All I want for Christmas . . .

July 30, 2014

A happy juxtaposition of hoardings at Wallacetown in the Invercargill electorate:

jkchristmas 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captions are welcome – witty not nasty.


Chris Auckinvole’s valedictory

July 30, 2014

Chris Auckinvole delivered his valedictory speech last week:

Thank you Mr Speaker, thank you very much indeed for the call to give my Valedictory statement.

Because it’s a privilege that is given to retirees. 15 minutes of uninterrupted discourse, where the opportunity is given to say it, the way it really is, the way I see it, and I intend to do that now.

If we glance overseas, back to Westminster, where our Parliamentary system began, before it was improved by the New Zealand system, we see that the Parliamentary media over there have adopted the sobriquet of “Pale, Male, and Stale” for those that Mr Cameron has decided should no longer hold their Cabinet Warrants. How cruel, how cruel is that to sensitive people? Well, if you can’t take the heat, don’t stand in the kitchen. This is politics 101 after all.  Mind you, all jokes aside, I have always thought the members of the media try to see in others that which they least like about themselves. Let’s think about that for a moment. Every day at quarter to two as we come to the House I have in my dairy ‘available to media’. I approach the milieu of people and cameras and microphones. Sometimes they say, “G’Day Chris”, that’s it! There have been perhaps three times when I have had that wonderful surround sound of microphones and cameras, very exciting, unfortunately it was always over a tragic association with Pike River rather than the sort of fun our Minister have.

Does the Westminsterial sobriquet apply over here?  Are retirees Pale Male and Stale on this side of the world? On this side of the house? I don’t think so Mr Speaker, Oh No!  I don’t think so! Well not yet at any rate, but, as my old friend Roy Hodgson in Rūnanga used to say, a good old coal miner, ‘Hang on, let’s have a think about that.’ So I’ve given it a bit of thought.

Well Pale, OK I certainly do not have a ruddy or dark complexion, but roseate enough on a frosty morning not to be described as pale.

Male? I make no apology for being a male. I hope I’m seen as a considerate, compassionate and communicable male; I make no apology for that. If I have faults, and I’m sure I do, well I don’t think  I can blame my gender for my behaviour without it being a cop-out. There ain’t nothing wrong in being a bloke if you behave yourself properly!  I am pleased nonetheless that our new National Candidate for West Coast Tasman is Maureen Pugh, thereby enhancing the opportunity for gender balance in the party.

Stale? Don’t think so. I have achieved more for the electorate in the last year in the cumulative improvement in West Coast Tasman health infrastructure than ever before – and haven’t we had such a wonderful Minister of Health! I have contributed as much on an annual basis to Select Committee work, in the last year as in any other, and have spoken more frequently in the Chamber. I had a speech that went trending on Twitter, Lianne Dalziel had to say it was trending and not trendy, and it was viral on Internet in the opinion of TV3– and this was after I had announced my retirement. So Stale? No.

So, if that is the successful rebuttal of the Westminsterial criticism of gentlemen of European ancestry of a certain age and career achievement, if I have successfully rebutted that, why the hell am I retiring? That’s a good question but here is the answer because it is a question that does require answering.

When I joined the National Party, signed up by Keith Holyoake, who said “Be careful when you sign that membership form, you may end up in Parliament” – that was in Kaikohe circa 1968, I actually made a commitment to work to support the Party – not to seek to support myself, but to support the Party.  I am now 69 years old, and while so many people say I don’t look it, well I am.

Well I don’t know of any other, National MP’s, who are 69 years old, but as we sign up to three year brackets of tenure, would you really want to still be trundling around Parliament at 72? You’d need quite an ego if you thought you couldn’t be replaced effectively by a younger person. I guess the only other extenuating circumstance would be if your were a party leader if you had a Scottish mother from the Isle of Skye, but even then you’d be pushing it.

I guess Mr Speaker, this is the reality. Keeping a balance of diversity, age, gender, and ethnicity in a caucus is a long game, not short one. And haven’t we all benefited from the inclusion of people of diversity and different ethnicity in this Parliament?  And I’ve got one sitting right here, Kanwal Bakshi, who makes a huge contribution and National has certainly changed under the John key leadership. Each of us has to think now, about the future of our Party, and the part we want to play. With my own retirement and the retirements of colleagues from National now, the real effect will be first in 2017 when National will have an incredibly fresh team, all with at least three years’  experience as MP’s youthful yet mature, vigorous and energetic, may I say, multi-shaded, gender-balanced and fresh. That’s the way it will be on this side of the House. I have no wish to be Partisan, but hey, consideration should be given to how we will look as a Party in comparison with one another in three years’ time, or indeed in six years’ time, because you have to plan that far out for refreshment and strength, Should some of Parliaments older incumbents cling to the backs of their seats, and some of us to have a tendency to do that. Speaking entirely for myself, I wish to be part of a refreshment process rather than a stagnation process within the Party – and should people not, which will occur that people don’t and allow replacements come in, I think that the best way to do that is to retire at my present stage.

So while I am not personally seeking re-election, I am of course, still steeped in the process of the election cycle. The political messages thought that are put out by all parties have a different emphasis, if one is thinking as a voter rather than one to be voted for. It gives you a different slant on things. It’s interesting to see the way parties want to differentiate from one another. One of my regular phone callers on the Coast brought this to my attention when he asked “ What about those parties that want to bring back Smacking – is it ‘cos they want us all to smack kids, or do they have a secret dream of being smacked themselves if only the law allowed it? You just don’t know nowadays do you?”  He does has a point.

The other point he made Mr Speaker, and I am absolutely sure it will not cause any offence, is to ask why some parties insist on having Binding Referenda. He said “It sounds to him like the way people always try to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do with natural resources on the coast when they don’t even live here themselves.” And went on to say “The really strange part is that the parties that say we should have Binding referenda are always minority parties and by their own mandate they shouldn’t accept to be in Parliament cause they did not achieve majority support.”  He has a point! He has a point, and I really look forward to continuing to benefit from West Coast wisdom, and the philosophical observations of people once outside and home again.

Mr Speaker I do not intend to speak any further on new and emergent parties that hope to hold us in thrall to their whims and wants – in my view MMP is a reality that I think would be a pity to lose, but as well as providing opportunities for new philosophies one of it’s vulnerabilities is that it can attract charlatans from time to time, but the electorate is, I trust developing a maturity in the way we use and view MMP.

So what Mr Speaker, have I been able to contribute and what have I gained from my nine years in this place?

For me the most significant part of the Parliamentary process, as a back-bencher, is the Select Committee system. This is our Second House, our Senate, our House of Lords, as this is where the public have a direct interface with the legislative process. This is where the public are asked what they think of the legislation being put forward. In my experience, the adversarial relationship between Parties and individual members is subsumed to less of a partisan system, where members each consider the evidence put before them in submissions from people, often based on a personal or observed experience. I have always been impressed by the sincerity and depth of explanation the public provide. Organisations too, be they Corporate bodies, commercial organisations, or community groups, come in with carefully prepared and sharply focussed submissions to argue a point. Each and every submission is considered, weighed, then reported back to the committee by the appointed officials who are assisting the committee.

I like to think my main opportunity to make a contribution has been through the Committee process, and I am extremely grateful for the appointments that I have had to those committees and have developed a deep appreciation of colleagues from all sides of the house in the way we have the capacity to work together through the committee system. It always a bit of a surprise when you come out of the committee system, I remember when we did the review of the – I won’t bother dealing with the individual acts – but some of the complex ones when we worked together very well as parties, we come out and suddenly you here people speaking as if they wanted nothing to do with it, and how dreadful it was. And I remember saying to a Minister once, “this wasn’t a reflection of the way they spoke in the committee”, and they said, “Chris, they’re not speaking to you in the committee, they’re speaking to their membership in the public and it’s not in their advantage to looks as if we all work together too easily.”

