GIB board crisis is more than it's held out to be
Situation exposes fundamental economic issues The so-called 'GIB crisis' in New Zealand is significant because discussion of it ignores a fundamental economic issue; far from being simply a supply issue, it is actually a demand issue created by activity in a sector that is outstripping the economy's ability to support it. Anyone who works in the construction sector knows it has been going gang-busters since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, tradies were getting more work than they...
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Transparency with the media?
We need to ensure we continue to get it as citizens Thirty years ago I was a radio journalist. I wasn't great at it; competent but no award winner. I enjoyed being a broadcaster more and the whole process of making radio. But the shortness of the news cycle, the brevity of radio stories and the limited opportunities to dig into issues and stories and explore them in depth was not very satisfying. I lasted five years before going into government PR as a Ministerial press secretary, which was new...
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Alternative society
I often try to imagine what an alternative society might look like. A system-wide improvement on what we currently have: a pluralist, multi-cultural, post-colonial society; with a modern, resource-intensive capitalist economy and a welfare state; extensive export-focused pastoral agriculture; and a parliamentary democracy. Looking backwards doesn't really help as historical systems were the products of conditions we can't, and wouldn't want to, replicate. It's not hard to imagine something for ...
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Whose voices are heard about development?
I was reading an article in The Atlantic a couple of days ago Community Input is Bad, Actually by Jerusalem Demsas. In it she argues that the process of community input to development projects is fundamentally flawed because: "It’s biased toward the status quo and privileges a small group of residents who for reasons that range from the sympathetic to the selfish don’t want to allow projects that are broadly useful." She describes how the American legal and planning system is full of points ...
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Local development agitates locals
Our council is one that government policy is forcing to allow more intensive development, which I generally think is a good thing. We already have two developments planned for the outskirts of the village, which will more than double the number of houses. This isn’t popular. We’ve organised a public workshop with the council to look at their structure plan for the area. However, a few residents have got pretty wound up on social media, and I’m worried locals will turn up with pitchforks and burn...
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Taking responsibility for saving the world
One of the big problems I often come back to is how to convert campaigns into individual action, and vice versa. Or, even more commonly, how do we make good intentions into actions that have a public benefit? This can be simple when looking at local things, like picking up litter or clearing weeds from a local native plant reserve. We can just go and do that, normally without too much effort. We can even invite some friends to join us. When we come to issues like climate change, the oceans fill...
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'Burning' brings home the horror of climate change bush fires
We've just watched the documentary Burning on the Black Summer bushfires in Australia. It was a terrible reminder of what we saw in person and in the media in the summer of 2019–2020 — Black Summer. We were in Australia on holiday with friends in mid-November 2019 and spent some time in Leura in the Blue Mountains. On one of the days (12 November 2019), as we were walking between the villages of Katoomba and Leura, a fire started in the huge gully below the towns and spread up the hill towards ...
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Back on the drugs
Well, I'm back onto the chemo for my myeloma, after almost 6½ years remission. I can't say I'm not a little disappointed, but I'm not surprised. As myeloma is basically incurable — the best you can hope for is a long remission — I always knew it would be back. I have been very lucky. I haven't had to take any drugs since October 2013. Some of my friends who went through treatment at the same time as me did not achieve the deep remission I had and have been on what is called 'maintenance therapy...
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White supremacist vs Islamist murderers
I wrote this shortly after the horrific murders of 51 innocent people and wounding of another 40 at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. I didn't publish it at the time, but I think it is still apposite. What do you think the public reaction would have been if, instead of a white supremacist murdering 51 Muslims on 15 March 2019, a radical Islamist had murdered 51 Christians in a church? The days after those murders were almost free of revenge talk from Muslims, ...
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Floating in the Fediverse
I've been pretty keen on the idea of social media ever since I first started dabbling in it. I admit that the first social media account I got was on Bebo, and that was to keep an eye on my kids when they were young teenagers so they didn't get into trouble. I didn't care if they got up to the usual young kids' silliness, and there was plenty of that, but I wanted to make sure they didn't get into any creepy situations (they didn't, fortunately). Facebook was very seductive initially and I was ...
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Acceptance first, problem-solving next
The most crucial step in dealing with any problem that crops up is accepting that it’s happened, and nothing's going to change that fact. That might sound obvious, but we spend a lot of time when difficulties arise or bad things happen wishing things were different. We're stuck listening to that internal voice that says, “No, I don’t like this. I want it to stop. I wish it hadn’t happened and that everything would go back to how it was before.” We’ve all been there; I certainly have. You lose y...
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Local authority funding response to COVID-19
Like many local politicians, Porirua City councillors are considering the impact of the looming global recession on the council's finances and how they should react. I knew they would be getting lots of advice — requested and unsolicited — and decided to add my voice to the noise. I sent this last weekend for them to consider. Economic forecast for recession New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is heading into what is projected to be the severest recession since the 1930s. This recession ...
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Morality of a Covid-19 lockdown
What is often presented as a binary 'jobs versus lives' choice in debates on the appropriate response for the Covid-19 pandemic is anything but. It's really a moral choice, although both sides can often present it as a conflict between their competing expertise. However, as a society, we appear incapable of having these debates in public in a reasonable manner. There is no shortage of people pushing their opinions on the right response to Covid-19 that New Zealand should follow. We've been in a...
