Toy not tool

August 9, 2014

Young voters are being encouraged to get off the fence with what’s being called an online tool:

On the Fence is an online interactive tool that Massey’s Design and Democracy Project hope will encourage young New Zealanders to get off the fence and join in the decision-making by casting a vote in the general election.

The Design and Democracy Project, led by School of Design lecturer Karl Kane, is a strategic research unit established by the College of Creative Arts to increase awareness of election issues among young people.

Using the backdrop of sheep down on the farm – a play on the notion that people are sheep and follow their friends – the web-based On the Fence asks users to indicate how much they agree with the two statements that relate to policy issues of the day. A best match is then calculated to narrow down the options to present the parties most compatible to their views.

The matches are generated via a specially-built back end database or web tool that compiles data from an independent panel of specialists that includes political scientists, journalists and bloggers. The site was originally launched in 2011, just six days before the election and proved popular attracting more than 30,000 individual visitors from all over the world.

A tutor at the School of Design and researcher for the Design and Democracy Project, Kieran Stowers, says the fun quirky narrative emphasises that political jargon is often difficult for young people to understand and aims to demystify that process. “It’s about making politics fun,” he says.

The web tool is built to guide the large number of inexperienced voters that feel peer pressured when voting, either going along with what their friends and family think or making no decision at all.

“The tool doesn’t tell a user how to vote or specifically who to vote for, but it points them in the right direction to find out for themselves what politics is all about. So it’s about putting trainer wheels on the future for young people,” Mr Stowers says.

“Voting shouldn’t be seen as a chore, voting is a way of expressing yourself as an individual.”

That’s all very worthy but how reliable is the tool?

I took the test and got:

National first followed by – gulp –  Conservative then NZ First.

So I did it again and got:

UF first (oh no), National second and Conservative 3rd.

So I did it again and got:

The same.

What this proves is that it’s a toy not a tool.

The questions and answers are simplistic.

It has a place for entertainment and promoting discussion but it is a very unreliable indicator of which party to vote for.

Word of the day

August 9, 2014

Incrassate fattened or swollen; thickened in form or consistency; to make  or become thick or thicker, especially in consistency. to make (a liquid) thicker by addition of another substance or by evaporation.

Let’s Get Political

August 9, 2014

TV3 has launched its web-based guide to politics – Let’s Get Political.

Let’s Get Political is’s weekly political show hosted by Tova O’Brien.

The show, which forms part of’s Decision 14 election coverage, aims to inform and entertain an audience that may have until now stayed away from politics.

This week Let’s Get Political features an interview with Conservative leader Colin Craig as well as an introduction to how MMP works.

Plus we take a look back at the moment New Zealand got its first female Prime Minister.

It’s pretty basic which might be what the target audience needs.
The question is, will it reach them?

Rural round-up

August 9, 2014

New remote control technology for forestry could save lives:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew says the results from a trial using remote control technology in tree felling, which could save lives in forestry harvesting operations, show promising results.

“During the successful trial the operator was able to successfully fell and bunch several trees from a safe distance at the top of a steep slope using a remote control device,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“Much of the forestry work in New Zealand is done on steep land. The use of remote control to operate machinery on steep land will essentially remove forestry workers from hazardous areas and prevent injuries and death—a valuable and critical step forward for the industry.” . . .

Russia wants our cheese but at what cost? – Niko Kloeten and Stacey Kirk:

New Zealand may have escaped Russia’s trade crackdown, but companies need to be careful doing business there, a trade expert says.

New Zealand has been warned that continuing to trade with Russia could damage its international reputation.

Russia today announced a ban on food imports from most Western countries, including the United States, Australia and the 29 member countries of the European Union, in retaliation against trade sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

New Zealand was not included in the ban, and Russia has signalled it will increase cheese imports from New Zealand to make up some of the shortfall. . .

Foreign ownership of farms ‘about right’ – Guy – Tim Cronshaw:

Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy is comfortable with the level of foreign investment in farmland as opposition grows against big tracts of land being bought by overseas owners.

Guy said New Zealanders should not lose sight they had relied heavily on foreign investment for a long time.

He said foreign ownership of land had become an election issue and the Government was confident of its position.

“We have to keep a reasoned and balanced debate through this issue and of course we will have political parties say they will do one thing on the campaign trail and maybe another when in government,” said Guy at a Christchurch luncheon this week. . .

Local people preserve the environment better than governments – Fred Pearce:

“FOR the Wapichan, our forests are our life.” Nicholas Fredericks, a local leader of these indigenous South American people, peers out from his village into the bush. “Outsiders have a financial view of the land,” he says. “They see our forests as money. We see them as life. We have to protect them for the future of our people.”

The Wapichan, who live in southern Guyana, have just completed a high-resolution map of their traditional lands to justify their claim for legal title. They want 14,000 square kilometres to be protected as a community forest. Guyana’s government has so far ignored their proposal. . .



The importance of ‘nutrient efficiency’ – Bala Tikkisetty:

Winter and early spring are when nutrients – whether introduced as fertiliser or produced by stock – are most at risk of getting lost from farms.

That’s due to seasonal and other factors such as high rainfall, reduced pasture growth, a huge amount of urine being produced, soil compaction and pugging.

