Causes of crime in New Zealand

It is quite fair to say that the New Zealand sentencing laws have multiple flaws to them that undermine not only the course of justice, but in some respects actually cause new injustices to occur. The cracks in the social net designed to keep people out of crime are so numerous that systemic failure is a real possibility and would occur when a critical mass of issues comes to a head causing a large scale collapse of services and functions.

Among these problems are:

  • A failing of the socio-economic conditions necessary to discourage criminal activity in the first place
  • A failure of the justice system to punish convicted offenders appropriately
  • Offenders occur because it suits the lifestyle that they have become accustomed to
  • Massive growth in the market for illegal substances – a seller can make $4,000 a week selling illegal substances in Whangarei
  • Break down of the family unit and a lack of role models for boys
  • Underfunding/scrapping of social welfare programmes causing them to fail or be wound up
  • Systemic underfunding and resourcing of the mental health sector

So how do these factors cause the sentencing regime to fail? There are numerous reasons.

  1. Whilst most New Zealanders are working, tax paying, law abiding people, there is a section of society that have no empathy with or understanding of societal norms. They come from broken families that have no had proper jobs, or have been involved with drugs or criminal elements – to them the law and the people who enforce it are suspect
  2. Despite legislation passing through Parliament in 2010 called the Truth in Sentencing Act, which was designed to make offenders do the full sentence handed down, sentences are becoming increasingly erratic and are rarely suitable for the crime/s committed
  3. It is obvious that the War on Drug has failed when drug dealers can make more money in a week than many New Zealanders do in a month – flow on effects from drug use can include being not suitable for a wide range of jobs
  4. A lack of role models for children with absentee parents or from a family where education and work are low priorities. They might be constantly working, or disinterested in their children’s development
  5. Welfare programmes have suffered from funding not keeping pace with inflation, but also constantly tightened criteria to eligible for assistance in the first place, with the result being more people are either getting cut off or finding the proverbial goal posts have shifted
  6. Mental health issues create highly unstable people whose symptoms may range from acute stress to being prone to physical violence or even killing – several cases have occurred in the last few years where either people not being treated have turned violent; caregiver gone to jail for mercy killing

New Zealand is going to have to address these issues collectively and individually in the near future or risk this nation becoming something other than the tourist friendly paradise many non New Zealanders believe us to be. Soon there could be significant costs to tax payers and companies alike fixing a problem that in some respects everyone is partially to blame for, but which nobody wants to come up with a comprehensive solution.

Asian “El Chapo” drug syndicate on the rise in New Zealand

Meet Tse Chi Lop. The Chinese Canadian man is known as an Asian El Chapo. He is a billionaire who has done exceptionally well out of the drug trade in ketamine, methamphetamine and other Class A drugs. Tse Chi Lop is the boss of a giant criminal network called Sam Gor. It operates in a dozen countries. The drugs, which mules have taken much risk to ship into countries as diverse as New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, Japan and Myanmar have given fleeting albeit distinct looks into the life of a drug baron considered to be the most wanted man in Asia.

One such mule is Cai Jeng Ze, who was caught at Yangon Airport by Myanmar authorities, his cellphone yielded a plethora of data – it showed what happened to people who did not comply with the syndicate; all the normal data such as contacts, names and social media messages describing activities.

When New Zealand Police intercepted a shipment of methamphetamine earlier this year, it was probably not loss to Tse Chi Lop whose empire would simply ship another consignment over. 1,500 kilogrammes of methamphetamine was intercepted by New Zealand authorities in the first part of 2019, which is just part of a flood of crystal methamphetamine arriving.

How New Zealand is going to manage this burgeoning flood I am not sure. Certainly our customs and police need a long term budget increase to do the kind of work that will be necessary to help their international colleagues to locate Tse Chi Lop and bring him to justice. But of significant concern is that the United Nations representative on the U.N. Agency for Drugs and Crime suggested that the war on drugs paradigm is going to have to change significantly as this is too big to be out policed.

But will political parties come on board with the need to change the paradigm towards what the United Nations representative is suggesting? I am not sure that National and A.C.T. would.

University readings resonate with life Vol. 2

In July I mentioned that I had gone back to university and was doing postgraduate planning via distance learning at Massey University. I decided to mention it because the readings for the course discuss planning in ways the vast majority of us probably have not thought about. Whether it is a resource consent application so one can build a new house, or they are negatively affected by something like losing land that will be flooded when a new dam is built, at some point or another New Zealanders will have to deal with the effects of council planning.

I want to come back to this briefly to acknowledge two more noteworthy papers that were part of the readings for 132.732: Planning Theory. In the first article in July I mentioned papers by Marcus Lane (2005) who looked at public participation in planning and Joe Painter (2006) who looks at the roles of ordinary people in positions of power and the effects of their mundane everyday actions.