Representing people, be they individuals or entire electorates is a big privilege, and the West Coast Tasman electorate will always be special for me and it’s a delight to see people have actually come up from West Coast and Tasman to be with us today and ill think well give them a little clap as it’s a hell of a long way. Particularly nice to see three young Nat’s, there’s four young or more young Nat’s in the back, and they’ve been with me I think since third form and they’re at university now and doing very well.

The West Coast Tasman electorate will always be special to me. There were aspects of political opportunity that held special appeal for me when I first arrived in 2005, but I chose to concentrate my attention on serving the electorate, and have stuck with that prime intention. All politicians in my experience wish to achieve the best they can for the people they represent –  each Party having separate ways of achieving that –  and I have always been comfortable promoting the policies of National. There have been good times in the electorate, and times of awful tragedy – both the good times and the tragedies are part of the political journey as an MP, and it has been very pleasing to me Mr Speaker to have seen the level of agreement between parties in processing the Pike River Royal Commission recommendations towards workplace Health and Safety reform.

Mr Speaker it has been a great time to be in Parliament over the last nine years. New Zealand plays a significant part in world affairs as a small nation with a developed and still developing economy. People are not afraid of New Zealand. New Zealand views are listened to and sought.  I think it fair to say that we have been well served by Foreign Ministers from all parties over the last few decades and we are regarded as a very responsible world citizen. I hope that the influence we have built up can be used in some of the complex and tragic dynastic problems that are occurring at the moment between governments to the detriment and horrifying physical cost to all their citizens.

Finally Mr Speaker, I looked up Valedictory in my Chambers dictionary – normally it is the final speech of a graduand leaving their place of learning – for me that’s a fit leaving here. Thanks directly to my National Colleagues, and to the Prime Minister and his staff for the leadership provided. There is no greater call than that your country needs you, and gosh, New Zealand does need John Key, thank goodness we have you as Prime Minister!

This is a dynamic place. It managed without me before I arrived, and it will manage without me after I’ve left. Well alright! You’re so kind. Members and staff will concentrate on themselves, the job in hand and their individual and collective Party aspirations as before and that is what should happen. I will be no more memorable than any other politician who has served here or moved on.  I don’t expect the majority of you to remember me in any shape or form, BUT I will remember each of you, each and every one of you, and all the transactions we have engaged in, and I will treasure all the exchanges we have had, I promise you that, be it at Select Committee, in the Debating Chambers, in Copperfield’s, Bellamy’s, or the gym, on social occasions, on formal occasions,  in private conversation, in private meetings or in public engagement, with Security Staff, Parliamentary Services Staff, the Travel Team, the media team, with Brent’s Messengers, the Clerk’s Office, IT Help services,  bless them, the  Comm’s Unit, Research, the Library, the exemplary  In Style Taxi services headed up by Paul Rossiter, Air NZ Koru Club, the electorate teams, the Young Nats, my office staff past and  present and, and bless them, those who have left us – the late Dan Strong, my electorate chair in Motueka, and late Margaret  Dougan who supported me in Motueka. To the voters of West Coast Tasman and  National who provided me with nine years of representation for the West Coast Tasman electorate, to my darling wife Elspeth and my family, I thank you and I thank each and everyone mentioned, no matter which Party you choose to belong to, or which path you choose to walk along. Thanks for nine unforgettable years! Thank you Mr Speaker.


Not as blue as polls paint it

July 30, 2014

The trend in the polls is encouraging but the future isn’t as blue as they paint it.

National is polling well, but still slightly below where it was at this time before the 2011 election.

The message is clear – if people want a third term national government with John Key as Prime Minister they have to vote and vote blue.

Ticking National candidates will help get them into parliament.

But it’s the party vote that counts most and only by ticking National for the party vote will help it into government.

 

Today I outlined National’s position on accommodating support parties in electorate contests at this year’s General Election. We will encourage National party supporters to give their electorate vote to the ACT candidate in Epsom and the United Future candidate in Ohariu. In East Coast Bays, Murray McCully will be competing for the electorate vote. Whatever happens in those seats, we will be focused on maximising the party vote for National across the country in all seats. It is only through delivering the strongest possible party vote that National voters will return National to Government. #Working4NZ ntnl.org.nz/1rK9sYa


Blue better for water than Green

July 30, 2014

Green isn’t the best colour for water, Federated Farmers environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie says:

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for freshwater may not have razzmatazz, but arose from that exercise in consensual collaboration called the Land and Water Forum [LawF].  It was the first time industry, councils, government departments and groups from Federated Farmers to Fish & Game, sat down to openly address water issues and find solutions.

At the heart of the NPS are our regional councils, who have been tasked with maintaining and improving water quality while bringing the poorest water quality up to a national minimum standard.  With next to no exceptions, this policy applies to all water bodies whether they are in town or country. This was an essential part of the LawF consensus and the government chose secondary human contact as the national minimum standard.  All of New Zealand’s top water scientists were involved in this.

The Green Party claim they are advocates for the environment and I would have thought they would have welcomed this important piece of legislation; whose intent is to keep New Zealand’s fresh water as the best in the world.

Being a farmer and with so many conflicting claims about water quality you may be dubious about what I am saying.  For an objective ‘warts and all’ water picture, can I direct you to the Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at www.lawa.org.nz.  It confirms our water quality is generally good, with many rivers and streams improving thanks to farmers’ efforts at riparian protection.

What we know is that most swimming spots monitored by regional councils over the warmer months are generally satisfactory for swimming.  The Greens often claim “60 percent of our water” is unsafe, but a vast number of sites are affected by urban runoff.  

When poor water standards are mentioned too many people blame farming but some of the worst water quality is in urban areas and the result of urban activities.

Now, the Green Party wants to make all water bodies swimmable.   This is disingenuous because of the sheer difficulty and cost of achieving it.

There are 425,000 kilometres of waterways in New Zealand, which would have to meet those swimming standards, 24 hours a day and 365-days of the year. 

The LAWA website states, “rivers and streams in (or downstream of) urban areas tend to have the poorest water quality (the highest concentrations of nutrients and bacteria, and lowest macroinvertebrate community index (MCI) scores).” This is because all our urban storm water systems are designed to use urban rivers and streams to take away all this run-off.  

The Landcare Trust is running a community project to clean up some of the urban streams that flow into the Tamaki River. Regardless of that effort and enthusiasm they will never be able to stop those streams from being contaminated to the extent that they will become safe for swimming. Think of the 150-page NZ Standard for public swimming pools, “to ensure the risk to public health is minimised.”  Most small schools have had to close their swimming pools because of problems maintaining that and other standards.   Trying to apply that standard to all fresh water bodies is a nonsense. 

This is where the Green Party is disingenuous.

When they say ‘all water bodies,’ they really mean only those in the countryside because they do not wish to alarm their core urban constituency.  The Green Party ignores the huge shift in farmers’ attitude towards environmental stewardship and underplays quantum leaps in management and mitigation of farm nutrients, the fencing of waterways, riparian planting, the strategic application of fertilisers and nutrient budgeting and the effects these are having on improving water quality.  The Greens do not mention that many of the sites NIWA test for its National Rivers Network that fail swimming standards are in fact rivers and lakes affected by urban run off. Instead they continue to blame farmers.

There is still more to be done but the imposition of higher standards by regional councils and improvements in farming practices are making a positive difference in many areas.

Farmers like me acknowledge that there is a lot more work we need to do and the vast majority of us are adopting practices and spending tens of millions of dollars a year which, given time,  will sort out our contribution.  But we are not the sole cause or the sole solution.  River quality reports are already showing the benefit of a change in farmers’ attitude toward environmental stewardship, but this narrative doesn’t fit the Green’s script.

