Monday, December 5, 2011

Media release

I must confess to being mystified by the fuss about the release of dotterels that have been looked after at a wildlife centre for the past few weeks until the Rena oil spill cleared in the Bay of Plenty. Fifteen were set free the other day to join the 17 released earlier. The news media were there, and the birds were blessed by a kaumatua. I don't wish to decry the effort that went into this, but surely it was just a matter of joining up the dotterels?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Low turnout

The low turnout is still one of the talking points of the 2011 election. Many commentators have drawn attention to it. The questions are always the same: what can have made people so apathetic? Why couldn't they be bothered? Have they no respect for democracy?

One can well understand why young people in particular are asking such questions. It seems inexplicable to them that the politicians didn't turn out for the election. The major parties especially failed to show. Apparently they just couldn't be bothered advancing relevant, realistic, unpatronising policies that spoke to where people are actually at in their lives.

A group of gang members on an Otara street corner were baffled. They couldn't understand why political parties would adopt such a stay-at-home attitude. They found it very discouraging. 'Honestly,' said one, 'you'd think they would care about what happens to this country. But apparently not.'

Two Wellington students were disgusted by the politicians' attitude. 'Democracy is wasted on those people,' said one of them. 'Just once every three years they could at least show up in recognizable human form. It's not a lot to ask.'

Another said she'd expected a big turnout of stimulating ideas but there were none to be seen on the day. 'Doesn't anyone care?' she asked in despair.

Several unemployed twentysomethings who took part in a major current-affairs debate on TV said they thought politicians had issues with reality and should go easy on the drugs.

Just why are political parties so apathetic? It seems they don't see democracy as relevant to their lives. They'd rather play games among themselves and ignore what's happening in the street—or on the planet, for that matter. None of them even mentioned climate change and global warming during the campaign. The world financial crisis scarcely got a look-in. All they ever talked about on Twitter and Facebook was their relationships with each other and the media and who was better-looking or smarter.

It doesn't bode well for future elections.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


As the election campaign enters its final few days, we asked a panel of expert commentators to reflect on the key points of the campaign so far. Here is a transcript of the debate, which was chaired by veteran broadcaster Rory O'Really.

O'Really: Well, let's get straight into it, shall we? On my left I have the exciting young blogger Vlad Lenin, who has been breaking new ground with his blog Trained Seal. Vlad, you're on record as saying that Labour's capital gains tax policy was a game-changer. Would you like to elaborate on that?

Lenin: The changing of the game is an essential component of the expropriation of the propertied classes, but only under the leadership of a revolutionary vanguard. The deviationist elements must be ruthlessly eliminated. Parekura Horomia has to go too, no question about that.

O'Really: Well, you could be onto something there, Vlad. Let's—

Lenin: And that's Sealed Train, not Trained Seal.

O'Really: Oh really? Good to get that cleared up. Let's hear now from TV1 political editor Jean-Paul Sartre. J-P, do you think the tea-tape controversy was a game-changer for Winston Peters?

Sartre: Existence itself is a game-changer. To paraphrase Descartes, I exist, therefore I change my game. Man makes his own being, but what lies between being and nothingness? I think that is a question for Don Brash. Oh, by the way, hell is other people.

O'Really: Allen Ginsberg, I'd like to bring you in here.

Ginsberg: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked—and man, that was a total game-changer.

O'Really: Right. For a wider perspective I'm going to ask Elizabeth Windsor to come in on this one. Liz, you've seen a few game-changers in your time, haven't you?

Windsor: My husband and I wish all peoples of the Commonwealth the very best in changing their game, and have a lovely Christmas too, with lots of prezzies woof woof.

O'Really: Nice touch. Now—

Lenin: We have said that there could not have been Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. I don't know how many times I have to say this. Are you people stupid or what?

O'Really: Yes. Well, moving on, we've got Conrad Murray, direct from the Los Angeles County Jail. Conrad, what's your take on the Green vote as a game-changer?

