Saturday, April 19, 2014

Frank Newman: Housing to be a hot election topic

It’s election year. Politicians are finding their voices and are having a lot to say about property. Labour has made no secret that it wants housing to be an election battleground, and a capital gains tax is seen as an integral part of that plan.

Labour leader David Cunliffe this week hinted at what a capital gains tax may look like. Gains on the resale of property would be taxed at 15%, would not be retrospective and, as we already know, would exclude the family home. He said the new tax was required because “speculators” were making tax fee gains and forcing up property prices.

Chris Trotter: A Matter of Time: Reflections Of A Waning Republican

I’m a Republican. At least, I used to be. Now, I’m not so sure. And, yes, this reassessment is, indeed, the result of the just completed visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George.

So, what has changed? What’s become of that young university debater who, way back in 1981, when the royalist team called for “Three cheers for Her Majesty, the Queen!” leapt to his feet and called for “Three cheers for Oliver Cromwell!”?

The answer, I’m afraid, is “Time”.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mike Butler: Treaty book tells of grievance, greed

If you want to know about treaty politics, grievance and greed, and how we got into a position with a tribal elite routinely claiming half of everything, Tribes, treaty, money, power – a guide to New Zealand’s treaty issues is the book for you. This cannot be a review of the book because I wrote it. But I can tell you what it contains and what it set out to do.

This book, published this week, started in mid 2008 when I put in a written submission opposing the Central North Island Forests Land Collective Settlement Bill, and drove up to Wairakei to present my submission orally to the Maori affairs select committee.

Mike Butler: Iwi lose New Plymouth vote battle

Tribalists lost the latest battle in the war for separate Maori representation on Tuesday when the New Plymouth District Council voted against a proposal that would have seen iwi representatives appointed to standing committees with full voting rights. Proponents of such set-ups either don’t understand or don’t care that extra race-based representation is one quick way to destroy our basic right as citizens of one person one vote.

Moreover, proponents cite “treaty partnership” as a justification without either knowing or caring that references to claimed partnership only go back to 1989, when Sir Geoffrey Palmer opined that the treaty principle of co-operation could mean “the outcome of reasonable cooperation will be partnership”.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mike Butler: Te Kooti cited for more money

Gisborne tribe Te Aitanga A Mahaki expects a settlement of up to $120-million for their grievance resulting from past association with the murderous Te Kooti Rikirangi, a guerrilla leader who fought against the government, and Maori loyal to the government, in the 1860s and lost.

The Te Aitanga A Mahaki Trust held mandate meetings over the past two months resulting in a claimed 96.8 percent vote of support although the trust’s website says the voter return was 23.3 percent being 1213 of the 5207 eligible electors.(1)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mike Butler: WOF means hardship for tenants

Tenants should be very alarmed at rent increases and more stringent standards that would come with a proposed warrant-of-fitness scheme. Early indications from two trials are under way show that more properties fail than pass the test that requires ceiling insulation 120mm thick, under-floor insulation, and a supplied heater.

Upgrades averaging $9700 per rental property, as estimated by the Building Research Association of New Zealand after a survey of 491 properties throughout New Zealand, would increase rents by around $20 a week thus disadvantaging the people a WOF scheme purports to help. (1)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mike Butler: Joblessness-crime link weak

Recorded crime on the East Coast increased over the past year, unlike everywhere else in New Zealand, prompting the area’s politicians to offer their solutions. But what are the actual causes of crime? The cause of crime is a major research area in criminology, with a large number of correlates proposed -- bearing in mind that correlation does not imply causation. But first, what did the politicians say?

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri (Ikaroa-Eawhiti) said in this week's edition of The Hastings Mail that the answer is employment. Labour’s Tukituki candidate Anna Lorck cited new jobs and adequate pay. Labour’s Napier hopeful Stuart Nash cited poverty and unemployment. National MP Craig Foss (Tukituki) said “crime problems were ingrained in some families who saw belonging to criminal gangs and violence as nothing out of the ordinary”.

