy

And as Baby Leader, Tony Ryall also said on 21 February,

State-owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said a number of factors had weighed against the company, in particular world coal prices dropping by 40 per cent.

“It is facing very serious financial challenges,” Ryall said.

Source: Debt-laden Solid Energy talking to banks

So the narrative  being spread by senior National ministers was that Solid Energy was incompetant and couldn’t understand world coal price trends.

Which, for a company that lives, breathes, and farts coal seemed… unlikely.

#1 – Rebutted

But then, on 13 March, Bill English was reported on Radio New Zealand with this statement,

But Finance Minister Bill English says it wasn’t clear that coal prices were declining, and the Government can’t be held responsible for how much debt Solid Energy eventually took on.

Source: Labour says Govt forced Solid Energy to borrow more

Okay… so despite Key, English, and Ryall insisting that Solid Energy had mis-read trends in global coal prices, he is now saying that “it wasn’t clear that coal prices were declining”?!

Well, I’m glad that’s been cleared up.

After all, it’s not like National was initially claiming that world coal prices [were] dropping by 40 per cent  to make Solid Energy’s board look bad – and then suggested  it wasn’t clear that coal prices were declining for National to save their own arses.

That would be… contradictory.

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2. The previous Labour government

National has blamed the previous Labour government for everything, from the decline of the British  Empire, to the sinking of the Titanic. (And trying to pin both World Wars on Labour – but that’s a work-in-progress.)

On 26 February, Key said,

“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” Mr Key said.

On 13 March, English said,

At the time, it was not clear that coal prices were declining. In fact, the best advice from the company—with which the Government ended up disagreeing—was that coal prices would continue to rise. But, as I said, that decision was made in the context of the mess that the previous Labour Government left with the State-owned enterprises.

Source: Parliament Questions and Answers – March 13

Ah, the inhumanity of it all… The dastardly tentacles of a previous government, from four years ago, reaches into the present day to thwart National’s good works. It’s amazing that with such power, that Labouir ever managed to lose two elections in succession, from 2008…

One has to wonder though… is National really so powerless? If so, why are they in government?

#2 – Rebutted

In a rather strange moment of open honesty, Tony Ryall had this to say about Labour’s administration of SOEs, on 27 February,

Hon TONY RYALL: No, I am not going to launch some sort of independent investigation into the governance of Solid Energy. The governance of Solid Energy, much of which was appointed under the previous Labour Government, was running that company and it was doing very well up until 2011. We had the scoping study. It identified a number of issues. And I agree with Trevor Mallard: the collapse of world coal prices is a most significant factor in this matter.

Source: Parliament Questions for oral answer: 5. Solid Energy—Former Chief Executive

And a few days later, on  2 March of this year, Key let slip,

”On the face of it, at least what it had was rising profits. It had a situation where its valuation was going up, it had bankers lending it money, and it had an investment stream that had been set in place by the previous Labour Government,” Mr Key told BusinessDay.

Source: Solid Energy bail-out cost likely to rise

Really?

A look at the profits and dividends paid during Labour’s administration bear out their prudent management of SOEs. And confirmed by Tony Ryall and John Key.

In Labour’s  entire eight years, not one single  SOE suffered a financial collapse of the magnitude of Solid Energy – and Cullen was still posting surpluses, year after year. And paying down government debt. And finding time to play with his grandkids.

The Nats are in office for four years – and they lose a SOE on their watch?

How does that work?

Especially when, as Adam Bennett reported in the Herald on 13 March,

Mr Shearer later said Solid Energy had responded to the Government’s call, “returning $130 million over four years, including $30 million in late 2011 by which time coal prices had further declined and the company was in financial distress“.

He also pointed to the company’s increase in borrowing over that period, rising from $13 million in 2009 to $191 million the following year and $313 million by 2012.

See: Govt accused of milking Solid Energy for dividends

By contrast, the previous Labour government, took only  $64.4 million as a dividend to the  to the Crown – over an eight year period. (See:  Government defends Solid Energy payouts)

Which still baffles me as to why New Zealanders still have this misconception that National are “prudent fiscal managers” of the economy.

Personally, I wouldn’t let the buggers run a sausage sizzle outside Pak’n’Save.

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3. The Board and management of Solid Energy

National’s culture of blaming others for their own mistakes is slowly but surely building in the public consciousness. (See previous blogposts: Taking responsibility, National-styleDear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis) It has become de rigueur for National to immediately seek out, and blame others, for one of their cock-ups.

And when one minister – Kate Wilkinson – resigned immediatly upon the release of the report from the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy, it was seen for what it was; tokenism. And a strategic attempt to close down (or minimise) media scrutiny of  National’s de-regulation in the 1990s, which led inevitably to  a culture of poor safety in our mining industry.

Practically every public comment by National has directly, indirectly, or in a covert fashion, attempted to sheet blame for Solid Energy’s financial crash on it’s Board and CEO, Don Elder.

Key even suggested – po-faced – that the SOE was practically out of control. On 25 February, Dear Leader stated,

While the New Zealand government was unwilling to back Solid Energy in that role, it appears to have been powerless to prevent the company from taking what Key described as “baby steps” towards such a future.

Source: Govt blocked grandiose Solid Energy plans in 2009

“The company did have the right to draw down debt and make investments without shareholder authority” up to a certain level, Mr Key says.

Source: Govt blocked grandiose Solid Energy plans in 2009

So, can someone remind me again – what, precisely, is the role of the Minister for State Owned Enterprises?

#3 – Rebutted

The above was nothing less than an attempt at total abdication of responsibility by Key and his Ministers. As an  incredibly insightful Dominion Post editorial of 2 March  stated,

There are always excuses when a company starts to fail. John Key’s explanation for the trouble at Solid Energy, however – he blamed the Labour government – was pitiful.

It was Trevor Mallard’s fault, apparently, for encouraging SOEs to spread their wings and fly. That was in 2007 or 2008.

This won’t do, and not just because Mr Key’s Government has been in power for more than four years. His argument also contradicts itself. A Labour government was seemingly omnipotent and could have its way with the state-owned coal company. But National had no such power.

The Government certainly said no when Solid Energy asked for a billion dollars to turn itself into a super-company along the lines of Petrobras, the Brazilian giant. Mr Key says it had grave doubts about the company’s expansion plans. His political opponents point out that he and Bill English had publicly backed Solid Energy’s big plans for lignite conversion and briquetting.

So what was really going on? Mr Key says the company didn’t require the Government’s approval for the investments. Nor did the Government have a good reason to sack the board, as it could have done under the SOE legislation. So: nothing to see here, apparently.

If all these excuses were valid, it would be hard to know how any government could be held to account for what its state-owned companies were doing. Mr Key’s Government cannot get off so lightly. Nor can his officials. It is unclear just what kind of “monitoring” Treasury was doing, but it obviously wasn’t effective.

Source: Editorial: Solid Energy excuses fuel anger

And then, on 13 March – the bombshell,

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Labour says Govt forced Solid Energy to borrow more

Source

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So now we’re getting at the answers.

Now we’re starting to build up a clearer picture as to not how Solid Energy got into debt – but why.

As with most things, the anwer is simple.

National needed cash to balance it’s books by 2014/15. Not content to flog off state assets to raise x-billion dollars, it used Solid Energy as as cash cow, to extract maximum dividends.

Just as Brierleys extracted maximum dividends from Air New Zealand in 2001, stripping the airline of it’s cash reserves in the process and bankrupting it.  (see previous blogpost: A Clear Warning to Investors in SOEs)

More importantly, it used Solid Energy as a front to borrow.

If a government borrows cash, it shows up on their balance books as a liability.

If a SOE borrows cash; then pays it to a government as a “dividend”, it shows up on the books as a profit.

That was why National was forcing Solid Energy to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars and then demanding it to be paid into government coffers as a “dividend”.

My immediate thoughts on this are,

  1. All three ministers – Key, English, and Ryall – should appear before the Commerce Select Committee to answer questions. To this blogger, there appears to be serious implications of  questionable behaviour by National Ministers and their dealings with Solid Energy.
  2. There is more to come out on this isssue, such as why Solid Energy’s Board allowed this cash-stripping by National Ministers to be carried out.
  3. And this is the most important: I think every New Zealander who is considering investing in Mighty River Power – and other SOE shares – should look very carefully at their books.  The question has to be asked; have National Ministers done the same thing to other SOES? Are they also heavily “geared” (borrowed against assets) and highly vulnerable to market downturns?
  4. The auditor-general, or some other forensic accounting firm, should immediatly be called in to to assess the books of all SOES.

At this point in time, I wouldn’t touch a single share of any SOE, with bio-hazard gloves.

They may be financially toxic.

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*

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References

Fairfax media: Debt-laden Solid Energy talking to banks (21 Feb 2013)

Building a Brighter Future: Bill English & Tony Ryall – Statement on Solid Energy (21 Feb 2013)

Scoop: Govt blocked grandiose Solid Energy plans in 2009 (25 February 2013)

MSN News: Solid Energy got coal price wrong: Key (25 February 2013)

TV3: Govt, Labour squabble over Solid Energy (26 Feb 2013)

Otago Daily Times: Solid Energy bail-out cost likely to rise (2 March 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Solid Energy excuses fuel anger (2 March 2013)

Southland Times: Government defends Solid Energy payouts (12 March 2013)

Radio NZ: Labour says Govt forced Solid Energy to borrow more (13 March 2013)

NZ Herald: Govt accused of milking Solid Energy for dividends (13 March 2013)

Parliament: Questions for oral answer: Ministers—Confidence (13 March 2013)

Parliament: Parliament Questions and Answers  (13 March 2013)

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Inequality & Poverty

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give the rich tax cuts

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The rhetoric:

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.

[...]

Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work. ”- John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: IBID

When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were.  We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.

Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation.  We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.

But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask?  Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four? 

It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less.  You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job.  No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22.  Why is the Government?

This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is. 

[...]

So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.

The list goes on and on.  The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism.