Murray: Anyone can change their game, any time. I recommend propofol, lidocaine, ativan, valium and a spot of ephedrine—just a soupçon, really. Use as directed by your medical practitioner. Or not, as the case may be.

Windsor: Could I say something about world peace here?

O'Really: No, fuck off. We're almost out of time, but I'd just like to ask Vlad if he regards last night's TV3 debate between John Key and Phil Goff as a game-changer.

Lenin: Sorry, I was watching Shortland Street. That Brooke—what a woman! Phwarrr! I'd go to the barricades for her any time.

Sartre: Has anyone seen my pipe?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

League tea tape call

A summit meeting of Arab League leaders in Morocco has called for the release of the secret recording of the conversation between John Key and John Banks.

In a special communique the leaders say the present impasse is endangering hopes of progress towards free speech and democracy and stuff.

Qatar's prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, says it has been distressing to watch Mr Key hoist himself on his own petard.

He told reporters the Arab League cannot rest easy while a major international leader pisses in his own pocket.

International experts say self-petard-hoisting is a form of torture akin to waterboarding and can be extremely painful, especially if the pocket is pissed in at the same time.

In a related development, league secretary-general Amr Mohammed Moussa says he was disturbed to hear that National Party president Peter Goodfellow had pulled out of a Morning Report interview after earlier agreeing to appear on the program.

'I know him,' said Mr Moussa. 'He's a good fellow. These are troubling times.'

The Arab League says tea should always be drunk in moderation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Key tea vow

The dashing young New Zealand prime minister John Key told a news conference this morning that he knows he has a problem with tea, but he's vowing to give up drinking it and to get his election campaign back on track.

Mr Key says he doesn't remember exactly what happened when he had a cup of tea with Act candidate John Banks but he knows it was not the behaviour expected of a professional politician.

'I have to accept that tea and myself don't mix,' Mr Key says. 'It switches something inside my head. I think I've got it under control and then things just get out of hand.'

It's alleged Mr Key ran into an Auckland café naked and attempted to have sex with Mr Banks while drinking copious quantities of tea.

The gifted politician with the boyish smile admits the occasion was 'a bit of a blur.'

'I thought John was Liz Hurley,' he confesses. 'It's a mistake anyone could have made.'

Health experts blame New Zealand's rampant go-on-have-another-cuppa-another-one-won't-harm-you tea-bingeing culture and say public figures must do more to promote responsible tea-drinking. Choysa has withdrawn its bid to sponsor the All Blacks at the next Rugby World Cup.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

PM in daring raid

Defence chiefs were tight-lipped today about whether there will be a repeat of this morning's daring incursion by Prime Minister John Key into Radio New Zealand's Morning Report studio.

With SAS backup Mr Key was parachuted into the studio on a mission to take out three RNZ interviewers, identified only as 'Marx,' 'Lenin' and 'Trotsky.'

It's understood the mission—codenamed Operation Hot Mic—was months in the planning, amid fears that Mr Key would be exposed to hostile action in uncharted territory.

Defence Force spokesperson Lieutenant-Sergeant Bing Bang said the PM had had intensive combat training on the basis that anything could happen in an unscripted three-on-one interrogation-type scenario involving radical extremist warlord hacks capable at any given moment of asking reasonable questions.

Showing incredible courage in boldly going where no leader of comparable stature has gone before, Mr Key accomplished his target objectives in the teeth of sustained attack and left the studio a smoking ruin.

The mission has been pronounced a success. 'That's SUK'SEHS,' said Lt-Sgt Bang, pronouncing it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Save the ships

Locals at a remote bay on the East Cape have rallied to save a pod of container ships that have come ashore and flung themselves onto the rocks.

At least seven ships have beached at Brownlee Bay and desperate attempts are being made to get them back out to sea.

The people of Brownlee Bay have formed chains and are pouring buckets of water over the container ships to keep them hydrated.

"We're hoping to refloat them at high tide," says local man Chuck Iti, "but it's touch and go. Some of these fellas have just about had it."

As he spoke, one of the container ships sank even further into the sand and gave a faint toot of its foghorn before falling silent again.

There appears to be no single reason for ship strandings but DoC spokesperson Woody Ballance says it may be a seasonal thing connected with tidal currents and changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

Another theory is that this particular pod has lost its way from its traditional breeding ground in the sheltered waters of Liberia.

Mr Ballance says it's important to save them because one day container ships may be extinct and then we'll all be very, very sorry.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Into their own hands

The 'authorities' tell Bay of Plenty people not to go on the beaches and try to clean up the oil deposited there by the leaking Rena. You won't do it properly, they say; leave it to us, the experts, to do it in our own way in our own time.

Yet dozens of citizens are still going onto the beaches and scooping up blobs and globules of oil themselves. I link this repudiation of authority to Pike River and even to the Christchurch earthquake. Since the mine disaster, especially, the credibility of the 'authorities' has collapsed. They said there that they would do things their own way in their own time, and that they had the expertise and the knowhow. Yeah right. No wonder the people of Tauranga and Papamoa are taking matters into (literally) their own hands.

In a wider context, one might also consider the view taken of authority by the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria—not to mention those currently occupying the streets of New York's financial district.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ring them bells

Bells are being rung in Auckland today as the first Rugby World Cup chickens come home to roost.

These graceful migratory birds have taken more than two years to get here. Veteran birdwatchers say their arrival could have been predicted from the day Murray McCully was made Rugby World Cup Minister.

On the Auckland waterfront, crowds gathered to see thousands of chickens landing on Mr McCully's head and shoulders.

They will stay there for some time to come, along with the albatross already around his neck.

In some cultures the chicken is considered a bird of ill omen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An anthem for our times

On the eve of one of the most momentous events in New Zealand history, it seems right to pause, reflect and—yes—pray for the men about to go into action, bearing the hopes and dreams of a nation on their shoulders. I know that tonight, and indeed every night while the Rugby World Cup is on, men and women will gather and pray to whatever gods may be for the safe return of our boys, bearing the necessary silverware. Around many a humble hearth tonight, hands will be joined and voices raised in songs of acclamation. But what will they sing? The words of our national anthem, though rich in lyric resonance, don't seem quite appropriate for the occasion. Humbly, as just one New Zealander wishing to play his part, however small, in the quest for imperishable glory, I offer this new version.

God of Nations, if you're there,
Now's the time to show you care.
Hear our Rugby World Cup prayer:
God defend our All Blacks.
Keep them safe from injuries,
Guard their hamstrings and their knees.
Till the final's over, please,
God defend our All Blacks.

Men of every other team
Think that they can steal our dream.
Help us prove that we're supreme:
God defend our All Blacks.
Put more power in Carter's boot,
Make our scrum beyond dispute,
May our tactics be astute
In the forwards and the backs.

God of Nations, get this straight:
Failure we just will not tolerate.
If you really are our mate,
End this 24-year wait.
Help the ABs go for broke
Or they'll be a worldwide joke.
If you're such a decent bloke,
God forbid the All Blacks choke.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Phil

The nation's eyes were on the Southern Ocean today when Labour leader Phil Goff was given back his freedom and released into the sea.

Thousands of New Zealanders have taken this plucky little chap to their hearts since he was found stranded at the top of the Labour Party.

Bewildered and lost, he kept making flapping motions that—scientists say—were a desperate attempt to get people's attention.

Dubbed 'Happy Phil' because of his fixed smile, he survived for months on a diet of dead rats.

But his keepers inside the party were growing increasingly concerned about him.

When they said it was time for him to go, the navy came to the rescue.

The frigate Helen's Legacy weighed anchor at 51 degrees south earlier today and Happy Phil was brought on deck.

Though a little reluctant to go at first, he was soon walking along a specially designed plank, helped by a few encouraging nudges from keepers equipped with long poles.

A final prod, a last smile, a splash—and he was free.

'It is a far, far better place he has gone to,' said skipper Captain Ahab Cunliffe.