Frank Newman: Closed mind to public opposition

In December the Local Government Commission (LGC) issued a Draft Proposal for Reorganisation of Local Government in Northland. It recommended a unitary authority be created by merging the Far North District Council (FNDC), Whangarei District Council (WDC), Kaipara District Council (KDC) and Northland Regional Council (NRC). Since then the people of Northland have turned out to have their say. 1850 people made submissions, 165 (9%) were for and 1685 (91%) against.

Last week the Local Government Commission (LGC) held the last of their hearings about the proposed reform of local councils in Northland. In a democracy (where one assumes public opinion counts) one would expect 91% against to be the end of the matter. Not so, unfortunately. I have no doubt the three member panel will disregard the overwhelming opposition and continue with their amalgamation recommendation. Well, they are going to have a fight on their hands.

Matt Ridley: Adapting to climate change

Nigel Lawson was right after all. Ever since the Centre for Policy Studies lecture in 2006 that launched the former chancellor on his late career as a critic of global warming policy, Lord Lawson has been stressing the need to adapt to climate change, rather than throw public money at futile attempts to prevent it. Until now, the official line has been largely to ignore adaptation and focus instead on ‘mitigation’ — the misleading term for preventing carbon dioxide emissions.

That has now changed. The received wisdom on global warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was updated this week. The newspapers were, as always, full of stories about scientists being even more certain of environmental Armageddon. But the document itself revealed a far more striking story: it emphasised, again and again, the need to adapt to climate change. Even in the main text of the press release that accompanied the report, the word ‘adaptation’ occurred ten times, the word ‘mitigation’ not at all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mike Butler: Blaming racism for incarceration

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell is still alleging police, courts, and Corrections racism for the high rate of incarceration of Maori and has got a visiting United Nations delegation to go along with his story. Flavell raised the issue about a year ago when told parliament that “for the 3495 theft apprehensions recorded as Caucasian there were 588 prosecutions; and for Maori, for the 5660 apprehensions recorded, 1173 resulted in prosecution—in other words, prosecution rates of 16.8 percent versus 20.7 percent”.

Flavell went on to claim that “if a Maori teen and a pakeha teen are apprehended for the same crime, the young Maori is more likely to be prosecuted while the Pakeha youth is more likely to get off. Does this not raise questions of fairness and of discrimination in those people who would be sceptical of institutional racism?”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Professor Misery-Guts

How the left hate it when international surveys show New Zealand doing well. It undercuts their basic thesis that the country desperately needs rescuing from the clutches of cold-hearted capitalists.

Professor Marilyn Waring, who gives the impression of being a career misery-guts, went to great lengths on Morning Report to pour scorn on an international index that rated New Zealand No. 1 in the world for social progress.

Frank Newman: P labs a problem for landlords and home buyers

I have written about the P Lab problem a couple of times over the last few years. The first time was when the discovery of P Labs was fairly rare. Today the police are finding a new lab every 45 hours, and about two-thirds of these are operated from rented accommodation. It is such a problem nowadays that it can no longer be ignored. In my view landlords and property managers need to consider incorporating methamphetamine checks into their property management regime.

Meth contamination is a serious risk to those living in a contaminated building, especially children. According to some reports the short-term health problems range from migraines, nausea, respiratory difficulties, and skin irritations. Long-term problems may include cancer. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mike Butler: $9700 WOF cost for landlords?

A survey of literature cited to support a property rental warrant-of-fitness scheme reveals that the amount each landlord could be expected to pay for upgrades is $9700 for each property. As for the benefits, which go to the local health board in reduced hospitalization and not to the property owner, may be a meager $34.80 a year for each household with a child under the age of 15.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner lobbied the government two years ago with Working Paper No.18: Housing Policy Recommendations to Address Child Poverty, which includes 12 recommendations -- one of which is for a warrant-of-fitness scheme and another involves insulation and heating. (1)

Gerry Eckhoff: A true Story

Yes people – those of you who had reservations about Local government are absolutely right to do so –  please read on. In the small rural town of Lumsden (Northern Southern) a local building owner had to get a resource consent to do nothing. I kid you not. In fact it cost him $420 to do nothing.

