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New Zealand – we’re in the sh*t

26 August 2016 5 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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ref

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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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Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

6 December 2011 8 comments

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What’s past is prologue

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“Class war” – not a piece of left-wing jargon I normally employ, as it has connotations that are seemingly out-of-date in the 21st Century. It is a term I normally associate with 1960s-style, cloth-cap marxist-leninist or maoist cadres, addressing factory workers as they’re about to “Down Tools and All Out, Bruvvers“!

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In 1947 a union official addresses London dockers. In the post-war years efforts were made by the unions to recruit new workers coming into British industry.

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However, “class war” seems to pretty well describe what this ‘new’ hard-right wing government is planning.

Since the Election on November 26, it is  apparent that this government has moved well away from the centre-right position it occupied from 2008-11.  There is a definite undertone of  cold harshness about this ‘new’ government. The old “smile and wave” has been replaced with a grim tension as the National-Dunne-ACT Coalition begins to announce policies that were never announced during the election campaign.

It is as if the facade of the  cheerful “vacant optimism” of John Key has been allowed to fall away – to be replaced with something cold and quite alien. I think New Zealanders are waking up to a Prime Minister that they never voted for.

It appears that the  first term of National was to “bed in” this government and lay fertile ground for their real policies – policies that are intended to transform this country as Rogernomic did in the late 1980s. National has declared war on our   social services,  remnants of our egalitarian past when most or all New Zealanders had a fair go.

Since Rogernomics, we were promised that increased wealth creation would “trickle down” to middle and low income earners, and  as a result incomes would rise. This has not happened. in fact, quite the reverse.

The OECD  (not exactly a left-wing organisation)  has warned “about the rise of the high earners in rich societies and the falling share of income going to those at the bottom, saying governments must move quickly to tackle inequality ,”

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Full Story

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Warren Buffett – one of the richest men on this planet – has said pretty much the same thing,

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Full Story

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Buffett has stated,

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

The same could be said of high income earners and wealthy throughout the world, including here in New Zealand.

Since 1986, there have been seven tax cuts in New Zealand. Gst was introduced at 10% in the same year, and increased to 15% this year (despite assurance by John Key that he would not raise gst).

GST impacts disproportionately on low-income earners as they  spend all their income on necessities, whilst higher-income earners/wealthy invest, speculate,  or “park” their money. “Parking” wealth does not lead to increased spending in the economy and businesses suffer accordingly. Investment does not always lead to more jobs or higher wages either – simply an increased return to the investor.

The growing disparity between rich, middle-classes, and low income/poor began in earnest in the late 1970s,

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It is noteworthy that right-wing governments in the UK (“Thatcherism”) and USA (“Reagonomics”) implemented neo-liberal government policies such as tax cuts for the rich;   reduced social services and government spending; and stagnant wage-growth, at the same time – the late 1970s.

Could there be a link? Of course there is. Only a fool would deny the causal factors of neo-liberal governments and growing wealth disparity.

In New Zealand, right wing neo-liberal policies were introduced a little later, in the mid-1980s.

The result has been predictable, and follows overseas trends,

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Full Story

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Income disparity has been a growing problem and despite endless promises that “trickle down” theory works – wages have stayed static and those earning minimum wage barely have sufficient to surevive.  When questioned by Q+A’s Guyon Espiner on this issue, Bill English agreed,

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GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

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The tax cut last year exacerbated that growing gap between the rich/high income earners and those on middle/low incomes,

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Source

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Only the most politically partisan – blinded by misplaced quasi-religious beliefs in neo-liberal ideology – can ignore the ample evidence that so-called “free market”  policies serve to make only the rich, richer. Meanwhile those at the bottom are mired in poverty. The middle-classes become debt-laden, as they have to borrow more and more to keep afloat financially.

We have created a recipe for disaster and in 2008 the fiscal chickens came home to roost.

In November 2011, 957,769  voters cast their ballot for a charismatic Prime Minister who seemed to be fairly centrist and common sense.

957,769  voters were duped.

This was not the same John Key nor National government they elected in November 2008.

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The Right Strikes Back

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Charter Schools

Charter Schools is nothing less than gradual privatisation by stealth. Instead of announcing to New Zealanders that schools will be put on Trademe and sold to highest bidders, the “Charter Schools” policy is far more subtle; and done piece by piece; step by step.

99% of New Zealanders would never countenance our schools being put on the chopping block and flogged of to Heinz Watties, Church of Scientology, Toyota, the Mormons, Uncle Tom Cobbly, etc. But that is precisely what “Charter Schools” is about. Under “Charter Schools”, a religious group or corporation can fund and take control of  your local school.

A Radio NZ report states,

Christian school leaders say the Government’s plan to trial so-called charter schools could give them a way to reach the most needy families.

Charter schools are part of a movement in the United States and Britain to get business and non-profit organisations to run government-funded schools free from many of the rules that govern regular state schools.

The schools are not allowed to charge fees, but can set teacher pay and their own school day and year.

A trial for such schools in South Auckland and central and eastern Christchurch was part of the confidence and supply agreement reached between the National and ACT parties on Monday.

