How bad was this summer’s drought?

There are two interesting questions in regard to this summer’s drought. Firstly, how bad was it compared to other years. And secondly, how bad was it on a regional basis.

To answer these two questions, I grabbed some rainfall data from NIWA’s CliFlo Database and carried out the following analysis.

How bad was it compared to other years?

I’ve downloaded monthly rainfall data from each NIWA monitoring site, grouped the sites into territorial authorities (Councils) and determined the median monthly rainfall reading for each council for the three months November to January back to the year 1900.

Then for each Council, I’ve ranked them across all years from driest to wettest and taken the average Council rank for each year, which are then indexed from 1 (driest year) to 0 (wettest year) to give a national dryness index across all years.

This methodology is designed to show the extent of the country effected by drought (or rain in wet years).

Plotted, the analysis shows the 2014-2015 summer as being the 8th driest on record (roughly a 1 in 15 year drought) and the worst since the 2007-2008 drought, which was estimated to have cost the country $2.8 billion.



Other notable dry years include 1907-1908, 1923-1924, 1934-1935, 1943-1944 along with a very wet 2001-2002.
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Drought’s impact on Electricity Volumes

With Mid and South Canterbury in the midst of a drought, electricity volumes supplied via the National Grid have been going through the roof to feed the regions irrigators.

November and December have seen electricity volumes of 254 GWh and 256 GWh flow into Mid and South Canterbury, with the previous highest monthly volume being 234 GWh in December 2010.

Drought Electricity Volumes

Note that data is sourced from the Electricity Authority (EA) and that embedded generation is not included, as the EA’s embedded generation dataset is incomplete.

A Deal was never coming for Craig

Colin_Craig_No_DealSo John Key announced today that no deal will be forthcoming for Colin Craig and his Conservative Party this election. Key didn’t say it, but there’s a very simple reason why there’ll be no deal.

A deal wouldn’t work

Even if National pulled Murray McCully from East Coast Bays, Craig still couldn’t win the seat. Instead, it would leave the seat wide open for an opportunist like Winston Peters to step up and take it.

Craig can’t win East Coast Bays and neither can his Party get close to the 5% Party Vote threshold. Deal or no deal, the Conservatives are not a player in 2014.

They say God loves a trier

If God loves a trier then he must love Colin like his own son. With $1.6 million spent in the 2011 campaign and another $1.5 million of funding lined up for this election, the Conservatives have never been short of money. I think the main problem is that of that $1.5 million, they’ve only earmarked “tens of thousands” on trying to convince us that Colin’s not crazy. Perhaps that’s where the lion’s share should have been spent?


Timaru Youth Council is a Bad Idea

The Timaru Herald reports that Councillor Anthony Brien has put forward a proposal for re-establishing a Timaru District Youth Council, to be heard at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

The proposal states the Timaru District has many groups representing different aspects of the community from elderly to sporting groups, but no official group representing young people in terms of their engagement with local governance.

Forming a Youth Council will fill this void and provide an important communication mechanism between the youth in the community and elected TDC councillors, Brien believed.

During last year’s election, Brien campaigned both on reducing the Council’s debt and ensuring rates were reasonable. His position was to concentrate on Council “needs”
ahead of council “wants”.

Up steps the Taxpayers Union

Last month the New Zealand Taxpayers Union published their Rate Saver Report, which suggests 101 “ways local Councils can save money and reduce the rates burden on New Zealanders”. It’s a report that I’d urge all Councillors to read, as there are some really good ideas in there, in particular the number one initiative (and both Brien and myself agree on this) is paying back Council debt.There’s also an initiative relevant to youth Councils:

11: Abolish youth councils and standing consultative committees

Often these are more about photo opportunities and keeping people happy than useful public policy debate. Councils should be focused on allowing all members of society to participate in meaningful consultation processes as issues arise. Elected councillors are clearly not doing their job if they need to pay people to advise them on what sections of the community think. Youth councils are a nice idea, but in our experience achieve little, if anything, and are used by local politicians as a Claytons’ solution to youth engagement.

I agree wholeheartedly with the Taxpayers Union on this issue. Spending $16,500 to form a group of 15-24 year-olds to be the voice of Timaru youth is both at the expense of other’s democratic rights and a waste of money.

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.