$600,000 is cheap?

March 26, 2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced what looked like a big boost to Auckland’s housing supply yesterday.

It didn’t take National’s housing spokeswoman Judith Collins to point out it was old news:

“The previous Government signed off on Unitec’s investment plans to consolidate their campus and develop the spare land for housing.

“The plan change has already been through Auckland Council. We know that because various local councillors were opposing the development.

“All that has happened here is that a land development that was owned by one part of Government is now owned by another arm of Government. A pure re-badging exercise.

“The development at Unitec has already been factored into the plans and predictions for housing development in Auckland.

“All that seems to have happened here is that Mr Twyford wants to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise the building and selling of homes that were going to happen anyway. . . 

Involving the government is likely to add to costs and delays.

It would be far better to leave building to the private sector rather than tying up taxpayers’ money with all the complications that brings.

Then there’s the cost which Corin  Dann raised on Q&A:

PHIL: So, you’re talking medium-density, as pretty much all the KiwiBuild homes in Auckland are going to be medium-density, apartments, flats and town houses, terraces. 500,000 to 600,000 is the kind of range we’re talking about.

CORIN​: So somebody is going to get a $600,000- what, two-bedroom, three-bedroom house in Mt Albert?

PHIL​: Yes. Two to three, yes.

CORIN​: That’s really cheap.

PHIL​: Sure.

Cheap? Since when has $600,000 for a two to three bedroom house been cheap?

Since demand for houses outstripped supply so badly and as Act MP David Seymour pointed out the government isn’t addressing the root cause of that problem:

. . . The Government’s own officials have said that, in Auckland, land use regulation could be responsible for up to 56 per cent, or $530,000, of the cost of an average home.

“ACT has revealed from Written Parliamentary Questions that Cabinet hasn’t even decided whether to consider reviewing the Resource Management Act – rules that determine what can be built where – after 150 days in the Beehive.

“New Zealand does not have a free market in housing. It is a market created and manipulated by government.

“The Government – whether central or local – controls the Resource Management Act, zoning, consents and other factors that influence the market.

“Our housing market isn’t a case of market failure but an example of regulatory failure. New Zealand has planning rules which mean that the market is not able to increase the supply of houses in response to increases in demand. . . 

The RMA and zoning are a big part of the housing cost problem.

So too are building regulations.

Economies of scale with bigger populations don’t explain all of the difference in the cost of building a house in Australia and New Zealand.

If the government is serious about affordable housing it needs to look at building regulations which require more expensive materials on this side of the Tasman than the other.

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$38m wasted on dropouts

March 9, 2018

Even the very few people who think making the first year or tertiary study fee-free must acknowledge that wasting $38m on dropouts is not good use of public money:

Students aren’t paying, but the taxpayer will. According to 2013 data, 14 percent of first year university students failed to complete their studies.

In its first year, the fees free policy will cost $275 million. If 14 percent of students drop out that means a potential $38 million could be spent on them.

The Government expects more people will enrol as a result of the policy – so in its second year, it will cost $372 million.

If dropout rates remain the same, that means a potential waste of $58 million.

“The government is giving money to rich kids and wasting it,” Mr Seymour said.

The $38 million is on top of what taxpayers already cover in fees for those who drop out.

Before the fees free policy was adopted, the Government was already funding 71 percent of the $2 billion cost of tuition.

It’s ridiculous that $38m is being wasted one dropouts, it’s no better that most of the rest of this year’s $275 million is being wasted on people who would have been enrolling for tertiary education anyway.

Just think how much good that money could do if it was spent on the children failing earlier in the education system – the ones who can’t read and write.

Unlike tertiary graduates who will generally earn far more than non-graduates over their working lives, these people might never be able to get employment.

 


Principals put politics before professionalism and pupils

February 12, 2018

The Principals Federation is putting politics before pupils:

”The scrapping of legislation that enabled the establishment of charter schools in New Zealand is welcomed by principals, ” said Whetu Cormick, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF).

Charter schools are an idea imported from the United States of America and are intended to privatise public education.

“Charter schools have no place in New Zealand’s education system,” said Cormick. “The former Government’s efforts to establish them as part of their overall privatisation agenda, did not get the traction they intended, despite funding the schools at a considerably higher level than public schools,” he said.

