Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ashburton, Canterbury, New Zealand - The Band Stand

Band Rotunda, Ashburton, New Zealand, early 1900s.

Communities around the world built band stands in the second half of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century as objects of civic pride and to support the brass band concerts that were important elements of social life.

Ashburton's bulbous-topped band rotunda serves as a platform for speech making on some civic occasion in the early 1900s. The band appears to have been banished from the stand for this occasion but troops or cadets in both Scottish uniforms and naval garb are lined up to left and right of the rotunda. A good number of Ashburton's population appears to have turned out for the event. The railway station located on the southern line can been seen in the distance.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Travel in the Amuri District, North Canterbury, early 1900s

The Hanmer coach leaving Culverden, early 1900s. The sender writes that motorcars have replaced the coach, postmarked 1913.

Before the railway line was extended all the way to Waiau in 1918 - and to Parnassus in 1917 - the Amuri and Hurunui districts relied on stagecoaches to deliver the mails and passengers to points north of Culverden. The various accommodation houses, later improved to hotel status, provided more than a watering hole for the weary traveler.

Waiau Hotel, Hanmer early 1900s

By the early 1910s, service cars were beginning to replace the coaches but bridging remained a problem in such sparsely populated rural districts.

Departure of Service Cars from Hanmer Springs, circa 1910.

Drowning was a leading cause of accidental death in nineteenth century New Zealand for humans, frequently along with the loss of bullock and horse teams as coaches and wagons got washed away.

Till the arrival of the railway and better roading, bulk commodities such as the wool of the "Amuri Wool Kings" had to be moved by bullock wagons down to the shore to be lightered out to coastal steamers.

Wool wagon - 1880s view - Ready Money Robinson's Cheviot Estate.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kaikoura, New Zealand - Early Views #2

Stagecoach outside the Hapuku general store, just north of Kaikoura on the Seddon to Kaikoura Coach Road, circa 1905.

Land travel in North Canterbury has been difficult since the early days of European settlement. In the mid nineteenth century to the early 1900s, road travel by coach was long and arduous.

The steep, hilly terrain - most vividly impressed upon the mind of even today's road traveler by a drive through the Hundalees - and the rocky, narrow coastline made putting both road and rail links in place difficult.

Wagon passing through one of the many road tunnels on the coastal road south of Kaikoura, circa 1905.

To this day, the geography & climate combine in severe weather to challenge mere humans to keep the transport links free of slips and open. The railway line running through Kaikoura was not completed until 1945.

Air New Zealand Plane on Lease to German Airline Crashes Into Mediterranean

The first Air New Zealand A320 to join the fleet lands at Auckland airport in 2003

An Air New Zealand Airbus A320 leased to German XL Airways for the past two years crashed into the Mediterranean Sea while on a test flight.

The seven people on board - four Air New Zealand pilots and engineers, a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority official, and two XL Airways pilots - are presumed dead.

The aircraft was being tested in Perpignan, south-east France, prior to being returned to Air New Zealand and flown back to New Zealand later this week.

The aircraft was 4 years old and had accumulated approximately 7000 flight hours in some 2800 flight cycles. Air New Zealand began to introduce the A320 150 seater aircraft into its fleet in 2003. The airline operates the A320 on its Trans-Tasman and Pacific Island routes. There were 12 A320s in the airline's fleet at the end of August.

The crash occurred 29 years to the day that an Air New Zealand DC10 on a tourist flight crashed into Mt Erebus, in Antarctica, killing all 257 passengers and crew. That crash was the worst in the company's and New Zealand's history.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Happy Thanksgiving to All Our Readers

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kaikoura New Zealand - Early Views 1908 #1

Amuri Rutherford sent these two cards to her postcard penpal in Austin, Texas in 1908. Amuri was the daughter of Andrew Rutherford, one of the "Amuri Wool Kings" of the nineteenth century, owner of the large pastoral run Mendip Hills, and Liberal member of parliament.

Some sense of the health difficulties faced in daily life in the early twentieth century are given in Amuri's messages to her Texan penpal. On the reverse of the first card, she writes:

“This seaside resort is 34 miles from “Mendip Hills”.

“Was indeed sorry to hear you had been so ill & hope you will soon be quite strong again. I think sickness detestable. Did I tell you that seven of us had scarlet fever last winter; since then I have not been very strong, but I suppose one cannot get well too suddenly" - Amuri Rutherford, 16 March 1908.

And on the second, Amuri reveals something of the class-structure of the times to be found not only on the large sheep runs, but more generally in New Zealand society:

“We have rather a “difficult” time with our maid servants in N.Z.. At present we have two girls who call themselves “lady (?) helps.” I am teaching my youngest brother (11 years) until Sept. when he goes to Christ’s College [an elite private boarding school], Christchurch. I am just twenty one, & not being the proud possessor of “brains” find it rather difficult to teach him! With kindest regards.”

Amuri Rutherford married Eric Russell, a wealthy grazier from Victoria, Australia, in a society wedding at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Christchurch in 1912. The couple returned to Victoria to farm Russell's property. Amuri died in Geelong in 1988 at the age of 101.

Janet Holm, Nothing But Wind and Grass, 1992.

Today Kaikoura is a coastal town of 2,172 with eco-tourism
constituting the major industry in the form of whale watching, dolphins, and marine birds, supported by farm services.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

OECD Forecasts for New Zealand Economy - November 2008

The OECD released its latest Economic Outlook, no 84 on 25 November 2008 which included the following summary of its economic forecasts for New Zealand:

"New Zealand has entered recession ahead of other OECD countries, a victim of simultaneous dome
stic and foreign shocks. The outlook remains subdued because the large macroeconomic imbalances built up over the past decade -- inflation, housing overvaluation, high household debt and a huge current account deficit -- will take some time to unwind.