We don’t need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What’s needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.” – John Key,  27 Aug 2011

See:  ‘Socialist streak’ just means we have a heart, says Key

The results:

Interestingly, whilst Key’s 2008 speech (A Fresh Start for New Zealand) started off describing New Zealand’s growing underclass, National’s Dear Leader went on to describe a series of punitive actions that his Administration would undertake, if elected to power.

The following sub-headings in Key’s speech are illuminating,

  • Youth Plan (education, youth crime)
  • Youth Guarantee (education, training, universal educational entitlement, threat of benefit sanctions)
  • Youth Justice (extending Youth Court; tougher sentences for youth offenders; new Youth Court orders)
  • New powers for the Youth Court
  • First, the power to issue parenting orders.
  • Secondly, the power to refer young offenders to mentoring programmes.
  • Thirdly, the power to refer young offenders to compulsory drug or alcohol rehabilitation programmes.
  • Tougher sentences
  • The first is longer residential sentences.
  • In addition, National will fund a new type of programme for teenagers who aren’t bad enough to be put in a youth justice facility but who need a serious dose of intervention.
  • National will fund a new range of revolutionary ‘Fresh Start Programmes’. (boot camps)
  • Finally, we think the Youth Court needs better teeth for following up serious youth offenders when they are released back into the community.

This was John Key’s “vision” of a “Fresh Start for New Zealand”; more punitive action against youth offenders – but precious little to address the root causes of youth crime; poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, worsening health, lack of training and apprenticeships, etc, etc, etc.

Key’s “solution” was to treat the symptoms of this country’s growing underclass.

So it should be hardly any surprise that those symptoms worsened, and the underclass; prison population; domestic violence; hungry children; poor housing – all grew.

The truly unbelievable aspect to Key’s shonkey speech in 2008 was how comprehensively New Zealand voters sucked it up, en masse.  (We seriously need to introduce comprehensive  Civics courses in our schools, to teach young New Zealanders how to recognise and deconstruct political BS.)

Tax cuts:

Whichever way we look at it, New Zealand in the last four years has become a more unequal society, and with growing poverty.

The first causal factor was the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts, which gave the most to the highest income earners and most wealthy New Zealanders,

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tax-cuts-april-2009

Source

Additional info

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When, on 1 April 2009,  then-Maori Party MP, Rahui Katene asked John Key in Parliament,

How do low-income New Zealanders benefit from the tax changes introduced today?”

Dear Leader replied,

They benefit because 630,000 New Zealanders—the New Zealanders who do not have children and who have been relatively low-income New Zealanders, and who got absolutely nothing under the previous Labour Government for 9 years—get $10 a week, or $500 a year. It is a small start, and it will be welcomed.”

See: TheyWorkForYou Blog – Tax Cuts—Implementation

At least Key wasn’t bullshitting us this time; for those on minimum wage up to  it was indeed small. Someone on $100,000 would receive two and a half times more than someone on minimum wage.

The following year’s October tax cuts were hardly better – but this time the rate of GST was increased from 12.5% to 15%,

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Budget 2010 - What the tax cuts mean for you

Source

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The impact on low-income families – along with increased costs for medicines (see:  Prescription charges to increase), and other user-pays government fees – would be harsh.

Contrary to the NZ Herald’s claim above, the average earner would not be “better off”. The $15 a week “extra” would be quickly swallowed up in rising government charges; medicine prescriptions; increased petrol taxes; and the flow-on inflationary effects throughout the economy.

This was not a “tax switch” – it was a tax-swindle – with the richest making the biggest gains.

Interestingly, ACT’s Roger Douglas – commenting on the 2009 tax cuts – realised that National was having to borrow heavily to finance said tax-cuts,

Does the Prime Minister agree with Professor Eric Leeper’s statement in the latest Reserve Bank Bulletin that counter-cyclical fiscal policy could actually be counter-productive; if not, why not; if yes, why, then, is he borrowing $1 billion plus interest a year in order to give tax relief of $1 billion?” – Roger Douglas, 1 April 2009

So much for National’s promises in 2008,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

[...]

This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.”

See: National – Tax Policy

Salvation Army Report: The Growing Divide – A state of the Nation Report 2012

This document by the Salvation Army is one of the most insightful and far-reaching analyses of current economic stagnation; political factors; and related social problems. It pulls no punches.

This blogger encourages people to read the Report (it’s written in plain english; very little jargon; and contains excellent data, with references). It should be put into the letterboxes of every home in this country. Click here to link to the report.

[NB: The report was written at a time when unemployment was at 6.3%. Since then it has increased three consecutive Quarters to the current 7.3% (see: Unemployment January 2012 to November 2012.]

Amongst the Report’s findings,

1. Inflation, higher prices, increased GST, raised indirect taxes (eg, fuel taxes), and government charges, have off-set the tax cuts of October 2010.

2. If New Zealand is to return to the historically low rate of unemployment of 3.8% in December 2006, (from the then-figure of 6.3%), we would require  90,000 jobs, in on top of  25,000 to 30,000 jobs required each and every year just to keep up with the growth of the labour force. The figure of 90,000 will have increased as unemployment now stands at 7.3%.

3. The rapid growth in the labour force participation rate of people aged 65+ (from 14.1% in December 2006, to 19.5% in December 2011)  has been at the expense of  falling employment participation of young people in the 15 – 19 year old age group.

Those in the 15 – 19 year old age group, the Report states, have “borne the brunt of the recession and tightening of the job market”. Unemployment for this group rose from 14.3% in December 2006, to  24.2% in December 2011.

It is also this group targetted by National’s harsh “welfare reforms”, which attempts to blame young people as “work shy” – a ‘double whammy’ from the Global Financial Crisis and a right wing government keen to shift blame for rising  unemployment onto powerless victims of the Recession.

4. The numbers of welfare recipients receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit has also been affected by the Global Financial Crisis and resultant Great Recession. DPB recipients dropped from a peak of approximately 111,000 in late 2003, to 96,000 in mid 2008. Since 2008, and as redundancies increased; unemployment rose; and jobs disappeared, the number reversed. DPB recipients skyrocketed to an all time record of 114,230 benefits by December 2011.

Far from being “bene bludgers” opting for the DPB as a “lifestyle choice”  (which is constantly parrotted by ill-informed conservatives and low information voters), solo-parents are as vulnerable to recessionary forces as other  workers.

5. In the year to December 2011,  average weekly earnings rose a only 2.6% from $991.05 to $1016.95. Taking annual inflation of 1.8% into account, weekly earnings rose  by a fractional 0.8%. With increases in rent, fuel tax, and other government charges, that increase will have vanished altogether.

6. The Report gave as an example of unequal wage increases the difference between hourly earnings in the finance sector increasing by $1.01 per hour, from $36.63 per hour in June 2011 to $37.64 in December 2011.

By contrast, the average wage in the traditionally poorly paid accommodation sector increased by only 3 cents an hour from $16.40 to $16.43 per hour.This was a clear illustration of  the average hourly earnings of the highest paid sector increasing 2.3 times more than those for lower paid workers.

7. Most of the increase in State benefit payments  over the past five years was made as  higher spending on New Zealand Superannuation (43% of the increase) and  Working for Families (37% of the increase). Approximately 568,000 people were receiving superannuation by June 2011.

This compared to 319,000 of other welfare recipents as at December 2011 – up  from 264,500 from December 2006. Welfare numbers were dependent on the economy and increased only because of the impact by the GFC-caused Recession.

8. Food parcels issued to families and people in need doubled from 24,250 in 2006, to 53,360 in 2011. Again, this was in accordance with the advent of the GFC in 2007/08; skyrocketting unemployment; and a lack of job-creation policies by National, once it won the election in late 2008. (John Key admitted to this on 18 October 2011.  See: Key admits underclass still growing)

9. Inflation of living costs for  2011 was fractionally higher for Low-Income Household CPI at 2.1% than it was for the All Groups CPIs, at 1.8%. Low-Income Households were more vulnerable to increasing costs such as rent, government charges, and gst increases.

10. The Report correctly predicted  that levels of unemployment would rise during 2012, and would negatively impact on growth in wages and salaries of poorest paid workers.

For a full understanding the the Report, it is recommended that people read the document in it’s entirety, as I have  abridged and condensed much of the information contained therein.

The Report reinforces anecdotal evidence, facts, and  stats, that are already in wide circulation and confirms that jobs, incomes, and those receiving social welfare assistance are all affected by the global downturn over the last four to five years.

After all, John Key uses that very excuse to explain away National’s poor economic performance,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis... ” – John Key, 11 Sept 2011

See: View from the top

Ministry of Social Development: The widening gap: perceptions of poverty and income inequalities and implications for health and social outcomes

In New Zealand, income inequalities have increased since the neo-liberal reforms and benefit cuts of the late 1980s and 1990s, although the rate has slowed this decade (Blakely et al. 2007, Ministry of Social Development 2006, Ministry of Social Development 2007). The New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report showed a million New Zealanders living in some degree of hardship, with a quarter of these in severe hardship. Despite the buoyant economy and falls in unemployment levels, not only was there a slight increase in the overall percentage of those living in poverty between 2000 and 2004, but those with the most restricted living standards had slipped deeper into poverty (poverty defined as exclusion from the minimum acceptable way of life in one’s own society because of inadequate resources) (Ministry of Social Development 2006, 2007).

[...]

This greater income inequality has seen New Zealand move into 18th place out of 25 in the OECD in terms of income inequality from 1982 to 2004 (Ministry of Social Development 2007). Over the preceding two decades New Zealand experienced the largest growth in inequalities in the OECD (2000 figures), moving from two Gini coefficient points below the OECD average to three Gini points above (Ministry of Social Development 2007:45-46). One indication of the impact of these inequalities has been that relative poverty rates, including child poverty rates, have increased.

Source: MSD

OECD: Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it ?

