Congratulations Emirates Team New Zealand

It was May 1995. School was out for the holidays and a nations pride was swelling: New Zealand was about take on Dennis Conner’s Americans for the right to hold aloft the America’s Cup.

At that time only once before had it left American waters, when Australia successfully challenged for it in 1983. 12 years later, off the coast of San Diego, leading 4-0, the hopes, the pride of 3.5 million New Zealanders rested on the men sailing a boat appropriately called Black Magic for its colour. But also for the fact that all too often for the American’s the last thing their skipper Dennis Conner would see of it is the boat crossing the finish line some distance ahead of him.

So it was no small event for New Zealand to grab the America’s Cup in 1995. Huge parade’s were held in Auckland (population 1.0 million; 350,000 turned out), Wellington (population 380,000; 100,000 turned out), Christchurch (population 325,000; 140,000 turned out)to welcome them home. The man who engineered it, Peter Blake, earned himself a knighthood. Skipper Russell Coutts was a hometown hero in Dunedin. Several others were awarded significant honours in the Queens Birthday and New Years honours lists.

5 years later, Team New Zealand sucessfully defended the America’s Cup in Auckland, becoming only the first nation outside of the U.S. to win it and defend it. Again large crowds turned out across the country, now approaching 4.0 million people, to see the victors. On the day of the final race, instead of having Mr Coutts skipper the New Zealand boat, a young sailor named Dean Barker was given the wheel.

And then we lost it. For reasons I cannot remember, the next defence was brought forward and held in 2003. By that point, several ex-members of Team New Zealand including the skipper Russell Coutts, and tactician had jump overboard and found their way to Swiss Challenger Alinghi. It was a disaster. The boat mast snapped in a race we could not afford to lose and Alinghi seized their chances.

The next several years up to the 2007 challenge against Alinghi, off the coast of Portugal, because Switzerland is landlocked, was marred by court battles. New Zealand was led by Dean Barker again. The first perceptions of it being a race for rich men to play with their toys began to grow. I still wanted to maintain the faith, but New Zealand lost again and the acrimony began to turn people off.

Thus it was almost with complete disinterest on my part that 2013 saw in a new bid to win the America’s Cup back. It was in San Francisco. And I admittedly would probably have paid no attention whatsoever if it hadn’t been for a combination of having started a job at a rental car company where in the course of taking up or bringing cars back from the airport, the radio would be on and almost invariably tuned to hear coverage. It was against Oracle, a team headed by an American named Jimmy Spithill. New Zealand was led once again by Dean Barker T.N.Z. lost again, but it was a close race helped to foster interest that would not have existed.

But the acrimony returned. Mr Barker left for a Japanese syndicate. More court battles and a continuing controversy over funding when other perhaps more deserving sports got nothing at all seemed to have damaged the reputation permanently. And thus perhaps this more than anything else contributed to my such complete inattention that I didn’t even know we had made the final until I just saw something in the media one day a couple of weeks ago that T.N.Z. – now funded by Emirates – had mad the final and would challenge Jimmy Spithill’s Oracle for the Auld Mug.

I have to say honestly that I regret not paying any attention at all to the races until Monday 26 June when it was announced New Zealand was just one win away from winning the America’s Cup. Perhaps it was because it was at this point in the previous campaign we choked completely and the Oracle syndicate went on to win. Perhaps it was because with so many other things going on in the world and New Zealand I simply did not pay enough attention.

Whatever the case, I am sorry. You guys deserved my attention more than I actually gave. You undid the years of controversy that sullied the America’s Cup. You made a thing to be proud of again.

Well done.

Harawira completely wrong about executing Chinese drug dealers

The comments by former Maori M.P. and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira that New Zealand should execute methamphetamine dealers from China are completely wrong.

There is no doubt that New Zealand is a nation that has a major drug problem. Methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, cannabis – all of them are serious contributors to crime, declines in important socio-economic indicators, affect peoples ability to get jobs. Cannabis is perhaps the least problematic of these, but all need a comprehensive policy for dealing with all of them. It needs to deal with how we educate people, treat those on it or who are a victim of it, those who have recovered but now have problems finding jobs.

Much of the crime wave of violent offences striking New Zealand at the moment is likely to have to do with drugs – most likely finding ways of funding drug addictions, or being able to source money for paying back drug debts.

However executing Chinese methamphetamine dealers is the wrong way to go about it and sends the wrong message. I would however go one step further and say that Mr Harawira is completely wrong about using the death penalty at all. It is nothing less than state sanctioned murder and there is no justification in my book for it.

Whilst the mechanisms that I am about to mention might already exist in law, how well are they used for their intended purpose? Are they even used? I am talking about:

  • Being permanently denied the right to hold a passport – no country is going to want another nations violent criminals
  • Confiscation of 100% of property gained using drug money as well as and in particular any cash – use the proceeds to help the victims with court/medical/other costs
  • Being subject to police monitoring even after the sentences are finished and the corrections department is obligated to release the prisoner/s in question
  • Non New Zealanders are deported and permanently barred from entering the country

If these instruments exist, how well are they used? There is little point in changing the law if they are a) well used and b) effective.