Christian school leaders say the proposed schools might give Christian schools a way round current restrictions on their enrolments.

Most are integrated schools and must focus their enrolments on Christians. Charter schools would get the same funding, without those restrictions.

Christian school leaders say that will interest schools that want to help poor communities.

They say the schools would be fulfilling a Christian mission and would not try to convert people to Christianity. ” – Source

So if a christian fundamentalist group like “Exclusive  Brethren” took over my local primary school, they would not be replacing the science curriculum with Creationism? Or teaching girls to be “silent and obedient to men”? Or canning sex-education?

A NZ Herald article had this to say about “Chart Schools”,

The National party yesterday agreed to incorporate charter schooling as part of its government support deal with the Act Party, allowing private entities such as businesses, church groups and iwi organisations to take over management of schools but retain state funding under the scheme.

The charter school scheme will be trialled in South Auckland and Christchurch within the next three years.

Groups representing teachers and principals are outraged at the proposal.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president Robin Duff labelled the charter school trial nothing but a “social experiment” on already vulnerable students.

“Why are they not putting a school like this in Epsom? I think some honest answers are needed.”

He said models overseas were ineffective; Stanford University research showed students at only 17 per cent of charter schools did better than at traditional schools.” – Source

When John Key was interviewed about the new  “Charter Schools” policy that ACT and National had jointly announced, he replied on Radio NZ,

“‘That’s MMP for you, isn’t it? That you agree to different proposals.”

Rubbish.

Once again, Key is spinning a lie to cover his backside.

The facts are simple, and a  visit to National and ACT’s website yields some interesting information.

National

There is no mention made whatsoever of “Charter Schools” in National’s policy, “Education in Schools“.  Nothing even remotely close.

National makes policy on employing unqualified people off the street to teach our children,

We will make it easier for schools to employ people with specialist skills who may not be a registered teacher, but who can undergo basic teacher training. That training may be on-the-job training.

They even hint at League Tables,

They also have clear targets they can measure their own achievements, and the achievements of their school, against.”

National will make secondary school performance information available to parents, so they are informed about their child’s learning environment.”

Improve reporting of system-level performance, including investigating school level reporting.”

National wants to psyco-analyse people to gauge their “disposition to teach”, in a quasi-Nanny State/Big Brotherish kind of way,

Improve the quality of initial teacher education, including a move to a post graduate qualification and minimum undergrad entry requirements, as well as a formal assessment of a ‘disposition to teach’.”

And National isn’t “quasi” in some of it’s Big Brotherish surveillance of ordinary New Zealanders,

Track students who leave school before 18 and make sure they are in some form of education or training.
Schools will be asked to report students who are leaving school and not going onto further training or employment, so we can support them and ensure they don’t end up on welfare.

So, if you’re 17 and about to leave school, for whatever reason, expect the eyes of  The State to be watching you.

National also makes some very grand, heart-warming, claims stating their supporting for schools in Christchurch in their “Education in Schools”  policy,

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.”

However, they make no reference to the fact that, in September, Education Minister Anne Tolley announced cutting 167 full-time equivalent-positions from Christchurch schools, effective next year.  This lapse in painting a full picture of National’s policy and track record in Christchurch is another unpleasant example of dishonesty from this government.

But a big Nothing/Nada/No Way reference to “School Charters”.

ACT

Quite predictably, ACT, and it’s website, is a right-winger’s Onanistic delight.

Again, there is no mention of  “Schools Chart” in ACT’s education policy. Though they do rabbit on about “the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial.  ”

In fact, this is ACT’s full education policy,

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Source

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It’s interesting that ACT (and to a lesser degree, National) both make out that our education system is in dire straits.  Their inference is that only their policies will achieve grand outcomes – no one elses.

And yet, things are not as bad as they would have us believe,

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Full Story

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Ok, so we’re not ‘perfect’, and obviously we “Can Do Better” on our OECD Report Card. But matters are not so desperate that National has to implement a policy that neither they nor ACT campaigned on.  National, specifically, has no reference coming even remotely close to “Charter Schools” in it’s education policy.

Quite simply, National has ‘sprung’ this on the public. They have no mandate for such a radical re-shaping of our education system.

Trying to blame it on MMP and suggesting that it is ACT policy is duplicitous. They have deceived the elecorate – and as such parents, teachers, students, and the rest of the community have a legitimate right to resist implementation of this policy.

I suspect that “Chart Schools” is merely the tip of the iceberg. National and ACT have other surprises in store for us, and New Zealand will be in for a rude shock.

The Right Wing are in ascendancy in Parliament and they will run rampant with their “reforms”, mandate or not.

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Denniston Plateau

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Yet more evidence (if we ever really needed it) that this National-led coalition has taken off  the kid-gloves and has adopted an agressive, uncompromising,  right-wing posture. As well as ramming through  policy that was never presented to the electorate, expect National to be more open and brazen in breaking promises.

National’s intention to mine the ecologically-sensitive Denniston Plateau was made public by “Conservation” Minister Kate Wilkinson, a mere one-working day day after the election.  She could barely wait for the ballot papers to be counted before issuing a public statement that broke  a promise to make  future applications to mine on the conservation land  publicly notifiable.