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Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average (Table 1). In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average. In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

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Source: OECD

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At present, across OECD countries, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%. While this ratio is much lower in the Nordic countries and in many continental European countries, it rises to around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States, to a high of 27 to 1 in Chile and Mexico. The Gini coefficient, a standard measure of income inequality that ranges from zero (when everybody has identical incomes) to 1 (when all income goes to only one person), stood at 0.28 in the mid-1980s on average in OECD countries; by the late 2000s, it had increased by some 10%, to 0.31. On this measure, income inequality increased in 17 out of the 22 OECD countries for which data are available (Figure 1, left-hand panel). In Finland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the Gini coefficient increased by more than 4 percentage points: and only five countries recorded drops, albeit small ones .

Source:  IBID

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[See also Addendum 2 below.]

So it’s official – the Great Experiment in free market reforms from the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, has produced growing inequality here in New Zealand. Indeed, the trend has been global,

Income inequality followed different patterns across OECD countries and there are signs that levels may be converging at a common and higher average. Inequality first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States, followed by a more widespread increase from the late 1980s on. The most recent trends show a widening gap between poor and rich in some of the already high-inequality countries, such as Israel and the United States. But countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which have traditionally had low inequality, are no longer spared from the rising inequality trend: in fact, inequality grew more in these three countries than anywhere else during the past decade. However, some countries recorded declining income inequality recently, often from high levels (Chile, Mexico and Turkey).

Source:  IBID

It is no coincidence that the trends “first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States” – that is the precise period when Margaret Thatcher won office in May 1979 and Ronald Reagan became US president in January 1981.

Our turn came three years later with the Lange/Douglas government that ushered in “Rogernomnics“.

The OECD report above is simply being ‘coy’ by not connecting-the-dots.

What is more telling? Any person reading this would not be surprised. We have become innured to an unfair economic system which produces unequal outcomes and great disparities in incomes and wealth. As the OECD report states with alarmingly candour,

Increases in household income inequality have been largely driven by changes in the distribution of wages and salaries which account for 75% of household incomes of working-age adults. With very few exceptions (France, Japan and Spain), wages of the 10% best-paid workers have risen relative to those of the 10% least-paid workers. This was due both to growing earnings’ shares at the top and declining shares at the bottom, but top earners saw their incomes rising particularly sharply (Atkinson, 2009). The highest 10% of earners have been leaving the middle earners behind more rapidly than the lowest earners have been drifting away from the middle.

Source:  IBID

Furthermore, as the OECD report points out, “…more working hours were lost among low-wage than among high-wage earners, again contributing to increasing earnings inequality“.

The OECD report is backed up by Statistics New Zealand,

As with total employment, the drop in full-time employment mainly reflected a decrease in male
full-time employment, which was down 12,000 (down 1.2 percent).
Usual hours worked decreased 0.4 percent – down to 79.6 million hours over the quarter. The
changes in full and part-time employment reflect the fall in the number of hours people usually
work during a week. Over the quarter, the number of hours people actually worked decreased
0.8 percent, down to 73.2 million hours.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Ministry of Social Development – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Whilst New Zealand has no formal or official measure of poverty or material hardship/deprivation, there are studies and conclusions leading to reports that offer a disquieting insight into the state of income inequality, poverty, and child poverty in our country.

One  such report was conducted by Bryan Perry for the Ministry of Social Development in August 2012, entitled the “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011″ – a 195 page study.

The full report is available here: MSD – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

A much-condensed precis of the Report;

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2012 MSD Household Incomes Report ‘Summary’

  1. Household incomes BHC (before deducting housing costs) rose in real terms for all income groups from 2007 to 2009, continuing the steady growth that began in 1994,
  2. Income inequality increased significantly between 1988 to 2004, then fell from 2004 to 2007 as a result of the WFF package, and was still around the same level in 2009 as in 2007,
  3. Income inequality grew very rapidly from 1988 to 1992, followed by a slower but steady rise through to 2004,
  4. From 2004 to 2007 inequality fell mainly as a result of the WFF package,
  5. Median Household  incomes fell 3% in real terms after little change (+1%) from HES 2009 to HES 2010,
  6. This fall followed a long and strong rise in the median from the mid 1990s to 2008-09 averaging 3% pa in real terms. GDP per capita increased at 2.5% pa over this period on averagwe,
  7. Incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially,
  8. At the very bottom (P15 down), incomes were flat from HES 2010 to HES 2011 (protected by benefit rates being CPI adjusted and NZS being wage related),
  9. Inequality decreased significantly from HES 2009 to HES 2010 then rose from HES 2010 to HES 2011 to its highest level ever. This volatility reflects the impact of the GFC,
  10. On the AHC (HouseHold income after deducting housing costs) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high  ‘outgoings-to-income’  (OTIs),
  11. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  12. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 children (22%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001,
  13. Hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011 using the ELSI measure. In part, this reflects the falling incomes of those in deciles 3-6, some of whom may already have been in a precarious financial position – the loss of income has been enough to tip them into hardship even though their incomes are still above the poverty threshold,
  14. Chronic poverty (as defined in the Incomes Report) is about having an average household income over seven years that is below the poverty threshold over those years. Looking at children in poverty in a HES survey (cross-sectional), 60% of them are in chronic poverty in any survey and 40% in temporary poverty. In addition there are others who are in chronic poverty but not in current poverty in that one year – this group is about 20% of the number in current poverty.
  15. In 2009, between 460,000 and 780,000 people were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’),
  16. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  17. In 2009, just over one in three poor children were from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment, down from around one in two before Working for Families (2004),
  18. Income poverty rates for single person working-age households trebled from the 1980s to 2007 (10% to 30%) and were 35% in 2011. One in 9 poor people and 1 in 4 poor households are from this group. The rates are higher for the older group living on their own (45-64 years) than for the younger group,
  19. In 2001, 42% of households in the lowest income quintile had high ‘outgoings-to-income’, but this fell to 34% by 2004 reflecting the introduction of income-related rents, and has remained steady since then (33% in 2009),
  20. In 2009, 37% of children lived in households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’, a rise from 32% in 2007, and 26% in 2004 – the 2004 figure was the lowest proportion for some time, following the introduction of income-related rents in 2001 (when the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ was 32%),
  21. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  22. The child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  23. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  24. Just over two of every three two parent families were dual earner families in 2009, up from one in two in the early 1980s, but down from nearly three in four in 2004,
  25. Children in sole parent families have a higher risk of hardship (46%) than those in two parent families (14%). This reflects the relatively low full-time employment rate for sole parents (35% in 2009) –  73% of sole parents were in receipt of a main benefit in 2009,
  26. The value of New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) fell further below the median household income from 2007 to 2009,
  27. People living in sole parent households are a relatively small subgroup, making up only 8% of the population.    Only 3% of those in sole parent households are found in the top income quintile.  On the other hand, a high proportion have incomes in the lower end of the income distribution.
  28. High housing costs relative to income are often associated with financial stress for low to middle income households.  Low-income households especially can be left with insufficient income to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education,
  29. For the bottom quintile, the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ reduced from 2001 to 2004 with the introduction of income related rents, then remained steady in 2007 and 2009 at the 2004 level.1   For all but the bottom quintile, the proportion with high housing costs rose strongly from 2004 to 2007.  From 2007 to 2009, the situation for the second quintile continued to worsen, such that by 2009, each of the two lower quintiles had one in three households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  30. From 2007 to 2009, median household incomes (BHC – HH income before deducting housing costs) rose by 4.3% pa in real terms (8.6% in total).  This continues the steady growth in the median from the low point in 1994.  The AHC (HH income after deducting housing costs) median rose less rapidly (3.2% pa), reflecting the relatively rapid rise in average accommodationcosts,
  31. The increasing dispersion of household incomes from the 1980s through to 2009 is clear. For the period as a whole, incomes for households above the median increased proportionately much more than did the incomes of households in the lower three deciles Real equivalised household incomes (BHC) decile boundaries, 1982 to 2009   .
  32. In 2009 the incomes of the bottom 30% of the population were on average only a little better in real terms than those of their counterparts two decades earlier in 1988. On the other hand there were more substantial gains in the period for the top half of the distribution. The income distribution is therefore much more dispersed in 2009 than in 1988,    Real equivalised household incomes (AHC) decile boundaries (2009 dollars)  .

  33. The most significant structural change to the income distribution over the two decades from 1984 to 2004  is a significant hollowing out of the middle parts of the distribution from $12,000 to $30,000 (equivalised) and a corresponding increase in the proportion of the population in higher income households.  There was also a small increase in the proportion of the population in low-income households in this period.  From 2004 to 2007, the impact of the Working for Families package in that period is very clear for low to middle income households.The income distribution was more dispersed in 2004 than in 1984.  From 2004 to 2007 income inequality decreased.
  34. The significant change in shape of the income distribution from 2004 to 2007 reflects two main factors: (A) the impact of the WFF package on low to middle income households and (B) the reduction in the number of people in households whose main source of income is an income-tested benefit (100,000 fewer in 2007 than in 2004)
  35. As recently as 1996, the government of the time in New Zealand was openly disapproving of any poverty discourse.  However, in 2002, in the context of the Agenda for Children, the government made a commitment to eliminate child poverty, and in the Speech from the Throne in November 2005, the Governor-General described the Working for Families package as “the biggest offensive on child poverty New Zealand has seen for decades”.   The current National-led government, like the previous Labour-led government, espouses the principle that ‘paid work is the best way to reduce child poverty’. New Zealand does not however have an official poverty measure.
  36. The rise in moving line child poverty rates from 1990 to 1992 was driven by two factors: the rise in unemployment, and the 1991 benefit rate cuts which decreased real incomes for beneficiaries by a greater amount than the median fell in the period,
  37. From 1992 to 1998 the 60% of median moving line poverty rate for children fell as unemployment rates fell and incomes for those around the poverty line rose more quickly than the median in the period,
  38. From 1998 the median continued to grow in real terms, but the incomes of many low-income households with children remained fairly static through to 2004.  This meant that the moving line child poverty rate rose to 2004, indicating that low-income households with children were on average further from the median in 2004 than in 1998,
  39. On the After Housing Costs (AHC) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of HouseHolds with children with high OTIs (‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio),
  40. From 2004 to 2007, the poverty rate fell strongly … for the working poor than for the beneficiary poor. There were no further policy changes to housing assistance from 2007 to 2009 – the maximum rates of assistance remained fixed and did not move in line with movements in housing costs, and net housing expenditure rose for low-income households with children.  This is reflected in the rise in child poverty rates from 2007 to 2009 using the moving line AHC approach.

