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New Zealand – we’re in the sh*t

26 August 2016 2 comments

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70 percent pure NZ

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

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Vital Statistics 1

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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.”

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Vital Statistics 2

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ref

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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;

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havelock north water contamination

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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;

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Campylobacter most likely from livestock - Yule

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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.

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Vital Statistics 3

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ref

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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.

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mcshit_by_hornedquad-d32d7nv

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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 [mark@sul.co.nz]
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
Cheers
Mark Unsworth”

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Corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth

Corporate lobbyist, Mark Unsworth

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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!?)

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Greens MP, Catherine Delahunty, at the Selwyn River

Greens MP, Catherine Delahunty, at the Selwyn River

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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;

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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.

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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;

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cow in river - dame sian elias

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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);

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

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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,

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Industry counts cost of 1080 threat

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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;

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

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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?

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***Update**

Water contamination has spread to Hastings and Flaxmere;

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

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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.

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Addendum1

*  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.

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References

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

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milk prices-pollution

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

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National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

20 August 2016 3 comments

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three-types-of-lies-lies-damned-lies-and-statistics

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On 3 July, this blogger reported how Statistics NZ had radically changed the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

“Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.”

Statistics NZ explained the ramifications of the “revised” definition of unemployment ;

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

A person  job-searching using the internet  was “not actively seeking work“. Predictably, at the stroke of a pen, unemployment “fell” over-night from 5.7% to 5.2%.

It was “manna from heaven” for the incumbent government which has  been besieged on several fronts for worsening social and economic indicators.

Despite being little more than a dressed-up “accounting trick”, politicians could claim with a straight-face that “unemployment was falling”.

Which did not take long.

Statistics NZ announced it’s changes on 29 June 2016.

Four days later, our esteemed Dear Leader, John  Key, gloated on TVNZ’s Q+A  to Corin Dann;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

Of course unemployment was falling “pretty dramatically”. Government statisticians were ‘cooking’ the numbers.

By August, both Key and Bill English were joyfully quoting the “new unemployment stats”.

On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”

So not only was Key quoting the”new, revised” unemployment stats – but his government was now actively predicating their immigration policy on the bogus data.

Three  days later, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;

“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”

Whilst it is expected for politicians to mis-use questionable data for their own self-aggrandisement (and re-election chances), worse was to come.

On 10 August,  Radio NZ‘s Immigration Reporter, Gill Bonnett, reported;

“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”

Bonnett did not  quote a reference source for that statement.

It is unfortunate that some journalists seem unaware of the new ‘regime’ which portrays unemployment lower than it actually is. The fact that Statistics NZ has ‘fudged’ their  data which now skews unemployment should be common knowledge throughout the mainstream media.

Especially when government ministers are now “patting themselves on the back” for a “fall” in unemployment that never happened.

The new unemployment figures are not factual. They are a fiction.

Journalists need to know the difference.

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Addendum1 – a letter to the public

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Sun, Aug 14, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
The Listener

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On 29 June, Statistics NZ announced that it would be “revising” the definition of unemployment. It stated that “looking at job advertisements on the internet is … not actively seeking work”.

The consequence, as Statistics NZ pointed out, would be a “decrease in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate”. Accordingly, SNZ revised down the March Quarter unemployment rate from 5.7% to 5.2%.

It did not take long for politicians to realise and exploit the benefits of this revision. On August 8, our esteemed Prime Minister cited the “fall” in unemployment;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong…”

Three days later, Bill English also referenced the new figure;

“The Reserve Bank… is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019…”

Even Radio NZ’s Gill Bonnett quoted the “revised” figure in a story on 10 August;

“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”

The irony is that whilst Statistics NZ plays with phantom numbers to suit itself, the unemployed do not find their circumstances improved one iota.

Changing the numbers does not change people’s real lives.
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-Frank Macskasy

[address & phone number supplied]

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Addendum2 – Statistics NZ’s other Dodgy Definitions

According to Statistics NZ, you are deemed to be employed if you;

 

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

 

How many people are deemed to be “employed” by Statistics NZ, even though they may be working one hour per week, with or without pay?

Statistics NZ’s employment/unemployment figures are utterly unreliable.

At best, they show the minimum number of unemployed in this country and most likely do not reflect reality.

