The Weight of Risk and the Risk of Waiting

15 10 2013

HDC Oil_Page_06

A paper I presented at the Oil & Gas Symposium, Hastings District Council, 11 October 2013.

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Chamber of Commerce Q+A

21 09 2013

MyPositionFarms

 

The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce asked candidates five questions, these are my responses…

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I have enjoyed first term on Council, part of that was on the Chamber Executive and I’d like to see those links strengthened a little more as I think Brian Wilson and myself acted as a useful conduit between the Council and Chamber on a number of issues.

I think I’ve been able to make intelligent, sensible and considered contributions to Council and I’ve helped raise the quality of discussion, debate and decision-making.

I’ve had a focus on increasing public involvement in planning and decisions and been a strong advocate for the city and the district as a whole.

I have listened to residents and ratepayers (even after being elected!), worked well with others (who don’t always share the same values and views) and helped make good decisions in the best interest of the region as a whole.

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1. What do you see as the GDC’s role in contributing to economic development and growth in this region?

Council has a key role in a number of areas contributing to economic development:

  1. Providing good quality infrastructure, predictable regulation & consistent planning
  2. Collecting and disseminating information that helps the community make informed decisions on the direction for the district
  3. Advocating for the district at central government – ensuring our big issues are nationally significant issues.
  4. Facilitating relationships between stakeholders to realise opportunities and achieve sustainable solutions in the best interest of the district where there are competing priorities.

Some of functions within these areas, particulatly information gathering and sharing, advocacy and relationship brokerage could be devolved to an Economic Development Agency run separate to Council. But the Mayor and Council have a critical leadership role in advocating on behalf of the region – especially on things like roading, new costs being imposed by central government legislation, etc. And political leadership can help broker mutually beneficial relationships with industry, iwi, land owners, research institutions, entrepreneurs, etc.

Council can also have procurement and banking policies that benefit the local community in different ways.

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2. What is your view of the core role of council? Do you consider there are any current council activities that do not fit this role?

Under new legislation the purpose of local government is now to provide quality infrastructure, regulation & essential services. Opposition parties have pledged to revert the purpose back to promoting sustainable development and local cultural, environmental, social and economic wellbeing.

I’m not completely wedded to Council providing social housing. I have argued it could be sold to a Charitable Trust, housing cooperative or something like ECT but wouldn’t want to see them go to private ownership. I’m also open to Council not owning any or all of its commercial assets (WOF station, holiday park, farms) if there are compelling financial reasons to divest from these enterprises. We need an urgent review of Council asset ownership to identify options and the benefits of retaining or releasing these enterprises.

Tauwhareparae Farms are being well run but I’m not convinced we need to retain them. They were acquired to supplement port income and will always provide low value compared to capital committed, as the trees appreciate so will the capital value. There is no legal risk in selling them and my preference would be as Margaret Thorpe suggests to land-bank them via OTS as they are subject to Treaty claims. This will ensure we get a premium price, they are retained in local ownership and we demonstrate goodwill to the traditional owners.

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3. Businesses have to live within their means, or face the consequences. What is your view with regard to GDC achieving the same discipline around keeping rates increases in check?

Significant savings have been made by previous and current CEO to trim as much as possible. More ‘savings’ could be found but that depends on what we want to give up and what quality of life we can tolerate.

I campaigned on rates rises at or below inflation and we have achieved that. The ‘razor gang’ didn’t make any significant savings. I also campaigned on getting more predictable rates system with smaller variations year on year and we are making good progress on this through the participatory rates review process.

Council league tables suggest we are now one of the most financially sustainable and we rank 26 out of 73 councils for cost of rates.

Councillors are financially conservative and understand the limits of affordability for residents, but the WMT suggests this is not the case. That massive blowout and the need to address some basic first suggest some of the fancy projects need to be reviewed while we attend to the basics first.

If the community has things they think we should stop doing or not start they have the opportunity every year and we listen to that feedback.

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4. What is your position with respect to the re-opening of the Gisborne to Napier rail line?

The railway line a billion dollar public asset that is lying idle while Gisborne and Wairoa businesses scream out for it to make our products more competitive. Some people say logs will never go South on it but there are massive forests between Napier and Gisborne that will provide the anchor business for the line so that containerised seasonal produce and timber coming out and fertiliser going to Gisborne can be transported by rail instead of trucks. Coastal shipping is unlikely to ever be viable if the rail is operating.

More trucks on the road means more cost in maintenance, more congestion and more danger for other motorists – it also means more cost for local businesses and more competition from other places that have lower freight costs.