Part of Mr Harawira’s political repertoire has always been to speak his mind by saying provocative things, and then defend them and there is no doubt in this case, he has achieved that. It is a piece of race baiting in some respects by singling out Chinese dealers, and ignoring home grown ones and their supply chains. Perhaps Mr Harawira means well. It is certainly a departure from what I expected him to say on the issue – I was not expecting him to advocate for a reduction in penalties, but violating human rights statutes that New Zealand has ratified is not acceptable in any shape or form.

The dumbing down of New Zealand

There is a subtle assault on the long term well being of New Zealand by politicians going on. It is mirrored in other western countries such as the United States, Britain, France, Canada and Australia. In our case, I call it the “Dumbing down of New Zealand”. It is a slow sustained and very deliberate attack on the intelligence of this country’s citizens. The methods are deliberately subtle, so as not to arouse undue suspicion. Quite deliberately, we as a nation, as a people are being dumbed down to believe whatever the Government of the day wants us to believe.

Both major political parties are guilty of it to some extent by slowly but deliberately squeezing the budgets of the arts departments at university. The effect has often been to lose academics in fields of research where society is finding it has significant short comings. Despite them saying to the contrary, there is a distrust among politicians of scientists, social academics and independent journalists not tied to a media agency.

There is also the collective and individual behaviour of politicians and the political parties that they represent. Despite attempts in a number of countries to improve transparency around the conduct of politicians, many people believe that the default setting of an elected official is to lie when under scrutiny. The use of Parliamentary privilege as well as the influence that goes with being an elected representative o . This was made demonstrably clear with the Todd Barclay scandal, where an incumbent National Party Member of Parliament has been made to quit in disgrace after it was found that he wire tapped the conversation of a senior staffer without her knowledge or permission.

A well known economic measure is the deliberate promotion of a low wage economy. This has the effect of forcing people into trade jobs, retail and the service industries. The hours can be long and the wages can be not much more than the minimum permitted by law. Workers come home and are generally too tired or distracted to read a newspaper. Playing games and surfing social media is much more appealing.

It happens in education too. I have mentioned academics, but I have not explained the flow on effects. The sciences are particularly vulnerable since a lot of research gets done using Government grants, public scholarships and so forth. One example is climate change – whether one believes it is occurring or not, there can be no doubt that it has been subject to political machinations by politicians who might have lobby groups telling them that they will donate to the representatives campaign if s/he does/does not do x, y and z. The constant putting down of science by politicians has had a negative net effect in that it has driven people away from wanting to do field research.

Whilst politics and politicians must share much of the blame, the media has a a role to play too. It has methods such as click bait articles which have no educational value, and rely on people’s natural curiosity to look beyond the attention grabbing visual such as a scantily clad woman. Corporate networks such as Fox, C.N.N., R.T., and others (Al Jazeera, Sydney Morning Herald)often require their reporters to follow a script about what is considered acceptable in terms of covering events, The same behavioural patterns have been noted among New Zealand media as well, with Stuff, 1 News, Newshub and New Zealand Herald particularly guilty of putting up click bait in place of actual news, or talk about rugby players and their upcoming fixtures instead of covering events like the attack on the Iranian Parliament, Saudi Arabia’s bullying of Qatar and the rise of New Zealand First.

What can one do? Become aware of what is going on around you. You can do it easily by spending 10-15 minutes a day looking at what is happening nationally and internationally:

  • Do not look at just one source. Cross reference reports against those from other sources. If the same thing is being said from many sources, it is probably true.
  • Note the biases of individual sources – R.T. in Russia for example is told how to report by the Kremlin; Fox is a conservative American network that tends to tint anything about Muslims and Islam in a negative light; New Zealand media try to minimize their coverage of New Zealand First.
  • If you use social media and you see obviously biased reporting in progress, correct them by writing in the comments sections and mention the name of the offending source so tthey know people are aware of what they are doing

Oh, and if you are eligible to vote, make sure you are registered. As we sometimes find out in New Zealand when electorates call for recounts of votes cast, because the numbers are so close it could be the difference between whether an elected representative still has a job or not, your vote counts.

Tyre scheme a win for both business and environment

It is with considerable interest that I read of a planned investment of N.Z.$13.6 million into technology at a cement plant that uses shredded old tyres to make its products with.

There are significant issues with tyre dumps at large and include (but are not restricted to):

  • Aesthetically displeasing to look at from the road, or air
  • Tyre leachate includes highly toxic elements such as cadmium and zinc
  • Tyre burning releases toxic smoke, which can be a health hazard downwind

New Zealand has been somewhat behind other countries in dealing with waste tyres. It is understood that tyres are generally useless for recycling purposes after about 10 years.

