Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Who's living off the sheeps back?

The recent discussions about South Island independence or autonomy has got me thinking about one of the underlying themes used by supporters of southern self-determination: that the North Island, and Auckland in particular, are parasites on the productive South. Reading the Maps has an excellent post comparing the two perspectives.

Inline with that theme, Auckland Trains presents some intriguing statistics showing Auckland gets a raw deal when it comes to transport spending. In a nutshell Auckland grew by 57% from 1996 - 2006, and is expected to do that again from 2006 - 2031. The need for increased infrastructure spending is clear. The challenge for the super city is to deliver that spending, while the central government's challenge is to balance increased spending with spending elsewhere.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Trouble in Dunedin...

A gem from papers past: Otago Daily Times, 1891. Check out who got fined for having an unregistered Dog:

Weird... seems I'm not the only Lewis Holden in history (nor is Lewis Holden Snr, who I constantly get mistaken for).

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Kym Parsons is leader of the New Munster Party, a party advocating South Island independence. Mr Parsons is also a businessman, and good on him. He runs a transport company called Southlink Refrigerated Transport.

Its registered office? 202 Ponsonby Road, Auckland...


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Commonwealth

Or, why monarchists are bad liars.

Teachers pay dispute: solution by numbers

New Zealand's teachers want to be paid more, and have smaller classes to teach. They earn on average $10,000 less than their Australian counterparts. A 4% pay increase will cost the government about $40m, plus an additional $12m for laptops and increased KiwiSaver payments. The additional costs seem to relate to smaller classes, bringing the total to $105m.

Meanwhile, the Government now spends $408m per year paying interest on student loans (this is almost twice the amount projected in 2005, by the way).

If we cancelled interest-free student loans, we could give the teachers what they want three times over and still have change. According to the OECD, New Zealand teachers earned on average between $10,000 and $15,000 less .

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Can Labour win in 2011?

On Saturday I spoke at the Labour Party's conference fringe sessions on republicanism. It was a lot less hostile than last year, when I was told on registering they could "smell a Tory coming". I shot back I'd rather be called a Whig, and I take my smell seriously. Fortunately at lot of my old debating and politics colleagues were around so there was plenty of people to catch up with.

I've put my thoughts on Andrew Little's realpolitik at the Republican Movement blog. It certainly created a buzz for our sessions. However, Little also raised the spectre of a Labour victory in 2011 during his speech to the main conference, which I snuck in to. I don't think it'll happen - and there were hints in Little's speech that it wouldn't. Little spent a lot of time emphasising that in order to win, Labour needed to be better organised and target specific seats. The list he read out won't be surprising to politicos:
  • Otaki
  • Hamilton West
  • Waitakere
  • Auckland Central
  • Maungakiekie
  • Ohariu
  • New Plymouth (Little joked "We quite like that guy's chances")
Apart from Ohariu, all of these seats are held by National MPs who scored "upset" victories, particularly in Auckland and particularly Nikki Kaye in Auckland Central (a seat that had never been held by National until 2008). Labour's chances are best in Otaki, Hamilton and New Plymouth and perhaps Ohariu and Auckland Central if the Greens don't run strong candidates as they did in 2008.

That said, even if they can win in those seats, they won't win Labour the election. National learnt this the hard way in 2002, from then on party president Judy Kirk regularly intoned that "it's the party vote that counts". In 2008, it certainly was. Little is a smart guy and I have no doubt he knows this. I'm sure his strategy is to win those "target" electorate seats back, including New Plymouth, to give himself momentum coming into Parliament (the only potential deflator, apart from not winning New Plymouth, is that Labour could lose Te Atatu). If Labour only marginally increases its share of the party vote, which seems like the way it will go given John Key's popularity, then they will be in with a fighting chance for the 2014 election.

On this basis it seems unlikely that Little genuinely thinks Labour can win the 2011 election. He knows that two of National's support parties - UnitedFuture and Act - are likely to disappear after the next election, along with the Progressives. This will leave National dependent on the Maori Party, who could take a beating given their base support gave their party votes to Labour.

What Key and National need to win and stay in power is another support party. It's likely that New Zealand First will make a comeback, albeit they probably won't make it back into parliament.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Books being balanced, savings up

Good news - the government is closer to balancing the books (largely thanks to the Cullen Fund and ACC), and New Zealanders are saving more.

Ports as hubs?

Sydney Morning Herald notes an NZIER report calling for greater commercial emphasis at our larger ports. The report is also urging the government to make it easier for the smaller ports to exit the business. Here's New Zealand's biggest to smallest ports, by gross tonnes imported:
  • Whangarei - 1,551,435
  • Auckland - 2,796,110
  • Tauranga - 6,594,267
  • Taharoa - 583,500
  • Gisborne - 805,698
  • New Plymouth - 3,057,470
  • Napier - 2,004,555
  • Wellington - 789,277
  • Nelson - 1,180,064
  • Picton - 281,457
  • Christchurch (Lyttelton) - 3,216,969
  • Timaru - 314,179
  • Dunedin (Port Chalmers) - 1,598,753
  • Invercargill (Bluff) - 553,211

The Standard wrong on Bolger

The Standard notes Jim Bolger's comments on privatisation, saying that the former PM :
"...has announced that the neoliberal privatisation agenda has been a failure. He says we sold the wrong things, sold them the wrong way, got too little money, and created private monopolies. Of course, what we should have done is hold on to our assets, rather than turning them into cash cows for foreign owners."
Now, Bolger didn't actually say that, or at least The Standard's interpretation is slightly wrong. Reading the Herald's article, it seems what Bolger was saying was that there was a better way of going about privatisation. He blames Roger Douglas for getting it all wrong, and defends National's privatisation of NZ Rail in 1993.

