Archive

Posts Tagged ‘christchurch’

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

8 February 2013 48 comments

From previous blogpost,  Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

… Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms issued to WINZ applicants.

For those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, to collect information,

.

73 pages of WINZ forms (1)

.

73 pages of WINZ forms (2)

.

(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each page, please go to previous blogpost:  Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling. (More on that below.)

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

See: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

How many people with minimal education or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

By contrast, applying for a bank mortage is vastly simpler – an irony considering the vastly greater sums of money involved.

In fact, an application for an ANZ Mortgage comprises of eight pages (four, double-sided),

.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

.

Eight pages for a mortgage to borrow anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million and upward.

And 72 pages for an unemployment benefit of  $204.96 per week, net, for a single person over 25. (See:  Unemployment Benefit – current)

So how much does all this cost us?

Last year, this blogger emailed the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) with an Official Information Act (OIA) request, asking what the cost of all these pamphlets cost,

.

Date: Tue, Wednesday, 14 November 2012 1:38 PM
From: Frank Macskasy
Subject: Information Request
To: Paula Bennett “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz”

Kia Ora Ms Bennett,

I would like to make an official Freedom of Information Request.

Please provide information as to the costings of the following forms and information leaflets produced by MSD/WINZ;

“Work and Income Employment-Earnings Verification” (VO6-mar 2011)

“Work and Income Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work” (JOBSW0007-nov 2010)

“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” (-)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income How can we help you” (CM0001 – OCT 2010)

“Work and Income Online Services”  (-)

“Work and Income” plastic carrybag for above items.

Please provide total costings for EACH item printed, on an annual basis for the last four years, and a break-down of costings for usage per year and per WINZ client.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

.

After seeking an extension, on 4 February this year,  the MSD replied with these costings,

.

MSD 1 Feb 2013 OIA response (1)

.

MSD 1 Feb 2013 OIA response (2)

.

Firstly, it’s disappointing to note that of the eight items that I requested costings for, MSD could provide figures for only five. They admitted not have costings for two documents (“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” and “Work and Income Online Services” ) and made no mention of another (“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” ).

However, based on figures provided for other documents, we can certainly make some rough guesses. If MSD’s  figures are correct,  over four years, the cost of printing these 72 pages is around $1 million. Not a hell of a lot, when considering that WINZ benefit’s will be approximate $4.9 billion for just this financial year alone (see:  Budget 2012 – Vote Social Development).

But if a Bank can offer mortgages from $1 to millions of dollars, using an eight page application form – then why would a government department be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars – millions over decades – for a measely $204.96 (per week, net, for a single person over 25)?

The reason is fairly obvious.

A Bank welcomes a new client in the hope of offering a financial service – eg, a mortgage. Banks view clients as assets.

Under the current government, WINZ is actively discouraging people from signing up for welfare assistance,

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

See: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

Yet, at a time when we have a critical shortage of skilled workers in this country – especially tradespeople for the Christchurch re-build – National views those seeking welfare assistance as a liability.

This is about as short-sighted as a conservative, market-oriented government can get. It shows a lot about the narrow-sightedness of National’s ministers when, like a bank, they don’t see that 170,000 unemployed is an asset waiting to be upskilled; trained and supported into new careers.

Just imagine; 170,000 new builders, computer technicians, doctors, electricians, nurses, quantity-surveyors,  scientists, teachers, vets, etc. Imagine the economic growth this country would have if National viewed an army of 170,000 unemployed as an asset waiting to be tapped – rather than discouraged.

I can imagine it.

National evidently can’t. Not when they prefer to spend millions on 72 pages of bureacratic rubbish, which would put of a lot of people.

I wonder how much business a bank would get if they demanded that new clients fill out 72 pages of forms?

Not much,  I’d wager.

So why does the government do it?

Addendum

.

Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Source

.

This is the predictable consequence when a hands-off government does nothing to grow the economy and generate new jobs.

This is the predictable consequence when a government treats unemployed workers as a liability to be discouraged and labelled as ‘bludgers’ – rather than recognising the asset that they really are.

This is the predictable consequence of a National government.

.

.

= fs =

Advertisements

Parata preparing for another backdown?

2 October 2012 7 comments

.

I – National Standards

.

.

Wearing a Joker-like grin on TVNZ’s Q+A (30 September 2012) , National’s Education minister, Hekia Parata was interviewed by Shane Taurima  on ‘National Standards’ and planned closures and forced amalgamations of several Christchurch schools.

Her answers regarding ‘National Standards’ suggest that she is no long “owning” the policy and is attempting to shift “ownership” (or responsibility) on to schools and parents. Parata ducked questions and constantly pointed to schools and parents as if they were leading the charge for change,

SHANE Little Johnny’s off to school next year, so Mum and Dad are going to jump online to see how the schools in their area are performing. As things sit now, just how reliable and accurate is that [National Standards] information for Mum and Dad?

