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NZ Post – how to lose business and alienate people

29 January 2019 3 comments

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As reported in early 2017, Kiwibank and NZ Post continue to split their business, moving their retail postal and banking services into separate facilities. According to an un-named NZ Post spokesperson;

“NZ Post and Kiwibank are two independently run businesses, which currently share premises in some areas. With the longer-term strategies of the two organisations heading in different directions, it is now an appropriate time to review co-location.”

Even as NZ Post and Kiwibank were “un-co-locating”, the spokesperson also said,

“We are committed to providing postal services across New Zealand. What we are increasingly doing across our network is looking for local businesses to partner with to help us deliver postal services.”

A further 801 outlets are already “franchised” to supermarkets, book stores, pharmacies, dairies/superettes, stationery stores, video shops, etc.

For some reason, partnering with retail outlets was a better prospect for NZ Post than with an established bank. It is unclear why partnering with a pharmacy or video store is preferable to a bank – especially a major New Zealand-owned institution such as Kiwibank.

According another NZ Post spokesperson, New Zealand Post general manager of channels, Janet Selwood, said;

“In terms of the new outlet, we certainly provide a lot of training to our new partners and then on-going support for them. It’s not just about providing stamps – it’s about providing all the services that are currently provided.”

This is not true.

Splitting Kiwibank and NZ Post was recently carried out in Wellington’s eastern suburb, Kilbirnie and CBD location in  Lambton Quay.

In the former, NZ Post has vacated it’s co-located building with Kiwibank in Bay Road, Kilbirnie, and franchised it’s operation to “Paper Plus” – situated immediately next door to the now-stand-alone Kiwibank operation;

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Kiwibank (right), with NZ Post agency at ‘Paper Plus (left)

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When this blogger went to re-register his car at the Kilbirnie NZ Post/Paper Plus agency, the response was that they no longer offered that service. I was advised to travel to the nearest provider for vehicle re-registrations at VTNZ. This was in Adelaide Rd, Newtown;

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The distance was several kilometres away.

Vehicle registration is a significant responsibility for most New Zealanders. With 4,154,891 vehicles registered in New Zealand  by 2017, reducing NZ Post’s service in this area would be a major inconvenience for many people. To compound the problem, the policy of offering the registration service does not appear to be standardised throughout NZ Post outlets.

A phone call to another agency in Upper Hutt (approximately 30km north of Wellington) confirmed that the Upper Hutt NZ Post in that town will register cars.

Curiously, Upper Hutt NZ Post is also franchised to Paper Plus – the same retail-chain in Kilbirnie that refused to offer car registration.

So much for NZ Post assuring the public that it would not be “closing or downgrading” services to any areas. Provision of services now appear to be  haphazard.

Ironically, a Kiwibank-branded ATM remains situated within the NZ Post/Paper Plus outlet;

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Apparently co-location of a machine was considered acceptable – unlike the humans associated with both businesses.

Elsewhere throughout the country, NZ Post announced late last year it would be closing the last seventynine of it’s remaining company-owned retail outlets. Petone, Stoke, Johnsonville, South Dunedin, Moray Pl, Dunedin North, Mosgiel, and Te Puke are amongst NZ Post and/or Kiwibank branches fated for closure.

For many small towns and rural communities, NZ Post and Kiwibank are the last remaining essential service left to them. Closure or down-sizing is not a blow that such communities will handle well. When the State retreats from such small communities the sense of alienation is palpable.

Perhaps one of the worst ill-thought-out de-couplings between NZ Post from Kiwibank  occurred in Lambton Quay, in Wellington’s CBD.

Until last year, the combined NZ Post/Kiwibank outlet was situated at 94 Lambton Quay.

This blogger went searching for NZ Post to purchase postage stamps. Trekking along most of Lambton Quay, the prominent Kiwibank street signage was a welcome sight;

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Until, that is, this ominous notice was sighted in the window advising NZ Post customers “From Thursday 27th September 2018, bill payments and postal services will no longer be available at Lambton Quay NZ Post & Kiwibank, only Kiwibank services will be available“.

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Several possible options for NZ Post agencies were listed. The closest one appeared to be something called “Capital Office Supplies” at 114 Lambton Quay. Which was odd, as I had just walked along that part of the street and I had seen no indication of a NZ Post anywhere in that vicinity.

I retraced my steps, until I came to this NZ Post sign. Can you see the NZ Post sign in the image below?

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The NZ Post agency/Capital Office Supplies was not located on Lambton Quay proper. That is why it was not readily visible to anyone searching for it. The NZ Post signage in the above image (located beneath street signs for “Mason’s Lane” and “Pedestrian Access to The Terrace“) is wholly inadequate.

NZ Post/Capital Office Supplies is not visible on Lambton Quay – because it does not front onto one of New Zealand’s busiest retail/commercial precincts.

NZ Post/Capital Supplies is located down this alley;

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Even on closer inspection the NZ Post agency sign is difficult to make out in the gloomy light of the narrow alley;

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It simply defies understanding that any executive working for NZ Post would have thought that this site would be an ideal location for a postal agency.

And it doesn’t end there.

Once I bought the stamps, I was directed to the nearest posting boxes. Which was located…

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… opposite to the Kiwibank back at 94 Lambton Quay.

With the amount of walking I did that afternoon, I might as well have hand-delivered the letters myself. Any notion of “customer service” appears to have been discounted.

For a SOE that is fast losing money on it’s postal services – $39 million for the year ended August 2018 – NZ Post’s policy to de-couple from a well-established, highly prominent bank usually located on prime retail land, beggars understanding. How does one generate foot-traffic down an alley-way, compared to a highly-visible street frontage outlet on Wellington “Golden Mile”?

In November last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to concerns that communities were losing their postal and Kiwibank services, or seeing those service downgraded;

“There are changes afoot that I have had concerns about; it is because the environment’s changing and people aren’t using those postal services in the same way. We are looking at how communities can still have banking services and postal services.

But with some of the changes we’re seeing, we do have some concern over loss of service and banking services as well.”

The Coalition government had better take notice of what is happening. This is a repeat of the late 1980s, when Rogernomics was rampaging through the country, gutting services; de-regulating imports which resulted in business closures and job losses; and a retreat by the State from communities that relied heavily on those services – or the money that was injected into local businesses.

The Opposition National Party has been exploiting planned closures of Kiwibank and/or NZ Post outlets. Nelson MP, Nick Smith, has been prominent and vocal in actively campaigning to save the Stoke branch of Kiwibank;

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In a press release on a National Party website, Smith lamented angrily;

“My job is to hold the Government to account for its promises. This Stoke closure contradicts the Labour/NZ First Coalition agreement that commits to expanding public services in regional New Zealand. It is hypocritical of Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones to have decried other bank branch closures when he is the Associate Minister of State Owned Enterprises that owns NZ Post and Kiwibank. Mr. Jones’ public comments indicate he is unhappy with the decision to close in Stoke Kiwibank and PostShopwith a strong community campaign he could use his powers to have the decision reconsidered.

We call on as many people as possible to join this campaign and to save the Stoke branch of Kiwibank and PostShop. These State Owned businesses need to get to the message that they exist to serve the community that owns them.”

