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Showing posts from November, 2011

An Outside View of Our Campaign

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Rachael Goldsmith Alex Fensome, political journalist for the Southland Times provides this interesting overview of the local election campaign.  The contrast between the parties could barely have been more defined. The Nats were sitting around an open fire in the venerable Invercargill Club, surrounded by black-and-white photographs and plush carpet. Labour met in the dingy confines of the Jed St Trades Hall with cask wine and savories on hand, clustered around a projector as the results came in. The Greens had themselves a barbecue at Dave Kennedy's leafy Gladstone home, chatting away like it was a housewarming. It was they who had the most to celebrate. Both Kennedy and his Clutha-Southland colleague Rachael Goldsmith rode the Green wave to the party's best-ever southern results. The pair ran good campaigns, focused on the party vote but not forgetting to go to candidate's meetings, where, barring the odd misstep over wages and tax, they impressed. That Goldsmith polled more can…

Post Election Thoughts

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The Greens have much to celebrate, our campaign has been widely praised as the most effective of all parties and we have achieved our goal of getting more than 10% of the party vote. We had hoped to get our top 15 candidates into parliament but James Shaw just missed out. This was a real pity because the Wellington Central campaign he led was probably the most comprehensive of all the Green campaigns and was only 12 votes short of pipping Labour.

The Greens will make history when Mojo Mathers becomes the first profoundly deaf MP to be elected, while Mojo didn't get in on the initial voting she is likely to do so once the special votes have been included.

As for my own campaign, I had hoped we could double the Green vote in Invercargill and we almost did that by raising the 4.26% we got in 2008 to just .1 away from 8%. I must admit that I was a little disappointed as the impression I got throughout the campaign indicated a greater level of support. Three factors probably created ba…

The Last Post and a Green Future

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Dear Sir
New Zealand is a country rich with resources and a relatively small population. We have an education system that is ranked amongst the top in the world and a growing percentage of wealthy who are spending millions on luxury items ($480 million on Bentley cars last year).

There is no good reason why we should also have 270,000 children living in poverty and one of the worst statistics for child health and welfare in the OECD. There should be no excuse for allowing most of our rivers to be polluted and unsafe for swimming and it makes no economic sense to sell off our state assets when we have so much potential in innovative and renewable technologies.

For a country that produced the people who split the atom, invented the jet boat and the jetpack we should be able to build our own trains and farm sustainably.

The Green Party has achievable, practical and fiscally sound solutions for bringing at least 100,000 children out of poverty, cleaning our rivers and creating 100,000 s…

A Farewell to a Local Hero

I have just attended the funeral of Alister Fraser who died aged 81 after serving his community selflessly for most of his life. Alister was the principal of Invercargill's largest intermediate school and a school inspector when I was beginning my career in teaching. He was a larger than life personality whose passion for education knew no bounds and yet we heard at the service how he constantly worried that his support of teachers was adequate enough and whether the job he did made a difference.

After Alister retired he continued supporting schools and teachers where he could and even gave his time, most mornings, on a busy school crossing. He was involved in community leadership for much of his retirement and worked part time at Anderson Park Art Gallery as an attendant and guide.

Alister spent much of his life in serving the communities he lived in and the remuneration he craved for was not financial, but the knowledge that he had made a difference in the lives of others. The c…

New Zealand Taxes Poor More Than Aussie

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New Zealand stifles its poor with much heavier taxation than in Australia and because half of New Zealand  income earners earn less than $28,000 it is also stifling our domestic economy. The median wage in Aussie is over $40,000. A simple comparison between the two tax regimes makes interesting reading.

New Zealand taxes all those earning $14,000 or less at 10.5 cents for every dollar while Australia doesn't tax the first $6,000 of earnings at all. In New Zealand we tax those who earn between $14-$45,000 17.5 cents for each dollar and Australia only taxes 15c from $6,000 through to $37,000. For those at the top end of earnings, $70,000 and above, New Zealanders get hit by 33 cents. Australia keeps ranking up the taxation for those who are better off, those earning $80,000 to $180,000 have a 37c tax and those above $180,000 are taxed at 45 cents in every dollar. Imagine our Government's increase in revenue if we did that, no asset sales needed.

