Friday, 28 March 2014

SH58: the case for upgrading Haywards

The time to upgrade SH58 is now.
Transport Blog has a guest post by Michael Dickens on the proposed Petone-Grenada link road. Michael takes a strong line against the link road. I'm not so much anti-link road but more pro upgrading SH58 (Haywards Hill road) first.

However, Michael does make excellent points:
Transmission Gully Road intersects SH58 at Judgeford, making it only 7km from SH2 and Upper and Lower Hutts. This is significant because moving the main Northern Wellington motorway corridor east, now means the dynamics have changed. Petone is now 19km from Judgeford whether you go via Haywards or via the new link – but there are big differences… 
However the fact that SH58 has an easier climb, 5.8% and 122m from SH2 versus 9% and 290m on Petone to Grenada, (SH2 is flat) means SH58 will be the road of choice for traffic coming or going north from the Hutt, including Petone & Seaview .

The extra traffic siphoned off onto SH58, means the loss of Petone bound traffic on the Linden section of SH1. This will also have the added benefit of easing the morning queues for traffic turning left at the bottom of the Gorge.
What this means is more traffic on SH58. That means the upgrade is needed now, before Transmission Gully is completed. Michael concludes:
Do the upgrade on SH58, Judgeford to Haywards with a split level intersection onto SH2. Both to take the extra traffic and improve its safety. It was given consents for this purpose 10 years ago.
I understand the consents were still in place back in 2007, when planning for the upgrade started. There was even $1.69m allocated to planning, although NZTA has told me that they don't think this will happen "for another 10 years" - years after Transmission Gully is completed.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

What I've learnt by running my own company

The Web Social logo.
For the past four years I've been running my own small business called Web Social. I started it in 2010 with $100 of capital, and looking at the books have done pretty well to build up the companies assets. I did the final run of invoicing the other day before closing the books on 31 March, the end of the financial year. As a part-time venture it's been fun, but to really get stuck in it would've been better to have run the business full time.

Running my own company has been a great experience and one that I'll probably come back to later in life. I've grown up with this self-employed small business mentality. My parents run their own specialist building product company, Holden Architectural, and despite often trying market conditions have survived. I'm very aware that government can often make the lives of businesses unnecessarily hard, or put in place bureaucratic hurdles, or poorly written law resulting in pointless litigation. These are things that can crush small businesses.

It's small and medium businesses (which are officially defined as any company employing less than 20 people full time) that make up 97.2% of New Zealand business, employ 30.2% of all employees and generate 27.8% of our GDP, according to the MBIE. One of the motivating factors for me to stand for parliament is to make sure these businesses have a voice in parliament.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

"Holden seeks two ticks for National"

The Upper Hutt Leader has a profile on myself and the campaign for Rimutaka in 2014. We're running a two ticks campaign for the party vote and electorate vote:
Lewis Holden, the National Party candidate for Rimutaka, is setting out on a ‘‘six month long job campaign’’ with, as befitting a 29-year-old, youthful confidence.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Housing: don't leave Ruahine St empty

Social housing at Pinehill Cres in Heretaunga.
News that the Ruahine Street and Rimutaka Street Housing NZ properties will be removed due to failing to meet modern earthquake standards was not unexpected. The risk now is that the sites remain empty for years, when they could be put to good use.

Housing New Zealand's mixed housing development in Pomare is currently underway. They say that:
The mix of homes will deliver choice, there will be social rental housing, affordable homes aimed at first home buyers and larger family homes.
A similar development at Pinehill Cresent in Heretaunga (behind the old CIT) shows how successful such developments are at delivering better quality housing for Kiwi families.

I would like to see Ruahine St be another such development. Not only will that generate jobs locally, it will also provide warm, drier houses able to withstand Wellington's earthquakes.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Economic Development: 3D printed jobs

A 3D printer.
Noel Leeming is moving in on the 3D printer bussiness. They are advertising 3D printers for less than the price of a high-spec PC, at $2,000. While that's a price out of reach of many people, it does show how the technology is now moving into the mainstream. I'm sure over time the cost will come down and 3D printers will become affordable.

So where's the jobs in 3D printing? A recent article on Business News Daily has some pointers. Here's the top three roles I can see being in demand in New Zealand:

  • Designers: 3D printing will create more demand for people able to visualise and put together products. As 3D printing is not limited by production runs, this will mean numerous new designs can be tested.
  • 3D CAD modelers: CAD (Computer Aided Design) is a specific skill, translating what the designer wants into a 3D version of the product.
  • Research and development: there's still plenty of more applications for 3D printing we've not yet even thought of. R&D on the subject is a huge area of growth, largely thanks to what we can already see coming out of 3D printers.
In addition, there are 3D print-houses, where one company owns the printers themselves but others provide the designs. I've been using one, known as Shapeways, for model train parts for the past year or so. You can even create your own store and earn commission as people order your products. The only problem is it's based in the Netherlands. While I've got nothing against the Dutch (they did, after all, put our country on the map) it is a pain to have to wait weeks for your creations to arrive, especially if you're just after a test print. There's a big market opportunity there - while Wellington's Ponoko has 3D printers available, they don't have the same sort of "shop" capability Shapeways have.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: National selects Lewis Holden as Rimutaka candidate

The National Party has announced Lewis Holden will be its candidate for the Rimutaka electorate at the 2014 general election.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have a candidate of Lewis’s calibre standing for the Rimutaka seat”, says Lower North Island Regional Chair Malcolm Plimmer.

“Lewis has proven himself a strong advocate with exceptional promise, and I look forward to working with him to run a strong campaign for Rimutaka.”

Mr Holden said it was a privilege to be given the party’s nomination.

“It’s great to return home to be National’s candidate for Rimutaka. I’m grateful for the confidence the party has shown in me and look forward to the campaign ahead,” said Mr Holden.

“National is delivering real results for Rimutaka communities. I’ll be working hard to win the support of the electorate and give the valley a voice inside John Key’s National Party if successful in September.”

Lewis Holden – Biographical Notes

A fifth generation New Zealander, Mr Holden (29) was educated at Hutt International Boys School in Trentham, Upper Hutt, before completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration at Victoria University in 2006.

He is a keen debater, participating in the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships, and New Zealand Universities Debating Championships in 2006 which his team won in that year.

Mr Holden’s candidacy follows a career in the information technology industry, working for IBM, New Zealand-owned solutions-provider Spectrum, Ingram Micro NZ, and most recently for Oracle New Zealand in Auckland.

He is married to Jennifer and will return to the electorate to contest the seat.

Mr Holden is also known for his work as Chairman of the New Zealand Republican Movement from 2006-2013.

Media contact: Lewis Holden 027 699 1350

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Economic development: Upper Hutt's draft annual plan 2014-15

Consultation on UHC's Draft Annual Plan is now open.
Details of Upper Hutt's draft annual plan for 2014-15 have been released. The plan is much anticipated because of the debate around amalgamation of councils, and recent reports showing Upper Hutt is lagging behind the rest of the country in the economic recovery. The Upper Hutt Leader has a run-down:
  • $2.3m fund to attract new investment funded from debt (which will only need too be drawn down as required);
  • $500k economic stimulus package, generated from a $36 levy per household;
  • First two years of rates waived for new investments (minimum of $20m invested and/or 75 employees);
  • 3.44% increase in rates (a very modest increase);
A lot of new spending will be funded through land sales of surplus land.

The big question, reading between the lines of the Leader's article, is where central government fits into the economic development picture. As I've pointed out here, there's big opportunities (especially in IT) for more investment to come into Upper Hutt thanks to the Ultra-Fast Broadband roll-out. There's plenty more that central government could do though - especially in transport and tertiary training.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Energy: rise of the renewables

New wind turbine towers arriving. Photo by Dave Guerin.
Most Kiwis would agree growing our use of renewable energy is a good thing. The Government has a target of 90% of electricity generation being renewable. Since 2008, the percentage of renewable energy generation has increased from 65% in 2008 to 79% in 2011.

While the big projects like windmills have got everyone's attention (see new wind turbines arriving in Wellington the other day in the picture to the right), the real story is in geothermal generation.

