Greens move on tyre waste, announce plans for other waste types


The Green Party Annual Conference has wound up, with the party taking steps to keep both the social wing and the environmental wing of the party happy. In a weekend where the party had to address significant concerns arising out of the mess left by Metiria Turei’s departure in 2017, a back to basics approach was announced. It would see the party return to dealing with its core issues, whilst enjoying the fruits of some significant policy wins.

In keeping with their back to basics theme, the Green Party announced moves against waste tyre dumps in New Zealand. The problem, which in June 2017 saw an announcement of investment in a tyre processing facility, is one that New Zealand has been lagging behind other countries on for awhile.

It is not the only significant announcement that was made on waste, which I personally believe rivals climate change in potential severity if not addressed, but also in terms of opportunities for clean tech and new research. It was also announced that a waste stewardship programme would be designed for a range of waste types including tyres, lithium batteries, agri-chemicals and synthetic greenhouse gases.

All of this is well and good, but a much more wide ranging approach is needed for waste across the board. Whether it is common waste such as paper, plastic, wood, glass, or more problematic waste such as chemicals, waste fuel by products, electronic waste or otherwise, a comprehensive plan is needed. I believe a national policy statement on waste management, backed by appropriate rules and objectives. Councils need to introduce bylaws that are specific to their area, and compliant with any eventual policy statement.

Mayors of city and district councils around New Zealand have registered their support for increasing the fee for dumping rubbish at landfills from $10 to $40. The only problem I have here is that this then increases the risk of illegal dumping by the few that refuse to comply with local bylaws pertaining to waste, so I wonder if that means their councils would then be prepared to more aggressively pursue those who dump wherever they can instead of using their council bins.

Maybe this will come out over the next few months with regards to waste. I certainly hope so. New Zealand needs to reduce its waste footprint in order to maintain our current environment and improve our environmental standards in the long term. The growing realization that reducing waste can involve job creation should help to soothe the fears of those who think that the ever suffering rate/taxpayer will be further encumbered with costs that they can ill afford it.

A bigger question is how willingly will consumer and industrial advocates come on board and realize it is not all a Green conspiracy against their agenda’s and profits.

 

 

 

 

Looking at the issues behind the teachers strike


On 15 August 2018 Primary and Intermediate School teachers and principals went on strike over their pay and work conditions. Whilst there were much support for them getting a pay rise, looking back at them and having a chance to digest the feedback from others, I wonder now how support they got for addressing the conditions of their work.

1) Get a pay rise
2) Get attention focussed on the atrocious amount of other work that teachers have to do, a portion of which I simply do not believe teachers should be doing

The first aim is indisputable, though we might disagree on the pay rise happens.

It is the second one I want to focus on. The expectation that somehow they are also supposed to be part time parents, social workers, bureaucrats and jacks of all trades as well is silly. Lets get real here.

The sum of our expectations does not match the sum of what teachers can realistically expect to do. Teachers are making a 10/10 effort to meet expectations, but New Zealanders are not making a 10/10 effort to be realistic about what they can do. I think it must be soul destroying to a teacher, 100% committed to their profession, their school and their students to walk away at the end of a day and think “I screwed that up didn’t I?”.

Well, no, I doubt you screwed up anything – at least not knowing. What’s screwed up is the idea that you can do better than what you do in a teaching environment where I think there are a number of background problems.

1) Do the assessment regimes as they currently stand, actually work? You can assess a student all you want, but if the metrics that come out are goobledegook, I doubt very much when you have Teacher/Parent nights that is going to help – granted I have no idea what a school report looks like today, my high school reports in the 1990’s had three sections:

A) Curricula – where the teacher grades your performance in that area
B) Person – where the teacher notes your attendance, behaviour and whether you turned up to class in an acceptable standard
C) Commentary – self explanatory

2) Is it time to hit “reset” on our expectations of teachers, and put more responsibility back on the parent, the other social agencies – yes a teacher will see a student five days of the week, most weeks of the year and in that time they will be expected to get to know them a bit and identify behaviours,

3) Is the Education Act due for a review or overhaul – did it mandate or provide for them being all of these other things that we expect them to be? Maybe it did – I honestly have no idea what is in the Education Act 1989, but if it did not, then the time has come.