And perhaps, this time, Dr Smith has a valid point when he rails against a possible broken promise from the Coalition Governmen; “This Stoke closure contradicts the Labour/NZ First Coalition agreement that commits to expanding public services in regional New Zealand. It is hypocritical of Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones to have decried other bank branch closures when he is the Associate Minister of State Owned Enterprises that owns NZ Post and Kiwibank”.

Smith’s “inner social activist” came to the fore at a public meeting in Stoke, where he called for public opposition to NZ Post/Kiwibank’s planned closures.

“I call to all businesses in Stoke to boycott the request for agency. Do not buy the line that they are the same. The postal services you receive at an agency in another shop are not as focused on the public as you would see in a dedicated service.”

Which is deeply ironic as Dr Smith should also be reminded that it was his government that created a Deed of Amendment and Restatement with NZ Post on 12 December 2013. This Deed specifically permitted NZ Post to use “service points [agencies]  hosted in other businesses“;

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The Deed was signed by Dr Nick Smith’s colleague,  then-Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Amy Adams.

E tū Union national organiser, Joe Gallagher, pointed out the inevitable consequences of National’s actions;

“What everyone missed [at the time] is the Government allowed NZ Post to reduce the number of corporate shops they were required to have, as long as they provided service points. What you’re seeing now is all that being bled through into the system.”

I wonder if Dr Smith shared this item of information with the good people of Stoke on 23 November, last year, when he addressed a public meeting of concerned citizens? His chances for re-election in 2020 might be dented if this fact became more widely known in his own electorate.

And lastly, we come to perhaps the most ‘Monty Pythonesque‘ of  NZ Post’s current policies…

In early December last year, this blogger visited the Kilbirnie NZ Post/Paper Plus agency to post a Christmas parcel for a friend. The cost of postage came $17.00.

I had $8.00 in postage stamps which I offered to stick on the parcel, and would pay the remaining $9.00.

I was informed by the staffer behind the counter that postage stamps could not be used for parcels. They could only be used for envelopes containing letters.

It defies belief: postage stamps are no longer accepted by NZ Post to be used to send a parcel through the postal system.

Add that bizarre policy to everything described above, and the inevitable question arises: Are our political leaders waging a covert campaign to undermine and destroy NZ Post, as happened with Solid Energy under National’s watch?!

It is difficult not to come to that conclusion. In fact, I wrote to the two ministers in charge of SOEs pointing out NZ Post’s strange policies;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: “Rt Hon. Winston Peters” <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>,
“Hon. Shane Jones” <shane.jones@parliament.govt.nz>
date: 5 Dec 2018
subject: NZ Post – customer service?

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Rt Hon. Winston Peters
Minister,
State Owned Enterprises

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Hon. Shane Jones
Associate Minister,
State Owned Enterprises
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Kia ora Mr Peters and Mr Jones,

I am writing to you regarding a curious incident yesterday at a Kilbirnie Post Shop agency.

I was posting a parcel and the overall cost came to $17.

I had postage stamps with me, so was going to place them on the parcel, and pay the balance, to make $17 in total.

I was informed by staff that postage stamps can no longer be used for parcels – only for letters.

Are you aware that postage stamps (sold by NZ Post) can no longer be used on parcels delivered by NZ Post?

It seems bizarre that NZ Post has enacted such a policy; in effect not accepting one of it’s own systems to make a delivery. It would be like a bank not accepting cash to pay for a service.

It is unclear how NZ Post’s policy serves customer’s needs. Especially as their postal numbers are falling.

I look forward to your response to this issue and whether you will instruct NZ Post to change this policy.

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Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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I have yet to receive an answer. Perhaps the reply… is in the post?

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References

Fairfax media: Kiwibank suffers growing pains as it splits from restructured NZ Post

Fairfax media: Union says more Kiwibank branches will shut as NZ Post separates

Mediaworks/Newshub: ‘Challenging times’ – 79 New Zealand Post shops to close amid Kiwibank changes

Ministry of Transport: Annual Fleet Statistics (p57)

NZ Post: Upper Hutt Paper Plus

Scoop media: New Zealand Post to close 79 shops

Radio NZ: Kiwibank customers ‘appalled’ by branch closures

Otago Daily Times: Closure of NZ Post, Kiwibank branches confirmed

NZ Herald: Kiwibank set to close Te Puke branch, new PostShop outlet sought

Fairfax media: Call for NZ Post agency partner boycott to stop Kiwibank’s Stoke closure

National: Public Meeting to Oppose KiwiBank Closure/Postshop Downgrade

NZ Post – NZ Government: Deed of Amendment and Restatement

Fairfax media:  Union says more Kiwibank branches will shut as NZ Post separates

Additional

NZ Post: History of New Zealand Post

DPMC: Ministerial Portfolio – State Owned Enterprises

Previous related blogposts

Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys

A positive indicator for NZ Post…?

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com/The Daily Blog’ 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 Child Poverty Action Group 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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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 January 2019.

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags: ,

Twelve fun facts about National’s failed housing policies for Parmjeet Parmar to consider

15 January 2019 2 comments

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A recent story by Daily Blogger, Martyn Bradbury, raises serious questions about National’s questionable track record around state housing.

National’s List MP, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, has launched a scathing attack on Housing NZ on social media and in a story in the NZ Herald;

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The family was living in a HNZ property that was obviously sub-standard;

The toilet floor had sunk into the ground, making it difficult for Sheraz to use, given his condition.

The shower is also problematic for him as it’s inside a deep bathtub and he needs his wife’s help to use it.

The family has also complained about bugs coming through a hole in the wall of the bathroom.

The hole has been plugged by toilet paper, while a piece of wood was placed to cover the bathroom floor.

Ms Parmar lambasted Housing NZ for “inaction” and called the situation “unbelievable”. Her social media statements were linked to the NZ Herald story,  ensuring maximum exposure gained from the Loun family’s dire circumstances.

But Ms Parmar noticeably glossed over a salient point regarding the state of the NZH property;

Around 8 months of repeated contact and no action.” – Twitter

The Loun family, two parents and three kids, have been complaining to HNZ about rats, fleas, bugs, an unsafe bathroom and an unsuitable shower at the property for eight months.” – NZ Herald

“… they were chasing them for nearly 8 months, yes nearly 8 months and there was no action…” – Facebook

Eight months?

Fun Fact 1: That suggests this problem has been ongoing since before the election of the current government. In essence, the rot set in (literally!) during National’s term in office.

This brings back memories of Emma-Lita Bourne, who was two years old in 2014, when she perished from a brain haemorrhage resulting from a clot. She had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness. The toddler and her family had also been living in a sub-standard HNZ property that was cold, damp, had mould on the walls and floor, and the roof leaked.

The coroner, Brandt Shortland, said matter-of-factly;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s health status.”

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Fun Fact 2: Ms Parmar was a Member of Parliament at the time of the Coroner’s findings into Emma-Lita’s death.

In October 2015, Labour’s Phil Twyford introduced the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill to Parliament. That Bill  – eventually passed in November 2017 – would create a “warrant of fitness” for rental properties.

Fun Fact 3: Ms Parmar was one of National and ACT Party MPs who voted against the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill. The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill would have “changed the current law to ensure that every rental home in New Zealand meets minimum standards of heating and insulation“.

Ms Parmar voted against the very thing she was railing against on social media and the Herald.

