Modern Stupid


There’s no particular reason for posting this poem tonight.

I just happened to come across it while work-avoiding and it both amused and concerned me.

Modern Stupid

It’s much easier to be stupid these days than in previous times.

Back in the old days they had to do it all by hand. It was sheer drudgery.

Now we can do it faster and with more comfort, thanks to modern methods.

You can fit it into a busy life, it’s available to everyone. It’s right there at your fingertips.

Michael Leunig

Some public servants toy with OIA requests


The free flow of information is one of the foundation stones of democracy, that’s why we have an Official Information Act.

But  some public servants are playing games with OIA requests.

The Office of the Ombudsmen is concerned some parts of the public service have been deliberately delaying responses to Official Information requests.

In the office’s Annual Report to Parliament, Chief Ombudsmen Beverley Wakem says the practice is unacceptable and subverts the purpose of the legislation.

Beverley Wakem says the Office has observed an increasing tendency by a few government departments and Ministerial offices to ignore the provisions of the Official Information Act over the timing of responses to requesters.

“While in some cases this was clearly a misunderstanding of their obligations, there is also a regrettable tendency to game the system and delay responses until the complainants’ interest in the matter had passed,” she says.

Ignorance is no excuse and it appears that some of the delays are a deliberate attempt to hide information.

New Zealand has a proud record of being relatively free of corruption.  This sort of game playing by the previous administration and their staff threatens that so I hope John Key makes it clear to his cabinet that their obligation is to ensure they and staff in ministries and departments make information freely available unless there is a very, very good reason for not doing so.

Kiwblog suggests that departments and offices which have been playing games be named and shamed.

Roarprawn gives an example of an answer to an OIA request being edited.

goNZofreakpower links this to the ACC blowout and lists the major offenders.

Inquiring Mind endangered species


Adam Smith at Inquiring Mind is considering leaving the blogosphere.

I hope he changes his mind because his is the first blog I check each day and one to which I return regularly in the hope of new posts.

His daily quotes and cartoons brighten my morning, he brings a rational and reasoned approach to discussion on domestic and international events and his broadened my reading of overseas media.

If you’d miss him too and haven’t already done so, please pop over to his place and ask him to stay.

What was that about trust?


The Fiscal Responsability Act which requires the pre-election opening of the books was supposed to ensure an out-going government couldn’t hide any nasty surprises from the in-coming one.

How then could Labour underfund ACC by about $1 billion  over the next three years with out that gaping hole showing in the books?

“This is a significant and serious hole in the Government accounts, so today I am signalling the Government’s intention to conduct a Ministerial Inquiry to determine how this happened, and why the information was not included in the pre-election opening of the books.”

Mr Key says the terms for the Ministerial Inquiry will be firmed up over the coming days.

“But my top priority is to offer an assurance to those who rely on ACC that their services will be maintained, despite warnings that the Non-Earners Account will run out of money by March.

The National-led Government has been told by officials that ACC is seeking $297 million in extra funding for the Non Earners’ Account in the 2007/08 year and a similar increase for out years.

“The previous Government knew of the seriousness of the situation, but did not disclose this information prior to the election.

“Officials have told the Government that they became aware of the serious funding issues in the Non-Earner account as early as May, and previous Ministers were also made aware of the problem. However, the funding shortfall was not mentioned in the pre-election opening of the books.

“There are serious questions to be answered about this very large ticking time-bomb. In light of this, I have determined that a Ministerial Inquiry needs to run alongside any internal ACC review.”

Keeping Stock  reckons Michael Cullen and former ACC Minsiter Maryan Street should resign over this.

Kiwiblog says Cabinet didn’t make a decision so that the shortfall wouldn’t show in the PREFU.

A hole that big is a disaster,  that Labour knew about it and didn’t make it public is a scandal.

It’s a billion dollar outrage and yet more proof that when Labour said the election was about trust the voters were right not to trust them.

Halfdone blog rankings


Scrubone at Something Should Go Here Maybe Later has compiled the Half Done November blog stats the top 20 of which are:

HD Rank Blog Last Tumeke Rank Alexa Alexa NZ Authority HD Score
1 Kiwiblog #1 62615 99 252 2
2 Whale Oil Beef Hooked #7 134113 276 93 40
3 The Standard #2 199522 268 111 48
4 Public Address #3 216349 794 174 99
5 Not PC #6 239877 538 95 136
6 No Minister #4 237322 433 64 161
7 Policy Blog: Chris Trotter & Matthew Hooton #10 202188 717 60 242
8 The Hive #5 241742 602 54 269
9 New Zealand Conservative #23 359340 557 52 385
10 Homepaddock #17 358477 763 68 402
11 Tumeke! #12 436170 807 73 482
12 Dim Post #13 355942 544 39 496
13 Cactus Kate #14 347784 806 46 609
14 New Zeal #16 414241 4467 215 861
15 Poneke’s Weblog #18 527522 1575 86 966
16 Roar Prawn #11 386652 861 32 1040
17 The Inquiring Mind #15 438737 1262 50 1107
18 Frogblog #8 94021 208 118 1326
19 Something should go here, maybe later. #34 811342 1529 66 1880
20 No Right Turn #9 907936 3070 129 2161

The blogosphere had some comings and goings in November – Roarprawn took a holiday, but has returned; Matthew Hooton and Chris Trotter left Policyblog but the latter moved to Bowalley Road, Anti-Dismal and The Hive closed and there have been two newcomers: Dear John and The Bull Pen.