4) How much of what goes on can be put down to our addiction to social media? Would it really be too much to mandate a requirement for to hand over their phones at the start of class and only get them back a morning break and lunch time?

I think this is a conversation that we need to have as a nation, among our school communities and as parents and teachers. You could give teachers a 50% pay rise, which no doubt they would absolutely love, but if the arse is in the legislation or an aspect of teaching that cannot be sorted out by pay rises, then nothing is solved, except maybe retaining teachers is a bit easier.

Why New Zealand needs to condemn Saudi Arabia’s human rights record


This blog was going to be about the detention of female Saudi Arabian activists making a stand for women and a call to petition Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters to speak out. But the same country deciding it is okay to attack a bus full of civilians and the fact that this is a war crime, forced a change.

Saudi Arabia is a country that has long shown open disdain for human rights. It regards them as a “western” concept, perhaps because much human rights law was developed in the West. But western or not, there is nothing humane or proper about attacking civilian targets.

A country that attacks a civilian bus, killing dozens of people including numerous children as Saudi Arabia did a few days ago and thinks that such conduct would horrify many New Zealanders. A country that uses military grade munitions and delivery systems to destroy hospitals, homes and schools would horrify New Zealanders.

It should also horrify people to know that two nations we respect and admire are supplying Saudi Arabia with those munitions and delivery systems. Their names are Britain and United States of America. Both have supplied combat jets and cluster munitions, despite these being subject to international bans Рwhich notably none of the United Nations Security Council permanent five members have recognized, lest it jeopardize the lucrative sale of weapons.

In his valedictory speech as President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower made mention of the potential threat posed by the military industrial complex. That was in 1961. It was before the Cuban Missile Crisis, Exercise Able Archer 1983, a host of wars where one could argue the main reasons for having them were nothing to do with national security, humanitarian emergencies or caused by internal strife. What would the former President think today if he could see the current orgy of violence and in particular America and Britain’s role in arming the combatants?

But those nations are not New Zealand. Those nations are not a country in the southwest Pacific with a record of defending human rights.

New Zealand needs to make stand against the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia. Our trade is not so great that we should suffer a crippling blow if the Kingdom throws a diplomatic hissy fit – noting the recall of their Ambassador to Canada, and expulsion of Canada’s Ambassador for having the gonads to tell Saudi Arabia imprisoning female activists is not acceptable conduct. Our reputation for being a nation that champions a fair go and common decency will certainly not suffer from having a bit of steel in our spine.

New Zealand had opportunities to condemn earlier actions by Saudi Arabia that involved war crimes in Yemen. It has had opportunities to speak against the imprisonment of and flogging of activists such as Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes – 50 were struck before human rights activism brought enough pressure on Saudi Arabia to desist (so far)in carrying out any further. Unfortunately under the National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key, securing trade deals was a higher priority than protecting universal human rights.

If Canada stands alone, Saudi Arabia will assume that it is just one country that is annoyed. But if others including, but not limited to New Zealand join in the Kingdom will see that – whether they acknowledge it or not, being something altogether different – war crimes and any other illegal war like acts are not okay.

As for stopping Britain and the U.S. from supplying more weapons to cause more civilian deaths, tragically that is probably going to take them being referred for war crimes to the Hague and a change of Government in both countries.

 

Banning plastic bags tackles small part of a big problem


Yesterday the Government announced that New Zealand would phase out plastic bags within 12 months. The announcement, which was made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage comes amid a growing backlash against single use plastics.