Fun Fact 4: In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2014 – when Ms Paramar entered Parliament, the number of state houses had dropped to 68,229 – a loss of 771 potential homes for the most needy families and individuals in this country.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (with a further 2,700 leased) – a reduction of 7,400 properties.

And by 2017, Housing NZ’s stock of owned or managed properties had fallen to “approximately” 63,000 homes. The 2017 Annual Report  does not differentiate the number of owned rental properties from “managed” assets. However, the number is still 1,300 owned/managed properties fewer than the previous year (see above).

National’s policy of selling state housing was obviously proceeding at pace despite Housing NZ posting a loss on the sale of properties of $10,781,000 for the financial year (Annual Report, p108);

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National’s ideological mania for selling state assets was proceeding unchecked, incurring significant losses for the taxpayer.

By 2018, the new Coalition Government had staunched the loss of properties. According to their 2017/18 Annual Report, Housing NZ owned 61,500 properties, with a further 2,500 leased – 64,000 in total and an increase of about a thousand homes.

This is still a far cry from the 69,000 properties owned by Housing NZ when National took office.

Fun Fact 5: Ms Parmar was part of a government that sold/disposed of 7,500 properties.

Fun Fact 6: During her four year tenure in Parliament, Housing NZ lost 5,229 homes from it’s stock

Fun Fact 7: Whilst the National government – of which Ms Parmar was an eagerly participating member – was busily selling off state housing, the waiting list for people needing a home was steadily rising;

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Fun Fact 8: When Ms Parmar entered Parliament in September 2014, there were 4,189 people on Housing NZ’s waiting list.  By the time voters threw out the National government in late 2017, that number had risen to 6,182.

Alongside a covert mass-sell-off of state housing, National was also raiding Housing NZ’s coffers.

Fun Fact 9: The government department tasked with looking after some of the most vulnerable, poverty-stricken families and individuals was stripped of “dividends” of $532 million from 2010 to 2015 – over half a billion dollars. The dividends did not include gst and interest payments from Housing NZ to central government;

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2010: $71 million

2011: $68 million

2012: $77 million

 2013: $90 million

2014: $108 million

2015: $118 million

Total: $532 million

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At a time when thousands were on a waiting list for a home and entire families were living in over-crowded houses; garages, and cars and vans – National was helping itself to cash that could have alleviated a large measure of homelessness.

(Note: Labour, under the Clark/Cullen leadership, also demanded dividends from Housing NZ. It is nothing to be proud of that Budget surpluses were achieved – in part – off the backs of the poor. At least Labour did not cut taxes, as National did in 2009 and 2010, thereby transferring wealth from the poor/HNZ tenants – to the wealthy/high-income earners.)

Fun Fact 10: Ms Paramar voted for successive National government Budgets  which rapaciously extracted millions from Housing NZ.

The Loun family’s HNZ home could have been properly maintained and ongoing faults repaired with that $532 million.

If Ms Parmar wants to vent her anger, she should direct it at herself and her colleagues. It is National (and it’s minor support parties) that are solely to blame for our growing homeless crisis. At a time when New Zealand most needed state houses, National was disposing of them as fast as they thought they could get away with it, as well as bleeding the corporation of it’s money.

So much for John Key promising no further asset sales in February 2014;

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But former Dear Leader Key was not the only one “flexible” with the truth.

Fun Fact 11: A year after entering Parliament, Ms Parmar was caught out attempting to mis-use taxpayer’s money by exploiting an official government housing “roadshow” to promote her personal political profile in the Mt Roskill electorate. The Mt Roskill electorate would shortly be vacated by then-sitting MP,  Phil Goff, who was planning to run for mayor of Auckland.

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According to documents released under the OIA, NZ Herald  journalists discovered that Housing NZ officials were attempting to cover up for Ms Parmar;

Housing officials tried to hide a National MP’s attempt to use a Government housing roadshow to raise her own public profile, documents show.

The Labour Party said National list MP Parmjeet Parmar was guilty of trying to use taxpayer money for political campaigning, and officials had been caught red-handed trying to cover it up.

Documents released to Labour MP Kris Faafoi revealed Dr Parmar wanted to co-host a meeting for the Government’s HomeStart programme near Mt Roskill, where a by-election will be triggered when current MP Phil Goff runs for the Auckland Mayoralty.

Parmjeet Parmar has … expressed a keen interest in hosting a roadshow as she is keen to raise local profile in Mt Roskill in case of a by-election,” an email from Housing Minister Nick Smith’s private secretary said.

Supposedly “neutral” civil servants were caught out attempting to suppress Ms Parmar’s plans to use the housing roadshow for her own benefit;

There was also a further twist. The key passages which revealed that Dr Parmar wanted to use the roadshow for campaigning were redacted by housing officials in three other versions of the email released to Labour.

The passages were redacted by officials on the grounds that they were “out of scope” and to preserve “the free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown”, their employees, or departments.

Fun Fact 12: Despite protestations, Ms Parmar did indeed contest the 2016 by-election when Phil Goff resigned from Parliament. She came second to Labour’s candidate, Michael Woodhouse – a result Ms Parmar richly deserved.

It is unknown if any of the Housing officials who attempted to cover for Ms Parmar were asked to resign. It would be surprising if there were any ensuing job losses from this scandal.

If  Ms Parmar wants to use her taxpayer-funded time lambasting Housing NZ, that is her prerogative.

But at the very least, it would be helpful for New Zealanders to understand the fullness of National’s woeful under-performance in the state housing sector and the role Ms Parmar played. At the very least she exhibited no moral courage on behalf on HNZ tenants whilst she was in government.

There is something repellent about a previous government that actively sabotaged and crippled a vital state housing service – only for former Finance minister Bill English to lament about that very same service unable to fulfill it’s duty to house the most vulnerable families in our society;

“Housing Corp has done its best with the policy settings governments have given them over the last twenty or thirty years.

But you’ve just got to drive round the countryside, or round the cities and suburbs to see that it hasn’t always had the best results. So we just want to get more people helping us to solve the problem of serious housing need.”

This is the legacy Ms Parmar shares.

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References

The Daily Blog: I’m sorry, National had the audacity to say WHAT about State Housing?

Parliament: Dr Parmjeet Parmar

Twitter: Parmjeet Parmar – Housing NZ – 4 Jan 2019

Facebook: Parmjeet Parmar – Housing NZ – 3 Jan 2019

NZ Herald: National says HNZ failed the Loun family after ignoring repeated requests to fix safety issues

Fairfax media: Damp state house played part in toddler’s death

Parliament: Healthy Homes Bill – Setting new standards for rental homes

The Daily blog: The MPs who voted against Warrants of Fitness for all rental properties

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2013/14

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2017/18

Ministry of Social Development: Housing Register

Scoop media: State rental housing milked for dividends while tenants die

Radio NZ: Housing NZ readied for sale – Labour

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

NZ Herald: National MP busted ‘trying to use taxpayer money for political campaigning’

Radio NZ: Govt pushes on with state house sales

Additional

Radio NZ: State housing plan ‘not an asset sale’

Labour Party: Nats still planning to take Housing NZ dividend

Housing NZ: Our statement of performance expectations (deleted from HNZ website)

Previous related blogposts

The housing crisis: NZers deliver their verdict

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 January 2019.

