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

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come


(Or, “The Duplicities of Dr Smith: Dirty rivers, Dubious standards, and Double-talk” )




“…We should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.” – John Key,



Water Quality & Shifting Goal Posts


On 23 February, Faux-Environment Minister, Dr Nick Smith, announced a seemingly “bold” plan to clean up New Zealand’s waterways by 2040;




The Government has announced a new target to have 90 per cent of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers reach swimmable water quality standards by 2040.

The target will be based on meeting the water quality standard at least 80 per cent of the time in line with European and United States definition, Environment Minister Nick Smith said.

Currently 72 per cent by length meet that definition and the target is to increase that to 90 per cent by 2040.

Faux-Environment Minister  Smith tried to re-assure New Zealanders;

“This ambitious plan to improve the water quality in our lakes and rivers recognises that New Zealanders expect to be able to take a dip in their local river or lake without getting a nasty bug.

This 90 per cent goal by 2040 is challenging and is estimated to cost the Government, farmers and councils $2 billion over the next 23 years. It will make us a world leader in water quality standards for swimming, and that’s important for New Zealand’s growing tourism industry. It will return our rivers and lakes to a standard not seen in 50 years while recognising that our frequent major rainfalls mean a 100 per cent standard is not realistic.”

A day later, on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’, however, his assertions were taken to task with a more critical style of interviewing by Susie Ferguson.

Smith claimed that new levels of e.coli contamination were set to international standards;

“The level, the 540 e.coli, is the level that is set by the World Health Organisation, it the level that is set both by the E.U. and by the U.S.”.

Ferguson challenged Smith’s assertions by pointing out that other international organisations and jurisdictions held lower e.coli level for permissible contamination levels. At one point she asked the Faux Minister for the Environment how  rivers currently rated as “swimmable” will now be able to have twice the amount of faecal matter in it and still remain safe to swim in.

Smith’s reply was waffly, suggesting that Ferguson was attempting to mix “Medians” and “95 percentile” figures. He ducked Ferguson’s question.

Green Party water-spokesperson,  Catherine Delahunty, pointed out that National had simply re-designated pollution levels by “shifting the goalposts“;

“The Prime Minister thinks he can pull a fast one on New Zealanders by just shifting the goalposts and calling what was ‘wadeable’ now ‘swimmable’.”

The Fairfax article in which Delahunty made the accusation did not disclose what “goalposts”  she was referring to.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, also referred to a shifting of “goalposts”;

“There have been some goalposts moved, or some ways of measuring things moved, and it’s very difficult to tell whether things are being tightened or loosened. That’s a big concern of mine.”

Radio NZ reported Dr Wright as being highly critical that the 90 percent target-catchment included  waterways that no-one would swim in, such as  rivers in very remote/very cold regions of New Zealand;

“It’s where do people want to swim and at what time of the year … There’s sort of a dilution that’s gone on by putting the whole length of these rivers in, and the whole areas of these lakes.”

There was  further evidence of “shifted goalposts” to come…







Media Analysis & What was left out


When Faux-Environment Minister  Smith announced a grandoise “plan to improve the water quality in our lakes and rivers recognises that New Zealanders expect to be able to take a dip in their local river or lake without getting a nasty bug“, he omitted to mention a salient fact.

Radio NZ’s Environment & Conservation Reporter,  Kate Gudsell, reported on the morning of 24 February  (the day after Faux-Environment Minister  Smith made his much heralded announcement;

The government has weakened the threshold for what qualifies as the best quality waterway to swim in as part of its target to make 90 percent of New Zealand’s rivers swimmable by 2040.

Under the old system, for a waterway to be considered the best for swimmability the acceptable level of E coli was less than 260 per 100ml of water.

That equated to a low risk of infection, up to 1 percent, when a person was taking part in activities that were likely to involve full immersion.

Now, the government has changed the whole system so that for a waterway to be considered excellent it cannot exceed a new E coli level of 540 per 100ml [of water]  more than five percent of the time, which equates to a less than five percent risk of infection.

To give waterways an “Excellent” rating, National has more than doubled the permissable level of e.coli bacteria in a given river or lake from 260 per 100ml of water to 540 per 100ml of water.

When pointedly asked by a journalist that “the Ministry of Health recommendation is 260 E.coli – how does that relates to the 540 level?“, Smith tried the “baffle-them-with-bullshit-science” response;

“We are saying at 540 E.coli the risk is one in 20 (of getting sick).  But that one in 20 is at the 95 per cent confidence level. So there is an extra level of cautiousness. Even if you put 20 people in water and it has a 540 E.coli level it’s not saying on average one person gets sick out of 20. It’s saying one in 20 of 20 groups will have one in 20 get sick.”

Smith’s “ one in 20” explanation was so confusing, he ludicrously managed to  contradict himself on Radio NZ;

Under the old system, for a waterway to be considered the best for swimmability, the acceptable level of E coli was less than 260 per 100ml of water.

That equated to a low risk of infection, up to 1 percent (one in 100), when a person took part in activities likely to involve full immersion.

Under the new system, for a waterway to be considered excellent it could not exceed an E coli level of 540 per 100ml more than 5 percent of the time.

That equated to a less than a 5 percent (one in 20) risk of infection.

When it was put to him that the new swimmable standard allowed for one in 20 people to become sick, Mr Smith said, “That is junk science”.

Even Smith can’t keep up with his own bullshit.

Unfortunately, not all media reports (initially) referred to National shifting the e.coli goalposts from  260 per 100ml of water to  540 per 100ml of water; such as Fairfax’s “New Government target to see 90 per cent of rivers and lakes ‘swimmable’ by 2040“; Radio NZ’s  “Govt plans to make 90% of NZ waterways swimmable by 2040“; TVNZ’s “Govt wants to make 90% of lakes and rivers clean enough to swim in by 2040“; and NBR’s “Government bows to pressure, adopts ‘swimmable’ target for lakes and rivers“.

The public reading those stories would not have realised that National was effectively doubling the permissable level of e.coli contamination in our waterways.

However, TV3 News (“Govt aims to get 90pct of rivers swimmable by 2040“) and NZ Herald (“Government sets 2040 ‘swimmable’ rivers target“), got it right on the first day (23 February).

To be fair, National’s media release on 23 February – “90% of rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040”  –  was also missing the crucial detail of e.coli levels being increased.

It was a detail which the Faux-Environment Minister did not want publicised, when he fronted up to the media on the 23rd.

Interestingly, commentors on and NBR seemed very aware on 23 February that Smith was trying to pull a ‘fast one’ over the public’s and media’s eyes;






(Note “Two days ago” correlated to 23 February.)







Past Targets & Election Year Gimmickery


The 2040 “target” for supposedly cleaning up our rivers and lakes was not National’s first attempt at setting long-term goals.

National ministers have been setting target-goals for themselves as a kind of “feel good” story for the public. Usually these targets are released to the media in an election year. And usually the target dates are set years, if not decades, into the distant future.

Who can forget these targets;

In 2011 (election year!), National announced that New Zealand would be smokefree by 2025;

The Government has set a long-term goal of reducing smoking prevalence and tobacco availability to minimal levels, thereby making New Zealand essentially a smokefree nation by 2025.

In 2014 (election year!) and announced by Minister for Stomping on Crushed Cars, Anne Tolley, National set this ambitious target for themselves;

Reducing crime

Our aim

  • By June 2017, reduce the crime rate by 15%, reduce the violent crime rate by 20%, and reduce the youth crime rate by 25%.

  • By June 2017, reduce the re-offending rate by 25%.

Another target-goal, set in 2014 (election year!),  and announced by Social Welfare minister, Paula Bennett;

…has set a new target of getting benefit numbers from 295,000 to 220,000 by 2017 – a 25 per cent drop. She is also looking for a 40 per cent drop in youth on benefits – getting 21,000 more young people off the benefit.

And this one, released in June last year (strangely, not an election year);

New Zealand to be Predator Free by 2050

Prime Minister John Key has today announced the Government has adopted the goal of New Zealand becoming Predator Free by 2050.


“That’s why we have adopted this goal. Our ambition is that by 2050 every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums.”

The budget for this herculean feat to eliminate “rats, stoats and possums” from “every single part of New Zealand” was set at  an ‘extra’ $28 million (above $60 – $80 million already budgetted for pest control) – an amount which was derided for it’s utter inadequacy.

So how are we doing with these laudible, “feel good” target?

Not too well.

In 2015, a Fairfax story revealed that National’s ambitious goal to eliminate smoking from New Zealand was lagging far behind;

However as the deadline looms for Smokefree 2025 – a commitment by the Government to help reduce smoking to minimal levels in New Zealand in 10 years – anti-smoking organisations are calling for it to take bolder steps to preserve New Zealand’s position as a world-leader in the fight against tobacco.


Even the Ministry of Health admits it’s off track…


In New Zealand, tobacco manufacturers’ returns supplied to the Ministry show consumption has declined 6 per cent per year since 2010, or 23 per cent since 2010.