With the support of 10,000 signatures and $20,000 given by local businesses and residents, we commissioned a study that demonstrated the lack of rigor in the government’s position and the potential for a realistic business case if roads and rail were considered on a level playing field by central government.

A different government next year will reinstate the line if the local business consortium is unable to raise the funds required. Some candidates say they don’t don’t support ratepayers funding the line operation – that has never been a realistic option – but Council could be a stronger advocate for the line.

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5. If you were elected to the council, what activities or actions would you take to ensure Gisborne becomes an even better place to work, live and play?

I will keep doing what I have been:

-  all of the above, plus…

-  working with the IT sector to establish local computer hubs for young people and families with few opportunities to access IT, career pathways via the Techxpo and partnership with major NZ telcos

- advocating for more central government support for our district (transport, rail, imposed costs, renewable energy, forestry carbon credits, aquaculture, etc.) and working with iwi and other stakeholders on these issues

- leading a gang transformation project focused on employment and working with employers and support services

- review commercial assets

- keep rates at or below inflation

- continue support for better commuter cycling and walking infrastructure

- more emphasis on local housing issues – affordable, healthy housing for everyone, not provided by Council but Council facilitating government, community and private sectors working together

- continue emphasising the importance of opportunities for public input on issues like forestry harvest rules, petroleum exploration applications, legislative submissions, etc.

- continue work on Māori land issues – Council working with landowners to look at how to make the land more productive and/or revert to indigenous forest

-  continue supporting illegal dumping prevention and removal, and more ambitious waste minimisation targets.

- continue bringing diverse parts of the community together to address complex issues

- continue voluntary involvement in a wide range of community groups and local issues.





Boom Town – Rats?

14 09 2013
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Life in a ‘Man Camp’ is not for everyone: http://www.pressherald.com/life/man-camp.html

When it comes to mining, Australia has many lessons for us. A 2009 report from the Queensland Government and Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at University of Queensland showed that housing affordability often declines for people in mining towns who aren’t working in the industry.

Stats from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) show a close correlation between Queensland resources and property booms — median house prices in one suburb soared 65 percent in a year. Great if you’re a property investor, but if you just want an affordable home for your family you might be out of luck.

CSRM studies have documented the “two-speed economy” that follows mining “boom towns”, where people who aren’t working in the industry get a sharp shock when they realise that normal life is suddenly a lot more expensive.

A US Department of Agriculture study published last year found that in three states experiencing petroleum booms, a large increase in production caused only modest increases in local jobs and median household income and employment rose 1.5 percent on pre-boom levels.

There is a range of other peer-reviewed empirical studies on the subject (a few listed below), and I’m happy to look at evidence to the contrary.

So while some incomes will rise during an oil boom, the cost of living for everyone is likely to increase as well — meaning those on a fixed income are in fact worse off. We know that most of the high-paying jobs that go with the territory go to specialists who are brought in.

While this may not on its own be reason enough to say “no” to oil and gas exploration here, it’s important to understand the real opportunities and risks before rolling out the red carpet.

And communities aren’t the only ones thinking hard about the pros and cons. Two months ago Rabobank Group said it would no longer provide finance to anyone involved in extracting unconventional fossil fuels such as oil shales through fracking (see their Oil & Gas policy).

One of the world’s largest lenders, Rabobank is worried about the impact oil and gas production is having on people, productive agricultural land, wildlife and the climate — as well as the release of greenhouse gases and their warming of the planet.

As we are seeing in Taranaki now, there is increasing conflict in the communities affected by the expansion of oil and gas there and a perceived risk to the rural sector from residents near new developments.

A letter to Tiniroto resident John Brodie from the FMG Service Centre says:

“Our Underwriters have confirmed we exclude cover of Fracking and anything related to this activity. Fracking is outside of FMG’s preferred risk profile and is not something we would be willing to cover as we do not insure any risks relating to the mining industry.”

I agree that Gisborne refusing to welcome fossil fuels production here won’t make a serious dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. But global agreements don’t happen out of thin air — they tend to come from grassroots movements that influence local government, national legislation and eventually international diplomacy.

The people of Gisborne taking a stand would help the industry and government to think twice and take notice. But that’s a decision for our community to make, and soon. Last year 2000 locals asked for public notification of any mining resource consent yet Gisborne District Council has chosen not to do so. I think now more than ever we need a forum for the community, our government, iwi and industry to sit down and talk about what the pros and cons really mean for Tairawhiti.

