Environment Minister announces Waste Minimisation Act review


Today Minister for Environment, Eugenie Sage announced that the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 will be reviewed by the Ministry for Environment this year.

This comes amid ongoing concern about the implications for New Zealand following last years decision by China to stop taking New Zealand waste. It also comes amid a growing awareness of the damage single use plastic is doing to the environment. The latter has become the subject of efforts to reduce single use coffee cups, plastic straws and other commonly used but rapidly wasted plastic products.

It has been admitted recently that considerable confusion about whether coffee cups could be recycled has resulted in huge numbers being sent to land fills and refuse stations when they could have been recycled. It comes as revelations emerge that 295 million coffee cups, including millions of recyclable cups wind up in the land fill each year. One cafe owner estimated regular coffee drinkers would save $150 per year by investing in a keep cup that can be used over and over.

It has also been acknowledged that New Zealanders are among the biggest creators of waste world wide. Each year the average New Zealander creates around 734 kilogrammes of waste.

 

New Zealand introduced the Waste Minimisation Act in 2008. In 2010 a review of it led to the substantial weakening of the Act. Little progress was made in the subsequent seven years between then and last years election on reducing the amount of waste created in New Zealand.

New Zealand also has the Waste Minimisation Strategy, which was introduced in 2002. Whilst some progress was made in reducing waste under it, the strategy had several flaws:

  • Regional Councils were not – and are still not – required to take responsibility for waste management
  • Supplying data is not a requirement for land fills or refuse stations, meaning little is known about what is actually disposed of in New Zealand or in what volume

The (REALLY) risky business of crypto currency


Back in December, one weekend I decided to have a serious look at investing in cyber crypto currency.

The week before I had watched Bitcoin experience an unprecedented surge in value that was as dizzying as it was abruptly short lived. I knew even before considering whether to even start investigating crypto currencies that Bitcoin was clearly well out of my ball park. I therefore did not look at Bitcoin and instead I turned to look at other crypto currencies. One of the ones that I looked is one called Litecoin. Others, such as Ethereum, Ethereum Classic and Ripple were noted but not explored.

To this day I have not purchased anything. Litecoin as I mentioned earlier may have been selling at a rate low enough when I first looked at it to consider buying a few just to see what happened. There were several factors that I needed to consider:

  • What broker would I use – one called BitPrime, which is located in Christchurch seemed like a good option. Its website listed the terms and conditions of the sale, and the government regulations that it was compliant with.
  • How much would I be prepared to pay? Even then, one Litecoin would set me about N.Z.$140 and seven would have set me back about N.Z.$1,000 – yesterday it was worth N.Z.$365
  • Given the extreme volatility of Bitcoin which in the space of a week in late November-early December rose nearly $8,000 in value before plunging several thousand in a very short time, would I be able to sell and the sale be given effect to in time before a plunge possibly wipe out everything I had put into crypto currency – at the present time one Bitcoin will set you back N.Z.$19824
  • Would there be unseen hooks in this unique system of electronic currency that for the most part you do not actually see, and which is prone to hacking, cyber theft and and other criminal activity

As easy as it looked on the computer screen – the registration for Bit Prime almost seeming too easy – there were immediate questions. My brother had noticed Bitcoin’s surge as well and, having watched initially out of curiosity, he could see where Bitcoin was going and that a sharp correction would come, potentially with little or no warning.

Some serious misconceptions also exist. One is that Governments cannot regulate Bitcoin. A Government can regulate whatever it wishes and China has banned Bitcoin transactions. The I.R.S. in the United States has also moved on crypto currencies with a court win forcing the most reputable exchange to hand over records of transactions. In short you cannot hide finances in Bitcoin, and presumably none of the others as well should Governments go after them.

At some point in the future on a crypto currency in its relative infancy I might invest a bit just to see where it goes and pocket a little bit in return. However right now, sitting on the fence and watching the various crypto currencies going up and down as if they were puppets being jerked by a puppeteer seems to be a much more sensible – and less daunting – proposition.