Charter, or partnership schools which is what they’re called in New Zealand, were not set up to privatise education and the former government didn’t have a privatisation agenda.

Its aim was to cater for those who don’t fit the standard school system, and it is working for most of the pupils which is more than can be said for conventional schools.

“We welcome the new Government’s direction to support a high quality public education system and the funding freed up by abolishing charter schools will help,” said Cormick. . . 

Someone speaking for a professional body should be professional not political.

It oughtn’t matter that these schools are different, what does matter is that they are making a positive difference to their pupils.

Act leader David Seymour, who instigated the establishment of the schools organised a march against the threatened closures yesterday.

Melissa Carr’s son, 15, attends Vanguard Military in Albany. She was out waving a placard saying ‘Save our Schools’.

“He’s only been at the school three weeks and he’s already thriving and dreaming big.”

Staff believed in the children and encouraged them to believe in themselves, she said.

“These kids don’t fit into the mainstream environment so why take this opportunity away from them? It’s not costing any more for these children than at a public school, we’re not costing the government anymore and why let them miss out on opportunities that they need?” . . 

The public education system simply doesn’t suit some pupils.

Rather than seeing partnership schools as competition, principals of state schools should welcome them as complementary.

But politics is getting in the way of professionalism and the pupils who are getting the help they need will pay for that.

You can sign a petition urging the government to keep the schools open.

 


What euthanasia isn’t

December 15, 2017

Polls show a sizable majority in favour of euthanasia but a new poll shows many don’t understand what it means.

A new Curia Market Research poll shows New Zealanders are confused about what ‘assisted dying’ even means.

“This groundbreaking poll challenges the validity of most other polls on the issue. It shows that support for euphemisms such as ‘assisted dying’, ‘aid in dying’ or ‘assistance to end their life’ should not be taken as support for a law change,” says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

The more strongly a person supports ‘assisted dying’, the more likely they are confused about what it includes.

Of those who strongly support ‘assisted dying’:

• 85% thought it includes turning off life support

• 79% thought it includes ‘do not resuscitate’ (no CPR) requests

• 67% thought it includes the stopping of medical tests, treatments and surgeries.

In all three cases a person would die from their underlying medical condition – of natural causes.

These ‘end-of-life choices’ are legal and people can make their wishes known via Advance Care Planning.

This might look like angels dancing on a pin head but there is a very important difference between not doing something to prolong life and doing something to end it, withholding treatment that would extend a life and actively cutting it short.

Dr Amanda Landers is a palliative care doctor in the South Island, caring for people with a range of life-limiting conditions. She also gives presentations to nurses, doctors and the general public.

She says that many patients, and even some doctors, are unaware that stopping life-prolonging treatment and medication is legal and ethically acceptable. This means the person dies from their underlying illness – which is completely different from an intervention which deliberately ends their life prematurely.

“I was caring for a man in his 60s who was on peritoneal dialysis. He thought he would be committing euthanasia/suicide by stopping it. This belief was weighing heavily on his mind as he thought it was morally wrong.

“Once I explained to him that stopping dialysis was acceptable and that it would allow a natural death from his underlying illness, he stopped it.

“His family was unaware of his fears of dying by suicide/euthanasia and that he wanted to stop the dialysis. It was a very emotional moment for them when they heard how he was feeling, but ultimately they supported him in his choice.”

ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill proposes ‘assisted dying’ by administering drugs to end someone’s life, either by injection or ingestion through a tube (euthanasia) or by giving a lethal dose to a person to swallow or administer (assisted suicide).

There are subtle differences between suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia: It’s suicide when a person ends their own life. It’s assisted suicide when a person receives help to access the means to end their life but then takes the final action themselves. It’s euthanasia when the final action is performed by another person.

Only 62% of the 894 respondents polled thought that ‘assisted dying’ includes receiving deadly drugs to swallow or self-administer (assisted suicide).

Only 68% of respondents thought that ‘assisted dying’ includes receiving deadly drugs by injection (euthanasia).

New Zealanders are significantly less supportive of the administration of lethal drugs to end someone’s life than the notion of ‘assisted dying’ as a whole.