HEKIA So that’s one of the things Mum and Dad are going to do. It’s not going to replace Mum and Dad visiting the schools that they want to enroll their children in. What they’ll find on the website is not only the first year of National Standards data but the ERO report and the annual report that relate to the schools they’re thinking about.

[abridged]

HEKIA Schools have had faithfully reproduced the information that they have provided, so we’re relying on schools to tell us themselves what their valid and accurate data is…

[abridged]

HEKIA We are relying on schools to tell us that, and schools have. 2088 schools have produced their report on the 31st of May. It’s their data. We’re relying on their judgement.

[abridged]

HEKIA Well, it’s schools’ data…

[abridged]

HEKIA They can rely on what the schools have said about themselves…

Notice the constant reference back to schools? As if schools actually had choice in whether or not to participate in National’s programme?

But the most astounding comment came from Parata when she herself admitted that National Standards were every bit as ‘ropey’ as what Dear Leader Key had previously claimed.

SHANE What’s the point of the information, though, if the Prime Minister, for example, he calls it ropey; the head of your own ministry, she has described it as unreliable.

HEKIA Well, what I have said all along is that it is variable. For the purposes of comparing schools, it is not reliable

“Not reliable”?!?!

“NOT RELIABLE”???!!!

Key and National have spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars on implementing ‘National Standards’; have threatened schools that do not comply with demands for data; and have turned our education system on it’s head for something that is “not reliable“?!?!

I just about spat my coffee when I heard Parata utter those words.

If New Zealanders needed further proof that National is implementing loopy policies based more on weird right wing ideology than common sense – then Parata has provided it.

I ask my fellow New Zealanders who last year cast their vote for National;  do you think that a Party that implements a policy that has such far-ranging implications on our schools and children’s education; that spends millions of our taxes on these “reforms”; that has been discredited internationally by other countries; only to learn that “for the purposes of comparing schools, it is not reliable” – does this make any sense to you?

If you were a National supporter last year, you may wish to reconsider just what it was that you voted for?

.

II – National Standards Internationally

.

‘National Standards’ was all but put to the sword this morning (1 October) on Radio NZ’s ‘Check Point’, as visiting overseas Education professionals explained that the system was simplistic, unproven, and based more of ideological expectations rather than any realities we know about.

Pasi Sahlberg from Finland’s Ministry of Education rejected national standards, charter schools or league tables. Which is startling – as Finland is in the top four of the OECD ranking of developed nations’ education performance. The other three are Japan, Canada and South Korea.

Listen to Pasi Sahlberg here on  Radio NZ’s  Morning Report – International experts pan government education policies

Sahlberg knows what he is talking about. (Which is why Finland is outperforming New Zealand’s educational outcomes.)

As outlined in my previous blogpost of this issue – See: Finland, some thoughts – the Finns have rejected the simplistic policies of national standards, charter schools, and league tables. They see these as little more than a neo-liberalised view of education; an attempt to implement competition; notions of “success” and “failure”; and the illusion of “choice”.

In fact, those with a fairly good memory will recall that previous National Governments tried precisely the same policies with our health system, implementing the CHE model for our hospitals.

Essentially “CHEs” were expected to compete against each other; drive down costs; become more efficient through “competition”; and all with less ands less funding.

Not only did it not work, but people on waiting lists – like Southland farmer, Colin Morrison – died waiting for life-saving medical procedures.

The Minister of  Health at the time was Bill English.

See: Widow says little improvement seem

See: GP hits out at health reforms

See: Died waiting for by-pass

See: Word today on heart list

See: Anger on heart op delay

Instead of adopting dumbed-down Americanised systems – which are the desperate clutchings of a failed market-driven society – it is  worth thinking about the success story shown by nations such as Finland,

.

The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade schools prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasiums have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Helsinki University is ranked 75th in the Top University Ranking of 2010.

The World Economic Forum ranks Finland’s tertiary education #2 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.

More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Forest improvement, materials research, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications showcase fields of study where Finnish researchers have had a significant impact.

Finland had a long tradition of adult education, and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were receiving some kind of instruction each year. Forty percent of them did so for professional reasons. Adult education appeared in a number of forms, such as secondary evening schools, civic and workers’ institutes, study centers, vocational course centers, and folk high schools. Study centers allowed groups to follow study plans of their own making, with educational and financial assistance provided by the state. Folk high schools are a distinctly Nordic institution. Originating in Denmark in the nineteenth century, folk high schools became common throughout the region. Adults of all ages could stay at them for several weeks and take courses in subjects that ranged from handicrafts to economics.

Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1,801 patents were filed in Finland.

Source:  Wikipedia

Here’s a novel idea; why not chase Finland’s example rather than America, which is way down on the OECD education performance listing?

Why? Because Finland invests heavily in education. National’s screwy policies are about market-driven competition and cost-cutting.

Didn’t that work out well for CHEs and Colin Morrison?

.

III – Christchurch School Closures – Back-down imminent?

.

Hekia Parata’s statements, on Q+A (30 September), regarding school closures and amalgamations in quake-ravaged Christchurch, were not as hard-line as previously reported in the media.

In fact, Parata was at pains to insist that,

We are following the process that is set out in the Education Act. We’re being very clear what the proposal is, and I and the Ministry of Education will listen to everything that is said by the community. There is no pre-determined outcome. We are listening.”

Up till this point, his blogger found it hard to work out National’s understanding of this crisis,

… that National was totally oblivious to the shock, trauma, and suffering of Christchurch residents after two major earthquakes that shattered their city, killing  185 people, and is foisting their brutish policies without considering their impact,

… or, that National understood the trauma felt by Christchurch residents – but was pushing ahead anyway.

Pressed by  Taurima, Parata made this jaw-dropping confession,

Well, look. School closures around the country under any administration around the country are always difficult. Here in Christchurch is a community that’s been under intolerable stress for a very long time. “

Christchurch “is a community that’s been under intolerable stress for a very long time“?!?!

So National – being a Party brimming over with humanitarian compassion – compounds the intolerable stress by adding to it?!

Now, I’ve no doubt that there is a sizeable faction of any society that has psycopathic tendencies and finds it hard to empathise with the misery of people who’ve survived a traumatic, destructive disaster.

But most New Zealanders are not cold-hearted, bean-counting, self-centered, quasi-psychopaths to whom the destruction of communities can be easily brushed aside in the pursuit of efficiencies. New Zealanders will view events unfolding in Christchurch with growing dismay.

Their thoughts will probably run along lines something like this,

Bugger me! What if the Big One hit my town? Is this what National has in store for me, my family, and my community?”

This is when the Middle Classes start to feel… uneasy.

Expect opposition to grow in Christchurch.

Expect to see distraught families and crying children on our TV screens.

Expect to see National drop in the polls.

Expect to see Hekia Parata back down on this loathsome, inhuman issue.

.

IV – Proposed School Closures & Electorates

.

Planned Closures

Banks Avenue School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Branston Intermediate – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500

Burnham School – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Burnside Primary School – Ilam – Gerry Brownlee (N) – Majority: 13,312

Duvauchelle School (becomes a hub of Akaroa Area School) – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Glenmoor School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Greenpark School – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500

Hammersley Park School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Kendal School- Ilam – Gerry Brownlee (N) – Majority: 13,312

Le Bons Bay School – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Linwood Intermediate – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Manning Intermediate – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500

Okains Bay School (becomes a hub of Akaroa Area School) – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Ouruhia Model School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Richmond School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Schools to close and merge

Schools to become Year 1 to 13:

Aranui High School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Aranui School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Avondale School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Chisnallwood Intermediate – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Wainoni Primary School – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Mergers

Burwood School and Windsor School on Windsor School site – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Discovery One School and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti as Year 1 to 13 school – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Freeville and New Brighton North School – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Linwood Avenue School and Bromley School on Bromley School site – Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

Lyttleton Main School and Lyttleton West School – Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

Philipstown School and Woolston School (moving to new site) – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47 — Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

South New Brighton School and Central New Brighton School – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Whanau and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500 — Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

Schools in Labour-held electorates: 22

Schools in National-held electorates: 14

.

*

.

Sources

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (video)

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (transcript)

Radio NZ: 13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

Previous related blogpost

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools)

Additional

School standards report card ‘ropey’

.

.

= fs =

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

15 September 2012 16 comments

.

.

National is a Party of choice. National loves to give individuals choice. National hates the idea of  “Nanny State” taking away the individuals’ right of  choice and governments making decisions on their behalf. National believes that  individuals know better than the state.

“Choice is good”.

“State decisionmaking is bad”.

According to National.

Which is why, when National announced it would be adopting ACT’s policy of implementing Charter Schools (in poor areas only – but no doubt that was just a coincidence), choice was high on the list of rationale’s for this policy,

.

Full Story

.

Dear Leader John Key stated,

” It’s a step towards more choice, at the end of the day I expect the vast bulk of schools will be the same as they are now.”