Happy Phil has been fitted with a GPS tracking device so we can all follow his progress. First he went left, then right, then left again before doubling back on his tracks, then standing on his head. Scientists say he may never be the same again.

The Helen's Legacy was last seen wallowing in heavy seas, with a terrible list.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The expedition to the non-prominent area

'The alcohol display area must not be in a prominent area of the store.'—Parliament's justice and electoral select committee recommending changes to supermarket and grocery stores under the Alcohol Reform Bill, in the hope of making the purchase of alcohol less attractive and more difficult for young people

The first night

We've camped tonight, Jason, Jarod and me, at the southern end of aisle 2. It hasn't been too bad getting this far, but we know that the hard part lies ahead. It's important to get some rest. The old maps have turned out to be useless; familiar landmarks are just gone. The major display of DB that used to be near the entrance is no longer there, and all the way down aisle 1 we saw no sign of the shoulder-high stacks of cask wine that usually dot the landscape. Instead, we had to pick our way through some rough country that took us past the tinned tomatoes and creamed corn, before abseiling safely down to a ledge beyond specialist teas.

The second night

Good progress today—we're camped halfway down aisle 9—but I'm worried about Jarod. He seems listless, pale, and tires easily. Jason and I keep having to wait for him to catch up. He keeps licking his lips; I think he's in Steinie withdrawal mode. Not far to go now, mate, I say, encouraging him. The trouble is (and I don't tell Jarod this), to be quite honest I don't exactly know where the liquor shelves are now. The last guys to make the attempt got as far as aisle 14 and had the delicatessen counter in sight before pulling back out of sheer exhaustion. They told me they reckoned the booze was somewhere beyond the deli but had to admit they hadn't actually seen it.

The third night

It's just Jason and me now. I think Jarod knew he was holding us back. He left the tent last night saying 'I'm just going outside for a while, dude,' and we never saw him again. He was the bravest guy I ever knew. We didn't say much today, Jason and me, just slogged on past cake, buns and confectionery. We left the deli behind us late in the afternoon and since then we've been in no man's land. It's fucking dark, man, and a sort of mist has come down. I thought I heard a wolf howl. But we've got to get through. They're counting on us back at the party.

Editor's footnote: the diary was found in a sleeping bag halfway down a ravine several metres west of organic nut bars. Two bodies lay nearby, dead of dehydration. Unbeknownst to them, the first Tui lagers were just around the corner of the next aisle. The last scrawled lines in the diary read:

'The piss, man, it's out there somewhere. Some day, some way, it will be found. In a non-prominent area. If we have blazed a path to it, if we've done anything at all to make the going easier for those who come after us, then our sacrifice won't have been in vain. Sink one for us when you get there.'

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cot case

Police investigating a serious disturbance in Dunedin three days ago say they're making progress with their inquiries and expect to make an arrest soon.

They're releasing few details at this stage but it's understood the incident in question involved toys, and a cot.

Inspector Kevin Plekhanov says he can't comment on speculation but there were several unsavoury aspects to the case.

'The toys were thrown with some force from the cot,' he says.

Police are seeking a middle-aged woman wearing a cloth cap and carrying a hammer and sickle. She has a large chip on her shoulder and a mote in one eye. Other identifying features include an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

A Ms Clare Curran is helping police with their inquiries.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Operational matters

The Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, said today that she was not responsible for the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson.

Questioned in Parliament, Ms Wilkinson said Ms Wilkinson's actions were not something she could comment on. 'That is an operational matter,' she said.

Ms Wilkinson would neither confirm nor deny that she was a cabinet minister and a member of the current government.

Approached by reporters outside Parliament afterwards, Ms Wilkinson referred all further questions to the Minister of Labour.

The Minister of Labour's office said the minister was unable to comment on matters relating to her portfolio.

Asked when the minister would be back, a spokesperson said that was commercially sensitive information.

Ms Wilkinson later issued a statement saying she was not at any time and never had been, nor could she, and in any case, whatever.

