RMA simpler

10/09/2009

The RMA (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment law was passed last night.

If it works as it is intended the time, costs and uncertainties  involved in going through the consent process will be reduced while still ensuring that the environment is protected.

Among the changes are:

  • Removing frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections that can add tens of thousands of dollars to consent applicants
  • Streamlining processes for projects of national significance
  • Creating an Environmental Protection Authority
  • Improving plan development and plan change processes
  • Improved resource consent processes
  • Streamlined decision making
  • Strengthening compliance by increasing penalties and proving for a wider range of enforcement
  • Improvements to national instruments

Public focus has been on the change which means Aucklanders will no longer have to get consent to trim or fell their own trees, unless they are protected, which what happens in most of the country.

As Nick Smith points out:

A flawed assumption by opponents of this law change is that only councils and bureaucrats value trees. And that given half a chance selfish landowners will chop them down.

In essence, this law change is about changing the onus between councils and landowners. At the moment, councils are in the box seat and property owners must seek permission to trim or remove any tree on their property.

What the Government’s amendment bill does is ensure councils consult landowners before putting restrictions on their trees and reflects a greater respect for property rights.

I haven’t noticed treeless suburbs anywhere else in New Zealand where property owners have the right to do as they wish with their own trees.

Trusting people might be a risky concept for people who think councils know best, but surely if the rest of the country can be trusted Aucklanders can too.


Forget the trophies, solve the problems

26/08/2009

Maori parliamentary seats were established in 1867. That was the result of more than a decade of pressure for political representation from Maori who were granted the same rights and protections as other New Zealanders under the Treaty of Waitangi.

At that time there were three special seats for Otago and Westland gold miners and one for an Auckland Pensioners’ Settlement. Those seats went when the need for them ended, Maori seats continued, not for their benefit but from discrimination.

All Maori men aged 21 or more were granted the right to vote 12 years earlier than European men who, until 1879, had to own or lease property of a certain value before they could vote.

However, one of the reasons for establishing separate seats was a fear that Maori would swamp the Pakeha vote in some areas and their size meant second class representation from the start.

This was not the only discriminatory aspect of Maori franchise. Secret ballots had been introduced for general electorate in 1870 but Maori were required to vote by show of hands. This continued until 1910 when voting by show of hands was no longer compulsory however, it was not until 1937 that the requirement for secret ballot became law in Maori electorates.

From 1919 until 1951 Maori had to vote on a different day from the general election. They were not permitted to stand in European electorates until 1967, and they were then only able to register to vote in them if they identified themselves as “half-castes”.

The Royal Commission on MMP recommended that Maori seats be discontinued when the new voting system was introduced. That was disregarded and the number of seats has grown as more people choose to go on the Maori roll.

 There hasn’t been a corresponding improvement in statistics for Maori people. In too many social and economic measures they are still over represented in the negative ones and under represented in the positive ones

That isn’t because they are Maori. It’s because they are poorly educated, in poor health and have lower incomes.

If the Maori Party put their energy into addressing the root causes of those problems instead of worrying about trophies like Maori seats on a council, their people and our country would all be better for it.


Do Maori vote for non-Maori?

24/08/2009

I’m listening to a discussion on Afternoon’s panel and have just been told that only about 1% of Auckland local body representatives have been Maori; that means the system doesn’t work and that Maori aren’t properly represented.

But does it?

That presupposes that none of the people Maori vote for win seats – regardless of whether or not they’re Maori and/or that Maori people vote only for Maori candidates.

I’d be very surprised if that was the case, but regardless of who votes for whom, once people are elected they’re bound to represent every one of their constituents.


August 21 in history

21/08/2009

On August 21:

1770 James Cook formally claimed east Australia for Great Britain and called it New South Wales.

1920 Christopher Robin Milne, who inspired his father to write the Pooh Bear stories, was born.

The real stuffed toys owned by Christopher Robin Milne and featured in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
1930 Princess Margaret was born.
1938 Kenny Rogers was born.

1958 Auckland became the first New Zealand city to introduce the Barnes Dance, stopping all traffic to enable pedestrians to cross in all directions at once.
Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

Agreeing to disagree

20/08/2009

Political relationships are like personal ones.

