In truth, I underestimated the Ukrainian people’s resilience, their courage, their love of country. And I was wrong, too, about the Western alliance. After more than a decade of drift and inaction, from the shameful failure to respond to the seizure of Crimea to the near-criminal indifference to the suffering in Syria, I doubted whether any major Western leader would make more than a token protest about the first full-scale European invasion since the Forties. I never expected to see Finland and Sweden jump off the fence and apply for Nato membership. Nor did I imagine that Joe Biden would be so unswerving in his commitment, or so generous with US military aid. Above all, I never anticipated that Kyiv would hold out, that Kharkiv would stand or that Kherson would be retaken. As I say, it’s nice to be wrong. – Dominic Sandbrook
How, then, does it end? If you agree with, say, the late Jeremy Corbyn, then the answer is obvious. Peace is better than war, so all that matters is to make it stop. Go cap in hand to Moscow, and keep offering them territory until Vladimir Putin raises a hand and says: “Enough!” If you want to feel good about yourself, you can dress it up as offering the Russian president an “off-ramp”. Or, if you’d prefer to be honest, you can just call it appeasement.
The alternative is at once emotionally unsatisfying and boringly straightforward. And sadly it involves lots of people dying, because that’s the nature of war. It is simply to keep giving the Ukrainians the aid, weapons and emotional and political support they need, until they have driven every last occupier from their land — or until they’ve had enough and are prepared to cut a deal. But that should be their decision, not ours. After 12 months of war and more than 100,000 casualties, they’ve earned the right to make it. After all, we would want the same, if we were in their shoes. And like them, we’d want our friends to do the right thing.
Good versus evil; right versus wrong. In a complicated world, sometimes it really is that simple. – Dominic Sandbrook
There was a time when it was widely accepted that it was a good thing to adapt nature for our own ends. Indeed, that’s the only way we humans can survive. Nature has dragons; left unprotected from them, and they will devour us.
And on our own, compared to nature’s power, we human beings are weak. Left exposed and naked and without the food, shelter and technology produced by our adaptation of nature, if we merely settled for adapting ourselves to nature’s dragons then ever single one of us would struggle for survival. But adapt nature to ourselves — make it more humane and set nature’s processes and nature’s bounty working for us rather than agin us– and then as a species we’re off to the races.
This path — adapting nature to ourselves — was the path of centuries of human civilisation and flourishing, starting all the way back in settlements around the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Nile where floods were tamed and used to produce abundant wealth from the enormously fertile soil.
This is not the view nowadays however. Not so much.
THE PREDOMINANT VIEW NOWADAYS is that protecting ourselves from nature is wrong. That “the environment” trumps human beings. That nature must take its course. That natural processes have rights, but human beings don’t. – Not PC
This is not a climate problem or an engineering problem. It’s an attitude problem. It’s an attitude borne of bad philosophy: of the ethics that says that Gaia comes first, and humans a far distant second.
We didn’t always think this way, or we would never have come so far as a species.
However it’s now a notion that’s philosophically entrenched in present generations, and in most government departments (central and local). It’s also legally entrenched in the RMA (which gives rights to the “intrinsic value of ecosystems,” but not to humans wishing to protect themselves from the often dangerous natural processes inflicted upon us by ecosystems). And don’t think David Parker’s various replacement bills for the RMA will improve things either — to read those legislative tributes to Gaia is to understand they will only make things harder all round.
Just imagine if this attitude was predominant around the Nile in the times of the pharoahs; if instead of taming the Nile and its regular floods to produce abundant crops, invent hydraulic engineering and to build a civilisation the Egyptians ran away instead. As a culture they’d now be deservedly lost to history. As would all the cultures and civilisations (i.e., ours) that built upon those first beginnings in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
And that goes for any culture that opts out of the ongoing battle against the dragons of nature — and it goes for us too. – Not PC
The PM’s tenure as Minister of Education has given NZ school students a racialised and unbalanced curriculum
Even if Chris Hipkins is no longer the Prime Minister after October’s election, his legacy will be locked in for some time. – Graham Adams
Hipkins may, in fact, not even have been the principal architect of the stealthy revolution that has occurred on his watch but it will be seen as his legacy nevertheless because formal power over the education portfolio rested with him from 2017 until he became Prime Minister in January.
