Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Anzac Day: Remembering

Gus Mahoney, my great-grandfather.
What does Anzac Day mean to me? It's a time for remembering our forebears. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my great-grandfather Joseph (Gus) Mahoney fought in France before being shot in the hip in September 1918.

Gus was a farm labourer from Newlands and according to family was a good shot with a rifle, probably as a result of handling them on the farm. Following basic training at Trentham Army Camp (including a brief hospitalisation for measles) Gus was assigned to the New Zealand Rifles Brigade (NZRB) and sent off to Europe in 1916.

We don't have an exact record of where Gus fought, but we do know the company he served in was part of action in the Third Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele. He was wounded in September 1918, right before the end of the war, and sent to England to recover before coming home to New Zealand in 1919.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Forbes economic challenges and responses

Forbes blog has an interesting article on New Zealand's "economic bubble", focusing on the property market. Steven Joyce has responded, pointing out that the blog post is over hyped. The focus of the post was on the overheated property market, while also pointing out that New Zealand households are very highly indebted, and that government debt has increased greatly since 2008.

In many ways the post re-enforces the government's economic policies. For starters, the overheated property market, particularly in Auckland, is being cooled by the government's housing accord. The focus on increasing supply will cool house prices over time: affordable housing to enable first home buyers to get on the property ladder, increasing land supply and resource management reform all mean that more houses will be built, reducing the cost to New Zealanders overtime and the amount they have to borrow (it's worth remembering that household savings rates have been pretty good over the last few years).

Second, the debate over government spending and debt will no doubt be a big issue this election. The government has had to deal with a recession (which started before the global financial crisis), the GFC which led to the collapse of many of our finance companies, and the two Christchurch earthquakes. The "Labour ran surpluses" meme ignores these factors, and seems to imply that a Labour-led government wouldn't have spent up on those things. Of course they more than likely would have, on top of their additional borrowing to ramp up government spending in all other areas, including borrowing to make contributions to the Superannuation Fund. Labour's line has been that the government has run up a large debt which they say is "the biggest debt since Muldoon." This is a silly line, it ignores that the economy has grown hugely since 1984, meaning the size of government debt to the economy is actually much smaller. Since we're looking at getting back into surplus, the pressure will be on the opposition to show that they're not the big spenders they make themselves out to be.

The economic challenges Forbes has outlined are not new, but neither are they fatal. What would be fatal would be a major blow-out on government spending, the end of initiatives to increase housing supply, and increased regulation to make life difficult for house builders, and business in general.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Rimutaka electorate's new boundaries

New boundaries for Rimutaka in 2014, from Elections NZ.
The Electoral Commission has announced the new electorate boundaries for the 2014 and 2017 elections. As expected Rimutaka's boundaries have seen some significant changes: the western hills suburbs of Kelson and Belmont have been moved into the Hutt South electorate, and Naenae and parts of Epuni added to the Rimutaka electorate. This has created a clearer north-south boundary between the Hutt's two seats, which is what local submitters were after.

This won't change our campaign for Rimutaka - we're still running a two-tick campaign and will be out in the community doing just that. Our challenge now is to communicate with the communities that have been added to the electorate.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Transport: GWRC's draft plan

The GWRC's draft plan
Today I met with Paul Swain, Upper Hutt's representative on the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC). We discussed a number of transport issues in the region, including upgrading SH58, double-tracking of the railway line from Trentham to Upper Hutt, Upper Hutt and Silverstream railway station upgrades, integrated ticketing and bus services from Stokes Valley to Queensgate. Most of these issues will be raised by GWRC's Draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan.

Paul explained the various options with each of these issues and the process from here with the GWRC's plan. Submissions on the plan are open until 10 May, I encourage everyone interested in the region's transport needs to make a submission.

Paul is hosting a public meeting on the Draft Transport Plan on Wednesday, 23 April in the Upper Hutt City Library at 7pm.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Transport: submissions closing soon. Tell NZTA to upgrade SH58!

Out on the campaign trail today a number of people told me on the doorstep they were worried about the safety of SH58 or Hayward's Hill Road. I'm not surprised - the accidents and near-misses on this road are well known.

Then there's the implications of Transmission Gully opening in 2020. With the mooted Petone-Grenada road due, in the best-case scenario, to be completed three years after the Transmission Gully route opens, we'll have to put up with an increased amount of traffic for (at best) three years.

The logical thing to do is to upgrade SH58 now. Petone-Grenada may make sense by itself, I don't dispute that. But it certainly doesn't make sense to have an unsafe road taking more traffic because the Hutt Valley's link to Transmission Gully won't be ready until three years after the new route out of Wellington opens. Luckily, NZTA is seeking public submissions on Petone-Grenada link. Why not let them know what you think.