“At this rate, New Zealand will not meet the target of Smokefree 2025,” [Emeritus Professor at the University of Auckland Robert] Beaglehole said. “But it is achievable, and we know what to do to get back on track.”

Perhaps the worst target-goal that has failed was National’s (dubious) committment to cut large numbers from welfare benefits, as conceded by Anne Tolley in July 2016;

Anne Tolley has effectively conceded that National is unlikely to meet its objective of moving 65,000 people off the benefit within the next two years.

In excusing her government’s failure to meet one of their own self-imposed target-goals, Tolley gave this illuminating explanation;

“It’s a very aspirational target.”

Within those five simple words, Tolley has revealed the the eventual outcome and excuse whenever one  of National’s target-goals fails: they are only “aspirational”.

This is critical, because like the “Predator Free New Zealand by 2050” or “90 per cent of rivers and lakes ‘swimmable’ by 2040”, the target dates for these goals to be accomplished are so far into the future that (a) no one will recall these committments being made (b) most National ministers who made them will be long-retired, residing in rest-homes and having drool wiped from their slack-jawed faces by under-paid caregivers or (c) dead.

In short, no one will ever be held to account for these failures of policy.

The great mistake made by National is that, at the beginning when they dreamed up these feel-good gimmicks, they set target-goal dates too close to the present. For example,  when John Key and Bill English published a document entitled “Better Public Services” in February 2014, issuing a whole raft of target-goals, they set the date for accomplishment at 2017  (for most, though not all).

That left National minister in office only three years later having to explain their failure to achieve their target-goals.

In Tolley’s case, she could only offer the lame excuse that they were “aspirational” goals  only.

As  Susie Ferguson pointed out to Nick Smith on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report;

“The long time frame of this though means  that you are going to  be long gone whether we see that this has happened or not.”

The ultimate Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for a politician.

In the meantime – stay out of the rivers and lakes. Nick Smith has been seen bull-shitting in them.









Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum

Fairfax media: New Government target to see 90 per cent of rivers and lakes ‘swimmable’ by 2040

Radio NZ: Nick Smith defends new swimming standard for rivers and lakes

Radio NZ: ‘Very confusing’: Watchdog critical of water quality changes

New Zealand Yearbook: 1984

Radio NZ: Water quality measure ‘less stringent’

Fairfax media: The new ‘swimmable’ fresh water target: Nick Smith defends his plan

Radio NZ: Water quality criticism based on ‘junk science’ – Nick Smith

NBR: Government bows to pressure, adopts ‘swimmable’ target for lakes and rivers

New Zealand Yearbook: 2008

Ministry of Health: Smokefree 2025

Beehive: Better Public Services

NZ Herald: National pledge to cut benefit numbers by 25 per cent

Beehive: New Zealand to be Predator Free by 2050

Fairfax media: Smokefree 2025, predator-free 2050 criticised for a lack of follow through

Beehive: New Zealand to be Predator Free by 2050

NZ Herald: Anne Tolley – Government’s benefits target ‘very aspirational’

Scoop media:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English, Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata

Statistics NZ: Agricultural Production Statistics: June 2015


Fairfax: Cattle belonging to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias’ repeat offenders

Scoop media: Swimmable rivers – Greenpeace says look below the surface

Scoop media: Big Backdown by Smith on Swimmable Rivers

Other Blogs

Green blog: Nick Smith thinks New Zealanders are stupid

Greenpeace: Don’t get freaked by the eco

My Thinks: Come swim with me

No Right Turn: A literal bullshit standard

The Civilian: What’s all the fuss about these rivers? I drank some water once and it wasn’t any bloody good

The Civilian: Government vows that by 2040, 90% of New Zealand’s rivers will be ‘vaguely liquid in nature’

The Daily Blog: National’s ‘swimmable’ rivers policy is another ‘alternative facts’ moment and why we can’t allow it

The Daily Blog: David Parker – Flammable rivers – Smith’s swimmable river con ignites outrage

The Standard: Just allow more shit – a metaphor for this government

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

When spin doctors go bad

Congratulations Dr Smith!!

TDB Investigation into what is happening in our water

Election ’17 Countdown: The Strategy of Ohariu

Election ’17 Countdown: Joyce – let the lolly scramble begin!






This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 February 2017.



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Congratulations Dr Smith!!

11 September 2016 2 comments


Dr Smiths


Congratulations are in order for Dr (Nick) Smith.

Not content with National’s default Blame-Game targets, Dr Smith has come up with an entire new scape-goat for National’s never-ending botch-ups; failed policies; scandals; mismanagement; under-funding; accident-prone Ministers; cronyism, and every other cluster-f*ck that a politician can conceivably come up with.

Up till now, National’s  favorite Default Deflection targets have been;

Deflection #1: The Previous Labour government done it

Never mind that National has been in power for nearly nine years, they can still point the finger at Labour for “the mess that they left us”. (“Mess” being record low unemployment; positive economic growth;  national debt paid down, and posting eight surpluses in a row. How many countries would love to have been bequeathed Labour’s “mess“?)

How that “mess” has survived unchanged and “fixed”,  by National,  throughout nearly a decade is never explained. Only Guyon Espiner on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ cuts of Ministers when they attempt to resort to Deflection Number One, with an exasperation in his voice that would do the parent of a toddler proud.

The Housing crisis was a recent example of Deflecting blame to Labour;




Key’s latest exercise in responsibility-avoidance;

“Under the nine years that Helen [Clark] was Prime Minister, my friend, nationally house prices went up 102 percent. Under us in eight years, they’ve gone up 43. In Auckland they went up 87 percent I think – under us it’s about the same.

If it was a state of emergency now, a crisis now, why wasn’t it a state of emergency and a crisis then?”

Even the passing of National’s ill-fated synthetic drugs laws (later repealed as an utter legislative failure) was blamed on Labour;




Who would have thought that after eight years in Opposition, Labour still wields such powerful influence? Who thought it possible to govern from the Opposition benches?

Labour, take a bow.

Which is all rather ironic, as Dear Leader is pushing Heaven, Earth, and Planet Key to support Helen Clark as the U.N.’s next Secretary General;

“There are major global challenges facing the world today and the United Nations needs a proven leader who can be pragmatic and effective.

Coming from New Zealand Helen Clark is well placed to bridge divisions and get results. She is the best person for the job.

I’ll do everything I can to get her over the line.


If Helen became the next secretary general of the UN New Zealanders would celebrate in the same way they celebrate Lorde for her singing and Lydia Ko in golf.”

Most people would say she was a very strong prime minister for nine years and she’s done a great job in the last seven years at UNDP.”

And subsequently;

“If they’re doing that, that is everything that’s wrong with the United Nations because, for goodness sake, let’s get the best person in the job…


I still think anyway if its a drag race between Kevin Rudd and Helen Clark, New Zealanders, and I reckon a hell of a lot of Australians, know who the best candidate is.”

Wow! Is this the same Prime Minister of a previous Labour government that Key blames all New Zealand’s economic and social woes?

Deflection #2: Welfare Beneficiaries/Housing NZ tenants done it

It’s the fault of those “lazy benes”. And/or Housing NZ tenants. It’s their fault that poverty has increased; wages have remained low; the income/wealth gap has widened; that there is over-crowding and homelessness.

Of course it’s their fault. Key said so;

“But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

Didn’t you know that government social and fiscal policy is set by  WINZ beneficiaries  and Housing NZ clients?!

Deflection #3: The GFC/Great Recession/Overseas Events done it

Unemployment is still high (even with Statistics NZ fudging unemployment stats). It’s the GFC, stoopid, as Key pointed out;

“We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis. We have had three terrible earthquakes in Christchurch. We have had the collapse of finance companies. We have had to bail out what is, in terms of the earthquakes, the single biggest economic impact on a developed economy as the result of a disaster. The public don’t agree with every decision… but I think they believe on balance it’s been a tough three years and we’ve handled most things well. The second thing is it’s all relative. Yes, our unemployment went to 7 per cent and now it’s 6.5, but in America it’s 9 per cent officially and 14 per cent unofficially and in Spain it’s 20 per cent… “


“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.”

Of course, Deflection #3 has a limited shelf-life, and sooner or later the public and media will wise-up to the fact that the Global Financial Crisis event was eight years ago.

Time for another handy international crisis?

Deflection #4: The Auckland Council/RMA done it

When it comes to Auckland-related problems such as housing unaffordability; homelessness, and over-crowding, the Nats have a geographic-specific Deflection solely set aside for that contingency;


Govt blames RMA Auckland Council sunspots


Very handy.

Deflection #4 is better than ‘Persil‘ at removing embarrassing and unsightly, Auckland-issue credibility stains…

But now, in a masterful, brilliant stroke of creative political bullshit-artistry, Dr Smith has come up with a brand new Deflection category.

Drum roll, please…



Deflection #5: The birds done it!

In a speech on 30 August, Dr Smith was at pains to rationalise away his government’s abject failure at cleaning up New Zealand’s heavily polluted waterways. His surrender to a future of rivers so contaminated with animal faeces and harmful micro-organisms that they can no longer be  swum in, was summed up when he lamented;

“A national requirement for all water bodies to be swimmable all of the time is impractical. Most of our rivers breach the 540 E. coli count required for swimming during heavy rainfall.”