Over those years, Hipkins and his ministry have given the nation’s schoolchildren a radical (“decolonised”) history curriculum, which teachers throughout the country have begun implementing this term. “Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories” is now compulsory for schools from Years 1-10, with the subject optional in Years 11-13.
It can perhaps be best summed up as a one-eyed ideological exercise in demonising Pakeha as oppressive colonisers and valorising Maori as valiant resisters. – Graham Adams
Hipkins has been responsible for the disastrous centralisation of polytechnics and the first-year, fees-free university programme — which last week Times Higher Education pointed out had disproportionately benefited the wealthy — but the radical reshaping of school curriculums may be more enduring and difficult to unwind than these flawed programmes. – Graham Adams
And the radical policy prescriptions in education don’t stop with the history curriculum. That is just an early part of a “Curriculum Refresh” which will be implemented fully by 2026, with principals encouraged to begin sooner if they can. – Graham Adams
Professor Rata draws particular attention to the concept of “mauri” (life force) being included in the NCEA Chemistry & Biology syllabus. “Vitalism, the idea of an innate ‘life force’ present in all things, has surfaced in many cultural knowledge systems, including European, but has been soundly refuted and is not part of modern science.”
Some of the proposals in the draft are so preposterous that it is shocking they found their way into any official document. What are we meant to make, for instance, of the “Purpose Statement for Mathematics and Statistics in the New Zealand Curriculum”, which states: “Being numerate in Aotearoa New Zealand today relies upon understanding diverse cultural perspectives and privileging te ao Maori and Pacific world-views”? – Graham Adams
Since becoming Prime Minister, Hipkins has told us that the government has failed to explain co-governance adequately to the public, and a principal reason why the policy is so contentious is that it has been “misunderstood”.
Perhaps he could begin the new era of glasnost under his leadership by explaining exactly how partnership and co-governance work in the education portfolio he has just relinquished — and specifically in the makeover of the school curriculum.
The curriculum refresh makes it clear that what is taught will be decided in collaboration with local iwi. It recommends that, “Leading kaiako [teachers]… incorporate te reo Maori and matauranga Maori in the co-design of localised curriculum with whanau, hapu, and iwi.”
Co-designing a curriculum with Maori is, of course, an informal example of co-governance. Perhaps Hipkins could explain why “whanau, hapu, and iwi” should be involved — and especially what educational qualifications and experience they might be required to have to undertake such a prominent and important role. – Graham Adams
Public criticism of partnership and co-governance imposed through legislation and policy has so far mostly focused on Three Waters. But once parents get a better grasp on what their children are being taught at school, Hipkins can expect another ferocious battle on that front too. – Graham Adams
It won’t be long, however, before boys will be discouraged from their dinosaur stage by fears that such a stage is the manifestation of a colonialist mindset. After all, dinosaurs were first recognized and studied in an imperialist country; therefore, the study of dinosaurs must be imperialist. – Theodore Dalrymple
To be surprised that paleontology is a study pursued mainly in rich countries indicates a complete absence of common sense. I mean paleontology no disrespect—I fail to see how anybody with leisure and opportunity could fail to be at least mildly interested in it—but paleontology, fascinating as it is, would hardly be the first priority for poor countries, even among the natural sciences.
Paleontology is an expensive and, in some sense, a luxurious pursuit. It’s natural that it should be pursued predominantly by rich countries. Paleontologists have, I imagine, no particular thirst for martyrdom, and therefore it isn’t surprising that they tend to shun countries difficult and dangerous to access, when there are plenty of other countries to explore. – Theodore Dalrymple
As science develops it grows more expensive to pursue. But the economic order of the world changes, and countries formerly poor can and do become rich. They will then be enabled to pursue paleontology—if they so wish. They will need to develop a tradition, but it can be done quickly with the right frame of mind.
Thus there can be no need to “decolonialize” or “diversify” paleontology, and the easiest, indeed only, way to ensure that its practitioners are representative of the population of the world as a whole is to abandon it altogether.