It is therefore important that New Zealand develop a policy framework that enables the recycling of tyres and encourages transport businesses to develop tyre recycling programmes in conjunction with local councils. Although this is apparently underway, the large number of old tyres in dumps, in makeshift storage facilities and other locations around New Zealand mean that there should be a sense of urgency about finishing the framework. Investments such as this where a large number of tyres can be used up – this would take out about 62% of our total annual tyre wastage, and leave about 38% or 1.9 million tyres still needing some sort of recycling.

Tyres also have oil in them. If one thinks a few steps beyond this, what is the feasibility of getting the oil out of unwanted tyres? Whilst not being certain of the answer, certainly it becomes a focus point for a potential future study to be done. Of course, this in itself then raises another set of questions such as whether or not the oil can be refined to a usable state.

A business was set up by a Neil Mitchell in 2014 calle Tyreless Corporation Limited. It was intended to be a processing plant that could extract oil from the thousands of waste tyres in the Hawkes Bay region. Unfortunately just over a year later it was put into insolvency.

A University of Waikato law professor, Alexander Gillespie, believes that the solution to New Zealand’s tyresome problem is to pass costs onto producers. This would act as an incentive for them to redesign their products.

I am not sure if Professor Gillespie means through a Pigovian tax that is designed to act as a disincentive to breach environmental standards. If so, this could only happen if a standard were developed for tyre disposal. It would be debatable whether or not fines would not be a better financial measure as some are dumped deliberately.

So, I await with interest to see where this goes, being aware that past attempts to deal with New Zealand’s tyre problem have not always worked out.

Economy not that great? Nah, mate she’ll be right.

On Facebook, I see frequent updates from the National Party telling me about all of the things that they want New Zealand to know about. Members of Parliament and Ministers of the Crown state “Great to be at _________ “, “New Zealand has a Government doing _______, _________ and __________ so that __________ can be achieved”. But behind the smiles for the camera and the claims of good things happening, is New Zealand really doing as well as the Government claims?

It is obvious that the economy is not performing as well as the Government suggests. There are several factors that work in conjunction to support this idea:

  1. Immigration is not sustainable
  2. A continuing lack of investment in research, science and technology continues to stymie New Zealand growth just as it has done since before the Fifth Labour Government took power in 1999
  3. Market economics have gone too far and a rebalancing is needed
  4. There is an imbalance both in terms of infrastructure investment geographically, but also in terms of what the investment is in
  5. Councils are not hiring many consents staff to process applications for resource consent – signalling demand for activities such as construction projects are down

Despite this we have people in Government saying that business is as usual and that there should not be any cause for concern. It is true that this could simply be a demonstration of what political analysts call third term-itis, symptomatic of a Government that has run out of ideas and despite outward appearances, knows that this is its last term in office.

I have addressed immigration and its currently unsustainable rate in other articles, but it is useful to note that Labour, a party which normally supports greater levels of immigration is in favour of cutting the numbers let in. It is also a slightly more personal issue in that I have a non-New Zealand sister in law moving out here in December.

The lack of investment in science is not new either. It is one of the primary causes of the average income per capita being relatively mediocre compared to some higher earning locations such as the United States, Britain and Australia. An overly complex system for applying for and dispensing research grants means that instead of focussing on a few key areas, funding has become quite diffuse across a broad spectrum.

When the Government of Mike Moore, who had only been Prime Minister for a few weeks, was ousted in 1990, it was hoped by many that the radical reforms that had shaken up New Zealand in the previous few years would stop. In that time deregulation of the railways, the floating of the currency, among other reforms had been undertaken. Unemployment had soared as “bureaucrats” viewed as surplus to needs had been laid off in large numbers. Reform of environmental and local government was underway. But those hopes were somewhat naive and certainly dashed when the Fourth National Government of Prime Minister Jim Bolger picked up where his predecessors had left off.

An imbalance exists in New Zealand in terms of both the types of infrastructure that need investment and where in geographical terms it needs to happen. Whilst it is true that Auckland has one third of New Zealand’s total population and grows the equivalent of 2015 Tauranga every three years,the rest of New Zealand – even if it wanted to – cannot be Auckland’s ever growing hinterland without good supporting infrastructure. Too often politicians forget this.

One of the primary functions for city, district and regional councils is to determine the suitability of activities and development projects within their area of responsibility. The activities need to be weighted against the planning blue print for the issuing council and put through a set of checks and balances to make sure it is not contrary to the Resource Management Act and other legislation. The people who do this work investing resource consent applications are generally people with experience working in resource planning and have a degree from University to back this up. A good way of determining how well the local economy is doing is finding out how much demand there is for new buildings, and activities – the lesser the demand the implication is that fewer people have money or a need for a project requiring resource consent that can generate jobs and wealth.

And what does the Government think?

Yeah, nah. She’ll be right mate.

Except that she will not be without greater care.