Macroeconomic policies are in a good position to cushion the downturn. Tight monetary policy, in place for some time, is now being eased at a rapid pace, and a fiscal expansion is starting from a point of significant surplus and low debt. It will be important to maintain the strong inflation targeting and fiscal sustainability frameworks and to facilitate the shift of resources to the tradeables sector."

The OECD's GDP forecasts for New Zealand were cut by a third to 0.5 percent for the calendar year 2008 and from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent in 2009 from the previous round of forecasts. Only a small improvement to 1.9 percent growth is expected in 2010.

Inflation that hit 5.1 percent in the September quarter is projected to fall away to 2.3 percent by the end of 2009.

But the deflation beginning to grip the world economy will see a widening of the current account deficit to 9.5 percent of GDP by the end of 2008 with only a small improvement to a deficit of 7.6 percent of GDP in 2009. Unemployment is forecast to reach 5.4 percent by the end of 2009 and 6.0 percent in 2010.

On the plus side, New Zealand's macroeconomic policy settings have positioned the country to absorb the economic shock better than when it entered previous cyclical downturns. The low public debt as a percent of GDP, currently around 17% of GDP, provides a fiscal cushion and permits more room for a larger fiscal expansion than the new National government is likely to contemplate, but circumstances could change that stance.

Where policy settings could be criticised is in the area of monetary policy where the ill-conceived single-minded focus on inflation targeting has blinded the Reserve Bank somewhat to the need for a faster and more expansionary monetary stance. That said, it is to the country's benefit that a more enlightened Governor, Alan Bollard, is at the helm rather than his more ideologically-blinkered predecessor, Don Brash.

Like the official New Zealand economic forecasts released in the last month or two, the OECD forecasts likely underestimate the gravity of the economic situation facing both New Zealand and the world economy. The unwinding of the debt crisis in the US and its ripple impact on the rest of the world will likely take longer and involve a steeper plunge in economic activity than these sets of forecasts indicate.

The track record of economic forecasting is that forecasters are notoriously bad at picking the timing of economic downturns but even worse at estimating how deep the economic decline is in severe downturns.

US economic commentators are picking the current recession to be as bad as the W-shaped recession of the early 1980s - essentially 2 recessions, 2 VVs make a W! - but the structural change being wrought through the financial sector in many economies is more likely to result in an recession more like the magnitude of 1973-1975.

[Personal note - this is not a kuaka (godwit) twittering away, but the analysis of a macroeconomist who studies the business cycle. And, if I may be immodest, who warned in an economics article in the mid 1990s of the grave danger of the derivatives market causing a systemic collapse of the financial and real sectors resulting in international financial instability. Small good that did the world!]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ready Money Robinson & The Cheviot Estate

William "Ready Money" Robinson, circa 1865,
with his hand on a roll of 5 pounds notes in his pocket?
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library

William Robinson (1814-1889) - runholder, pastoralist, racehorse owner, and politician - is best known in New Zealand history as "Ready Money" Robinson, a land speculator and pastoral farmer who owned the Cheviot Hills run in North Canterbury from the mid 1850s to the time of his death in 1889.

Born in Lancashire, England, Robinson emigrated to South Australia in 1839 where he rapidly accumulated capital as a livestock dealer. Rapid financial success permitted him to purchase the Hill River run of more than 100 square miles by 1844.

In 1856 Robinson sold up his property and emigrated to New Zealand looking for new opportunities. He and his family landed in Nelson and within days made a deposit of 10,000 pounds with the Nelson commissioner of Crown lands that gave Robinson right of choice over 40,000 acres of 5 shilling land. It was an illegal transaction but gained "validity" because the commissioner accepted it.

Robinson then proceeded to purchase the Cheviot Hills run, some 84,000 acres of freehold, between the Hurunui and Waiau rivers in North Canterbury. This landholding increased to 92,928 acres valued at 279,392 pounds by 1882.

The Cheviot Estate, 1893.
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library

The Amuri and Hurunui districts were attractive to land speculators where "free land" could be obtained and the speculators were followed in turn by squatter pastoralists like Robinson who might have tenuous legal status on the land but were prepared to undertake the task of breaking in large areas of low quality, unimproved land for pastoral farming.

Of course, the land was not "free". The tangata whenua, Kaikoura Ngai Tahu, occupied the land and were paid only 300 pounds for the entire million hectare Kaikoura Purchase of 1859 that covered lands stretching north from the Hurunui river, west to Lake Sumner and up the Main Divide to White Bluffs on the Marlborough coast. It was not until the Waitangi Tribunal's Ngai Tahu Report (1991) recommendations were incorporated into the Ngai Tahu Settlement Act of 1998 that reparation for the loss of land and the associated monetary loss was made.

After a period as absentee owner between 1857-66, Robinson spent more time at Cheviot Hills undertaking pastoral improvement of the run. The operation included stocking the property with sheep, fencing, milling timber, constructing a bridge over the Hurunui, and building a slipway at Robinson's Bay for wool lighters to be launched to ferry wool bales out to coastal steamers waiting offshore. It was tough, dangerous work in an isolated environment on one of the frontiers of the British Empire.

Robinson's Bay Slipway, lighters return from steamer for next load of wool bales. circa 1893.
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library

Robinson's lavish spending habits on his farm, on his race horses, and on the mansion he built at Cheviot Hills earned him the Ready Money moniker. As land become less readily available on the market at affordable prices for the growing number of settlers arriving in New Zealand, public attention increasingly focused on the runholders of large properties who were seen by many as a landed gentry locking others out of the dream of family farming.

The Cheviot Hills Mansion, circa 1893.
The mansion is long gone. The Cheviot Hills Domain is located where the homestead once stood. The steps of the original mansion house form the steps of the cricket pavilion.
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library.

