Road works and the financial year

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time you try to drive anywhere and have to go through two separate sets of roadworks, where a perfectly good road has been ripped up and is being replaced to use up the funding before the financial year closes.

I like that New Zealand spends a decent amount on roading maintenance. I’ve been in Ireland, driven over the potholes, seen how the cars don’t last long because of the bad surfaces, and New Zealand roads are just a class above. Well, most of them, Ireland does have some great 120kph motorways. And my Irish supervisor did remark when over here that he didn’t like NZ roads because of all the road works…

Sometimes our road works just go over the top. There are still many gravel roads that are major thoroughfares. Diverting a fraction of the maintenance budget from ripping up good roads to sealing gravel ones would be a major boost to rural areas. And reduce the number of car crashes, save fuel, increase property values etc.

But I presume the money to fix roads is in one bag (state highway maintenance), and the money to seal gravel roads in another (local councils), and the bureaucracy won’t allow it.

So we’ll continue to waste taxpayers money.

One law for all day

Rather than doing my own detailed Waitangi Day post, I’ll recommend Peter Cresswell’s post, as he has written it far better than I could (bar his proposal of a new constitution, which I believe is unnecessary).

If you really want to know what Waitangi Day is about, read the treaty. Too many people go on about racist concepts they have invented, ignoring that the Treaty actually says:

In return for the cession of the Sovreignty to the Queen, the people of New Zealand shall be protected by the Queen of England and the rights and privileges of British subjects will be granted to them.

The Maori version is even more explicit

Hei wakaritenga mai hoki tenei mo te wakaaetanga ki te Kawanatanga o te Kuini-Ka tiakina e te Kuini o Ingarani nga tangata Maori; katoa o Nu Tirani ka tukua ki a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani.

Literally: This is an arrangement for the consent to the Government of the Queen. The Queen of England will protect all the Maoris of New Zealand. All the rights will be given to them the same as her doings to the people of England.

The treaty established one law for all. That is what we should be remembering and celebrating today, the end of tribal warfare and slavery, and the institution of equal rights for all – the legal framework that has given us the country we enjoy today.

EDIT: See also my post on flying a Maori flag on Waitangi day

RMA reform – the good, the bad, and the ugly

National’s proposed RMA reforms have been released. The official summary is on Scoop. There’s some good in there and some bad. Reform of the RMA is certainly needed, it’s a horribly bloated piece of legislation. A few things that jump out are:

Removing frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections
Good idea to get rid of anti-competitive objections. But what is “frivolous” or “vexatious”? Those words could mean anything. In practice this means:

  • Allowing the Environment Court to require security for costs.
  • Increasing the fee to appeal to the Environment court from $55 to $500.

Basically they are saying that any appeal from someone who is too poor to afford $500 plus an unspecified security deposit (could be thousands) is “frivolous”, and anyone who can afford that is not. This allows the wealthy greater access to justice than the poor and community organisations, and is a very bad move in my mind.

Streamlining decision making

  • This involves creating an Environmental Protection Agency (ie more bureaucracy) to determine whether a project is of national significance or not and push it through.
    I have no problem with streamlining things, but do we really need more bureaucrats to do less bureaucracy? Surely if it were streamlined we would need fewer bureaucrats?
  • Projects that are not of national significance can be sent directly to the Environment Court without the need to go through the local authority consenting process first.
    I understand the reason behind this. Currently our community is fighting the CPW irrigation scheme, and many organisations have spent thousands fighting the consents process knowing they will end up in the environment court anyway so their money is being wasted. But we need provision for one hearing, and one appeal. If the one E.Court hearing is the final decision, there is no backup if the first decision is faulty.

Minor changes to speed things up

  • Removing the ability for appellants to make general challenges or ones that seek the withdrawal of entire proposed policy statements and plans. But what if you have genuine concerns about the entire proposal?
  • Simplifying the process so that local authority decisions on submissions do not need to be made in respect of each individual submission but are to be made according to issues raised. Very sensible.
  • If consents are processed late, the fee must be discounted. Sounds like they were reading Family Party policy regarding building consents – this is a great idea. Can we have it for building consents too?
  • Allow local authorities to take enforcement action against the Crown. Also good.

So all up there is a lot to help push through big projects, a few things to help people with minor applications, and a definite bias against objectors regardless of whether their complaint is valid.

And still NO mention of private property rights ANYWHERE.

On average it may be more positive than negative, but there is a lot in there to be very concerned about. If they would only affirm common law private property rights they could throw away most of the RMA, just keeping a few bits that genuinely relate to Resource Management – such as permits for water abstraction etc. But unfortunately NZ elected a bunch of politicians who don’t have the guts to do that.