See: Ibid

Little Dear Leader, Bill English, parrotted the Party line; Charter Schools offered choice,

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member knows, the issue of whether teachers are qualified is being discussed in the context of charter schools, which will offer an element of choice, although a very small element of choice, in the general school system. All other schools will continue to run with registered teachers.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In respect of the State-run schools, no. In respect of the charter schools, it is an aspect of providing choices for young New Zealanders that are not currently available to them. “

See: Parliament: Questions for Oral Answer

National MP for Maungakiekie, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, repeated the mantra (in case we missed it the first time),

With our Government’s focus on raising achievement for all our students, I see partnership schools as just another option for our parents and students. It will give them more freedom to choose the type of education that best suits their children’s learning needs.

See: Scoop.co.nz – Partnership Schools are Good for High Needs Communities

And the only human member of ACT with high-functioning mental processes, Catherine Isaac, chipped in (as it was ACT policy after all – even though it had never been announced during last year’s election campaign),

Well, what is different is that these schools are going to get greater freedom to innovate, to find different ways of engaging with children who are struggling to learn, and you need more opportunities, more freedom... “

See: Scoop.co.nz – Q+A – Corin Dann interviews Catherine Isaac and Ian Leckie

It is abundantly clear that National’s preference is always; choice. Lots and lots of choice!

Except…

When National takes away an entire city’s choice.

Like with Christchurch,

.

Full story

.

On 13 September, National announced the closure or mergers of dozens of schools in the quake-hit city of Christchurch. Amongst those closing or merging, according to  NBR and Radio NZ stories on 14 September,

Schools to close include:

  • Aranui High years 1 to 13
  • Aranui Primary
  • Banks Avenue Primary, or relocate depending on geotech report
  • Branston Intermediate
  • Burnham Primary
  • Burnside Primary
  • Chisnallwood Intermediate years 1 to 13
  • Duvauchelles Primary
  • Glenoor Primary
  • Greenpark Primary
  • Hammersley Park Primary
  • Le Bons Bay Primary
  • Linwood Intermediate
  • Manning Intermediate
  • Ricmond Primary
  • Wainoni Primary

Who will merge:

Avonside Girls High will merge with Christchurch Girls High as a “dual shift” or may close depending on geotech report.
Christchurch Boys High will possibly merge with Shirley Boys High as a “dual shift”.
Central New Brighton Primary will merge with New Brighton Primary.
Burwood School and Windsor School on Windsor School site
Discovery One School and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti as Year 1 to 13 school
Freeville and New Brighton North School
Linwood Avenue School and Bromley School on Bromley School site
Lyttleton Main School and Lyttleton West School
Philipstown School and Woolston School (moving to new site)
South New Brighton School and Central New Brighton School
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Whanau and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha

See:  Up to 13 Chch schools to be closed, as many as 18 will merge

See:  13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

The shock news was delivered to a packed meeting of  principles and Boards of Trustees members by these three,

.

DELIVERING THE NEWS: Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Education Minister Hekia Parata and Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone deliver the news.

Source

.

The proposed closures and mergers would result in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs; thousands of students uprooted and moved; and the remaining  centres of communities – which have lost many of their infra-structure and services – finally eradicated.

The response from many Christchurch education-sector workers, parents, and residents was unsurprisingly one of anger and disgust. It seems that what the earthquakes had begun – National was hellbent on finishing off.

For many, this was an unprovoked, unforeseen, craven attack on their communities,

I state here and now … Shirley Boys’ High School as a school exists and will continue to exist – mark it. There is no way in God’s creation that we cease to exist. (source)

We are not going to merge for the most practical reason. I have 1300 students in the school I think Trevor McIntyre at Christchurch Boys’ will have something similar.

To simply say that Shirley closes and suddenly Christchurch Boys’ High School is equipped to double in size is absurd. They don’t have the land, they don’t have the infrastructure. It’s nonsense. (source)”

– John Laurenson, Shirley Boys’ High School principal

I just don’t understand what’s going on . . . my boy’s got three years left and I didn’t want him to move.

We live nearby and yes, it’s damaged but this is our community so you can’t just pick us up and move us.”

Tracey Dearden, Parent

We’ve got five classrooms at our school, excellent staff doing wonderful things and just can’t for the life of me see why they would want to close Ouruhia.”

” I wonder how many people who were staying so their kids had stability and didn’t have to be uprooted from schools, will now leave and follow all the others to Brisbane… say 20 schools x 500 pupils/school… is a lot of affected families…. “

Anonymous

Men and women are in tears at the possibility of losing their jobs, their schools and communities.

Schools are the focal point of their communities. Schools are identified by the names of their community. Families now have to gravitate, take their children to other places, create new identities.

This is going to affect families in a major way. This is going to affect parents in a major way, just like it is going to affect teachers and children.”