The long depression of the 1880s contributed to the ebbing fortunes of the pastoralists, many of whom faced financial hardship. Robinson, although he never mortgaged Cheviot Hills, did have a large overdraft with the Union Bank of Australia that only got larger as the wool price slumped in the 1880s.

After his death in 1889, his estate was valued at 324,729 pounds but was burdened by the huge debt to the Union Bank. Subsequently, his daughters - there were no sons - sold the estate in 1893 to the Liberal government elected in 1891 on a ticket of land reform which would break up the large estates through a graduated land tax and compulsory purchase if necessary in order to subdivide the large runs into smaller holdings for family farms.

This was a pivotal event in securing the institution of family farm land settlement that has formed the backbone of New Zealand agriculture down to the present day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Zealand Sports Roundup

In one of the greatest upsets in New Zealand sports history, the Kiwis did the improbable and trounced the Kangaroos in the World Cup rugby league final 34-20.

It was the Kiwis first ever World Cup win; they had never won a Cup game against Australia. Just a year ago the Kangaroos gave the Kiwis a 58-0 hiding and the Kiwis were swept 3-0 in a series against Great Britain.

It was fitting way to commemorate the centennial of the introduction of rugby league into Australia by a squad of Kiwis tagged the All Golds in 1908.

This was one weekend when rugby league didn't have to play second fiddle in New Zealand winter sports, with the Kiwis World Cup win overshadowing the All Blacks 29-9 win against the Welsh in the rugby test at Cardiff. The All Blacks are now one game short of a Grand Slam of their tour of the UK and Ireland, heading to London to take on England that got its face rubbed in the mud by South Africa's Springboks over the weekend, 6-42.

Incidentally, both the Kangaroos and the Welsh had the audacity to try to stare down the Kiwis and All Blacks during the haka in their respective games. For that act of challenging mana, both opponents got their clocks cleaned during the game. Here's the Welsh attempt at the stare down - unfortunately cut short clip. The ref had to speak to both captains to get the game started. Boys in short pants and all that...

For a respectful clash of hakas & a close game that followed see the Munster v All Blacks haka from last week's midweek game. The Munster side, a club team in Ireland winner of the European Cup, made up mainly of imports was led by 4 New Zealanders in the side laying down a challenge to the All Blacks. Seems to have stirred up a bit of controversy on YouTube with over 500 comments already...

And in other sports news - in the small print - the hapless New Zealand cricket team, the Black Caps, crumpled - or crumbled - due to a brittle batting line up that has been unable to support fine bowling spells by its bowlers who kept Australia to totals of 214 and 268 in the first test in Brisbane. To be fair, the Caps have a relatively inexperienced batting line up that is going to take some time to get battle-hardened enough to play well against the likes of Australia. Nonetheless, Australia was weakened by retirements and recent poor performances in India.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Government Sworn in in New Zealand, PM Off to Peru

New prime minister John Key and his National Party cabinet ministers have been sworn into office. Mr Key will depart today for the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit group meeting in Lima, Peru.

While Mr Key will have just a few officials with him including two cabinet ministers, the US is taking a delegation of 900, Japan 500 and China 300.

Given how little is done at these summits, one can sympathize with the taxpayers of these respective nations at having to support such flagrant excess on the public purse.

Air New Zealand Cuts 200 Jobs

Reflecting weakening international demand, Air New Zealand has announced 200 layoffs from its 11,500 work force. Half the layoffs are from international cabin crew with the balance being in non-shop floor engineering and head off staff. Labour cost savings are estimated at NZ$20 million per year.

The airline has already cut long haul capacity to the United Kingdom, China, and Japan by 8 percent and expects the reduction to reach 13 percent by June 2009.

Last week Air New Zealand said it was not cutting domestic flights for now as demand on the main trunk and Queenstown routes remained good.

Qantas airlines, however, has announced it will cut in its flights within New Zealand by 25 percent by late January and it is not restoring its Wellington-Christchurch flight. Aviation industry commentators suggest that while Qantas is winding down flights, its budget fare subsidiary, Jetstar will step into the breech to fill some of the flights. Jetstar as applied for an operation certificate from New Zealand"s Civil Aviation Authority.

Should Jetstar step into the NZ domestic market, Air New Zealand will have to adapt its domestic business strategy to meet the new competition. Air New Zealand's budget fare subsidiary, Freedom Air, was shutdown earlier this year having seen off a previous round of competition since 1996.

Munster tests All Blacks in Close 18-16 AB Win

Munster, the only Irish side to have beaten the All Blacks - 12-0 back in 1978, carried their mid-week game to a tight close with the ABs in a game that one sports journalist reported as "a nerve-wracking and precious". The All Blacks snatched a try in the last minutes to win the game as left wing Joe Rokocoko stepped inside his old team mate Doug Howlett, playing for Munster, and scored the winning try.

Reporting from Limerick for Fairfax Media, Duncan Johnstone

"For sheer competitiveness, rivalry and intensity, this was the match of the tour so far.

It was retro rugby and it was wonderful - there were scuffles, words in the face of French referee Roman Poite, fallen bodies littering the field at times and a potent mix of passion and skills."

The All Blacks rested most of their top players in advance of the test with Ireland next weekend.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Moa's Ark - Gondwana Tearaways

For students of the Ghosts of Gondwana, here's David Bellamy's 1990 documentary, Moa's Ark, exploring the splitting off of Zealandia the tectonic plate that was to eventually end up as New Zealand over the course of 80 million years or so. On that plate were a few stowaways - the tuatara, the moa, and many other plants and animals to be joined over the millenia by other species dispersed by air and water who would also evolve in their own unique ways.

The diverse plant and animal life that resulted from millions of years of isolation led Jared Diamond to assert that “New Zealand is as close as we will get to the opportunity to study life on another planet”.

And who said science has to be dull - watch Bellamy use a meat pie to describe the geology of plate tectonics - subduction of plates, magma, the creation of chains of volcanoes. You'll never look at a meat pie the same way again...