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David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

11 January 2019 1 comment

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A recent ‘tweet’ on social media from right-wing blogger, David Farrar, caught my eye and raised an eye-brow to make a Vulcan proud;

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The ‘tweet’ linked back to a short blogpost on Farrar’s “Kiwiblog“;

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Farrar’s blogpost heading said it all;

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“UK kids to be taught men can menstruate”

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The response from Farrar’s sychophantic fanboi followers was predictably outraged. The “PC gone mad” theme was barked like demented hyenas throughout the commentaries on Farrar’s Twitter post and Kiwiblog.

Unfortunately, only a couple of Farrar’s commentators picked up on one simple fact: the Fairfax/Stuff article – upon which Farrar based his brief blogpost on – was factually incorrect;

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Kudos to those two more-lucid, clear-thinking commentators. (Further on the conversation, the commentator known as Psycho Milt also understood how badly the Fairfax/Stuff story had been written. I stopped checking other comments after Milt’s 3 January  2019 8:24am comment. If anyone else picked up on the bullshit nature of the story, they are in a lofty minority of questioning thinkers.)

The Fairfax/Stuff article was based on a report from Brighton & Hove City Council dated 3 December 2018. The BHCC report  outlined how better support could be offered to students in the Council’s area for sanitary products during menstruation. The Council report outlined measures that could be taken to offer support where needed, remove stigma and shame associated with menstruation, and provide better education on the subject.

This was outlined on page 10 of the report.

Also on page 10 was a section headed;

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Key messages for learning about periods

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The tenth bullet-point made this observation;

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The statement reads “Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods“.

It should actually read; “Trans boys and Trans men and non-binary people may have periods“. Or even “Trans boys/men and non-binary people may have periods“. (Which reflects their original internal biology, as opposed to the gender they later identify as.)

The BHCC report does not refer to CIS men.

Which ever way you look at it, the only thing Brighton & Hove City Council are guilty of is a poorly-worded statement. The meaning to anyone who understands biology and transgender issues should be clear enough. The intent of the statement should be obvious to all except the most uninformed.

I do not believe for a moment that David Farrar was too stupid to pick up on the fact that the authors of the Fairfax/Stuff article got it horribly wrong. Yes, “Stuff” stuffed up.

I do, however, believe he wilfully continued to mis-represent the media story, hyping it up with his wildly inflammatory (and wholly inaccurate) blogpost headline.

Even after I pointed out on Twitter that his blogpost was based on a fundamental inaccuracy;

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– both his ‘tweet’ and blogpost remained in-situ, without any correction.

This is lazy and/or dishonest on his part.

One of the roles that bloggers/citizen journalists is to hold the mainstream media to account when they omit facts or are inaccurate in the way facts are presented. In this case, the Fairfax/Stuff reporting was so carelessly written as to make it utterly worthless.

Practically every single comment left on Twitter, Kiwiblog (with three notable exceptions), and the “Stuff” comments-section was hysterically whipped-up and enflammed on the non-existent premise that men could have periods, as ordained by the Brighton Hove City Council. Conservative readers must have been  having coronary attacks at the time!

Farrar did nothing to set the record straight.

Instead he fanned the moral panic/hysteria/ignorance generated by a crappy Fairfax/Stuff story.

It was disappointing. I expected better from someone with his experience in media/blogging.

This is how vulnerable minorities become demonised and de-humanised.

Addendum

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy at gmail dott com>
to: Keith Lynch <keith.lynch@stuff.co.nz>
date: 5 Jan 2019
subject: Complaint

Keith Lynch
Deputy Editor
Stuff.co.nz

Kia ora Mr Lynch,

I am lodging a formal complaint that a story on your website (and in print?) headed “UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too“, published on 18 December 2018.

I submit that the headline and story was not factually accurate and severely mis-represented a published report from the United Kingdom. The mis-repesentation was such that it elicited a hostile and angry response from readers.

Link to story: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/109414247/uk-school-children-to-be-taught-boys-can-have-periods-too

The article’s headline stated that ” boys can have periods too“.

The body of the text also stated;

“Primary school children in the United Kingdom will be taught that all genders can have periods under new sex education guidelines that aim to tackle the stigma around menstruation.”

Nowhere in the BHCC report does it state that ” all genders can have periods“. This is an incorrect assertion that is not true. The report clearly refers to trans boys, [trans] men, girls, women , and non-binary people.

The story quoted from the report commissioned by the Brighton & Hove City Council (UK) which correctly said (on page 10);

“trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods”

The BHCC report does not state anywhere that ” boys can have periods too“. The report clearly states that “trans boys and [trans] men” may have periods.

Trans boys and [trans] men were, at an early stage, biologically female. They subsequently identified as male.

The word “trans” should have preceded the word “men” to clarify the point being made in the BHCC report. However, the term “trans” is clearly used preceding the word “boy”. The intent of that sentence “trans boys and men…” should therefore have been clear to the author of that Stuff story.

A photograph of students in a classroom carried the caption;

New guidelines in the UK suggest lessons on menstruation “must be inclusive of all genders”

The reference to “ lessons on menstruation must be inclusive of all genders” is mis-leading in this context, as ” lessons on menstruation” has been linked to the erroneous premise that ” boys can have periods too”.

The lack of factuality to the Stuff story is evidenced by the following Comments Section. Readers have mis-interpreted what the BHCC actually stated based purely on the headlining and the manner in which statements were mis-reported or presented out-of-context. There has been a massive response hostile to the BHCC report based on the Stuff story mis-representing that ” boys can have periods too” and ” all genders can have periods”.

Much of that hostility has been directed at trans-people/LGBTQI, and as such the erroneous nature of the Stuff story may have led to incalculable harm to an already marginalised minority in our community.

I request that Stuff correct this badly written story and to make any such correction with a high degree of publicity.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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References

Twitter: David Farrar – UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Kiwiblog: UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Fairfax media: UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too

Brighton and Hove City Council: Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee Addendum

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

When the mainstream media go feral

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

David Farrar – Challenging Slater for Sultan of Sleaze?

David Farrar – A Question for you please?

According to David Farrar, John Key must resign!

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar – *Update*

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

Ali Jones rips right wing blogger a “new one” on Radio NZ’s “The Panel”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 January 2019.

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2018 – the year that weirdly was (2)

 

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Continued from part one

In many respects, 2018 was a strange year in politics. From weird gender-focused terminology to ongoing subterranean machinations within the National Party as it came to grips with being in Opposition – 2018 was one for the history books.

Now concluding my assessment of the weird year that was…

Villains of The Year:

There are many candidates for this much-cherished ‘Award’, but perhaps the stand-out has to be Thompson and Clark. A firm of private investigators made up of former police officers, they are to New Zealand society what the Stasi was to former East Germany. That is, they spied on ordinary New Zealanders going about their lawful business. They spied and recorded conversations.

There are suggestions that their activities were illegal.

If so, you can be certain of the outcome.

They will not be prosecuted.

Remember: they were serving the Untouchables. A prosecution could open up a can of worms, implicating Police, National party former ministers, government department heads, etc.

That cannot be allowed to happen. That is why these people are Untouchable.

More than ever, we see why the surveillance powers of the State cannot be allowed to be extended. In fact, why surveillance powers should be wound back. The State cannot be trusted.

Bogeyman of The Year:

The Great Huawei Scare.