Paul Kennedy, Cathedral Grammar school headmaster

Our house is TC3 and everything around this school is red-zoned pretty much, but Banks Ave has been the one and only constant in their lives since the earthquakes.

Children had gone through enough without having their school taken off them“.

Haley Thompson, Parent

We got more than we bargained for today.”

Philip Harding, Paparoa Street School principal

 “Where are the kids supposed to go? Haven’t we been through enough? Half the kids are on medication because of the earthquakes.”

Thea Turner, Parent

No parent is going to enrol their child in an intermediate school that they know is closing so already we’re looking at losing half our pupil population next year alone.

I need to look after my staff, maintain the quality of teaching and keep looking after the children because they’ve been heroes since the quakes . . . everyone has gone through so much and now we have to go through this.”

Geoff Siave, Shirley Intermediate principal

As this blogger pointed out above; National loves choice.

Except when it’s not convenient.

Then it will  act with all the ruthlessness of a mad Arab dictator or  ex-Soviet Asiatic republic that never quite “got democracy“.

National will give us the ‘choice’ of Charter schools, whether we want them or not.

Whilst at the same time it will gut the heart out of Christchurch, inflicting more heartache, stress, misery, and uncertainty on a city that has endured more than the rest of us could possibly imagine.

I leave the reader with this piece, taken from a National Party 2011 policy-document on education,

12. Support Canterbury

Rebuilding Canterbury is a top priority for National. We supported the people of Canterbury in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes and we are committed to getting greater Christchurch back on its feet over the coming months and years.

National:

• Ensured all schools were up and running eight weeks after the February earthquake.
• Double-funded students who moved out of Christchurch for 2011. That is, we funded the Christchurch school they no longer attended and also funded the school outside of Christchurch they did attend.
• Created new exemptions so that Christchurch students would not unfairly miss out on NCEA qualifications.

National will rebuild the Canterbury school network

* Ensure schools make the most of their facilities and resources, and they collaborate rather than compete with each other.
* Ensure there is a range of education provision so parents can continue to have choice about what type of school they send their children to.
Schools in Christchurch will become part of the most advanced schooling network in New Zealand with facilities that support education in the 21st Century.

See: National Party – Education in Schools – Building Better Public Services

Choice.

We all have it.

Especially on Election Day.

Christchurch schools

Lest We Forget

.

*

.

Additional

Scoop.co.nz: Christchurch schools to reopen as charter schools?

.

.

= fs =

Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 3 comments

.

.

It is fast becoming apparent that this government is eyeing up Christchurch’s community-owned assets, to “help” pay for the costs of that city’s re-build.

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

“Let me tell you, when the Government is spending $5.5billion anywhere, we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery. And that plan has to be a lot better than ‘we’re just going to put up the rates and we’re going to borrow a lot more money’.” – Source

Which, strangely enough,  is pretty  much what National has done in the last three-and-a-bit years; raise gst; raise ACC premiums; raise EQC levies; and borrowed $380 million a week until we were (last reported) over $18 billion in debt,

.

Full Story

.
Full Story

.

So it’s ok for Central government to raise taxes/charges/levies and borrow like crazy – but not Christchurch!?

Ok, got it.

So what alternatives are  Gerry Brownlee and John Key expecting of Christchurch City Council?

It appears that Key and Brownlee are indeed pressuring the Christchurch Council to privatise  it’s community-owned assets to raise $1 billion for re-building. Chief amongst these, I suspect would be the Orion Power company – one of few in New Zealand still in public ownership. (Orion is 89.3% owned by the Christchurch City Council and 10.7% owned by the Selwyn District Council.) Red Bus Ltd, Lyttelton Port Company, and Christchurch airport could also be privatised if Brownlee gets his way.

Brownlee stated,

“”We have asked Treasury, obviously, to give us advice about what the capacity is for Christchurch’s rating base to take on the extraordinary expense they have to face in the future,” he said.

”It is a $1billion-plus bill that they have to face and we are very interested, given that we are putting up $5.5b, as to how they might meet that cost.” ” – Source

Which is ‘code’ for “how are you guys going to cough up $1 billion for your re-build”?

It would be crazy  to expect the people of Christchurch to rebuild the second largest city in this country. After enduring so much devastation; the death of 184 loved oved ones; thousands of people leaving the stricken city; losing teaching staff and other skilled workers – expecting the local people to weather such an onerous billion-dollar cost is  patently unjust.

And it would be commercial insanity to privatise Council-owned assets at a time when, due to Christchurch’s current state, would constitute ca “fire sale” and not fetch the best possible prices.