Addendum3

As this blogger reported back  on 12 February 2014;

Roy Morgan poll has un-employment in New Zealand steady at 8.5%, with a further 11.3% under-employed. Collectively,  19.8% of the workforce (519,000, up 69,000)  were either unemployed or under-employed. For the December Quarter 2013, according to Roy Morgan:

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New Zealand real unemployment steady at 8.5%

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By contrast, the last Household Labour Force Survey (September 2013 quarter) reported 6.2% unemployed, and the 2013 Census survey gave a figure of 7.1%.

Roy Morgan’s polling to determine New Zealand’s unemployment rate yielded a figure 2.3 percentage-points higher than Statistics NZ’s Household Labour Force Survey.

Roy Morgan’s polling for the  previous December Quarter for 2012 yielded a similar story. Polling revealed a staggering 9.4% unemployed, with a further 11.6% under-employed. By contrast, Statistics NZ’s  figures for the December 2012 Quarter was 6.9% – 2.5 percentage points lower than Roy Morgan’s.

Curiously, Statistics NZ reports – but does not appear to analyse or question – their own conflicting data;

  • The number of people employed decreased by 23,000 (down 1.0 percent).
  • The labour force participation rate fell 1.2 percentage points, to 67.2 percent.
  • The number of people in the labour force decreased by 33,000.

 

So despite the unemployment rate for the December 2012 Quarter apparently falling “0.4 percentage points, to 6.9 percent” – the actual number of people in work did not increase – it  also fell.

There appears to be a solid disconnect between Statistics NZ’s own figures.

Considering the dodgy definitions being used by Statistics NZ, Roy Morgan may prove to be closer to reality than we realise.

Clearly our real unemployment rate is being masked by unrealistic definitions.

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References

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Interest.co.nz: Key deflects calls for migration review; says migration needed with 5.2% unemployment

Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016

Radio NZ: NZ visa numbers reach ‘staggering’ record high

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment up 0.6% to 9.4% & a further 11.6% of workforce under-employed – the highest recorded

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – December 2012 quarter

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – September 2013 quarter

Previous related blogposts

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

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why aren't all new zealanders so gullible

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 August 2016.

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Is Karl du Fresne happy now?

19 August 2016 1 comment

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In March 2013, former Dominion editor and right-wing columnist, Karl Du Fresne, spat an almighty dummy when he launched a diatribe of accusations of “bias” against Radio New Zealand;

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RNZ's bias needs to be tackled

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I responded shortly thereafter with my own interpretation of Du Fresne’s accusation, writing;

Du Fresne referred to RNZ as “left wing”. And then listed all those people whom he thinks are guilty of being “left”. People like,

Kim Hill

Chris Laidlaw

Jeremy Rose

Kathryn Ryan

Obviously, these people all need to be brought before Parliament’s House Committee for Un-New Zealand Activities. (Which, we don’t have – yet – but I’m sure one of Mr Du Fresne’s right wing colleagues such as Maggie Barry could easily organise one. More on Maggie Barry in a moment.) Then the H.C.U.N.Z.A.  can ensure that Hill, Laidlaw, Rose, and Ryan never work in this town again.

Du Fresne claimed;

“So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable? One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.

Public broadcasting organisations, by their very nature, tend to be Left-leaning.”

Left-leaning“?!

Du Fresne did not hold back in his trenchant criticism of the state broadcaster;

But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests that I’m comfortable with – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour for the rest of New Zealand who are a bunch of leftie, pinko, mung-bean eating, hippies.”

I responded by listing the right-wing commentators who were regular or semi-regular guests and commentators on Radio NZ;

  • ex-National President, Michelle Boag;
  • National & ACT supporter and anti-MMP campaigner, Jordan Williams
  • rightwing blogger and National Party apparatchik,  David Farrar;
  • ex-ACT MP and Party President,  Rodney Hide;
  • ex-ACT and later, ex-National MP, Stephen Franks;
  • former speech-writer and press secretary for National and right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten;
  • and former police officer and front-person for television’s “Police Ten 7″, Graham Bell (who holds right wing views on many issues).

Not forgetting also;

  • Richard Griffin, Radio NZ’s one-time political editor, who worked for National Party ex-Prime Minister Jim Bolger, as his  press secretary in the late 1990’s, and is on Radio NZ’s Board of Governors
  • Maggie Barry (who I referred to above), was the morning presenter on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’  in 1986, and hosted  ‘Nine To Noon’ show in 1990. Later, in November 2011, Ms Barry stood as a political candidate in the general election, and won the seat of  North Shore. She stood as a National Party candidate.