The target to blame? Birds.

“We’ve got water bodies like the Washdyke Lagoon here in Canterbury and Lake Papaitonga in the Manawatu which are home to many birds whose E. coli make it impossible to meet the swimming standard without a massive bird cull.”

The… Birds!?!? Priceless.

Hear that, birds?!?! It’s all your fault!!




Expect to hear more of Deflection #5 in future, as the chorus of complaints about our rivers and lakes continues to grow.

Never let it be said that National cannot find a convenient target to deflect blame onto, whenever a situation demands it;




Obviously, any chance of National taking responsibility for the mis-management of our waterways is… for the birds.

But the public, the media, and environmental groups will not allow Smith to escape his responsibilities. He will be held to account and reminded of his failures at every turn. Like New Zealand’s polluted, unswimmable  waterways, his Environmental portfolio has become utterly toxic.

We can hear Dr Smith now; “Oh, the pain, the pain





Hive News: Hive News Tuesday – Key blames ‘Dirty Politics’ for lack of state house sale debate

Reuters: NZ Prime Minister says central bank should get on with housing measures

Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour

TV3 News: Housing blame game flares up in Parliament

NewstalkZB: Govt accused of blaming Auckland Council for its own failings on housing

Sharechat: Key blames Labour for barrier to foreign buyer ban

Youtube: Bill English Blames Greens for Housing Crisis

TV3 News: John Key blames Helen Clark for housing crisis

Radio NZ: Labour forced our hand on timing – Key

Fairfax media: Government backs Helen Clark for top UN job 

Fairfax media: John Key – Don’t write Helen Clark off yet, after UN polling

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Dominion Post:  View from the top

Fairfax media: Key and Goff Q&A – Creating jobs

NZ Herald: Minister blames RMA for land price rise in Auckland

Fairfax media: Council blamed for Auckland housing delays Improving freshwater management

Other Blogs

Greens: Swimmable Rivers tour – Waikirikiri/Selwyn

No Right Turn: Lowering expectations

No Right Turn: So much for 100% pure

The Daily Blog: When Nick Smith said making every river swimmable ‘was not practical’ did a little bit of you die?

The Standard: Water quality too important for bird-brained excuses

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1






This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 September 2016.



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New Zealand – we’re in the sh*t

26 August 2016 3 comments


70 percent pure NZ


“…We should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.” – John Key,


Vital Statistics 1




In September 2008, one month before the general election, National’s leader addressed the party’s “Bluegreen* Forum“, asserting;

“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.  

New Zealand will need policies that make the most of this trend.  This will be important for our trade prospects and for the way in which we grow our economy.   I’m confident that with the right policies New Zealand can make its environmental credentials an important part of its comparative advantage.”


Vital Statistics 2




Nearly eight years later, Key’s fine speech on environmental protection has come to nought. Nearly eight years of National governance and – whilst ostensibly implementing “bluegreen” policies – we have recently witnessed the worst case of water contamination in modern New Zealand history;


havelock north water contamination


Until the evening of 19 August, people could only guess at the source of the campylobacter contamination. Though many – if not most – New Zealanders already held a suspicion at the back of their minds.

That suspicion became readily apparent;


Campylobacter most likely from livestock - Yule


According to the 19 August Radio NZ report – updated at 6.33PM;

Preliminary results from the tests carried out on the contaminated water have shown, while several strains of the bacteria were present, ruminants were the most likely source.

Wild fowl was also a possible source, but the report from Environmental Science and Research (ESR) said poultry was unlikely.

The institute said more analysis would be carried out next week before a final assessment of the source could be made.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said it was likely the previous weekend’s flooding had swept faeces from livestock into the water supply.

“It’s very hard to explain it in any other way. I’ve been a farmer, I’m an engineer, and it looks likely that somehow that has occurred.”

The chooks may be off the hook – but it seems that the cows have come home to roost (or whatever cows do when they “come home”); our dirty little secret is out in the open. We are a polluted nation, awash in animal faeces and the billions upon billions of microscopic organisms that inhabit each piece of animal dung.


Vital Statistics 3




In December 2011, three years after Key addressed the so-called “Bluegreen Forum” and promised that  “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” – there were already suggestions that dairy farmers  were not compliant in keeping their livestock out of  waterways;

Dairy farmers have been accused of telling porkies to Fonterra about whether they are keeping stock out of waterways.

An Agriculture Ministry audit of the Clean Streams Accord shows that half of farms have complete stock exclusion.

This contrasts with Fonterra’s claim – based on farmers’ self-appraisal – that 84 per cent of farms are compliant.

Fish and Game leapt on the disparity, revealed yesterday in the accord’s report for the 2010-11 year.

Chief executive Bryce Johnson said it raised questions about the accuracy of all the other performance targets reported by the dairy industry to the public, politicians and the government’s Land and Water Forum.

“It’s a woeful indictment on the legitimacy of the accord, on dairying’s environmental performance over the past decade and particularly the industry’s claim that self-policing is the way towards achieving improved water quality,” he said.

At the time, Fonterra’ milk supply general manager Steve Murphy attempted to ‘spin’ the dairy industry’s way out of the discrepancy;

“Some aspects [of the ministry audit] are factual but there are also differences in the way measurements were made.”

Murphy even tried to make light of the situation with this bad-taste remark;

“We can all pooh-pooh the results but the reality is that progress is being made.”

Federated Farmers dairy chairman, Willy Leferink, simply dismissed the report out-of-hand;

“If you look closely at that report you can pick holes in it, but to me, it also sends a clear message to get our respective farms in order.”

At the same time, environmental scientist, Dr Mike Joy, condemned the so-called “clean, green” image that New Zealand was perpetuating.  At the 2011 Forest & Bird annual general meeting presentation, Dr Joy  called   our “100% Pure” advertising campaign  misleading and cited the data;


  • Almost all river quality monitoring sites show a worsening trend. 43% of them regularly fail to meet bathing standards, in many instances because faecal contamination levels are too high. Almost half our lakes are polluted by excess nutrients, or over-run by invasive fish. Sediment chokes all but one harbour, and estuaries.
  • By 2050, if the trend continues, we would have extinguished native fish in New Zealand. Five threatened species are commercially harvested; none have any legal protection.
  • 18,000-30,000 people contract waterborne diseases every year, from microbial contamination. Of the 70 “best” Waikato waterways, e-coli in more than 50 of them exceeds contact recreation levels.


Our esteemed Dear Leader responded with his usual facile glibness;

“Well, that might be Mike Joy’s view, but I don’t share that view. Like lawyers, I can give you one that will provide you with a counter-theory.”

When questioned further by the Dominion Post, Key’s tax-payer funded spokesperson responded with a curt;

“The prime minister does not share the view of Mike Joy, and has no further comment to make.”

Eight months after Key’s dismissal of Dr Joy’s warnings,  government scientists from NIWA were pointing out the dangerously degraded state of our waterways;

Water in Lake Horowhenua is so toxic that it could kill a small child, regional councillors have been told.

In certain conditions, and if cyanobacteria were present, the lake could be lethal to animals and small children, a scientist with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Dr Max Gibbs, told Horizons Regional Council’s environment committee yesterday.

Dr Gibbs was presenting a selection of initiatives to help improve the water quality of the Levin lake, which is floating just off the bottom of the New Zealand lake-water quality rankings, sitting at 107 out of 116.

As our waterways were becoming toxic enough to potentially kill animals and small children, Key made what was perhaps the lamest, most pathetic rationale to justify continuing to use the “100% Pure” branding for our country;

“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.”

John Key was likening our environment to McDonalds – one of the world’s premier unhealthy fast-food producers.




Perhaps Key’s remarks were more appropriate than he realised at the time. At least he wasn’t blaming Labour or welfare beneficiaries this time;

“If . . . we should be 100% Pure and . . . there’s no economic activity . . . cavemen burning fires has a environmental impact.”

Worse was to come for Dr Joy’s admonitions to our poor environment track record.

On 21 November 2012, corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth, sent this scathing email, attacking the scientist;

From: Mark Unsworth []
Sent: Wednesday, 21 November 2012 12:15 a.m.
To: Joy, Mike
Subject: Ego Trip

Dear Dr Joy
Is your ego so great that you feel the need to sabotage all the efforts made by those promoting tourism in NZ because of your passionate views on the environment ?
You have the right to hold strong views but you ,as an academic whose salary is paid for by others taxes, must also act responsibly .
Letting your ego run riot worldwide in the manner you did can only lead to lower levels of inbound tourism.

You may not care given your tenure in a nice comfy University lounge ,but to others this affects income and jobs.
Give that some thought next time you feel the need to see your name in print in New York .And possibly think of changing your name from Joy to Misery-its more accurate
Mark Unsworth”


Corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth

Corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth


Unsworth’s hysterical outburst was a crass attempt to gag the scientist-messenger. At the same time the corporate lobbyist was demanding Dr Joy’s silence, the Ministry for the Environment released a report warning that half of New Zealand rivers were too dangerously polluted to swim in;

More than half of monitored recreational sites on our rivers are unsafe for swimming, a report has revealed.

The Ministry for the Environment’s latest report card – issued weeks before summer weather sends Kiwis flocking to the water – has left opposition parties questioning New Zealand’s 100 per cent pure brand.

The results showed water quality was poor or very poor at 52 per cent of monitored river sites.

A further 28 per cent were graded “fair” – with a risk of illness for those swimming there.

Only 20 per cent of monitored river recreation sites were graded good or very good.

Health effects from swallowing water tainted with faecal micro-organisms or other bacteria can be unpleasant. They include diarrhoea or vomiting, and infections of the eye, ear, nose and throat.

The report card canvassed sampling from 210 freshwater beaches, including lakeside areas, and 248 coastal beaches used for recreation that had been assigned grades based on monitoring data acquired over five summers.

It is unknown if Unsworth also sent a similar vitriolic email to the Ministry for the Environment.

Attempts in Parliament to clean up our waterways have been blocked by National and other parties.

In October 2012, Green MP Catherine Delahunty’s private member’s bill – Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill – was drawn from the Ballot. The Bill would have reduced the amount of time that discharges could be made into our rivers”in exceptional circumstances”. (Yes, industries are allowed to discharge waste into our waterways! Who knew!?)


Greens MP, Catherine Delahunty, at the Selwyn River

Greens MP, Catherine Delahunty, at the Selwyn River


As reported in the NZ Herald in October 2012;

Green MP Catherine Delahunty said her member’s bill, which has passed its first reading, sought to close a loophole in the Resource Management Act that allowed contaminating discharges with toxic effects and discolouration of waters under “exceptional circumstances”.

Ms Delahunty said the phrase included no timeframe, and had been used to justify long-term pollution of some waterways and coastal areas.

Her bill would limit its use to five years.

As further reported by Forest & Bird;

The most well-known case of the term “exceptional circumstances” being used loosely is where the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has allowed the Tasman Mill in Kawerau to discharge wastewater into the Tarawera River since 1995. In 2010, the mill used this clause of the RMA once more to obtain resource consents to keep discharging for another 25 years. That is, under section 107 (2)(a) of the Act, the mill has been consented to discharge to the river for a total of 42 years This is clearly not an exceptional circumstance but a case of a business-as-usual approach being used to exploit this loophole in the RMA.

The Bill passed it’s first reading and was sent to the Local Government and Environment Committee.

At it’s second reading it was voted down;


Ayes 51                                       New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.
Noes 68                                       NZ National 59; NZ First 7; ACT  1; United Future 1.


It was disappointing and disturbing to see NZ First voting against Catherine Delahunty’s Bill.  At the time, NZ First justified voting down strengthening environmental protection for our waterways by invoking commercial imperatives;

“It was also interesting to note that very big signals were given in terms of the potential impact that this bill would have on the wider New Zealand economic development situation. If resource consents and permits of this nature were restricted to only 5 years for exceptional discharges, it would have a very adverse detrimental effect on investment and industry in this country. In the situation with Norske Skog, it had, just in the last few years, invested $50 million in a major new machine at the paper plant there—a very significant investment in a major piece of equipment. Had Norske Skog not had the extended permits, the parent company internationally would probably have made the decision not to invest that $50 million in New Zealand.”

As then-Co-Leader of the Green Party, Dr Russell Norman has pointed out;

“The natural environment makes New Zealand a great place to live. And it underpins our economy – tourists come here for the 100% Pure image, and Chinese parents feed their kids New Zealand infant formula because it’s clean, green and safe.

So you’d have to be a mug to attack the environment. Or a Cabinet minister, because since the last election that’s exactly what they’ve been up to.

They are using taxpayer money to subsidise the intensification of dairying agribusiness, intensification that will lead to more water pollution. According to the Ministry for the Environment most monitored rivers aren’t safe for swimming already.

Swimming in a river should be a birth right of New Zealand kids but it’s rapidly becoming a quaint historical oddity- “Hey dad did you really swim in that half drained contaminated cesspool when you were a kid?”

And sure agribusiness makes a quick buck selling milk powder to China, but what happens when Chinese parents find out that our rivers are becoming just as polluted as theirs? Will they still pay a premium for New Zealand food?

No environment, no economy.”

National’s response?

In March this year – as disaster loomed five months away for Havelock North – Environment Minister Nick Smith exposed National’s “Bluegreen” stance;

“I do not think a legal requirement for every water body in New Zealand to be swimmable is practical.  Our ambition is for a lot more areas to be swimmable… but we want to be practical.”

In effect, Smith admitted his government’s failure and surrendered New Zealand to a future of dirty rivers; dying lakes and undrinkable water.

Little wonder that stock belonging to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias her businessman husband, Hugh Fletcher, were permitted to freely wade through Canterbury’s Lake Taylor, Hurunui river, and Lake Sumner despite abatement notices being issued  by ECan. An incident in January this year was repeated several times.

In one image, a cow was photographed wading through a river, a stream of brown ‘matter’ emanating from it’s rear;


cow in river - dame sian elias


The Station’s then-farm manager, Brian Anderson, called environmental rules  “ridiculous”.

Anderson’s lack of concern is by no means unique. Whether it be Key or Nick Smith, there is a distinctive short-sightedness that fails to see even into the very-near future when it comes to the negative implications of our dairy-intensive agri-economy.

The attitude of many (most?) in the farming sector, and their political-wing (the National Party), is to turn a blind eye to known environmental degradation; parrot “green” policies when under public or media scrutiny; and hope for the best.

None of which has come out well for this country.

Even the far-right blog, Whaleoil and it’s unhinged owner,  appears to belatedly understand the simple equation; Shit-Out (of the cow), Shit In (to our waterways);


the greens said this would happen - havelock north - water contamination


On 7 September, 2008, John Key said that “…we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.

Indeed we should.

Thus far, by every measurement, including the polluted waterways of New Zealand and contaminated drinking water in Havelock North – National’s “environmental rhetoric” does not match its “environmental record”.

National has abrogated it’s responsibilities to safeguard our environment. Instead of placing priority on cleaning up our waterways, this is no longer “practical”, according to Nick Smith.

Instead, National has settled for second best.

When it comes to drinking water, second best is nowhere near good enough.

The frightening aspect to National’s indifference to our water quality and wider environmental concerns is not just the contamination of our water-supply. Nor our rivers, half of which are no longer of a swimmable standard.

No, the truly worrying possibility is when the international media will suddenly realise what has been happening in “clean, green” Aotearoa, and that our “100% Pure” brand is a clever scam.

When the documentaries exposing this lie begin to appear on TV screens in Britain, Europe, North America, and elsewhere,  our entire tourism sector will face a crisis. It will be a crisis not unlike the 1080 extortion-scare which impacted on our dairy exports to China two years ago,


Industry counts cost of 1080 threat


As the Radio NZ report said;

Dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest export earner with $14 billion’s worth leaving the country’s shores each year, and the industry says reputation is everything.

Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand chairman Malcolm Bailey said the threat cost the country millions of dollars.

The international community is already becoming aware that our reputation for being a supposedly “egalitarian” society is a myth and nothing more;


New Zealand's most shameful secret We have normalised child poverty


It is only a matter of time before the first foreign journalists and camera crews arrive on our shores. Only a matter of time before our dis-coloured rivers; semi-dead lakes; and cows wading and excreting into our waterways is all filmed. Only a matter of time before inhabitants of Havelock North are interviewed. Only a matter of time before a request for interviews with ministers land on their desks.

Only a matter of time.

Who will John Key blame then?



Water contamination has spread to Hastings and Flaxmere;


TV1 News - Hastings, Flaxmere water supply found contaminated as infections rise


The TV1 report  also confirms the Radio NZ story that farm animal-faeces was most likely the source of contamination;

Dr Snee says the results of yesterday’s DNA testing of the contaminated water were inconclusive – meaning authorities are no closer to getting answers to just how the water became contaminated.

The tests show bovine contamination, so most likely to be from sheep, cattle or deer.





*  The Bluegreen Forum is the National Party’s pseudo-environmental “wing”. Realising that environmental protection was a critical ‘Achilles Heal’ of the National Party, the Bluegreen Forum was created so “that  environmental issues should not be monopolised by those on the left of the political spectrum“, as Key asserted in September 2008.

The “Bluegreens” are good at parroting environmental rhetoric.

By coincidence, or by supreme irony, blue-green is also the colour  of cyanobacteria, which can be a toxic consequence of heavily polluted waterways. According to Wikipedia;

Aquatic cyanobacteria are known for their extensive and highly visible blooms that can form in both freshwater and marine environments. The blooms can have the appearance of blue-green paint or scum.




Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum

New Zealand Yearbook: 1984

New Zealand Yearbook: 2008

TV3: Campylobacter confirmed in Havelock North water, 4100 affected

NewstalkZB: Thousands affected by Havelock North water contamination

Fairfax media: Inquiry to be launched into Havelock North’s contaminated water

TV1 News: Hard-hit Havelock North residents ‘want answers’ over water contamination

Radio NZ: Govt rejects call for Hawke’s Bay water emergency declaration

Radio NZ: Campylobacter most likely from livestock – Yule

Statistics NZ: Agricultural Production Statistics: June 2015

Dominion Post: Fish and Game hits out at farmers

Forest & Bird: 2011 AGM – Dr Mike Joy

Dominion Post: Ecologist at odds with PM on 100% Pure NZ

Dominion Post: Worries over toxicity of lake

Fairfax media: ‘100% Pure’ is like McDonald’s ad, says Key

Facebook:  Russel Norman – Mark Unsworth’s email

NZ Herald: No swimming – 52% impure NZ rivers

NZ Herald: Bill aims to plug pollution loophole

Forest & Bird: Resource Management Amendment Bill

Parliament: Vote – Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

NZ First: Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

RadioLive: Nats are sacrificing our environment… for what?

Fairfax media: Making every water body swimmable is ‘not practical’ – Nick Smith

Fairfax media: Cattle belonging to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias’ repeat offenders

Fairfax media: More complaints about top judge Dame Sian Elias’ cows, but farm says rules ‘ridiculous’

Radio NZ: Industry counts cost of 1080 threat

The Guardian: New Zealand’s most shameful secret – ‘We have normalised child poverty’

TV1 News: Hastings, Flaxmere water supply found contaminated as infections rise

National: Bluegreen Forum

Wikipedia: Cyanobacteria

Other Blogs

Gordon Campbell on Havelock North’s water issues

Pundit:  Mike Joy answers the PM, with hard facts (2011)

The Civilian: Hastings gastro outbreak just marketing stunt to promote new documentary about Hastings gastro outbreak

The New Zealand story: 100% pooer! (2012)

The Standard: The Friday dump on Havelock North

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

When spin doctors go bad




milk prices-pollution


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 August 2016.



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National’s Wellington Mayoral candidate, Jo Coughlan – four lanes to nowhere


jo coughlan - election billboards - four lane highway (2)

Wellington mayoral candidate, Jo Coughlan, standing in front of one of her election billboards.


Right-wing mayoral candidate, and current Wellington City Councillor, Jo Coughlan, has ducked answering questions relating to her campaign policy advocating for a four-lane motorway from Transmission Gully to Wellington airport.

Coughlan has been a city councillor since 2007, as well as Director for PR firm, Silvereye Communications. Amongst her PR company’s clients are the Ministry for Education, Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA), Department of Building and Housing, NZ Post, and ACC.

As well as a Director to Silvereye Communications, Coughlan is (was?) a Director of Life Flight Trust – which also happens to be a client of the same PR company.

From 1996 to 1999, she was  Press Secretary  for then-Foreign Affairs Minister, Don McKinnon.

Coughlan is also wife to Conor English, brother to current Finance Minister, Bill English.

On 2 April this year, Coughlan announced her intentions to run for the Wellington mayoralty. She also declared her support for a four land highway to Wellington’s international airport, located in the eastern suburns;


jo coughlan - election billboards - four lane highway


“We need to double-tunnel the Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels and see four lanes along Ruahine St to the airport. Wellington’s mayor must lead on this, and that is my commitment.” – Jo Coughlan, 2 April 2016

Coughlan’s election pamphlet, “My Road Map for Wellington’s future“, reiterated her desire to expand Wellington’s roading system;


jo coughlan - election pamphlet (2)


Coughlan linked expanding the roading network with electric cars, even though currently there are only about 150 of the vehicles in the region.

In the same pamphlet, Coughlan also conflated building more roads with making “public transport more reliable”;


jo coughlan - election pamphlet (3)


There is no other  mention of public transport, except  in relation to “fixing our roads“, in any of  Coughlan’s other election material (seen by this blogger). Her website also makes only a brief reference to “public transport options”.

On 25 July, this blogger contacted Coughlan through Facebook, asking if she would be available to answer questions on her policy.

Coughlan replied the same day and in an email said;

“Happy to discuss.

The four laning can be achieved by four laning Ruahine St as planned by NZTA.

That way you essentially get (Inc the one way systems ) four lanes  to the planes.”

Since initial contact, Coughlan’s “happy to discuss” response has been met with evasiveness to pin down and arrange a time for a series of questions to be put to her. Requests for a set time to put eleven questions, plus follow-ups, have been ducked. (Which raises questions about her role in  the communications industry.)

The questions which merited answers were;

Q1: In your pamphlet, “My Road Map for Wellington’s future”, you linked building of more roads to public transport stating, “Fix our roads to make public transport more reliable”? What did you mean by “fix our roads”? How does that relate to public transport?

It is well known that building more roads attracts more cars. In one year alone, 43,000 more cars have been added to Auckland’s congested roads;

There are 43,000 more cars on Auckland’s roads than this time last year, with nearly 11,000 of those vehicles registered in January alone.

It’s no wonder the city’s traffic congestion has worsened over that time, national roading authority New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says.


An average 168,500 vehicles now cross the Harbour Bridge every day, compared with 17,000 in 1960 shortly after it opened.

“You’re reaching a point where you can’t add any more traffic to the Harbour Bridge,” Pant said.

It is unclear how more roads would “make public transport more reliable“.

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

Q2: In pamphlet, you stated, “We need roads that keep us moving. Electric cars need roads”? What do you say to those who say it is disingenuous to link environmentally-clean electric cars with the building of more roads?

With only 150 electric vehicles in Wellington, there seemed no apparent need to build more roads at a cost of billions, for such a small, insignificant number of alternative-fuel cars.

The possibility exists that Ms Coughlan was being willfully disingenuous, and attempting to “green wash” an environmentally unfriendly policy.Was that Coughlan’s intention?

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

Q3: Along with your advocating for a four-lane motorway from Transmission Gully to the airport, you’ve stated you want to “work with Government to accelerate building of the city’s infrastructure and roading to keep the city moving”. Bearing in mind that the planet’s temperature continues to rise according to latest data from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and also bearing in mind that fossil fuels like oil and petrol are prime producers of greenhouse gases, isn’t a four-lane motorway of the kind you are suggesting irresponsible?

Coughlan attempted to mitigate her support for building more roads by stating on her election “pledge” card that she would “protect the greenbelt and natural environment”;


jo coughlan - election card (2)


However, nowhere in her election material does Coughlan refer to the effects of climate change on our natural environment.

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

Expanding on the previous question, I wanted to put to Coughlan the following;

Q4: Are you aware of NASA’s latest findings that ” the six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.°C warmer than the late nineteenth century”; that “Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40% less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s” and that “Arctic sea ice extent in September, the seasonal low point in the annual cycle, has been declining at a rate of 13.4% per decade”?

Q5: Are you aware that the NOAA recently confirmed NASA’s data, stating, “The average global temperature across land surfaces was 2.33°C above the 20th century average of 3.2°C, the highest March temperature on record, surpassing the previous March record set in 2008 by 0.43°C and surpassing the all-time single-month record set last month by 0.02°C”?
More specifically, the NOAA reported that “New Zealand reported its sixth warmest March in a period of record that dates to 1909, at 1.3°C above the 1981–2010 average. The entire country had above or well-above average temperatures for the month. Parts of Northland, Waikato, Manawatu-Whanganui, and Westland were each more than 2.0°C above their March average”. What is your comment on those latest findings?

New Zealand is not immune to climate change effects as mentioned in this CNN report;

The first six months of 2016 were the hottest ever recorded, NASA announced on Tuesday, while Arctic sea ice now covers 40% less of the Earth than it did just 30 years ago.

Temperatures were on average 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average between January and June this year, compared to the late nineteenth century.
In total, the planet has now had 14 consecutive months of the hottest temperatures seen since records began in 1880, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Spain were some examples of places where temperatures soared more than a degree above average, as New Zealand had its hottest January to June period since records began.

The CNN report was based on the NOAA/NIWA findings, referring to New Zealand;

New Zealand reported its sixth warmest March in a period of record that dates to 1909, at 1.3°C (2.3°F) above the 1981–2010 average. The entire country had above or well-above average temperatures for the month. Parts of Northland, Waikato, Manawatu-Whanganui, and Westland were each more than 2.0°C (3.6°F) above their March average.


NASA sees temperatures rise and sea ice shrink


Was Coughlan aware of this latest information? She should be: it has been well document in recent local media.

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on these unanswered questions.

The next question  underscored the critical impact  of climate change on our country,

Q6: To underline the effects of climate-change on our country, the Royal Society said in April this year,

“Changes expected to impact New Zealand include at least 30cm and possibly more than one metre of sea-level rise this century – the report finds it likely that the sea level rise around New Zealand will exceed the global average, which will cause coastal erosion and flooding, especially when combined with storm surges.

Professor James Renwick, Chair of the Expert Panel who wrote the report, warned; “Many New Zealanders live on the coast and two-thirds of us live in flood-prone areas so we are vulnerable to these projected changes.”
Professor Renwick warned that even small changes in average conditions can be associated with large changes in the frequency of extreme events, pointing out;

“With a 30cm rise in sea level, the current ‘1 in 100 year’ extreme sea event would be expected to occur once every year or so in many coastal regions. Along the Otago coast for example, the difference between a 2-year and 100-year storm surge is about 32cm of sea level.”