The NPS by contrast will be law.  It gives communities the power to decide how much progress needs to be made and over what timeframe. It specifically encourages communities to decide what they want for their rivers and lakes while balancing that with the costs to society and the economy. It has the fish hook that over time, all water bodies will have plans for how they will meet community aspirations, so if the students of North Dunedin decide they wish to swim in the Leith at anytime and the ratepayers of that great Southern town can afford it and are prepared to prioritise that spending over all other, then that is their choice. My guess is the cost will have that city’s burghers muttering darkly at their haggis and prevarication will win.  That’s been the case in most major urban centres. 

The NPS may not have the sexy but implausible sound bite ‘swimmable for all’ but it gives that choice to the community to decide. It is practical, pragmatic and is the law. With water we’re in this together and the NPS underscores that. 

 The idea of being able to swim in every body of water is attractive but expensive and almost certainly an impossible standard to reach everywhere.

Dairying and recent intensification is blamed for poorer water quality but dirty water isn’t new.

My father was a carpenter at what was then Waitaki freezing works at Pukeuri  more than 40 years ago. That’s when the company had to build a huge reservoir to hold water which had to be treated because the water from the Waitaki River, which supplied Oamaru and other smaller settlements, wasn’t fit to wash export meat.

We’ve come a long way since then and while dairying is blamed for the problem it’s also working hard to be part of the solution with initiatives such as Fonterra’s Grassroots Fund:

Fonterra Grass Roots Fund

For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra’s Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com
Photo: For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra's Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com

There is general acceptance of a need to improve water quality in many areas.

The argument is about how far improvements need to go.

National’s policy imposes a a minimum standard.

It leaves it up to communities to decide how much higher they want, and can afford, their water quality to be.

They are the ones with the most to gain from cleaner water and they are the ones who will have to pay for it.

The Green policy sets an impossibly high standard and leaves communities with no choice regardless of their wishes and priorities.

Blue is a much better colour for water than green.


Too desperate to rule out Dotcom

July 30, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe had a chance to take the moral high ground and he blew it:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has denied he has double standards for refusing to rule out relying on the Internet Mana party to form a government despite deriding National for its coat tailing deals in Epsom and Ohariu.

Mr Cunliffe has accused National of manipulating voters by using the coat-tailing provisions to try to boost its support partners’ chances through electorate deals in Epsom and Ohariu.

However, he will not rule out calling on the Internet Mana Party if needed to form a Government.

The Internet-Mana alliance was set up to try to get the Internet Party into Parliament on the back of Hone Harawira’s seat, Te Tai Tokerau.

MMP allows parties which win an electorate seat to bring in other MPs even if they do not reach 5 per cent of the party vote.

Prime Minister John Key said Mr Cunliffe would try to form a government with the Internet Mana which had a similar deal and Labour had tried similar deals with Alliance and Green MPs in the past.

“A little bit of consistency would be good.” He believed voters knew MMP well enough to make the choices they considered best.

The PM has been open about which parties he is prepared to have in a government he leads and which he won’t.

He’s given voters the information they need to make a fully informed choice and it’s up to them how they exercise that choice.

But Cunliffe is taking Winston Peters’ line in refusing to confirm exactly what he’ll do, or not do, until after the election.

Mr Cunliffe said he had made it clear it was “extremely unlikely” any Internet Mana Party MPs would get ministerial positions, or even lower level associate or undersecretary roles in a Labour-led Government.

But he would not rule out policy concessions in return for their votes, saying that was a matter to discuss after the election. “We will talk to whoever the voters serve up.” . .

That’s another yeah-nah position.

Labour’s consistently polling below 30% an is very unlikely to have a strong foundation of voter support from which to bargain.

Mr Key said he doubted Labour would not include Internet Mana in Cabinet if it was needed to form a government.

“The reality is David Cunliffe about 10 months ago came into the job of Leader of the Opposition and said he was going to deliver a result in the high 30s for Labour and that would see them as the next government. Then he downsized that to the low 30s. In recent times, he’s been saying Labour in the 20s could still theoretically become the government. What we know is when you’re Leader of the Opposition you’re desperate to become Prime Minister and will probably do anything. He’s in the camp of forming an alliance with anybody to get over the line.” . . .

Cunliffe will be desperate to be Prime Minister and if the Green, New Zealand First and Internet Mana parties have enough sets to enable him to cobble together a coalition of the losers he’ll make any concessions he needs to be in government.

He had a chance to show strength as the PM did when he ruled out Winston Peters before previous elections.

But Cunliffe’s too desperate to win at any cost to rule out Dotcom and the Internet Mana Party he funds and controls.

However, rather than helping Labour into government it could well set them even further back.

Moderate voters who are undecided will be repulsed by the spectre of Labour and the GIMPs.

The rules allow the smaller of the bigger parties and an ill-assorted bunch of also-rans to form a government but that’s unlikely to be the sort of government most voters would find palatable.

They have the the prospect of a strong and refreshed National Party likely to need only minor support from other parties who have proven to work well in government  or a weak and stale Labour Party requiring major support from an unproven and disparate assortment of parties.

It’s a choice between progress and stability on one side and regression and instability on the other.


SMEs want four-year term

July 29, 2014

Small and medium enterprises want a four-year parliamentary term:

A longer parliamentary term and fewer members of Parliament are two key changes that New Zealand business owners would like to see, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR).

The survey showed that 70% of participants wanted the parliamentary term increased to four years and 60% would like to see the number of MPs or seats in Parliament reduced. Fifteen percent wanted the parliamentary term extended to five years.

Greg Thompson, Partner and National Director, Tax at Grant Thornton New Zealand, said that the desire to have a longer parliamentary term recognises the maturity of the New Zealand political system since the introduction of MMP.

“MMP, compared with the old first-past-the-post system, gives a much wider representation in parliament which in turn takes longer for decisions to get through the system.

“Just look at the Government’s assets sales programme where it wasn’t possible to implement the entire programme in one election cycle. This disjointedness then flowed on to the capital markets with a loss of general cohesion in the New Zealand economy.” . . .

The survey also showed that 38% thought that MMP was the best scenario while 32% thought it should be abolished.

“It is becoming very obvious that with MMP and multiple parties there is always the ongoing need to ‘do a deal’ which takes time.

“For the business owner, this deal making slows down political processes which hinders their own decision making. What a business owner wants is clarity and stability upon which they can plan. The present electoral system and term does not deliver those two requirements.

“While there is a general acceptance of MMP, the fact that 60% of the respondents want the number of MPs or seats in Parliament reduced indicates a belief that ‘too many cooks’ are slowing down the parliamentary process. They prefer quality to quantity,” he said.

Lowering the quantity of MPs isn’t a guarantee there’d be an improvement in the quality of them.

As long was we have MMP any reduction in the number of MPs would make too many electorates too big.

In comparison with New Zealand’s three-year term, the United States and the United Kingdom have four and five year election cycles respectively. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to retain a three-year cycle.

Elections slow down activity in government departments and create uncertainty which is unsettling for businesses.

A four year term would be less expensive – giving us three elections every 12 years instead of four – and improve productivity within the public service and private enterprises.


Each vote is powerful

July 29, 2014

The Electoral Commission has launched a campaign to encourage people to enrol and vote:

More non-voters than ever before say they don’t feel like their vote is worth anything, or that their opinion matters.

It’s a trend that concerns the Electoral Commission, and the reason for a new campaign to help connect New Zealanders with the power of their vote.

“We are lucky to live in a strong democracy where we all get to play a part,” says Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden. “Our democracy is important, every single vote is important, and every New Zealander’s voice deserves to be heard.”

