N.Z. in lock down: DAY 39


Yesterday was DAY 39 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

For the last 5 weeks and 4 days we have been trying to limit the spread of COVID19 within New Zealand. To do that, the country has had to make substantial sacrifices, including briefly foregoing many of the activities we had come to take for granted. Thus far New Zealand has been very successful in containing COVID19 and restricting its ability to harm our communities. The very vast majority of New Zealanders have been stringent in their compliance with the restrictions and protective measures that have been put in place.

However, there is a small number of irresponsible morons who think that at LEVEL 3 they can have their lives back, that they can start attending parties and do not have to abide by social distancing any more. New Zealand Police in the first few days since LEVEL 3 restrictions came into force have prosecuted 135 people and warned another 342. In the last few days there have been several major incidents where people have not complied with social distancing:

  • A tangi in Christchurch where 100 people turned out, despite being told that only 10 people were allowed
  • A gang party in Christchurch

New Zealand Police need to get tough. New Zealanders are done with playing kind. We have been in LEVEL 4 for 5 weeks and now LEVEL 3 for a week. People cannot claim to not know any more. We have ample evidence both here and abroad of what happens if we are not firm on the safety measures that have been put in place. I propose:

  1. In the first instance a $500 fine payable in one week or  – given the large number of people who live pay check to pay check, the impact in the bank balance and the resulting telling off that they should be getting from their bubble should be enough to make them not do it again
  2. In the second instance if a fine has failed to get the message through, a night in the police cells; should the fine fail to be paid without good reason, the punishment in the second instance is applicable
  3. In the third instance, jail time – if a person is really determined to ignore the laws and put the rest of us in unnecessary danger because all they could think of was themselves, then that person should be held until COVID19 is no longer a danger

Harsh? Well, to be honest, I heard that Australia was putting up $1,000 instant fines, so in that respect, not as harsh as people might think. And there is a simple reason for that. People who breach the rules will have to be accountable to their bubbles when they break them, and I am sure that those bubble members will not be happy at the prospect of LEVEL lasting beyond 11 May 2020.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 33


Yesterday was DAY 33 of lock down as New Zealand fights the COVID19 pandemic.

LEVEL 4 ended at 2359 hours on Monday. LEVEL 3 began at 0000 hours this morning. For the vast majority of New Zealanders, aside from being able to enjoy takeaway meals and coffees from ones favourite outlets, little has changed other than the following:

  • Tradies can return to work, but tools will need to be washed twice daily
  • Activities within your region are permitted, but the closer to home the better
  • Schools can reopen up to Year 10 (children under 14 must be supervised)

This is something from which the recovery will be tedious and unlike anything anything in the memory of the vast majority of New Zealanders. To the chagrin of millions of people. It will test the patience of decision makers, the authorities and the public. It will test them in ways they had not thought possible.

The civil libertarians, whose eternal distrust of Government renders them permanently suspicious of the establishment, will be looking for ways to get around a set of cumbersome, odious and yet essential rules. There may be a few inspired by protests in Germany and the United States who think they are making a stand for their country, but are only making a stand for their misguided beliefs.

The mainstream will be happy to comply with rules if they are sure it will get the virus gone. The authorities will be wanting to be as close to 100% certain as they can, that the virus has been defeated before they openly support seriously relaxed rules; the Police aware that the potential for non-compliance will increase in inverse portion to public patience.

The decision makers, having the decisions will want to be sure that they were a) the right decisions and b) will stand up to the scrutiny of any inquiry or review that happens later. For those like Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, their legacy and how well their policies survive into the future will depend in large part on how they handle the recovery from COVID19.

I hope we are compliant as a nation – like everyone I want the virus to be decisively defeated. But when the war on COVID19 is inevitably drawn to a close, the Government is going to have a difficult balancing act between systematically denying the virus the prospect of Round 2 and getting as much of the country back to work, back to having a life as quickly as possible. There will also be challenges on the side that need to be dealt with, such as privacy concerns over the new application that the Government is working on – who will store the data; what rules will there be around sharing; what security will there be to stop hacking or data misuse among other concerns.

In some respects it will be like walking along the narrow ridge between potential pits (COVID19 resurgence, all the while wanting to dodge crumbling cliffs (public compliance) and not knowing how long New Zealand can maintain this delicate act without seriously hurting itself.

And all the while remembering there is an election in September.

New Zealand Police should not be armed


On 15 March 2019 a gunman shot dead 51 people in two Mosque around Christchurch. The terrorist attack that day was meant to inflame tensions between Muslims and the rest of New Zealand and encourage a war against a minority religion. In response, armed Police stood guard outside the two Mosques, a sight meant to show how serious Police were about making sure there would not be another attack.

However, ever since that horrible day in our history, many New Zealanders have been concerned about the direction New Zealand has taken on how the Police use firearms. The casual creeping trend towards regularly armed cops being present on patrol is just one instance in how Police are more overtly showing their firearms. Another is the formation of the tactical group that was announced before Christmas, and which has already been seen controversy after helping with a raid in Christchurch.