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REFERENCES:

http://www.csrm.uq.edu.au/publications/247-local-government-mining-companies-and-resource-development-in-regional-australia

http://apo.org.au/research/benefits-boom

http://www.regionalaustralia.org.au/research-policy/policy-issues/

http://www.cis.org.au/publications/policy-monographs/article/3309-australias-angry-mayors-how-population-growth-frustrates-local-councils

http://www.lgaq.asn.au/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=189033&folderId=98699&name=DLFE-9119.pdf

http://www.regions.qld.gov.au/dsdweb/v4/apps/web/content.cfm?id=16447

Weber, J. G. (2012). The effects of a natural gas boom on employment and income in Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming. Energy Economics, 34(5), 1580-1588. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eneco.2011.11.013

Jacquet, J. 2009.  Energy Boomtowns & Natural Gas: Implications for Marcellus Shale Local Governments & Rural Communities, NERCD Rural Development Paper No. 43, January 2009, 63 pp., University Park, Pennsylvania: The Northeast Regional Centre for Rural Development, The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421512006702





Moral challenge requires alternative investments

1 09 2013

SAMSUNG

Always a voice for sensible decision-making, Brian Wilson’s Opinion Piece on local petroleum exploration was no exception. Brian succinctly outlined some of the fundamental challenges we have as a community if the oil industry gets established in Gisborne and questioned any benefits the industry might bring.

The greatest challenge of course is a moral one: why would we welcome an industry that is, probably more than any other, responsible for causing catastrophic changes in our climate? What are we going to tell our grandchildren when they ask why didn’t we make the transition to renewable energy faster?

And yes, anyone suggesting we need to change and still using fossil fuels is compromised, but that’s a bit like saying Gandhi and Mandela should not have spoken English during their struggle against colonisation.

The transition to renewables will take time – it took petroleum a few decades in the early 20th Century to supersede coal as the primary fuel – but the longer we allow cheap access to fossil fuels, the longer the transition takes.

Humans have already discovered five times more oil and gas than we can consume without pushing planetary warming above the critical two degrees increase. We don’t need to find any more.

I was at a meeting with a representative from Z Energy recently where they talked about the concept of ‘permitted oil’ as opposed to ‘peak oil’. Last month Z Energy partnered with Norske Skog and others to invest over $13 million in a biomass development project in the Bay of Plenty using woodchips and sawdust to create biofuels. That kind of money is not just green-washing, they are serious about using our existing resources to reduce New Zealand’s $6 billlion/year addiction to fossil fuels and our community should be talking to them.

Scion, the forestry research institute has estimated that eight biomass plants around the country could replace ten percent of our crude oil requirements using just the current waste from the wood industry.

A recent Auckland University and Vivid Economics report commissioned a group New Zealand’s most influential business leaders, suggested that green growth may not out perform the dirty alternatives if the goal is short-term profit but a different way of measuring growth and wealth may be required.

“The benefits of green growth policies do not always show up rapidly as higher growth, and higher short-run growth should not be a necessary criterion for a good green growth policy. This is because conventional measures of growth do not measure the state of the economy’s stocks of wealth, and many valuable environmental outcomes are not traded in markets, so improvements do not appear as growth. A green account addresses these deficiencies.”

Renewable energy industries do however have a much higher job creation result for the same investment in fossil fuels, and Tairawhiti is well placed to take advantage of any shifts in the allocation of resources around the national economy during the transition period.

Gisborne District Council has committed to reviewing our policies and plans as they apply to petroleum exploration and production. As a result of public concern, our Council reportedly has the most robust process for assessing resource consent applications from this industry.

As a community we are still waiting to have a well-informed, rationale discussion on the issues and while central government has indicated a willingness to resource this, they are still rolling out more exploration permits and changing laws to reduce opportunities for public input in the decision-making process.

The local body elections will not provide the best opportunity to have this discussion but candidates should all be able to clarify their understanding of the issues.





Call for investigation into alleged human rights abuses

10 05 2013
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Opening of the Tongan language immersion unit at Kaiti School, 2012

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie is calling for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Immigration New Zealand in Gisborne. Mr Caddie is very concerned about reports that two Tongan men being held at Gisborne Police Station have been denied access to lawyers and interpreters.

“Apparently the men are accused of being in New Zealand unlawfully and their lawyer says immigrants in Gisborne are being ‘actively discouraged’ from accessing legal counsel and interpreters.”

“These are serious accusations of human rights violations in our community by a government agency, we need an urgent and full investigation of the situation before anything happens to the men who should not be languishing in Police cells any longer than is necessary.”

Gisborne has a growing population of new immigrants, some who stay longer than their visa allows.