The announcement, whilst welcome is in some respects more of a feel good measure. Whilst single use plastic bags are a very visible part of the plastics problem in New Zealand, in terms of the larger waste issue, plastic bags are a relative minor issue. Paper, glass, wood, materials such as polystyrene and so forth will continue to get dumped in landfills or recycled at negligible rates. Electronic waste will continue to go into landfills at between 72,000 and 85,000 tons per annum with only 1% of that being recycled.

The announcement did not escape criticism. David Seymour, Leader of the A.C.T. Party said it would punish consumers who find the bags easy and convenient. He also attacked the lack of science qualifications held by Green Party Members of Parliament. Nor did it escape criticism from the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges who likened it to low hanging fruit and that no real gains would be made. Mr Bridges claimed that the Government had bigger problems on its hands and needed to address what he called “plummeting business confidence”.

Both of these criticisms come from desperate politicians wanting to undermine something that they know will be well received by the public of New Zealand. Much has been made of the growing number of seabirds, fish and other marine life being found to have died from consuming plastics that their bodies are not able to digest. One also cannot ignore the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the central part of the northern Pacific that has an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic in it. That is about 680 pieces of plastic for every single human being on the planet.

I doubt that, despite the incoming ban, plastic bags will actually be fully phased out. Several questions need to be asked – and answered about this:

  1. How will the Government deal with imported products that come in plastic bags – last time I got an electrical device there were about three small plastic bags each with a component relevant to the device. They were single use bags in that once opened there was no further use for the plastic.
  2. Will there remain drop off bins after the ban takes effect for those who have stockpiles of plastic bags? I suspect that there will always be a small number of plastic bags retained by New Zealanders and there will be people all over the country with a cupboard holding a few, just as my parents have.
  3. Businesses seem to be enthusiastic about the ban, but there will always be a few that are non-compliant. Will the Government enforce the ban somehow?

All in all, a nice feel good ban. Greenpeace and the other environmental N.G.O.’s might be happy, but the war on waste has a long way to go before it reaches anything approaching a successful conclusion.

A ban too far: Don Brash’s Massey University ban


I will call it from the outset. Dr Don Brash’s speaking ban at Massey University was a ban too far.

Given that we never got to hear what Dr Brash was going to say, though we could make a reasonably good guess as to the subject matter, the decision by the Massey Vice Chancellor was not only a gross over reaction it was premature.

The other day the controversial Canadian activists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were stopped from an event¬†they were to talk about their opposition to immigration and their activism on the right of the political spectrum. Coming days after Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux’s controversial speaking engagement being cancelled, perhaps the Vice Chancellor of Massey University thought it was just not the time. Perhaps she thought, as she apparently did, that there would be a security threat or some other problem.

To ban Dr Brash, however divisive whatever he had to say might have been, from speaking at Massey speaks of a University that is scared to champion freedom of speech. It speaks of a University unable to tolerate something thousands of New Zealanders laid their lives down for in two world wars.

Do we actually know if what he was going to say is even divisive or not? Suspicions are one thing, facts are quite another – we do not know for fact that he actually had something divisive in mind.

I know a few people on the right. I disagree with them on most things, but not this. Not when the right to freedom of speech however horrible, wrong and improper whatever the speaker/s of the day might have to say is being challenged. That is not okay.

But my real beef is with Massey University. What on earth was the Vice Chancellor thinking? This will be damaging for the university as one of New Zealand’s tertiary institutions. People will look at Massey and wonder if it is going the same way that Berkeley University in California has gone – a place rocked by division and now loaded with tension, split along sharply partisan lines. I do not believe that the V.C. should resign, as others are calling for her to do, but to have a cold hard look at ones professional self in the mirror would be a very good idea.

I do not want to see any New Zealand institution, tertiary or otherwise go the direction that Berkeley has gone in California. For a land that prides itself on civility and a fair go, that would be a dreadful state of affairs to find ourselves in. But it is a direction we might be going if incidents like what happened at Massey with Dr Brash play out elsewhere in New Zealand.