.(Report Note: when a household spends more than 30% of its income on accommodation it is said to have a high “OTI”  –  ‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio)

The above is a heavily condensed version of Bryan Perry’s report. For a full report, please refer to: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

It is fairly clear that income inequality is not only still prevalent – but increasing. The ‘Gini’ does not lie – and the Inequality Factor has risen from 30.2 to 33.5 (the higher the figure, the more inequality).

Child poverty is still with us, and remains  New Zealand’s most critical problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

Despite John Key’s fine words and stirring rhetoric, National has failed to change it’s core “values” and adheres to a dogmatic faith in the Market to deliver solutions to poverty in our country.

Yet, John Key should know precisely what needs to be done. As he told the nation five years ago,

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

The State invested heavily in Mr Key – as it did with many other people prior to the Rogernomics roll-backs of the late 1980s – and New Zealand benefitted accordingly from that social investment.

The social welfare system is designed as a safety net for citizens in time of need. Whether through job losses or injury or raising children single-handed, our society – through the State – demands that no one suffers. (Never mind the deranged ravings of the ill-informed on talkback radio.)

However, there is another role for our welfare society; to guarantee that the young from impoverished and vulnerable families  are accorded the same opportunities that other, luckier parents can provide for their own children.

This is a country of plenty. There is no reason why we cannot eradicate poverty; poor housing; disease; lack of adequate, nourishing food for all children; and low schooling/training outcomes.

The only reasons that this blogger can see for the perpetuation of poverty is a double curse on our country, namely,

  1. An irrational prejudice against the poor
  2. A debilitating lack of will

Until we resolve both of these collective “disabilities” to our vision for a better society, we will continue to reap the rotten fruits of our inaction.

On 28 November 2006, John Key said,

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.”

I see no evidence of that.

Indeed, six years later, Key admitted that the underclass he spoke of has not diminished,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Full story

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Addendum 1

It is interesting and worthwhile to compare the rhetoric of John Key’s speech, A Fresh Start for New Zealand, with the data contained in the Salvation Army report, “The Growing Divide“.  Both are worth reading. It rapidly becomes clear how Key cynically mis-represented facts to suit his Party’s election agenda.

Addendum 2

It is worth noting that the GINI Coefficient – which is one method by which to measure income inequality – shows interesting figures for New Zealand,

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OCED_New Zealand_GINI_coefficient 1970s_late_2000s

Source: OECD Income distribution – Inequality (GINI co-efficient)

A high GINI factor (close to 1 or 100, expressed as a percentage) indicates maximum inequality. A figure at zero indicates absolute income equality.

New Zealand’s GINI Coefficient rose (income became more unequal) from the mid-1980s to around 2000. At the mid-2000s, the GINI Coefficient began to reduce – indicating incomes are becoming less unequal. (Though has not addressed growing poverty in this country.)

What factor intervened in the mid-2000s to stem the rising inequality of incomes?

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working for families

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The same policy introduced by the preceding Labour Government,  which Dear Leader, John Key, once described as “communism by stealth”  (see: National accuses Government of communism by stealth) – but  by 2008 had decided that he liked “Working for Families” after all (see:  National to keep Working for Families unchanged).

After 2010, the GINI coefficient begins to rise again, as effects from our stagnating economy and National’s policies begin to over-take the positive income-redistribution aspects of ‘Working for Families’.

Income inequality in New Zealand is once again on the rise,

Gini scores (x100) for market and disposable household income, 1986 to 2011 (18-64 yrs)

HES year

Before taxes and transfers (market income)

After taxes and transfers (disposable income)

Reduction (%)

1986

36.4

26.4

27

1991

42.4

31.3

26

1996

43.1

32.9

24

2001

43.1

33.1

23

2004

41.7

32.9

21

2009

40.3

32.3

20

2010

38.3

30.2

21

2011

42.2

33.5

21

 Source: MSD – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Additional

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

 

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Inequality and poverty

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=fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlooks

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlook for 2013

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What are we manufacturing today

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We need businesses producing high-value products for overseas markets and businesses using R&D to develop those products which drives other benefits, like better production processes and marketing.  Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy.

We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. Our world-leading dairy industry also owes much of its success to innovation.” – Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

See: EDANZ National Economic Development Forum – Speech Notes

It’s a funny old world we live in…

Sunrise Industries…

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Central Auckland super brothel approved

Full story

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tobacco-deal-creates-50-jobs-in-petone

Full story

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skycity-deal-puts-laws-up-for-sale

Full story

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Another liquor outlet set to open

Full story

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Sex, gambling, tobacco, alcohol – the new profitable industries of the 1st century? We seem to have left out other “growth” industries, the modern sex-slave trade in women and children, and arms manufacturing.

Oh. Wait. Maybe not,

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Govt funds still invested in cluster bomb makers

Full story

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Oh well, National and it’s  free-market fellow-travellers will be delirious with joy. If there’s a buck to be made from vices and weapons, they’ll be happy as a pig in mud.

Now if only they can find the price of a soul, and a market for it…

And the Sun sets on…

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Sounds silenced by $20m debt

Full story

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Borders, Whitcoulls under administration

Full story

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Real Groovy Wellington to close

Full story

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Closing chapter for fine arts bookshop

Full story

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Bookstore another victim of public sector cuts

Full story

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Marbecks music shop closes down

Full story

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Meanwhile…

Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy. We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. - Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

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Rakon cuts full-year profit guidance

Source

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F&P confirms job losses

Full story

Warning as Haier wins all

Full story

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Oh well, one (Tait) out of three still seems a ‘goer’. How long for, I wonder?

Meanwhile, how are our export and related sectors doing?

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Job losses blamed on high NZ dollar - more forecast

Full story

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And the stats back up the ODT story above,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Not too good it seems.  The red-highlighted sectors all declined from 2006 to 2011.

National’s “hands off” doctrine, in deference of the ‘Invisible Hand of the Market’, is certainly achieving one result; giving advantage to our exporting competitors from other nations. The Nats seem resigned (hellbent?) to more job losses; more exporters going under; more skilled tradespeople leaving for Australia; and a further decline ineconomic growth,

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Job losses inevitable in declining industries, say ministers

Full story

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What the hell!? The export sector is a “declining industry“?!?!

When even National’s allies – the Manufacturers and Exporters Association – are calling for government intervention about the high New Zealand dollar, it really drives home the seriousness of the crisis. An economic crisis that this time had it’s origins on Molesworth Street – not Wall Street.

For National to persist in it’s “hands off”  and obedience to Free Market dogma will have nasty consequences for our economy.

For 2013, expect,

  • unemployment to rise
  • the export sector to worsen
  • growth to remain low, under 1%
  • an early election this coming year, as Dunne and the Maori Party desert the National-led coalition.

It’s easy to predict – we’ve seen it all before.

Previous related blogposts

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

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outlook for 2013

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: trade

9 January 2013 2 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Trade

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The rhetoric:

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more exports more jobs

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The reality:

In simple terms, we, as a country, have continued to  import more than we exported,

2008/09

The trade balance for December 2008/January 2009  was a deficit of $341 million. This compared with a surplus of $38.5 million  in December 2007/January 2008. (See: Tradingeconomics – Balance of Trade)

2012

The trade balance for September/October 2012 was a deficit of $718 million. This compared with a deficit of $226 million  for September/October 2011. (See: Tradingeconomics – Balance of Trade)

As reported in the NZ Herald on 27 November 2012, the annual deficit increased to $1.37 billion. (See: Trade deficit widens as dairy values fall)

In graph form,

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New Zealand Trade Deficit Narrows in October

Source: Tradingeconomics – Balance of Trade

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On top of that, what we did export earned us less with the increasingly high value of the New Zealand dollar,

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NZ Dollar

Source: Tradingeconomics – New Zealand Dollar

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As Bloomberg wrote in October,

New Zealand’s annual trade deficit swelled to the widest since 2009 as exports fell to a 20-month low amid a decline in dairy shipments and a rising currency.

See: New Zealand’s Annual Trade Deficit Swells to Widest Since 2009 – Bloomberg

The high NZ Dollar not only affects the value of our exports (and thus helps to pay for imports)  but has a direct, inescapable impact on our employment,

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Job losses blamed on high NZ dollar - more forecast

Full story

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Whilst governments around the world were – and still are – manipulating their currencies downward, with several techniques (including “quantitative easing”) National remains wedded to a hands-off policy of allowing the “market” to determine the value of our dollar.

So while we are playing by purist, Market rules – other countries have thrown the rulebook away and doing whatever it takes to boost their economy and create jobs.

The “reward” for National’s obedience to dogma? Massive job losses,

Fears high dollar pushes some firms close to edge

Rakon blames job cuts on high dollar

High dollar blamed for job losses at wool plant

The outlook? Not good,

Currency outlook tough for 2013

National’s response?  Abject surrender,

If ever  a lesson was needed to illustrate the sheer futility of single-minded perseverance with a failed economic ideology, it is National’s committment to it’s  hands-off policy on the New Zealand Dollar.

And yet, when it comes to “sexy” industries, National will climb over broken glass to throw tax-payer subsidies at the likes of  “Lord of the Rings“,  “The Hobbit“,  Rugby World Cup, et al.

Whilst Key  will crow about “3,000 people have been employed because of the Hobbit” (see: John Key pushes Hobbit benefit) – meanwhile 40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since this Government took office in 2008 (see: Loss of work hits hard).

If, by now you are feeling anxious and upset, don’t panic. It simply confirms you are still sane.

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Report_Card_trade

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Social welfare safety net

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On the other hand this is still the best country imn the world to be raised as a child - yeah, right.

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The rhetoric:

It started well… National’s bad old image as a “bene-bashing Party, pandering to the ill-educated; the mis-informed; and the downright  ignorant, appeared to be a thing of the past.