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

I then wanted to put a seemingly obvious question to Coughlan;

Q7: Instead of building more roads that inevitably lead to more traffic; more congestion; more fuel-consumption; and production of more greenhouse gases, wouldn’t advocating for more expenditure on public transport make better sense, from an environmental aspect?

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

I also planned to ask Coughlan about a glaring omission from any of her election material;

Q8: Aside from your one statement linking “Fix our roads to make public transport more reliable” your election material makes no mention or reference to public transport. Why is that?

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

Coughlan put great weight on Wellington’s needs for the next one hundred years;


jo coughlan - election pamphlet (1)

jo coughlan - election card (2)


One has to admire Coughlan’s confidence in being a mayor for the next one hundred years.

Looking ahead for the next century is something that environmentalists and climate scientists are doing. The long-term effects of climate change on our planet are slowly building;


scientific american - Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036


Which raises the key question as to where Coughlan’s long-term priorities lay;

Q9: Which is more pressing for Wellington’s needs for the next 100 years; taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or planning on more roading? Which would have greater priority fror you, if you were Mayor?

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on this unanswered question.

The last two questions were also self-explanatory;

Q10: President Obama has said that “And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change”. What is the responsibility of individuals to address this threat to our future?

Q11: What is your responsibility in this, Ms Coughlan?

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on these unanswered questions.

It could be said that Ms Coughlan, as one person, has minimal effect on our increasingly violent weather patterns and rising sea-levels,  brought on by anthropogenic-induced global warming.

Throughout history, single people have been the instigators of momentous change and upheaval. Not always for good.

If Jo Coughlan were to become mayor – a distinct possibility based on the considerable amount of money spent on her election advertising – her plans to advocate for a four lane motorway would be instigating momentous change and consequential upheaval.

Ms Coughlan might have shed some light on these unanswered questions.

Coughlan’s evasiveness makes a mockery of her finger-pointing at other mayoral candidates. On 28 July Coughlan issued a press release accusing them of “hidden agendas”;

“However it is amazing that some candidates are not prepared to state clearly their real intention for standing and don’t seem to understand the STV voting system used in the Capital.

I am making it very clear that I am standing for the Mayoralty, not as a ward councillor and not to raise my profile for a tilt at parliament. I call on all other candidates to publicly state their real intentions.

So far we have a number of candidates standing with various agendas including increasing their chances of re-election to Council, election to parliament and even to gain profile to look at establishing a new centre-left political party.

Wellington voters deserve a Mayor who will lead the City and is 100% committed to running for the right reasons.

The other candidates need to come clean otherwise their intentions might seem a bit ‘murky’.”

A month earlier, Finance Minister Bill English, endorsed Jo Coughlan for her mayoralty bid;

“It’s because I think that she’s the best candidate for a city that needs this kind of candidate; someone who understands growth; someone who understands communities and someone who understands families.” – Bill English, 28 June 2016


bill english - jo coughlan


“Hidden agendas”?

No wonder Coughlan has avoided answering questions.






Wellington City Council: Jo Coughlan

Linked-In: Jo Coughlan

Silvereye Communication: About Us

Silvereye Communication:  Silvereye Communications Clients (current and former)

NZ Herald:  Being English

Dominion Post: Councillor Jo Coughlan enters the race to be Wellington’s mayor

Scoop media: Three days of free rides in electric cars

Jo for Mayor: Environment

Fairfax media: 43,000 more cars on Auckland’s roads leads to increased congestion

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):  Global Analysis – March 2016

NASA: 2016 Climate Trends Continue to Break Records

CNN:  NASA – Hottest June on record continues 14-month global heat wave

NIWA: Climate Summary for March 2016

Royal Society of New Zealand: New Zealand vulnerable to the threats of climate change – report finds

Scientific American: Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036

The White House: Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address | January 20, 2015

Scoop media: Coughlan says ‘I can win,’ accuses other candidates of hidden agendas

Jo for Mayor: Mayoral Candidate Jo Coughlan – candidates should come clean

Politik: English breaks with National Party convention and endorses Mayoral candidate

Previous related blogposts

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett revealed






This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 July 2016.



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Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett revealed


70 percent pure NZ


TVNZ’s Q+A on Sunday 24 April featured an interview with Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett. Her responses were further evidence that  National was  increasingly  unable (or unwilling) to cope with the growing threat of climate change.

Posing a series of surprisingly incisive questions and follow-ups, the ever-youthful-looking Jack Tame held Minister Bennett to account in a way that few other interviewers have done;


paula bennett - climate change - Q+A - 24 april 2016


Up untill now, Jack Tame’s presence in the US focused mainly on the theatrics of the  Hollywood entertainment industry or the equally-theatric Presidential primaries. They were for the most part light, breezy stories – even with the increasingly bizarre and somewhat menacing nature of the rise and rise of  Lex Luthor Donald Trump, as the potential Republican candidate.

However, on this occassion,   Tame’s Q+A interview was a masterful deconstruction of Minister Bennett’s waffle, revealing  how woefully unprepared for Tame’s skillful probing she really was.

As the thirteen minute segment progressed, it rapidly became apparent that, aside from platitudes and rhetoric,  Bennett had no real answers or  any actual, meaningful commitment to addressing New Zealand’s increasing emissions of  greenhouse-gas pollution of our atmosphere. It was as it she were still Social Welfare Minister, patiently explaining how National would be “helping” solo-mums with contraception, all the while sounding like an overly-concerned, benevolent, tough-loving  nana.

In fact, not since 2 May 2015 – when Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga was interviewed and demolished by seasoned interviewer, Lisa Owen, on TV3’s The Nation – has a government minister had their ineptitude so publicly paraded for the entire country to witness (if they so decided to tune in on a Sunday morning, at 9am.

Unfortunately, we should not be surprised that National is luke-warm on the looming crisis of climate change. Despite making very clear promises, National has broken one of it’s prime committments to the Emissions Trading Scheme – to eventually  include agriculture.

The time-line to this act of duplicity clearly illustrates National’s early promises and then reneging;

13 May 2007

In a speech by  then Opposition-leader, John Key;

In particular I’m going to speak about the biggest environmental challenge of our time: global climate change.

The National Party will ensure that New Zealand acts decisively to confront this challenge.

The scientific consensus is clear: human-induced climate change is real and it’s threatening the planet. There are some armchair sceptics out there, but I’m not one of them…

… National is committed to growing our economy. Confronting climate change will be a vital part of the policy mix for fuelling that growth…

… In the decades ahead, peoples’ perceptions around climate change will affect the brand image of New Zealand and its exports. New Zealand must take credible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk becoming a trading pariah…

… National will have policies that reflect the fact that living on a diet of carbon will be increasingly bad – bad for the world and bad for our economy. We will have policy that encourages ‘climate friendly’ choices like windmills, hydro power and tree planting, and reduces the desire for ‘climate unfriendly’ behaviours, like burning coal…

… National will bring all Kiwis – industry, energy producers, farmers, mums and dads – closer to a shared and well-understood goal. We need to be united in our pursuit of a ’50 by 50′ target.

8 April 2010

Prime Minister John Key rejects demands  to amend the  Emissions Trading Scheme before it takes effect on the energy and transport sectors in July despite calls from business groups, farmers, and ACT.

Key tells reporters at the launch of the Global Research Alliance’s inaugural meeting on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

6 June 2010

Climate Change Minister Nick Smith announces that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme  in 2015  will depend on technological advances and what other countries do.

9 November 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith announces,

… It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet.“

2 July 2012

Then-Climate Change Minister, Tim Groser,  announces four amendments to the Emissions Trading Scheme;

  • Keeping the ‘one-for-two’ obligation in place until after this year. This means participants in the scheme will continue to surrender units for half the carbon they emit;
  • Maintaining the $25 ‘fixed-price option’ until at least 2015, which caps the price firms will face if carbon prices begin to rise internationally;
  • Introducing off-setting for pre-1990 forest land owners, and allocating the full second tranche of compensation where off-setting is not taken; and
  • Leaving agricultural emissions out of the ETS until at least 2015.

20 August 2012

National introduces  “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012”, which will remove agricultural emissions indefinitely, and will,

remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.

National’s repudiation of it’s 2007 committment to include agriculture was complete. Despite a clear promise by our esteemed Dear Leader, agriculture was permanently omitted from the ETS.

As I pointed out in October 2012;

During National’s four years in office, they have broken several promises and the weakening of the ETS is simply one more on the list. It also further highlights  John Key’s ability to say one thing – whilst knowing full well that he has no intention of fulfilling committments, or will do completely the opposite.

An editorial in the Dominion Post, on 20 April, was no less scathing in it’s condemnation of National’s inertia;

The Government’s climate change policy has been a failure and will have to be rebuilt. There needs to be a fundamental change in the Emissions Trading Scheme, the subject this week of a damning report by the Gareth Morgan Foundation.  But other changes are also needed.


