South Pacific development report: Not Yet Complete (and nor is N.Z.’s)

This week five South Pacific nations including New Zealand are turning in report cards on their development progress. But even before the United Nations receives them, we know what will be written on them by the U.N. Development Programme.

Not Yet Complete.

Not surprisingly this will attract a response asking how it has come to this. Some of the answers are so obvious we have somehow been blinded by them. One great example of this is the sheer number of indicators that need to be reported on. 230 have been set. In the South Pacific, which comprises two wealthy first world nations – Australia and New Zealand – and a bunch of small island nations so tiny most printed maps struggle to show them, a combination of administrative difficulties, lack of resources, tiny populations and corruption mean reporting on them all is highly improbable on the best of days.

Perhaps it is time to refine the Voluntary National Review – as these exercises are known – to something more realistic. From an office somewhere in New York it is highly unlikely unless the people designing these programmes have visited small island nations like Tonga, the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu, that they have any idea about the logistical, cultural and political challenges of carrying out such in depth data gathering.

Let us take Papua New Guinea for example. Remote, once you get outside Port Moresby, towns like Lae, Wewak or Rabaul on New Britain, one might have to travel for days on dirt roads across rivers with no bridges, few airfields to land aircraft. A translator fluent in the many dialects would be needed as well as a cultural advisor to navigate local customs.

Anyone who has done statistical research will know and understand the challenges of creating, maintaining and manipulating data sets. They will understand that that whilst the set needs to be comprehensive enough and deep enough to work in, there needs to be a degree of refinement about what types of data one is after. In recognizing these challenges perhaps the biggest problem for me though, is, whether all of this is actually necessary? Of course the United Nations needs to know how its individual members are getting on, but how much of this can they not gain from simply requesting that their member states focus on a simplified range of indicators?

New Zealand is lucky. With a comparatively well working system for gathering statistical data, our biggest problem might be more whether it is still current. Being one of the larger nations by resources, population and wealth, we could establish those 230 indicators. But, just as with Fiji, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, a bigger question might be do we really need all of them? Our 2018 Census left some major gaps in what it was meant to supply those doing the analysis for various government departments. The Chief Statistician was found wanting in terms of her management of Statistics New Zealand’s biggest single (five yearly)task.

Before any of this happens though, New Zealand needs to be honest with itself. Our statistical system, whilst in good order compared to say, the Solomon Islands or P.N.G., is not good enough if it cannot conduct a Census properly. Maybe the Voluntary National Review of New Zealand should be postponed until we get our own statistics in order.

My submission on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon)Bill

The Climate Change (Zero Carbon)Bill has been receiving submissions from the public over the last few weeks on how it should tackle carbon. My submission below tackles some of the concerns that I have articulated over the last year or so about addressing climate change.


I generally support the Climate Change (Zero Carbon Bill)on the understanding it is part of a substantially broader effort to address anthropogenic climate change. No one segment of the economy, government or society will be spared the effects in the worst case scenario. Therefore no part of these first three can ignore the probable impact on the environment that makes it possible for economy, society and government to exist.

Legislation, whilst useful, can be repealed or diluted. This is most likely to happen if it tries to achieve too much too soon. This Bill of Parliament in its final form will therefore need to be able to provide for encourage the use of common knowledge and science to help societal, economic and government sectors reduce their environmental footprint.

For example we know that aluminium is hugely energy intensive when being made in a smelter, but that recycled aluminium is not (1). Therefore a logical response should be to institute a recycling programme nation wide to cut down power generation.
We know that anthracite is the cleanest burning of the four coal types. Does it not therefore make sense to allow only anthracite to be burnt in coal burning utilities?
We know that in Denmark, regular waste is burnt to drive a turbine that supplies hot water to towns (2) – could such technology work here?

Other nations are experimenting with bio waste as a fuel source. Air New Zealand for example has been experimenting with biofuel as an alternative to the current aviation fuel (3). If we are to peacefully transition from fossil fuels to the future energy sources, we need to develop interim fuel sources. Local small scale variations such as using waste cooking oil/fat, which might be sustainable in large urban areas.



I have broken my recommendations down into categories of urgency.