Sadly, documentaries like this don't get made anymore in New Zealand. They're simply not commercial enough for prime time TV where bread and circuses are the order of the day. Apparently the viewers are only entertained by tap dancing with celebrities, anorexic models, and the like. So, enjoy another endangered species, the documentary on New Zealand's origins in deep time.

Thanks to New Zealand On-Screen for making this available on-line for those of us kuaka who are dispersed far from Aotearoa.

Video link to Moa's Ark.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

National Secures New Zealand Government Coalition Agreement

The National party has secured agreements with the Maori Party, ACT, and United Future to lead a 70 seat majority in New Zealand's 122 seat Parliament. The coalition is limited to supply & support arrangements from the minor parties in return for ministerial posts outside Cabinet and National support or acquiescence on several key policies of the minor parties.

The Maori party will provide supply and support to National in return for two ministerial posts outside Cabinet for Maori Party co-leaders, Dr Pita Sharples and Turiana Turia. Dr Sharples will become Minister of Maori Affairs with associate posts of Education and Corrections while Ms Turia will hold the posts of Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Associate Health Minister and Associate Social Development Minister. Both new ministers will have spending as well as policy responsibilities.

Dr Sharples said the Maori Party had been formed on the basis of getting into government and making a difference.

"It won't be all together terribly easy some days, but it is the opportunity that we sought," Dr Sharples said.

To secure agreement with the Maori Party, National has scrapped its plan to abolish Maori electorate seats without a majority of Maori voters approving of the measure. In return, the Maori Party is dropping its policy to seek entrenchment of Maori seats. A group will be formed to explore constitutional issues including Maori representation. National has also offered to review the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act to determine how well it is working and whether it might be modified to better meet the goals of multiple interests.

It is only three years since the former National party leader, and former Governor of the Reserve Bank, Don Brash proposed abolishing the Maori seats and called for an end to government funding targetted at Maori as favouritism or undesirable affirmative action.

National's incoming Prime Minister, John Key, has thus reversed the more rightward shift of his party from three years ago on race relations but there will be tensions within the party because of this apparent U-turn as well as in the wider electorate, especially among the more conservative and racist elements of New Zealand society.

Building bridges, however, may be more effective in achieving National's broader policy goals with less conflict or friction with interest groups that might otherwise be expected to oppose National's main policies. This, however, is likely to create some internal pressures on the Maori party in particular.

National's other agreements with ACT and United Future are more straightforward. ACT leader Rodney Hide will hold ministerial roles outside Cabinet for Local Government and Regulatory Reform as well as the job of associate Minister of Commerce. ACT's deputy leader Heather Roy will become Minister of Consumer Affairs and associate Minister of Defence and Education.

In return, National will support legislation for ACT's three strikes sentencing policy for violent offenders - a policy that attempts to ape some of the worst of US criminal politics of recent times - to the select committee stage, so does not guarantee support on final legislation.

Further concessions to ACT include a review of government spending, presumably excluding the substantial increase in correctional facilities required for a three strikes policy (memo to Mr Hide: check US incarceration rates and that country's world ranking for imprisoning its people, mainly the poor and of colour). National has also agreed to establish a taskforce on trans-Tasman flight - of labour, not capital - to Australia. It has also agreed to delay introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but Mr Key reiterated that an amended scheme will proceed by the end of 2009.

The job-retention scheme for Peter Dunne of United Future has been locked into place: three more years as Minister of Revenue & will add Associate Minister of Health to his name tag. National has agreed to retain Dunne's Family Commission and will create a Big Game Hunting Council as part of a national wild game management strategy to get Dunne's one vote.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Zealand Treasury Sees Hard Times on Eve of Election

The New Zealand Treasury sees hard times ahead in its November Economic and Fiscal Update of 7 November 2008, produced on the eve of the election.

The release of the document by outgoing Minister of Finance Michael Cullen of the Labour Government apparently caused consternation at No. 1 The Terrace because it was labeled "In Confidence" and was not intended for release.

National finance minister-designate Bill English has publicly complained Cullen has breached constitutional convention by failing to obtain the incoming government's approval to release sensitive information.

Cullen, seeking to make some political hay while he still has his hands on sensitive material, claimed that the paper shows the incoming National government is misleading the public into thinking that the Treasury briefing to National gave a rosier picture.

The released document, which looks like a cut & paste by a substance-abusing economist, downgrades the Treasury's earlier GDP forecasts against a backdrop of weakening international demand and a slowing domestic economy.

If anything, updated global forecasts by both the OECD and the IMF in the last 24 hours indicate that the Treasury's forecasts will need to be adjusted downwards yet again.

The Treasury predicts GDP growth in NZ's top 20 trading partners will grow by 1.8 percent in calendar year 2009 but the OECD is projecting a GDP growth rate for the OECD area of -0.3 percent.

Year................Treasury........OECD (OECD Area)




The Treasury is now forecasting that the New Zealand economy will contract by -0.5 percent in March year ending 2009, growing only by 1.4 percent in 2010 but bouncing back by 3.2 percent in 2010. The IMF shows a similar track in the year ahead, but sees a smaller bouncer back in 2010 for New Zealand.

NZ Real GDP %
.......................... Treasury (March yr)...........IMF (Calendar year)

2009.............................-0.5................................0.7 (2008)

2010...............................1.4.................................1.5 (2009)

2011...............................3.2.................................2.3 (2010)

The Treasury expects unemployment to rise to 5.5 percent in March 2010 and maintain that level in 2011.

Hard times indeed...

Tapu-Lifting Ceremony at Auckland Downtown Murder Site

A tapu-lifting ceremony has been performed at the site where Good Samaritan Austin Hemmings, 44, was murdered on his way home from work. Mr Hemmings was stabbed to death in Mills Lane in downtown Auckland in September after going to the aid of a woman being assaulted.