Looking at the new geothermal stations that have been opened, the expansion has been huge (353.3MW):
Name Location Field Operator Capacity (MW) Commissioned
Ngatamarik north of Taupo Ngatamariki Mighty River Power 82 2013
Nga Awa Purua north of Taupo Rotokawa Mighty River Power 140 2010
Te Huka north of Taupo Tauhara Contact Energy 23 2010
Kawerau (kA24) Kawerau, Bay of Plenty Kawerau Geothermal Developments 8.3 2008
Kawerau (MRP) Kawerau, Bay of Plenty Kawerau Mighty River Power 100 2008
Total 353.3
By way of contrast, 219.2MW of wind power generating capacity has been installed over the same period. And more importantly, much like hydro electricity generation, wind has the disadvantage of the weather.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Economic development: making better use of our online tools

N4L connected schools in Upper Hutt. See their map for more info.
The internet offers huge potential for Kiwi businesses to grow and add more well-paid, high-value jobs. Jordan Carter from Internet NZ writes in today's Dom Post that New Zealand isn't making the better use of online tools. We've had a major struggle on our hands with a divide growing between those who have access to the internet and those who don't. This divide is now being addressed:
This cluster of decile one schools in Auckland provides digital devices to every child, and community-enabled wi- fi into each home. Their results should send the Government racing to put digitally enabled learning at the centre of its education strategy. Manaiakalani children are achieving educational gains far in excess of those at even decile 10 schools that haven't moved with the times and adopted digital teaching.
The Network for Learning is a good example of an initiative by the government to bring high-speed broadband to schools. At the moment, 246 schools are connected to the managed network and 2,076 schools have registered their interest with N4L. As I mentioned the other day with the government's Ultra-Fast Broadband initiative, network connectivity is key to getting more New Zealanders online, and learning the tools for 21st century education and business.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Amalgamation: more opposition

Wellington Scoop notes my comments on council amalgamation from the other day, and reports more opposition to the move, including some important questions:
There are, of course, other points of view, notably that of Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace, who organised a widely-reported “secret meeting” of mayors opposed to amalgamation. (Was he in the Rotary audience for the Harvey speech?)

An Irish legacy

The Mahony family crest.
Since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd write a bit about my Irish heritage. Back in 1992 relatives of mine put together a family history for a reunion held at St Pat's College in Silverstream. Here's a Readers' Digest version of how I came to have an excuse to celebrate St Patrick's Day and my ancestral links to the Emerald Isle.

Daniel Mahony was born in Ireland the year the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, in 1840. He was the son of John Mahony, from Cork. Being listed as a farm labourer in Dublin, Daniel more than likely left Ireland as a result of the Great Irish Famine 1845-1852. Daniel married Irish lass Catherine Greehy at St Mary's Church in Clapham, London in 1864, and they had three children - Joseph Stanislaus, George Augustine and Mary Ann. In 1874, under the Vogel scheme of assisted immigration, Daniel and Catherine migrated to New Zealand on the Cartvale, heading from London to Wellington.

While in New Zealand the family added two further children, Joseph Watson Mahon(e)y, aka Gus (after his confirmation name, Augustus) and Tom Wilson Mahony. Interestingly, Gus spelled Mahoney with an "e" while Tom left it out. Gus was my great-grandfather. He grew up in Johnsonville and married Esme Dovey before the war, where he saw action in France, before being shot in his right hip in September 1918.

Following the war he had three children, Ken, Ngaire and Noel. Ngaire Esme Mahoney was my grandmother. She met my grandfather, Arthur James (aka Jim) Holden in the 30s, while working at the Empire Box Co. My father, Murray Joseph Holden (named after Gus) was born 1952.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Amalgamation: left behind by Auckland? Not a chance

Bob Harvey, picture from Wikipedia.
Former Labour Mayor of Waitakere (West Auckland), Bob Harvey, is calling on Wellington to follow Auckland's lead down the super city garden path. He says if we don't, we'll be "left behind". Bob made the comments in a speech to the Hutt Valley Rotary.
Having previously lived in Auckland for 8 years, and seeing their rates rise along with the grass berms, I would caution Wellington not to rush into amalgamation. If value for ratepayers' money is the concern, then the focus should be on amalgamating council services, not the elected positions. In Auckland this is now happening, after the fact of amalgamation.
One major point of difference between Wellington and Auckland is that any amalgamation here will require a referendum. Which is why luminaries like Bob are being trotted out - the initiators of this process, the regional council's chair Fran Wilde and Porirua's Nick Leggett, need all the support they can get.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

