About robglennie000

Kia Ora This blog is my vent for releasing my frustrations with the state of New Zealand, the New Zealand Government and things going on in New Zealand society, as well as around the world. I post daily at 0900 New Zealand time. Please feel free to leave comments. Please also feel free to follow my blog. Best Regards, Rob

An actual plan for dealing with climate change


The vision I have is a combination of reducing waste sources that are energy intensive or create significant carbon emissions, looking at environmentally sound alternative materials and applying some common sense law changes. I have opined and given these as examples in the past, but I have not tried to present an outline of how New Zealand might tackle the unsustainable manner in which we are living – until now. I write this to briefly examine some steps that New Zealand could be taking and the basis for those steps.

We use a wide range of minerals that appear on the Periodic Table of the Elements in manufacturing goods. Some are highly toxic and cannot be easily recycled or are being phased out. Others like aluminium however are growing considerably in both use and the amount being wasted. Aluminium stands out because it is hugely energy intensive to create one unit of it in a smelter – New Zealand’s Tiwai Point smelter for example has most of the output from Manapouri hydroelectric power station being directed to it. This is notable because recycling aluminium only requires a fraction of the power needed to manufacture a unit of it.

How much work would it take to re-establish a nation wide aluminium recycling programme at community level with drop off depots?

Many of the elements used in electronics and other everyday items are mined from countries that are quite politically unstable and have little regard for environmental law. As a result large tracts of forest are being wiped out with no rehabilitation, destroying vast tracts of the ecosystem and the habitats of flora and fauna. This destruction is releasing vast amounts of carbon based gas back into the atmosphere, whilst also affecting the native lands of indigenous peoples. Yet we wonder why there is conflict.

This is where e-waste recycling, known in the e-waste world as urban mining, has the potential to become very important. My research last year for Open Polytechnic of New Zealand found that 60 of the 118 elements of the Periodic Table were in use in electronic waste. 90,000 tons of e-waste is generated in New Zealand per annum, of which about 89,000 tons is not recycled. Yet the amount of copper, gold, silver and palladium that could be recovered is in commercial quantities and would go some way towards reducing the need for another ecology destroying mine – in New Zealand alone it is estimated that 600 kilogrammes of gold and 600 tons of copper could be recovered each year.

At the moment I am compiling responses from across New Zealand of city, district and regional councils to a set of questions I have e-mailed to them. When it is complete I will send the compiled document to the Minister for Environment to try to hasten a policy announcement on e-waste.

It is one of the most constructive materials ever conceived by man, but also one of the most damaging in terms of carbon based gas emissions. In 2015 about 4.20 billion tons of concrete was manufactured, compared with about 1.00 billion tons in 1960. Carbon dioxide emissions per annum from concrete manufacture make up about 8% of total emissions. New Zealand’s contribution is fairly minor (0.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, compared to about 702 million tons from China). Roughly half of the carbon dioxide emissions in the manufacture of concrete come from the chemical conversion of limestone to calcium oxide – emissions that will be impossible to avoid as long as we continue relying on calcinating limestone.

Hemp concrete is a material that has been tested by various researchers and has been found by the British Department of Business Innovation and Skills to actually store carbon. I am not sure what work has been done with hemp concrete in New Zealand, and it might not have a major impact on our overall carbon emissions, but here exists scope for New Zealand researchers to investigate further.

A few weeks ago I mentioned a suggestion that people will have to stop flying, in order to reduce the emissions caused by large scale consumption by airlines of aviation fuel. At the time I mentioned that an Air New Zealand study had been undertaken to see how planes could handle a biofuel blend. In 2009 a test flight was done. It was successful and the Boeing 747-400 aircraft used managed to complete all tests without a problem. In 2016, with no obvious attempt by the Government to establish a biofuel programme or support industry in doing so, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia decided to collaborate on a biofuel project, to examine whether or not biofuel can be produced locally, thereby lowering production costs whilst also creating jobs and reducing carbon emissions.

Biofuel is, as I have long suspected, been a potential alternative various fossil fuels. This now appears to include to the Jet-A1 fuel. The challenge will be finding out whether the jatropha seeds experiment of 2009 can be made successful or an alternative found.

 

Cannabis reform coming – But is it enough?


Reform of the laws around the use of cannabis is coming to New Zealand. Minister of Justice Andrew Little has announced there will be a referendum in which people will be asked a simple yes/no question about the legalization of cannabis in New Zealand.

I support reform for a range of reasons. New Zealand society sees and deals with the effects of cannabinoids every day. New Zealand Police see and deal with the aftermath of cannabinoid related emergencies each day as do the emergency departments at our hospitals. An unknown number of families are despairing as they watch loved ones become consumed by the effects of synthetic cannabis, which is many times more powerful than ordinary cannabis.

I wonder what the socio-economic cost would be if someone tried to add up the money spent on rehabilitation, Police and hospital time and resources, the cost to individual families and finally to the public at large – in a twelve month period in Auckland alone St. John Ambulance was averaging 20 synthetic cannabis related call outs a day.