The ceremony was conducted in English and Maori by Ngati Whatua Kaumatua, Takutai Wikiriwhi and Holy Trinity Church Reverend Charmaine Braatvedt.

A 45 year-old sickness beneficiary was charged with the murder on 26 September. (Name suppression of the accused is usually ordered pre- and during trial in New Zealand criminal cases).

RIP Mr Hemmings. It is not only the well-known who are great.

Kua hinga te totara nui o te wao nui a tane! A great totara has indeed fallen.

Christchurch Second Largest New Zealand City - By A Whisker - For Now

Christchurch is now New Zealand's second largest city at 382,200 - surpassing Wellington, the capital city, by a mere 300 residents, Statistics NZ reports.

But this probably won't last long as Manakau City in the Auckland metro area is picked to wrest second largest title off Christchurch by 2011.

Over the longer term, the Auckland region will account for 62 per cent of the nation's population growth over the 25 years to 2031, adding 560,000 people to reach 1.93 million. The next highest population rises are expected to be seen in the Canterbury regions (101,000 more people), Waikato (64,000 more people), Wellington (63,000) and Bay of Plenty (61,000).

The projected growth in the Canterbury region echoes recent trends and reverses some longer term population drift from the South Island to the North.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Zealand Population Rises; 600,000 Overseas Kiwis

Statistics New Zealand reports that the population in New Zealand was 4.28 million at the end of September 2008.

An estimated 600,000 Kiwis live overseas, bringing the total number of New Zealanders close to 5 million.

On a population per head basis, New Zealand is only second in the world to Ireland in terms of its overseas population.

Going Bush...

The late Billy T James goes bush, explaining how to live off the land in New Zealand's great outdoors:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Zealand's National Government Will Rely on ACT for Supply & Support

The National Party will rely on the minor party, ACT, to govern. ACT will offer "supply and support" - vote with National on budget supply and on votes of confidence - but will not formally enter a coalition with National.

National PM-elect John Key is offering ministerial positions outside cabinet to several minor parties, a policy he once criticised Labour for but now concludes works well.

ACT leader Rodney Hide is expected to receive a ministerial post outside cabinet as is Peter Dunne, the leader and only MP of the United Future party.

The Maori Party has held talks with Mr Key about its possible support for a National government in the new parliament. Maori Party leaders will conduct hui with supporters in the next few days to determine whether or not the party should enter an arrangement with National in which Maori Party MPs would hold ministerial posts outside cabinet.

New Zealand Labour Party Regroups with New Leadership

Still licking its wounds from last Saturday's general election loss, the New Zealand Labour party elected Phil Goff as its new leader with Annette King as his deputy. David Cunliffe will act as Labour's finance spokesperson.

Goff served as Minister of Defence and of Trade in the outgoing government. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs until 2005 when NZ First's Winston Peters took the portfolio.

Former Prime Minister and Labour leader Helen Clark will serve as Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson while Dr Michael Cullen, former Minister of Finance, will be the Shadow Leader of the House.

At a post-election caucus, Labour farewelled ousted MPs and welcomed 13 new ones.

The new list MPs are former race relations commissioner Rajen Prasad, 28-year-old policy adviser Jacinda Ardern, Auckland lawyer Raymond Huo, former Oxfam global head of policy Phil Twyford, 31-year-old part-Tongan part-Samoan primary school teacher Carmel Sepuloni, former prime minister Walter Nash's great grandson Stuart Nash, school principal Kelvin Davis and unionist Carol Beaumont.

New electorate MPs are Clare Curran in Dunedin South, Grant Robertson in Wellington Central, Chris Hipkins in Rimutaka, Iain Lees-Galloway in Palmerston North, and Brendon Burns in Christchurch Central.


Going into her last Labour Party caucus after she lost her Auckland Central seat in the recent election, Judith Tizard wore a black badge that said "bugger":

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life Expectancy in New Zealand Rises

Source: Statistics New Zealand

The average life expectancy for a new born girl in New Zealand has risen to 82.2 years, while that for a new born boy has increased to 78 years. The increase since 2002 is larger for males, 1.7 years, than for females at 1.0 years. Statistics New Zealand's press release here.

On average, women can expect to outlive men by 4.1 years, a narrowing of the gap from its largest difference of 6.4 years in 1975-77.

New Zealanders' life expectancy rates are slightly below the OECD median of 82.3 years for females and somewhat above the OECD median of 77.2 years for males.

Two-thirds of the improved life expectancy is the result of a decline in death rates of those near the end of their work careers or in retirement (60-84 years). This trend is also apparent in longer term longevity improvements over the past thirty years (1975-2007).

Source: Statistics New Zealand

The Maori life expectancy remains lower than non-Maori by about 8.2 years, but the difference has narrowed over the past decade from a gap of 9.1 years in 1995/97.

Life expectancy for Maori females was 75.1 years and 70.4 years for Maori males in 2005-2007.

Source: Statistics New Zealand

Higher rates of diabetes and smoking among Maori compared to non-Maori, and socio-economic factors, account for some of the lower life expectancy of Maori. Cause-of-death statistics show Maori have a six times higher rate of death from diabetes while the 2006 Census recorded that 42 percent of Maori over the age of 15 are regular smokers compared with an 18 percent rate for Non-Maori.

Maori infant mortality rates in the first year of life are 1.6 times higher than those for non-Maori.

The Bride Flight - Dutch Feature Film on The Last Great Air Race to New Zealand

The Dutch feature film, The Bride Flight, was shot on location in New Zealand in November 2007 and released in October 2008.

It was inspired by the last great air race in 1953 - from London to Christchurch, New Zealand - and the passengers on the KLM flight that won the handicap race. The KLM flight was unusual because it carried passengers: Dutch brides traveling to New Zealand to join their fiances who had already gone out to New Zealand. The press dubbed it "The Bride Flight".