On Wednesday 10 August, another guest featured on Radio NZ;

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The Panel with Jeremy Elwood and Karl du Fresne - radio nz

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Karl du Fresne – his name pointed out with a big, ‘pinko’ arrow.

So, is Radio NZ still biased?

Especially when the only person to be publicly banned from that broadcaster was left-wing commentator Martyn Bradbury;

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State Media Bans Dissident - frankly speaking - frank macskasy

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Not so self-righteous with indignant cries of “Bias!” now are we, Mr Du Fresne?

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References

Manawatu Standard: RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled

Radio NZ: Board of Governors

NBR: Maggie Barry selected as National’s North Shore candidate

Radio NZ: The Panel with Jeremy Elwood and Karl du Fresne

Additional

TV3: Blogger Bomber banned from RNZ for criticism of Key

Other Blogs

Tumeke: Banned from Radio NZ for criticizing the Government

Previous related blogposts

State Media Bans Dissident!

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session – part rua

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RNZ's bias needs to be tackled - smells like bullsit

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 August 2016.

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“Spinning” in a post-truth era

18 August 2016 2 comments

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ministry-of-truth-update

 

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Two recent media stories, on two utterly disparate issues, were clear examples of how tax-payer funded media “spin doctors” were guiding government ministers to respond to questions in a certain way.

Two interviews; two ministers; both on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Morning Report‘ – and both interviews left the audience none-the-wiser afterwards.

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“Guidelines”

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The first, on 5 August, featured Finance  and Social Housing Minister, Bill English, defending Housing NZ’s use of flawed testing regimes for methamphetamine-use in state housing.

On 20 June this year, Housing NZ admitted that the current testing for methamphetamine use (smoking)  was flawed;

“…The current standard guidelines were written to address meth ‘cooking’ and not use, meaning they are not entirely suitable for the contamination that occurs through use of meth.

The Ministry of Health guidelines were written a while ago. At that time it wasn’t perceived that consumption would be at the levels that it has reached. For this reason the guidelines do not cover all they need to.”

Drug Foundation executive director, Ross Bell, was scathing;

“I think they’re out of control…

[…]

I don’t know how they can justify that. Housing New Zealand has spent over $20 million in the last financial year doing these tests and these cleanups. Knowing that these are flawed the minister should step in and stop taxpayers’ money being wasted and vulnerable people being punished.”

Despite the testing regime  – which TVNZ’s  ‘Fair Go‘ programme used to “detect” methamphetamine on bank-notes – “not fit for purpose”, Housing NZ has continued to use the flawed guidelines to evict tenants;

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Expert questions meth contamination evictions

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Housing NZ Minister, Bill English, agreed that the testing for methamphetamine was flawed;

“They’re operating to a Ministry of Health guideline which I understand is internationally standard, but is regarded as not quite appropriate, particularly for dealing for use of P in houses…

[…]

Now, the test as I understand it, indicates the presence of any P at all which may be a very low health risk.”

The interesting aspect to Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson’s interview with Minister English was not that he disagreed with the premise that the P testing regime  was flawed. He gave a straight answer to Ms Ferguson’s question;

Susie Ferguson: “Are these tests fit for purpose?”

Bill English: “Ah, no. And Housing NZ have said that.”

English then spent the next seven minutes defending the flawed testing regime.

In part of his interview, the “g”-word became glaringly  prominent;

“Housing New Zealand is in the position where there is currently a moh guideline, you can’t just wish that away – Housing New Zealand are not health experts.

Ministry of Health stand by the guideline, and the Ministry of Health are the statutory organisation that promulgates the guideline.

I think everyone involved with this is frustrated, I suppose except for the scientists that gave us the guideline in the first place.”

It is obvious what phrase English’s media spin-doctors told him to stay “on-message”.

He referred to “guidelines” no less than sixteen times within those seven minutes.

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“Technical matters”

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On 8 August, in an unrelated matter, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, was interviewed over  China’s threats to launch a trade war if New Zealand investigated cheap imports/dumping of sub-standard Chinese steel.

As Vernon Small described the situation on 4 August, in the Dominion Post;

Now let’s see if we’ve got this right.

In early June Chinese officials find a type of fungus (Neofabraea actinidiae) on board a bunch of kiwifruit heading into the country.

Nothing much happens.

Then in early July a message is passed, through back channels, to Zespri and Fonterra (and potentially other primary producers) that China is extremely peeved that a complaint has been laid about the potential dumping of cheap Chinese steel in our market.