On 20 July 201o, after mass protests throughout the country opposing mining on Schedule 4 Conservation land, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson issued this statement,

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After carefully considering the feedback received on the Maximising Our Mineral Potential: Stocktake of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act and Beyond discussion paper, the Government has agreed that:

  • i. No areas will be removed from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
  • ii. All of the 14 areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4 will be added to the schedule.
  • iii. A technical investigation will be undertaken of Northland (in strategic alliance with Northland Regional Council, the Far North District Council, and Enterprise Northland), the West Coast of the South Island and various other highly prospective areas in the South Island – excluding any Schedule 4 areas. This will identify mineral deposits and assist with hazard identification (for example, faults and slips), road maintenance and conservation planning.
  • iv. Areas given classifications equivalent to current Schedule 4 areas (for example, national parks and marine reserves) will in the future be automatically added to Schedule 4. Such classifications will be agreed by Cabinet.
  • v. Significant applications to mine on public conservation land will be publicly notified.

– Gerry Brownlee, Kate Wilkinson – 20 July, 2010

Source

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Australian mining company, Bathurst Resources, wants to mine an additional 50-80 million tonnes from the area over a 35 year period. Forest & Bird state,

The adjacent Stockton Plateau has been half destroyed by opencast mining in the past few decades. The Denniston Plateau has a history of underground mining, but has been spared – until now – this fate.

A new opencast coal mine proposed for the Denniston Plateau would destroy 200 hectares and increase New Zealand’s coal exports by up to 63% per year. But that would only be the beginning. The Australian company holds mining permits across the Plateau, which would generate an estimated 50 million tonnes of coal.” – Source

In effect, this,

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Denniston Plateau

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Would become this,

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Stockton Mine

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National’s open contempt for the democratic process; honouring election committments; and public consultation – should now be apparent to everyone. Worse still is their contempt for the people of this country.

How else does one explain a government that has so blatantly gone back on so many of it’s promises?

Wilkinson’s readiness to go back on her word is something that she – and her colleagues – should be deeply ashamed of.

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Urgency laws?

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National’s previous term saw the highest use of  “Urgency” to ram through legislation, in decades.

Expect more of the same, as they implement their right wing agenda at breakneck speed, before 2014. This is the method used by Douglas and Prebble in the 1980s.

Indeed, Douglas boasted at the speed at which he and his cronies introduced their “reforms”. The result was that public opposition to their agenda was difficult to mount.

The right wing have little time for the democratic process and public consultation. That should be readily apparent to us all by now.

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ACC

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I’ve no doubt that whilst ACC will not be privatised – that workplace accident compensation will be opened up to “marketplace competition”. This will be a rehash of National’s earlier experiment in accident insurance competition in the late ’90s.

Neo-libs. They love to recycle old policies, whether or not they were ever successful.

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Maori Party

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The Maori Party has not yet gone into formal coalition with National. They are currently conducting consultation with their constituents, by holding Hui around the country.

I have no doubt in my mind that Maori Party members will bitterly denounce any suggestion that they coalesce with National. To many, the last week has already been a fore taste of the right wing whirlwind that is about to hit this country.

For the Maori Party to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the impending storm will be a colossal misjudgement on the part of Maori Party leadership – and will guarantee their political demise in 2014.

Wise heads will try to warn Pita Sharples, Tariana Turia, and Te Ururoa Flavell, that entering into coalition with National and it’s coat-tailing little mini-Nats (Dunne and Banks) will be the death knell for the Maori Party.

The question remains; will they heed that warning? Or will they suffer the same fate as Tau Henare’s Mauri Pacific Party in 1999?

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Things To Come

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Let no one be under any illusion that this National Coalition v.2 is nothing like it’s predecessor from 2008-11. This is a fully-fledged, ideologically-driven, determined Right Wing Government.

And it has nothing to do with ACT.  ACT is a political corpse, and John Banks is carrying on in name only.

Despite MMP being designed to reign in the executive power of large parties, and prevent FPP-style single-party rule – National has managed to rort the system by creating proxies – Peter Dunne and John Banks – who are essentially National Party ministers-by-default.

National did not fail in their fight to win an outright majority in the House. They succeeded.

I hope that the voters of Epsom and Ohariu knew what they were doing when they voted for Banks and Dunne (and Green and Labour voters when they failed to vote tactically). Because they have helped achieved the near impossible under MMP:  a single-party government.

And we know what happens when a single-party government rules Parliament. What does a single-party government do?

Whatever it wants.

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References

National: Education in Schools Policy

ACT: Education policy

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Additional Reading

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

Save the Denniston Plateau:Ours Not Mine

On income inequality – Gordon Campbell

The gap between NZs rich and poor

New Zealand wealth gap alarms charities

Wealth gap divides nation

Chris Ford: National/ACT Coalition aiming to complete New Right revolution

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Video

2011-12-06 – 3News – OECD: Inequality Growing Fastest in NZ

OECD: Record inequality between rich and poor

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