Other views:

Not PC thinks National is paving the way for Think Big 2.0

I am embarrassed to admit I actually agree with Russel Norman (Green Party):

However, increasing the filing fees for Environment Court cases and the requirement for security of costs will silence legitimate public input into local decision making. … How many community groups, made up of regular citizens, not millionaires, can come up with tens of thousands of dollars in security when they are trying to protect a coastal area from a property speculator?

Federated Farmers calls it “an ok first stab”, but has some concerns:

Some farmers will be dubious about changes that are aimed at streamlining projects of national significance and improving national instruments, without strengthening the rights of individuals to receive compensation.

Remember the Bill will be introduced later this month and open for public submissions.

A new ‘lost generation’?

The recent case of children being adopted by a gay couple against the wishes of their family in Scotland is shocking, and makes you wonder how this thing can happen in the West. But social engineering like this has a long history.

For over a century it was the policy of the Australian government to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their families to be raised by white families. They believed if the children were removed from the “corrupting influence” of their parents they would grow into “good” members of society. This was a disgusting, racist practice that resulted in a “lost generation” of Aborigines that do not know their ancestry, and was finally halted in the 1970s. But it was just social engineering by people who genuinely believed they were doing the right thing for the children.

Today we have some people who believe they know what is best for children (being raised by gay parents for example), and believe it is in the child’s best interest to be taken from their families to allow this.

How is this different?

Also, if a child is taken from their family because a parent smacks them, because the current crop of bureaucrats believe smacking is “wrong”, how is this different?

The State has no right to kidnap children from a loving family. Certainly, as Sb has pointed out, if the parents are actually abusing their children this must be dealt with through the criminal justice system, but that is relatively rare.

We MUST NOT allow this destructive social engineering to take hold in New Zealand.

Herald poll: Willie Apiata greatest living NZer

The Herald has had a poll for the greatest living New Zealander – and it apparently showed Helen Clark to be the greatest. Now that doesn’t really make much sense, sure she’s been PM for a while but that hardly earns her the title. On further analysis, it would actually have been nearly mathematically impossible for anyone else to come out on top, regardless of who really is the greatest.

My reasoning is: Out of the top 6, who got over 1000 votes each, the average voter would be familiar enough with 3 names to consider voting for them (they may recognise others but not be familiar with what they have done). But every single voter would be familiar with Helen Clark, as her name has been all over the media for 9 years.

So what would happen if everyone voted at random for someone they were familiar with, assuming everyone is familiar with Helen Clark and 2 other names?

Person                    Random   Actual
Helen Clark              3559        3163
Willie Apiata             1424        2645
Sir Murray Halberg    1424        1467
Peter Jackson            1424        1340
Peter Snell                1424        1041
Colin Meads              1424        1021

Note that:

  • The random values are remarkably close to the actual votes – maybe people just did pick a name at random…
  • Helen Clark actually did worse than would be expected if people had just voted randomly.
  • Willie Apiata stands out as the only person who gained far more votes than would be expected if votes were randomised – he is therefore the winner of this poll in my mind.
  • Even if you assume people are familiar with 4 rather than 3 names you get a similar result.

The fact is that the true “greatest living New Zealander” is probably someone none of us have ever heard of, and probably will never hear of.

Hat tip: New Zealand Conservative

EDIT: I am very encouraged by Apiata’s excellent result in this poll, as it shows that despite the fascination with sportspeople in our culture, people still recognise that courage under fire is of far greater worth than an ability to throw a ball well.

Ministry of Health gets virus

Well, straight after I posted on it, it turns out our very own Ministry of Health has been afflicted with the Conficker Windows virus. Fortunately the Inland Revenue department is at least partly on Linux, so even if we can’t get treated for our health problems, at least they can keep making us pay for it anyway.

Maori Flag on Waitangi day

John Key has given the OK to flying a Maori separatist flag on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and government buildings on Waitangi day, provided the iwi can agree on a flag and explain its meaning. The idea seems to be that as there are two flagpoles on the bridge, one would fly the NZ flag and one the Maori one, symbolising that Waitangi was an agreement between Maori and the Crown.

But this is nonsense. If you wanted to symbolise that, you’d fly the Union Jack and the Maori flag – Waitangi was an agreement between the British government and the Maori.

Note however that it was an agreement with the Maori of the day, NOT with the modern separatist movement. The Maori of the day agreed to a union, therefore the majority were NOT separatist and would probably DISAGREE with this Maori flag.

Or you would just fly the NZ flag, as we already do. The NZ flag already symbolises the fact that the British only formed part of the makeup of NZ, as the Union Jack is only a corner of the NZ flag.

Waitangi was when this country became one nation. To start flying flags representing separate groups undermines the entire purpose of the Treaty. We should be flying the flag of the country formed by the Treaty of Waitangi – New Zealand.