A steel inquiry by regulators here could lead to the imposition of non-tariff barriers that could slow down our exports, the warning suggests. And, what’s more, China is angry that the complaint was even accepted for consideration by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

After some to-ing and fro-ing, China officially denies it draws a link between a potential steel-dumping inquiry and sales of our food products. The various New Zealand agencies and exporters chant in unison that it is an “unsubstantiated rumour” that such a link had been made.

Trade Minister Todd McClay at first tries to dismiss media reports as reflecting a single low-level source talking to Zespri. But he later back tracks and apologises to Prime Minister John Key and concedes the Zespri warning was not all. In fact, there had been “discussions and limited correspondence over the past few months as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has endeavoured to assess the veracity of these reports”. But in the end they were not verified.

[…]

On July 22, Zespri said it had experienced no problems. 

But on July 29, just a few weeks after the initial “warning” – and right in sync with that warning –  Chinese border agencies impose non-tariff barriers, involving a risk notification and strengthened inspection and quarantine processes, on our kiwifruit.

Zespri says their unwelcome fungal friend does not affect food safety and is not a pathogen. It exists in several countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Holland, the United States and Ecuador – and potentially China itself, the home of the chinese gooseberry to which the noble kiwifruit is whakapapa.

But in contrast with Zespri’s relatively sanguine view, the Chinese notice from the AQSIQ, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, describes Mr and Mrs Neofabraea actinidiae in very unflattering terms as a “rot pathogen” and a “major disease” that could infect other fruit such as apples and persimmons, thus inflicting “serious economic loss”.

It saying the fungus hails from New Zealand and Australia – the targets of Chinese suspicions that we are acting in league with Uncle Sam.

And through it all ministers and Zespri are ruling out any link to the “unsubstantiated” trade threat.  “China throws up these non-tariff barriers all the time” is the tenor of the message emanating from the Beehive. Nothing to see here.

(The full text of Vernon Small’s analysis is worth reading, and reminiscent of the sort of critical journalistic insights that we used to have in abundance in the Fourth Estate, and which could ultimately do great harm to an encumbent government’s reputation.)

On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 8 August, Guyon Espiner interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader on China’s blocking of our kiwifruit exports.

Key’s responses to Espiner’s questions were a tribute to the Prime Minister’s media spin-doctors. Throughout the entire four and a half minutes interview, Key stayed on-message, referring to the blocking of Zespri’s export as “a technical issue“.

The phrase “technical issue” was used three times.

Other answers given were verbose – but not very enlightening for the listener;

Espiner: “Did he [Todd McClay] tell the truth about that, though?

Key: “Yeah, he did, but he was-“

Espiner: “You said he was dancing on the head of a pin.”

Key: “He was very specific in the answer that he gave to a very specific question.”

Espiner: “He was misleading, wasn’t he?”

Key: “Well, I just think, in our business the problem is that even though often a journalist will ask me a direct and specific question, you really know they’re  asking a broader question. And it’s kind of tidier if you can at least give a, give them [a] more fulsome answer.”

So according to Key, if “a journalist will ask… a direct and specific question, you really know they’re  asking a broader question“?

This was quintessential Key silly-speak for “Yes, Todd McClay lied”.

The curious aspect to Key’s “spun” answers is that Guyon Espiner – a seasoned journalist of the calibre of Lisa Owen, Kim Hill, Simon Walker, et al – allowed Key to make his specious drivel unchallenged.

At the very least, Espiner should have challenged Key of his references to “technical matters” with the simple question,

“Prime Minister, is the phrase “technical matters” the on-message phrase you’ve been told to use?”

Key would have responded with a resounding “No, of course not!”.

But that would have blown that phrase out of the water from that point on in the interview. The carefully ‘spun’ message crafted by his spin-doctors would have been rendered neutralised, and Key would have had to rely on other answers to Espiner’s probing. Perhaps even something approaching the truth.

The best way to counter “spin” is to clearly identify it as such.

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Shades of Bill Birch

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In 1991, when former Finance Minister, Bill Birch, was promoting the Employment Contracts Bill to the New Zealand public and media, his constant mantra was that it would “raise real wages”;

” The challenge New Zealand faces in industrial relations is to create an environment that delivers high productivity, high income and high employment.”

The promise of “higher wages” was an attempt to justify  the de-unionised, laissez-faire bargaining aspects of the Employment Contracts Act (later passed into law as an Act of Parliament).

But such was not to be. As economist, Andrew Morrison, reported for the  Parliamentary Library in 1996;

“The content of employment contracts has also changed. There are more flexible work practices, greater multi-skilling and increased use of performance pay. Rates for overtime and penal rates have dropped.

