ORC Backs Dunedin Stadium

June 11, 2008

The Otago Regional Council has voted 7-4 to back the proposed Awatea St stadium in Dunedin which will replace Carrisbrook.

The decision commits the Otago Regional Council to a contribution of $37.5 million towards the $188 million project. Councillors now have to discuss the details of the funding.

One of the decision will be whether or not to impose a rate for the stadium – and if so how. Rates are never popular and if people are rated on capital values farmers will pay proportionally more because their properties are worth more than the average 1/4 acre urban property.

The stadium concept is attracting vocal opposition, as these projects always do. I was a director of Waitaki District Health Services when the decision was made to build a new hospital in Oamaru, it wasn’t a popular move but people have forgotten that now it’s up and running. 

At the same time there was a proposal to replace the old outdoor swimming pool with a new indoor one. It too attracted heated opposition – now some of the most vehement opponents are among the frequent users.  


Capital Idea to Shift South

June 11, 2008

Bob Harvey wants the capital to move to Auckland but I’ve got a better idea – move it to Oamaru. Auckland doesn’t need more people or traffic and property is much cheaper down here.

There’s an historical precedent for shifting the seat of power south because our capital was originally in Russell. It then moved to Wellington so a second southward shuffle would simply be a continuation of a natural progression down the country.

It would also give Oamaru the city status for which it was destined in the 1800s until the gold ran out and land wars were settled which tempted people further north.

This capital transfer would have undoubted benefits for the locals. Thousands of people work in parliament and associated agencies. If the seat of government moved south, so presumably would the hangers-on and at least some of them would bring partners and families and this injection of people into Oamaru would increase job opportunites, property prices, facilities and services.

Some will question the wisdom of moving parliament down here when most MPs live in Auckland. But if their homes are up there then working down here would enable them to cover the country in a much more equitable fashion and reverse the problem caused the lack of geographical proportionality in our current representation.

There’d have to be something in the shift for the MPs and bureaucrats and there would be.

They’d get the satisfaction of knowing they had personally made a major contribution to regional development and there’d be lifestyle gains from exchanging the city rat race for the more sedate pace of provincial life.

If they’re concerned about leaving the beehive behind they could bring it with them and pop it down on the foreshore where it could provide nesting sites for the little blue penguins.

That way anyone who doubted the wisdom of the move would be able to wander down to see it and realise how much worse off they were in Wellington.


We’re Paying For Budget Brochure

June 11, 2008

They just don’t learn do they? In spite of Labour’s contention the pledge card (remember the one they spent our money on illegally then changed the law to make it legal in retrospect?) was just a belt-way issue when it wasn’t they’re snubbing their noses at public opinion again – spending our money on their budget brochure.

Labour is dipping into taxpayers’ money to produce leaflets on the May Budget – publicity that is almost certainly election advertising under its new Electoral Finance Act and will have to be counted in its election expenses.

That means large sums of public money will again have gone towards a Labour election campaign. The cost of the leaflet may also have to be declared as a donation by Parliament to the Labour Party under the troublesome new law, which is not how Labour intended it to work.

Oh dear – they’re having problems with their own bad law.

The leaflet does not breach Parliament’s own spending laws because they have been liberalised and it does not breach the Electoral Finance Act because it is authorised. But there may be a post-election sting in it for Labour.

The party will almost certainly have to declare the leaflet in its election expenses return to the Electoral Commission and deduct its cost from its $2.4 million cap.

Wellington electoral law specialist Graeme Edgeler said last night the leaflet met the definition of election advertisement under the Electoral Finance Act.

“It doesn’t say vote Labour, but that is the clear implication.”

It had party colours, the Labour logo, and the party’s tax-cut promises this year and in the future. He did not believe it could be considered under the exception given to an MP producing material in their capacity as MP.

“This is a Labour Party promotional leaflet.”  It was “almost certainly” an election advertisement and as such should be declared in the party’s expenses.

And as such will almost certainly rile voters who also happen to be taxpayers who don’t like their money spent on political partys’ self-promotion.


Yes, Yes, Yes, No Crisis

June 11, 2008

Is this the Clayton’s crisis – the one we have when we’re not having one?

 

Energy Minister David Parker  says we’re not having one:

 But Transpower CE Patrick Strange  says there is.

We as an industry are very concerned. We are risk averse, so things concern us….it is serious when we call on New Zealanders to be prudent with their [power] use. For the electricity industry, we call that serious.”

 

At a meet the candidates meeting when he was first seeking election in Otago in 2002 Parker said one of the reasons he was standing for Labour was because of Max Bradford’s power reforms.

 

When questioned at another meeting when he was an MP about why he hadn’t done anything to change the system he was so opposed to he said something to the effect that once something was entrenched it was too hard to change.

 

 He has a point there, sometimes when a policy is embedded it is difficult – for practical or political reasons – to do much about it and it becomes one of those dead rats MPs and their parties have to swallow. That is the reasoning National is giving for agreeing to continue with interest-free student loans – there would be no real practical impediment to changing the policy but it would do too much harm politically to even contemplate it.

 

 The power system is different – it was a very unpopular policy when it was introduced and if anything it’s even more unpopular now.

 

 The idea of competition might offer consumers choice in theory, but in practice it’s too much hassle to exercise that choice and change your energy supplier unless you’re really, really unhappy. Even there what do you gain when you get six from one and half a dozen from the other?

 

 The other flaw is that the companies are businesses which need to make profits which they do by selling power. There is nothing wrong with profits and a profit motive but power companies make a profit more easily when demand is high because the price goes up so there is absolutely no incentive for them to encourage conservation or alternative generation. The more profit they make, the better the dividend the Government receives from its SOEs so its desire to avoid the political consequences of power shortages conflicts with its desire/need to receive more money.

 

 And let’s not forget there’s an election soon.

 

The Government is understood to be concerned that the elderly in particular may panic and try to conserve power at the expense of their health. It also does not want to be responsible for telling voters in an election year that they must cut their consumption.

Parker yesterday denied downplaying the situation, saying the Government had been “absolutely transparent” about the hydro-lake levels.

He admitted politics did play a part. “I suppose politics is involved in everything in an election year.”

[Update: Truthseekernz opines that the marekt model isn’t working and points to energy consultant Bryan Leyland saying the market system has cost consumers $7b over 10 years.

 

And Keeping Stock comments on the irony of power companies campaigning for power savings.]


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