As Gordon Campbell wrote on Scoop.co.nz.,

Please. It would be idiotic to force Christchurch to sell its assets to pay for its rebuild, under present conditions. Given the current state of the city, those assets would earn only fire sale returns. Hocking off the city’s assets dirt cheap is yet another version of the destruction of its legacy – and while it may make sense to Brownlee to sell off that legacy to any of his government’s real estate speculator mates who may be waiting in the wings, it would be a betrayal of the people of Christchurch who as [Lianne] Dalziel says, have been through enough: “What they don’t need are backroom deals being done on the future of their city and their city’s assets.”  – Source

As for the government’s financial problems – these are of John Key’s own making. Cutting taxes (April 2009, October 2010) during a recession, when we most needed to stimulate the economy via encouraging strong infra-structure investment was just irresponsible,

.

.

Bill English may have “expected the “tax switch” to be revenue-neutral” – but his ‘expectations’ are not part of reality. Instead, National has left a gaping hole of several billions of dollars in government revenue. No wonder we’re borrowing $380 million a week – and paying hefty interest amounts on those borrowings!

Refusing to raise   taxes (except gst, which impacts mostly on the poorest) to finance the rebuild  of our second largest city simply defies logic. But then, I, and others, have long since given up trying to figure out this governments plans.

Even the business community said as much,last year,

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.” – Source

It’s fairly obvious that this government is relying on short-term “gains” (asset sales) to achieve long-term results. Applying “free market” policies to rebuild a crippled city is simply more right wing craziness.

A far better option would be the Green Party proposal for an Earthquake Levy. Such a levy would spread the cost of Christchurch’s re-build; take unnecessary financial pressure off Christchurch citizens; preserve Council-owned assets in public ownership; and retain the income stream – $100 million per annum – from these assets.

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Does this government have the wit to investigate this, and/or other options?

Or does John Key really looking to buy into yet another fight with another community over another sensitive issue?

Your call, Mr Key.

.

***

.

Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

Scoop: On bank profits, and Gerry Brownlee’s asset sales plans for Christchurch

.

.

Booze – it’s time for some common sense

12 December 2011 3 comments

.

Full Story

.

I sympathise with Newtown residents. This country has a glut of alcohol outlets, and most folk have had a gutsful.

The ready availability of cheap booze satisfies heavy drinkers; liquor companies; and naive libertarians, none of whom care greatly about communities – but I think it’s time that NZ called “time” on our growing liquor problems.

Enough is enough.

The “liberal pendulum” has swung too far to the “rights” of drunkeness and crime, and we need to get back to the simple notion of community responsibility.

No one is suggesting prohibition or returning to 6PM closing, but as a society it’s time we returned to moderation, balance, and a sense obligation to create safer communities.

It’s time that communities were allowed to regain control of their own neighbourhoods.

And it seems that many communities are doing precisely that,

.

Full Story

.

When 88 submissions were lodged, opposing the relicensing of Fantame Liquor Store, and people are sufficiently angry and galvanised  to take to the streets in protest – then that should be a clear indication that the community has had enough.

The growing community resistance to liquor outlets is cropping up throughout the country, and sometimes all it takes is for one courageous individual to take a stand and show leadership,

.

Full Story

.

Good on you, Mr Hawker. If New Zealand had more gutsy people like you, politicians would have to take heed of communities crying out for common sense decision-making  that make safer neighbourhoods – not create a preponderance of liquor outlets, selling cheap booze to hard-core drinkers at all hours of the day and night.

Jim Anderton, MP for Wigram (ret.), made an impassioned speech on this issue. I think he summed matters up quite nicely,

.

Enough is enough – liquor outlet community protest

– Jim Anderton’s speech at liquor outlet community protest

20/08/11



Another liquor store is the last thing we need. Public drinking is a serious problem for this area. It’s got worse since the earthquakes closed the inner city. Just two weeks ago, four students were arrested, cars were vandalised and police were pelted with bottles in Riccarton.

How much of this behaviour do we have to take before we say it’s too much? It’s too hard for communities to oppose liquor outlets when we feel there are already too many in our neighbourhoods.

More places selling alcohol, a lower drinking age, and longer opening hours – it all adds up. It adds up to more alcohol abuse. It adds up to more harm to communities.

Communities are in a good position to judge for themselves whether there are too many places in an area to buy liquor.

Residents are good at gauging for themselves whether there are enough places.

But the law doesn’t give local communities enough say. The result is that it is too hard for a community to respond to increasing alcohol abuse.

You don’t have to be a wowser to say the rules are too heavily weighted in favour of alcohol. But ‘wowser’ and ‘zealot’ and the labels that the alcohol industry puts on anyone who expresses concern about the harm caused by alcohol – Sensible people like Doug Selman, from the National Addiction Centre at the University of Otago, and Ross Bell, from the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

Liquor lobbyists like the Hospitality Association say drinkers should take personal responsibility for their own actions. That sounds reasonable. But it is the opposite, and it’s just as cynical as the arguments the tobacco industry used to use.