This is asking doctors to kill people.

After hearing which practices the proposed Bill would be limited to, support for ‘assisted dying’ dropped from 62% to 55%, opposition rose from 22% to 26% and unsure/refuse responses rose from 6% to 11%.

“We would expect public support to drop even further when people consider the wider implications and unintended consequences of euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation,” says Ms Joubert.

“A case in point is a 2014 UK ComRes poll which showed that public support for the Falconer Assisted Dying Bill dropped as low as 43% when people heard various arguments against changing the law or were provided with certain facts – for example the fact that six out of ten people requesting a lethal prescription in Washington State said a reason for doing so was their concern about being a burden on friends, family or caregivers.”

Assisted dying, euthanasia . . . call it what you will, it is a very emotional issue.

But as Bill English said during Wednesday evening’s debate, the issue for MPs is one of law.

.  . . I’m sure we’ve all had the experience—I know I have—or know about the experience, of witnessing the suffering, the fear, and the anxiety of a dying person and those around them and, sometimes, a difficult death. Alongside that personal connection, we have to weigh up, in our role as law makers—not just as parents or children or siblings or friends of those who we’ve seen die, but as law makers. Our role is not principally to alleviate suffering; our role is to ensure that our society has a set of laws that protect those who most need protection.

Did you know that in our law, section 179 of the Crimes Act, it is a crime to induce the suicide of another person, even if they don’t actually commit it—even if they don’t actually commit it? Why is that there? Because we don’t want people encouraging a depressed disabled young person that their life isn’t worth anything. As law makers, the reason there is a blanket prohibition is because “you” are not always the best judge of the value of your life, and the price that our community pays for enabling a doctor to take your life, free of criminal scrutiny, is that many other people are more vulnerable. Their lives will become more fearful, and they’ll become more subject to the pressure to make the judgment themselves that their life has less value and therefore they should make the decision. It is a slippery slope. That is why this bill, with its cold technical bureaucratic process of death, tries to look like it’s safe.

We have to weigh it up, and every Parliament up to now has said that the balance between what is enabled for an individual and the cost of that enablement to the rest of society is too big a risk to take. I put the case that as law makers that is the question that we need to weigh up: is the gain in personal autonomy—because the research shows people embark on euthanasia principally for autonomy reasons; they may not be suffering that much—worth the broader cost to our community? I don’t think anyone can in their heart of hearts believe that this bill will make life safer for the disabled or that it will make our community more warmly embracing of our ageing population. Who pretends that? It won’t—it won’t.

That is why I will oppose it and invite others to. You know, we’re not creating medical procedure here; we’re creating an exemption from the criminal law against killing for a specified group—that is doctors, who do not want to carry this burden—under some conditions that amount to box-ticking. So I ask the Parliament to consider that very carefully—the removal of the blanket prohibition against taking a life, which should be subject to scrutiny and accountability.

Euthanasia isn’t turning of life support.

It’s not adhering to do-not-resuscitate requests.

It’s not stopping treatment.

All those happen now and are both ethical and legal.

What doesn’t happen now is deliberately acting to end a life.

Proponents of euthanasia talk about a person’s right to die.

We all have the right to die.

What we don’t have is the right to kill and that’s what this Bill would give to doctors if it becomes law.


Waka jumper law shows lack of faith in own

October 25, 2017

NZ First’s waka jumping bill shows a distinct lack of faith in the loyalty of their own:

An unexpected crackdown on ‘waka jumping’ suggests the new Government is bracing for instability, says ACT Leader David Seymour

“The incoming Government has quietly announced a bill to ban waka jumping in Parliament. This was never forecasted to voters, and for good reason. It suggests the new Government expects instability and defections. Today’s ceremonious unity will not last.

“Winston Peters is particularly paranoid because it’s his last parliamentary term. He’s been burnt by waka jumpers in the past, but this term could be his party’s most divisive yet. Why wouldn’t his caucus jump ship if they believe New Zealand First is doomed in 2020 anyway?

Why would you waste parliament’s time and resources if you trusted your team’s loyalty?

And how can we trust a government which doesn’t trust itself?