In The Bride Flight, three of these young women meet Frank, emigrating to New Zealand to become a farmer. They don't know it at the time but their encounter with Frank will affect each of their lives in their new country as each finds their goals in life remain unfulfilled or change. It is only many years later they fully realise the significance of that flight with Frank.

You can view the trailer and an interview with the scriptwriter at The Bride Flight website here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

John Key & Rodney Hide Take New Zealand for Post-Election Test Drive

National leader, PM-elect, John Key and Rodney Hide, ACT leader, take the New Zealand electorate for a post-election ride...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Real Winner in New Zealand General Election?

Given all the attention in the New Zealand news media - and the interest of the public, perhaps the real winner of the NZ General Election on 8 November was:

National Wins Big in New Zealand General Election

National, as expected, pulled off a win in yesterday's general election in New Zealand. What was not fully anticipated was the huge swing under an MMP voting system to National and minor party ACT.

Seat tally at end of election night, subject to the possibility National might lose one seat to the Greens when special votes are counted:

National Party............................................59
Labour Party..............................................43
Maori Party.................................................5
Green Party................................................8
United Future..............................................1

After allowing for the loss of a further seat to the Greens, National could govern with ACT and United support. National, ACT and United would have 64 MPs - two votes over the 62 majority required.

National leader John Key will face a choice between trying to govern with a slim 2 vote majority or to broaden his margin by trying to forge a working relationship with the Maori Party which won 5 seats. This is likely to be problematic given the substantial policy differences between the two parties on Maori issues. How much political expediency may be exercised remains to be seen.

Labour leader Helen Clark announced in her concession speech that she is also resigning as leader of the party. Meantime, Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First, will be looking for a new job as he lost his electorate seat and the party failed to gain sufficient support to win any list seats.

While this was a landslide in terms of MMP voting, the question remains as to what the result actually means the New Zealand electorate wants: simply a change of management after 8 years or radical, thoroughgoing change?

With the far right of centre ACT Party now likely to be able to leverage considerable power in any coalition with National, some ACT cabinet ministers and some key ACT policies may be expected to be part of the price National will need to pay in order to govern.

But John Key studiously avoided asking the New Zealand voters for a free market, smaller government sweeping mandate. National's policy platform, like Labour's, was a patchwork of ideas with no overarching vision of taking the country in a new direction, let alone declaring how fast & substantial that change should be. In times of deepening economic crisis, this should trouble the nation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

While We're Waiting... For the New Zealand Election Results...

While we're waiting for the New Zealand General Election results to start rolling in, let's remember in the immortal words of one Fred Dagg:

And spend a little time with Dog from Footrot Flats, accompanied by Dave Dobbyn & Herbs:


Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Zealand General Election Campaign Limps To A Close: Another McCain's Election?

The New Zealand General Election campaign limps to a close within the next 24 hours. No broad vision, no coherent set of policies has been provided by the two major parties, National and Labour, and with even less from most of the minor parties.

The major party leaders, Labour's Helen Clark and National's John Key, have quibbled over this and that, eking out a policy here and there, unable to find anything much of the other side's policy they might like. Unlike the US election just completed, neither leader seems to be able to find anything much about the other one to admire or respect. No shared vision of New Zealand or what it means to be a Kiwi, or not so much as either cared to share with the electorate.

The tendency in New Zealand politics over the past 25-30 years to mimic US presidential-style electioneering means that the current and would-be front bench leadership has been missing in action. Voters could be excused if tested on who these politicians were and what they had been saying during the campaign.

Even the pollsters seem to have given up, the latest poll having been released in mid October they seem to have departed for the beaches of Fiji.

The news media seem bored in having to post an occasional campaign story - the lowlights in reporting in the past week being Ms Clark tripping in a cafe at Riccarton Mall or Mr Key being heckled by a few opponents in Christchurch's Cathedral Square, par for the course for anyone who opens their mouth in the Square. This passes for political journalism when the pickings are slim.

As for policy positions, National has progressively moved to the centre, so close to Labour's policies it has become difficult for the observant voter to distinguish the two aside from the brand name. This is Hotelling's law at work. Economist Harold Hotelling observed that competitors or political opponents will produce products or policies that are similar to one another in order to attract the greatest number sales or votes by appealing to the median customer or voter.

Take Wellington's Oriental Bay beach, for example, with two ice cream sellers located at the start of the day at either end of the beach.

Over the course of the day, they will move their carts closer and closer to the middle of the beach to attract the most buyers (or voters). So, Helen and John, ice cream vendors, end up back-to-back in the centre of the beach dispensing their wares.

The best argument that it seems that can be made for voting for National in this election - they have a substantial lead in polls - is that they are Not-Labour. But their policies and leadership make them seem very much like just another ice cream seller.

Both parties missed the key message of the US election campaign and the "secret" of Barack Obama's success.

He articulated a vision of a United States that would take a new direction, that would abandon the failed, painful policies of the past 8 years under George W Bush.

Obama's is an optimistic vision - about how that country can be different, can rebuild its relationship with the rest of the world, and can take care of itself by rebuilding a sense of community beyond a mere aggregation of individuals. Whether you agree with it or not, it persuaded a majority of American voters it was worth taking a chance on.

The same cannot be said for National or Labour. Both parties have taken on the John McCain losing strategy: erratic, disorganized, whining, sniping, tear down the other guy, and lacking much of any vision. Both have failed to capture the interest and enthusiasm of younger citizen voters, a phenomenon that helped propel Obama that last step into the highest office for a person of colour in a cumulative transformation of US race relations over the last 150 years.

Instead, Kiwi voters are faced with another type of McCain's election - as in the frozen foods brand.

After the election is over and done with, voters may get a McCain's surprise: they may find yet another dead mouse among the frozen veggies (See Fair Go segment here for explanation).