The Tasman Sea heat wave


A major heatwave has arrived in New Zealand, and its signature is big enough to be picked up on satellites.

But this heatwave is different, in that it is not happening in the air. Whilst it is certainly true that parts of the South Island are experiencing very warm and in some cases, record breaking, temperatures, the source of heat is different. A muggy warm northerly airflow over New Zealand is dragging tropical air down from the Coral Sea.

The heatwave I am talking about is in the Tasman Sea. At the Port of Lyttelton on the east coast of the South Island it was 17ºC in January 2017. A year later it is 22ºC. Atmospheric imaging of the Tasman Sea shows that much of its area as well as the seas around the rest of New Zealand are generally warmer than they were in 2017.

Currently sea temperatures in the Tasman Sea are about 6ºC above normal. National Institute of Weather and Atmospherics (N.I.W.A.)data shows that not since before 1900 has there been a year when sea water temperatures in the Tasman Sea were this high. Likewise, the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) thermal imagery shows a large red blob in the Tasman basin and the rest of New Zealand surrounded by yellow.

The same thermal anomalies in the sea that are causing this heat wave are also the same ones that enable low pressure systems to suddenly deepen rapidly or even explosively and throw up strong storm like conditions. It is over these seas that features such as the January 2017 weather bomb event, where a low pressure system over the Tasman Sea suddenly became a significant storm with 300 millimetres of rain at Arthurs Pass and various locations along the Southern Alps and West Coast in 24 hours and storm force winds in many locations.

The heatwave might be good for people seeking some nice warm seawater to swim in. However it is potentially stressful for marine life and there are concerns that it might be linked to any near future die offs, of shell and kelp forests. The warm sea water has also been linked to the earlier than normal arrival of blue bottle jellyfish.

How long this warm sea water lingers for is unknown. An approaching low pressure system in the Tasman Sea is expected to deliver heavy rain to the West Coast on Wednesday with showery conditions in its wake across New Zealand.

The joys of living in a maritime climate.

Hawaii missile warning a reminder of the times


Yesterday’s ballistic missile scare in Hawaii had haunting echoes of a time I had hoped had long since past. It only lasted about 40 minutes before officials announced it was a false alarm, but in that time, Hawaii had a terrifying taste of what to expect in the minutes before an actual missile strike. And more than 70 years after the first nuclear weapons test, it is a reminder of what a volatile world we live in and what we are bringing our children and grandchildren up in.

But let us have a brief look back in the time line of war scares and see how we compare today with earlier times. In 1947, a bunch of concerned scientists called themselves Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and instituted the Doomsday Clock.

The doomsday clock is no ordinary clock. Whereas an ordinary clock continually goes forward, except when the hour hand is wound backwards for the end of daylight savings, this one goes forward and back. It is designed to show how close the world is to nuclear midnight, a time at which if – heaven forbid – we ever get there, the world, or part of it, will be understood to be in the midst of some sort of thermo/nuclear conflagration.

Timeline of the nuclear doomsday clock (Source: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists).

The timeline shows how the clock has moved backwards and forwards over the years, depending on the level of international tension. It started life in 1947 at 23:53PM and kept slipping progressively forward as tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. increased. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis should probably be the lowest point (closest point to nuclear midnight)as during the 13 days of this crisis the United States was actively preparing to invade Cuba to destroy medium range missile sites installed by the U.S.S.R., aimed at the U.S., not away that short range sites also existed and could be aimed at the invasion beaches. At this stage, though not shown due to the short duration of the crisis it was probably 23:59. It improved after that, through the 1970’s, but started to deteriorate again to reach 23:58 in 1984 as a result of major wars between Iraq and Iran, and the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan.

When the Cold War ended at the end of 1991 it was 23:47, with major cuts happening in military forces across the world. The threat of nuclear war had receded. The major proxy conflicts between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. with their client states had ended.

A bigger problem was who or what would fill the void left by the collapsed U.S.S.R. Initially that was unanswered. Later in 1994-95 Russia began trying to reassert its influence by destroying a separatist movement in Chechnya. In 2000, current Russian President Vladimir Putin was elected for the first time. Nationalism began to infiltrate Russian politics and defence spending began to increase once more.