Bennett concedes, however, that the ETS was “not perfect”, and is now being reviewed. In fact the ETS has been a fiasco. What’s more, it continues to cast its dirty shadow. 

The Government has banned the purchase of  foreign credits, but it could still use the bad credits to meet its climate change targets up to 2020.

It must not do so. Instead, it needs to revamp the whole scheme, starting by ending the subsidies it gives to polluters such as the oil industry. The “one for two” scheme introduced in 2009 allows businesses to pay only half the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions.

It also needs to reverse its decision to keep agriculture, which produces half the country’s emissions, out of the ETS. National argues that making farming pay for its pollution would be unfair because there is no workable way yet of reducing animal emissions and our export industry should not be penalised. 

Farmers, however, are not exempt from the country’s global environmental duties, and will also respond to economic signals – even if this is a pledge to bring agriculture into the scheme within, say, five years

Jack Tame’s superb interview on 24 April merely confirms pathetic National’s track record on this issue and it now appears that  Minister Bennett will simply follow in the footsteps of her do-nothing-predecessors, Ministers Smith, Groser, et al.

Bennett certainly has no intention of adopting any of the bold, radical – but much-needed – policies as advocated by Professor Jim Skea, co-chairperson of the IPCC Working Group III, and interviewed by Radio NZ’s Kathryn Ryan on 27 April;


How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuel - Radio NZ - Kathryn Ryan - Prof Jim Skea - IPCC

(alt. link)


Listen to the two interviews and judge for yourself which person is seriously committed to combating climate change – and which person is a politician who has plenty of empty platitudes to offer, but little else.

In her previous role as Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett had much to say about welfare-fraud.

Her empty words on  addressing climate change is a fraud on a much grander, and ultimately vastly more destructive,  scale.




Postscript1: Memo to TVNZ

Jame Tame’s interview with Minister Bennett reveals a young man with considerable journalistic skills. He should be given every opportunity to make full use of his under-utilised talents.

TVNZ (and TV3) should maximise the talents of their journalistic and production staff by shifting Q+A and The Nation to prime time viewing slots during the early evening.

Why hide excellence early on weekend mornings, where it is not easily appreciated and valued by the general public?




Postscript2: Memo to Paula Bennett

Ms Bennett, your performance on 24 April was a dismal failure. You are either unwilling to seriously confront the challenges of climate change or, apparently, you are in way over your head on this issue.

Either way, you should resign your Climate Change portfolio. This job is too important to be left to your glib inanities.





TVNZ: Q+A – Climate Change Paris Agreement signed

NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’

Scoop media: John Key Speech – Climate Change Target

NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

NBR: ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014 Government announces ETS amendments

Parliament: Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012

Dominion Post: Editorial – Big changes are needed in the Government’s climate change plan

Radio NZ: How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuel ? (alt. link) (audio)

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga






This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 April 2016.



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Socially-sanctioned psychopathy harnessed for good

13 August 2015 2 comments





Killing people en-masse is frowned upon in most parts of the world. Serial killing is a definite no-no.

Instead, psychopaths satiate their bloodlust by more legal means.

One option is to participate as a combatant in one of several officially designated War Zones around the planet (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, several parts of West Africa, Texas, etc). The down-side is that you can be sure that several hundred other combatants will be shooting back at you. Not good.

Another option is a much safer bet for our friendly, neighbourhood psychopath;



Giraffes are dangerous -  another trophy hunter under fire after defending hobby


Corgatelli’s killing of the giraffe follows Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer’s, slaughter of Zimbabwe’s iconic lion, Cecil;


Cecil the lion hunter Walter Palmer faces calls for prosecution


An unknown number of other hunters are also shooting and slaughtering their way across the African continent and other parts of the world.  In their sights; animals that are not armed with high-tech killing gear. It is hardly an equal “sport”, if one can remotely call it that.

There is definitely a reduced Occupational Hazard of returned fire that combatants in War Zones have to face.

Trying to peer into the psyche of these so-called “hunters”, some of Corgatelli’s remarks gave a chilling insight. From her Facebook page;

Everybody thinks we’re cold-hearted killers and it’s not that.There is a connection to the animal and just because we hunt them doesn’t mean we don’t have a respect for them.”

Day #2 I got a amazing old Giraffe. Such a amazing animal!! I couldn’t be any happier!! My emotion after getting him was a feeling I will never forget!!!

“ 13 inch wart hog!! What a fun hunt!!!

Yesterday was day 1 an amazing day!!! Got my beautiful beautiful Kudu!! It was my #1 want on my list and I got him on the first day!!! Loving it there!!

Corgatelli’s undisguised joy at killing is disturbing. In some instances, her pleasure seems almost  sexual in nature.

Also worrying is the number of messages on her facebook page highly critical of her destructive behaviour – and to which she appears totally oblivious. This is clearly someone out of touch with social norms, including public odium of  her public revelling in killing wild animals.

Not only does she lack any empathy with the creatures she targets – but seems thoroughly unphased by the torrent of criticism directed at her. There seems to be  a distinct disconnect with her emotions.

People like Palmer and Corgatelli are, unfortunately, not alone in the world. There are plenty like them. People who cannot empathise with others, whether human or non-human.

Some become serial killers. Some become despotic leaders (think Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, Pol Pot, et al). Others, who are wary of a date with the executioner or spending their lives in a cell, look to other prey.

Same psycopathy. Different victims. And like the killers who murdered their victims at a  movie theater or a school, they prefer their targets to be defenceless. Preferably at a distance, so the targetted animal – or humans in at least one instance – cannot hope to fight back.

Psycopaths; cowards, as well as comfortable around lethal weapons.

Well, I have a solution that protects defenceless animals but meets the inate homicidal needs of psychopaths-cloaked-as-hunters: Survivor Hunter Island!


survivor island


That’s right – we set aside an island devoted to hunters. Real hunters. Hunters who pit themselves against each other. Hunters who take on the ultimate quarry: other human beings!

We put a dozen hunters in and they indulge their passion to seek out their prey and blast away to their hearts’ content. No rules; twelve go in; one comes out.

Last man (or woman, in Ms Corgatelli’s case) standing wins a prize. (A KFC voucher?)

Fitting into our current craze for Reality TV (you can see where this is heading), the hunt could be televised using carefully secreted cameras and Autonomous Flying Vehicles, and broadcast throughout the world. (We can put television sets on the African veldt, in case any lions or giraffes want to watch proceedings.)

The revenue from advertising and sponsorship (the NRA would surely be lining up as a bell-weather sponsor) for Survivor Hunter Island could be used for conservation projects around the world. Hunters, after all,  are staunch supporters of conservation, as Ms Corgatelli claimed.

Hunters and billionaire libertarians could even share their islands as libertarians plan their little tax-free havens somewhere out in the middle of the ocean;




Bag a brace of hunters and a couple of  billionaires?

I’d pay good money to watch that.





The Guardian:  ‘Giraffes are dangerous’: another trophy hunter under fire after defending hobby

The Guardian: Cecil the lion hunter Walter Palmer faces calls for prosecution

Facebook: Sabrina Corgatelli

CNN: James Holmes found guilty of murder in Colorado theater shooting

CNN: Sandy Hook shooting – What happened?

Washington Post: Lee Boyd Malvo, 10 years after D.C. area sniper shootings – ‘I was a monster’ Tech Billionaire Donates $1.25 Million to Create Libertarian Islands


The author confesses to being a meat-eater;

I pay homage to my carnivorous ancestors,” admitted Frank Macskasy, “But I don’t kill for pleasure. Even when a tele-marketer calls or Jehovah’s Witness comes to the door during ‘Dr Who’, I resist the urge. Killing for food is part of Nature’s less-glamorous ‘circle-of-life’. Killing for pure pleasure indicates a deep need for psychiatric care. Apologies to vegetarians, Vegans, and all the chooks, sheep, and cows, I’ve eaten in my life.

In my next life I’ll probably come back as a chicken in a Tegel barn.

Or celery. I hate celery.



This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 August 2015.




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National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

23 July 2015 3 comments


global carbon dioxide rises - NASA

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

global temperature rises - NASA

Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record.


Top image: NASA

Bottom image: NASA


1. The Promise

What John Key said to the National Blue-Green Forum, on 6 September 2008, one month before the up-coming election that year;

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.

Significantly, Key added;

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.

Pre-election, Key had unequivocally committed National to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and  honouring New  Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations.


climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (1)


2. Agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme – Timeline of a Broken Promise

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.”

On 8 April 2010, Key confirmed that the ETS would be preserved unchanged,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

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.

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.”

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…

And on 20 August 2012, National introduced the “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012″, which would remove agricultural emmissions indefinitely, and;

“…remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.


Farmers' ETS exemption progresses


It took them four years to do it, but with some cunning public manipulation (and outright lies) –  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

It was National’s worst broken promise (one of many), and it successfully slipped under the public and media radar.


climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (4)


3.  Gagging the Watchmen

Part of National’s strategy to cope with embarrassing  data on unpalatable problems – is to eliminate the data. This is Standard Operating Procedure for this government, and has been used to prevent data collected on Child Poverty and foreign investors buying up farms and houses.