It seems that some kind of prion, the minute particle that caused the fatal brain disease known as kuru among the Fore people of New Guinea, has entered the minds of the intelligentsia in the West. In the meantime, boys should enjoy their dinosaur stage while they’re still allowed to do so. – Theodore Dalrymple
IT IS ONLY SLOWLY DAWNING on climate change activists that the fight against global warming is lost. Locally, Cyclone Gabrielle has rendered their cause hopeless. By insisting that Gabrielle is slam-dunk proof that climate change is real, and demanding immediate action to mitigate its impact, the activists have, politically-speaking, over-sold their case. The idea of mitigating a weather event as destructive as Gabrielle will strike most people as nuts. If this is what global warming looks like, then most New Zealanders will want their government to help them adapt to it as soon as humanly possible. Increasingly, politicians and activists who bang-on about reducing emissions and modifying human behaviour will be laughed-off the political stage. It will be the parties that offer the most practical and responsibly-funded adaptation policies that win the elections of the future – including the one scheduled for October 14 2023
In retrospect the mitigators’ cause was always hopeless. So long as the effects of global warming were not going to be felt for many years, climate activists would never be able to force the changes necessary to prevent them. Tomorrow, as everybody knows, never comes – especially not in politics. Once heatwaves, wildfires, storms, floods and rising sea-levels start ruining people’s lives, however, their reactions will be different. “Okay, we believe you about climate change,” they will say. “So, now you have to show us how to adapt to this new normal?”- Chris Trotter
Collectively, the human species is burning more coal, more oil, and more natural gas than ever before. So, how likely is it that New Zealand pulling on a metaphorical hair-shirt and crying “Follow our mitigation example!” is going to stop them? – Chris Trotter
But, just how receptive are the poorest peoples on Earth likely to be to a message delivered to them by their former colonial masters which boils down to: “Please don’t try to become as rich as we are – the planet can’t take it.” Are they likely to say: “Yes, Master, we are happy to remain poor – for the planet’s sake.” Or, will they not-so-politely suggest that if the peoples of the West really are so determined to save the planet, then how about they agree to spread their extraordinary wealth evenly across it? Will either side agree to mitigate climate change by making such huge sacrifices? Or, will both sides move as swiftly as – Chris Trotter
Inevitably, as the world warms, nation states will become even more selfish. When cyclones as devastating as Gabrielle lay waste to forests, farms and orchards, and make plain the worst errors of urban planners, every available dollar is going to be spent on recovery and adaptation. Pleas for financial assistance from developing nations confronting similar challenges are likely to fall on deaf ears. Charity, the voters will insist, begins at home – and their political representatives will not dare to disagree.
It has not helped the mitigators’ cause that so many of them seem to be located on the left of the political spectrum, or that those not identifying as left are fervent advocates of indigenous rights. These climate activists characterise “Carbon, Capitalism and Colonisation” as the three evil giants that must be slain before climate change can be effectively mitigated. They are less forthcoming, however, when asked how this slaughter might be accomplished. This is understandable, given that the chances of destroying Carbon, Capitalism and Colonisation peacefully and democratically are rather slim.
Not that these difficulties are likely to bother the true revolutionaries, since for them global warming has always been the most wonderful excuse for imposing the sort of regime that nobody who believes in individual rights, private property, and the Rule of Law would ever willingly submit to. In the grim summation of George Orwell: “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” For far too many climate activists, mitigation has always been a Trojan Horse. – Chris Trotter
Eric Crampton and I appeared before the Committee last week to speak to the New Zealand Initiative’s submission on the Natural and Build Environment Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill.
The Initiative submitted that the government should withdraw both Bills. While the existing Resource Management Act is demonstrably bad both for the environment and development, in our view the government’s proposals will likely make matters worse. – Bryce Edwards
The first step in assessing the merits of any proposal is to determine whether it identifies the causes of the unsatisfactory effects. The second step is to develop options aimed directly at those causes. The third step is to assess which of those options best enhances the wellbeing of those affected.
The official analysis fails at each step. First it does not consider deep causes. Instead, it simply assumes that the remedy is to double up on prescriptive central government direction. Second, it fails to identify any options other than the government’s proposal. This means it cannot take the third step.