Those who are addicted to alcohol or affected by it are generally the least well equipped to deal with it responsibly. The hospitality industry knows this only too well.

I often ask myself what some of those same people would say if their own children or family members became addicted to an illegal drug such as methamphetamine.

Would they blame the children alone, or would they put some responsibility on the dealers.

The same goes for the alcohol industry.

We have a serious alcohol problem in New Zealand.

Sixty per cent of criminal offences are committed when the offender is under the influence of alcohol. There are 1350 violent physical assaults which take place in New Zealand homes each week fuelled by alcohol abuse.

If we want less crime and safer streets, we need to make alcohol less available.

This community is taking action. Everyone here today is taking personal responsible for making this community safer. We deserve to be listened to. We are entitled to say enough is enough.

We don’t need more drinking nor more places to drink.

What we need are safer streets and more respect for the wishes of this community to control the number of liquor outlets in our neighbourhood. Source

.

And just to put this issue into monetary terms (for those who give no credence to concepts of community), a BERL report on alcohol abuse revealed the following costs to tax-payers,

.

Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

– Adrian Slack

Client: The Ministry of Health and ACC

Authors: Adrian Slack, Dr Ganesh Nana, Michael Webster, Fiona Stokes and Jiani Wu

Date: July 2009

This research estimates the social costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use, excluding tobacco, in New Zealand.  Harms related to drug use include a wide range of crime, lost output, health service use and other diverted resources.  Harmful use has both opportunity costs, which divert resources from alternative beneficial uses, and psychological or intangible costs, such as reduced quality or length of life.

The report provides four broad answers.  It estimates the:

  • total social costs from harmful drug use in 2005/06.

  • potential level of social costs that are avoidable.

  • cost to society stemming from alcohol and other drug-related injuries

  • social costs from harmful drug use borne by the government

The study shows that harmful drug use imposed a substantial cost on New Zealand in 2005/06.

  • Overall, harmful drug use in 2005/06 caused an estimated $6,525 million of social costs.

  • Harmful alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4,437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare.

  • Harmful other drug use was estimated to cost $1,427 million, of which $1,034 million were tangible costs.

  • Joint alcohol and other drug use that could not be separately allocated to one drug category cost a further $661 million. If the joint costs are split proportionately, total alcohol and total other drug costs equate to $4,939 million (over three quarters) and $1,585 million (just under one quarter).

  • Using estimates from international research, this study suggests that up to 50 percent ($3,260 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use may be avoidable.

  • The research indicated that 29.9 percent (or $1,951 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use result from injury.

  • The costs of harmful drug use from a government perspective amount to an estimated $1,602 million, or just over one third (35.1 percent) of the total tangible costs to society.  Source

.

At least $4.4 billion lost in harmful  alcohol-related incidents. That’s $4.4 billion in tax-payers money. The cost by now is probably much higher.

Meanwhile, liquor companies continue to make huge profits selling their products.

Let’s be  honest; this country has a serious problem with alcohol abuse. The ready availability of cheap booze; late opening hours of bars; heavy advertising to promote a drinking culture – all contribute to problems of violence, property damage, lost productivity, added stresses on families; and preventable injuries and deaths.

This is not about peoples’ freedom to drink. This is about returning power to ordinary citizens and communities to say “enough is enough”; we don’t want our streets unsafe because of drunken idiots; our hospital A&E Wards filled with people who are half-dead with alcohol poisoning, or injured in fights; police resources stretched to the max dealing with drunkeness and alcohol-fueled crimes; and billions wasted on this problem.

We can curtail alcohol abuse in this country and still buy a bottle of wine to drink with our meals. Or go out on a Friday night for a quiet druink at our local. In fact, it may even be a safer, nicer experience.

But not if we’re going to continue down our current road of excess.

Meanwhile, Peter Dunne has been a ‘busy’ lad, suppressing surveys with damning data,

.

Full Story

.

Peter Dunne – the same minister who passed an amendment to legislation to make “kronic” illegal within a matter of weeks.

.

.

I guess we know where his priorities lie, eh? (Clue: not with alcohol abuse.)

Peter Dunne, and others like him in this National Government are irrelevant.

It’s up to communities to reassert their values and protect their neighbourhoods.

.

***

.

Additional

.

Full Story

.

Perhaps this should be a case of Three Strikes – Permanent Loss of Licence?

.

Source

.

Additional

Dunne accused of keeping alcohol survey quiet

Stay away from our city, Croatian tells Kiwi drunks

.

