ECan’s Air Plan review is severely lacking

Here’s my submission on ECan’s Air Plan “review”:

Lets not be the joke of the universe


  • A review without an assessment on progress is not a review
  • It appears that ECan have learnt very little over the course of 12 years
  • Industry isn’t being managed, consents need tightening
  • Clean Air Zones are an easy way to target domestic heating
  • Bans don’t work, let’s concentrate on what does
  • The Science is dead, bring back the science

Where’s the review?

The discussion document states that one of its objectives is to “review how successful the current Air Plan has been in achieving its objectives”. I would argue that an assessment of progress is the most important aspect of any review, but sadly the review document contains no analysis whatsoever in terms of determining progress towards meeting its objectives. This is not good enough ECan.
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Fun Police stifle Cheese Roll battle

Cheese RollsThe Timaru Herald’s fun police have gone into full swing this week, pouring cold water on Timaru’s attempt to become the cheese roll capital of New Zealand. In an editorial by the paper, the argument is made that cheese rolls are just too unhealthy to be associated with, and that Timaru should distance itself from the tasty treat.

But cheese rolls aren’t the only dubious delicacy to reach iconic status in South Canterbury. We’ve also got the May’s pies, Denheath custard squares, Makikihi fries, and even the Heartland potato chips. I guess Tim Jackson at the Timaru Herald would like these to be turfed out too?

On a national level, I guess he’d also have us gift the pavlova to the Aussies and pineapple lumps back to God.

Now to put things in perspective, the Timaru Herald’s initial story that got this all started reported that “over 200,000 cheese rolls have been made by schools in South Canterbury since the beginning of the year”. On average that equates to less than one cheese roll consumed per person each month in South Canterbury. It’s hardly the cause of the nation’s obesity.

And as Campbell Live confirmed the other night after gagging on Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt’s cheese roll, we’re winning on the all-important quality as well as quantity. Let the battle resume!

FIFA World Cup 2014 Projections

FootballWith the Football World Cup getting underway, I thought I’d look at which teams have a chance of progressing to the playoffs. The online gambling website Betfair are running odds for the overall winner and they’re also running odds for the winner of each pool play game. Taking the odds for each game (win/loss/draw), we can do a statistical estimate of the market’s projection of pool play points, and use that to determine the teams likely to advance through to the playoffs.

The team dominance column is determined by each teams Pool Points Estimate over the next team in their groups estimate. A higher dominance means a greater chance they’ll hold that position. In Pool D there’s very little between Italy, Uruguay and England for the two qualifying spots, while Costa Rica has little chance of progressing.


FIFA World Cup 2014 - Pool Play Projections

Now that we’ve projected the likely qualifiers for the playoffs, we can use the Betfair’s odds for the overall tournament winner to project the playoff winners.
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Live Sports and Regulating Sky TV

NZ Live Sports Party LogoHave you ever wondered why you have to subscribe to the Sky Basic package before you can purchase Sky Sports?

Have you ever wondered why you have to subscribe to the Sky Basic and Sports terrestrial/satellite packages before you can access the online Sky Go platform?

Is it right that Sky make you buy the packages that you don’t want, before they’ll let you buy the ones you do want?

Would you buy your petrol from a service station that made you buy an equal amount of diesel first?

Would you buy your groceries from a super market that made you buy dog food before you could buy your kids food?

Is it time for Sky to be regulated, so it can no longer exploit its monopoly position on live sports?

Do Kiwi’s deserve the right to fair access and pricing of live sports broadcasts?

There’s a new political party forming with the sole purpose of making live sports more accessible to Kiwis. At the NZ Live Sports Party, we believe it’s time for action and to take back what is rightfully ours, fair access to live sports.

Get your boots on and join the revolution today.

Len Brown and the Chuang Reference

Len Brown

Ernst & Young’s independent review of the conduct of Auckland Mayor Len Brown during his two year relationship with Bevan Chuang found that the reference Brown gave Chuang for her job application with the Auckland Art Gallery in 2011 was the only employment related reference that he’d given throughout the review period (1 November 2010 to 21 October 2013).

It certainly looks like Brown gave his mistress preferential treatment in terms of the reference, but unfortunately the report doesn’t go far enough on this issue. The problem is that Chuang received a criminal conviction for unlawfully accessing a computer while working at the Auckland Museum back in 2008.