At one end of the spectrum, I hope to see cannabinoids:

  • Legalized for medicinal purposes
  • Of the synthetic ban them completely
  • Restricted to age 21
  • Subject to strict controls on nationwide cultivation of it

However cannabis is only part of the problem. Much worse drugs are making their way into the market both in New Zealand and abroad. In the United States, fentanyl is currently the drug causing alarm bells to go off, as part of an opioid epidemic. As I see it unless we address these other drugs as part of a comprehensive plan involving both the authorities  and communities, there will not be a meaningful gain in terms of reduction of harm.

At the other end of the spectrum, there needs to be a quite different response:

  • Dealers, importers and cooks of methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin and so forth should have all assets and money illegally made from the business confiscated and the proceeds put forward for rehabilitating addicts
  • Aforementioned dealers, importers and cooks be given 20 year starting sentences
  • A nation wide drug education programme that everyone must go through at high school
  • Have fentanyl classified as a licenced GP administered drug only to reduce availability and prevent abuse of it

In terms of communities, people in New Zealand need to step up with perhaps a confidential line that people can call if they have concerns about someone’s drug use. It would be monitored by the Police and give people a way of ensuring no harm is done whilst at the same time making sure they are not harmed themselves. Community leaders need to work with the Police and start having regular meetings, work out a strategy and integrate it with other local communities.

Because the results of failing to do so can be in clips on Youtube and having viewed a couple, I can say right now they are NOT General Audience viewing.

 

Teacher’s mega strike about more than money


It seems inevitable. A massive – this one possibly one of the largest in N.Z. history – teachers/principals strike is now nearly certain. With the territory comes the accusations that teachers are simply being greedy and wanting all the money they can get. What many people seem to forget is that the strikes have not been entirely about getting a bigger wages, or more money. Often the strikes are about things such as:

  • working conditions
  • how streamlined the bureaucracy is
  • special needs students
  • managing troublesome or otherwise problematic students

The first problem is the environment in which our teachers work. Working conditions are often the biggest gripe after pay. Not being a teacher, but knowing several in the profession I am guessing that on top of the teaching day there is 2-3 hours preparatory time of teaching material, paper work and marking assessments. My guess is that whilst a school teacher might have a teaching day from 0830 to 1500 hours, the above mean that they are not really finished for the day until 1800 hours at night where upon they have time for dinner, maybe 2 hours relaxation before it is time to clean up and go to bed.

The second issue is bureaucracy. It is a word we hear all the time. It is the state officialdom that takes the every day operating decisions out of the hands of elected officials and put them in the hands of regular civilians. In the New Zealand education system it is agencies such as the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Ministry of Education and so forth who are responsible for administering the education through the Tomorrow’s Schools framework, the assessment regimes, making sure New Zealand is compliant with its international obligations, among other things.

New Zealand teachers have a huge workload. I described an average day very briefly above, but what I did not mention was the challenges that bureaucracy pose. Getting to know each student, their characteristics, learning interests and any special needs are just part of it. Obtaining approval for activities, special needs support staff, resourcing among other things are just a small range. I am talking about all levels of bureaucracy right down from the Ministry to internal administrative needs at each school.

The third issue is special needs students who, through no fault of their own, pose particular challenges. Integrating one into a class room setting sometimes works well, but other times can be a complete disaster. How a student with particular conditions such as autism are mentally wired can be quite contrary to how they would be expected to function. Would they and their classmates be safe? How would they react in an emergency? What help would they need and who could supply it? These and a huge range of other questions all come up.

When I was a student I had speech impairment and hearing loss. I had hand to eye co-ordination issues. The speech impairment is pretty well gone, and the hand to eye co-ordination is pretty good, but I am still hearing impaired. I still come across as different, even though I hold down a full time job, have a social life, participate in human rights activism and can travel on my own overseas. So, how a developmentally impaired student worse than myself will cope in a system that is very different from the one that assisted me will be interesting to see.

The fourth and final issue I see is how to manage disruptive students. Some of the answers are glaringly obvious and are just waiting for the right trigger to become something that can be implemented. Many children for example come to school on an empty stomach, not having had breakfast. Right before the school day even starts, there is a certainty of some disruption – the causes of the lack of breakfast could be many:

  • No money for breakfast
  • Dysfunctional family where properly feeding the children is not a priority
  • A time poor house where parents both work long hours

It could simply be that the child has learning or behavioural issues that are fuelled by a toxic family environment – violence, excessive drinking, anti social or otherwise inappropriate behaviour. These two causes and others can lead to any range of problems – fights, wilful damage of property, assault, bullying and so on. And a failure to arrest the problem in its early stages will teach the child that this is okay conduct. The teacher has limited options for dealing with it. And they run the risk of being groped, spat on, assaulted as well, which only serves to worsen the situation.

So, whilst sad I am that it is has come to this, the demands we place on a teacher these days are massive. They are often made to be a whole range of things that they are simply not trained to deal with. When will we step up and accept that teachers are overworked and sometimes work in a horrible environment?