Related

A kronically inept government

Community Needs vs Business Demands

New Zealand 2011AD: Drunken Mayhem and a nice Family Day Out

Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse

.

.

John Key – Show me the jobs!

.

.

At a time when New Zealand’s construction sector should be moving into Warp Factor 9.9, it beggars belief that we learned yesterday that Fletcher Challenge – New Zealand’s largest construction company – is shedding jobs,

.

Source

.

This is a follow-on from a previous media story, which I remarked on in my piece, “How can this possibly be?”,

.

Full Story

.

We have a shortage of housing in this country; we have a lengthy waiting list for State Housing; and we have our second largest city waiting for reconstruction – and the building industry is in a… slump?!?!

Never mind this government not being able to organise a piss-up in a Brewery – they can’t seem to organise a nail-up  in a building shortage.

Let’s play a simple game,

.

.

Even Business NZ, the former Employer’s Federation and close ally of the National Party, has become exasperated at this government’s do-nothing, hands-off approach to our stagnant economy and lack of job creation,

.

Full Story

.

As I pointed out at the beginning of August, investment in housing and a building reconstruction would have vastly beneficial flow-on  effects for our economy.

I even presented ‘ball-park‘ costings for what a construction programme to build 10,000 new state houses would cost the country, and how much would be recouped through normal taxation revenue; savings in welfare payouts; and rental-income from the new houses.

As I explained here, in some detail: Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

On top of that would come even more jobs and economic activity by speeding up reconstruction in Christchurch.

On Stratos TV yesterday (4 November), political commentator, Chris Trotter made a pertinent observation about this current government: they are timid. Too timid to embark on bold, radical initiatives (beneficiary-bashing is not bold – it’s formulaic for center-right wing governments), they are doing very little that might antagonise the far-right and conservative elements of their Party,

.

.

The last thing Key andf his strategists would welcome would be a flight of party-support to ACT, or Colin Craig’s new Conservative Party.

Which suggests that Key is waiting to win a second term before possibly implementing something more radical.

Let’s hope that Key is planning something more enterprising and visionary. Selling assets and re-labelling benefits is not creative – it is lazy, sloppy government, that (a) takes the easy route and (b) panders to low-information voters to whom the ills of the world can be sheeted home to welfarism.

Beneficiary-bashing has to stop when electioneering is completed.

If the msm polls are correct, and if the Horizon Poll is out-of-kilter, then it appears that despite the spectre of asset sales, that New Zealand voters are inclined to give National a second term.  If so, a repeat of the last three years will simply draw out the recession,  high unemployment, and growing wage-gap with Australia.  We will have voted for another term of timidity and hands-off Do Nothing.

Is that what New Zealanders are voting for?

In which case, we may as well vote for SM in the Referendumn. But in this case, SM will stand for sado-masochism. Because it seems we have a deep streak of that tendency running deep with us, as a society.

.

.

Let’s destroy more jobs, Prime Minister!

26 September 2011 17 comments

You know that things in this country have turned to custard when ordinary citizens,  like Sandra Spekreijse, living in a quake-battered city have to make a public appeal to the Prime Minister, just to do the Decent Thing,

.

Full Story

.

Going back to a pre-election speech on 29 January 2008, John Key said,

.

Well, I’ve got a challenge for the Prime Minister [to then Prime Minister, Helen Clark].  Before she asks for another three years, why doesn’t she answer the questions Kiwis are really asking, like:

… Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?”  Source

.

And then went on in the same speech to state,

.

“The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future…

… We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates…

… We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy…

… And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect… “ Ibid

.

One wonders how making 170 teachers redundant will help to  “equip young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy” ? Call me old fashioned – but I thought that teachers were a necessity in a class-room?

Or does this government expect our children to educate themselves?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (which we won’t have any more – not enough teachers to train them) to figure out that National’s crazy decision to axe 170 fulltime teacher jobs in Christchurch will not help that city re-build, and instead we may see those 170 teachers join the migration to Australia.

John Key asked, “Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?

Well, Mr Prime Minister, it’s because of insane decisions like this that probably contributes to our under-skilled, low-achieving, and ultimately unemployed kids.

Mr Prime Minister – stop this ridiculous action. Save those jobs. We need teachers. Christchurch needs those teachers. Cutting 170 positions may save our balance sheet a few hundred thousand bucks – but it will not help Christchurch re-build. Nor will it help the morale of our Cantabrian cuzzies.

Australia does not need any more of our skilled professionals.

Do the decent thing, Mr Prime Minister. Do it now.

.

***

.

Further reading

Hey! Key! Leave our teachers alone!

John Key’s email address

john.key@parliament.govt.nz

.

.