In October this year the NZ Herald reported that Chuang didn’t declare her conviction when applying for the role at the Art Gallery, and when they discovered her conviction four months into her employment she was promptly fired. On that evidence it appears that she was never a suitable candidate for the role.

And this is one area where the Ernst & Young report is sorely lacking, the report failed to ask:

  • When did Len Brown become aware that Bevan Chuang had a criminal conviction?
  • Did the Auckland Art Gallery have a policy on carrying out criminal record checks on prospective employees?
  • Was a criminal record check carried out for Bevan Chuang’s employment with the Art Gallery?
  • Was a criminal record check carried out for Bevan Chuang’s subsequent placements with the Council run Howick Local Board and the New Lynn Night Market?

Interestingly the Ernst & Young report says they looked into all of Chuang’s job applications with the Auckland Council and that other than with the Art Gallery, they found that Brown had no involvement with any other applications.

I have a copy of a CV authored by Chuang on 19 December 2011 (directly after she was fired from the Art Gallery) with Len Brown listed as the first of five references, followed no less by (at the time) the Director of the Auckland Art Gallery.

Chuang_CV_Author Chuang_CV_References

Brown may not have had a direct involvement in any further applications, but if Chuang was using that CV for her applications then he was having an indirect one.

The Bevan Chuang Timeline

Further details of the lurid Len Brown / Bevan Chuang sex scandal have pretty much continued daily since the story broke last Tuesday. While some affected parties have “revealed all” (namely Chuang and Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater) in an attempt to be shown in a good light, others have gone to ground in a hope it’ll all blow over. It’s made for a week of shocking and sentential headlines as Auckland’s political underworld has bubbled up to mix with those at the top.

If you’ve over the scandal and want the world to get back to business as usual, then read no further. If, on the other hand you want to get a feel of how it all played out then read on.

First, lets check out some of the key players:

On the Left

Bevan Chuang, Len Brown, Raymond Huo
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A Baker’s Dozen of dud MP’s

Dud Muffins

A couple of weeks ago Whale Oil ran a general debate on whether MP’s should face a maximum of four terms and an age limit of 65. It’s pretty obvious that such rules have little merit.

For starters a four term limit is too short. If enacted it would see the end of 34 sitting MP’s including party leaders John Key and David Cunliffe. Also, I’m a believer in discriminating on merit first and foremost, if an MP’s over 65 and is still capable of performing effectively then why would it be fair to turf them out?

But the debate did get me thinking about ways to define what constitutes a dud MP. Instead of looking at MP’s performance in the house (which Trans Tasman already covers) or their press releases and questions (which Kiwi Blog has covered), I’ve looked at how Party’s have utilised their MPs against how many terms they’ve served.

Most Ineffectual MP’s by Terms served and Roles Appointed

Rank Name Party Highest Role Terms Age Sex Electorate Role Rank Current Roles Total Roles Retiring
1 Ross Robertson Labour Party Spokesperson 9 64 Male Manukau East 4 4 27 Confirmed
2 Shane Ardern National Party Spokesperson 6 53 Male Taranaki-King Country 4 2 19 Confirmed
3 Eric Roy National Party Spokesperson 6 65 Male Invercargill 4 2 16 Confirmed
4 Paul Hutchison National Party Spokesperson 5 66 Male Hunua 4 2 16 Confirmed
5 Lindsay Tisch National Party Spokesperson 5 65 Male Waikato 4 3 19 Speculation
6 Moana Mackey Labour Party Spokesperson 4 39 Female List 4 6 25 -
7 Colin King National Party Committee Deputy-Chair 3 63 Male Kaikoura 13 2 5 Speculation
8 Nicky Wagner National Party Committee Chair 3 60 Female Christchurch Central 10 2 7 -
9 Chris Auchinvole National Party Committee Chair 3 68 Male List 10 2 6 Confirmed
10 Jacqui Dean National Party Committee Chair 3 56 Female Waitaki 10 2 6 -
11 David Bennett National Party Committee Chair 3 42 Male Hamilton East 10 2 5 Speculation
12 Katrina Shanks National Party Committee Chair 3 44 Female List 10 3 7 Confirmed
13 John Hayes National Party Committee Chair 3 65 Male Wairarapa 10 3 4 Speculation

What stands out from this ranking is the number of National Party members on the list, they have some real dead wood and are in desperate need of a prune.