SH58: NZTA responds

The grade separated intersection on the Dowse - Petone
road. From the NZTA.
Following on from my post the other day about another major accident at the Manor Park intersection with SH58, I e-mailed the NZTA about the grade separation project (i.e. building a roundabout similar to the one in Petone) for SH58/SH2, asking when or if the project is going to get underway, especially since the taxpayer had contributed $1.69m for the design phase of the upgraded intersection.

Here's their response:
The project is within our 10 year horizon but is most unlikely to be progressed in the first 3 years.
So basically, we're going to have to wait, unless someone really pushes for NZTA to start the work sooner.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Amalgamation: stopping the super city steamroller

Ray Wallace, Mayor of Hutt City.
Lower Hutt's Mayor Ray Wallace has called a meeting of mayors opposed to council amalgamations, reports the Hutt News. 20 mayors from across the North Island are attending the meeting.

Local government minister Paula Bennett wasn't able to attend, but:
...she said in a statement the Government did not have amalgamation on its agenda.
It's good the Government is taking a stance on amalgamation. In my view it doesn't make sense for Wellington to rush into a super city. The lesson from Auckland - where I lived for the past 8 years - is that services amalgamation should be the priority.

Ray's concerns about being steamrolled into amalgamation are well founded. The current application before the Local Government Commission for Wellington was prompted by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, led by former Labour minister and Mayor of Wellington City, Fran Wilde. Fran is joined by Nick Leggett, the Labour mayor of Porirua and the Greens' Mayor of Wellington Celia Wade-Brown. The Mayors of Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt (Wayne Guppy) and Kapiti District are opposed - meanwhile there's also a separate application by the Wairarapa councils to amalgamate.

SH58: grade separation with SH2 needed

Another accident causing major delays. From the DomPost.
Major delays on State Highway 2 at the end of February were the product of an accident at the intersection at Haywards Hill (SH58) and SH2 at Manor Park. They were another example of why SH58 needs to be upgraded first, before any other regional roading project goes ahead.

There is a proposal on this particular segment of road for "grade separation." Back in 2007 resource consents were issued to construct a grade separated interchange between SH58 and SH2 in the area, which would remove the traffic lights and the dangerous intersections and slip roads (for example, you can see a truck waiting to get out of Manor Park with one of the damaged vehicles - imagine trying to merge into that traffic when it's moving at 100km!).

In December 2008 the NZTA board approved funding for design of the grade separation, at a cost of $1.89m. The whole project seems to be on ice though, with NZTA's own page on it noting that it has an estimated cost of between $20 - $100million (a massive difference in cost), but not giving any other details.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Jobs: the sort of businesses that should be attracted

Vadacom's hardware and software

Following my post yesterday on Upper Hutt's economic development challenges, a reader asked what sort of businesses I would like to see attracted to set up in Upper Hutt. In my view there is some scope for a return to manufacturing - after all, recent stats show manufacturing again expanded across the country - even when you exclude the current economic darlings of milk and meat.

One example that popped into my inbox today was Vadacom, a local manufacturer of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) PBX (Private Branch eXchange) systems. Basically, they make local phone switches that connect to the interweb, and the associated software. Vadacom's system have got a boost from Xero's IT Manager. Xero are using Vadacom globally as part of their ongoing expansion.

This is the sort of business that needs to be encouraged to set up shop in Upper Hutt. Vadacom is not only a successful exporting business, it's also an employer. And the sort of jobs they've created are exactly the sort Upper Hutt is after - high-paying and based on a solid technical background.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Economic Development: Upper Hutt struggling economically

UFB rollout in central Upper Hutt- dark blue is active now,
light blue is due by 2016. Map from Chorus.
A report out today shows Upper Hutt is struggling economically, despite New Zealand's economy being one of the strongest performers in the OECD. Meanwhile, just over the hill South Wairarapa is booming. The report underlines the importance of sound economic development to attract jobs and investment.