Asked if she actually existed, Ms Wilkinson said that issue was still being worked through by a committee of inquiry and it was not up to her to intervene.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So young

There's a group called Youth for Act? Holy Christ. Who are these people? Where did their parents go so wrong? What can be done to save them? We need rescue missions, fund-raising campaigns, ways of offering them a better life. There may yet be hope for these unfortunate youths. It breaks my heart to think that they may be growing up regarding Don Brash as an object of veneration. Is there anything at all that we can do to help?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mixing it

This just in: the Greens are a political party. It ought not to be news, but it seems to be having that effect on Sue Bradford, John Pagani and some other commentators. They’re throwing up their hands in horror at the idea that the Greens might, just possibly might, enter into some kind of agreement to work with or support a National-led government.

The Bradford version goes something like this: when Rod Donald was alive, the Green Party was unflinching in its resolve not to have anything to do with National. Then he died and other counsels began insidiously to prevail—to the point where, says Sue, ‘The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has now joined the majority of Green Parties around the world who believe that in the struggle to save the planet Greens should support any party in government with whom they can cut good enough deals.’

To this extraordinary statement, there is only one valid response, and I’d like to give it now. Be patient for a moment while I get it ready. Okay. I think I’ve got it together. Here it comes. This is it:


If a deal of any sort (ranging from memorandum of understanding to full coalition) was ‘good enough’ for the Greens, why on earth wouldn’t they sign up to it? They’re a political party, for goodness’ sake (I don’t know why I have to keep saying that), and the aim of all political activity is to make your ideas happen.

Of course there are always tradeoffs between principle and practicality; as my old mate T S Eliot was fond of saying, ‘Beween the idea and the reality falls the shadow.’ Sue Bradford knows that as well as anyone. In a democracy nobody gets everything they want, not even governments, and least of all minor parties. Australian Green leader Bob Brown made this plain at the New Zealand Greens’ conference when he said his party would inevitably have to compromise on the nature of a carbon tax (‘We are responsible about this’).

There seems to be a deep wish on the part of some people for the Greens to remain pure, pristine and uncontaminated by the mucky business of making compromises and deals in order to get power or influence those who have it. Some journalists parrot this nonsense: ‘It's hard to imagine them stooping to grubby politics as their big party rivals often do,’ writes political reporter Adam Bennett in the New Zealand Herald.

A cynic might even say that someone like John Pagani has a vested interested in keeping the Greens pegged in their ‘pure’ corner, well away from any prospect of supplanting Labour as a major party. ‘The Greens,’ says Pagani, apparently while gazing down from some Olympian height, ‘are trying to have it both ways, and in doing so they risk having neither.’

Like, Labour never tries to have it both ways? Never ever tries to strike a balance by deciding on policies that please some constituencies while not wholly pissing off others? Come on, John. Why not come straight out and say that it suits Labour to keep the Greens from growing?

The fact is, sooner or later the Green Party has to start mixing it. Whatever value was once extracted from being seen to somehow stand apart from the normal ruck of politics is long past its use-by date. They have to enter the arena and horse-trade like any other party (which they do already anyway, at a less visible level). There will be failures, of course, and embarrassments, and keepers of the sacred green flame will cry foul. But it’s time to—the horror, the horror!—get down and dirty (with good organic soil, of course).

It makes political sense at voter level too. if there’s one thing about the Greens that gets up people’s noses it’s this constant banging on about how different and special they are. If they are ever to become the government, which I believe is entirely possible, then they won’t do it by being holier-than-thou.