There is simply no credible evidence that Huawei has been spying on the West through it’s technology. None.

Despite searching for concrete examples, this blogger has found nothing to prove any wrongdoing by the Chinese company. If evidence exists, it has not been made public.

Former head of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Hayden, has regularly beaten the Evil Huawei drum stating that “… at a minimum, Huawei would have shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with. I think that goes without saying”.

He claims evidence exists that Huawei is spying for the Chinese government. He has not shared that evidence to support his allegations, saying;

“That’s my professional judgement. But as the former director of the NSA, I cannot comment on specific instances of espionage or any operational matters.”

The previous year, a leaked report from the White House in 2012 confirmed there was no evidence of Huawei Technologies Ltd spying for China.

As Karl Bode pointed out, writing for The Motherboard;

The problem: nobody has provided a shred of hard evidence that the company has done anything wrong, raising the question of whether this is glorified protectionism hiding behind the banner of national security.

And from Techdirt;

The constant allegations ultimately scuttled Huawei’s attempt to bring more gear competition to the United States market, blocked Huawei’s potential bid on a nationwide U.S. first responder network, and the United States has since been working hard to ensure that other countries don’t use Huawei gear either.

So that’s it: the bogeyman of Huawei as an unproven spy for the Chinese government remains just that: unproven.

But that didn’t stop  our own Coalition government from jumping on the US Imperial bandwagon. In November this year, citing non-specific, undisclosed information from the GCSB, the Coalition government blocked New Zealand companies like Spark from using Huawei technology to upgrade this country’s telecommunications system to 5G.

It appears that our country, led by the current Labour-NZ First-Green coalition, has sided with the United States in their ongoing trade war with China. As if the anti-nuclear stand we took in 1985 never took place, we are once again a vassal state of the American Empire.

But irony of ironies, it is not Huawei that has been spying on the West;

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Ooops!

Does the Coalition government really want to engage with the US in  McCarthyist-style fear-mongering against China? Especially when it’s all for a damned Trade War?!

The US is being beaten at its own capitalist game (after decades of fighting communism and successfully triumphant in the late 1980s) and now our American cuzzies are using underhand tactics to constrain Chinese-style capitalism?

What on Earth could we possibly have to gain in such a mad, Quixotic venture?

Worst Performing Party of The Year:

Without any doubt or close runner-up, that would have to be National. They still haven’t come to grips with being a Loyal Opposition Party of Her Majesty, and instead have engaged in nationwide tours and spreading misinformation (ie, outright lies) on social media and msm.

This is what desperation looks and smells like.

Most irrelevant Party of the Year:

I hate to say it (disclosure: I supported the Green Party at the ballot box), but the Green Party have become practically invisible or seemingly captured by neo-liberal constraints. The fiasco over permitting water bottling rights and exports for foreign-owned companies was the nadir of Green participation in this coalition.

And Julie Anne-Genter’s response to an OIA request I lodged with her in May (2018) dodging my questions on issues relating to the Mt Messenger Bypass was straight out of John Key’s rule-book for fudging responses to official information requests. (More on this in an upcoming story on this issue.)

This is not how we envisaged the Green Party to behave in government.

Best Suggestion from the Right:

From right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten, on Radio NZ’s Nine-To-Noon political panel on 17 December: for Radio New Zealand to implement regular political polling.

Polling has become sporadic, resulting in an unclear picture of where parties stand in public opinion. The recent Colmar Brunton-TVNZ poll was apparently wildly at variance with internal polling by both Labour and National (though Bridges preferred the Colmar Brunton poll, as it showed National in a more favourable light).

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Regular polling by Radio NZ, using a reputable company, would add to an overall better picture of our political environment. Internal polling by political parties is rarely made public, and only then when it shows one particular party in a favourable position, as Matthew pointed out.

One hopes that the mandarins at Radio NZ take serious consideration of Matthew’s suggestion. It should not be casually dismissed.

Most Irrelevant Media:

Free-to-air television. One can stomach only so much “reality programmes” and crime stories before the “off” switch is employed. The best tv is now behind paywalls; Netflix, Lightbox, Neon, HBO, etc.

Documentaries – especially those of a political nature – are as rare as Donald Trump’s integrity. The last critical documentary on New Zealand’s political state was Bryan Bruce’s expose on our housing crisis, ‘Who Owns New Zealand Now?” in September 2017. Before that, Bryan’s look at our income/wealth gap, “Inside Child Poverty“.

Ironically, both were broadcast by Mediaworks/TV3 – the same company that notoriously closed down the highly acclaimed Campbell Live and replaced it with garbage.

Since those two docos, New Zealanders have had little opportunity to see the state of their nation critically examined on our major free-to-air television networks. This has been left largely up to Radio NZ, and occassional stories on social issues on TV3’s The Nation and TVNZ’s Q+A.

We are operating in a near vacuum when it comes to seeing ourselves.

Twin Avoidable Tragedies of The Year:

The ongoing bombing of Yemen in a regional power-play between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia is armed by the West – predominantly the US, whilst Iran is supported by Russia and China. This is the resuscitated Cold War mentality at it’s bloodiest.

Add to that regional bloodbath Trump’s determination to sell Saudi Arabia billions of dollars of weaponry to help the ailing American capitalist system, and we have a moral vacuum of epic, evil proportions.

Consider that Saudi Arabia – considered a rogue state by many –  is acting as a Mercenary-Enforcer for the American Empire. Consider if Russia or China, both arms-suppliers to North Korea,  then encouraged that rogue state to rampage through their region bombing neighbouring countries. Imagine the response from the West – especially the United States.

World War Three would be one mouse-click away.

So much for Trump declaring he wanted to “drain the swamp”. The swamp known as the military-industrial complex – which is reliant on exporting lethal weapons of highly destructive power to eager client-states – remains as toxically noisome as ever.

Corporate America’s Man in the Oval Office is performing as expected.

Second Candidate for Prosecution by the International Court of Justice:

Benjamin  Netanyahu, for crimes against the Palestinian people.

First Candidate for Prosecution by the International Court of Justice:

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for atrocities committed in Yemen.

Runner-up First Candidate for Prosecution by the International Court of Justice:

President Trump. For being a dick.

Clusterfuck of The Year:

The extensive media coverage given to two neo-fascists from Canada, whose names I forget, and I can’t be arsed Googling them.

Surely we have better ways of dealing with repulsive individuals who express repulsive opinions?

A note to ourselves: freedom of speech is one thing. It doesn’t mean we are obligated to listen. We have freedom to listen – or not to listen. It cuts both ways.

Moronic F**kwits of The Year:

There is a sub-species of humans (and I use the term “human” in it’s broadest possible context) whose intellect I question and their standard of behaviour I condemn as selfish/ignorant beyond understanding.

These are people who wilfully destroy native trees simply because (a) it somehow benefits them personally and (b) they can.

The people of New Plymouth, Arkles Bay on the North Shore, and Opito Bay near Kerikeri have all suffered at the hands of individuals who, I submit, should forfeit their right to live in this country;

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If those responsible fail to appreciate New Zealand’s beautiful tree-filled landscape, my message to these morons is simple: bugger off to Australia’s central desert. You’ll love the desolation of that tree-less environment.

Ongoing Legacy Scandal of The Year:

Homelessness.

Child poverty.

The working poor.