John Key was a product of a civilised society where social welfare could give kids from the most disadvantaged households a chance to better themselves.

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work.

[...]

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me. ” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

Key even seemed to “steal” policies from the centre-left Labour Party,

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Full story

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Perhaps National, under Key’s leadership, had learnt from it’s mistakes in the 1990s?

No such luck.

The Reality:

As the Global Financial Crisis plunged most of world’s nations (China and Australia being the two lucky exceptions) into recession, the ranks of the unemployted swelled.

As Brian Gaynor, executive director of Milford Asset Management,  wrote in the NZ Herald on 18 August 2012,

At the end of May, the 34-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent.

Nearly 48 million were out of work, 15 million more than when the financial crisis began in 2007.

The unemployment rate continues to rise in the eurozone and is now 11.1 per cent.

See: Baby boomers clogging the job market

Here in New Zealand, unemployment skyrocketted from 78,000 in late 2007/early 2008, to the current 175,000 – over a doubling in only four years.

That’s 97,000 who had jobs prior to the Global Financial Crisis who are now out of work.

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new zealand unemployment numbers jan 2007 - jan 2012

See: tradingeconomics.com – Unemployment numbers

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If it weren’t for the 114,200 who have migrated to Australia in the same four year period, soaking up thousands of potential jobless New Zealanders, one shudders at the unemployment rate we would now have (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration ). Thank the mercies for our more affluent, and clever,  neighbour.

It’s fairly obvious to all but the most entrenched, bene-bashing, Talkback Radio moron that New Zealand has not escaped the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

National’s devotion to market-forces has caught Key, English, and Joyce in a  trap of their own making.  Their dogma dictates that the State “cannot create jobs” – only the Market can do that, as Key stated on several occassions,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key,  24 August 2012

See: Key Notes: Honouring our fallen soldiers

When the “Market” fails to behave as neo-liberal doctrine demands – then there is a problem. National cannot admit that it’s free market policies have failed. (It took the Russians seventy years to finally concede that their centralised market policy had failed them.)

For the National politburo, who cannot concede Market failure, there must be another reason why jobless numbers are increasing – not decreasing. It must be the fault of those on welfare. The unemployed must be to blame, as the Market is never, ever wrong.

Accordingly, from early-2011 onward, National began a concerted campaign against those receiving welfare assistance. It was a vicious, de-humanising, de-moralising campaign against those whose only “crime” was,

  • having lost their jobs,
  • had little access to training or apprenticeship,
  • raising children on their own,
  • were sick, injured, or disabled

From 2011, we started seeing headlines like these in our media,

Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

Baby turns one, so get to work mum (6 June 2011)

Revealed: $100k-plus beneficiary homes (13 June 2011)

Single mum on DPB for decades (20 Sept 2011)

Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum (21.2.2012)

Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ (8 May 2012)

Benefits may be linked to kids’ jabs (12 May 2012)

And if local bene-bashing stories weren’t sufficient to drive home the agenda of demonising this sector of society, National and it’s media corporate-whores could always rely on some excellent shock-value stories from overseas,

Man who fathered 30 kids says he needs a break – on child support (21 May 2012)

This next one was very popular at Federated Farmers – that well-known bastion of liberal sensibilities. The way that Bill English played his audience of cow-cockies and sheep-herders, with a barely-disguised smirk on his face, spoke volumes…

Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted (28 June 2012)

Benefit cuts for drug users defended by PM (2 July 2012)

Said Paula Bennett,

There’s two words we don’t use often enough in this country and that’s self-responsibility. The size of someone’s family is their business, so long as they don’t expect someone else to pay for it.”

So saith the woman who was on the DPB; had free taxpayer funded tertiary education; gave up her part-time job at the time because it was “too hard”; and had WINZ assistance to buy her own home…

Big families mean big welfare dollars (15 July 2012)

Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’ (23 July 2012)

Beneficiaries on warrants face cash cut (6 Sept 2012)

Kidnappers among targets in benefit plan (7 Sept 2012)

And to really, really make sure we’ve been paying attention to this Nazi-style demonisation propaganda,

Beneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime (12 Sept 2012)

And in case we missed it first time, Fairfax gave the political dagger-in-beneficiaries-backs another good, hard, twist,

Beneficiaries’ bill $78 billion (12 Sept 2012)

Though Bill English promised, hand-on-heart, that this was not an exercise in “bene bashing,

Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’ (13 Sept 2012)

Then the Nats came up with the idea of a law change of  “one strike and you’re out”  for welfare beneficiaries who turned  down any “suitable” job offer from July 2013. Which would be laughable, because both Key and Bennett  have conceded that there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone.

So what would be the point of a “one strike and you’re out” for the unemployed, except to paint them as “work shy” and “lazy”?

Propaganda. Nasty stuff.

‘One strike’ rule for beneficiaries (18 Sept 2012)

Funny thing… the media never compared welfare beneficiaries entitlements with that of politicians. How many beneficiaries get free air-travel for the rest of their lives for themselves and their spouses? Or a gold-plated superannuation scheme none of us are entitled to?

Those were just some of the media stories and headlines that assaulted our sensibilities and attempted to paint the unemployed  – the victims of the GFC – as “bene bludgers”.

All because National could not cope with the growing numbers of Kiwis losing their jobs, and had no plan to address growing unemployment.

So default to Setting ‘B': Blame the Benes.

When Key stated that the most recent jobless stats – 7.3% unemployed –  had “come as a bit of a surprise” (see: Unemployment surges to 13-year high ), he obviously had not been paying attention to yearly figures from New Zealand Statistics.

Jobless numbers had ‘only’  been rising since the beginning of 2012,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployment

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The scary headlines above were only partially offset by other media stories of New Zealand’s increasingly visible ‘underbelly’. Poverty was no longer staying behind closed doors, away from “polite society”,

Hungry kids scavenge pig slops (11 May 2012)

Welfare rejig carries whiff of hypocrisy (12 May 2012)

Stuck for ideas, Govt preys on powerless (13 May 2012)

The same hate-campaign was being conducted overseas,

Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control (18 May 2012)

No food, no shoes and kids kept home (23 May 2012)

Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels (30 May 2012)

And then we came to the attention of the United Nations. Quasi-nazism – not exactly the “cool look” we want for New Zealand and it’s tourism industry,

Struggling families borrow to buy food (21 July 2012)

UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries (2 Aug 2012)

Principal wants taxpayers to fund breakfast scheme (12 Aug 2012)

Ministry memo critical of plan to drug test beneficiaries (17 Aug 2012)

Govt has caused ‘incredible shift of wealth’ – CTU  (24 Aug 2012)

Playing politics is not helping kids (26 Aug 2012)

Even multi-millionaire, Gareth Morgan, had to state the bloody obvious for those voters who were still less-than-fully-brain-functional,

Bennett accused of dehumanising beneficiaries (6 Sept 2012)

Precious little sense on Planet Paula (17 Sept 2012)

Belt tightening won’t reduce unemployment (23 Sept 2012)

Experts lament state of NZ child poverty (24 Sept 2012)

And when the Nats did try to address a social problem, the result would have been comical – had the issue of murdered children reminded us what was at stake,

Child-abuse funds ‘blown on hype’ (1 Dec 2012)

Social welfare – the stats:

From the Ministry of Social Development’s website;

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Numbers of working-age clients1 receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 – 2012

 .

End of quarter

Unemployment Benefits 2 Domestic Purposes Benefits 3

Sickness Benefits 4

Invalid’s Benefits Other main benefits 5 All main benefits
September 2002

112,147

109,078

37,275

64,596

21,613

344,709

September 2003

94,527

109,366

40,802

68,361

19,366

332,422

September 2004

65,764

109,021

44,110

4,067

17,624

308,158

September 2005

50,153

105,692

46,067

73,813

16,440

292,165

September 2006

41,027

100,579

47,527

75,988

17,026

282,147

September 2007

23,158

96,673

48,995

78,268

16,140

263,234

September 2008

23,273

98,473

48,208

83,618

16,036

269,608

September 2009

60,660

107,658

56,384

85,015

17,094

326,811

September 2010

65,281

112,765

58,661

85,305

16,200

338,212

September 2011

55,661

114,147

58,651

84,524

15,513

328,496

September 2012

50,390

110,738

59,595

83,570

16,649

320,942

Notes:

1 This report defines working-age clients as aged 18 – 64 years, to reflect the minimum age of entitlement of most benefits and the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.

2 Comprises Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment Benefits – Hardship.

3 Comprises Domestic Purposes Benefits – Sole Parent, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Care of Sick or Infirm, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Women Alone, and Emergency Maintenance Allowances.

4 Comprises Sickness Benefits and Sickness Benefits – Hardship.

5 Comprises Emergency Benefits, Independent Youth Benefits, Youth Payments, Young Parent Payments, Unemployment

Benefits – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Hardship – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Student Hardship, Widow’s Benefits, and (until April 2004) Transitional Retirement Benefits. Youth Payments and Young Parent Payments replaced Independent Youth Benefits from August 2012.

Source: MSD – September 2012

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Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis.  Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate.

Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis. Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate. The rising red line, signifying Sickness/Invalid beneficiaries is linked to ACC discharging it’s clients onto welfare, to make their own books “look good”.

Source: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

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Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Source: IBID

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The above data yields three interesting observations;

#1 Beneficiary numbers mirror Global Financial Crisis

Unsurprisingly, the numbers receiving social welfare benefits shot up just after the Global Financial Crisis hit New Zealand’s economy,  impacting on employment. The effects of the GFC continue to this day to create redundancies and unemployment throughout the country.

Low-information voters and the lunatic right-wing fringe element in our society maintain the fantasy that welfare is a “lifestyle choice”, where beneficiaries are attracted by “big money” paid out in benefits.

Not only are welfare payments usually abysmally low (just barely sufficient to survive on) – but the stats above clearly show the correlation between the GFC and rising beneficiary recipients.

There were 51,334 more people receiving welfare benefits in September 2012 than there were in September 2008. This increase can be sheeted home to,

  • the Global Financial Crisis destroying jobs,
  • National’s lack of proactive job creation policies helping to push up unemployed numbers,
  • ACC’s policies with regards to to injured and sick (see below).

Such is the folly of relying on the “Market” to deliver jobs.

Such is the hypocrisy of Bennett, Key, English, Joyce, et al, who blame welfare beneficiaries for being out of work – and threatening them with all manner of sanctions.

#2 Overall beneficiaries are down

Surprisingly, those receiving welfare benefits up to September 2012 still number 23,767 fewer than September 2002. Overall beneficiary numbers are not increasing anywhere as much as what Paula Bennett, John Key, and their right wing fellow-travellers are insisting.

There are two possible reasons for this.

Firstly, 114,200 (net) New Zealanders left our shores for Australia from 2009 to 2012 (see previous blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration). Many left to find work overseas. These migrants might have added to unemployed and solo-parent  welfare recipient numbers, had they stuck around here in New Zealand.

Secondly, see #3 below.

#3 Unemployment Benefits vs Household Labourforce Survey Unemployed

It is a ‘quirk’ of New Zealand’s welfare system that married or de facto couples cannot receive welfare assistance if one should loose his/her job, but the other remains in paid work.

On the other hand, two people not in a relationship (eg; flatting in the same house), are eligible for welfare should one become unemployed and the other remains in-work.

There seems no logic to this contradictory situation and is even more unfair when one considers that the married/de facto couple both paid taxes, prior to one losing his/her job. That’s New Zealand’s bizarre welfare rules for you.

Which may explain why those receiving Unemployment Benefits from WINZ numbered  50,390 in September 2012 – whilst the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) recorded 175,000 unemployed people (see:  Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter).

WINZ records only those paid an Unemployment Benefit.

The HLFS records everyone, within a more inclusive criteria, irrespective of whether they receive a benefit or not.

Addendum 1:

Interestingly, the figures above  for Invalid and Sickness Beneficiaries rose significantly from 2009. This ties in with a NZ Herald report, dated 23 June 2012,

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The proportion of long-term ACC clients moving on to benefits has surged since the corporation adopted a tough new stance, which has fuelled allegations that they are being forced off compensation before they are rehabilitated.

Figures supplied by the corporation yesterday also show it has slashed the number of long-term claimants on its books by a quarter since mid-2009.

[...]

But yesterday’s figures show that the proportion of long-term claimants leaving ACC and going on to health-related, unemployment or domestic purposes benefits rose sharply from early 2009.

In the five years to 2008, the proportion going on to benefits was 12.1 per cent, but during 2009 that rose to 16.4. In the first five months of 2010, the most recent data held by ACC, the proportion rose to 19.4 per cent.

ACC figures also showed the corporation had reduced the number of long-term claimants on its books by 3644 or 25 per cent to 10773 in the three years since June 2009. That reduction is well ahead of ACC’s targets.

See: More ACC clients going on to welfare

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Throughout all these events which are beyond the influence and control of the unemployed, solo-parents, widows, invalids, sick, etc, National’s demonisation of those on welfare has been  a shocking indictment of  John Key’s leadership.

What is it in the mental make-up of politicians like Paula Bennett, John Key, Steven Joyce, and Bill English, that treating those who have lost their jobs, or looking after children,  as  “bludgers” is morally acceptable?

Especially when they must have access to precisely the same information that I, as a blogger, have.

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Benefit myth busting

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Addendum 2:

National’s response to unemployment is the introduction of “reforms” to social welfare legislation,

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday introduced the second round of reform legislation.

The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill replaces the current benefits with three new categories: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and the Supported Living Payment.

It also includes provisions allowing payments to be cut if beneficiaries fail a drug test, have an outstanding arrest warrant, or if parents who do not meet “social obligations” for getting their children into health and education programmes.

See: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

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As Bennett admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 29 April 2012,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

The question that begs to be asked: how many new jobs will this create?

Addendum 3:

So what did happen to National Food In Schools programme, that it launched with such fanfare in February 2007?

Not surprisingly, Key’s attitude seems to have gone through a Reverse Road to Damascus Experience,

.

Key in poverty 'la la land'

Full story

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Govt guarded on free school meals

Full story

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But then, going from Opposition to Government will do that to politicians.

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Social Welfare Safety Net

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

.

Migration

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The rhetoric:

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national_party_leader_john_key_stands_in_front_of__2136807254

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One of National’s biggest election issues was that of migration. Key and his mates practically crucified the incumbent Labour government in 2008 over the continuing loss of New Zealanders to Australia.

Even one of their election hoardings (see above) made the migration issue a prominent feature of National’s attack-advertising.

And Key poured it on in thick layers of election rhetoric,

When the going gets this tough, is it any wonder that Kiwis look longingly at our Aussie cousins?  Our Aussie cousins, who get paid a third more than us for doing the same job.  Our Aussie cousins, who have been given a tax cut in every Budget for the past five years and who will continue to have their taxes cut for Budgets to come.

Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch.  We have to give them better reasons to stay .” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”  – John Key, 6 September 2008

See: Environment Policy Launch

Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – John Key, 23 November 2011

See: Kiwi exodus to Australia nears record levels

In effect, National – led by our  Smile & Wave Dear Leader – was promising New Zealand voters that they, alone, knew the secret to stemming emigration and the loss of New Zealanders to Australia and beyond. It was a bold committment to make to the electorate.

Short of erecting a new Berlin-style wall; with armed guards; and patrolling gunboats to detain Kiwi boatpeople attempting to flee to Australia, how could National  perform such a feat?

The reality:

Despite National’s rhetoric and attacks on Labour, their own track record in persuading New Zealanders to remain here and not leave for greener (or browner, in Australia) pastures was utterly abysmal.

In fact,quite the contrary, Statistics NZ revealed that the Great Escape to Oz has accelerated,

 .

Permanent and Long Term (PLT ) Net Migration

of NZ Citizens/Residents To/From Australia

Year to November Departures Arrivals Net Loss/Gain(linked to source)

2005

34,730

13,430

-21,300

2006

33,873

13,371

- 20,502

2007

40,786

13,621

- 27,165

2008

48,500

13,200

- 35,300

Sub-Total

157,889

53,622

- 104,267

2009

34,100

14,600

- 19,500

2010

35,800

15,800

- 20,100

2011

50,100

14,400

- 35,800

2012

53,500

14,600

- 38,800

Sub-Total

173,500

59,400 - 114,200

Sources: Statistics NZ International Travel and Migration – information releases

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After four years of National, net migration to Australia (excluding other countries such as the UK, etc) has increased by   ten thousand people more than under Labour.

To be fair, migration involves factors that are often beyond the control of governments from either end of the political spectrums.

The true issue here is not whether Labour or National or Uncle Tom Cobbly can stem migration. The real issue here is that National cynically exploited migration for purely selfish, political ends. They manipulated the public debate and exploited people’s concerns.

This is why the public view politicians with such odium and distrust.

Little surprise then, that politicians consistantly rank at the bottom of  ‘Reader’s Digest ‘ list of respected professions, usually below Used Car Salespeople and just above tele-marketers. See previous blogpost:  League Tables that really count! )

Another issue here is that despite National’s right-wing reforms, tax cuts, and partial-asset sales/share floats – New Zealanders are continuing to vote with their feet. An increasing number of families and young people are departing our shores in  a vote of no-confidence in John Key and his administration.

It also suggests that the neo-liberal concept of the atomisation of  “society” – replaced by  the Individual and  families – has reached it’s inevitable consequence. If all that matters is the Individual and their own needs, then concepts such as national identity and cultural heritage are hopelessly out-dated concepts. In which case, people will simply follow the money and nothing else matters.

If we are ever to attract New Zealanders back to our country, and to persuade those already here that it is worthwhile being part of this society, then we have to move away from raw Individualism and self-interest. To encourage people to be a part of a society, that society has to be vibrant, strong, and offer more than just cash incentives.

This is why National will never be able to reverse the outward flow of people and loss of talent  overseas;  the Nats are part of the neo-liberal paradigm for whom society will always take a back seat to the rights and primacy of the Individual. Key and his mob will always be trapped by their own neo-liberal dogma, and can offer us nothing except much hand-wringing; more excuses; and well-worn election rhetoric.

The last word goes to this chap, who no doubt sums up the feelings of many New Zealanders who have departed our shores,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.

See: Student loan avoiders told to pay up

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Report_Card_migration

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Growth

9 January 2013 7 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Growth

.

Recent history:

In the past, whenever National (or the right wing “Labour-ACT” government of the 1980s) came to power, the result was never very good,

 .

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Decline in economic activity

Source: Dunedin Star

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Highest jobless rate in 2 years - 7 May 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Redundancies hit Tranz Rail workers hard - 2 Oct 1998

Source: Otago Daily Times

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Current Account deficit blows out to 10-year high - 28 Jan 1997

Source: Otago Daily Times

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The rhetoric:

The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

* We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.

* We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.

* We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.

* We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.

* We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.

* We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.

* We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.

And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  ” – John Key, 29 July 2008

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Growing the economy is the Government’s number one priority, and science and innovation have a key part to play in that growth.

Indeed, this Government has made science and innovation one of the six cornerstones of its economic growth agenda. We’ve done this because New Zealand needs an economic jolt. Our productivity and economic growth have been sluggish for decades and as a result we have slipped down the OECD’s ranking of national wealth per capita.

Our performance compared to other smaller advanced economies has been uninspiring at best. For example, in 1976 our per capita income was slightly ahead of Australia. It was nearly 20 percent greater than the OECD average.

We are now 20 percent behind the OECD average. Australia, by contrast, is still about 20 percent ahead.

Finland is another example of our relative decline. In 1979 our per capita income lines crossed – New Zealand going down and Finland going up. The Finns are now about 20 percent ahead of us.

So, how do we turn the situation around? ” – John Key, 1 July 2011

See: National Economic Development Forum

Present  reality:

.

Declining traffic bad for the economy

Full story

.