In China another rival of the U.S., the Chinese economy and military spending were both growing in near double digit figures. Their large, Soviet inspired military of the Cold War began a massive transformation into the second most powerful military machine in the world today, slimmed down in size but with weapons, tactics and training fit for the 21st century. With a roaring economy came a roaring demand for raw material – coal, oil, gas, wood, steel. And most recently a Chinese agenda for a century of the Dragon.

Decades of interference by the C.I.A. in other countries affairs bit America on 11 September 2001. Whilst the world and the U.S. were rightfully horrified at the huge loss of life, such interference was always going to eventually boomerang on them. The then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may have been looking into a crystal ball when he said that the war might last 15-20 years and involve multiple invasions. Whatever the case, that has happened. But with a lack of obvious outcomes apparent, many have tired of the constant American emphasis on terrorism, especially when some of their actions have undermined the cause.

And all this time, the Kim dynasty of North Korea has quietly gone on its way observing events world wide and learning from American actions. With unfathomable brutality he and his daddy and grand daddy have made North Korea a vast prison camp with nuclear deterrence. With China (reluctantly and most likely more interested in their own one party state) acting as an insurance policy against American invasion, Kim Jong Un probably felt quite safe until Donald Trump assumed the Presidency.

We should not take anything for granted here in New Zealand. We should consider how we can mitigate the consequences of a war on the Korean peninsula – assuming in the first instance it is a conventional war with no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons involved. The political and economic fallout will be huge with huge loss in just about all sectors of the economy, and in particular the flow of international tourists to and from N.Z, but also various trading sectors.

Obviously I sincerely hope that the tensions de-escalate on the Korean Peninsula. However the level of fear and panic that was caused by the false ballistic missile warning in Hawaii, shows what would happen in the event of an actual attack, irrespective of whether it was in Japan where several warnings from actual missile over flights, or somewhere further afield.

These are fascinating times without doubt, but for all the wrong reasons. I don’t think I am the only one who really wants a de-escalation on the Korean Peninsula, whilst being acutely aware it could get much, much worse.

New Zealand passports among worlds most powerful


This week Henley and Partners released their ranking of the value of individual nations passports. This is a valuation listing based on the number of countries an individual passport will give a person access to.

The New Zealand passport is powerful in that it will admit a holder to 171 separate countries. This is seventh equal and places New Zealand ahead of even much more influential nations such as the United States, but behind Germany, whose passport permits a holder to enter 177 separate countries, the most of any nation in the world.

I have to admit, it is actually quite an attractive document to open up. With a black cover that has the Crown insignia and fronds of a silver fern imposed on the front, and an outline of New Zealand on the back with the international code for New Zealand, NZL, the passport is immediately distinctive. Each page set aside for visas has a background design based on a theme specific to New Zealand. On one page you can see a whale, and on another, the tail of a diving whale recognizing the importance that Maori placed on sea life and colonial history of having whaling stations along the east coast. Pages 36-37 for example has a background image of Aoraki/Mt Cook, with a silver fern and topographic map imagery superimposed across the lower parts of the page.

It is a reminder of the good international stead that we as a nation are held in around the world. It is also a justification of the work that goes into ensuring our borders remain secure and are protected by properly resourced, funded and trained people.

The passport is therefore a highly sought after document and unfortunately, like those of other well respected nations, there will always be a few people who seek to obtain one illegally or use one for illegal purposes. They are the people who should never be allowed to hold a New Zealand passport again in their lives.

I believe that a 10 year New Zealand passport should only be available to New Zealand citizens who have resided continuously in this country for more than 10 years. The 5 year passport would be available to anyone who successfully applies to hold one.

Henley notes that whilst some countries, such as the United States are closing or restricting border access, most countries appear to be trying to improve access. It is thought that this is largely for economic reasons, such as tapping into the economic potential of tourism, freer migration.