“My few experiences with Immigration New Zealand has suggested the agency often operates with impunity and forces people in similar circumstances to be deported so they cannot apply for the right to return for at least five years. These are hardworking people who contribute to the local economy, who have children in local schools and are often church leaders and positive, contributing members of our community.”

“The Tongan community is a vibrant part of the Gisborne population and it is important they have access to the support required. The Pacific island Community Trust does a good job of providing information to our Pasifika community but have very few resources to serve the rapidly expanding multicultural communities.”

Mr Caddie, who is of Tongan descent himself, says he understands there are approximately 2,500 Tongans now living in Gisborne, many work in low paid employment such as forestry and seasonal field work.

“I have just returned from the United States where undocumented workers is a massive issue across the country but the US government is finding constructive ways to address the challenges rather than use the dawn raids and deportation that still seem popular here. New Zealand needs to mature in the way we deal with new and ‘illegal’ immigrants as these families usually bring a work ethic and civic pride that seems to be missing in many Kiwis.”

ENDS

Radio Australia article: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/nz-immigration-accused-of-denying-rights-to-overstayers/1128512





Regional Economic Development

30 04 2013

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A Gisborne District Councillor says the government is picking winners and industries other than oil and gas would grow the regional economy if similar public funds were committed to other parts of the economy.

Manu Caddie would prefer to see government support for developing industries on the East Coast such as renewable biofuels and biochemicals, internet-based small businesses, high tech food production with the associated intellectual property and what he terms ‘lifestyle relocators’.

“We could wait for a new mill to be built and employ a few hundred on minimum wage or we could get on with attracting a hundred innovative, high earning business owners that want to live in places that are vibrant and well connected but out of the rat race of the sprawling metropolitan areas. Compared to the larger centres we have very cheap commercial and residential property prices, a compact city, relaxed lifestyles and relatively unspoiled environment.”

Mr Caddie says the Government has a fundamentally flawed policy of prioritising petroleum development without any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions let alone transition the country away from fossil fuels.

“There may well be some short-term economic gain for some members of the community if a significant amount of hydrocarbons can be extracted, but the evidence from overseas is that in mining boomtowns the economic benefits accrue to a certain part of the population while others are worse off and inequalities increase.”

“The region has not had a properly informed debate on the costs and benefits of mining here. There has been no independent analysis and advice on our situation and what the alternatives could be that would deliver more sustainable employment and environmental benefits. If the Government wants to pick winners then at least make it evidence-based instead of ideological. Environmentally sustainable mining is an oxymoron and given the scientific evidence on the impacts of fossil fuel consumption, the issue really is a moral question more than anything else.”

Mr Caddie says he agrees with Steven Joyce and Meng Foon that education needs even more attention.

“This is as much about families and students getting the support they need and taking responsibility as it is about the quality of teaching and approaches to formal learning. More sophiscated understanding of and flexibility around the relationships between schooling, family dynamics, employment and lifestyle choices is critical.”

“Only one in four Gisborne school leavers have NCEA Level 3 or above, nearly ten percent lower than the national average. Between half and three quarters of young people say they do not plan to continue with any form tertiary training after leaving school. A higher proportion of Gisborne young people work in agriculture, fishing, forestry and manufacturing than the national average.”

Gisborne has about 150 young offenders under 17 years. Based on 2001 estimates from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, each year offences committed by young people in Gisborne cost around $2.5 million in Police, court and sentencing costs.

“There is a significant underclass emerging that are extremely disconnected from mainstream society, community leaders, public institutions, employers and community organisations need to get a whole lot smarter about how we think about this part of the population and just focusing on economic development will not be sufficient.”





Boomtown Rats

8 11 2012

Proposed new permit areas in yellow. Existing permit blocks in green and unassigned block in brown.

It has been an exciting week for the oil and gas industry. Todd Energy published a 180 page ‘no worries’ fracking tract and the Government announced plans to open up a large area across the flats and into the hills between Te Karaka, Tiniroto and Frasertown for petroleum exploration.

Todd acknowledges in its submission to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s inquiry that “many of the environmental risks raised as concerns relating to hydraulic fracturing apply to all exploration and production drilling.” That’s been my concern for some time and I agree to a point with industry suggestions that most of these risks can be managed with ‘best practice’ and strong regulation.

The claim that opposition to fracking in New Zealand is being based not on evidence, but on misinformation and emotion really is ironic. Are the professors at Duke University, Cornell University, Penn State or the University of Alberta misinforming us with their peer-reviewed, published empirically evidenced papers? Which regulators that have concluded fracking was the cause of water contamination, earthquakes and/or air pollution were being too emotional in their reports?