“No matter who we are, where we live, or where we’re from, we are all equal on election day.”

“We want all New Zealanders to think about why voting matters, to think about what it means for them, their family and their community,” says Mr Peden. “We want them to enrol, and we want them to vote on September 20.”

Launching this weekend, the Commission’s new campaign uses real people, not actors, speaking from the heart about why voting matters to them. . .

A website – www.ivotenz.org.nz has more about the campaign.

The latest Stuff-Ipsos poll shows 77% intend to vote.

When the remainder were asked what might put them off voting, 17.6 per cent said it was too difficult to get to a polling station, while 8 per cent said they were too busy and a further 8 per cent said they didn’t know enough about the issues or the candidates. . . .

Too difficult to get to a polling station or too busy is a poor excuse for most.

Anyone can cast an advance vote from September 3rd and there’s provision for casting special votes.

Advance voting makes it easy for anyone who can’t get to a voting place in their electorate on election day. This may be because of work, sickness, infirmity, disability, being away from home or for any other reason.

Information about where, when and how to vote in advance is available closer to election day for any by-election or general election. Information on voting in advance will also be in your EasyVote information pack, which you will receive about a week before election day, or on freephone 0800 36 76 56.

If you’re unable to vote in advance, you can cast a special vote.

Casting a Special Vote

You will need to cast a special vote if you are:

  • unable to get to a voting place or advance voting place in your electorate; or
  • not enrolled by Writ Day or
  • on the unpublished roll.

To receive special voting papers, you will need to complete a special declaration form.

Before election day you can:

  • go into an advance voting place. You will be given a declaration form to complete and your voting papers; or
  • complete and post an application for special declaration voting papers to your Returning Officer. They will send your voting papers and declaration; or
  • apply for voting papers by fax, e-mail or telephone from your Returning Officer.

Your completed voting papers must be received by the Returning Officer or a voting place no later than 7pm on election day.

On election day you can go into a voting place. You will be given a declaration form to complete and your voting papers.

Need help to get your special voting papers?

You can complete the application for special declaration voting papers and ask another person to take it to your Returning Officer, advance voting place or a voting place. They will then bring you back your voting papers and declaration.

Your completed voting papers must be received by the Returning Officer or a voting place no later than 7pm on election day.

Need help to vote?

Someone may need help to vote if they:

  • are blind or vision impaired, or
  • have severe difficulties reading or writing,
  • or have difficulty with the English language

If you need help to read or mark your voting papers, a friend, family member or electoral officials can help. Just ask when you go to vote or freephone 0800 36 76 56 to find out more.

Anyone who doesn’t speak English can take a friend or family member to the advance voting or voting place to help. . .

Political parties always advertise that they will take people to a polling booth or help with a special vote.

Family members, friends and neighbours can also help with a special vote.

Working on the day isn’t an excuse either.

Polls are open from 9am until 7pm and people are legally entitled to a break to allow them to vote.

I have some sympathy for people who don’t know enough about the parties or candidates because the media spends a lot more time on sideshows than analysis of policies and generally doesn’t do details.

But there is plenty of information on-line and anyone who approached a party for information would get more than enough.

A few people deliberately don’t vote but for most people the answers given in the poll are just excuses for not wanting to vote.

If someone really wanted to vote only some unforeseen illness, accident or other calamity would stop them.

People in some countries are still literally dying for the right to vote.

We have the freedom to vote and we are also free to not vote.

For a few that might be a considered action but those excuses given are spurious for most non-voters who don’t understand or don’t care that each and every vote is powerful.


Gotcha doesn’t get voters

July 29, 2014

John Armstrong writes on the disease of gotcha politics:

It sure ain’t pretty. It sure ain’t enlightening. It is most definitely insidious. It is a creeping cancer of the New Zealand body politic.

Regardless of whether it is John Key or David Cunliffe who has the numbers on election night to pick up the reins of power, so-called “gotcha politics” is almost guaranteed to be the big winner of the 2014 election campaign.

If it is voters will be the losers.

“Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.

It is personality-based politics, not issue-driven politics. It is all about wrecking your opponents’ campaign by landing major hits on their credibility.

It is also negative.

That’s what makes Labour’s exhortation to vote positive so oxymoronic because they’ve spent so much of this parliamentary term being so negative.

At its worst, gotcha politics can be an old-fashioned witch-hunt dressed up in modern-day notions of accountability. None of this new, of course.

What has changed is the extent and intensity of gotcha politics.

Even the Greens are not immune. Last Friday, that party joined others in stressing its campaign would focus on the issues, rather than the sideshows.

Was this the same Green Party whose co-leader Metiria Turei had spent much of the week demanding a prime ministerial apology for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs blunder regarding the granting of diplomatic immunity to a defence attache at the Malaysian High Commission charged with sexual assault?

No matter that various apologies had already been forthcoming. No matter that the State Sector Act and the Cabinet Manual set clear boundaries to prevent ministers interfering in operational matters – thereby begging the question of exactly what John Key was supposed to be apologising for. No matter that the Greens had politicised the whole affair to the point of jeopardising the prosecution of the Malaysian official.

When politicians get ahead of the judicial process justice for both the victim and the accused are the losers.

It is unfair to single out the Greens. Both National and Labour are just as guilty, if not more so. National’s being in Government makes it more likely to be a target of such attacks, however.

One reason “gotcha politics” is becoming more endemic is that Key has neutralised so many issues that Opposition parties are having to resort to personality-based attacks to make any kind of impact.

It’s the Opposition’s role to hold a government to account but it should be able to do that on issues rather than personalities.

If it can’t then it is not ready for government.

The other major factor is conflict-driven news media. The seemingly insatiable 24-hours-a-day appetite of internet news sites means quality has to be sacrificed for quantity when it comes to investigations and analysis.

In these circumstances, it is temptingly easier to manufacture the news through the media playing their own version of gotcha politics by trying to catch politicians out.

And an election campaign provides the happiest of all hunting grounds for such practices.

I am sure this is one of the reasons so many people are disenchanted with politics and that voter turnout is dropping.

Serious analysis and intelligent debate of issues has been replaced by a focus on personalities and sideshows.

Gotcha politics might be entertaining but it doesn’t get the majority of voters, on the contrary it turns many off.

 


“Typical MP looks male”

July 29, 2014

Rob Salmond thinks he knows why National has more male candidates:

. . . National leaves everything to its local branch, to simply vote up the candidate they like. They vote in complete isolation from the broader needs of the party – they focus only on their area.

A simple vote in a single seat election like this (the “seat” here is the right to stand for National in a particular electorate) is well known to advantage males. It is a lowest common denominator effect, where a male candidate – by virtue of entrenched mental images of what a “typical” MP look like – is more likely to be the one that the fewest people object to. As a psychological level, candidates who in any way represent a change to the status quo face an uphill battle in a single-seat election, as people who have no reason to object to the status quo (through either disinterest or design) feel some level of threat. . .

What utter tosh.

How could anyone think a typical MP looks male in the 21st century?

We’ve had two women Prime Ministers, several other female co-leaders, lots of women ministers and MPs. We’ve also had and have MPs of both genders of a variety of ethnicities.

If there ever was a typical MP look-alike there is no longer.

If Salmond had looked at the two women candidates selected by National electorates this year he’d realise how silly his supposition is:

Sarah Dowie who won the Invercargill selection could hardly look less like sitting MP Eric Roy:

shoes 2

Taranaki King Country  candidate Barbara Kuriger looks very different from retiring MP Shane Adern.

Both women were selected in a transparent and democratic process by members in the electorate.

And while both look very different from the men they are working very hard to replace they do share their National Party values, commitment to their electorates and strong desire to serve them well.