To claim net benefits relative to a failed RMA is not a test of how to best address the situation.
One cannot justify shooting oneself in one foot on a regular basis by asserting that it is better than shooting both feet on a regular basis. The option of not shooting either foot has to be considered.
The Ministry need to show instead that the preferred proposal beats the best alternative option. – Bryce Edwards
The Bills’ ‘solution’ to the above problems is more central government direction, gutting local government autonomy in the process. Conflicts of interest will abound in the decision-making bodies. Delays due to hold-out by partisan interests seem inevitable.
The Bills are basically a list of conflicting aspirations. They propose no methods for assessing how much weight to put on which aspiration. That makes purposeful decision-making impossible. A decision one way today could as easily be reversed by different personnel tomorrow.
People who own land will not be able to make long-term decisions about its use with any confidence. The rule of law is undermined when no property owner really knows what the law means, today or tomorrow.
At the Bills’ heart is the fiction that environmental bottom lines exist that can be achieved regardless of the cost to New Zealanders’ wellbeing. In reality, there are only trade-offs. Resources are scarce. More of one thing means less of something else. – Bryce Edwards
Thirty years later agreed bottom lines have yet to be revealed. They will not be revealed in the next 30 years because they do not exist. There are only contentious trade-offs.
The proposed pursuit of agreed bottom lines independently of costs is a perpetual motion machine for dispute and discontent. A cost is a negative benefit. People care about benefits.
These Bill essentially deny private property rights in land use. Your land use rights are blowing in the political wind. The Minister’s claims of net benefits have no merit. – Bryce Edwards
Dahl grew up in the repressed world of the British upper class in the 20th century, where his mother was happy to pack him off to boarding school and his country was happy to pack him off to war. His own feelings were unimportant. As a writer, he responded by focusing on the horrible and the uncanny, on revenge and revolution. You can see the BFG—bullied by the other, bigger giants in the book of the same name—as an analogue for the young Dahl at Repton School, small and picked on by the older boys. Miss Trunchbull, meanwhile, is a grotesque version of every teacher who gave Dahl the cane. She deserves everything she gets. – Helen Lewis
Many writers I know have reacted strongly to the news of the rewrites, probably because we know how powerful editors can be. Almost everyone who covers difficult, sensitive subjects can tell you about a time they received a “hostile edit” in which the process of publication felt like running uphill through sand. In such cases, the editors introduce so many caveats and concessions to other people’s perspectives that the work ceases to feel like yours. Those kinds of editors—whose highest goal is a piece that won’t cause any trouble—presumably approach a dead author’s work with an appropriately Dahl-esque glee. Finally, a writer who can’t fight back!
Also, let’s not be cute about it: Sensitivity readers, including those at the company that edited the Dahl books, are a newly created class of censors, a priesthood of offense diviners. – Helen Lewis
Given the zeal with which the American right is currently targeting books such as The Handmaid’s Tale, the cultural left should be extremely cautious about championing the censorship of literature, particularly when that censorship is driven by business prerogatives rather than idealism. The Dahl controversy will inevitably be presented as a debate about culture—a principled stand in favor of free speech versus a righteous attempt to combat prejudice and bigotry. But it’s really about money. I’ve written before about how some of the most inflammatory debates, over “cancel culture” and “wokeness,” are best seen as capital defending itself. The Dahl rewrites were surely designed to preserve the value of the “IP” as much as advance the cause of social justice. – Helen Lewis
But Dahl staggers on, embarrassing the cultural gatekeepers by remaining popular despite being so thoroughly out of tune with the times. The work does so because of the dirty secret that children, and adults, like nastiness. They enjoy fat aunts and pranked teachers and the thrilling but illegal doping of pheasants. Today’s corporations want to have it all, though. They want the selling power of an author like Roald Dahl, shorn of the discomforting qualities that made him a best seller. They want things to be simple—a quality that we might call childlike, if Dahl hadn’t shown us that children can be so much more. – Helen Lewis
Adding in something quite alien when no one was expecting it risks upsetting things, especially those important conventions protecting our electoral infrastructure.