[…]

Econometric work shows the ECA as having had no significant effect on the aggregate level of wages. There may have been some deterioration in working conditions, however evidence is not clear-cut.”

Birch’s claims of the ECA “raising wages” were utterly bogus of course.

In reality, the Act increased wages for a few – but either froze or reduced wages for the majority, as Morrison pointed out.

It was the first occassion when this blogger noticed an oft-repeated phrase used by a politician to promote a wildly unpopular piece of legislation. It may have been one of the first (?) uses of ‘spin’ in such a context (as opposed to mis-use of information or outright lies).

In 1991, the “raising wages” mantra was not challenged in any meaningful way (that this blogger can recall).

A quarter of a century later, we still seem to have a problem with political ‘spin’.

The scary thing is, that our elected representatives don’t really seem perturbed that we recognise their ‘spin’ for what it is. In a post-truth environment, it seems to be the “new norm”.

As Andrea Vance wrote in an opinion piece on 1 July;

Politicians are now playing a game in which it’s up to their opponents to fact-check, to catch out their lies. (“People have had enough of experts,” as British Tory leadership hopeful Michael Gove put it.)

They presume media and the voters should accept what they say as fact.

Earlier this week, Trump’s supporter Jeffrey Lord dismissed this “fact-checking business” as an “elitist, media-type thing”.

People only care about “what the candidates say”, he added.

But if what the candidates say are bare-faced lies…then where does that leave us?

Indeed, where does that leave us?

Perhaps needing new standards for political honesty?

We can call them “guidelines“.

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References

Radio NZ: Drug Foundation critical of meth contamination evictions

Housing NZ: HNZ supports new meth standards committee

Radio NZ: English calls for more specific housing meth tests

Radio NZ: Expert questions meth contamination evictions

Radio NZ: NZ braces for effects on Zespri’s halt of kiwifruit exports

Fairfax media: China’s attack on kiwifruit after trade reprisal warning ‘just a coincidence’

Radio NZ: NZ braces for effects on Zespri’s halt of kiwifruit exports

Parliamentary Library: The Employment Contracts Act and its Economic Impact – Andrew Morrison, Economist (November 1996)

Otago.ac.nz: Labour’s Labour Relations

Additional

TV1 News: A post-truth era in politics

TV1 News: Perhaps the Government might want to say sorry

Radio NZ: Is a ‘post-truth’ era upon us?

Radio NZ: Give facts a chance

Previous related blogposts

Military ‘spin-doctoring’ – the media catch-up

The Art of ‘Spin’

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done (Part #Rua)

When spin doctors go bad

“Spin me a conspiracy”, said Dear Leader!

“Spin me a brain exchange”, said Dear Leader!

National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

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quick it's an emergency - spin doctors

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 August 2016.

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2016 – Ongoing jobless tally

12 August 2016 3 comments

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Unemployment logo

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Continued from: 2015 – Ongoing jobless tally

So by the numbers, for this year;

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Events

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January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

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Statistics

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jobless rate in New Zealand 5.7 percent April 2016

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Source

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December 2015 quarter – Employment & Unemployment

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unemployment - december 2015 quarter - Statistics NZ

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Labour market at a glance

  • Unemployment rate falls to 5.3 percent.
  • Labour force participation rate falls for third consecutive quarter.
  • Employment growth rises to 0.9 percent for the quarter.
  • Annual wage inflation lowest since March 2010.

Source

Additional analysis;

However, there was also a fall in the number of people looking for work, which also contributed to the lower jobless rate.

The jobless rate fell to its lowest level since 2009, with strong growth in the construction, retail and hospitality sectors.

Job growth was strong in the Auckland region as well as Wellington and Manawatu.

But the data also showed 14,000 people had stopped looking for work for various reasons, even though the size of the workforce had increased, driven by record immigration.

This led to a fall in the participation rate – the number either in work or looking for work – which Statistics New Zealand said also reflected people who had left the labour force, such as the retired.

But an economist said the fall in participation did not tally with growth in jobs and raised doubts about the reliability of the jobs data.

“The HLFS (household labour force survey) has long had questions over its accuracy given that there have often been cases where large ‘surprises’ such as today’s outcome are thrown up. Those questions will linger today,” ANZ senior economist Philip Borkin said.