The problem with gender balance is not National’s fair and democratic selection process.

As a party insider I can say unequivocally that there is no preconceived notion of any typical MP look-alike among members. In any selections I’ve been involved in, delegates didn’t care about gender they were seeking to get the best people for the job.

One reason other parties have a better gender balance is that they have more list MPs.

Good list MPs work hard. But electorate MPs have less choice about the demands on their time and energy and women who want a more active role in parenting can find it too difficult to balance them both.

Parliament and life as an MP aren’t family-friendly.

Improving that would do more to help attract more women than reducing democracy within the National Party.


Conservatives on their own

July 28, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out any electoral deal between National and the Conservative Party.

Prime Minister John Key today made clear National’s position on accommodating support parties in electorate contests at this year’s General Election.

The National Party and its partners have successfully provided stable MMP government over two terms of Parliament and through challenging times.

“We will be seeking a further mandate on September 20,” says Mr Key.

“In an MMP environment, the public determines the make-up of Parliament by voting in a combination of parties, and every election is a tight contest.”
“After the election, political parties must work constructively to form and maintain a stable Government and voters want to know what party combinations are possible.”

In January, the Prime Minister made it clear that if National were returned to Government this election, the preference is to continue working with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future as this has been a successful combination.

He also made it clear it would be possible to add the Conservative Party and New Zealand First to this group.

Today he outlined National’s position on electorate contests for the 2014 election campaign.
“We’re seeking to maximise the party vote for National across the country in all seats. It is only through delivering the strongest possible party vote that National voters will return National to Government.”

“For the electorate vote, we will encourage National party supporters to give their electorate vote to the ACT candidate in Epsom and the United Future candidate in Ohariu.”

“We will continue to seek to maximise our party votes in those electorates and that’s what National Party candidates will be working hard to do.

“In East Coast Bays, where the Conservatives have a candidate, the only option to accommodate that party would be to remove a sitting MP from the ballot paper and that, as I have said, is a bridge too far. So there will be no electorate accommodation with the Conservatives.”

“However, we are happy to consider working with the Conservative party post-election should the public vote that party in to Parliament.”

“As I have said previously we are also prepared to discuss working with New Zealand First if that party is returned to Parliament.”

“In Epsom and Ōhariu, both ACT and United Future share a history of working with National and those are proven relationships that have stood the test of time.”

“National doesn’t always agree with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future on every issue, but together our four parties have maintained a stable and successful Government since late 2008.”

“Under the National-led Government, New Zealand is heading in the right direction and if re-elected, National will continue to work hard for all New Zealanders.”

Conservative leader Colin Craig wanted sitting East Coast Bays MP Murray McCully to stand aside so he could have a better chance at winning the seat.

Had that happened in my electorate I would have found it very difficult to vote for him rather than my National MP.

This would have been very different from Ohariu and Epsom. Peter Dunne was the local MP before MMP and Rodney Hide won Epsom when then sitting-MP Richard Worth was trying to hold it.

The people in these electorates chose someone other than the National candidates first and they keep doing that.

This year they can choose to do that again, or not.

That is very different from taking a choice away by pulling a long-serving and popular MP.

If it had been done and Craig won, any votes that counted for the Conservatives which might have helped National form a government could well have been cancelled out by National voters turned off by that thought who’d then vote for another party.

 


Nick’s right

July 28, 2014

Fish and Game have their lines snared over Conservation Minister Nick Smith:

Conservation Minister Nick Smith has been accused of bullying Fish and Game into ending its campaign for cleaner rivers and lakes.

The minister met with the Fish and Game Council in Wellington earlier this month where he was “deeply critical” of the organisation, says an attendee, Association of Freshwater Anglers president David Haynes.

Mr Haynes told NZ Newswire Dr Smith was “clearly displeased” about the Fish and Game’s current anti-irrigation billboard campaign calling for better water quality in the country’s lakes and rivers.

“He specifically cited those billboards as something he’s displeased with. The minister was firing a very clear warning shot across the bows of Fish and Game that ‘I don’t like that campaign, don’t be noisy and pull your necks in’.”

Mr Haynes said Dr Smith “also said we need to change the Fish and Game model. I have no idea what he meant by that… but it didn’t sound very friendly.”

Mr Haynes said he was highly insulted when Dr Smith told those present at the public meeting that the organisation “sometimes behaves like a rabid NGO, worse than Forest and Bird”. . .

Bullying is an over-used and in this case inappropriate word for what the Minister said.
If the organisation gets political, as it does, it can expect a political response.
Fish and Game does sometime behave like a rabid NGO.

The worst example in recent times was going to court against farmers and the government in an attempt to get unfettered access to farms under pastoral leases.

Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union says the Minister is right to give Fish and Game a serve:

“We agree with the Minister that the election campaigning of Fish and Game is a gross breach of faith for a statutory body.”

“If a group of fishermen want to create an offshoot of the Green Party good on them – but they should pay for campaigning out of their own pocket not use statutory powers to charge for licences to fund political lobbying.”

“Nick Smith is right to be concerned that Fish and Game use its fishing tax to fund billboards endorsing the Green Party. Until Fish and Game put an end to taxpayer funded political campaigning, it should not be entitled to receive income from compulsory fishing and hunting licenses.”

However, the Minister refutes the claims made by Haynes:

. . . “The claims about what I said at the meeting are untrue. I am releasing these hand-written notes taken at the time by the departmental official from DOC’s head office responsible for Fish & Game who was at the meeting. His account is very different from that of Mr Haines, and is an accurate account of what was discussed. The notes are exactly as they were taken down at the time before any controversy arose,” Dr Smith says.

“Mr Haines is a long-time critic of me as Conservation Minister, most recently over 1080. He is not neutral and his deliberate misrepresentation of the meeting is driven by politics and the election season. I am taking legal advice over his statements. I have been a long-term advocate for improving New Zealand’s water quality, including putting in place New Zealand’s first National Policy Statement on Freshwater, and I find his statements offensive and defamatory.”

The notes are here and what they say the Minister said looks very reasonable to me.

I’d back the Minister  and his staff’s notes over Haynes whose outburst will have done nothing to help relationships with many of those who fund his organisation.

Fish and Game is funded by a tax on fishing and hunting licences.

Many of those who pay that tax are farmers who are incensed at the organisation’s blinkered and one-sided approach to issues and what isn’t just political campaigning but partisan political campaigning.


What matters

July 28, 2014

The sideshow might be entertaining for the media and political tragics.

But what really matters is that government policies are working for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

One of the most important of those is in crime reduction which has economic and social benefits.

Crime is awful for victims and costly for taxpayers.

Reducing crime reduces the number of victims and it also redirects criminals to more honest and gainful pursuits.

 

We’re making our communities safer. New Zealand is experiencing its lowest crime rate since 1978. http://ntnl.org.nz/1kexYhI #Working4NZ


Labour wants to meddle in meat industry

July 28, 2014

Labour loves to meddle in businesses where it has no business to be and if it gets into government it will be meddling in the meat industry:

Labour will create more jobs and wealth by providing the leadership and funding to help participants reform the meat sector through developing a larger scale sustainable model as part of our Economic Upgrade for the sector, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.

“The meat sector continues to decline and must meet new challenges to maintain a secure and skilled workforce. Like our wider economy it needs an upgrade to compete overseas.

“Labour will do this by encouraging the creation of businesses with real market scale and, if required, we will look to amend the Commerce Act to achieve this aim. We will also work with Iwi and large agricultural companies to consolidate efforts and interests for the long term. . .

The meat industry is dominated by two farmer-owned co-operatives and there are also several smaller players.

What they do and how they do it is primarily the business of these businesses and their shareholders.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has repeatedly, and correctly, said he will not intervene unless there sector comes up with a plan supported by the players which requires his assistance.

