Neoliberalism: The dam containing New Zealand’s potential

Neoliberalism is like a dam. It is a dam impounding a huge reservoir of potential. The potential being impounded is the potential for New Zealand to be better than it is. And that is just the way the owners of Neoliberal Dam like it.

The trickle down economic theory flows into the top of Lake Neoliberal. And there, it stops, forever trying to fill an endless reservoir. The wealth stays impounded behind the dam, far below the intakes it is never meant to reach and start flowing down the penstocks to the turbines of the power station.

The power station is idling. The flow is just strong enough to allow the turbines to idle, without actually being engaged to drive the shaft between the turbine and the generator. The tail race which drains the turbines is surprisingly

It have been like this for decades. The power station operators at Neoliberal Dam talk about how they want it to recognize its potential, but the operators are beholden to the owners who just want to hoard the potential. They do not want to generate meaningful output because that would require their business plans to significantly change; it would require them to invest in projects that would suck up some of their ill gotten gains.

The communities downstream from Neoliberal Dam know that there is something wrong with it. The spill way has never been used in all the time it has existed. The outflow level never fluctuates seriously. However they do not have the time, the money or the know how to take on its owners and get them to see things from the locals perspective. Nor do the owners of Neoliberal Dam want to meet the locals. The elected representatives of the local communities are beholden to Corporate Power Company and are reluctant to speak ill of the deals being done behind closed doors.

But in a sign of a changing climate, protests about the mismanagement of Neoliberal Dam are beginning to occur with increasing frequency. Overseas the 98% living downstream of Neoliberal’s sister dams are starting to display signs of displeasure. How long before that displeasure reaches New Zealand remains to be seen in a country where the prevailing attitude still largely seems to be “She’ll be right mate”.

But to this observer, wondering what it would take for the turbines to start to work, the answer is clear. The only way to deal with the Neoliberal Dam, is to either change the owners and completely overhaul the dam or blow it up and start again.



Young New Zealand First right to promote drug testing at festivals

Back in the 1960’s major music festivals such as Glastonbury, Woodstock – among others – were as much known for the drug scene that happened around the music as they were for the bands and the music that they played. One does not have to look hard on Youtube to find videos of such scenes – opium, mushrooms, cannabis, cocaine were just a few of the drugs used to get high.

50 years later delegates at the New Zealand First Convention in the weekend just ended were in a heated debate about the suitability of drug testing at music festivals. Some Members of Parliament including Darroch Ball, Mark Patterson and Clayton Mitchell stated their opposition to the idea, which was floated by Young New Zealand FirstĀ  – the party youth wing – as a policy remit.

Messrs Patterson, Ball and Mitchell said that they were concerned that this essentially amounted to condoning the use of drugs. They were concerned about the messages that would be sent by supporting such a measure.

I support it totally. It is not that I support drug use by any means, but at music festivals, just as at Woodstock and Glastonbury, it is inevitable that drugs get slipped in. There is an equally high probability that strangers in pursuit of that hit that will make them high seek it from people who are otherwise no more than strangers. And further to the point it is far better those that are using them are given the opportunity to ascertain what exactly they are using, lest it be something with a potentially lethal active ingredient. Y.N.Z.F. member Robert Gore, who was quoted suggesting that young people on it should be allowed to repent, suggested lives could be saved and harm from the usage of drugs could be reduced by permitting this policy.

So, I welcome this move by Young New Zealand First to address this issue so that we can all remember the lazy days in the sun singing along to cool tunes for all the right reasons. I hope that the Caucus have another look at how they proceed with this and understand this is about saving lives as Mr Gore said, and not about condoning illicit use of drugs.

Revising terror laws for jihadis

Meet Mark Taylor. Mr Taylor is a Kiwi jihadi who went to Syria to fight for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (I.S.I.S.). For years he . Now, with I.S.I.S. largely defeated, Mr Taylor has been abandoned by them in a part of the world he knows not much about. He has no proper documentation, or the means to get such documentation, with the nearest consulate office where he could go being in Turkey.

Mr Taylor is known as the “bumbling jihadi”. He is apparently someone not really able to think for themselves, easily influenced and wanting a sense of belonging say people who used to know him when he was in the Army.

But at the same time, how do you survive in a war zone like Syria or Iraq for so long, especially in a disorganization militant environment with no clear command structure, logistical capacity or leadership? Mr Taylor managed to do that with no food or money and that basic services were non-existent, which points to a degree of resourcefulness.

At the end of the day though, I side completely with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on this. Mr Taylor should face the full force of the law if he makes it back to New Zealand, for several reasons:

  1. He is a member of a terrorist/militant group banned under New Zealand law
  2. In being a member he would have associated with other members, possibly received or given logistical or material support to other members
  3. He has not recanted any of his views, based on which one can assume he still believes in them
  4. Whilst not participating in actions, he boasts of being on guard duty whilst with I.S.I.S., which means that although he was not involved in combat he was enabling other militants to be by relieving them of being guards

That said the legal situation he finds himself in, as do the Police working to establish grounds for prosecution and the Government working out how the new laws should look, is complex. What the “full force of the law” might look like is not immediately clear, though the strongest path to conviction appears to be the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, because he joined a group internationally recognized as a terrorist organization.

The Green Party, not surprisingly do not believe in tightening up the legislation. They believe his human rights will be breached, which the Government deny. National support the legislation as far as the Select Committee, at which point they will be asking for amendments. New Zealand First are likely to support the legislation as well to ensure it reaches the Select Committee at least.