"Ah, Labour/National, you've done it again".

Now get out and vote - sensibly!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Final Leaders Debate in New Zealand General Election - Big Yawn, Kiwis Get An Extra Hour's Shut-eye

The final leaders debate turned out to be a bit of a yawn. The video is here on Television New Zealand's website.

Both Labour's Helen Clark and National's John Key sought to ride on the coat tails of Barack Obama's ascendancy to the US Presidency.

But to paraphrase the late US Senator Lloyd Bentsen: "I know Barack Obama, and Ms Clark, Mr Key, you're no Barack Obama".

Neither has the vision, the intellect, or the power to draw in a new generation of citizens and from across broad socio-economic groups by challenging them to take their society in a new direction.

Instead, Key and Clark trolled through a range of policy issues, bogging down in the minutae, with little attempt to provide a broader vision that explained to voters how and where they intend to lead the country. At one stage the debate degenerated to the level of what misdemeanor transgressions of the law they may have committed in their youth.

By the way, note to Mr Key: It's not Barrack Obama, but Baaaa-rak Obama! Probably a good thing to get right before you arrive at the front door of the White House.

And a note to the journalist questioner, Tracy Watkins, purportedly the Dominion Post's political editor, who'd been speaking to Joe the taxi driver on her way to the debate and who based a health & education question on her cab conversation with Joe: that's lazy journalism. It is such a hackneyed, lazy way of conducting "research". We thought the lead-in "I was talking to a taxi driver..." was a phrase that had died a merciful death decades ago in New Zealand. Appears not, sadly.

For better quality journalism, next time talk to a Chicago cab driver for better questions - they constitute a United Nations of cabbies and most of them listen to public radio which means they are well-informed about world affairs. Plus, for the price of the fare, you get a high speed chase through the Loop, something that debate viewers would've paid gold for. Anything to provide a bit of an adrenalin rush.

Cass - Art, Nature, and the Engineer

Cass, circa 1936, by Rita Angus. courtesy of the Rita Angus estate & the Christchurch City Art Gallery. Transcript of an introduction to Angus' "Cass" here.

As he pulls through Cass, does the loco driver catch the railway shed in the corner of his eye? Does it trigger thoughts of one of New Zealand's best known paintings by one of her best known artists, Rita Angus? Does he muse upon the contrasting vertical and horizontal lines of man-made structures and the swirling clouds and rolling hills? Or does he stare fixedly at the signal up ahead - dare one say it, with tunnel vision - as the on-coming coal train enters the west-bound track of the Cass loop?

Double header coal train eastbound through Cass on a hot summer's day, 2007.

Gone within 5 minutes from this scorching hot, dusty place the trains part in opposite directions leaving behind the mute, solitary shed.

Cass is 116 kilometers northwest of Christchurch in Canterbury. The Midland railway line was extended from Christchurch to Cass in 1910. With the completion of the Otira tunnel through the Southern Alps, between Otira and Arthur's Pass, the Midland line connected Canterbury and the West Coast by rail for the first time. The six day stage coach journey at the turn of the century was replaced by a one day train journey, increasing the flow of people and goods in both directions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Seagulls Over Rongotai - Landing At Wellington Airport

Landing at Wellington, NZ, is always a delight especially when the nor'wester cross winds are howling away...

An up close and personal look at the barnacles on the rocks on the southern approach over Cook Strait, a little pitching, a little yawing, a few bunny hops along the runway, braking before you head into Evans Bay, and you can always go around again for another turn...

Apparently the RNZAF B727 (see below) was carrying a group of US senators and wives on this next one, according to someone who left a comment on YouTube who said s/he was loadmaster for this flight. A senator's wife having safely landed nearly fell over the railing disembarking in her haste to kiss the tarmac! The airport was closed to civil traffic at the time. Those air force pilots might have old equipment to fly, but they sure know how to fly it. (Think they have a 767 now, but no fighter aircraft... that's the kind of air force NZ has these days.)

Hats off to the pilots who do a fine job landing in the Windy City. Arriving by sea is more dangerous. Brings back memories... pass another paper bag.

Monday, November 3, 2008

TV3 Leaders Debate in New Zealand General Election

The Christchurch Press is calling the Labour and National Party leaders debate on TV3 on 3 November "an honourable draw" here.

TV3's Campbell Live video archive here provides the debate in its entirety - in parts - with a post-debate panel discussion.

Labour leader Helen Clark said afterwards she thought she'd rattled National leader John Key. For his part, Key said the debate was scrappy at times, but both leaders had a fair hearing and he wouldn't declare a winner.

Moderator John Campbell challenged both leaders to be specific in terms of policies that would turn around long run economic decline and bolster future economic development. Both leaders were confronted with their "fatalism", for focusing solely on "ambulances at the bottom of the cliff" such as emergency unemployment benefits as the global financial crisis bites.

As Campbell pointed out, both leaders tried to claim credit for the least popular piece of legislation in recent times, the Anti-Smacking Act which bars parents from smacking their children other than "inconsequential" smacking.

Campbell suggested to Clark that she is coming near to the end of her natural life as a prime minister but saved some heat for Key asserting his National front bench leadership was "as fresh as a seven-day-old snapper".

Clark struck her strongest blows against Key when she highlighted National's lack of connection to & support of the Pasifika community in South Auckland. Labour is hoping to turn out the Pacific Island vote in South Auckland on election day, a bedrock of Labour support when it turns out to vote.

Key landed his biggest blow when he talked of Labour's nanny state that was "storming through your front door" with new environmental regulations on lightbulbs and shower heads. (He should probably take a trip to Schwarzenegger California to get a good idea of his "nanny state" environmental regulation that is not just Democratic, but Republican. The reality is green is crossing ideological lines.)