Anything else would be interference in private enterprise where the government has no right to be.

The industry does have challenges but Guy, and the National Party, understand any change in the meat industry must come from farmers and the processing companies.

Any attempt to impose a solution from the government down would be expensive and have the potential to contravene free trade agreements.


Not good enough

July 28, 2014

Last night’s  ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll  continued the trend of National doing much better than labour and its potential coalition partners:

Less than two months from polling day National has stretched its lead over the centre left parties of Labour and the Greens.

National has climbed to 52% in the latest ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll while Labour is down one point to 28%. . .

Labour on 28% is just above its 2011 election result and the Greens have also slipped, dropping two points to 10%.

New Zealand First is steady on 4% and Internet Mana is on 2% while the Conservatives are up one to 2%. Act stays on 1% and the Maori Party is down one to 1%.

When converted into seats in Parliament, National would easily govern alone with 66 seats. Labour would have 36, with the Greens mustering 13 and the Maori Party three. Internet Mana would bring in three MP, while Act and United Future would have one apiece. . .

Both Labour and the Green party have lost support.

It’s possible that hard-line left voters have gone to Internet Mana and soft centre voters have been put-off by the thought of a Labour Green, New Zealand First, Internet Mana Party and have moved right.

This is good news for National and those who want the party to continue leading a government that is working well for New Zealand.

However, it’s not good enough.

The party was polling at similar levels before the last election and slipped.

One reason for that was low voter turn-out.

Labour thinks most of those who didn’t vote were their supporters but there was a disappointing number of National voters who didn’t vote for a variety of reasons, including thinking that the polls were so good they didn’t need to.

There is a danger that could happen again which is why all National candidates and their teams are working hard to maximise the party vote which is the one that counts for forming a government.


Another candidate from political crypt

July 27, 2014

The Mana Party is following its stable-mate the Internet Party in dragging out candidates from the political crypt:

The world’s first openly transsexual MP Georgina Beyer is standing for the Mana Party in the Te Tai Tonga electorate.

Ms Beyer will stand in the Maori seat, which covers the entire South Island, Stewart Island, Chatham Islands, Wellington and parts of the Hutt Valley.

She has links to the electorate through her Te Ati Awa and Ngati Mutunga whakapapa, Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira said today.

“Our goal this election is to raise the profile of Mana, grow our numbers in Parliament, and help change the Government,” he said.

“Georgina’s a respected household name in politics so she’s an important part of helping achieve that goal. We feel honoured to have her.” . . .

Respected? By whom?
Certainly not the Fortune Theatre:
Transsexual former MP Georgina Beyer has quit the Fortune Theatre production 6 Dance Lessons in 6 Weeks two days before it was due to open in Dunedin.It is the first time a production has been cancelled at the Fortune Theatre.Ms Beyer said yesterday she had made the decision to leave the play after realising “I bit off more than I could chew”.

The play was scheduled to open tonight and run until March 7.

“It’s a massive disappointment. I feel terribly disappointed for the Fortune Theatre and for the Dunedin public. But, in my view, it would have been irresponsible to put it on,” she said.

Ms Beyer gave her decision to the theatre management after rehearsals on Wednesday afternoon.

“I just felt that I couldn’t put my co-star Douglas Kamo in danger and put on a production that could be slammed by the critics,” she said.

“It was a massive role. I wasn’t going too badly at the start, but I just couldn’t anchor the script in my head. I kept blowing my lines.” . . .

That cancellation cost the Fortune Theatre Trust thousands of dollars.
If memory serves me correctly, although she announced her resignation before parliament broke for the summer holidays, it didn’t take effect until the new year so she was rehearsing for the play at the taxpayers’ expense.
She then ran out of money and complained about not getting any government appointments:

Former Labour MP Georgina Beyer plans to move to Australia because she cannot find work.

The three-term Wairarapa MP, the world’s first transsexual politician, said she was disillusioned with life after politics and upset at the treatment she had received from her former Labour Party colleagues.

Ms Beyer said that while other former Labour MPs were appointed to boards, she had received nothing and was turned down for a position on the Human Rights Commission.

The former chairwoman of Parliament’s social services committee said she had been forced to accept the unemployment benefit for several months late last year before selling her house to pay the bills “so I didn’t have to be on the dole”.

“I have all this accumulated knowledge and experience and no one wants to employ it, and I’m not sure why,” she said.

“That I’m of no further use to my country is why I’m considering Australia, that my former parliamentary colleagues seem not to want to appoint me to anything, but are quite happy to accommodate others who have left or are about to, so as to shut them up from whingeing from the sidelines in election year.

“One could be forgiven for being a little vexed.” . . .

Lots of taxpayers could well be vexed too but by her attitude rather than the lack of appointments.

In her valedictory speech in February last year, Ms Beyer described her political career as the “greatest moment of my life”.

But she said she now felt disillusioned by it.

“Politics was never my ambition. I was coaxed into it by others,” she said. . . .

“It seems that I am not valued for my experience in either local or central government, so I guess I wasted 14 years of my life in publicly elected service and ended up unemployable.”

And now Mana and Kim Dotcom have found a job for her.

Let’s hope the good folk of Te Tai Tonga, the largest electorate of all, ensure it’s temporary.


National Party 2014 list released – UPDATED

July 27, 2014

The National Party has released its list for the 2014 election:

The National Party list for the 2014 election brings together a strong mix of both experienced political leaders and fresh new talent, says National Party President Peter Goodfellow.

“Our 2014 list shows the benefit of our ongoing rejuvenation programme. If National was able to match its election result from 2011, we would bring in as many as 13 new MPs, alongside 46 returning MPs.

“With the depth of talent we have to choose from, settling on a list that balances new blood alongside valuable experience was not an easy task. However, we believe we’ve struck the right mix that will allow for renewal and continued stability in a third term.”

A list ranking committee made up of about 30 delegates from around New Zealand gathered in Wellington yesterday to settle on the List rankings for the September 20 election.

Mr Goodfellow believes the list underlines National’s credentials as a strong economic manager which is working hard for all New Zealanders to deliver more jobs, better public services, and higher wages.

“Our list draws on people from all walks of life, from the social sector, to medicine, business, and agriculture. We have a good blend of candidates from a variety of diverse backgrounds.”

Mr Goodfellow says that sitting MPs and Ministers have been broadly ranked in their current order, but also notes there are a number of electorates with new candidates who are likely to join #TeamKey in September.

“The Party is in great heart, and I want to thank all those MPs who are retiring at this election for their contribution to their country. I also want to thank their families for the sacrifices so many of them have made to support a busy MP.

“Despite positive polling the National Party has a huge task ahead to ensure our supporters get out and vote at this election. An unstable far left coalition remains a very real risk to New Zealand’s positive outlook.

We’ll be working very hard until polling day to sell our positive cohesive plan for New Zealand that builds strongly in what the country has achieved over the last six years.”