In any case, having said all the above, the Greens have hardly rushed madly towards National’s arms, all dewy-eyed and panting at the prospect of a sniff of power. Far from it. Both co-leaders and the party’s annual conference have been at pains to stress that going into coalition with National remains highly unlikely. And it is. Frankly, given the current state of the Labour Party, I’m not sure they’re much more of an appealing option anyway.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A lighter shade of jail

Holy restorative justice! Someone must be putting something in cabinet ministers’ tea. First it was Bill English raising eyebrows left, right and centre—but mainly left—by declaring that prisons are a ‘moral and fiscal failure’ and the Government will build no more of them. Now Judith Collins is saying the same thing. Is this a pitch for the liberal lovey-dovey vote or what? Okay, so they haven’t exactly explained what their alternatives are, enlightened or otherwise, and what’s going to happen to all those people being sentenced to longer terms under the Government’s (up to now, anyway) get-tough penal policy, but it’s a start. We’ll take it. We just need some reassurance that in their eyes the real failure is moral, not fiscal, otherwise the whole thing might look like just another excuse for cutting state spending. Or, worse, a reason to unload more and more responsibility for incarceration onto the private sector. Can moral failure be privatized? Probably.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tina redux

Nick Smith has kindly confirmed my view of his so-called environmental protection law by saying: ‘It is the pressure on land-based resources grows, that there will be more activity out in the ocean environment, for petroleum, for mining...'

Inevitable? We hear here the ghost of Tina ('There Is No Alternative'), the poster girl of Rogernomics, who was used to excuse every policy from floating the dollar to sinking the state sector. Nothing is inevitable in politics, Nick. Some things may be less possible than others, that's all. You're in government to tell the difference, not to shrug and walk away.

Your mate Steven Joyce, for instance, has no problem not regarding peak oil as inevitable. He's building roads and motorways as if all transport options remain on the table, unchanged since the day the first Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line. Take a tip from him: go on, laugh in the face of 'inevitability.'

New Zealand's choice for the kind of country it wants to be may be limited but they're not so narrow as to resemble a tunnel. With our abundant hydro, tidal and wind energy sources, for instance, there is absolutely no reason why, in the long run, we couldn't become a country entirely free from dependence on fossil fuels.

Which, by the way, aren't going to last forever, or even for the rest of this century. And that's inevitable.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Option block

Let us go back, back, back in time to that misty day last November—was it only then?—that the Dominion Post told Wellingtonians: ‘Five options to fix traffic woes around the Basin Reserve—including three flyover proposals—will be released later this month.’ The paper also quoted New Zealand Transport Agency regional director Deborah Hume saying that public consultation on these options would start ‘within the next month.’

Curiously, no such consultation took place, and curiouser still, the Transport Agency has now announced that there are only two options, and they’re both flyovers.

Clearly, in the spirit of the great age of motoring, the agency has taken its cue from Henry Ford, who said you could have his cars in any colour you liked, so long as it was black.

Equally clearly, in the spirit of the great age of mass manipulation, the agency is treating the people of Wellington with contempt. It has stalled and stalled on revealing details or even broad plans for what it would like to do around the Basin Reserve, and even now is still withholding maps and graphics of the proposed flyovers. As for the other options that might have been—no sign of them and no opportunity for anyone to be ‘consulted’ about them, for whatever that may be worth. And even if there were, the whole issue has been framed in such a way as to exclude consideration of whether major new roads are needed at all.

Anyone with a working knowledge of this issue knows that the Transport Minister and the Transport Agency privately made up their minds a long time ago that a flyover will be built no matter what the objections and, indeed, no matter what the cost/benefit ratio. Similarly with a second Mt Victoria tunnel. And with a four-lane highway through Hataitai to the airport. All done and dusted, no question of that. The only question now is whether they can brazen it out publicly long enough to make each of these Think Big projects a fait accompli. People of Wellington, your fait is in your hands.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


—news headline

Does this qualify as a mea cuppa?

Licence to drill

At first sight it looks like good news for the oceans around New Zealand: Nick Smith announces legislation that will make the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) responsible for approving and monitoring drilling activities offshore.

The new law, which Smith wants to take effect on 1 July 2012, will cover not only the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends from 12 to 200 kilometres offshore, but the extended continental shelf beyond that.

This, he says, will ensure we have robust laws in place to protect the marine environment, and what’s not to like about that?—given the concern over Petrobras’s exploration of the seabed off the East Cape, which triggered serious protest action.