Break priorities into four or five categories urgency – e.g. IMMEDIATE, SHORT TERM, MID TERM, LONG TERM

In IMMEDIATE term put things like establishing aluminium and steel recycling programmes; changing types of coal being burnt

In SHORT term put things like local government plan changes; N.E.S.A.Q. changes if necessary, as they will need to have public input; an A.A. working group to look at necessary fuel standards for biofuel

In MID term look at things like establishing biofuel programme as an alternative to petroleum; changes to building code to provide for hempcrete, which is carbon friendly as it does not create as much carbon based gas as concrete manufacture does.

In LONG term, the eventual ending of fossil fuels, per the Zero Carbon legislation and the April 2018 announcement about the end of such fuels by 2050

Keep the Parliamentary review and inquiries and other legislative mechanisms to a minimum. Much of this is based on known technology and science developed and put into practice overseas. Legislation should be for filling in gaps where business, communities and planning practitioners cannot achieve goals on their own or within their collective means.

Cricket World Cup final one for the ages

Long after the last column is written about the 2019 Cricket World Cup Final, people will remember it for the drama. They will remember it for the extraordinary overtime – how one team came to be victors, and how the losers came to symbolise all that is good and great about the game: grace, composure, humanity. There may not be for a long time to come, such an epic Cricket World Cup Final as that which played out at the home of cricket over night 14-15 July 2019 NZT. It was truly one for the ages, irrespective of which team you were supporting.

Despite being massively disappointed with the outcome of this final, the fact that two nations who had never lifted it before the finalists, will make the time spent watching it despite knowing the outcome well worth the effort. The fact that they played scintillating cricket right throughout the match, driving it into the cricket equivalent of over time after managing to tie on the last ball of regular play and the fact that the Super Over has never had to be played before, makes it an utterly unforgettable match.

Could I be any prouder of New Zealand? Probably not. The boys gave it their absolute all. Stunned, shattered players who knew it could have gone either way, who could have never have anticipated having to play the Super Over, this will be one where they can say they left a bit on of themselves on the field. It will take awhile for them to get over this. And no one, absolutely no one, can blame them.

At one time or another a number of us have probably wondered what Martin Guptill was doing in the team. I confess to having doubts about his batting. His run out of M.S. Dhoni in the semi-final against India was brilliant, and gave people pause for thought. Unfortunately his batting woes were not so kind on him. But tonight can we just help the poor guy back on to his proverbial feet, and let him grieve the loss of what could so easily have been the greatest day in his career.
Spare a thought for Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain and batting maestro. On his short frame, the weight of expectation must have seemed immense. Calm and collected despite probably having a hundred different problems bouncing around in his head, I never once saw him express frustration with his players. But having to watch the match he had every reason to believe his team could win, slip away before his very eyes as a result of some unlucky events, he must have wondered what side the cricket gods were on.
Ross Taylor might not get another chance to be on a winning team. At 36 years, one of the greatest batsmen New Zealand has ever had is getting on towards hanging up his gloves. Several of the others including the king of swing Trent Boult and the other half of the old Tim and Trent show – Tim Southee – will be in or approaching their mid 30’s by the time 2023 comes around.

As for England, they have as much reason to be absolutely delighted with the outcome. England went into this tournament as one of the favourites. They had been enjoying a revival in recent years that was enough to make any team pause and think about their approach. This was going to be a great day for cricket irrespective of who won because neither team had lifted the World Cup before. But in the end someone had to win and someone had to lose. England were playing before vociferous fans on the home ground of cricket. Whether it was Eoin Morgan or Johnny Bairstow with the bat propelling England on their way to the target of 241, or Jofra Archer with the ball this would be England’s day.


Time for N.Z.T.A. overhaul

New Zealand Transport Authority is a Government agency in strife. Racked by resignations, battered by damning staff survey responses and under the microscope internally for failings in the public arena, life must be tough being an N.Z.T.A. staff member.

The onus is on the N.Z.T.A. to acknowledge the harm it is doing to itself and to its staff. It becomes clear that the staff are feeling unappreciated, put down and lacking the empowerment necessary to perform their basic functions. When coupled with serious external failures such as not properly auditing a number of service stations and other automotive repair businesses on their issuance of Warrants of Fitness (W.O.F.), which led to hundreds, possibly thousands of cars being potentially improperly warranted, a issue of public interest is present.