Source

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March 2016 quarter – Employment & Unemployment

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march 2016 quarter employment at a glance

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Labour market at a glance

  • New Zealand’s labour force grows 1.5 percent, the largest quarterly growth since December 2004.
  • Employment growth exceeds population growth over the quarter.
  • The unemployment rate increased to 5.7 percent, from a revised rate of 5.4 percent last quarter.
  • Wage inflation remains subdued.

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Unemployment – Decadal Comparison

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unemployment decadal comparison 2006 2016

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2006 Source

2016 Source

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Addendum1: Under-employment

The  under-employment stats;

People who are underemployed are those who work part-time, would prefer to work more hours, and are available to do so. In unadjusted terms, the number of underemployed grew by 12 percent over the year. While the number of part-time workers increased over the year, the ratio of people underemployed to employed part-time also rose – from 17.1 percent in June 2013 to 18.7 percent this quarter.

Official under-employment: up

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Addendum2: Other Sources

Statistics NZ:  Household Labour Force Survey

Addendum3: Definitions

“Labour force participation rate”  –   the total labour force expressed as a percentage of the working-age population. Labour force participation is closely linked to how the working-age population is defined.

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To  be periodically up-dated.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Plunket and the slow strangulation of community organisations

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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On 1 August, Titahi Bay resident, Anne Perry had this letter published in the Dominion Post;

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letter to the editor - plunket

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Ms Perry made pertinent points and raised the very real problem of funding cuts and terminated contracts for community organisations dealing with some of society’s most vulnerable and damaged people. Or helping people who were stressed from having to deal with life’s increasing pressures, complexities, and financial demands.

I added my thoughts to her call for greater funding for our community organisations;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Tue, Aug 2, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Anne Perry’s letter criticising under-funding for Plunket highlights an ongoing crisis faced by many community organisations. (letters, 1 August)

National has slashed funding or terminated contracts, forcing NGOs to cut front-line staff and services. Some have closed altogether.

Women’s Refuge, 198 Youth Health Centre, Auckland Sex Abuse Help, Rape Prevention Education, Parents As First Teachers programme, Community Law Centre, Smokefree Coalition, Lifeline, Relationship Services, early childhood education, is a litany of cut-backs and closures.

In other instances, contracts are terminated and re-awarded to other organisations, resulting in a loss of institutional knowledge and experience.

An example of near closure last year was the Problem Gambling Foundation.

This year, National has announced a “review” of Richmond’s Salisbury School, a facility that offers specialised education to girls with disabilities and high-needs.

Just as the sale of state housing has increased homelessness and over-crowding, the constant re-shuffling of services and funding cuts has predictable consequences.

National’s social policies are random and ad hoc.

There was money for a flag referendum; bailing out the Southland aluminium smelter; and a sheep farm in the middle of a Saudi desert to placate an irate Saudi businessman.

Meanwhile, Plunket goes begging with cap in hand.

What is wrong with this picture?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Dominion Post: Women’s Refuge cuts may lead to waiting lists

NZ Doctor: Christchurch’s 198 Youth Health Centre to close its doors as management fails to implement directives from CDHB

Radio NZ: Support agencies forced to cut frontline services

NZ Herald: Govt funding cuts reduce rape crisis support hours

Fairfax media: Lifeline faces closure as Government rejects pleas for funding

TVNZ News: Relationships Aotearoa hanging on at ‘awful’ 11th hour

Radio NZ: ‘Destabilising’ funding changes proposed

TVNZ News: Kiwi charities and NGOs face closure with impending funding cuts

Radio NZ: Community groups ‘fear speaking out’

NZ Herald: Funding win for Problem Gambling Foundation

Scoop media: Budget delivers funding cut to early childhood education

Radio NZ: Funds cut from parents-as-teachers scheme

Fairfax media: Marlborough Violence Intervention Project upset at funding cut to Parents As First Teachers programme

Fairfax media: Richmond’s Salisbury School may close in January

Related blogposts

Mean-spirited and short-sighted

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

CYF – The Hollowing Out of a State Agency

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 August 2016.

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= fs =

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

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

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

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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;

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jo coughlan - election billboards - four lane highway

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“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;

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jo coughlan - election pamphlet (2)

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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”;

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jo coughlan - election pamphlet (3)

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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”;

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jo coughlan - election card (2)

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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.

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NASA sees temperatures rise and sea ice shrink

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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;

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jo coughlan - election pamphlet (1)

jo coughlan - election card (2)

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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;

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

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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

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bill english - jo coughlan

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“Hidden agendas”?

No wonder Coughlan has avoided answering questions.

 

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References

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

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

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