There are several very good reasons why I hope I never see New Zealand police officers routinely wear fire arms:

  1. The New Zealand police are trained differently and are taught to understand that the fire arm is the weapon of last resort. Because it is purpose built for delivering a potentially lethal injury, the threshhold for using a gun are correspondingly higher than that for using a taser, or lesser device such as a baton or pepper spray. I hope it stays that way.
  2. There is a certain degree of risk to the credibility of authorities when they play the fear card. New Zealand is a nation that does not like to be ruled by fear. If New Zealanders think authorities are purposefully playing on fear, the authorities will lose respect and any measures seen as punitive will become the target of ridicule. By giving authorities the means to use lethal force, the red line in the sand between credible fear and scare mongering comes a giant step closer to merging.
  3. The gun culture in America makes things much more dangerous than it does in New Zealand. Because the Second Amendment explicitly permits Americans to use firearms for self defence, and because the National Rifle Association holds significant clout with conservatives who often complain about Americans having their gun rights eroded, it is a highly politicized issue which can cause politicians to tread unnecessarily warily around. We do not have that antagonism here and there is no reason to start now.
  4. There is a degree of moral integrity at stake when a police officer shoots someone – for arguments sake – fatally. Because if that person was not armed, or in possession of something less lethal than a fire arm, unless the officer had expended the non-lethal options at their disposal and had failed to subdue the suspect, that officer has potentially committed manslaughter (giving the officer the benefit of the doubt that they did not intend to kill). How can one ascertain the suitability of an officer to possess firearms?
  5. The Police Complaints Authority and the system of accountability it uses to ensure that complaints against the New Zealand Police can be assessed have been found wanting with current cases. One where a formal complaint is laid for the accidental shooting of a homeless man high on methamphetamine could expose it and New Zealands reputation as a safe place with a reliable police force at risk. We cannot afford that.

However, a person high on drugs cannot be reasoned with, at least not safely. Their reactions, their understanding of their immediate physical circumstances and their location is likely to be affected. An officer who approaches a person in such a state is right to be wary.

Despite the concerns that New Zealand police may become like their American counterparts, I think the public scrutiny on the police force and their reactivity to that scrutiny is a good thing. The certainty that individual shootings are automatically referred to the Police Conduct Authority means officers have good reason to be careful about the use of force.

National Party ignoring causes of gangs existence


According to National leader Simon Bridges we have a gang problem that he is vowing to crack down hard on. Fuelled by the recent violence in Tauranga where police have been fired at by people not stopping for a check point; by a double shooting; by shooting events witnessed by children, Mr Bridges has vowed to take action against gangs following these events. But as we shall see, the National party have a major flaw in their approach.

“Get tough on crime” is a common policy plank for conservative parties. It is applauded by the members and supporters of those parties because of the belief that it sends a signal to criminal elements, organized and individuals alike, that society will not tolerate gang behaviour. And we certainly should not. Gangs are intimidating with their presence. Their lifestyle is one of violence, crime, drugs and other legally and/or socially improper activities. To join a gang one has to do certain things – the patches earned by individual members are not simply awarded to anyone who wants to join.

But at this point I believe that I and a lot of other New Zealanders diverge from the path that National wants to take us down. And the reason for that is as simple as it is fundamental:

National are ignoring the causes of the gangs existence in the first place.

Why do gangs exist? This is a simple question, and a fundamentally important one, but the answer is not so simple. Many of the people in gangs come from broken homes. They never had role models in their lives, and education was not a priority. Love was non-existent. The phrase “learn right from wrong” was unheard of. At an early age they might have been involved with drugs and the illicit side activities that go with this.

But the broken homes that these people came from are not exclusively broken in the sense of nobody cares/bad parents. Some of them come from families where the parents are at work for long periods of time, left school early either because of costs or lack of support. Simple things like ensuring children get breakfast in the morning and have lunch to eat at school goes a surprisingly long way towards reducing disruption and making them want to stay in the education system.

Teenagers who make up a number of younger recruits are a vulnerable bunch when it comes to peer pressure. A teen might have mates who have connections and be wanting that teen to join them. At an early age they might already be getting exposed to weed, pornography, alcohol and other illegal or adult material.

I want to be clear that this is absolutely not attempting to say we should go kindly on gangs. It is not. I am saying that in order to understand why gangs are doing what they are doing, we must first understand the why. Why do gangs exist in New Zealand? Until that gets answered and addressed, you can forget about adequately tackling the gangs, their activities and dissuading those who might be tempted to join, from doing so.

 

Just deport Karel Sroubek and be done with it


Karel Sroubek, who tried to import MDMA ecstasy powder, and was found guilty of misusing passports to come to New Zealand has been denied parole by the Parole Board for the third time. Mr Sroubek, who arrived in New Zealand after fleeing the Czech Republic on a friends passport, has a long record of criminal activity, including associations with gangs in New Zealand and the Czech underworld. His third application for parole was met with “see you in November”, when the next hearing will be scheduled.

As far as I am concerned Mr Sroubek has no place in New Zealand. The combination of his long record of criminal activity both in New Zealand and in the Czech Republic in my estimate more than qualifies him for deportation. The botched review of his case by the Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway and his decision to grant a convicted criminal with existing links to New Zealand and Czech criminals, residency, undermines the value of being able to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. The subsequent decision to remove any prospect of removal points to a Minister failing to accurately assess and understand the gravity of Mr Sroubek’s past.

People with knowledge of Mr Sroubek’s case and his time in the New Zealand prison system say that he has been an excellent inmate and that he has been keeping himself occupied with yoga classes. He has been encouraged to employ one of the prison psychologists available, and has said he will, but not in prison. However, when he was asked about residences he could stay at upon release from prison one is that of a person on parole themselves and another is that of a person with strong gang connections.

Over the years other prospective residents have been deported from New Zealand for much less than the crimes Mr Sroubek has committed. Several of them had contributed far more to the country than Mr Sroubek has, and due to unfortunate circumstances such as visa difficulties, ill family members and so forth, were deported. I fail to see what makes Mr Sroubek so important that he must stay here, especially considering the gravity of his criminal record, the lies that have gone with it and the probability of reoffending. Just deport him and be done with it.