Monday, 24 November 2014

Re-writing founding myths

Bryce Edwards has a good round-up in the National Business Review of the various opinion posts and pieces on the Waitangi Tribunal's report last week from the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry dealing with sovereignty (chocolate fish for best blog post title goes to No Right Turn for "There was no cession in New Zealand".)

It turns out though that the hysteria I had predicted (and predicated my post on) didn't eventuate. The usual suspects - Dr Paul Moon, Muriel Newman, et al, took issue with the report. But in the main we haven't seen the sort of backlash of, say, 2004. This is a good thing, as it shows perhaps we've either matured as a country, or the Tribunal's ruling was a confirmation of what was known for a while (although the Prime Minister's comments do seem to contradict this!).

The question though, is where to from here? As Morgan Godfery points the report means:
The Crown should – whether out of constitutional, political or emotional necessity – prove its de jure sovereignty.
This is an issue that has been traversed by academics such as Jock Brookfield (especially his book Waitangi and Indigenous Rights), which I suggested to Morgan as an authority on this subject.

In my view it means the acceptance of a different, and maybe uncomfortable for some, founding myth of New Zealand.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

SH58: another upgrade needed.

I'm very pleased to see in the Upper Hutt Leader that SH58 (Hayward's Hill Rd) is to get a $30m upgrade. This is a dangerous road that needs to be upgraded.

 However, it would have been better if NZTA accept that SH58 will become the Hutt Valley's major link to Transmission Gully, when it is due for completion in 2020.

This will be because the proposed Petone-Grenada link won't be completed (even if construction were to start next year) until at least three years after Transmission Gully is completed. If they did then they would need to start planning to make sure that there is another upgrade in the pipeline for SH58 to handle this traffic.

This would include the long proposed grade-separated interchange at Manor Park between SH2 and SH58.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Waitangi Tribunal: hysteria versus nation building

On Friday the Waitangi Tribunal published its first report on Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry. The media immediately declared it to be a "landmark decision". I'm sure there will be a lot of ink spilled over this report (it's hardly a "decision" - the Tribunal issues reports, it doesn't make decisions like a court of law, although it has mana).

Unfortunately the media have now framed the report as being a major shift, as if it changes the nature of sovereignty in New Zealand. It doesn't. It greatly frustrates me the media don't seem to be able to distinguish between an acknowledgement of history (i.e. that the Maori rangatira signing the Treaty did not see it as ceding sovereignty) and contemporary reality. 

As Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said:
"The Tribunal doesn't reach any conclusion regarding the sovereignty the Crown exercises in New Zealand. Nor does it address the other events considered part of the Crown's acquisition of sovereignty, or how the Treaty relationship should operate today."
I haven't read the full report yet (I've only read the summary) but it addresses the issues around the Declaration of Independence of 1835 (He Whakaputanga) and how it relates to the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I'm going to read the report over this coming week, as I expect thanks to the hysteria now generated by the media, it will be getting a lot of attention...

What saddens me most about all of this is that this report is really a chance to engage in nation building. Accepting that the Rangatira who signed the Treaty (not all iwi did) believed that they would be equals to the British-appointed Governor, as representative of Queen Victoria, is hardly a revolutionary step. The Government of New Zealand is still legitimate in its assumption of sovereignty, as the Treaty Negotiations minister notes, because of other events.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Smart meters essential for a smart grid and smarter economy

The media create certain stereotypes about each political party. There is a stereotype - albeit largely untrue - that the Greens are tin-foil hat wearers. This is why the Greens' remain stuck on the c. 11% party vote mark. Like most stereotypes there's an element of truth to it, which the media are always on the look out to validate whenever they can.

The recent actions of current Green MP Steffan Browning signing a petition on using homeopathy as a cure for Ebola and this article by former Green MP Sue Kedgley only reenforce this stereotype. I'm sure Russel Norman is fuming.

I won't go into the detail of what Sue has said and why it's wrong (just read the comments). It's worth stating though that not only are smart meters required for there to be a smart grid (something we need for solar energy generation, because it's distributed), they're also critical to building a smarter economy. You know, the one the Greens like to talk about.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Solar energy growing regardless of buy-back

Meridian Energy has announced that because of the massive growth in home solar electricity generation, they're reducing the "export rate" (what they pay you for your electricity) and changing the way it's paid. As you'd expect, when it's sunnier they'll pay you less than when it's winter and demand is higher.

I'm a fan of the technology and previously looked at the claims it needs to be subsidised to grow here.

Here's the detail:
Meridian’s current export rates are 25 cents for the first 5 kWh per day and 10 cents thereafter. The new rates will be 7 cents/kWh in summer (1 October to 30 April) and 10 cents//kWh in winter (1 May to 30 September).

Meridian External Relations Manager Guy Waipara says the current rates were set at a time when solar uptake was in its infancy and it was financially viable for Meridian to offer good rates to those exporting into the electricity grid.

“Meridian solar customer numbers have gone from about 50 customers in 2011 to just over 2,500 customers currently. This year alone we have grown our solar residential customer base by about 1,000 customers,” says Guy.

“Unfortunately we can no longer sustain rates that provide huge incentives to sell back onto the grid and that are far greater than wholesale market rates for electricity. Unlike other overseas markets such as Australia, the New Zealand residential solar market is not subsidised. Under the current rates, those who don’t want or can’t afford to install solar are effectively subsidising those who can.
So, more people are installing solar electricity systems on their houses. Great. The downside of  supply increasing is that the price paid for the electricity will fall. This apparently isn't so much of an issue when people consider buying a solar system - according to this article from The Press, they mainly look at the money they save from not drawing electricity off the grid.

Much like subsidising the installation costs of solar systems helps those who can afford them anyway,  keeping the price electricity companies pay for the solar energy high only penalises those who can't afford to install solar systems. But that's what the Greens are proposing to do: legislate over the top of the electricity companies to force the buy-back price up.

There doesn't seem to be any evidence that decreasing the buy-back price will slow the incredible rate of growth solar energy has seen over the last few years. Even the Greens note that the price of Photovoltaic panels falling through the floor has driven demand. There is no sign that that trend will come to an end any time soon.