The good news is that Ross Robertson, who I’ve ranked as New Zealand’s most ineffectual MP, has announced that he’ll retire at the end of this term. There’s also speculation that Colin King, Chris Auchinvole and David Bennett may also retire at the end of this term.

I’d wholeheartedly encourage all MP’s on this list to retire at the end of this term.

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Local Government Debt Ranking for 2012

Local Government Debt 2012Last year I put together a Local Government debt ranking (based on the 2011 financial year) which attempted to compare Councils on what they’re borrowing, how fast they’re paying it back, and how much impact any borrowings are having on the Council.

With Local Government election campaigns in full swing, I thought it was a good time to revisit the rankings with updated data from the 2012 financial year.

Using the same methodology as last year, I’ve compared all of New Zealand’s Local Bodies equally ranked on three factors: Debt ratio (total Liabilities over Assets) (where lowest is best), Financial Costs as a proportion of total Operating Costs (where lowest best), and Financial Costs as a proportion of Loans (where highest best).

Since I’ve now got two years of data I can also rank the biggest movers, both up and down. But let’s start with the top ten worst Councils in terms of debt ranking.

Debt Ranking – Top ten worst Councils:

Rank Change Council Region Type
1 +1 Waitomo Waikato District
2 +1 Hamilton Waikato City
3 +4 Tasman Tasman District
4 +5 Taupo Bay of Plenty District
5 n/c Auckland Auckland City
6 n/c Tauranga Bay of Plenty City
7 +3 Whangarei Northland District
8 +6 Timaru Canterbury District
9 +10 Kapiti Coast Wellington District
10 -2 Rotorua Bay of Plenty District

What’s noteworthy about this year’s top 10 is both the two new entrants which have rocketed up the charts (Timaru District and Kapiti Coast District), along with the drop-outs (Kaipara District and Dunedin City).

It’s interesting that the two drop-outs have had substantial media scrutiny over the last twelve months in terms of debt, as they both struggle to come to terms with their burdensome debt commitments. The obvious question, why aren’t these two high profile Council’s still in the top 10?
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PrimePort’s a sweet deal for Tauranga

Here’s my submission on the Timaru District Council’s proposed changes to PrimePort Timaru Ltd’s Ownership:



  • This submission supports the proposed restructure of the PrimePort ownership
  • The proposal sets a good balance between port control and efficiencies
  • Purchase of the investment properties is a prudent move
  • There are potential concerns around the lease of the container operations
  • The changes in governance should be beneficial for the future of the port


The proposal for the Timaru District Council to partially sell its stake in PrimePort brings both relief and sadness. Relief in that there’s finally a plan on the table to jump-start the port back into to life, and sadness in that the proposal put forward is an admission the current governance model was a complete failure, in terms of operating a successful and efficient port.

In recent years the port had continually disappointed, going through several rounds of layoffs and redundancy pay-outs following the loss of container trade.

Forming a partnership with another port should enable cooperation and efficiencies, opening up new opportunities for Timaru and also adding much needed expertise at the governance level. The Port of Tauranga is a large, successful port and it already has experience in operating a joint venture with its 50 percent stake in Northport.

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Timaru’s full-time Mayor?

As reported in the Timaru Herald, the two Timaru District Mayoral candidates Steve Earnshaw and Damon Odey are at loggerheads, both claiming that they’ll be Timaru’s “full-time Mayor”. The daft phrase, coined by Earnshaw, couldn’t be further from the truth because both candidates have already indicated that they intend to continue with their other pursuits if they win the Mayoralty.

Correction: The nutty phrase was actually coined by Damon Odey, “in response to Mr Earnshaw’s earlier indications that he would keep practising as a surgeon”.

Steve Earnshaw vs Damon Odey

Regardless, in arguing his point, Earnshaw states on his web site:

I have had the highest attendance rate at council meetings, workshops and councillor cafes, and I have achieved many of my goals for council this past three years.

And in the Herald, Odey retorted with:

As far as I can remember, I’ve missed only one council meeting, and I’ve chaired all of the community development committee meetings since my appointment. Steve seems to be using these negative lines against me.

Fortunately, one of my policies from the 2010 Mayoral campaign was acted on and now all meeting minutes are available online, so it’s reasonably straight forward to determine who’s telling the truth. I’ve compiled a list of Elected Members and the meeting apologies they made throughout the Council term:
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