This is what we have to show for 30-odd years of the neo-liberal experiment.The ‘trickle down’ theory has a distinctly urine-odour to it.

Time to close down the show, folks. Our dabbling in the so-called “free market/minimalist government” has been tried and has been a spectacular epic fail for 90% of us. (The other 10% say “Thank you for increasing our wealth, let’s do it again sometime, real soon!”)

It’s time to return to our normal scheduling of social programmes: free education; free healthcare; state housing for everyone who needs a roof over their heads; strong State involvement in planning and building infra-structure… the list can be added to as necessary.

Neo-libs, free marketeers, globalists – please look the other way.

Scam of The Year:

Without a doubt, and beating hands-down the anti-vaxxers and anti-flouridationists, the anti-1080 brigade for their “live theatre” involving dead native birds *NOT* killed by 1080.

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Based on little more than emotive sensationalism with an unhealthy dose of quasi-religious fanaticism, the anti-1080 “movement” are to fact-based science what sugar-laden cereals and “muesli health bars” are to our children.

Best avoided.

Spawned from the hunting lobby’s misinformation to protect their pet quarry (only hunters should be able to shoot and kill pigs, deer, thar, etc, not DoC), the anti-1080 protestors could be as much of a threat to our native birdlife and reptiles as rats, mice, stoats, possum, hedgehogs, et al.

Never under-estimate human stupidity. It rivals our ability to split the atom, send robot probes to the stars, and create magnificent works of art and literature.

Lesson of The Year:

If there was one, salient, sobering lesson of the year, it was this;

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Mother of student who died from meningococcal B calls for free nationwide vaccinations (Newshub, 27 November 2018)

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The mother of a Victoria University student who died from meningococcal B is calling on the Government to subsidise vaccinations across New Zealand.

On Monday, Health Minister Dr David Clark announced that from December children and teenagers in Northland would be vaccinated to deal with a dangerous meningococcal outbreak.

The three-week programme will include free vaccinations for children between nine months and four years of age, as well as teenagers. The vaccines will be distributed from clinics set up in some high schools and community centres across the region.

But Tarsha Boniface, whose daughter died from the disease, said free vaccinations should be made available nationwide.

“Surely there should be some sort of [subsidy] for everyone in New Zealand, not just in Northland. Just to help, it’s such a huge cost, but the cost we put on our children’s lives,” she said.

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Those who promote anti-vaccine dogma (much of it based of “alternative facts”) are not the ones in the Intensive Care Ward who will face distraught parents to give them the unbearable news that no parent will ever want to hear.

The lesson is clear: vaccinate or risk your children contracting a lethal disease. It’s that simple.

Pet Peeve of The Year:

At around Christmas/New Year, usually extending to Wellington Anniversary (21 January in 2019) Day, Radio NZ’s serious news and current affairs programmes are replaced with “light and frothy” infotainment, plus a couple of goofy characters in the afternoons who remind me of “Ben and Jono”, and who would not be out of place on commercial breakfast radio. (At least that gives me time to catch up on replaying my favourite music CDs in the car…)

So for three weeks there is nothing happening in New Zealand? Coupled with that the absence of Q+A and The Nation, we have pretty much achieved a full news and current affairs blackout. The politicians and bureaucrats must *LOVE* this time of the year.

Luckily for private investigators Thompson and Clark, Southern Response bureaucrats, former earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee, et al, that the story of spying on New Zealand citizens  broke so close to Christmas.

That let Thompson and Clark, Southern Response, Gerry Brownlee, et al, clean off the hook.

Bullet dodged.

If Trump decides to nuke North Korea, Iran, or China, would we hear anything further than a brief 30 second item on the hourly news?

People deserve better than a news and current affairs vacuum. Radio NZ, which pretty much sets news and current affairs standards in this country, needs to lift its game. This is not good enough.

Political Wank of The Year:

Again, Simon Bridges.

This time for wanting to re-open offshore oil and gas drilling exploration – whilst at the same time supporting the setting up of a Climate Change Commission;

“We will be signing up, we will be working hard on an independent Climate Change Commission that is non-political and that is an enduring framework for how we approach and get advice for future governments on climate change.”

So let’s get this straight. Mr Bridges wants to re-open offshore oil an gas exploration?

But he also supports a Climate Change Commission from which he will seek advice?

(See where I’m going with this?)

So question for Mr Bridges: what will he do if the Climate Change Commission advises him not to proceed with new offshore oil and gas exploration?

He would ignore such advice, needless to say. Which means the proposed Climate Change Commission and it’s “advice” would be as useful as tits and a Bendon bra on a bull. (But way more expensive for tax-payers. In effect, we’d be shovelling our hard earned taxes into a Climate Change Commission whose advice would be utterly ignored by Mr Bridges.)

Have I left anything out?

Hypocrite #1 of the Year:

Mike “Rich Masterbator in a Maserati” Hosking. For railing in support of free speech for those two Canadian neo-fascists – and then railing to keep Chelsea Manning banned from speaking in New Zealand.

This one will follow him whenever he utters “free speech” again.

Hypocrite #2 of The Year:

Maggie Barry.

She excoriated Jami Lee Ross as if he were one of the late Saddam Hussein’s poison gas chemists, condemning his “bullying behahaviour” on Twitter;

“What a disloyal disgrace this flawed & isolated individual has become. Having now read the PWC report I personally believe the unpleasant & bullying pattern of behaviour of Jami Lee Ross has no place in an otherwise united National Caucus under our leader Simon Bridges.”

Then it was revealed that two of her electorate staffers laid complaints with Ministerial Services over her bad behaviour;

“She would swear at me and blame me for mistakes she had made … she would call staff stupid, tell them that she couldn’t believe they’d been given a degree, she’d talk about their sexuality behind their back.

It was Jekyll and Hyde stuff. It was terrifying at times. It rocketed from absurd one moment to terrifying the next. She would be absolutely lovely and then a small thing would trigger her and she’d be absolutely furious, just red-hot fury.”

The woman kills weeds in her garden simply by screaming at them to die.

Best Feminist of The Year:

Lizzie Marvelly.

Simply one of the most insightful, articulate, and compassionate feminist commentator we’ve seen in this country for a long time. Her criticisms of sexist behaviour is done with grace, dignity, and often with subtle humour.

Her surname is apt. She is a national taonga.

Finally. The #1 threat to human civilisation on Planet Earth:

Climate change.

Nothing has changed (for the better). As a species we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like nothing untoward is happening.

Despite the hard science; despite the data from NASA satellites, NOAA oceanic sensor buoys; ice core samples from Vostok Antarctica Station; rising CO2 and yearly temperatures; increasingly aberant weather patterns – world leaders move at glacial speed. In fact, glaciers are melting faster than world leaders are taking steps to address this critical crisis confronting humanity.

The final act of the capitalist/industrial system is about to end  and the curtain fall on the close of the Anthropocene Era.

The last returning astronaut to Earth won’t discover a Planet of the Apes. He will find a drowned graveyard.

Unless our children decide to act once my generation dies out. They may be the last hope for our species.