Unemployment up to 7.3pc - a 13 year high

Full story

.

KiwiRail under fire over job cuts

Full story

.

Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks

Full story

.

Two things would be fair to say,

    1. National inherited an economy with low unemployment and net government debt at an all time low of 5.6% of New Zealand’s GDP, net. (Far from being fiscally profligate as National claims, Labour actually behaved more responsibly than National has done, as the information below clearly illustrates.)
    2. The Global Financial Crisis was not an event of National’s making. (Though the ideology of corporate greed, profiteering, and minimal government oversight which contributed to the Crisis is most certainly one that National shares.)

As Treasury data shows, New Zealand’s net government debt situation worsened from 2008 to June of 2012,

.

NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 table 16

Source: IBID

.

Table 16 above opened with a net government debt of 5.6% – left by the outgoing Labour government.

It closed with 25% net government debt – a fourfold increase – courtesy of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.

As the Treasury document explained,

Net debt increases as a result of cash deficits and
declines as a result of cash surpluses. It also
fluctuates in line with valuation movements in the
underlying financial assets and liabilities of the Crown
and movements in the amounts of currency issued to
New Zealand banks.

Net debt increased this year, continuing the steady
increase since the global financial crisis (figure 11).
Net debt increased from last year primarily due to
additional borrowings over the year to meet the
residual cash deficit (refer table 17).

Source: IBID

In other words, National took in lower revenue – taxes – which  inevitably resulted in increased borrowings; slashing of State services and funding; increasing user pays for other state services;  mass redundancies of state sector workers, and impending partial state asset sales.

The Treasury document goes on to show how much revenue was lost between 2008 and 2012,

.

NZ Government tax revenue 2008 - 2012

Source: IBID

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A recent NZ Herald report has updated Treasury’s expections. The tax-take, GDP growth, and unemployment outlooks are not good,

A weaker economic outlook over the next four years has taken a bite of nearly $8 billion out of the Government’s forecast tax revenues for that period.

Nevertheless the Treasury is still forecasting a return to surplus, though only just, on schedule by 2015.

The forecasts in yesterday’s half-year economic and fiscal update are in line with the latest consensus forecasts, which means they are significantly weaker than in the Budget.

The growth track is lower by around 0.5 percentage points a year.

It reflects downwards revisions to expected growth among New Zealand’s trading partners, and a kiwi dollar expected to remain around present levels until the first half of 2014, so that net exports subtract from growth for the next couple of years.

Unemployment has been revised higher; it is 7.3 per cent now and still expected to be 5.6 per cent by March 2016.

See: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b

The forecast rate of tepid growth is on top of low to negative growth in the last four years,

.

NZ GDP growth rate 2000 - 2012

Source: tradingeconomics.com

.

So what caused the drop in government tax revenue? And why did the lower tax revenue impact on higher unemployment and lower domestic growth?

The answer, in part, is not hard to uncover, and the following reports tell the story of how National undermined (sabotaged?) our nation’s government accounts.

First, we were offered The Bribe,

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National's 2005 tax cut plans still credible - Key

Full story

.

Then we got the warning signs,

.

Treasury to Rescue Fannie and Freddie

Full story

.

Russia Halts Trading After 17% Share Price Fall

Full story

.

Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt

Full story

.

We were not exempt from the looming storm that was the coming Global Financial Crisis ,

.

Recession confirmed - GDP fall

Full story

.

National’s response?

The prudent step to take would have been to cancel the tax cuts as simply unaffordable.  (Labour’s Phil Goff generously promised to support National had it taken such a prudent measure. See: Labour would support deferral of tax cuts)

As a nation, we  would then maintain social services (education, housing, healthcare, justice system, early childhood education, superannuation, etc)  – or cut taxes. We could not have both. Not without even further massive borrowings from overseas.

National’s decision to persevere with their taxcuts beggered belief for those who understood the seriousness of the GFC and the recession we had fallen into,

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Key - $30b deficit won't stop Nats tax cuts

Full story

.

The consequences of  National’s irresponsible cutting of taxation revenue was utterly predictable,

.

Govt borrowing $380m a week

Full story

.

Govt's 2010 tax cuts 'costing $2 billion and counting'

Full story

.

Writing for the NZ Herald, Brian Fallow put the cost of taxcuts at $8 billion. (See:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b)

Only a fool (or devoted National supporter – the two are not mutually exclusive) could believe that we could give away billions in tax cuts without resorting to massive borrowings to cover the shortfall.

The result was a government deficit rising fourfold from 2008 to 2012, as the above Treasury stats clearly show.

National then desperately needed to balance the books. It scrimped and scrapped by cutting the state sector; raising taxes (gst, fuel tax, ACC levies, government charges, etc) elsewhere; closing tax exemptions for property investors; and cutting back on services (see: Student allowances a thing of the past for post-graduate students ).

Even paper delivery kids were not exempt from the grasp of this Scrooge-like ‘government’. See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

It also desperately needed to proceed with it’s state asset sales.

A cynic with a conspiratorial ‘bent’ might suspect that National deliberately manufactured it’s own debt crisis so that it could justify the partial privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, to it’s corporate/investor/aspirationist constituent-base.

In doing so, not only was the door left open for their privatisation agenda – but the side-effects of tax cuts left National with few options and manouvering room for job creation policies.

With net government debt quadrupling in four years from $10.2 billion (2008)  to $50.6 billion (2012), and taxation revenue falling from $56.7 billion (2008) to  $55 billion (2012), their hands were seemingly “tied”.

Compounding matters,    National cut back state services and  fired thousands of state sector workers, resulting in a further drop in  expenditure, all of which  impacted harshly on the economy.

Whether Free Marketeers like it or not, the state is the #1 business generator in our economy and society. When it cuts spending, the flow-on effects on  other, down-stream businesses, is inescapable.

.

Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low - RBNZ

Full story

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With higher income earners either saving their tax cuts or paying down debt, tax cuts failed to “fire” the economy as Little Leader said in 2009 and Dear Leader adamantly predicted in  2010,

By taking firm, early and decisive action, the Government is managing the downturn to cushion the immediate impact on New Zealanders and to enhance future growth.” – Bill English, 28 May 2009

See: Budget 2009 – House goes into urgency

We’ve cut all personal income tax rates, GST has increased to 15%, and we’ve boosted NZ Super, Working For Families, and benefit payments by 2.02% to compensate for the rise in GST.

Today’s changes are just one part of our comprehensive plan to grow the economy, create jobs, boost incomes, and raise living standards for all New Zealanders. The tax package improves incentives to work, and tilts the economy towards savings, investment, and exports.” – John Key, 1 Oct 2010

See: Tax cuts today

In May 2010, Key had even used the migration issue as justification to cut taxes for higher income earners, professionals, and others in top brackets,

We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide.

They include doctors, entrepreneurs often, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school principals and nurses.

On Thursday you will see a deliberate attempt to make sure those people stay and put their skills to work here in our economy.” – John Key, 18 May 2010

See:  Key again defends tax cuts

BS. All of it is, BS.

None of it worked, of course. The economy not only failed to grow – it  stagnated or contracted (see:  Economic recovery stagnates – NZIER). And despite two tax  cuts, migration to Australia skyrocketed – ten thousand higher than under the previous Labour government’s last four years.  (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration)

Up until 2011, two of our most important  industries – manufacturing and construction – contracted, at a time when the Christchurch re-build should have been growing their turn-over and profitability. The downturn in manufacturing and construction had a flow-on effect on the  Wholesale Trade sector,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

.

Other measures of the economy show no sign of improvement,

Bank profits back over $3 billion while economy stagnates (24 April 2012)

then “good news”,

Pickup in economic growth predicted (29 Aug 2012)

followed two months later by bad news,

Businesses gloomy about economic growth (9 Oct 2012)

Current Account Deficit Widens (19 Sept 2012)

 Trade deficit widens as dairy values fall (27 Nov 2012)

Terms of trade continue to drop (4 Dec 2012)

Govt deficit up as tax take dips (5 Dec 2012)

Deficit $169m wider than predictions (6 Dec 2012)

Growth forecast cut, debt seen higher (18 Dec 2012)

Current account gap narrows as trade balance shrinks (19 Dec 2012)

Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b (19 Dec2012)

Whichever way one looks at it, it’s a mess.

And it’s simply a bad joke for Key to reassure us,

While I think we have to acknowledge that the last three years have been pretty tough with the Global Financial Crisis, on a relative basisNew Zealand’s been doing a better than a lot of other countries.” – John Key, 17 Nov 2011

See: Key and Goff Q&A: Creating jobs

Trying to suggest that we  are nowhere as bad off as other nations such as the US, Spain,  Greece, etc – so our current stagnating economy is somehow  acceptable – is sheer rubbish.

One might as well justify National’s poor performance and reckless decision-making by stating we are better off than Zimbabwe, Haiti, or Bangladesh,

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catching-up-with-bangladesh

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We should not be “worse off” than those nations – we headed into the Global Financial Crisis with relatively good economic indicators!

There is Always An Alternative!

A responsible government would have abandoned any prospect of taxcuts and prepared policies to keep people in work; off the unemployment queues;  paying taxes; and contributing to the economy.

Policies such as,

With Option #3, National appears to have missed the obvious.

Injecting several billion into a crash-programme to build ten thousand homes for New Zealanders, who are currently struggling to buy their own houses, makes sense.

The Christchurch re-build has proven this to be the case, as the NZ Herald reported on 20 December 2012,

The economy grew at an annual pace of 2.5 per cent, and was 2 per cent higher than the same quarter a year earlier. Revisions to previous quarters showed New Zealand dipped back into recession in the second half of 2010, with two 0.3 per cent contractions in each quarter.

 The New Zealand dollar dropped to 83.33 US cents after the figures were released, from 83.60 cents immediately before.

Construction kept the economy ticking over with a 4.5 per cent expansion, contributing 0.2 of percentage point to overall GDP. Electricity, gas, water and waste services grew 4.4 per cent in the quarter, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point in growth to GDP, underpinned by an increase in hydroelectric generation.