“It also risked transforming and concretising our ecosystem from a flexible and responsive political constitution to a more rigid hierarchical legal constitution and eroding our cherished principle of parliamentary sovereignty. – Dr Dean Knight
I’m open to change and evolution of constitutional arrangements, but if we are going to be taking steps towards the Geoffrey Palmer-Andrew Butler-style of constitution where we lock everything down that will have ramifications for the everyday politics and the constitutional ecosystem. – Dr Dean Knight
If particular political parties or activists want to expand the range of rights that are protected, they can make the case for that, try and find support for that, try and get a majority – have a discussion framing it as a constitutional issue and something that needs broad-spectrum buy-in.
I think generally entrenchment should be used sparingly … but I don’t have a monopoly on what is decided as constitutional and what’s not, with all due respect, members of the committee don’t have a monopoly on that, it’s really for us to discuss and decide as a nation – Nicola Willis
Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr’s boost of the official cash rate on Wednesday was a thudding reminder to the Finance Minister and the rest of us of that other cloud looming over us: the cost of living crisis, which got shunted into the background for a bit as Cyclone Gabrielle entered the scene. – Claire Trevett
The easiest remedy for the cyclone crisis is to throw money at it in vast quantities – for the infrastructure, the clean-up and support for the people and businesses hit by it.
The remedy for the cost of living crisis (or at least one of them) is to try to cut spending to help dampen inflation – but Robertson had hoped to spend some of those savings on helping ease the pain for households struggling with their bills.
Then there are the mortgages. As Orr put it, if the Government cuts its spending and raises taxes, Orr might not have to raise interest rates so much.
So Robertson faces a choice of political poisons: people can either pay more in tax or pay even more in mortgages than they already are. – Claire Trevett
Add in the political palatability test to the various remedies and sub-remedies and things get even more complicated for Robertson.
Does he bring in a flood tax to help cover the cost of cyclone damage – and therefore take money out of people’s pockets during the cost of living crisis? Does he resort to doing it all on tick, making the books look worse? Does he rein back what he had hoped to do on the cost of living front?
All of this has added a pickle into PM Chris Hipkins’ “bread and butter” sandwich.
That bread and butter offering is looking increasingly like the home-brand white bread with a smear of margarine.
And that meagre fare may well prove to be the most politically palatable thing to do. There will be little appetite or expectation of election lollies now. – Claire Trevett
The flooding disasters are vast in area – from urban Auckland to rural East Coast and Hawke’s Bay.
It has had ramifications on people’s way of living and of making a living. It will hurt the economy and impact the export industry. As quick a rebuild as possible is needed.
And a tax targeted at top earners would possibly leave room to do more on the cost of living front for those on lower incomes.
That won’t stop National from pointing to any such levy as a breach of Robertson’s 2020 campaign promise not to introduce any new taxes this term beyond the new top tax rate of 39 per cent. – Claire Trevett
In the end, what matters is not necessarily whether or not you’ve broken a promise, but whether the voters think it was justified. Sometimes a u-turn on a problematic promise is actually rewarded.
In light of the increasing tendency for the unpredictable to happen, perhaps the lesson there is not to make such promises in the first place rather than whether to stick to them.
That, however, is easier said than done in the heat of an election campaign. – Claire Trevett
But what we have observed over the past fortnight simply puts New Zealand in the Third World category. It is questionable whether the damage from Cyclone Gabrielle — which was again exacerbated by the heavy downpours which took place overnight — wipes out any economic utility the industry has to New Zealand in that part of the country. That’s because the multi-billion-dollar damage suffered by the dairy and horticulture sectors due to the “runoff” of slash exacerbated the scale and impact of the flooding. – Fran O’Sullivan
Royal Commissions of Inquiry are reserved for the most serious matters of public importance. They are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Executive Council. The 2011 inquiry looked into building failure caused by the Canterbury quake.
The part the foreign companies, their managers and contractors and the local councils have played in contributing to this disaster are best explored there — along with hearing from those affected. – Fran O’Sullivan
We are still in the response phase, but thoughts must turn quickly to what comes next. While lifelines are being sticky-taped back together for now, they must be made much more robust, and quickly. Whatever else happens in the next fortnight, winter is not far away.