I suspect Homepaddock’s 10th spot on the Half Done rankings is a lot higher than the Tumeke! rankings which Tim Selwyn is compiling now because I’ve noticed a fall in visitors and comments since the election.

Apropos of that in November:

* I wrote 226 posts.

* Received 14,414 visitors, including the most on any one day (1,160 on November 4th because of a post about the Melbourne Cup photo finish which must have shown up  high on Google searches).

* Had 378 comments, the most on a single post was 14 on November 10 about the blue wash being bad for democracy.

Red & green tape costly


Farmers will welcome John Key’s confirmation that our delegation to talks on climate change later this month will seek special treatment for agriculture.

But the Green Party reckons this could threaten our exports.

Mr Key said negotiators in Poznan, Poland, would argue aggressively for any targets on greenhouse gas emissions for New Zealand to take account of the significant contribution farming played in the economy.

The industry accounts for half of New Zealand’s carbon emissions. But Greens co-leader Russel Norman said the stance would undermine international efforts to reduce emissions and could threaten farm exports as other countries focused on high-emitting industries.

But as Federated President Don Nicolson found at the International Federation of Agricultural Producers: 

They too asked us why New Zealand is going down this track when Kyoto doesn’t ask for it, doesn’t require it and doesn’t expect it.  They are shocked and concerned. 

Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO, Charles Finny, confirms this in his blog Dear John with a post entitled Greens Speaking Rubbish:

One of the great myths that was put around in the last year of so is that if we don’t lead the world and have a scheme that applies to all sectors and all gases we will be threatening our agricultural exports.  We know for a fact that this is not the case.  Indeed some European Governments were arguing against us applying our scheme to agriculture on the grounds that this was too ambitious.  All that Europe was wanting was for New Zealand to have a scheme similar to Europe’s.  Europes scheme does not apply to the agriculture sector.  We also know that the rules that were negotiated for the Kyoto Protocol were far from perfect.  It is to be expected that countries will try and improve these rules.  The previous Government was very active in this space also – on land use and forestry in particular.

The sensible thing when the rules are wrong is to work to change them. The ETS as it stands would have a significant detrimental economic and social impact while doing little if anything for the environment, in fact if emitting industries are pushed off-shore it will make it worse.

If the Greens want to worry about something they could turn their attention to the  red and green tape  which is strangling food production, and is particularly problematic in the devloping world.

Environmental regulations and red tape are having a major impact on food production and security the world over despite international recognition of the precarious food supply situation, according to the head of a global farm lobby group.

Zambian dairy and cropping farmer, and president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), Ajay Vashee, told the National Press Club yesterday that farmers were increasingly being asked not just to produce food, but provide a range of ecological services to society.

He said though that this was having an impact, particularly in developing countries, on food production and the ability of those nations to trade because often they could not afford those services meaning trade would flow to other, mostly developed, nations. . .

. . . Mr Vashee said the push for ecological services and environmental regulation was particularly affecting developing countries who wanted to participate in trade.

He said environmental regulations were being pushed by developed nations which have the disposable income to dedicate to the environment.

“By virtue of having these policy requirements it is becoming a challenge for farmers in developing countries to meet these kinds of requirements.”

Mr Vashee said farmers must be rewarded for these non-food ecosystem services and it should not be taken for granted that farmers bear such costs on their own.

He said carbon markets should be appropriately designed so that farmers can be part of the solution.

Sustainability is supposed to have the economy, society and environment in balance but the ETS and other initiatives which hamper production with green and red tape create an imbalance. The people who pay the highest cost for this are poorer people and the poorest of these are in the developing world.

The new government’s review of the ETS and attempts to get special treatment are not an abdication of environmental responsibility they are a sensible attempt to make improvements to bad policy.

Meridian gets interim approval for Waitaki power scheme


Meridian Energy has received interim approval for its application to take water from the Waitaki River for its $900 million north bank power scheme.

The Otago Daily Times has been told it is an interim decision, which grants a water-only resource consent but is subject to agreement on conditions.

Meridian applied to ECan to take up to 260cumecs from the lower Waitaki River above the Waitaki dam for a 34km tunnel between the dam and Stonewall, near Ikawai.

A single powerhouse would generate between 1100 and 1400GWh of electricity a year.

The company’s plans for a power scheme on the Lower Waitaki began several years ago with Project Aqua which would have built a canel on the south bank. However, that was abandoned before it an application for resource consent was made.

Meridian then began investigations into the north bank scheme which has received objections from conservation and recreation groups and people with existing use rights, including irrigators.

The approval could be appealed to the Environment Court and the company still has to apply to the Waimate District Council for a land-use consent.

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