Fortunately the report, or its aftermath, isn't all doom and gloom. Mayor Wayne Guppy has pointed out that a lot has changed since the report (written for the year to March 2013). The Upper Hutt City Council has done some great leg work in putting in place incentives for business (such as rates remission) to come to Upper Hutt and invest.

Central government has a role to play as well. National's Business Growth Agenda, which covers a wide range of topics, has a particular focus on infrastructure. I've been pointing out, for example, that critical infrastructure such as SH58 (the Hayward's Hill Road) needs to be upgraded. It's the upper Hutt Valley's link to Transmission Gully. Other infrastructure, such as ultra-fast broadband, is being rolled out in Upper Hutt (map above) as a result of the government's investment in UFB. There is also some great investment coming through into the region's public transport network (thanks to the Greater Wellington Regional Council).

Then there's training and skills development. Since the Central Institute of Technology was merged with Hutt Valley Polytech to create WelTech in 2001, Upper Hutt's been without a tertiary institute. There was an attempt to make use of the old campus as the "New Zealand International Campus", but this appears to have fallen through. Tertiary training is a critical part of the link in the economic development chain that needs to be addressed.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Competition works

Source: Commerce Commission
A competitive market drives down prices and delivers better services to the public. The Commerce Commission has produced a report on the pricing trends for mobile services in New Zealand. The results are encouraging.

In the prepay phone market, where most Kiwis buy their services, competition has heated up substantially since 2degrees broke the market duopoly held by Vodafone and Telecom when it entered the market in 2009. In other segments of the market, mobile phone services are still more expensive than the rest of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - interestingly, the part of the market where there isn't as much competition. The report notes:
New Zealand’s benchmarking results in the low to medium usage and prepay mobile market segments improved since 2011, with prices dropping significantly compared to the OECD average. However, there were no relative improvements in the price of the higher usage baskets. This may have been due to there being more intense competition in the low to medium usage and prepay market segments where the third entrant, 2degrees, largely concentrated its attention. High volume users may also have been less price sensitive.

Competition has resulted in a better deal for Kiwis. The same logic should apply to the electricity market - although the on again, off again regulation of that market has produced mixed results. The Electricity Authority's own report into retail power prices confirms this - initially following the reforms of the late 1990s, prices fell until about 2001/2002 when they started to rise again, peaking in 2009 and tailing off again. There's evidence though from Consumer NZ that prices are still dropping.

Likewise with the supermarket industry. While both Countdown/Progressive and Pak'N Save/Foodstuffs tend to have a duopoly in most cities in New Zealand, in Auckland there are other players in the market, which has clearly resulted in lower grocery prices - Auckland's grocery index is 106.09, versus Wellington on 110.75, and Christchurch on 109.70. The market's far from perfect, but as the other players gain ground in Auckland, I'd wager we're likely to see prices falling for Kiwis, just as they have in the mobile market.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

SH58: chilling statistics

NZTA has added "accident" signs on SH58. Photo by me.
There's a mountain of reports to read on SH58, but one that just recently pointed out to me NZTA Report on State Highway 58 Strategic Study – a long-term strategic plan for State Highway 58 to 2029, from August 2010.

I'm still working my way through the report, but here's some of the chilling statistics:
  • A total of 1,009 crashes were reported along the SH58 Corridor length in the 20-year period from 1989 to 2008 inclusive;
  • Analysis of the crash data for the 5-year period from 2004 to 2008 indicates that there are currently an average of about 16 injury crashes, 52 total crashes and crash costs of about $5.3 million per annum along the SH58 corridor;
  • Mid-Block Crashes From 2004 to 2008, there have been a total of 166 reported mid-block crashes comprising: 
    • 1 fatal crash (one fatality), 
    • 8 serious injury crashes, 
    • 42 minor injury crashes, and 
    • 115 non-injury crashes. 
Meanwhile, NZTA has added "accident" signs west of Mt. Cecil Road, where the most recent accident resulting in the death of Upper Hutt local (and old schoolmate of mine) Richard Van Der Linden. They've re-chipped the sharp bend next to some subsidence occurring by the safety barrier and painted large speed numbers on the road (the area is now down to 50km/h). If this is all the safety upgrades NZTA is going to be doing, then there is a major problem for the people of upper Hutt Valley and Porirua who use the road daily.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Earning more, yet being worse off