The reading by Jago Dodson The Global Infrastructure Turn and Global Practice (2016) looks at the rise of infrastructure and the need for urban scholars to take note of this change at national and global level in the context of international frameworks. Notably, as this was written shortly after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Dodson notes a nationalist dimension to Mr Trump’s emphasis on American infrastructure. His was a response to the need for massive investment in crumbling roads, bridges, derelict dams, water, sewerage and electricity infrastructure. But Mr Trump was merely following a trend that had developed in Canada, Australia and to a lesser extent here in New Zealand that infrastructure development should be a priority issue. An interesting point raised in the Dodson paper was that to avoid the over accumulation of capital, diverting the excess into developing infrastructure should be an acceptable alternative.

The Dodson paper will not resonate so much with the ordinary New Zealander, so much as it will with the economic policy maker. I am talking about the people trying to set a 21st Century course to match the challenges from issues such as sustainability and climate change, diversifying the job market and improve resilience to international shocks.

Perhaps it was the paper by Ambe Njoh Urban planning as a tool of power and social control in colonial Africa (2008) that I found the most striking of the ones in the second half of the course. In reading the paper around the same time as I started an assignment that examined power and social control through urban planning in a local context, I found it striking that Cathedral Square in Christchurch, despite the acknowledgement of Ngai Tahu as local tangata whenua, the Square still has a very English feel and appearance to it. Despite post-earthquake buildings nearby such as the Christchurch public library (Turanga) and the yet to open Convention Centre (Te Pae) having names in Te Reo Maori, those buildings bear little obvious relation or connectedness to Waitaha (Canterbury) or Otautahi (Christchurch). The imposing facade of the old Chief Post Office in Christchurch.

Cathedral Square has battleship grey tiles that in summer have a reflective glare that those with vision problems or those sensitive to bright light find challenging. In writing my last assignment I happened upon a submission to Christchurch City Council from the disabled community for improvements to Cathedral Square. I am not sure how many have happened, but it made me wonder just how accessible this supposedly public place really is. Despite being a public place with trees in built up boxes and temporary installations to offset the unkempt mess behind the fence around the Cathedral, I have on occasion wondered what Ngai Tahu would have wanted had it been given a better say.

As we here in New Zealand look to the future, I can agree with Dodson that there will need to be significant infrastructure investment in the near future. But I can also agree with Njoh, that perhaps unintentionally New Zealand is really no better than other countries in terms of the use of planning for purposes of expressing power and social control.

Looming referendums: Are politicians passing the buck?

Two referendums are due at the next election in 2020.

One is for A.C.T. Member of Parliament David Seymour and his End of Life Choices Bill, which Mr Seymour hopes will legalize euthanasia. The other is to legalize cannabis.

But are Members of Parliament passing the buck? It depends on whom one talks to. New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters believes that “temporarily empowered politicians” do not necessarily know better than the general public. As a result New Zealand First believes that it is correct to pass the decision making on big decisions or ones that are perceived to be morally divisive back to the people. The party even has a principle in its 15 Fundamental Principles that requires decisions that are not party policy to be sent back to the public for a referendum.

This is the primary reason why New Zealand First voted no in the 2013 Same Sex Marriage conscience vote – the Same Sex (Definition of Marriage)Amendment Bill had not gone to the public as a referendum, so the party chose not to support it.

Whilst Mr Seymour is in support, many conservatives are not. Judith Collins and Maggie Barry of the National Party believe it is an affront to the most important human right there is: the right to life. I would probably support it, but I would need to see what safeguards are in place – not only to ensure that a family cannot use it as a means of getting rid of a terminally ill family member, but to stop pro-life family from interfering if the irrevocable decision to die has been made.

Currently the legislation to legalize cannabis will go before Parliament late this year or early next year. It is being sponsored by Green Party Member of Parliament Chloe Swarbrick, who was handed the legislation by fellow Green M.P. Julie Anne Genter when the latter become a Minister of the Crown.

Support for this is fluctuating. Family First, a small party outside of Parliament with strong conservative family orientation released a survey done by Curia research. It showed that there was low support for the legalization of cannabis, at just 16%. A Newshub poll showed that support among Green Party members dropped from 83% to 64% whilst National Party opposition rose from 40% to nearly 66%.

I personally support the legislation before the House and think it would help to reduce cannabis related crime. But before then should it become law there needs to be firm measures against anyone who sells to minors. I agree with sending it to a referendum as it is too controversial to rely on a party vote or conscience vote in Parliament. Whilst Members of Parliament are empowered to make decisions, I believe the limits of what Members of Parliament can vote on, should be mainstream legislation that was put through the select committee process and in doing so, subject to public submissions.

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.