GST is set at 15% in New Zealand…

Solid Energy and Dirty Secrets

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Nicky Chapman comes from four generations of Southland Farmers, he is currently a member of Transition Town Port Chalmers. This opinion piece was published in the Otago Daily on November 18.

One thing's missing so far in all the hoo-hah about whether we should partially sell some of our state assets: the consequences of doing so for Southland and Otago.
These consequences are to do with the region's estimated six billion "economically recoverable" tonnes of lignite, three billion under the fertile paddocks of Eastern Southland alone. One of the state assets up for partial sale, Solid Energy, proposes to convert this lignite to briquettes, diesel and urea. Because lignite (brown coal) is a particularly low-quality fuel, the conversion process itself emits a lot of CO2, as well as the end products. Quoting Solid Energy's own estimates, the Greens' Dr Kennedy Graham has noted that the lignite projects will add an extra 10 to 20 million tonnes of carbon emissions a…

Dairying, from Dirty to Dynamic

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This isn't Russell's farm (it was too wet to get a photo) but come from a useful site: The Global Dairy Agenda for Action
I had a very enjoyable and informative afternoon on Thursday. Russell McPherson, Southland's Federated Farmers Dairy Chairman, had invited me out to his dairy farm to have a chat and look over his property. As it turned out the weather wasn't too great so I viewed his farm through a window and we talked at length over a cup of tea.
Russell came across as the sort of farmer who is easy to admire, a hard worker who began his career as a shearer and worked his way into farm ownership. He is a man who would never be happy with the status quo but is always reflecting on the efficiency of his practice and looking for a new challenge. Russell's conversion from sheep to dairy was a business no brainer and his dairy shed reflected state of the art technology at the time of construction. I could tell by the appearance of his home and the visible surrounding …

Commercial Interests Beat Public Interests

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Dear Sir
It was with some frustration that I had to watch CUE TV’s Election Special and not be able to be present myself as the Invercargill, Green Party candidate. The Green Party do not have the the corporate support that some other parties do and have to run a smart but fiscally responsible campaign on a tight budget (this is actually not the reason for our limited advertising budget it is because of a cap to spending dictated by law see later comment). We have committed television and radio spending on our national campaign and relied on the fact that most regional broadcasters do not charge for candidates to appear on candidate forums.

I was surprised when CUE TV informed me that I would have to pay to take part in their “Election Special” as I thought that it was in the public interest to provide a balanced and representative programme. I was grateful to have three minutes of free air time as part of a news item but it is hardly enough to provide much detail from our comprehens…

Green Leadership Tested Over Billboards

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It is interesting to observe different leadership styles when those in positions of responsibility have to stand up and be accountable. When we compare the way Russel Norman managed the discovery that a Green Party member (and partner of his EA) was responsible for the defacing of National's Billboards with how John Key managed his error regarding his Standard and Poors comment, we see vast differences in approach.

Russel Norman responded almost immediately to the information he received regarding the billboard actions by making a statement to the media. He made an unequivocal apology to the National Party and he  had made immediate contact with John Key to apologise in person. Russel also identified those involved even though his EA was married to the instigator. Although the Green Party had not condoned nor instigated the action, Russel offered Green Party assistance to rectify the problem. Transparency and honesty are important elements in how we Greens operate and when indivi…

RMA Needs Regional Input

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The proposed tunnel between the Dart and Hollyford valleys may benefit big players in the tourist industry but will be disastrous for the Southland economy and the environment. Southland District Council Mayor, Frana Cardno, is very concerned about the negative impacts on her patch.When you consider the long term ramifications of this project and the planned lignite mining it makes me even more convinced that we need to have a comprehensive economic development strategy for our region.

Our regional authorities have struggled to cope with the rapid growth of the dairy industry, which has had a hugely negative impact on our waterways. While there could have been better management of the growth of this industry our local bodies can only manage consents and business projects on an individual, case by case, basis. Under the RMA there is no real capacity to reject a proposal because of broader issues around carbon emissions or because it isn't compatible with the main business activiti…

Asset Sales and Deregulation - Fail!

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Surely the long term aims of any Government should include generating enough revenue to pay for core spending and to create the right economic climate to encourage sustainable business development.