To help farmers keep on top of the implications of this for their property’s profitability and impact on the environment, a farm nutrient budget is a valuable indicator of the status of nutrients in a farm system.

It indicates where fertiliser applications are inadequate and leading to a decline in the soil nutrient status. Conversely, it can indicate excessive inputs which result in a nutrient surplus and greater potential for losses of contaminants to waterways and groundwater. . .


New standard for measurement of ‘water footprint’:

A new international standard will guide organisations to measure their ‘water footprint’, and New Zealanders were involved in developing the standard.

ISO 14046 Environmental management – Water footprint – Principles, requirements and guidelines will allow all kinds of organisations, from industry, to government and NGOs, the means to measure their ‘water footprint’, or their potential environmental impact of water use and pollution.

Developed by experts from all over the world, the standard is based on a Life Cycle Assessment and can assist in: . . .

CRV Ambreed couple re-locate for South Island farming clients:

CRV Ambreed herd improvement specialists, Mark and Sue Duffy, have packed up their bags and shifted to Oamaru, where they will be helping to improve farmers’ businesses across the South Island region.

The Duffy’s have a long passion for herd management and breeding and are looking forward to sharing their dairy experience with farmers who want to get the best results for their herd.

“We’ll be working across the region to help farmers achieve a productive, healthy, fertile and efficient herd,” said Mr Duffy. . .

Saturday’s smiles

August 9, 2014

If only I could think of answers like this when I need them instead of at three o’clock the next morning:


It  was mealtime during a flight on a British Airways plane:

‘Would you  like dinner?’ the flight attendant asked the man seated in the front row.  

‘What are my choices?’ the man asked.

‘Yes or no,’ she  replied.
A  woman was picking through the frozen turkeys at a Woolworth’s store but she  couldn’t find one big enough for her family.

She asked a passing  assistant, ‘Do these turkeys get any bigger?’

The assistant replied, ‘  I’m afraid not, they’re dead.’
The policeman got out of  his car and approached the boy racer he stopped for speeding.

‘I’ve  been waiting for you all day,’ the policeman said.

The kid replied, ‘Yes, well I got here as fast as I could.’


A  semi-trailer driver was driving along on a country road.  A sign came up that  read ‘ Low Bridge Ahead.’

Before he realised it, the bridge was  directly ahead and he got stuck under it.

Cars are backed up for  miles. Finally, a police car came up.

The policeman got out of  his car and walked to the lorry’s cab and said to the  driver, ‘Got stuck, eh?’

The driver said, ‘No, I was  delivering this bridge and ran out of petrol.’

Fantastic facts about the south # 43

August 9, 2014

Fantastic fact # 43:

Problem not inequality but mobility

August 9, 2014

Richard N. Haass asks are we getting it wrong on inequality?:

The emphasis is understandable, but there is a real danger in framing the problem as one of inequality. What should matter is not inequality per se – to paraphrase the gospel according to Matthew, the rich will always be with us – but rather whether citizens have a genuine opportunity to become rich, or at least become substantially better off. It is the lack of upward mobility, not inequality, that is the core problem.

It’s not the gap between rich and poor that is the problem but the ease or difficulty with which those who have too little can get more.

Seeing inequality as the problem can lead to all sorts of counter-productive “remedies” that in fact would make the situation worse. The most obvious temptation is to try to reduce inequality by taxing the rich. The flaw in the politics of redistribution is that it emphasizes shifting wealth rather than creating it. Making the rich poorer will not make the poor richer.

Why do the left find that concept so difficult to grasp?

There are of course exceptions to this principle. For example, in cases of extreme corruption and crony capitalism, the state’s resources are hijacked by the few. Many energy-rich countries fall into this category, which is why many observers speak of energy and mineral endowments as a “curse” rather than a benefit.

But, fortunately, such cases are exceptions. As a rule, smart policy consists not in bringing down the rich but in raising up the poor and middle class. Reducing (or, better yet, eliminating) discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation is one way to accomplish this, as is ensuring property rights, in part so that people can borrow money against their homes to start businesses.

Education is also vital. But this does not imply the need to spend much more on education; here (and elsewhere), how money is used is more important than how much is spent.

Simply – how money is spent is more important than how much is spent.

The most critical variable affecting students’ performance is the quality of teaching. The resources that are required for additional teacher training and for paying more to talented people to become and remain teachers can be offset by a willingness to shed those teachers who are not up to the task. Even if some costs were to rise, it would be worth it if the result were better-educated and more productive citizens.

Reforming curricula is equally important. High schools and what are known in the United States as community colleges – post-secondary institutions that typically offer a two-year degree – need to provide courses tailored for jobs that exist or soon will. Close cooperation between employers and schools should be fostered, as is often done in countries like Germany. And education has to be made available inexpensively and efficiently to people throughout their lives, not just at the outset of their careers.

It is also important to be wary about some ideas often put forward as solutions, such as requiring large increases in the minimum wage paid to hourly workers. The danger is that it will discourage businesses from hiring. It would be better to keep wage increases modest so that people can get jobs, and to look for other ways to subsidize education and healthcare for those who need it. . .

Reducing discrimination, protecting and enhancing property rights, improving education  . . . none of that should be difficult but it will make a far bigger difference to the poor and middle income people than the higher taxes and misguided spending being promoted by Labour and its potential allies.


%d bloggers like this: