Not united on bi-partisan approach


Phil Goff was very circumspect on Checkpoint last night when asked to comment on calls for a speedier resolution of which areas of Christchurch can’t be rebuilt.

He said Labour was trying to to be bi–partisan about it. (2:12 @17:39)

The party, doesn’t appear to be united on that approach, or at least one MP isn’t following her leader’s example.

 Lianne Dalziel got a lot of media exposure yesterday criticising the government about the time it is taking to resolve which areas will be abandoned.

Did someone forget to tell her about the bi-partisan approach or isn’t she listening?

As Bill English says:

. . .  the latest earthquakes had given the matter “extra urgency” but drip-feeding information or partial decisions would not help.

“These people are suffering the severe and psychological impact of another quake and they’re going to need some reasonably definitive answers, not half-baked ones.”

Thousands of people are living in limbo while dealing with continuing quakes and aftershocks and  insecure housing and infrastructure.

But giving them only part of the information they need to make decisions, or information which later turned out to be wrong would only make matters worse.

The Checkpoint interview showed both Goff and Green co-leader Metiria Turei appreciate this and the difference between advocacy and politicking. I’m not sure Dalziel does.

Appropriate sponsors


John Drinnan, the Herald’s media commentator muses on the suggestion that sponsorship might be introduced to RadionNZ National:

With its medical disease of the week, Kathryn Ryan’s Nine to Noon could be brought to you by Prozac. Chris Laidlaw would work well with extra strong coffee. Mary Wilson on Checkpoint would suit Mack trucks. . .

It would be hard to beat the Mack Truck for mary Wilson on Checkpoint, but who could sponsor other programmes like Morning and Midday reports, Afternoons, Nights, Country Life or Kim Hill on Saturday morning?

Labouring the list


Party lists are of great importance to the people on them.

That’s understandable for anyone not standing in an electorate, or standing with little or no chance of winning. But even those with safe seats often want a high place for ego’s sake if nothing else.

Those ranking the list labour over them trying to present a line-up which will appeal to voters without disrupting caucus and upsetting non-MP candidates which can be mutually exclusive goals.

But does anyone else, even political tragics, really pay much attention to them?

The lists are made public once they’ve been sorted but unless there is someone who is well known I’d be very surprised if many voters know, or care, about who is on them and in which order.

The only time after an election a list matters is if a list MP jumps or is pushed from parliament when the next person on the list is invited to take his or her place.

Sometimes,  a party has second thoughts about the ranking as Keeping Stock reminds us the Green Party did  when co-leader Russel Norman leapfrogged Catherine Delahunty and Mike Ward to get into parliament before the last election.

When the Labour list was ranked in 2008 the importance of not upsetting sitting MPs must have had at least some bearing but that is now causing them problems.  The next person on the list is former MP Judith Tizard who must be offered the place vacated by Darren Hughes. If she turns it down it’s offered to Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher and Dave Hereora, all former MPs who, Labour president Andrew Little told Mary Wilson on Checkpoint, will not be on this year’s list.

The next one on the list is Louisa Wall another former MP but one who is standing again.

It is possible that the next five people on Labour’s list won’t want to disrupt their lives to return to parliament for a few months. But, has anyone asked them if they’d like to return for longer? The Labour list has yet to be ranked so if one of the five made the sacrifice they could be offered a place which has the potential to keep them in parliament for the next term.

But from what Little said last night, that isn’t a consideration. Instead it looks like five people will be expected to not take the place which they are entitled to by the law giving a whole new meaning to the term labouring (or should that be Labouring?) the list.

UPDATE: Kiwiblog notes that the five could-be MPs would be turning down 11 months salary if they decline the chance to return to parliament.

Zero tolerance of hypocrisy


It’s difficult to understand how senior members of a party could be told by a prospective candidate that he had been through court for identity fraud without ascertaining all the facts.

But when Rodney Hide was interviewed by Mary Wilson on Checkpoint last night he said he hadn’t known the details of David Garrett’s case.

This reflects very poorly on the party and its selection processes.

It’s even more difficult to understand how a man who had been on the wrong side of the law himself couldn’t understand the need to be open about it before entering parliament when he wanted to take such a hard line on crime.

Garrett may have been discharged without conviction in a court of law. But his failure to disclose the full details of his past before he was elected make him guilty of hypocrisy in the court of public opinion which has zero tolerance for the h word .

P.S. goNZo Freakpower has dug up a photo of an Act campaign billboard.

It’s time to accept the ETS and make it work for us


Federated Farmers is continuing its campaign against the ETS and I think that’s a mistake.The interview on Checkpoint (at 18:09) with Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson did their cause little good.

He’s correct that only the biological component of agriculture are exempt, at least for now. But any other cost increases in the likes of power and fuel will fall on everyone, not just farmers.

Until recently I might have agreed with continuing to campaign against the ETS but for some time I’ve been thinking it’s time to stop fighting it and make it work for us.

This was confirmed at the National Party’s Mainland conference at the weekend.

The ETS has been the hot – no pun intended – issue at regional conferences. In acknowledgement of that  Minister for Climate Change Issues Nick Smith changed his speech from water issues to deliver a speech entitled Our national interests and the ETS.

He started by acknowledging the debate over the science, econmics and international politics of who should do what, when. Then explained why New Zealand was going to introduce transport, electricity and industrial sectors into the modified ETS.

 He started with the science:

We don’t claim a consensus or a perfect scientific understanding of the earth’s climate system. But we are satisfied that enough is known to be of concern and that action is justified to curb our growth in emissions. This is about sound risk management. New Zealanders expect governments to prudently manage risk of phenomena like earthquakes. We all pay EQC levies even though we may not need the billions that have been collected. We see managing the risk of climate change in a similar context.

Then came the politics:

The international politics of this issue is as hard as the science. Two stark facts dominate the global debate. 80% of the increase to date has been caused by developed countries that make up only 20% of the population. This is why there is such a rigid position from developing countries that we must move first to curb our emissions.

They say: “You caused the problem, you’re wealthier, you need to take the lead”. It’s on this basis that Kyoto was stitched together.

But there is an equally compelling statistic on the future. More than 80% of the increase in emissions this century will come from developing countries. That’s why countries such as China, India and Brazil are pivotal to the post-Kyoto framework.

 And then there’s domestic politics:

 Labour’s scheme would have doubled costs, required the early entry of agriculture and given less support for industry.

 We have Labour and the Greens arguing our ETS is too soft, too slow, and too generous to business. . . 

 ACT has championed the cause of the Kyoto forest owners. They argue that carbon credits are a “property right”, “belonging to those who planted them” and must not be “confiscated”. That’s fair enough, but paying these out is set to cost about $1.6 billion over the Kyoto period until 2013. It’s odd then for ACT to argue the carbon debits that rest with emitters under Kyoto through to 2013 don’t belong to them and must be paid for entirely by the taxpayer. This is the ‘socialise your losses, capitalise your gains’ ETS. It is a recipe for a Greek-style fiscal tragedy.

 Why is starting soon in our interests?

 The sooner we start, the easier the transition will be; it will protect our green brand and market access and encourage afforestation and renewable energy.

 While Labour was in power 56% of new energy generation built was thermal, only 44% was renewable. Since National came to power 80% of consent applications have been for renewable energy.

 The price signals the ETS sends are crucial for foresters.

New Zealand lost 30,000 hectares of trees in Labour’s last four years in office, more than in any period since records began in the 1930s. Their confusing and shifting policies on the ETS contributed to this. Again, like electricity these are long-term investments that need certainty. In 2009, the deforestation stopped and there was a small gain in forest area of 500 hectares. Forester’s intentions indicate increased plantings of 4700 hectares this year, 5700 hectares next year, and still more of 7700 hectares in 2012. This confidence will be lost if we blink on the ETS, yet these plantings are crucial to New Zealand’s long-term climate change targets.

National campaigned amending the ETS in 2009 and introducing it this year. 

We’ve halved the cost to businesses and consumers. We’ve slowed the pace, deferring sector entry dates. We’ve removed the disincentives for businesses to grow and ensured that small and medium businesses are not discriminated against in the allocations to trade exposed businesses. We’ve put regular reviews in the law in 2011 and regularly thereafter so we can reassess our approach relative to international progress and the latest science.

 National promised foresters would receive credits for trees planted since 1989 and the country signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol. Without an ETS we’d miss our reduction  target by 11 million tonnes.

 There are alternative measures to meet our commitments:

You could regulate and tell citizens what sort of light bulbs they must use, how much water they can have in their shower, what sort of cars they can buy and tell business what sort of power plants they must build. An ETS encourages emissions reductions without reverting to a Nanny State.

All advice New Zealand has received says that  the Australian approach would cost more and achieve less. 

The crucial point here is that countries face a Kyoto cost either as taxpayers or as emitters, and all of the economic advice is that it is more efficient and cost effective to put the cost on those who can do something about how much they emit.

New Zealand is not leading the world. In the EU emission s are 10 tonne per capita and here they’re 18 tonnes. The EU’s emissions have dropped 9% since 1999, ours have increased by 24%. (I accept that a good deal of our increase is from agriculture, most of the production of which is exported). The EU scheme started five years ago and covers 43% of emissions, ours which is due to start in July covers only 23%.

The claim of New Zealand leading the world would be true if we were insisting on implementing an all gases, all sectors scheme on 1 July. We’re not. The scheme only provides for a half-obligation. Our plans to move to a full obligation in 2013 and to include additional sectors are conditional on progress being made internationally. We’ve got reviews of the ETS in our legislation scheduled for 2011 and regularly thereafter. A key test will be in ensuring New Zealand does not carry an unfair burden of the cost of constraining emissions and that our approach takes the least cost way of meeting our international obligations.

National has halved the costs Labour’s scheme would have imposed:

The cost to an average dairy farm of the fuel, power and processing impacts of the ETS is 0.5% of returns. The ETS will impose less cost on the average farmer than a 0.1% increase in interest rates.

And there are opportunities for farmers to make savings.

The obvious way a farmer could offset the cost of the ETS for the average farm is to plant on unproductive areas of the farm in forest. An area of only 6 hectares would offset the 1 July 2010 electricity and power costs of the ETS.

There are many new technologies available to reduce on farm energy costs. For example, the installation of heat pump technology in the dairy shed can deliver more than $2000 a year in savings in electricity. Studies of irrigation also show thousands of dollars of savings from modest efficiency improvements in systems.

Households could also become more energy efficient and make savings from that:

For instance just correcting the tyre pressure on the average car can save $130 per year. Changing driving habits for the average motorist can save $300 a year. The Government is helping to offset the ETS cost for a household by providing an $1800 home insulation grant and a $1000 grant for solar hot water systems. These would each save an average household $400 a year in energy costs, greatly exceeding the ETS costs of a $165 per home.

One reason our emissions have increased in the past two decades is mixed messages and an inconsistent approach.

Businesses and the economy need a steady and consistent approach, and that’s what your Government is delivering.

We Kiwis value our clean green brand and want to be part of the solution, and not the problem, on climate change. We don’t want to lead the world in emissions growth anymore than leading the world in emissions cuts. We know we need to be planting more trees. We know we should be building more renewable power stations. And we know we should be investing more in energy efficiency. Doing nothing is not an option. Our very moderate ETS is the sensible way for a National government to make progress.

A PDF of the power point slides is here. The ODT and Oamaru Mail reported on the speech and Stephen Franks posted on a similar speech delivered to the Central North Island conference and gives his views.

The whole speech follows the break.

  Read the rest of this entry »

Greenmail or compensation?


When is money paid by the applicant for resouce consent to an individual or body objecting to the consent greenmail and when is it compensation?

The question has come up as the story (three posts back) about Meridian Energy paying DOC has developed.

John Key says the payments would be okay if it was to offset environmental impacts  but not if it’s hush money.

Director-General Al Morrison said a suggestion DOC accepted money in a secret deal to remain quiet over the windfarm proposal is totally inaccurate.

“In this case an agreement was reached which resulted in $175,000 being set aside to improve public access to nearby conservation land and for a series of plant and birdlife issues to be addressed,” Mr Morrison said. . .

. . . “Clauses were specifically entered into the agreements to ensure the details could be publicly released once signed and they have already been fully tabled, including the amount agreed, before the Environment Court,” he said.

Trust Power spokesman Graeme Purches says it  also had an agreement with DOC but:

Mr Purches said some people are calling these deals bribery but that is wrong.

“It’s about working with stake-holders to get a win-win. It’s not about bribery. I think anyone who suggests you can bribe a Government department like DoC has got rocks in their head,” Mr Purches said.

The Resource Management Act allows for payments to be made to mitigate or compensate for adverse effects of any development.

What raised hackles with this example was the suspicion DOC had accepted the payment to remain silent and had done that because of a decision by the previous government to take a whole of government approach in support of the application.


Kathryn Ryan had extended interviews and also covered the issue in this morning’s political slot on Nine to Noon;  and Mary Wilson interviewed Al Morrison on Checkpoint.

Alf Grumble  asks, what’s up Doc?

Most-feared in media award


The NBR reports that Checkpoint’s Mary Wilson  is the interviewer PR firms and media trainers advise clients to avoid.

The PR flacks and media skills trainers are telling their clients that Wilson turns anything and everything into a massive verbal brawl in which the interviewee will be hung, drawn and quartered.

Would that happen if you answered her questions fully and had nothing to hide?

Wilson 1 – Clark 0


Mary Wilson has just interviewed Helen Clark on Checkpoint.

If Clark was expecting a free run to give a party political broadcast which, as Adam Smith  noted, she had when she announced the election this afternoon, she’d have been disappointed.

Most of the interview centred on why Clark didn’t say what she knew about Winston Peters and the donations debacle and her handling of that.

The interview is on line here.

Dunne throwing stones in the glasshouse


Checkpoint reports that Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne say National won’t be able to afford substantial tax cuts if it leads the next government.

Their comments come in the wake of National’s decision to leave Welfare for Families unchanged.

Act has always advocated lower government spending so Hide is standing on firm ground when he criticises National. But Dunne leads the party which created the great tax-wasting Families Commission so he’s throwing stones while forgetting he’s living in a glasshouse.

Allegations unsubstantiated rubbish – Peters


He didn’t have a sign saying “no” this time, but Winston Peters   didn’t have many straight answers either.

He labelled allegations over donations to New Zealand first as unsubstantiated rubbish and attacked the media.

No surprises there, but as Julian Robins said on Checkpoint (not yet on line) there are still a lot of questions to which answers have yet to be given.

Update: Checkpoint is now on line here.

Fuel Tax Better Than Road User Charges?


Petrol is more expensive than diesel because the former has a fuel tax levied on it and the latter doesn’t. But diesel powered vehicles pay Road User Charges instead.

The chair of the Road Transport Forum, Steve Doughty told Mary Wilson on Checkpoint last night that he’d be keen on an investigation to determine if fuel tax might be better than RUCs.

My initial reaction to this is positive. RUCs are based on distance, the further you go the more you pay. That sounds fair enough until you work out that vehicles which travel further efficiently pay more than those which travel a shorter distance inefficiently.

Fuel taxes, are consumption taxes so the more you use the more you pay and there is a financial incentive to use it efficiently.

Doughty reckons that the administration on RUCs costs around $100 million a year. That sounds high but there must be a lot of paper work involved with all the vehicles each with individual RUCs which need to be purchased and processed.  It would be simpler and cheaper to pay fuel tax at the pump as we do for petrol.

Changing from RUCs to fuel tax might be more expensive for people with diesel powered cars who drive short distances. But it would definitely be easier and, by reducing the adminsitration,  possibly cheaper for every vehicle covering long distances.

It would also relieve traffic police of the task of checking RUCs are up to date and writing tickets if they’re not 🙂

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