“Residential and non-residential building activities were both up strongly this quarter, and both were boosted by Canterbury,” Statistics NZ said in its report. “The upper North Island also contributed to the growth in residential building activity.”

The Canterbury rebuild, which is expected to top $30 billion, is widely seen as the saving grace for an economy that has struggled to recover from its deepest recession in two decades, and has been getting some help from a resurgent property market in Auckland in recent months.

See: Economy grows 0.2pc – saved by construction

Statistics NZ national accounts manager Rachael Milicich didn’t split hairs. She bluntly stated,

 “The growth in the latest quarter was driven by construction.”

See: Economic activity up 0.2 percent

As for the tax cuts stimulating the economy with extra spending – you can forget that pipedream. According to Statistics NZ,

Household consumption expenditure, which measures the volume of spending by New Zealand households, was flat this quarter (0.0 percent).

See: IBID

National not only bought the 2008 election with promises of unsustainable, unaffordable tax cuts – Key, English, Joyce, et al, squandered an opportunity to keep 70,000 New Zealanders in paid employment (see: Employment graph, 2008-2012).

It was all so unnecessary.

Addendum

In March 2008, the then Finance Minister, Michael Cullen said,

Even before these challenges hit home John Key wants to increase our debt to at least 25 per cent of GDP. But he does not pretend he wants to borrow more to pay for more services and he does not really believe he needs to borrow more to pay for roads. He only wants to outspend Labour on tax cuts.”

See: [Labour]Government will not borrow for tax cuts

According to Treasury, the current net government debt as at 30 June 2012  stands at… 24.8% of GDP – just shy of 25%,

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NZ Government net debt 2008 - 2012 - Cullen's prediction

Source: Treasury – Financial Statemement of the Government of New Zealand

Cullen called it 100%.

It’s a shame that 1,053,398 voters couldn’t look past their own selfishness, and the lure of cash dangled before them, by a Party that was hell-bent on it’s own agenda to win power at any cost.

For New Zealand, that cost measured $50 billion and 175,000 unemployed.

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Environment

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The rhetoric:

What global Leaders know, and what the National Party knows, is that environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand.  We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other.  And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.

In the years ahead it will be increasingly important that New Zealand marries its economic and environmental policies.  Global climate change awareness, resource shortages, and increasing intolerance of environmental degradation will give environmental policy renewed relevance on the world stage…

… And, in seeking the balance between environmental and economic goals, National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  They are part of our history and they must continue to define our future.

see:  John Key, Speech: Environment Policy Launch

National will also ensure New Zealand works on the world stage to support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.  We are committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations and we will work to achieve further global alliances that build on the goals agreed to at Kyoto.

See: Ibid

The reality:

National’s track record in environmental conservation and protection has been as expected; bad. And getting worse with each policy release.

On the agenda are;

  • Fracking – a process that has been shown overseas to induce small earthquakes; contamination of underground water tables; risks to air quality;  gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals escaping to the surface; mishandling of toxic waste chemicals;  and  health effects on humans and animals.
  • Increased mining actitivity in sensitive ecological  areas such as the Denniston Plateau.
  • Allowing deep sea drilling to go ahead despite New Zealand being woefully unprepared for a major oil spill such as happened in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. (see:  Deepwater Horizon)
  • A watering down of a proposed fishery protection reserve in the Ross Sea.
  • New Zealand was the only country to vote against  protection marine mammals at the International Union for Conservation of Nature conference.
  • And the abandonment of  New Zealand’s participation in the Kyoto Protocol.

Perhaps the most scurrilous, dishonest act, was National’s gradual backtracking on the ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme).

On  May 2008,  John Key stated,

National supports the principle of the ETS and is following the select committee process closely. National has had reservations about the timing of new taxes on motorists and households when there has been no personal tax relief for so long.”

See: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

On 8 April 2010, Key confirmed that the ETS would be preserved unchanged,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

See: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

By 6 June 2010, the then-Climate Minister,  Nick Smith announced that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme  in 2015  would depend on technological advances and what other countries do.

See: ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister

And on  9 November 2011,  Nick Smith announced,

It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet. The lack of any practical and real technologies to reduce agricultural emissions means it would only impose a cost or tax on our most important export industry. It would also have New Zealand too far ahead of our trading partners on climate change mitigation measures. National will review the position in 2014 and only include agriculture if new technologies are available and more progress is made internationally on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

See: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014, will only put it in if technology to help is there

By 3 July 2012, Key began to publicly vacillate,

John Key says the Government will wait for other countries to follow suit before introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme…

See: Govt puts off including agriculture in ETS

And on 20 August 2012, National introduces the “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012″, which would remove agricultural emmissions indefinitely, and will,

remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.

See: Government announces ETS amendments

It took them four years to do it, with some cunning public manipulation (and outright lies) – but National achieved it’s real agenda,

  1. Watering down the ETS until it was toothless,
  2. Keeping agriculture (the worst emitter of greenhouse gases in NZ) out of the ETS
  3. Abandoning the Kyoto protocol

See previous blogpost for further details: ETS – National continues to fart around

Perhaps New Zealanders don’t quite realise that when National talks of being “blue-green” – they are referring to the colour of money – not conservation.

The response:

National’s response to our growing environmental problems?

Shoot the messenger.

In November 2012, Environmental scientist, Dr Mike Joy, told the unvarnished truth to the world that our “100% Pure” and “Clean & Green” image was largely a myth. Dr Joy blew the cover on our dirty rivers; fouled lakes;  high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from our agricultural sector.

He told the New York Times,

There are almost two worlds in New Zealand. There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality.”

See: New Zealand’s Green Tourism Push Clashes With Realities

National’s Tim Groser did not like that one little bit, and responded with condemnation of Dr Joy,

It’s been used as a stick to beat New Zealand by environmental activists.”

See: Minister lashes out at environmentalists over 100% Pure

And Dear Leader added this confusingly disjointed bit, just to sheet home the message to all critics to ‘STFU’,

It’s like saying ‘McDonald’s, I’m loving it’ – I’m not sure every moment that someone’s eating McDonald’s they’re loving it . . . it’s the same thing with 100% Pure. It’s got to be taken with a bit of a pinch of salt.”

See: IBID

See previous blogposts: When spin doctors go bad, John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth

I wonder if Mr Groser or Dear Leader will be swimming or drinking water from any of these rivers,

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No swimming - 52% impure NZ rivers

Full story

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The result:

Meanwhile, Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index highlighted one simple fact; New Zealand has slipped on international EPI rankings.

In 2008, New Zealand ranked seventh out of 149 nations.

(See:  2008 Environmental Performance Index)

In 2012, our ranking dropped seven placings to number fourteen.

(See:  2012 Environmental Performance Index)

On every indicator and policy, New Zealand is doing poorly in the field of conservation. We are going backwards.

New Zealanders need to get their collective heads around one simple fact; giving priority to  environmental protection is not just a “good Greenie idea” (which it is, by the way) – but impacts on our $23 billion tourism industry and our $14.5 billion dairy and meat export industry.

Those who would damage or destroy our environment for short-term monetary gain,  sheer selfishness, or pigheaded ignorance,  are guilty of nothing less than economic treason against our country. (Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Unsworth! See previous related blogpost: Lobbyist stands by ‘ego trip’ email)

Addendum:

The only reason that National has not merited a “F” is that at least they backed down from mining in Schedule 4 Conservation lands, after a public outcry and 50,000-strong protest in Auckland (see: Huge protest says no to mining on conservation land) in May 2010.

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: employment/unemployment

9 January 2013 4 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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 Employment/Unemployment

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The rhetoric:

We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.” – John Key,  17 November 2011

Source

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

Source

It’s true, ultimately if every one was to get off welfare we’d need to create even more jobs, but that’s the Government’s whole agenda is to have a vibrant economy that does produce jobs. I  certainly accept there’s not a job for every single person, but I don’t accept there aren’t some jobs out there.” –  John Key, 28 February 2012

Source

The reality:

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate

Source:  Tradingeconomics – Unemployment rate

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New Zealand Unemployed Persons

Source:  Tradingeconomics – Unemployed persons

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The response:

Unemployment has increased by 70,000 people since National took office in 2008.

The Global Financial Crisis, as a rationale, has worn thin and should be dismissed for what it is;  a shoddy excuse that should no longer be accepted.

The lowest unemployment, as any National politician will happily confirm is in Christchurch,

In Canterbury, in the year to September 2012, the unemployment rate decreased 0.3 percentage points to 5.2 percent. For women the decrease was 0.8 percentage points, down to 5.9 percent. There was a slight increase in the unemployment rate for men (0.1 percentage points), up to 4.6 percent.

The number of people employed rose 8,800 over the year in Canterbury, with 11,600 more people employed in part-time work (up 17.9 percent). There was a 2,800 decrease in the number of people working full time (down 1.2 percent).

The total increase in employment reflected a statistically significant 9,000 rise in the professional scientific, technical services, administrative, and support services industry group. Most of this rise was from the professional, scientific, and technical services industries.

The number of men and women employed in Canterbury both increased. For women the rise in employment was mostly in the professional, scientific, technical services, administrative, and support services industry group. For men the rise in employment was in that industry group, but also in the construction industry.

Source

Which poses the question: if the reconstruction of Christchurch is creating jobs – why has National not engaged in a similar house-building programme throughout the country?

If the reconstruction programme has resulted in increased employment in Christchurch – why not implement the very same solution nationwide, to generate jobs?

The answer, unfortunately, lies in ideological pig-headedness; National does not accept that the State has a role in job creation,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key,  24 August 2012

Source

Unfortunately (for us, as a nation and society), this laissez faire, market-based  approach, has  failed to deliver the jobs we desperately need. In fact, the “free market” has simply opted for the cheaper, easy-option,

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Foreigners flood in for Chch rebuild

Full story

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Not exactly a stunning result for National’s promise last year to create 170,000 new jobs.

Addendum:

Will Statistics NZ  include the 719 foreign workers as part of any job growth stats for the next Quarter?

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