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Showing posts from May, 2014

Venture Southland, a Provincial Power House

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Venture Southland should be regarded as a successful model that could be replicated around the country. It has become a powerhouse of innovation, community support and business success that has allowed a province with around 2% of New Zealand's population punch well above its weight.

Venture Southland's vision for Southland's future is admirable:
A region with vibrant urban and rural communities that is widely recognized as a desirable place to live, learn, do business and visit.A harmonious social and natural environment that is based on sustainable development and diversity.A population sufficient to support services, recreational facilities and opportunities that enhance the quality of life for residents. The organisation has actively pursued its vision with some determination and energy and with under forty staff it has achieved some remarkable successes:
Produced an energy strategy that puts our national one to shame.Attracts Government funding for sustainable energy pr…

Bill English Helps the Vulnerable?

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Finance Minister Bill English responded to a Southland Times letter writer who questioned the validity of the Government's surplus in light of the $60 million debt it has accrued. English responded by saying:

"Despite the revenue dropping sharply because of the recession (no mention of the tax cuts), the Government also borrowed to maintain its support of the most vulnerable New Zealanders..."

I was so angry at his gall in blaming struggling New Zealanders for his mismanagement and his spending on corporate welfare and unnecessary motorways, that I wrote the following:
In responding to Neville Kerr (May 21) Finance Minister Bill English gave the impression that the debt of $60 billion that his Government has accrued was largely to, “...maintain support of the most vulnerable New Zealanders...”
His claim does not match reality when we have seen a dramatic shift of wealth from our poorest to the already…

Chris Trotter, Key Apologist Again

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At the beginning of last year Chris Trotter defended John Key's claim that he had a mandate to sell state assets. I strongly disagreed with that view and was disappointed that a political commentator who proclaims his commitment to the left side of politics would willingly provide support for such a damaging policy based on such flimsy arguments.

With a recent article Trotter has done it again. Just when Key was being exposed with some excellent journalism, he leaps to the Prime Minister's defense. According to Trotter, Campbell produced nothing conclusive and the Prime Minister and the GCSB director do not need to provide answers to the questions posed:

"The evidence they have assembled is indisputably very suggestive, but it is not even remotely conclusive."

"Yes, there are many questions that cry out for answers, but those in a position to do so cannot be compelled to testify."

At the very point when we needed to have some collective media strength to force …

To Tweet or not to Tweet

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Twitter is adding an element to the 2014 election that did not exist in past elections. The expansion of social media and the influence of blogs has continued from 2011 and although Twitter did exist then it has moved to a much more prominent position.

No Right Turn argues that it is a legitimate and useful form of communication that shouldn't be banned from the Debating Chamber as it allows the MPs to let off steam without disrupting the order of the House and provides the public with useful insights into personalities of our MPs.

Bryce Edwards regularly reproduces tweets to provide an overview of responses to a particular issue or event and Twitter followers can get instant feedback as events unfold.

There are traps for the unwary, however, as the instantaneous nature of tweeting can lead to impulsive, ill-considered messages that have a longer life than intended and can reflect badly on the tweeter. Jan Logie quickly found that her unfortunate attempt at word play had far reachi…

Bill's Budget and the Buts...

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National has finally achieved what they have been promising for some time, a budget with a surplus, but...

There is the small issue of the $50 billion of Government debt that has been accrued since 2008

There is the average of $1.2 billion lost annually from Government revenue due to the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Christchurch repairs have a tightening budget, with repair contractors finishing up as EQC goes for cheaper cash settlements. After over three years 4000 are still waiting for replacement homes and 2600 are still waiting for a decision from the EQC. Which is more important, the Christchurch repairs or the appearance of a surplus?

The paid parental leave increase to 18 weeks is still well behind the OECD average.

Beneficiaries with children can still not access Working for Families and the increase in the Parental Tax Credit still does not apply to them despite 27% of children now living in poverty.

There is extra funding for early childhood education participation but still

Government Shifts Social Housing to Private Sector

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Common housing in Invercargill
The Southland Times has revealed that 209 state houses may be cut from Invercargill over the next ten years, over 50% of current stocks. Similar cuts are occurring across the country. Knowing what has happened in education and conservation I am fairly certain that no qualitative needs analysis has been done to support this decision.
New Zealand has one of the highest levels of under-employment in the OECD and around 20% of our workforce is either unemployed or under-employed. We have a large proportion of families being described as the ‘working poor’, who cannot live on their incomes without further support. 27% of our children are living in poverty and 17% do not have their basic needs met, and that includes healthy living conditions.

The Southland Times has reported on the growing number of families in Invercargill that are seeking help. Many are struggling to manage on minimal budgets and dealing with health issues related to living in substandard home…

New Zealand's Rock Star Economy

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There is no doubt at all, New Zealand definitely does have a 'Rock Star' economy. Our four biggest rockstars are called Dara Dairy, Rebuild Rex, Len Lumber and Property Boom. These are our four biggest acts and they are constantly at the top of the charts and on most peoples's play lists. We do have a couple of wannabe stars that have some following, notably Oil Slick and Park Miner, but some feel that their music is dated and they probably have no real future.

Dara and Len are into fairly primal, raw rock and have gained a fair bit of international attention, especially in China. The Chinese are keen to buy anything being released by both artists. Our two largest domestic artists Rebuild and Property are rocking out with a steady stream of popular music.

Many People feel that Boom is over pricing the tickets to his concerts and few ordinary New Zealanders are ever likely to be able to afford one. Some feel that ticket prices have been pushed up by overseas fans. Rebuild …

Cabinet Clubs and Singing Money

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Anyone can join National's clubs of influence as long as you can afford to pay the entry fee.

Money sings a sweet song for this Government and the source appears to make no difference to them. Gambling, deep sea drilling, fracking, coal from conservation parks, dividends sucked from SOEs, wealthy Chinese donors with dodgy backgrounds...as long as it's money!

National Ministers claim that they will see and support anyone, income is no barrier. While I am sure that they do meet with a wide range of people there is an overwhelming perception that certain kinds of people are more likely to gain access and a listening ear.

The support and time given to Chinese businessman Donghua Lui, seem excessive, given that he gained citizenship against official advice. Lui later provided the National Party with a donation of $22,000. Although Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse claimed that he had no knowledge of the donation, it does seem unusual that a Minister of the Crown would persona…

Illegal Highs, Knee-Jerks and the Greens

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It is the Government's job to govern and that should mean to take a measured and considered approach to decision making. Sadly with the legal high issue Peter Dunne and his National Party colleagues produced a knee-jerk response to a public outcry. Recreational drug use is a complex issue and running around with a hammer hitting down problems as they pop up is not a long term strategy. The Greens' decision to abstain from voting on the Legal High Bill was a difficult one but based on strong principles.

Synthetic cannabis is dangerous stuff and is destroying many young lives. The original inventor, Professor John W Huffman, claims that it was never designed for human consumption and the synthetic version is much more addictive than the herbal variety and has 'serious psychological side-effects'. Many took up smoking synthetic cannabis because it didn't show up in work drug testing, it was readily available and they could avoid a criminal conviction.

A number of Cam…

Judith Collins, it's not easy being blue!

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Judith Collins poses a difficult problem for National, they struggle to get anything like gender balance in their caucus and Judith was seen as having potential as a future Prime Minister. Pansy Wong has already resigned through a very similar situation involving China, a husband and conflicts of interest, and this seems to be a repeating theme. Collins and Parata have been viewed as potential leaders and yet both are now continuing with their portfolios under heavy media attack and low public confidence.

I think it must be difficult for any woman in a National caucus (to an outsider it always appears to operate like an exclusive men's club) and this may explain why only five in the top twenty of National's 2011 list were female. Of those five Kate Wilkinson resigned as Minister of Labour and was removed from the cabinet, Paula Bennett has had her moments, Anne Tolley struggled with the education portfolio and was shifted to the police,  Hekia Parata has little public support…

Managing Potential Conflicts of Interest

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Today I announced my resignation as a National Executive Member of the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa. I have come to realize that my candidacy for the Green Party in Invercargill was compromising my governance role in the organisation and, in the current political culture, it could have a negative impact on NZEI during the election campaign.

I have been involved with NZEI Te Riu Roa for most of my teaching career and it is almost in my blood. As a third generation teacher my father was a member and my Grandfather was once the President of the Southland Branch. NZEI began as a purely professional organisation in 1883 and only took on industrial advocacy and contract negotiations because no other body existed to do this. NZEI has only gone on strike about two or three times in its 141 year history. Evidence and research supports our claims, and industrial action is generally considered an option only when all else fails.

I have enjoyed being part of our executive team. A…