This government has a hands off approach to generating economic activity and they openly support ongoing deregulation and taxing less as their key tools for economic development. National strongly believes that the market can find its own solutions to issues such as the increasing costs for fossil fuels and shifting to more sustainable business practices. When asked by Gareth Hughes to describe the Government's strategy to deal with future oil shortages, Bill English replied that the market will adjust without support. National also looks for easy solutions to ensure energy supplies and continues our dependency on fossil fuels by opening our territorial waters for oil exploration and our land for coal mining and fracking. Before investing much in alternative energies they want to wring…

The Green Threat!

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National/Green Coalition Even More Unlikely

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National are now holding on to their polling lead by the skin of their teeth and their traditional coalition partner when things get tight is looking increasingly dodgy. Act has lost its libertarian base and the social liberalism, a strong element within that philosophy, that used to softened their hardline economics and make them appear more mainstream. The new faces of Act, like John Banks and Don Nicholson, come across more like flaky members of a conservative christian party and this kind of political philosophy has had minimal support in New Zealand in the past and even less so now.

The Maori Party has developed into the party for the money orientated, entrepreneurial sector of the Maori community and they have lost their activist, social justice element to Mana. This will potentially halve its support and diminish its value as a useful coalition partner.

All that remains are the Greens. We Greens are an increasingly credible political force and we have the real potential of get…

Education is an Investment in our Future

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This is the speech I have written for the education forum being organised by the local School Trustees Association. It is hard to cover as much as you would wish in 5 minutes. I think I have covered things fairly well but it doesn't paint a pretty picture.


Our public education system is a great one, and we are ranked by most international assessments as amongst the top five in the world. We lead the world in our students’ achievements in maths, reading and writing. Our teachers are treated like gold when they work overseas, as I have found myself in the UK, just saying you were from New Zealand would assure you of a job.
The main difference between New Zealand and the countries ranked above us is around cultural diversity and disparity of wealth. It has been suggested that 20% of our children are under achieving but when you remove those with identified disabilities we are only looking at around 16% of children and poverty (which now effects ¼ of our children) is a significant fact…

Lifting the Minimum Wage

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I was asked a good question at a rather lively Riverton meeting regarding the lifting of the minimum wage to $15. The questioner was an owner of a small business who was concerned that such an increase was unaffordable to them. I attempted to explain the issues around maintaining a low wage economy but I felt that I hadn't got my messages across clearly enough in the time that I had. Here is a second attempt at doing so in another forum, letters to the editor:
Dear Sir

I was asked a question on Tuesday night regarding the affordability of raising the minimum wage for small businesses. It was an important issue and needed a more detailed answer than I was able to provide on the night.
New Zealand’s economy isn’t as dire as we are given to believe as most of our large companies have seen a 20% average increase in profits over the last year. Our productivity has increased by about 59% since 1989 yet real wages have only increased by 16%. Many businesses are achieving good profits on the…

It's Not So Hard Being Green!

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Tomorrow the Green Party are having a campaign launch on the Wellington waterfront and I just spent a very pleasant evening dining out with our national campaign team and many of our candidates. I was sitting opposite John Field, our National Secretary and beside Eugenie Sage, who is number six on our list and a likely MP.

John has a long history with the party and his name has featured on all our advertising for at least two elections. He often reminds us that if we muck up with our billboards, or anything else regarding the Electoral Finance Act, he may end up doing time. John is a stickler for good process and many, including myself, have been on the receiving end of one of John's strongly worded reminders of the rules and how we stuffed up. Every party needs someone like John to keep them on the straight and narrow and in past elections John's patience would be wearing pretty thin at this stage of the campaign as we struggled with the workload and a multitude of enthusias…

Clean Rivers a Green Priority

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The Southland Times have devoted the past week to a series of articles related to our polluted waterways and they have made it the number one election priority for Southland. Editor, Fred Tullet, has become a strong advocate for our environment and sustainable living (he led a home gardening series last year) and he is especially keen to clean up our rivers. He has asked all candidates to explain our solutions to solve our water crisis in less than 1000 words and this is my response. 
MAKING WATER COUNT
The Green Party is the only party that has made the state of our rivers an election priority. Rivers exist for all of us; for recreation; as a source of food and drinking water and for industry. Rivers are essential for a healthy economy and our clean green brand underpins our tourism industry and agricultural exports.
New Zealanders take pride in leading the world in many areas and even second place in the Rugby World Cup would be unacceptable. The view that our rivers are all right as l…