Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Window Dressing for Dummies

For a party professing one law for all, the National Party has a problem on its hands with its Health & Safety legislation.

It could be just coincidence that the really big avoidable tragedies have all been under a National government. Erebus was an orchestrated litany of lies under Muldoon. Cave Creek was systemic failure under Bolger. No one has been held accountable for the CTV building collapse and the Pike River entombment under Key.

The legislation before Parliament was a direct consequence of the Pike River disaster. Something had to be done. This is it. The public reaction so far ranges from worm farm Dune jokes and mini golf ridicule on Twitter, to secondary school principals freaking out about getting sued or thrown into jail.

Pat Walsh wasn't kidding on Morning Report when he said that schools would be looking closely at whether school camps and playgrounds were viable any longer. Too risky. Many school swimming pools are as dead as dinosaurs, yet NZers continue to drown.

Minister Woodhouse's reaction so far has been limited to passing a random greasy ball to local councils by sort-of-but-not-quite opening up Easter Sunday for trading. He's burdened local government with more things to be accountable for without funding. Calling it passing the buck would be too charitable.

I haven't read the legislation, but the biggest injustice appears to be the large Gerry-mandered hole excempting anyone with connections to the National party. You could drive a tractor through without it touching the sides. Maybe even a swamp kauri log, as long as it was longly. A rolling quad bike would have no problem.

Woodhouse is just the stunt muppet fronting it. The back office already knows what it wants. Same recipe as the Tax Property Register. The public are outraged. Nick some relevant patch from the Opposition. Water it down to homeopathic levels of utility. Add loopholes and lawyers. Done.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


As I type, a debate over whether the Hawke's Bay amalgamates into a single council rages at Napier Boys' High School, which was partly organised by one of the local rags, Hawke's Bay Today. I have come into this debate late and ill-prepared. Yet these are my thoughts.

I heard local Labour Napier MP Stuart Nash do his anti-amalgamation argument a couple of weeks ago at the Hawke's Bay Deaf Club in Taradale, where his booked adversary, Hastings mayor and head honcho of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule, totally failed to turn up to rebut.

So it's some comfort to see Yule turn up tonight. He's not completely rooting the corgi over this. Nonetheless, I can't shrug the feeling Yule has been fed a reluctant Viagra on this argument. I have just moved out of the wellington region, which recently decided against amalgamation, resulting in Fran Wilde's head on a figurative pike. Yule's playing with fire and a fearful desire for not rocking boats.

Only Auckland is Auckland, and its problems are singular. As far as NZ local government goes, at least. Render unto Rome what is Rome's. Render unto the provinces what is theirs.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Six of the Best and Worst of Napier

I've been living in Napier a month. Here's six thoughts either way on the town so far:

Six of the Best

#1: Cycling. Apart from the waterfront paving that the local Rotary Club had installed, most arterial streets have cycle lanes. Sure, it's only paint, but the drivers are generally courteous enough to compensate. The cops are also not arseholes on people riding on the footpaths where practicable, nor on cyclists not wearing helmets.

#2: Climate. The weather is not half as shit as the Greater Wellington region. The Southerly still bites, but rarely with such gusto as the Wellington ones. Nor does it get smacked with sub-tropical downpours from the prevailing Westerly, as Auckland does.

#3: Landscape view. Combine #1 and #2 and you get stunning views across the Hawke's Bay as well as egalitarian public commons. The view is for everyone.

#4: Dense. Napier only became a city in 1950, a lifetime after Palmy was licenced as one, and it shows. The CBD is contained in a 4x2 block riddled with For Lease signs. Two Countdown supermarkets sit side by side across the road from a Pak n Save. Stand on Carlyle and Tennyson, you're a stone's throw from around a dozen fast food franchises. What nightlife is to be had has shuffled off to the wharves of Ahuriri, which reminds me of early days Courtenay Place after the '87 sharemarket crash freed up some land. The GFC of 2008 still weighs heavily here.

#5: Bus Service. Monday to Friday, the buses linking Napier to Hastings and everything in between runs time spans similar to Wellington, 6:30 am to last run at 11:30pm. GoBus also offers discounts for tertiary students and Community Services card holders, as well as the SuperGold Card set.

#6: He Tangata. The people. I haven't been mugged once, but have met a tolerant and kind cross-section of people.

Six of the Worst

#1: The Vanilla People. The other he tangata. Churchiness looms large on Napier's landscape. Art Deco is still a marketing buzzword. The RSA is the busiest place in town on a Tuesday night. Like Christchurch, all the power-brokers are conservatives living in the past.

#2: The Invisible Inequalities. The Christchurch vibe lingers. The pearls and twin set gentry live on the hills, the poor on the flats. Never the twain shall meet. At least, not in person.

#3: Unemployment. Napier appears on the cusp of recession. It isn't so reliant on dairy, and its pip-fruit industry is apparently going gangbusters, but it's essentially a rural support town for farmers. Seasonal work at minimum wage for commodity produce. Judging from the building signage, the thrivers are lawyers, accountants, land valuers, insurers, banks and other forms of dodgier lending.

#4: The second most hateful WINZ office in NZ, narrowly beaten by Auckland's Queen Street branch for the title.

#5: The statue dedicated to Len Snee next to the NZ Police building. Don't get get me started on the Molenaar tragedy. It didn't have to happen. Same old same old.

#6: There is no Number Six. On balance of probabilities, Napier isn't quite as shit as it could be.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Footrot Nats

Casting the National Party for Footrot Flats:

Wal: John Key. The lovable fallible everyman you'd have a beer with.
Cooch: Bill English. Stoic conservative sidekick.
Cheeky Hobson: Paula Bennett. Heir-dresser. 52's a specialty.
Horse, the Cat: Judith Collins. Not feral, merely fearsome.
Pew, the Magpie: Nick Smith. Black and white, red all over.
Old Cecil: Maurice Williamson. Knows where all the skulls are buried.
Murphy's Pigs: Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee. Troughers.
Rangi: Hekia Parata. Speaks in tongues in the finest tradition of Parekura Horomia.
Aunt Polly: Murray McCully. Not to be crossed. Knew Wal when he wore nappies.
Prince Charles: Todd McClay. Thick as a haggis.

Dog: Tricky. Simon Power was the big gamble before he parachuted into banking. Simon Bridges is being sexed up as the new Bright Young Thing, but nope. He's no Upton. Last year's voluminous intake of Nats hasn't turned up any bones there either. I see only muppets.

Soz, no punchline. This is where the metaphor collapses entirely. Move along. Nothing to be seen here.