On those two points, Bolger is right. Telecom should have been split into competing parts then floated on the share market, while NZ Post should've kept Postbank, as long-term that has shown greater value for the business than the declining revenues of postal services. In fact all privatisation should've been via public floats, as National required with the sale of NZ Rail (eventually allowing the government to buy it back), Air New Zealand and Contact Energy.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Campaign for Wool... not exactly pro-NZ

So, the Campaign for Wool isn't exactly favourable to Britain's ex-colonies:
It began as a rallying cry to buy British wool but now encompasses Australian and New Zealand wool (their cheap imports are seen as part of the problem).

Oil state dreams on hold

It turns out the Great South Basin isn't so great. The Todd family must be a bit peeved about that.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Postal voting leads to corruption

C&R are (predictably) going to campaign against postal voting. Good. It seems they may have an ally in Len Brown, who seemed to imply on Q+A this morning that local elections should go back to "single-day" voting. Let's hope Brown pushes for this, instead of seats reserved for one ethnic group (on that note, it's interesting that two Maori were elected to the Auckland Council, or 10% of the seats. One more and the council would be representative of Auckland's population).

Super City results

Plenty of analysis elsewhere. A fairly left-wing council and Len Brown romping home. I predict Brown is going to have a very tough three years. His promises on the campaign trail for more spending on public transport will be difficult to reconcile with his promise to keep rates rises at inflation. Either there's going to be major savings made by the super city (which will require a lot of redundancies, fewer contractors and paying down the collective debt all the councils worked up) or Brown will have to break his promises on rate rises.

His first challenge will be finding a deputy mayor. I suspect it will be Mike Lee, the former Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council and a pretty competent leader. Lee has made a point of pushing for more spending on public transport. The other obvious choices are Penny Webster, former ACT MP and Rodney District Mayor, or George Wood, former Mayor of the North Shore.

The other interesting question is what John Banks does next. I doubt he'll want to fade out quite like this - and Guyon Espiner was suggesting this morning on Q+A that he might run for Epsom against ACT's Rodney Hide. I suspect the Prime Minister might be open to that suggestion, given that the super city results have been won by the left.

Personal vilification

I find personal vilification satisfying actually. It shows you're getting at your opponents, and they've got nothing to respond with other than personal insults.

Update: here's my response.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A goal is not a strategy

Phew, I'm glad the New Zealand Institute cleared that misconception up. More later.

Nick for Porirua

Looks like my old home town doesn't live up to its stereotype:
Porirua, population 51,500, has the fourth highest income per capita in the country, the lowest crime rate in the Wellington region and 91% of residents say their quality of life is good or extremely good.
Porirua's economy has steadily expanded over the past decade, growing at a faster rate than the Wellington region and the country.
Some 15,500 people are employed full-time across 3840 businesses, producing $1.33 billion in GDP.
The exit of subsidised and protected industries (Todd Motors being the biggest) during the 1990s hit Porirua hard. However, the business base of the city slowly recovered - and there's now some really innovative high-value exporters based there.

Nick Leggett is running for Mayor. Economic development is his top priority, along with making council more cost-effective by working with other councils in the region. I would vote for him.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Sir Roger and the tax-free threshold

Roger Douglas writes at Craccum, predictably slamming the 1 October "tax switch":

National’s unwillingness to cut expenditure means that it just rebalances the tax intake. If it lowers taxes in one area it must raise taxes in another. Rather than reduce wasteful Government expenditure, National has chosen instead to continue to heavily tax.
Treasury has pointed out that this isn't exactly correct - the increase in GST doesn't bring in enough revenue to cover the reduction in income tax. Nonetheless, Douglas puts forward his perennial favourite policy: a tax-free threshold. This time he's proposing making the first $30,000 tax-free. According to the Budget 2010 numbers, this would mean 57% of New Zealanders pay no income tax. In order to do that, you would have to make significant changes to social welfare.

Law can solve everything


Richard Long expresses a sentiment we hear too often in New Zealand: the law can fix everything. Or more correctly, if only the law was changed (and quickly, preferably by Order-in-Council) we could reach some sort of utopia. The problem is, when you change the law quickly it only creates more uncertainty, ambiguity and compounds previous errors.... so then we quickly change the law, and so it goes on.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

There are no teeth in our heads...

The Prime Minister tells us the recession won't be coming back, despite business confidence dipping substantially. I sure hope he's right. The "tax switch" will take $2 billion out of the economy in increased GST revenue and pump $4 billion back in decreased income taxes.

I suspect it will take some time for the changes to trickle through, and the retail sector is going to go backwards in the short-term. Expect flat retail sales for Christmas as everyone tries to avoid higher GST and keep more of their tax cut. That means more empty shops on Queen St, Broadway and Lambton Qy.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Twenty years of the Bill of Rights

Kris Gledhill notes the 20th anniversary of the passing of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. It's a significant piece of legislation that deserves greater attention.

Hobbling the Hobbit

The best analysis of the Hobbit debacle. New Zealand's comparative advantages in film do not include our scenery. It's our relatively well-educated cheap to hire workforce that's our primary advantage.

We've also now got good IT and technical skills. However neither of those things are enough to keep production in the country, especially when a Hollywood studio (MGM) wants to see a return on its investment. Jackson seems to be caught in the middle between his backers and a union determined to win more members and increase its muscle in the New Zealand industry.

The tax switch

Colin James asks in The Dominion Post today whether the changes in taxation will make a difference for the economy. Overall, I think the changes will make a difference.