Labour fails to act on welfare report recommendations


In August 2017, hot on the heals of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern becoming Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, co-leader of the Greens Metiria Turei took a gamble. She admitted in a speech where she laid down the case for complete reform of Work and Income New Zealand that she had committed benefit fraud.

The nation was stunned. The Greens were understandably horrified, especially when she mentioned it had not yet been paid back. A political revolt was brewing. One of the brightest rays of hope in the Greens was flushing her career down the toilet and trying to take the party with it. To any Green member that gurgling sound must have sounded like something from a horror movie that had become too real for their liking.

But maybe it was a political master stroke in disguise whereby she would end her career, the Greens would get a new co-leader – though I honestly thought Mrs Turei was alright – and the Greens would use her credibility to get a promise of reform from Labour. Master stroke or not, that is what looked like happening.

Until Friday. On Friday the report that was meant to recommend widespread reform of the Ministry of Social Development and its umbrella agencies was finally delivered 20 months after Labour formed a coalition and 21 months after Mrs Turei’s shock announcement. The hard done ever suffering honest folk who deal with Work and Income on a daily basis and the similarly suffering folk who work there must have been quietly thinking that this would be the day when the Government would announce sweeping reforms to enact the changes recommended.

Quelle horreur!!! Jaws dropped to places where hydraulic assistance will be needed to get them back. Hearts sank to the the deepest recesses. The hopes of thousands dashed by a pathetic flimsy announcement that only three of the recommendations in the report would be adopted by the Government.

The temptation to blast the Greens for having gone along with this is there. However in fairness to them they managed to squeeze out in the 2018-19 Budget a significant amount of money. When added to the promises Labour made to its own members and $3 billion to New Zealand First for regional development, the total amount of money that is locked up is substantial and does not leave much spare change behind. The Greens might have to just bite a potentially painful bullet and accept that this is not going to happen rapidly – and as one who has been messed around by Work and Income, I can understand the frustration of those who might have benefited from a bigger effort to implement the recommendations.

Instead it is Carmel Sepuloni who finds herself in the sights of this blog. After a year of relative inactivity in terms of getting policy passed and implemented, to come out and say that just three of the recommendations are going to be implemented, this is really a massively wimpish response. It could be forgiven if there is an election year promise or something more in either this years or next years Fiscal Budget. Otherwise when Ms Ardern reshuffles her cabinet, I don’t fancy Ms Sepuloni keeping hold of the Social Welfare portfolio.

The rotten structure that is our state care sector


New Zealand is approaching a house that is not all that it seems. It is a place with secrets, a place that explorers might visit but most people would steer well away from. On closer inspection though, signs start to emerge that things are not quite right. There is graffiti on the walls along with dried blood. The people living there are not in the best of condition and give the appearance of being rather rough. Cigarette smoke permeates the atmosphere. This structure might or might not exist in real life. That is beside the point – it is representative of the state in which New Zealand now finds its much maligned state care system for abused people.

The structure is basically a giant rotting building. It looks fine on the outside, but touching any part of it and one suddenly has the impression New Zealand should be steering well away from it. Crumbling, under pressure, with gaping holes down which no one knows who has fallen, the framework for dealing with our abused children and helping them get their lives back without going to prison or into institutionalized care, is in dire need of a sustained funding increase and overhaul.

Duncan Garner’s article in yesterday’s edition of The Press dealt with a man known as Patient A in an inquiry into our state care sector that found a myriad of problems, gross underfunding and resourcing. A combination of basic human rights being repeatedly infringed on a prolonged basis with little or no understanding by the authorities of what they were apparently doing, staff trying to make do with what resources and personnel they had whilst knowing at all times they were skating on very thin ice, had led Patient A to spend more than a decade in and out of care and prison.

Mr Garner is right. This will need a huge change of support. At the very core of Oranga Tamariki is an alleged desire to help our children grow into meaningful adults that help to give New Zealand a future. Fluffy nice words are said by Ministers and the Prime Minister, but where is the detail on policies that will meet the Governments objectives and the necessary rules to enforce them? More to the point who will enforce the rules and how?

.It is this kind of maltreatment and associated failures to address the root causes that makes me concerned about the situation we might have in a generations time where a whole lot of patients who should have been under much tighter control become exploding social bombs. Years of conditioning caused by family abuse, neglect, falling in with the wrong people and no guidance, have turned men who might have been under other circumstances okay, have led them to have monumental problems with society, with people, with the law.

It is this kind of maltreatment that puts in the heads of damaged patients that it is somehow okay to attack other people, other peoples property. Many of the people who commit child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence are born into an environment where this mentality is thriving. In order to address #MeToo we must be prepared to address this.

Having now approached the house does New Zealand want to go in, have a look around and try to understand how its social care system for abuse victims got to this and where we might go from here? Or is New Zealand going to be put off by what it sees and just wants to sweep the whole thing under the carpet?