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References

Radio NZ: Thompson and Clark probe – all you need to know

NZ Herald: Damning report confirms Government agencies used private investigators for spying

Motherboard: There’s No Public Evidence Huawei Spies on Americans, But the Company Is Getting Blackballed Anyway

Business Insider: Huawei Spies For China, Says Former NSA And CIA Chief Michael Hayden

Reuters: White House review finds no evidence of spying by Huawei – sources

Techdirt: US – We Have No Evidence Or Credibility On This Whatsoever, But Don’t Use Huawei Because China Might Spy On You

NZ Herald: New Zealand halts Huawei from 5G upgrade over security fears

NZ Herald: Pat Pilcher – US caught spying on Huawei

Mediaworks/Newshub: Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels

The Spinoff: Simon Bridges needs to stop pandering to the alt-right on the Global Compact

Fairfax media: Green Party members revolt over water bottling decision

Radio NZ: PM admits Govt uses delaying tactics

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – A year in politics with Hooton & Mills

TVNZ: National surpasses Labour in latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Fairfax media: Housing crisis documentary pulls no punches on eve of election

Youtube: Who Owns New Zealand Now?

Youtube: Inside Child Poverty

Pacific Media Centre: NZ – Campbell Live wins award for Samoa tsunami money investigation

Washington Post: Trump again uses arms sales to justify Saudi ties, dragging U.S. defense contractors into an unwelcome debate

Fairfax media: New growth detected on pohutukawa after attempted poisoning

TVNZ News: ‘Terrible vandalism’ – Auckland seaside residents fear local behind pohutukawa tree poisoning

Radio NZ: Pōhutukawa poisoned at Northland’s Opito Bay

Scoop media: Dead birds at Parliament were not killed by 1080 – autopsy

Mediaworks/Newshub: Mother of student who died from meningococcal B calls for free nationwide vaccinations

Radio NZ: Nats change tune on commission for climate change

NewstalkZB: What happened to free speech in this country?

NZHerald: Chelsea Manning is a crook, keep her out of NZ

Twitter: Maggie Barry – Jami Lee Ross – 15 October 2018

Radio NZ:  Maggie Barry bullying claims: Ex-staffer speaks out

Previous related blogposts

2018 – the year that weirdly was (1)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 January 2019.

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

2018 – the year that weirdly was (1)

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In many respects, 2018 was a strange year in politics. From weird gender-focused terminology to ongoing subterranean machinations within the National Party as it came to grips with being in Opposition – 2018 was one for the history books.

The most over-used – and under-explained – word of the year:

“Trigger/triggered”

Used commonly in gender-related pop-psychology, it was the main rationale used to exclude LGBTQI police from participating in this year’s Auckland Pride Parade. (Though the Parade organisors were ‘generous’ enough to permit Police to participate in the Parade wearing t-shirts, with “Police” printed on them.)

As former mayor and member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer wryly observed;

“It seems ironic to me that out, gay, uniformed police are now told to possibly arrive in mufti of some sort – in other words, pop back in the closet. What’s that about?”

Evidently, police in uniform “triggered” some members of the Pride Parade. Though how and why and who, was never quite explained to us. It’s use was sufficient to present the anti-Police argument.

Perhaps definition of the “t” word was never really required. As the Right uses the term “political correctness” as a short-hand code for something/anything they dislike – “triggered” became a kind of short-hand code for some on the Left.

Greatest disappointment of the year:

See above. The decision of the Pride Parade committee to exclude LGBTQI police from marching in uniform.

It is depressing that some members of the Rainbow Community have forgotten what it feels like to be excluded. Or to be told how to dress.

You cannot have inclusion when some are excluded.

The most arcane language since Latin – political-gender-identity references:

“…anti-semitic transphobic white heteronormative patriarchy…”

Say whut?!

Is that the 21st century way of saying someone is a ‘bigot’?

This is Orwellian ‘Newspeak‘ in reverse. Instead of destroying words and shrinking the language, it is expanded with a truckload of extra adjectives and syllables.

I’ll go with the 20th century version: ‘bigot’. Easier on my well-pounded keyboard.

Most desperate person in the galaxy:

No, not Princess (“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!!”) Leia.

Simon Bridges; to maintain his relevance; to relate to the electorate; to keep his leadership of the Nats. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi can help?

2nd most dangerous disruptor in NZ politics: 

Jamie Lee Ross

1st most dangerous disruptor in NZ politics: 

The person/people pulling Ross’s strings.

The person making ongoing leaks from the National parliamentary caucus.

The most honourable, honest, insighful Person of 2018:

Donald Trump.

(Nah. Just messing with you.)

3rd most dangerous nuclear-armed state:

North Korea

2nd most dangerous nuclear-armed state:

Israel

1st most dangerous nuclear-armed state:

USA, under Donald Trump

The Greatest Clear and Present danger to NZ democracy:

The Establishment (aka, the “Deep State”).

Whether covering their arses for the apalling lack of safety at Pike River; Peter Whittle buying his way out of prosecution; no one prosecuted for the collapse of the CTV building; the attack on two Afghan villages by SAS forces in 2010, where civilians were killed; or latest revelations that government departments hired private investigators Thompson & Clark to spy/harass New Zealanders, and unanswered questions of police involvement with Thompson & Clark – something is deeply rotten in the state of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Aside from symbolic “harakiri” by Southern Response’s chairperson, Ross Butler, when is the last time anyone in a high position of authority has been held to account? Prosecuted? Jailed?

And even Butler’s resignation was lamented by former Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, who defended the disgraced executive:

“I have read the report, I think it is not a good report, I think that it is written in a way that has a degree of inflammatory language in it. It is designed to make the big cost of it more palatable. And I think it is a great tragedy a gentleman like Mr Butler has been treated the way he has.”

Without a shred of shame, Brownlee admitted knowing that Southern Response was infiltrating, spying, and illegally recording Canterbury earthquake victims.

We are witnessing the rise and rise of The Untouchable Elite in our country.

Meanwhile, our prisons continue to fill up with poor brown kids; the illiterate; and those with mental health problems.

What is wrong with this picture?!

The 2018 Prize for Most Shameless Arse-covering in NZ:

Gerry Brownlee (see above).

If Brownlee was still Earthquake Recovery Minister in a Bill English-led National government, you can bet that Butler would not have resigned and Southern Response would continue to contract Thompson & Clark to spy on law-abiding people.

The TAB would not be taking bets on this.

Best Quietly Performing Minister of The Year:

Tracey Martin. Minister for Children, Seniors, and Internal Affairs, and associate minister for Education. As minister responsible for crisis-racked Oranga Tamariki, her job is one of the toughest, having to deal with a nine year legacy from the previous National government.

She just gets on with the job without fuss or headline-producing stuff-ups. A NZ First MP, she is one of the Coalition’s most capable ministers.

Best potential far-reaching revolutionary strike against the neo-liberal orthodoxy:

Shane Jones and his new  infrastructure agency. The Coalition has committed to making up under-spending in infra-structure (not just kilometres of new roading projects under National);

“That means ensuring New Zealand can make the timely and quality investments in vital infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, transport networks, water and electricity. And it means being open to innovative solutions to sourcing the capital we need.

We’re already making a significant dent in our infrastructure deficit. Net capital spending in the next five years will be more than double that of the previous five years with the government investing about $42 billion through to 2022.

This is a good start, but we need to do better over the long term and I’m confident the new infrastructure entity will help us really sharpen our planning for the future.”

Alongside reviewing government procurement policies that had been putting unfair financial risks on construction companies – sending many into collapse –  Minister Jones’s new agency signals a seismic change in the role of the State in planning infrastructure.