From Stuff Nation.
If you work hard and get paid more, you should enjoy the reward for your efforts. A great example of how Labour's Working for Families (WFF) discourages people from getting ahead has popped up - a lady by the name of Debra Bain writes at Stuff Nation that a pay rise for her husband resulted in her family being $150 worse off per week, or $7,800 per year.

This is a great example of a problem economists call an "effective marginal tax rate", in other words, as a result of receiving Working for Families tax credits, you and your family are made worse off as you earn more, because the WFF credits get "clawed back". As the government's tax working group found in 2010, not only does this discourage hard work and people trying to get ahead, it encourages them to find ways to hide their income.

The best way to avoid this problem is to cut income taxes for lower wage earners. This is what National did in 2010. Now three-quarters of wage earners (i.e. those earning below $48,000 per year) pay 17.5% per dollar earned in tax.

My personal view is that a tax-free threshold would be a great way again to boost incomes and reduce "churn" in the tax system. Currently a family with two children receiving WFF tax credits pays no net tax (i.e. they receive more money from the government than they pay to it in taxes) until their income hits $50,000. I can't see why they should then pay income tax. Labour had a policy in 2011 for a measly $5,000 tax free threshold, while the Conservatives and the Greens want a $25,000 tax-free threshold.

Monday, 3 March 2014

What's important to you in election year?

From Colmar Brunton on Twitter.
As part of their February poll, Colmar Brunton has published the top issues for voters at this years election (fancy graphic on the right).

The top issues are:
  • Education (40%)
  • Health (37%)
  • Jobs (30%)
  • Child Poverty (27%)
  • Wages (23%)
  • Crime (21%)
  • Asset sales (17%)
  • Income tax (17%)
  • House prices (15%)
  • Inequality (14%)
  • NZ flag (2%)
There's also a break-down by the two major blocs (i.e. National vs Labour/Greens) and detail on undecided voters. It's good news for both sides - the good news for the opposition is that they've succeeded on getting child poverty onto the political radar.  The good news for National is that their supporters views are much closer to the views of undecided  voters. It's the undecided voters who determine where elections are won and lost though, so on the picture this polling gives is brighter for National than the opposition. The challenge is to have policies that reflect what the voting public wants.

Just look at the major policy announcements: National's big announcement at the start of the year was focused on education and increasing its quality, while Labour's was on a new baby bonus. The Greens' first announced a policy on making schools "community hubs", something the government is working towards anyway. They then made a second big policy announcement on subsidies for solar panels, following revelations of meetings between their co-leader and Kim Dotcom.

Health and jobs are also big issues - health is surprising given how few headlines its had in the past few years. Jobs are an understandable issue given the squeeze many of us have faced as a result of the recession and global financial crisis. The good news for National is that unemployment is falling, and after-tax wages are increasing.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Manufacturing 3D printer hysteria

Everyone remembers the kid in workshop tech at high school who made swords from 4x2 blocks of wood, obsessively planing it down to make it as sharp as possible... if we applied the logic of a ridiculous article in yesterday's Dom Post on 3D printers, the workshop tech should be banned.

The article went into hyperbole claiming that 3D printers were to be banned because people could use them to print guns, make drugs or even gold. Today similar claims are made in a follow up article, but thankfully with some actual industry responses.

3D printing is a huge opportunity for New Zealand. We have a small population base compared to other major manufacturing nations. We're far away from markets we export to, making our products more expensive, and we often don't have the raw materials to lower input costs either. But our population is well educated and IT literate, coupled with our can-do attitude to problems means we're well placed to make use of this technology.

If we want high-paying jobs, then embracing technologies like 3D Printing is critical. The sort of hysteria around the technology doesn't help, and the claims that we will soon see drugs and or counterfeit notes is nonsense.