The story goes like this: Rob bought the existing 60 year old bank to convert into a café. He would reasonably assume that consent would be forth coming for such a benign activity as a café, until the eagle eyed council staff noticed that the bank didn’t have a veranda. Now given the fact that the bank’s veranda hadn’t ever existed for 60 years with any difficulty it is not unreasonable to assume that the next 60 years would afford something similar. Further – should an earthquake occur in Lumsden, the place to be would be under the non existent veranda so that if it fell on you; you would not notice and certainly not be harmed.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mike Butler: Bureaucrats bungle earthquake policy

A toxic mix of greed, fear, liability protection, zealotry, secrecy, technical errors, and complexity has led to an earthquake prone building policy that will cost $10-billion to save seven lives over 75 years, according to a report released this week.

Economist Ian Harrison, who wrote “Error-Prone Bureaucracy”, has a Master of Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University and has become an expert on policy formulated without regard to evidence, logic, or common sense.

Draft legislation was introduced into Parliament last December to amend the way the Building Act deals with seismic risk to buildings. The key element in the legislation is the “earthquake prone” building definition which intends to apply the existing calibration of 34 percent of the new building standard.

Harrison points out that the policy would cost building owners over $10-billion, would disadvantage tens of thousands of people, it would have a potentially devastating impact on heritage buildings, while the benefits will be less than $100-million, and could be expected to save just seven lives over the next 75 years.

By contrast, Harrison writes, if $10-billion were spent improving road safety and health, thousands of lives could be saved.

Matt Ridley: Muting the alarm on climate change

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mike Butler: Treaty deal for descendants of killers

Chatham Islands Ngati Mutunga have agreed on who will represent them in treaty negotiations but there is a big question of why any payout would be suitable for the descendants of those who invaded the Chatham Islands in 1835 and murdered hundreds of peaceful Moriori.

Mandating hui were held in February and March in Auckland, Waitara, Wellington and Christchurch, with a final meeting two weeks ago on the island, where tribe members cast their votes, Radio New Zealand reported today.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Steve Baron: Bon Voyage Michael Laws

Quite by chance, I bumped into Michael Laws as he was packing his car to leave town for his new life in Timaru. Although we have communicated a number of times we had never met, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself and had a short conversation. I could sense a certain amount of despondency about leaving and he voiced his pride and admiration for Wanganui, although raising apprehensions about the problems our city faces.

Being an outspoken public figure is never an easy role to pull off. The Mayoralty vote last year possibly reflected the public’s perception of Michael. Just under half the voters thought highly enough to vote for him while the rest probably wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole.

Steve Baron: A new Minister of Education

Who would ever want to be the Minister of Education? The very first Minister of Education was the MP for Rangitikei/Wanganui, John Ballance. Ballance was the Founder of the Wanganui Herald and held the Education portfolio under Premier Robert Stout for 18 months. Back in those days an MP was simply and truly the representative for that electorate—they were not aligned to a political party because back in those days political parties did not exist. Well at least not formally, but they were often grouped as loose factions when it came to voting on the issues of the day. It wasn’t until 1891 that the first political party, the Liberal Party, was formed under the leadership of Ballance and the party governed New Zealand until 1912.

We are now on to our 44th Minister of Education, Hekia Parata. Rumours around Parliament are that her job is now on the line—hanging by a thread. No real surprises there I guess, given the mortar fire she was under recently.

Matt Ridley from the UK: Technology creates jobs as much as it destroys them

Bill Gates voiced a thought in a speech last week that is increasingly troubling America’s technical elite — that technology is about to make many, many people redundant. Advances in software, he said, will reduce demand for jobs, substituting robots for drivers, waiters or nurses.

The last time that I was in Silicon Valley I found the tech-heads fretting about this in direct proportion to their optimism about technology. That is to say, the more excited they are that the “singularity” is near — the moment when computers become so clever at making themselves even cleverer that the process accelerates to infinity — the more worried they are that there will be mass unemployment as a result.