Over the last year or more there has been a major recall of Takata airbags, after potentially fatal flaws were found in them. Takata airbags are found in a lot of New Zealand vehicles and the recall has resulted in thousands of cars having to get their airbags replaced. The recall is ongoing. Whilst this has not been linked to any problems at N.Z.T.A. that I am aware of, it reminds me of other road safety issues that N.Z.T.A. has been slow to act on:

  • Tour buses that are not roadworthy,
  • Bus drivers driving tour buses with little or no understanding or regard for New Zealand roads and conditions
  • Bus drivers who are not licenced
  • Explosion of large and oversized rigs on roads not fit to carry them
  • Dangerously long working hours for long haul drivers across numerous sectors

The safety of people, which should be paramount has been viewed otherwise. After major crashes, the Coroner examines the evidence gathered and makes recommendations. All too often – and this is not a problem unique to the transport sector – they are not fully implemented or simply ignored outright. And people wonder why accidents continue to happen.

The N.Z.T.A. is like any other public organization. It has accountability to the tax payer as much as it has accountability to the Ministry of Transport and the Government. This is in a decade where toxic internal workplace environments and their effects on employees has become a major occupational safety and health issue.Have the N.Z.T.A. got the message that for them to be a good employer, its internal culture, composition and leadership need to improve?

Or is the workplace culture of N.Z.T.A. a bit like the outmoded philosophy that it has operated on for too long now that motorways are king, whilst buses, trains and shipping are second class? I sincerely hope not, but I do wonder.

The utopian dream versus the dystopian nightmare: Part 2

Dystopia, the opposite of utopia, describes a society that has strongly undesirable characteristics. It is translated as “not a good place”, and would be possibly similar to what George Orwell describes in his novel “1984” where society is distinctly unwelcoming in all facets.

Whereas a utopian society would not allow a disaster like the Grenfell tower fire in London or the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown to happen, a dystopian society would make a major effort to cover up the disaster, arresting people who asked too many questions, blocking media from finding out what happened. Instead of asking for assistance, the authorities might decide to uniformly evacuate the area around the disaster and turn it into a no go zone. If it involves civilian attempts at showing dissent, the response may be decidedly ugly with a military response like the Chinese employed in Tiananmen Square, with thousands being rounded up.

Agencies relating to social welfare, housing, justice and so forth may be disempowered or completely disbanded. Any remaining functions simple to dispense to those who can afford it. If one cannot afford rental accommodation it is not the problem of the state.

The range of powers and responsibilities that the police have will expand so that a degree of immunity to infractions such as arbitrary detention of those classed as undesirables, denial of legal aid and so forth exists. Rather than being a force for societal good, they start to become the visible enforcement of the state’s will.

The economics of a dystopian society are distinctly unfriendly to all but the wealthiest. Power and wealth assist each other in a relationship that becomes addictive: more wealth means more power and vice versa. A distinct few have near complete control of all of the natural resources, the infrastructure and media. The state assets such as the electricity grid, the railways, the telecommunications are all sold off to investors not based in the country. The wealthy few live a clearly disconnected life from the rest, with trappings that 99% of people probably do know about.

A dystopian techno-state where traditional forms of media simply disappear – newspapers die out or are subsumed – might form. Radio is either taken over and digitized or taken off air altogether. So-called undesirables can be electronically blocked on a system so that they are completely cut off from information and news. Pay screens that only open up to paid subscribers becomes the norm. The same state might use electronic algorithms to monitor peoples internet and media worth, building up a profile as China is currently doing that form a profile on a completely unsuspecting target human

Fear is an instrument used to keep the masses in line. It might be expressed in subtle things such as running adverts asking if you trust your neighbour, your family and friends. Are certain types of activity such as social activism, community groups and the like some sort of menace? Cameras are watching your every move in public. You have no say over what they see and what happens to the footage, or who can use it. To give effect to this, enforcement instruments such as curfews where one has to be in their house by a certain time; segregated areas where ethnic or social minorities are banished to with notably poorer infrastructure and amenities may show up.

Dystopian society can creep in, slowly like the shadows moving. It might be confused at times with increasing authoritarianism, as some of the traits are distinctly so. It does not make overt moves unless politicians with authoritarian ideas have managed to take power.

New Zealand has fortunately not shown any overtly dystopian notions but we only have to look across the Tasman Sea to Australia to see flashes of dystopia manifesting. The out pouring of grief following the 15 March 2019 terrorist attacks might not have happened in another western country. In Australia a combination of traditional conservatism mixing with overt hatred of minorities, topped off with a burning paranoia about refugees and asylum seekers, has seen Australian Government ministers show almost callous disregard for minorities.