If the new agency is allowed to develop into a new Ministry of Works 2.0, it would signal a major repudiation of the neo-liberal paradigm that “most of the work that the state does would be much better achieved by the private sector, where market discipline would operate“, as Dr Liz Gordon pointed out in her excellent blogpost on 26 December.

The revolution against the neo-liberal system will not be televised. Instead it will be a little note slipped under the door.

We may achieve the subtle demolition of neo-liberalism before the Right realises what is happening. In effect, the complete antithesis to the noisy Rogernomics juggernaut of the 80s and 90s.

This could be the enduring legacy of not just Shane Jones, but the entire Coalition government itself.

Top Prize for Unmitigated Screw-up for The Year (perhaps the decade?)

The “new improved” bus service in Wellington.

Implemented in July this year, the Wellington Regional Council took a perfectly well-operating, well-patronised, effective bus service – and fucked it up in a way that beggared belief. Few people were left happy.

The term “Ghost Buses” made an appearance as scheduled buses never appeared.

Public frustration grew until the WRC was forced to spend more hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayers money to lay on more buses.

Meanwhile, Go Wellington, the bus company responsible for this public transport clusterfuck of godlike proportions, was focused on more critical matters;

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On a more serious note, Wellington Regional Council must bear responsibility for the fiasco. Their policy to contract out services to bus providers offering the cheapest service once again demonstrates the inherently contradictory flaws of the neo-liberal system of tendering out.

If the WRC picked the cheapest possible prices for services – why were they surprised when the ‘product’ started falling apart?!

Cheapest is not always best. The Chicago School of Economics must’ve missed that memo.

Ongoing. Worst. Thing. Ever.

The ongoing attack on  New Zealand’s poorest underclass continues unabated as the MSD continues to extract money from the benefits of former state house tenants;

Despite meth testing being shown to be a total fraud on the purse of the taxpayer; despite Housing NZ apologising for unjustified evictions and destruction of personal property; despite HNZ spending millions to reimburse former tenants – the well-paid, powerful bureaucrats at the Ministry for Social “Development” continue to demand repayment of debt incurred from emergency housing.

Despite everything, former tenants are having to repay a “debt” they should never have been saddled with in the first place.

On 21 December, deputy chief executive of service delivery, Viv Rickard, issued a statement (he wouldn’t front to be directly interviewed):

“We know people are worried about debt they may have incurred as a direct result of their Housing New Zealand tenancies ending because of meth contamination, and we want to assure them we are working on addressing this soon.

We’ve done a lot to work out how our clients have been affected, including main tenants, as well as other people who were members of the household at the time.

We’re looking into all the types of financial assistance each person may have received since their tenancy ended, how much of it related to the tenancy ending, whether they were asked to pay it back, and how much they’ve already done so.”

Earlier this year, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Peter Gluckman, released his shock report, revealing that meth testing was a scam;

“There is absolutely no evidence in the medical literature of anyone being harmed from passive use, at any level. We can’t find one case.”

That was On 29 May. It is now the end of December. In seven months, the MSD has not been able to stop demanding repayments for a bogus debt based on bogus meth testing.

Seven months.

But you can bet Mr Rickard and other well-remunerated MSD execs continue to be paid their salaries.

And you can bet that when MSD discovers an over-payment to a beneficiary, they will pounce swifty to recover that money.

Days.

MSD’s inaction on this scandal is intolerable. If Rickards and his colleagues are too incompetant or too lazy to resolve this problem, they should step down immediatly.

But they won’t. See The Greatest Clear and Present danger to NZ democracy above. These people are Untouchable.

Mystery of The Year:

What has happened to former Radio NZ Checkpoint presenter, John Campbell?!

Head-hunted from Radio NZ by rival state broadcaster, TVNZ, aside from a few brief stints on Q+A and some sports reporting (sports?!?!), John Campbell has been pretty close to invisible since 14 September.

If National were still in power, conspiracy rumours that Mr Campbell has been ‘nobbled’ would abound.

Will we soon have to put John Campbell’s face on milk cartons: Have you seen this person?

Stomach churn of The Year:

Seeing the smiling assassin, John Key, on our television screens again on TVNZs Q+A on 10 December (video). Within minutes of being interviewed by Corin Dann, the bullshit started flowing from his mouth.

This time, instead of defending the indefensible of his previous National government – he was defending the indefensible bloated profits from the banking industry.

Once a con man, always a con man.

Numpty of The Year:

David Seymour – for also defending the indefensible: single use plastic bags. It is difficult to understand what would prompt a supposedly intelligent human being to oppose the elimination of single use plastic bags, one of the most ubiquitous and deadly-to-life by-products of our Disposable-Consumer Culture.

No wonder his so-called “party” consistently polls under 1%.

Political Bullshit Puff-piece of The Year:

This ‘Award’ goes to right-wing commentator, Damien Grant. He has outdone his usual pro-National propaganda with a puff-piece on Stuff website extolling the almost-preternatural virtues of current National Party leader, Simon Bridges. The piece goes from embarrassing flattery to fawning adulation. Like this;

“…The question National should ask itself is who people will vote for when they are afraid of losing their job? Who will they feel confident in when they are worried about the banks failing and the dollar falling?

The very things that make Bridges unpalatable now, the perception of arrogance, toughness and inflexibility, could be exactly what voters want when the world they understand comes unstuck.

A man who will vote his conscience, regardless of the political cost, could be the very thing we want in uncertain times.

Nothing will save the current Prime Minister, not even a wedding if the public starts to panic.

People may not like Simon Bridges, but possibly they see in him the sort of toughness that will be required if the economic wheels fall off…”

Remember what folks used to say about Mike Hoskings’ “love affair” with former Dear Leader John Key?

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Damian Grant appears to be vying for a similar role for his beloved Saint Simon.

[To be concluded in part 2]

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References

Gay republic: Pride & Police Uniforms

Twitter: Radio NZ – Georgina Beyer – 20 November 2018

Sparknotes: The Principles of Newspeak

Radio NZ: ‘Disturbing’ behaviour revealed by spying investigation – PM

Radio NZ: Southern Response chair resigns following spying revelations

Fairfax media: Gerry Brownlee knew Southern Response hired private spies

Beehive:  Hon Tracey Martin

Radio NZ: New infrastructure agency proposed to improve planning, investment

Radio NZ: Forcing builders into risky contracts: ‘How crazy is that?’

Fairfax media: Wellington officials plan to bust ‘ghost buses’ and improve timetables

Radio NZ:  Wellington regional council spending thousands a month to help bus network

Fairfax media: Bus drivers who dare to wear shorts to be summoned to investigation meeting by Wellington bosses

Investopedia: Chicago School

Radio NZ: Tenants evicted over meth test still paying debt

Fairfax media: The meth house is a myth – There’s ‘no risk’ from drug smoking residue, Govt report finds

Scoop media: Q+A – Sir John Key interviewed by Corin Dann

Youtube: Q+A with Sir John Key

Fairfax media: Damien Grant – Simon Bridges may be needed when the economic wheels fall off

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Dr Liz Gordon – The State Sector Act and all that

Previous related blogposts

David Seymour – A Valid ‘Hit’ and a Colossal ‘Miss’

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 December 2018.

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