But how “bumbling” was this guy really? With Kurdistan now under full attack by Turkey and struggling to guard the jails holding jihadi like Mr Taylor, we have to be ready for the prospect that they will be let go or attempt an escape. Some argue that Mr Taylor in the Middle East is more dangerous to New Zealand and the world than if he were released and allowed to return to New Zealand.

Whether we like it or not, as the situation in Kurdistan deteriorates and the Kurds struggle for survival, they might well have no choice but to let Mr Taylor go. What happens then? I do not know, but if he comes to New Zealand the public need to be protected from him and any ideological influences he brought with him. The Police need to be sure he is not going to commit an attack or promote violence. And that most certainly will involve jail time.

Democracy the real loser in 2019 Local Government elections

So, the elections of 2019 are over. The new District, City and Regional Councils as well as the new District Health Boards have been decided. Many of the Councils have had their first meeting’s – formal or otherwise and photos of the elected bodies have been posted to Facebook.

As with all elections there are winners and losers. In 2019 though the real losers were not actually the defeated board members/councillors/mayors – although they certainly lost – but the democratic principle which lies at the heart of New Zealand politics. When a country has an average voter turnout of only , that is not democracy IN ACTION, but as a headline on the Sunday Star Times said, “Democracy INACTION”*.

And I have been left wondering what it will take to make more New Zealanders vote in these elections. Will it take compulsory civics in school to learn about how the system works and why, say in Year 12 place of one of the five optional subject slots students can take? Will it require more places to cast ballots – I thought that for one weekend at some point in the campaign period perhaps the locations that are used for General Election voting could be opened for casting ballots. Others have suggested using online voting systems to get people to vote, something has been used in the United States with controversial results.

We cannot make them come to the ballot box, but one thing that could be done is automatically enrolling all citizens upon their 18th birthday. That would ensure that the thousands not on the roll are put on it and are not subject to fines. It would also give the Electoral Commission a better idea of who lives where and make sure that appropriate election resources are applied to that ward/seat.

I wonder what it will take for small electorates to have more than one person standing in some wards. Kaikoura District for example the entire council was re-elected unopposed simply because a district with only a tiny rate payer base almost completely in Kaikoura township was simply not enough to squeeze out any more candidates. Same goes for districts across much of the northern South Island and parts of rural North Island.

Fortunately one certainty still seems to exist irrespective of voter turnout: say or do anything really stupid during the campaign or ones term and you will probably be toast. Just ask Siggi Henry in Hamilton, who wore an anti-vaccination t-shirt to a function and deliberately parked in a disabled carpark. She lost her job on Saturday. Just ask John Tamihere, the former Labour cabinet minister opposing Phil Goff in Auckland, who made the mistake of saying “Sieg Heil”, which is closely linked to Nazism. His election bid to be Auckland Mayor failed handsomely. Just ask former Christchurch City Councillor Deon Swiggs who sent inappropriate text messages to a 15 year old, getting him banned by his boss from council functions for youth and ultimately losing his seat on Saturday.

But all in all, this is not how New Zealand elections should be going in terms of voter turnout and the negative commentary about this sorry state is justified.

*Emphasis is mine

Winners and Losers: The 2019 Local Government elections

Congratulations to all ward representatives, Councillors and Mayors elected. It has been fascinating watching the results coming in from around the country. Commiserations to those who lost their races and now return to regular day time work.

Particularly interesting for me in Canterbury has been the election of our first democratic council since the Commissioners took over the 2007-2010 council in March 2010. They leave behind a province struggling with fresh water issues, transport and land use. They leave behind a council whose permanent staff has not only drastically changed, but also missing a lot of local knowledge particularly in the planning and policy sections. Four of the 6 councillors that stood in 2016 have been returned. The other 10 are newcomers.

I am not surprised Lianne Dalziel has been re-elected Mayor of Christchurch. Whilst she was not my preferred candidate, her campaign was the strongest. Runner up Daryl Park was unrealistic in having a policy platform of zero increases in rates. Mr Park also did not score as well as many others did on matters such as housing, transport and drinking water supply. Green candidate John Minto is widely considered too radical and and came third.

Around the big cities in New Zealand I see that Phil Goff has taken Auckland for a second term. Paula Southgate has won Hamilton. Ms Southgate lost the 2016 election race by a razor thin margin of just 6 votes to Andrew Turner, who she outed comfortably. A 35 year old Green Party candidate named Aaron Hawkins has taken Dunedin. It is Wellington that people are watching. One term Mayor Justin Lester is trailing Andy Foster in a race that will be decided by special votes, of which there are about 5,000 to count. That result will be a few days away. An Andy Foster victory would make Justin Lester the first one term Mayor in Wellington in decades.

The West Coast Regional Council has two female councillors joining five others around their council table. This may be a backlash for the denial of climate change that permeated the previous council. Greater Wellington Regional Council has few changes.

In terms of District Council races, I am interested to see what the composition of the Westland District Council is. After a horror three years with two big flood events, two cyclones and much criticism over the Franz Josef flood protection works and their failure to implement Plan Change 7 concerning the Alpine Fault, no doubt ratepayers will be looking forward to a more responsible council. In Canterbury the Waimakariri, Kaikoura, Timaru, Hurunui Districts all have new mayors. The Kaikoura District Council, struggling in the aftermath of the 2016 magnitude 7.8 earthquake faces a difficult three years trying to stay afloat whilst repairing the damage and conducting regular business.

To all those who have voted, in my book you retain your grumbling rights for another three years. To all those that did not, if you now get a council that uses rates in ways you did not want them to, stiff cheese.