Unpacking Smith’s statement, however, it’s not too hard to argue that, far from putting in place ‘robust laws’ to protect the environment, this move will make it even easier for oil companies to do precisely what they want in the waters off New Zealand.

Smith gives the game away, in fact, when he acknowledges that the existing guidelines on offshore drilling are ‘unenforceable.’ Meaning, the Government’s currently on shaky ground—or rough water—when it seeks to defend what the likes of Petrobras are up to. It might even find that, if taken to court, it could not defend such activity. It needs to be able to tell protesters (and voters) that what the drillers are doing is legal.

How nice it would be to believe that no ocean will be harmed in the implementing of this law. But so much depends on the body responsible for administering it, the EPA, and the very reason this government created the EPA in the first place was to give ‘major resource consent applicants’ a fast-track way of bypassing the Resource Management Act—an act considered by National to be so obstructive to developers that it passed a law specifically aimed at ‘simplifying and streamlining’ it. It was under his act that the EPA was established.

Some protecting of the environment will undoubtedly take place under the new authority’s aegis, but it exists above all to make straight and quick the way of those wishing to exploit the environment for economic ends. As outlined by Smith, it will be charged with a ‘general duty to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse environmental effects,’ a provision you could drive a fifty-foot pipeline through. The EPA is National’s way of saying to developers and drillers: ‘No need to queue over there and then sit through months of boring old consent hearings; just step this way and we’ll have you processed, approved and on your way in no time.’

And if you still prefer to think it will be a nice neutral independent body not beholden to the Government or pro-development lobbies, just look at its board membership, announced today: not one of the eight comes from a purely ecological perspective, and no one with a genuine track record in environmental protection is represented—unless you want to count Richard Woods, a former diplomat who was parked at the head of the Environmental Resource Management Authority after running the SIS for a few years.

Most of the members have business backgrounds; and the chair of the new board is that noted greenie, former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast.

The only thing green about this board—which, by the way, is also charged with managing the Emissions Trading Scheme—will be the green light it gives the world’s oil and gas companies to set up their rigs within spilling distance of New Zealand.

As Smith helpfully reminds us, ‘This area of ocean, 20 times New Zealand's land area, offers significant economic opportunities.’ Believe it. The legislation is designed to expedite, not hinder or cramp, those ‘opportunities.’ Already the managing director of one firm (Chatham Rock Phosphate) has said it will help them explore for phosphate on the Chatham Island rise. This bill is a licence to drill.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Greenpeace in our time

What Greenpeace wants is for us all to go back and live in
caves and thatched huts and scrub ourselves in the creek
with a rock.

The minute we all understand that Greenpeace doesn't
want progress, they want retarded economies, then the
sooner we can make the giant leap forward to all agreeing
or most of us agreeing that we actually do want to dig up
minerals, we want open-cast mining, we want to drill for
oil off the coast and we hope to damn hell that we
discover it.

—Leighton Smith, Newstalk ZB

They don’t want progress, they don’t want jobs, they don’t
want economic expansion—they want none of the things
the rest of us want, they're out to lunch, they're flakes.
Greenpeace was once the friend of the animals, of the flora
and fauna, but they’ve morphed into this ugly extremist
political machine that is increasingly out of step with the

They have no answers. Not real ones. Oh, they'd come up
with us having, you know, a vege plot and a goat and
wearing hemp (that’s if we weren't smoking it as well) but
none of it's realistic, they're out to lunch, they're against
everything and for nothing.

—Mike Hosking, Newstalk ZB

We want a strong economy. We want more jobs. But even
when you look at [the] draft energy plan, that is all focused
on oil, coal and gas, which are where the big emissions
come from in terms of greenhouse gases and where future
liabilities are going to be huge for this country. We are a
country that has enormous opportunities in terms of
renewable energy. Where are the options? There was no
economic analysis done that looked at all the options.