Events like this remind us that, at least outside Auckland, we are a country of geographically isolated towns and villages linked together by ribbons of tarseal that are crucially important but too often taken for granted. – Steven Joyce
This rebuild is another huge job. But it has been done before and it will be done again. We need to lean into our resourcefulness, our practicality and our common sense, to get it happening fast.
That means using structures that harness everyone’s skills. The public sector, the private sector and all our communities. There is no place here for the Covid-era mistake that the Government must run everything. There is precious little chance that bureaucrats in Wellington understand how to rebuild, dare I say it, the Three Waters infrastructure of Napier or Waipawa.
There are five key elements for a successful infrastructure build: the funding envelope; a delivery mechanism for spending it quickly and wisely; the people to do the work; the ability to move quickly without excessive red tape; and a method of paying for it all. – Steven Joyce
The Government should take a flexible approach to dealing with each of the key lifeline utilities, recognising where the expertise lies. There is no time to needlessly set up new entities.
Transpower, the electricity lines companies and the telcos are experts in their fields. Their problem will be doing things that improve resilience but which customers don’t want to pay for. In the case of the electricity companies, they are prevented from doing so because the regulator won’t let them recover the cost.
These are sensible models in normal times but they won’t work here. The Government should borrow a leaf from the ultrafast broadband playbook and part-fund the needed investments to get them over the line.
The Three Waters rollout in Auckland, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay should be immediately halted and those working on it redirected to fixing what’s there.
This reorganisation was a luxury in normal times and is a massive distraction now. We need the shortest path to success. – Steven Joyce
The highways are the job of NZTA, but there is a real question mark over whether it can re-focus quickly to do the work.
Urgent flood protection works must be accelerated. This has been on the government to-do list for years, and is the least developed in terms of thinking and delivery. The logical partners are regional councils, but significant funding will need to come from government.
If it was me, I’d re-purpose the broadband rollout company, Crown Infrastructure Partners, as the primary public funder. They are used to partnering with people, understand contracting, and have a good track record of getting things done. They may need some new personnel to come up to speed quickly, but they are the agency most ready to go.
Just spending the money is not enough. One agency needs to have the power to cut through the regulatory thicket of the RMA and all the other restrictive legislation and get things done. – Steven Joyce
We don’t have time for long regulatory processes to agree on plans to protect the Esk Valley or Wairoa from more flooding, or to replace the slumped parts of copious highways. We need to get started and design as we go, as with the rebuild of State Highway One around Kaikōura. This will be a real test of a Government whose instincts on planning reform are more likely to slow things down.
Finding enough people to do the work will be challenging. Many decamped for Australia as roading work wound down. Contractors must see a clear pipeline of work over several years in front of them, so they have the confidence to scale up. The Government’s visa announcement made sense, but nothing will happen without that confidence.
As for how the recovery is paid for, that is a political choice. – Steven Joyce
Ministers seem to be limbering up to “not waste a good crisis” and use the floods to institute some good old left wing envy taxes, which sock it to the productive sector.
I suspect there will be little public patience for such politicking when the country’s economy will need to be running on all cylinders to pay for this investment.
Borrowing too much would also be inflationary, but it beggars belief that after spending increases in the tens of billions over the past few years, the Government couldn’t cut its cloth better to help pay for what’s needed. They could start by junking the preposterously expensive Auckland light rail.
There is much to do and no time to waste. Regional New Zealand will be watching closely. It hasn’t fared well under the current Government. The speed of the recovery in Northland, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay will be seen as a measure of how much politicians care. – Steven Joyce
Time and again, in his writing for adults as well as children, Dahl championed the bullied against the bullies.
“Yet here we have a kind of cultural assertiveness that strong-arms readers into accepting without alternative – though, happily, not without demur – a new orthodoxy in which Dahl himself has played no part.
“This particular revisionism sits oddly with Dahl’s irrepressibly anarchic outlook, his distinctive combination of mischief and wonder, and, of course, ignores the fact that words, central to a writer’s armoury, are a matter of choice in order to manipulate meaning and conjure effect. – Matthew Dennison
It feels Orwellian that we are having the updated versions forced upon us and has made me weary of ebooks. – Clarissa Aykroyd