Electorate accommodation could backfire on both parties

October 18, 2017

Is an electorate accommodation on offer in an effort to woo Winston Peters?

Many commentators think this will be his last term. That has been said    before and while each time it’s said he’s a bit older, there’s no certainty he’ll be any keener on retirement in 2020 than he has been before.

Whether or not he stands again, the party is at risk of slipping below the 5% threshold and out of parliament unless it wins a seat.

But even if Peters wants to contest another election, it’s unlikely he’d risk standing and not winning an electorate. He’s won three but also lost them, he won’t want to lose another.

His repeated criticism of National for allowing electorate accommodations for Act and United Future, would open him to criticism should he ask for one to give him a better chance. But doing what he’s criticised others for doing isn’t usually a problem for him.

However, the people of Northland tired of him in less than a term and voted for Matt King instead. He will spend the next three years doing the hard work a good electorate MP does and winning the loyalty of voters by doing so.

They are unlikely to show enthusiasm for ignoring that and voting Peters back in, even if they’re given a very strong message from National to do so.

Other electorates that have been suggested where National might stand aside are Whangarei and Wairarapa.

Accommodations worked in Ohariu and Epsom. But Peter Dunne already held Ohariu when National’s then leader Jim Bolger gave the wink and nod to voters to give his party the party vote but vote for Dunne as the electorate MP.

Act’s Rodney Hide didn’t need an accommodation to win Epsom the first time. He won the seat from Richard Worth without any help from National.

In successive elections, National’s candidate campaigned only for the party vote making it easier for Hide and then David Seymour to win the electorate vote.

But that is very different from asking voters to drop support for a sitting MP to allow a New Zealand First candidate to win the electorate.

There will be no enthusiasm for that from National members and absolutely no guarantee that enough voters would be prepared to turn their backs on their MP in favour of the NZ First candidate.

It would be a very risky move which could backfire on both parties.

 


Knowing right from wrong

July 17, 2017

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has admitted she is a fraudster:

. . I was one of those women, who you hear people complain about on talkback radio.
Because despite all the help I was getting, I could not afford to live, study and keep my baby well without keeping a secret from WINZ.
Like many families who rely on a benefit, Piu and I moved around a lot when she was little.
We lived in five different flats with various people.
In three of those flats, I had extra flatmates, who paid rent, but I didn’t tell WINZ. I didn’t dare.
I knew that if I told the truth about how many people were living in the house my benefit would be cut.
And I knew that my baby and I could not get by on what was left.
This is what being on the benefit did to me – it made me poor and it made me lie.
It was a stressful, terrifying experience. . .

 

Turei isn’t the first MP to admit to benefit fraud, but this one paid it back:

Parliament is a house of representatives.

I doubt there is any MP who has not done something wrong, just as I doubt any of us who aren’t MPs could put our hands on our hearts and say we’ve never done anything wrong.

Doing wrong is one thing, not knowing right from wrong is quite another.

Turei has compounded the wrong of benefit fraud with no attempt to put it right and with the attempted justification: it made me poor and it made me lie.

What does it say about the morals of the woman who wants to be a Minister?

What does it say to people, especially those on low incomes, who work hard and pay taxes to support people in genuine need?

What does that say to all the people on benefits, all of whom are poor, many of whom don’t have the support Turei had from her baby’s father, her own family and his, and most of whom manage without lying?

It’s a similar message to the one in the policy she announced of removing the penalties and obligations on beneficiaries including the requirement for drug testing and sanctions for not actively seeking work.

Most beneficiaries want to get off benefits, many need help to do so which might include a carrot and a few need a stick.

Without sanctions, fathers of children whose mothers are on benefits will have to pay nothing, people who don’t try to get work-ready and actively seek work will be left to languish on benefits and everyone else will pay directly through taxes and indirectly through the social problems including poor health, low education achievement and higher crime that benefit dependency promotes.

Quote of the day on this goes to Act MP David Seymour:

Green Party policy: If you stay at home and smoke drugs all day you get a pay rise. If you get up and go to work you get a tax hike.

Benefits should help those in genuine need.

Some beneficiaries will need permanent help but for most taxpayer help should be a temporary bridge to help them from dependence to independence.

 


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