—Bunny McDiarmid (Greenpeace), Close Up

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shock window

The most disgraceful piece of journalism this past week
remains the New Zealand Herald’s top story of Monday
morning, the one headlined


This was the story that said ‘Criminal assaults by children
of primary school age soared last year… Crime statistics
show the number of children under 9 apprehended for
assaults last year was 64, almost double the 33 recorded
in 2009.’

It was disgraceful first because of the headline, which
branded 64 young children ‘thugs’ without providing a
shred of evidence for the claim. Apart from stating that
44 of the 64 were boys and that four children were
apprehended for serious assaults causing injury and 52
for common assault, the story provided no further
breakdown of the statistics, so Herald readers were left
in the dark as to exactly what sorts of assaults occurred,
in what circumstances, whether each one was an
isolated incident and for that matter whether, following
'apprehension,' any charges were proved.

It’s not even clear whether these assaults were child-on-
child or child-on-adult, or indeed—so lazily are the
statistics presented—whether there’s been a rise in the
number of discrete assaults as well as a rise in the
number of children committing them.

It was disgraceful second because how a rise in recorded
offences on such a small scale could be said to be soaring
(or to warrant a sensationalized front-page headline in
the first place) defies comprehension and insults
common sense. The most recently available figures for
the number of children aged nine or less attending
school show a national roll call of 289,203. Sixty-four is
0.02212% of that, or a fiftieth of one per cent. The
nation’s primary-school playgrounds and classrooms are
clearly not being inundated by a tide of juvenile violence;
the only thing juvenile about the situation is the Herald’s
attempt to beat its chest with moral indignation.

(Further proof of that is the citing of the figure for assaults
in the 10-13 age group: 827 apprehensions last year,
compared with 770 in 2009. That’s a statistically
insignificant increase of 7.4%. Needless to say, the Herald
saw no headline in that.)

And it was disgraceful third because the story made no
attempt to locate the incidence of assaults by children in
the context of the tougher economic times the country has
been going through, other than to quote a psychologist’s
reference to breakdown of parental control. If there really
is a growing problem with children becoming more
physically violent (and despite the latest moral panic
about bullying, no serious evidence of it has yet emerged),
then a responsible newspaper would not be treating
examples of it as if they’d occurred in a parallel universe
stripped of context and meaning.

The use of the word ‘thugs’ comes out of that universe—a
place beyond the real world’s gravitational pull and visited,
if not inhabited, by the headline-makers at the Herald.

As I said in my media comment on Radio New Zealand
National on Tuesday the Herald still publishes a great deal
of quality journalism. A day won't go past that I don't find
something of value in its pages or on its website.
Unfortunately, virtually none of it now appears on the front
page or at the top of the site, where stories about sex, crime
and violence now predominate. It's like entering a
bookshop like Unity, knowing there's good stuff on the
shelves inside, but first having to get past a shop window
that's promoting war games, action toys and soft porn.

It may be argued that it's only one page, and worth putting
up with for the sake of the rest of the paper, but the
contagion has spread to page 3, now often given over to
lurid court cases and gossip about the stars—and if page 3
falls, can pages 4 and 5 be far behind?

The only shred of comfort one can take from Monday's
desperate beat-up in the Herald is that no other major
media, as far as I have been able to tell, thought the story
worth repeating or following up on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Way to go

Well, when turning one's back on high office and nobly
spurning the temptations of political power, one may
as well do it in as statespersonlike a way as possible.
So when Judith Tizard put out a statement that, after
much self-righteous throat-clearing, declared...

'I have, now, recovered from the hepatitis that has
caused me to be so sick and exhausted. I am sure
there are many rewarding ways I'll be able to use
all my experience, in future, but it won't be as a
Member of Parliament.''s entirely understandable that she would channel the
words of the late great David Lange, who in August 1989,
after a considerable amount of suspense-building at a
media conference, announced that he was walking away
from the top job thus:

'I have taken a great deal of counsel from a variety
of sources. I am looking forward to a very healthy
future. It will not however be as Prime Minister.
I intend to step down.'

It's a wonder she didn't say she could smell the uranium
on Phil Goff's breath while she was at it.