Sometimes the people in them are in complete accord, sometimes they have to work to get consensus, sometimes they have to compromise and sometimes they can only agree to disagree.

If they are mature, principled and committed to the relationship they can do this without breaking up.

The Act and Maori Parties are showing they are mature, principled and committed to their coalition agreements with National in their stance on Maori seats in the proposed merger between Auckland local bodies.

Act leader Rodney Hide says he’ll step down from his role as Minister of Local Government if Maori seats are created on the new Auckland council but that won’t alter his party’s support for the government. Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says she’s disappointed by this but her party won’t be withdrawing from its support for the government either.

You can’t always get everything you want in a relationship but you can agree to disagree without tears and tantrums and without threatening the relationship.


August 2 in history

02/08/2009

On August 2:

1932 Peter O’Toole was born.


In Lawrence of Arabia

1940 Isobel Allende was born.

 

1983: anti nuclear rallies on land and sea were sparked by the USS Texas’s visit to Auckland.

Sourced from Wikipedia and NZ History Online.


July 10 in history

10/07/2009

On July 10:

1553 Lady Jane Grey took the throne of England.

The Streatham Portrait, discovered at the beginning of 21st century, is believed by many to be among the first posthumous portraits of Lady Jane Grey.[1]
The Streatham Portrait, discovered at the beginning of 21st century, is believed by many to be among the first posthumous portraits of Lady Jane Grey.[1]

1930 Canadian writer Alice Munro was born.

1967 New Zealand adpoted decimal currency.

1985 The Rainbow Warrior was sunk in Auckland Harbour.


Shortest day longest night

21/06/2009

Today’s the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night.

The Carter Observatory says:

The Winter Solstice is on June 21 at 18:46 (6:46pm); this is when the Sun is at its most Northerly point in the sky. At the middle of the day on June 21, it reaches its lowest altitude, from the Northern horizon, for the year.

Brian Carter, Senior Astronomer at the Carter Observatory says, “This means that the longest night is June 21/22 and the shortest day is June 21”.

Jamie McKay discussed this on the Farming Show with Met Service weather ambassador Bob McDavitt on Friday.

He said that in there will be 9 hours 31 minutes of daylight in Auckland and in Dunedin just 8 hours 26 minutes.

The solstice doesn’t mean the coldest weather is over. Just as the warmest weather is usually in January and February after the summer solstice, the coldest days of winter are usually in July, after the winter one.

Memories from school geography tell me the lag in warming and cooling has something to do with being an island nation.

Water heats up and slows down more slowly than land so being surrounded by sea has a tempering affect on temperatures.

But that’s a very rusty memory and affirmations or corrections are welcomed.

We were at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland on June 21 in 1982 when the temperature wasn’t much warmer than we’d have expected in New Zealand.

Four years ago we were in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, in June. Temperatures were much higher and children celebrated the summer solstice by making Juans and Juanas, which were paraded round the town then, like guys, burnt on a giant fire.

espana 110


Soft bigotry of low expectations

25/05/2009

We like to think race relations in New Zealand are pretty good.

We’re wrong.

They may not be as bad as they are in some other countries, but they’re not nearly as good as they should be and one of the reasons for that is the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The phrase isn’t original – I think it was first used by George Bush – but it encapsulates the danger of support which harms rather than helps.

One sad example of this is the pressure to have Maori seats on the new Auckland council and the reason given: because Maori won’t be represented without them.

That’s rubbish. Democratic elections allow anyone to stand, they allow anyone to support those who stand and once elected the councillors will be bound – legally and ethically –  to represent all the people in their wards and to act in the best interests of them and the wider city.

Democracy isn’t good enough for some people but those who are arguing for special rights aren’t helping Maori, they’re hindering them, the ones who are supposedly supporting Maori are dragging them down.

They’re telling them, and us, that Maori aren’t good enough to foot it in an equal contest, that people who aren’t Maori wouldn’t vote for Maori candidates, and that the people who are elected wouldn’t fulfil their obligations to listen to Maori views.

That’s bigoted and ignorant.

It’s also self defeating because, as Tariana Turia  said in a discussion on the Maori electorates on Agenda last year, the seats didn’t give Maori a voice:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

If Maori seats didn’t give Maori a voice in parliament, they won’t on the council either.

Rather than wasting their energy demanding special seats, those who want Maori representation should put their efforts in to encouraging and supporting candidates who will give them a voice.

See also:

Jim Hopkins: We’re all in this together

Glenn Jameson on Time to End Racism in New Zealand

Kiwiblog on Hikoi Day


Funds flood in to school from new rural toll road

20/05/2009

Tolls have spread to country roads.

The ODT reports that when heavy rain resulted in flooding which cut off the bridge approach over the Omarama Stream on State Highway 8 a farmer agreed to let traffic use a detour across a single lane bridge on his property.

But there was a catch – Richard Subtil of Omaramara Station is also treasurer of the local school board and he grabbed the opportunity this presented to raise funds by charging vehicles a $5 donation for using the 1 kilometre detour.

The road was closed for nearly five hours and Subtil raised $930 in that time.

Traffic backed up on both sides of the bridge, on the town’s southern boundary and Mr Subtil was approached about letting light traffic use Omarama Station’s track and bridge.

The farmer spotted the opportunity to boost the school’s funds and agreed.

“We are only a small country school and we want to offer a quality education.

We have to raise about $26,000 a year to provide that by paying teacher aides to assist [Government] funded staff. . .

“Most [drivers] were enthusiastic and happy to pay.”

Some people donated more than $5, with one businessman heading to a meeting in Queenstown so pleased he gave the school $100.

If  people are willing to pay $5 for a 1 km detour across a farm track and single lane bridge here, is the charge for the new multi-laned tar selaed toll road north of Auckland too low?

Or is it easier to get people to pay a specific recipient than cough up what’s regarded as a tax?


Meanwhile back in the real world . . .

16/05/2009

The oppposition is filibustering over two bills  to establish the Auckland supercity.

Down here on the right side of the Waitaki we might regard supercity as an oxymoron with or without Auckland attached, but that is a debate for another post.

The opposition is filibustering because that’s what they do when they know the government has the numbers and all they can do to pretend they’re not impotent, is to delay the inevitable. No doubt if the boot was on the other foot, at least some of those those complaining about the waste of time and money would be squandering it and defending it as a valid weapon in their democratic armoury.

Meanwhile back in the real world how many constituents have been at best inconvenienced  because the appointments made to see their MPs yesterday and today have had to be cancelled? How many functions at which MPs would have played an integral role will now have to go on without them?

All because their elected representatives aren’t working in their electorates as they normally do for a good part of the time from Friday to Monday inclusive. They’re stuck in Wellington, petending it’s still Thursday, while the farce which democracy becomes in such circumstances grinds slowly to its inevitable conclusion.

UPDATE: With a hat tip to Macdoctor I see that Tariana Turia walked out of the debating chamber  yesterday because while she opposes the bills she is unimpressed by Labour’s behaviour.

Mrs Turia said her party was strongly opposed to the legislation, but said Labour had taken it too far and was wasting taxpayers’ money and valuable constituency time.

“But for the first time ever, I walked out of the House totally disgusted with this behaviour, which Labour thought was very amusing.”

She understands the importance of constituency time and once again the Maori Party shows it’s more concerned about people, and shows Labour up for concentrating on politics.

This is why they lost the Maori seats, why there was a bluewash through the provincical seats and why they lost the election.

Politics might matter in Wellington but here in the real world they should come a very distant second to people.


Dear Andrew Williams #2

19/04/2009

Dear Andrew Willliams,

You’ve emailed me again and given I wasn’t impressed with your first two missives I was going to ignore these two, too.

But I was at a National Party regional meeting in Dunedin on Friday and one of the electorate chairs mentioned that she’d got a couple of emails from you and wasn’t impressed either.

She was even less impressed after her polite response requesting you stop sending her unsolicited emails was met by a return message saying something like great to hear from you, we’ve had so much repsonse we’ll deal with yours when we have time.

We’ve worked out you must have got our addresses from the National Party website.

It’s public so any of us whose addresses are there might expect the odd unsolicited email. But our contact details are there because we’re volunteer office holders who members and supporters might wish to contact, not as an invitation for lobby groups to bombarb us with unwanted propaganda.

If you’re going to send us spam the least you can do is include an unsubscribe option so our requests to be removed from your mailing list aren’t met with another unwanted message.

Yours sincerely

Ele


Off-airport park replacing shuttles?

14/04/2009

Passengers flying in and out of Dunedin are benefitting from a price war because a shuttle operator has halved his prices after missing out on an airport tender.

Further north, friends in Auckland tell me that demand for shuttles to and from the city has fallen since an off-airport car park opened which allows people to drive their own vehicles, park and be driven the short distance from there to catch their planes.

A similar service has operated at Chirstchurch aiport for years. It’s a lot cheaper than parking at the airport and for shorter trips much the same price as, and much more convenient than, a shuttle.


Dear Andrew Williams

13/04/2009

Dear Andrew Williams

I was surprised that you, the Mayor of North Shore City,  emailed me a media release headlined Local Government Minsister Rodney Hide has misled the PM and Aucklanders and followed that with another email entitled Required Reading to understand how bad the government’s decisons on Auckland’s governance are  with a copy of Rod Orman’s column in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times headlined : Welcome to ‘grater’ Auckland.

But I presume you got my address from this blog and that means you want me to post on your emails.

I have given only cursory attention to announcements and views on the super-city proposal for Auckland.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s an important issue. Much as we mainlanders like to joke about what goes on north of the Bombay Hills, most of us do understand that Auckland is important and having more than a quarter of the population and their economy handicapped by a poorly functioning local body structure isn’t good for the city or the rest of the  country.

But it does mean, just as you probably don’t have the time or energy to concern yourself with tenure review, irrigation and other such matters of importance to rural New Zealand, I’ve been leaving the issue to people more interested and better informed than I am.

However, since you’ve taken the trouble to email me, might I say how amused I was to read this:

“I am also concerned to be advised that John Banks has been a long-time silent supporter of the ACT Party and has attended ACT Party meetings, sometimes as a guest speaker. This unholy alliance between Banks and Hide needs to be the subject of a great deal of scrutiny. Something smells here. I also understand ACT supporters received inside information on the Government’s decision on Auckland prior to the announcement on Tuesday. This raises questions as to whether this National Government is being hi-jacked by these extreme right wingers”.

If you waste 10% of a media release on this, it doesn’t say much about the strength of your case.

Yours sincerely,

Ele


Maybe it’s too cheap

10/04/2009

If motorists are being urged to stay clear of the new toll road  out of Auckland to avoid congestion, could it mean that the price is too cheap?

Why anyone would waste time in a queue to save time on the road is beyond me but at this safe distance from the traffic snarl ups north of Orewa it appears that demand is outstripping supply and one way to counter that could be to raise the price.


Super city oxymoronic

03/04/2009

Down here, that mass north of the Bombay Hills where more than a quarter of our population crawls along congested roads is already one city and the boundaries between local bodies appear to be academic.

However, it’s rarely regarded as super.

People closer to the action – or inaction if you happen to be caught in a traffic jam – have another view, or indeed a range of views, of the metropolis and how many mayors it takes to run it.

However, premature though it might be given a decision on Auckland’s future form is some time away, books have opened on who’s likely to be the mayor should the little municipalities become one and my money is on Jam Hipkins:

Into the ring my hat I fling.
As Lord Mayor of the City
Imposing rules, ignoring fools
Decisive, tough … and gritty
I’ll put the wind up this city’s sails
As helmsman of your galleon
For, ‘pon my blood
This Mayoral stud
Will stand as your Lord Stallion
Bestriding all those lesser Mayors
Like Sir Tristram (wearing trousers)
I’ll bring you aid
On my Hero’s Parade
And terrify the wowsers
Lord Stallion, Super City – ME!!!!!
No tosser North Shore prick
You want it? YES!!!!
Then come, my friends
Sir Hipkins needs your tick!!!!!!!


We’ll help pay for yours if you help pay for ours

17/03/2009

I’ll accept that we’re all going to pay for Auckland roads  if they’ll accept that we all need to pay towards the off-farm costs for the development of irrigation.

It’s all infrastructure which has a national benefit.


Blackout blues

03/02/2009

There’s no convenient time for a power cut and it’s small consolation for the individuals and businesses inconvenienced by the loss of supply  in Auckland today that it happened while it was still light.

The power went off in Northern Queensland  from Ayr to Cooktown just after we arrived in Townsville 12 days ago. It was early evening which wouldn’t be quite so bad here as it was there where the sun goes down about 7pm.

I had to drive to a hen party and had a local navigating who helped me at intersections. My brother got safely to the stag party by luck alone because he drove through the city oblivious to the fact that the traffic lights were out.

No-one will be impressed by the explanation for today’s power cut – one transformer down for routine maintenance and a problem with a second which put two much pressure on the third.

But that’s probably not as bad as the cause of the problem in Queensland – bird droppings  from nesting eagles.


Multi-stop cheaper than return fare for same flights

13/01/2009

I can’t remember the last time I had bad service from Air New Zealand and recent experiences with staff on the ground and in the air have been very good.

However, I haven’t had such luck with cheap, last minute fares as Poneke,  although that could well be because I’m not always flying between main centres.

I usally book on-line and have discovered that using the multi-stop option can be cheaper than a straight return fare to and from the same destination.

I just tried the website Air NZ website  for a flight to Auckland tomorrow and back on Thursday and found it would be $908 return.

2:30 PM Wed 14th

Oamaru

4:30 PM Wed 14th

Christchurch

 
3:15 PM Wed 14th

Christchurch

5:50 PM Wed 14th

Auckland

 
NZ2002
 
NZ0532
 
Adult $663*  
11:00 AM Thu 15th

Auckland

1:25 PM Thu 15th

Christchurch

 
12:20 PM Thu 15th

Christchurch

2:10 PM Thu 15th

Oamaru

 
NZ0525
 
NZ2001
 
  3h 10m  
Adult $245*  

All flights from Oamaru go to and from Christchurch but there were no choices given for connecting flights so I then tried Oamaru – Christchurch – Auckland – Christchurch – Oamaru and found I could do the trip for $630. 

2:30 PM Wed 14th

Oamaru

 
3:15 PM Wed 14th

Christchurch

 
NZ2002
 
  45mins  
Adult $99*  

 

4:15 PM Wed 14th

Christchurch

5:30 PM Wed 14th

Wellington

 
5:00 PM Wed 14th

Wellington

6:30 PM Wed 14th

Auckland

 
NZ0454
 
NZ0464
Adult $311*  
 

    

 

   

10:25 AM Thu 15th

Auckland

 
11:45 AM Thu 15th

Christchurch

 
NZ0533
 
  1h 20m  
Adult $104*  
1:25 PM Thu 15th

Christchurch

 
2:10 PM Thu 15th

Oamaru

 
NZ2001
 
  45mins  
Adult $116*  

 

That means a short stopover in Wellington on the way up and a flight 35 minutes earlier from Auckland coming home.

But curiouser and curiouser, if I pick the same Christchurch-Auckland-Christchurch flights as given on the return option – it’s still cheaper at $843 than the return fare of $908.

4:30 PM Wed 14th

Christchurch

 
5:50 PM Wed 14th

Auckland

 
NZ0532
 
Adult $475*  
11:00 AM Thu 15th

Auckland

 
12:20 PM Thu 15th

Christchurch

 
NZ0525
 
  1h 20m  
Adult $153*  

I’m not sure if I believe my own calculations so I’ve checked twice and still get the same result – unless I’ve read this incorrectly I could spend a little more time on the computer to make a multi-stop booking and add a little more to the travelling  time to save $229 or choose the same flights offered for the return booking and still save $65.

There’s only one flight in and out of Oamaru a day but why aren’t alternative times and prices offered for connecting flights?

I don’t want to go to Auckland tomorrow, but next time I do I’ll be comparing the return fares with the multi-stop options before I book.


And what do they save?

08/12/2008

The headline says: New Auckland toll will set back motorists $2.

Does that mean they don’t waste any petrol or time and so it doesn’t cost anything if they choose to stop-start drive on the slower, congested but untolled alternative route?


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