By eliminating (or not collecting) data, it becomes difficult for the media and public to assess problems and determine how effective the government is in dealing with them.

The public, media, Opposition parties, and other critics become reliant on hear-say, anecdotal evidence, and evidence obtained through back-door methods. The recent release of a list of non-resident/citizen Chinese investors in our already over-heated property-market is perhaps the best example of this pressing problem.

National also employed the same tactic  by no longer requiring five-yearly State of the Environment Reports from the Ministry of the Environment;


State of the Environment report stopped


National’s minister explained;

Environment Minister Amy Adams said the ministry is continually tracing environmental performance using 22 core indicators and the change is to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand.

Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright was not impressed, and said as much;

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright said that is not good enough, because the data is not compiled, analysed, or compared.

Ms Wright is correct. This was National’s clumsy move to silence critics and hide evidence of our on-going environmental degradation. (See Addendum1 below)

Because really, if Minister Adams wanted “to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand” – there is absolutely no sound reason why that could not be done and still have five yearly State of the Environment Reports produced.

The only possible reason for State of the Environment Reports being scrapped by National is that they were fearful of the information that would become public.


climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (5)


4. National abandons Kyoto Protocols

At the same time that National was quietly abandoning it’s pre-election committment to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, our esteemed dear Leader, John Key, was announcing that New Zealand would not commit to the second state of the Kyoto protocols;

Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government’s decision not to sign on for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, saying the country is playing its part in combating climate change.

The climate change treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and New Zealand expects to slightly exceed its target.

The treaty aims to curb international greenhouse gas emissions through binding national commitments but some countries have questioned its effectiveness.

New Zealand would be joining other countries in going following the “convention track”, Mr Key said on TVNZ’s Breakfast show today.

“Next year New Zealand will name a binding commitment to climate change – it will actually have a physical rate that we’re going to hit – but instead of being what’s called a second commitment period that is likely to run from 2012 to 2020, we’ll be able to set our own rules around that,” Mr Key said.

As Fairfax’s Vernon Small reported at the time;

The Government has opted not to sign up to the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013 and will instead take its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel “United Nation Convention Framework”.

Protocol targets are legally binding, and the convention ones are not.


That would mean from next year New Zealand would be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.

 “This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies,” Groser said.

In other words, our government has put us into a ‘club’ with the world’s major polluters.

Key wants to  “set our own rules around” climate change. It is fairly apparent what those rules are; doing as little as possible.


climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (5)


5. Shifting Goalposts

Even less known by the msm (mainstream media)  and public is how National has moved targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1991. For the the past 24 years, successive National governments have quietly and with little scrutiny,  changed targets for reducing emissions.

  • First Target

In September 1993, the Bolger-led National Government signed up to  the  UNFCCC  (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) .  Four months after the UNFCCC came into effect, in July 1994, National announced a number of very specific climate change committments, as the State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 report outlined;

◊ a target of reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000,

◊ a target of slowing growth of gross emissions by 20%,

◊ increased carbon storage in plantation forests

◊ energy sector reforms

◊ an energy efficiency strategy and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA),

◊ renewable energy sources

◊ use of the Resource Management Act; and,

◊ voluntary agreements with industry.

(Source for precise bullet-points – Wikipedia)

Even the initial target –  reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000 – was the bare minimum, being set at net levels, rather than gross.

National stipulated that if emissions were not stabilised at 1990 levels, by 2000, a (low-level) carbon charge would be introduced in December 1997.

  • Second Target

By July 1996, plans were under way to water down those targets set only three years earlier. Then Environment Minister, Simon Upton “committed” his government to;

…take precautionary actions to help stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to reduce risk from global climate change, and to meet New Zealand’s commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including:

•  To return net emissions of carbon dioxide to no more than their 1990 levels by the year 2000 (but aim for a reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions to 20 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2000 if this is cost-effective and will not harm our trade) and to maintain them at this level thereafter; and

•  To reduce net emissions of other greenhouse gases, particularly methane, by the year 2000 where possible and maintain them at those levels thereafter.

Cost effective“, “not harm our trade“, and “where possible” – the weasel words of a government determined not to be bound by any committment.

One could imagine the reaction if those terms were included in marriage vows or other social or legal contract.

  • Third Target

Two years later,  on 22 May 1998,  National ratified  the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. This time, National “committed” New Zealand to a target of limiting greenhouse gas emissions for the 2008-2012 period to five times the 1990 volume.

Worse still, New Zealand could either reduce emissions or  obtain carbon credits from the international market or from domestic carbon sinks, to meet those “targets”.

The relevant Kyoto Protocol stated;

New Zealand’s emissions management task

•  New Zealand’s initial assigned amount (translating into a corresponding holding of “emission units”) for the commitment period is 365 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is equal to five times the 73 million tonnes that New Zealand emitted in 1990, times 100%, which is New Zealand’s target under Annex B of the Protocol.

•  New Zealand is projected to gain, during the commitment period, additional assigned amount (“removal units”) of 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent due to the growth of trees planted on land that has been converted (or reverted) to forest since 1990.

Like a desert mirage, New Zealand’s targets were continually receding under National.

  • Fourth Target

December 2014 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, announced New Zealand’s latest emissions reduction target of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020.  This pushed the target date from 2008-2012 to 2020.

  • Fifth Target

July 2015 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced new emissions target, a 30% reduction on 2005 levels, by 2030.

Not only is the target date pushed further out, from 2020, top 2030 – but the baseline is now 2005 instead of 1990.

Five different targets in twentytwo years – each one more watered down; pushing target dates further and further into the distant future.  Which begs two questions;

  1. What will be the next emissions reduction level and  target date? When does it begin to sound patently ridiculous? 2050? 2099? Next century?
  2. How has no one noticed that National has been surreptitiously shifting the goal-posts?

Massey University climate change expert, Professor Ralph Sims, was not impressed with National’s subterfuge;

Prof Sims said 2005 was the year of New Zealand’s highest emissions and the 2030 target gives New Zealand “10 extra years to produce very little extra reduction.”

By Prof Sims’s calculations, based on gross greenhouse emissions set under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand needed to cut emissions by 63,384 kilotonnes under its previous target and by 59,150 KT under the new one.

In essence, he said New Zealand is now doing less than its fair share.


climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (6)


6. The Problem Worsens

Meanwhile, our emissions have continued to worsen, whilst National fiddles;

NZ's greenhouse gas emissions soar

New Zealand’s net emissions of greenhouse gases climbed 42 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

Gross emissions, which exclude carbon flows relating to forestry and land use change, rose 21 per cent between 1990 (year zero for carbon accounting purposes) and 2013, to be the fifth highest per capita among 40 developed countries.

Two decades of goal setting; and goal-post moving; and the results have been disappointing, if not predictable.

This has been National’s legacy.



University’s Environmental Performance Index has highlighted  New Zealand’s falld on international EPI rankings.

In 2008, New Zealand ranked seventh out of 149 nations.

In 2012, our ranking had  dropped seven placings to number fourteen.

Last year, we fell a further two spots, to number sixteen.

As John Key stated seven years ago;

“And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record”.

On every indicator and policy, New Zealand is doing poorly in the field of conservation. We are going backwards.


“I think we never wanted to be a world leader in climate change.” John Key, 12 November 2012





National Party: John Key Speech – Environment Policy Launch

Fairfax media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

NZ Herald:  ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

NBR:  ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister 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

Radio NZ: Govt puts off including agriculture in ETS

National Party: Government announces ETS amendments

Radio NZ:  Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Otago Daily Times: Foreign buyers still in market

TV3 News: Govt – Foreign buyers not part of housing problem

Radio NZ: State of the Environment report stopped

NZ Herald: Key defends decision not to stick with Kyoto Protocol

Dominion Post: Government shuns second Kyoto committment

Wikipedia: Fourth National Government of New Zealand

Ministry for the environment:  State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 (ch5) Environment 2010 Strategy

Otago Daily Times: Groser – NZ’s emission impossible

NZ Herald: NZ commits to post-2020 emissions reduction target

NBR: New 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target far weaker than 2020 goal – climate change expert

NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Yale University:  2008 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University:  2012 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University:  2014 Environmental Performance Index

Other Blogs

Green Party: Govt’s emissions reduction target 100% pure spin

Hot Topic: Climate Action Tracker analysis: NZ emissions targets inadequate, not doing our fair share

Hot Topic: Renwick on NZ’s 11% cut: follow us down the path to catastrophe

No Right Turn: Are fossil fuels really an industry we want to promote?

Open Parachute: Talk of “mini ice age” bunkum

The Daily Blog: Using freezing temperatures to claim global warming is a hoax

The Standard:  Emissions targets an admission that we don’t care

The Standard:  It’s just too expensive to act on climate change

The Standard:  Voices of the people on emissions targets and climate change


NASA Goddard Insititute for Space Studies: Global Climate Modeling

Skeptical Science:  Global Warming in a Nutshell

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!




climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (03)


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 July 2015.



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