The National Party List for the 2014 General election is:

 

1 John Key Helensville
2 Bill English List
3 David Carter List
4 Gerry Brownlee Ilam
5 Steven Joyce List
6 Judith Collins Papakura
7 Hekia Parata Mana
8 Chris Finlayson Rongotai
9 Paula Bennett Upper Harbour
10 Jonathan Coleman Northcote
11 Murray McCully East Coast Bays
12 Anne Tolley East Coast
13 Nick Smith Nelson
14 Tim Groser New Lynn
15 Amy Adams Selwyn
16 Nathan Guy Otaki
17 Craig Foss Tukituki
18 Simon Bridges Tauranga
19 Nikki Kaye Auckland Central
20 Michael Woodhouse Dunedin North
21 Jo Goodhew Rangitata
22 Chester Borrows Whanganui
23 Todd McClay Rotorua
24 Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga Maungakiekie
25 Nicky Wagner Christchurch Central
26 Lindsay Tisch Waikato
27 Louise Upston Taupo
28 Tim Macindoe Hamilton West
29 Jami-Lee Ross Botany
30 Paul Goldsmith Epsom
31 Melissa Lee Mt Albert
32 Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi Manukau East
33 Jian Yang List
34 Alfred Ngaro Te Atatu
35 Maurice Williamson Pakuranga
36 Jacqui Dean Waitaki
37 David Bennett Hamilton East
38 Jonathan Young New Plymouth
39 Brett Hudson Ohariu
40 Maggie Barry North Shore
41 Ian McKelvie Rangitikei
42 Mark Mitchell Rodney
43 Simon O’Connor Tamaki
44 Mike Sabin Northland
45 Scott Simpson Coromandel
46 Paul Foster-Bell Wellington Central
47 Joanne Hayes Christchurch East
48 Parmjeet Parmar Mt Roskill
49 Chris Bishop Hutt South
50 Nuk Korako Port Hills
51 Jono Naylor Palmerston North
52 Maureen Pugh West Coast – Tasman
53 Misa Fia Turner Mangere
54 Todd Barclay Clutha-Southland
55 Andrew Bayly Hunua
56 Matt Doocey Waimakariri
57 Sarah Dowie Invercargill
58 Barbara Kuriger Taranaki-King Country
59 Todd Muller Bay of Plenty
60 Shane Reti Whangarei
61 Alastair Scott Wairarapa
62 Stuart Smith Kaikoura
63 Wayne Walford Napier
64 Simeon Brown Manurewa
65 Hamish Walker Dunedin South
66 Lewis Holden Rimutaka
67 Karl Varley Wigram
68 Candidate TBA Kelston
69 Linda Cooper List
70 Letitia O’Dwyer List
71 Mark Bridges List
72 Boris Sokratov List
73 Matthew Evetts List
74 Carolyn O’Fallon List
75 Christopher Penk List

I was a member of the list-ranking committee whose deliberations are confidential.

It is not breaching that to point out that both the rejuvenation and depth of talent provide a stark contrast with Labour.

UPDATE:

David Farrar has the effective list places and percentage needed for list candidates to get into parliament.


Otago top of class

July 27, 2014

Otago primary schools have outclassed the rest of the country’s schools by recording the highest levels of achievement in reading, writing and mathematics, Ministry of Education data shows.

Public achievement information released yesterday showed 124 primary schools in Otago posted the highest percentage of pupils who were at or above National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics.

In reading, 83.6% of pupils were at or above National Standards, 78.9% were at or above the standards in mathematics, and 76.4% were at or above the standards in writing.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association chairwoman Stephanie Madden said most principals had reservations about National Standards, but they were delighted with the data.

”These results are confirmation that the quality of teaching and learning in Otago primary schools is of a very high standard.

”We’re very proud of the hard work that teachers, principals and boards of trustees put in to ensure our children receive the best possible education.” . . .

And isn’t it good that there’s a way to measure the results of all that hard work?

Secondary principals think so:

. . . Secondary Principals’ Association president Tom Parsons said parents had been asking for detailed information about their child’s learning for a long time.

“Primary schools will get there with national standards but they’re doing it begrudgingly.

“There’s a political agenda here and it’s doing the youth of New Zealand a disservice. They need to get real.” . . .

There is a political agenda and it’s putting unions’ interests ahead of the needs of children and their parents.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the latest achievement information shows children throughout the country are doing better across the education system:

Ms Parata says the Public Achievement Information released today is evidence that moves by the Government, reflected in the work of those in the education system, is making a real difference in educational achievement.

“From early childhood education through to NCEA achievement we’re seeing meaningful progress. It all adds up to kids who will be coming out of our education system with better qualifications and much brighter prospects.

“Providing this information at district and regional levels is leading to a wider engagement by communities in our education challenges.

“Fifteen of our 16 regional council areas had increases from 2011 to 2013 in achievement against National Standards, including gains for Māori students in 14 of those 16 areas.

”More than 400,000 primary kids had their progress assessed in reading, writing and maths last year, and around three quarters were at or above National Standards.

“The continuing focus on achievement and use of good information is paying off because it helps identify the kids who are not doing as well as we want.

“Parents and schools never used to have this sort of very specific information, and now they’re using it to make sure that the kids get what they need when they need it. . .

That’s the point – information on how children are progressing enables schools and parents to help them.

The system isn’t perfect but it’s better than no system and it will get better.

 

National standards. Making a difference.


Story behind story behind picture

July 26, 2014

The picture on the cover of Rugby News has caused a bit of controversy this week.

 

 

The editor explained the story behind the picture and the story on Facebook:

Dear readers,

Given the media exposure around the current edition featuring John Key – in the spirit of openness, I wanted to explain the thinking and reasoning behind the WHOLE process and be totally upfront about ALL aspects.
Firstly – as owner/editor, I am not aligned to the National Party in any way. I am undecided who my vote will go to. Rugby New standpoint (and mine) is that we are not wanting ,or trying, to endorse a candidate or party.

WHY THE ARTICLE?

Firstly – I think if you have any kind of opinion worth listening to you need to read the article too and put it in to context with the front cover.
Over the last 7-8 months, of me putting stories together, I have often come across popular pictures of the PM in the All Blacks changing room, after winning a game. The picture of the PM and Richie having a beer was one. I thought – from an editorial viewpoint – that this was an interesting picture and the seed for an article.
Some of my thoughts were: “Lucky bugger – how cool would that be having a beer with Richie and being in the changing room”. Closely followed by – “How come he gets that and everyday supporters don’t.” Unfair maybe, but that’s how things work.
From there I began thinking that like the PM, or loathe him, he does seem like a genuine rugby fan and obviously a proud Kiwi. This was the start point for the article, but I didn’t want that to be the main aspect.
The main aspect of the article was to see how big the All Blacks brand was overseas from our elected leader’s standpoint – not something that we would know about necessarily. Are we just big in NZ and rugby playing countries? Are we big, just in knowledgeable sporting circles, or does the All Blacks winning brand extend to business/politics in countries that weren’t large rugby nations? In short, the All Blacks brand and how global it is. I imagined that many Kiwi’s may not realise how big-a-deal the AB’s were globally – especially in non-rugby mad countries – and if they did, isn’t it nice to be that respected and in that position?
These two aspects underwrote the article content. It does state that ‘whatever your politics.’ Nowhere did it glorify the PM as a leader, nor did it mention the General Election, or National Party.
As such we wrote an interesting article. I stand by its journalistic credibility as one of a number of rugby themed stories that some people would identify with more than others.

THE FRONT COVER:

The front cover came about through a synergy of ideas. As the issue was about the Rugby Championships, it HAD to have the All Blacks on it. Another article (by Craig Dowd) highlighted the importance of the forwards in the Championship. Hence, the choice of all forwards in the cover picture. We also wanted the PM on the cover issue as having him in the magazine – regardless of his/you/our politics – was something of a coup.
The poses struck were showing the players in a ‘V’ shape – this was to symbolise ‘Victory’. Having the PM at the front of the V (in his supporters jersey) was symbolising all NZ rugby fans – from the lowest/youngest right up to the PM – were right behind our All Blacks, as they went for a world record of wins and in to the (very hard) Rugby Championships.
The title ‘Pack Leader’ was a play on words for the player i/c the forwards in a team and the ‘leaders’ being Richie McCaw (AB’s) and the PM.
#1 All Blacks fan – I am sure people would look at that and think ‘He’s not the number one fan, I am!’ This aspect was about getting people’s attention.
In truth what we set up to do was to produce what, on the face of it, appeared to be a typical, traditional Rugby News cover. What we were looking for is – as people walked through Whitcoull’s – they would walk past and glance, do a double-take, come back and then pick up the magazine to check it out and hopefully buy it. All magazine covers aim to try to draw people in and that is what we were trying to do here beyond our regular, staunch, rugby intelligent customers.