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Wendell Berry on community
"A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves." Wendell Berry (2012). The Long-Legged House, p.71, Counterpoint Press ...
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Living differently in a modern city
Closer community, more efficient transport, better recreation With Porirua's population expected to grow by at least 50 per cent in the next 30 years, we are going to have to look at ways of redesigning our suburbs — new and existing — if we want to avoid continued sprawl over neighbouring farmland. But, to do so, we are going to have to change our psyche and our quarter acre suburban culture to foster closer connections between neighbours, make better use of more efficient public transport sys...
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Candidates' meeting stump speech notes
We had our second-to-last 'meet the candidates' community meetings tonight in Paremata. We got three to five minutes to talk at each one. If you weren't able to get along to any of them, here's my campaign stump speech. Tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Iain MacLean ahau. What sort of community do you want to live in? Infrastructure and how much it costs is critically important. But that's only part of what council does. It also helps build communities. I'm focused on three, closely related areas. The f...
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Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet
The Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet asked me about what I saw as the challenges and my priorities for the inlet, and what I would do about them if I were elected to Porirua City Council. This is what I told them. What are the challenges facing the inlet? The inlet is facing multiple challenges from the impacts of development in the catchments, both existing and planned. The large earthworks from Transmission Gully, existing subdivisions in Whitby/Pauatahanui, and farming activities all add to th...
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Common Climate Network survey
Here are the answers I provided to the Common Climate Network survey of candidates on climate change (one of several surveys on climate change). Vision for future in one tweet (If you were looking back at the decisions the council made about climate change, what would you like to say in a tweet?) We had made sure that new developments were climate change resilient and reduced emissions, council had chosen low emission operational options, and we had minimised the impact of sea level rise on co...
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Government's urban development intentions laudable, but funding is still a problem
There's a lot to like about the government's National Policy Statement on Urban Development, released yesterday. Its intentions to allow cities to grow up around city centres and transport connections take advantage of the efficiencies you can get from more compact growth. And the desire to create "high and medium density communities with good urban design and open spaces" while avoiding all the downsides of sprawl at urban margins is right on the money as far as I'm concerned. This is exactly ...
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New schools for northern ward
We need schools in new developments before existing local schools run out of room As our population grows in Porirua, we’ll need more of the social services we expect in our city. One of them is new schools. The Plimmerton Farm development will add another 5,000 people to that part of town, which will included a few hundred school-aged children. What schools will they go to? The surrounding primary schools — Plimmerton, St Theresa’s, Pukerua Bay and Paremata — don’t have the room to take ano...
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Council should push urban intensification
Most of the growth we're expecting in Porirua is in greenfields developments, however I think we should also be encouraging intensification of existing built-up ares. When the council was developing its Growth Strategy last year, I made a submission on the benefits of intensification versus greenfields development. If cities can accommodate population growth at higher densities, or within existing urban areas, or both, then you need less greenfield land for new housing. Under the government's ...
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Sportfields for all
I went to Ngati Toa Domain to watch the Pukerua Bay 10th grade Orcas play today, and it made me think about how important it is for new developments in Porirua to cater for all the people who will want to play sport here. The City Council needs to plan for future demand and make sure it's in everyone's plans early. ...
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RMA reform looks sensible
The government announced today that it was launching a major review of the Resource Management Act. Environment Minister David Parker said that the comprehensive review of the RMA would "cut complexity and costs and better enable urban development, while also improving protection of the environment." The other problem the government identified is that the RMA limits the opportunities for public participation, which is absolutely fundamental to giving people a say about what happens in their nei...
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A week after the Christchurch terrorist attack
A week after the terrorist attack in Christchurch and the murders of 50 people, we're still trying to make sense of the hatred that could inspire someone to do this. Overwhelmingly, New Zealanders have reacted with horror at the killings and with compassion for the victims and their families. And there's been a massive show of aroha and manaakitanga for the Muslim community here. We will all have a story of where we were when we heard the news of the attacks. I was driving with my wife, Kate, t...
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Todd
He looked like death warmed up the first time we met Grey as a ghost as the blood flowed in He fell asleep as we talked Told me about his ex How she gambled Took their kids and left her debts and his cancer The dope helps, he said His friend said he was sick for years before the doctors knew His treatment hadn’t gone well Her eyes showed the worry The last time I saw him he looked pretty frisky But I could see through his clothes as he left there wasn't much meat on those bones ...
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Personal adverts – LRB style
One of my reading pleasures is the London Review of Books, courtesy of the subscription my brother gives me every year as my Christmas present. It’s my short-cut, cheat’s way of learning something interesting about things I wouldn’t normally read about, without having to actually read any of the books. The reviews are not like the normal book reviews you find in newspapers or magazines. They are often very long essays on the topic, written by experts in that field. The book is often a relatively...
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ANZAC Day 2009
I wrote this a few years ago. My views haven't changed. It was ANZAC Day in New Zealand and Australia over the weekend — April 25th — the anniversary of the landing at Anzac Cove on Gallipoli (i.e. an attempted invasion of Turkey) by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in 1915. They were part of a force that included tens of thousands of British and French troops. The plan was to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula and open up a supply route to Russia. It failed and more than 300,000 soldiers...
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