On New Zealand - US relations, both leaders said they would work with either US presidential candidate, both who are "very talented". Clark commented on Obama being "the most gifted and charismatic" politician and Key noting "McCain is a good friend of New Zealand" but that Obama's election would truly be historic.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fonterra Opens Chicago Technical Center for North American R&D

Fonterra, the New Zealand dairy cooperative, has opened its $2.4 m state of the art facility for North American research & development in Rosemont, near Chicago's O'Hare airport.

The Chicago Technical Center's 15 employee staff will work with Fonterra's North American customers which include the five largest food companies to smaller, regional firms. Staff will also work with universities and outside laboratories on customer projects.

Fonterra North America's corporate office was moved to Chicago earlier this year.

The CTC applies New Zealand intellectual property and technology to benefit both the New Zealand and US dairy industries. The center will allow Fonterra's technical staff and its customers to communicate on the processes and taste of products such as cheeses, yoghurt, paediatric formulas, beverages and energy bars.

Recent Fonterra launches in the North American market have been the PowerProtein (TM) range for improved bar functionality and flavour; clear clean flavoured whey-based beverage ingredients; speciality milk protein concentrates for both the cheese and yoghurt industries to improve yields and textures; and a number of hydrolysates for the paediatric nutrition area.

Close proximity of the North American corporate office and R&D facilities should improve coordination with Fonterra's other research and development hubs in Palmerston North, Melbourne, Australia, and Hamburg, Germany.

Hopefully part of the R&D will be directed at improving quality control & testing to better and more quickly detect quality problems such as the melamine tainting in Chinese-sourced milk in recent months.

Welcome to the neighbourhood, Fonterra!

Silver Fern Farms Ends Merger Plan with PGG Wrightson

The much vaunted vertical integration of meat processor Silver Fern Farms and farm services (stock & station agent) firm PGG Wrightson has been brought to an end - at least for now - because of Wrightson' s failure to come up with the financing for the merger.

After Wrightson was unable to come up with the funds on 1 October as liquidity tightened sharply as a result of the global financial crisis, the writing was on the wall for the deal.

PGG Wrightson apparently is still interested in developing a renewed deal with Silver Fern, but that will still need approval of 75% of SFF farm-shareholders.

There is also some speculation that SFF will now seek to revive discussions with rival meat processor Alliance Group to secure a merger.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Money Grubbing Waikato Stadium Tosses Kids Lunches In The Bin

Money-grubbing Waikato Stadium, hosting the FIFA Under 17 Women's World Cup, barred a class of Fairfield Intermediate School kids of Hamilton from entering the stadium till they dumped their cut lunches in rubbish bins under the watchful eyes of security guards. "Watch out Jimmy's got an orange, Marama's got an offensive weapon - a celery stick..."

Yes, yes, we know about licensed premises - concessions have to make a profit to fund the sport, yes, the school might have had formal notification etc, etc. But what about the kids who had to go without lunch, about the waste of food, the hard earned money wasted of many parents scratching out enough to feed their kids?

What will the kids remember of their day at the soccer - the game or some unreasonable adults tossing away their food?

And FIFA will be delighted with yet more bad publicity, especially in a country where rugby is still way ahead as "football" when it comes to winter sports.

Sometimes you just have to do the right thing. Is it that difficult? Couldn't someone have applied a bit of common sense, exercised a relatively small "executive decision"? Were the extra few bucks really worth it?

So, the kuaka weekly award for stupidity and shame goes to the management of Waikato Stadium.

Now watch the Childrens Commissioner weigh in on the issue...

New Zealand Government Issues Wholesale Funds Guarantee as Election Nears

The New Zealand government has moved to provide a guarantee on wholesale funds in the financial system. The objective is to assist the re-entry of New Zealand financial institutions into foreign currency-denominated international lending markets but will also be available to cover NZ dollar denominated debt. Press statement here. Operational guidelines here.

Financial institutions will have to opt-in to the scheme by institution and by debt instrument. Issuers will be required to disclose whether or not particular paper is government guaranteed.

Only institutions with an investment grade credit rating of BBB- or better will be permitted to use the facility. The wholesale guarantee will only be available to financial institutions and not to corporate or municipal issuers of paper. The guarantee will only be available for up to 125 percent of an institution's total stock of eligible types of debt on issue prior to the intensification of the global financial crisis, dated to 12 October 2008.

Only paper issued in NZD, AUD, USD, EUR, GBP, CHF, JPY, HKD, and SGD currencies will be covered.

Guarantee fees will be charged on the basis of the particular financial institution's credit rating. Dr Cullen, Minister of Finance, estimates that the fees could raise NZ$1 billion which will be set aside as a fund to cover the guarantees in event of defaults.

The scheme will be continued until financial market conditions return to "relative normality for a sustained period" but given the nature of the international financial crisis "the guarantee scheme is likely to continue to be offered for some time."

Together with the US$15 billion currency swap arrangement with the US Federal Reserve announced mid-last week, the wholesale guarantee scheme should act to underpin the short term fund raising undertaken by New Zealand's trading banks in international markets.

New Zealand Government Exchanges Letters with Lending Institutions over Distressed Mortgages as Election Looms in Background

The Minister of Finance, Dr Michael Cullen, says the Crown and New Zealand's largest mortgage lending banks have exchanged letters on the approach the banks will take in handling distressed mortgages.

Dr Cullen said the Labour Government places high value on home ownership for New Zealanders and on assisting to keep them in their own homes during periods of temporary financial distress.

To that end, the banks have assured the Crown that distressed mortgage loans will be evaluated on a case by case basis and where there is a reasonable expectation that mortgage-servicing could be resumed within a reasonable period, they will use their best endeavours to work with borrowers to avoid forced sales where appropriate.

Banks will restructure mortgage loans by capitalising interest or temporarily reducing servicing obligations in order to assist borrowers to deal with short term financial difficulties. Foreclosure will be a final resort, not a first option.