THE TIMING

This is the area where – in retrospect – I will concede some journalistic naevity in this regard and also apologise to anyone who was offended. Certainly not what I wanted. I am passionate about rugby at all levels and only interested in the development of the game at all levels and the New Zealand Rugby/All Blacks brand and value.
We started work on the magazine some 6 weeks before it hits the shops at this time there was nothing/very little around the election. Our thoughts about the election only surfaced very close to the actual print date – when the New Zealand Rugby (who were kept fully aware of the article and the cover. It was them who asked that we made it sure that there was a note saying: *Cover image Photo-shopped. Not an official All Blacks/New Zealand Rugby endorsement.

I made the decision that we would go with the cover – for the reasons outlined above. I didn’t for a second imagine it would be swallowed up by the political propaganda machine and make the headlines it has. If I had suspected this, I would not have had the same cover and opted for a quieter life! I simply believed it’s maximum impact would be the Whitcoull’s ‘double-take’ moment. I was wrong and as said before, I apologise to those who feel it was wrong and ill-timed.
I cannot change the decisions and issue now and hope that sincere apologies goes some way to expressing my concern at having upset some people.

PERMISSION

I chased the PM’s press secretary to do the story and take his photograph. The National Party/PM’s office did not offer nor give any financial incentive (or other kinds of incentive) and nor did they initiate the story/cover. The PM’s office was kept fully aware at all times.

We told New Zealand Rugby about the story, but only shared the final cover with them just before it went to print. They rightly requested a clarification to make it clear this was not in any way a cover photo endorsed by New Zealand Rugby or the All Blacks.

The New Zealand Rugby are fantastic supporters of Rugby News and outstanding guardians of the game. They are not in any way to blame, or responsible for this article and cover.

CONCLUSION

I hope that people can appreciate the openness that I have explained here and the thought process behind the article, cover and timing.
In retrospect – a great thing to have – I concede that I did not expect the adverse reaction that I have had from some people or the strength of feeling those people have around this issue. I have learned a valuable lesson there.
I am sorry that this magazine – which is my livelihood – and the game I love and the Rugby News brand may have been tarnished in some people’s eyes. However, the magazine remains highly relevant to Rugby fans and the breadth and quality of our articles is, I believe, the best in NZ as a pre-competition reference magazine.
I would ask that people respect this open and honest explanation and not seek to take parts of it and misrepresent it, me or the Rugby News brand. I would hope that this explanation and frank honesty could be respected – if not applauded by some – as an apology for misreading some people’s depth of opinion and an adult response from a real person and not a heartless, faceless corporate.

Hopefully this is and end to the matter and the focus can return to the Crusaders winning for Canterbury and NZ on Saturday and the All Blacks gaining a world record victory streak and winning the Rugby Championship. Now that really DOES matter!

The story behind this story is one of naivety.

A cover like this was bound to cause a stir at any time and more so this close to an election and anyone atuned to politics would have known that.

But the story behind the story behind the picture is that the editor wasn’t thinking of rugby not politics.

And that’s like a lot of other New Zealanders.

Shortly before the last election I made a comment about the front page story of the paper I was buying to the young man serving me.

It had something to do with the election and his response was, “is there an election this year?”

There’s political tragics like me who are focused on the election and there are a whole lot of others who aren’t .

Among them are people who rarely if ever think of politics and among them will be some people who don’t even know there’s an election in a couple of months.


What matters

July 26, 2014

Early in the week Labour leader David Cunliffe issued some more apologies then vowed to stick to what matters.

If we’re to take him at his word, what matters is who’s hosting the TVNZ debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition leader.

What matters isn’t that people in the media are biased but that we know what their bias is.

When we listen to John Campbell we know his personal bias is left.

When we listen to Mike Hosking we know his personal bias is right.

That is something we can take into account when thinking about what they say and how they conduct themselves and any interviews they do.

That is far better than having people in the media with a bias who aren’t overt about it and, deliberately or not, let it influence their work.

That’s when bias matters in the media.

But this issue isn’t what matters in politics and once more Cunliffe has fallen into a hole of his own making by complaining about something that doesn’t matter which leaves no oxygen for the big things that do – the economy, education, health and welfare.

 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

July 25, 2014

Federation wins rates remission against urban sprawl:

Federated Farmers is thrilled that common sense has prevailed in the Horowhenua District Council’s unanimous decision to adopt a rates remission for farms being rezoned as urban.

“Due to the urban sprawl, farmers are increasingly being rezoned as urban, and consequently being faced with enormous rates bills, but thankfully the Council listened to us and has taken a more common sense approach,” says James Stewart, Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president.

“Federated Farmers suggested a similar rates remission policy to its neighbouring Kapiti Coast, in order to avoid unnecessary costs to farming businesses, which would reduce their competitiveness with other farmers in the region. . .

Council and farmers work together – Chris Lewis:

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. This is now evident in the Waikato as we see comparative data in effluent compliance, prepared by the Waikato Regional Council, pre the collaborative process and to now.

With farm inspections on the ground having increased by just over 200 farms since 2012, we are seeing a conscious effort to work alongside farmers rather than be a distant enforcer. Every successful business or individual knows that their achievement depends on a community working together, with a shared vision or goal. . .

Focus on farm-exit water quality :

The Otago Water Plan’s Plan Change 6A (PC6A) was not about the Otago Regional Council using a ”big stick” to ensure compliance for water quality, chief executive Peter Bodeker said.

He said the council did not wish to dictate to land owners, farmers, horticulturists and forest owners how they managed their properties.

The council decided to take an ”effects-based approach” to controlling discharges from properties, rather than regulating operational methods, and to encourage management practices that ensured water leaving the property was of sufficient quality. . .

Gold surge tipped for Zespri - Richard Rennie:

An impending avalanche of Gold kiwifruit will present as many challenges as opportunities for growers over the next two seasons and returns are expected to ease as a result.

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager used this year’s annual meeting to caution growers about the prospect of moving from a post-Psa famine in gold fruit to a feast by 2018.  

The latest harvest yielded the lowest volume yet of the high-value fruit, at 11.1 million trays, reflecting the grafting change from the disease ravaged Hort16a variety to the more Psa-tolerant Gold3 and associated varieties. . .

Ag scientist’s career marked by contrasts  - Sue O’Dowd,

Agricultural science has provided a Taranaki man with a career marked by contrasts.

There’s been the ice, snow and dry valleys of Antarctica and the desert of Saudi Arabia. Malcolm Macfarlane has also worked for the New Zealand Fire Service and in the hillcountry of the North Island’s East Coast, where he’s undertaking forage research.

Although he lives in Inglewood, where wife Rosie Mabin is Inglewood High School’s principal, he’s a scientist for Hastings-based On-Farm Research. . . .

The latest dairy farm syndicate spurns debt as investors focus on risk – Greg Ninness:

Roger Dickie NZ has launched a dairy farm investment syndicate that will have almost no debt.

The company is best known for putting together forestry investment vehicles, but its latest offering, Eastbourne Dairy Farm Ltd, will be its third dairy farm offering and it has also previously syndicated a sheep and beef property.

Eastbourne has been set up with a company structure in which investors will buy shares, with 11 million shares on offer at a dollar each and the minimum investment being $25,000.

The proceeds will be used to buy an established 241ha dairy farm in Southland and a 520 cow herd. . . .

 


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