We hear claims that there has ‘never been a major incident in Taranaki’, yet a recent oil spill that reached the Kapiti Coast took 265 days to ‘clean up’ and in one year alone three workers were killed on Taranaki wells. Taranaki Regional Council reports reveal chemical contamination of ground water near the Kapuni well so bad that it should not even be used for irrigation, let alone stock or human consumption.

No one is suggesting that every injected well results in drinking water pollution or dangerous earthquakes, but the evidence from independent scientists all over the world confirming contamination makes it clear that fracking is causing serious issues. The Todd submission acknowledges that there are real problems to deal with. Common concerns relate to water pollution through fugitive emissions from well casings, air pollution from flaring and spray disposal, soil pollution from spills, leaks and dispersal, significant earthquakes caused by the pressurised reinjection of fracking waste, radioactive material to be disposed of as part of the fracking process and the list goes on.

Todd Energy says a moratorium on fracking until we sort out the regulations would scare off overseas oil companies. These are the companies that spend well over $100million every year lobbying US politicians and threatening all sorts of calamity if profits are not prioritised over other considerations.

There will be stronger measures on climate change from the US after Hurricane Sandy and Obama’s reelection, but New Zealand politicians are still not prepared to commit the country to a realistic transition plan away from fossil fuels. Todd Energy argues that natural gas is a better option than coal, but conveniently overlooks recent research including a study from Cornell University that found the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas could be at least 20 percent higher than that of coal (Howarth, R. W., R. Santoro, and A. Ingraffea, 2011).

Putting aside any moral obligation to future generations who will be the victims of a lack of climate justice in our time, we should be clear about the local risks and benefits of the industry. Three studies due before Christmas will help with that assessment and Gisborne District Council will consider them all carefully.

In the meantime interested members of the public might like to check out the maps of the proposed exploration permit areas, find out some more about what is planned and give feedback to local councilors, iwi leaders and/or the Minister of Energy and Resources by the end of January.





Studying the Study

1 10 2012

 

I was pleased to hear about the various pieces of work to be included in the study initiated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on the likely impacts of petroleum exploration and production on the East Coast.

Ramping up fossil fuel production in New Zealand is the number one priority in the Energy Strategy of the current Government. We should not be surprised therefore that the Terms of Reference for the East Coast study will deliver results focused on the potential economic benefits for the country and the region. It is a shame they are not going to have the analysis peer-reviewed or use global scientific experts to assess the environmental risks.

Ministry officials have told me the assessments of the likelihood and impact of potential environmental risks associated each scenario (high, medium, low production levels) would be included but only at a very high level. Localised environmental risks such as hydrocarbon and toxic chemical leaks into the air, water and soil are of concern to many landowners and residents. There are also the global impacts of continuing to make cheap fossil fuels available while we know they are contributing to catastrophic climate change – no study is able to justify what has become an indefensible situation we are all responsible for.

While the oil industry argues the foreign exchange earnings from their products help pay for our schools and hospitals, they also need to acknowledge the intergenerational injustice the industry is causing. The Government has no transition plan to renewable energy and no strategy to reign in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Carbon emissions of each production scenario are not included in the MBIE study.

All of the analysis on the national and local economic impacts of petroleum production has been outsourced to NZIER, the organisation that recently suggested climate change should be considered New Zealand’s “least important environmental issue”. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment described the analysis in a 2009 report by NZIER as “muddled and superficial”, “too superficial to lead to well-reasoned priorities” and “fundamentally flawed”.

BERL last month published an economic study for Southland that demonstrated the benefits of alternative industries for the region would outweigh the jobs and income from fossil fuel extraction. That is the kind of study we should have to sit alongside the MBIE project.

MBIE staff assure me that labour estimates in the report should be able to quantify the types of jobs the industry would require under each scenario and the likelihood of local people being employed in those roles.

The economic analysis should also include assessments of the likely impacts on existing businesses from land use changes, pollution, regional brand impacts, though MBIE say this is only going to be at a very high level. Federated Farmers and Hort NZ seem relaxed about the potential impact of thousands of oil and gas wells, tens of thousands more truck movements each year and the storage and disposal of toxic waste. Farmers and growers I have spoken to sit across the continuum, some are strongly opposed to the oil industry establishing itself here, others are quite open to the idea.

The capacity and expertise required by consenting authorities on exploration and production issues are outside the scope of the MBIE study but of real concern to many locals. Councils and central government should be able to work toward agreement on what resourcing is appropriate for government to provide given the royalties flow back to central government but local authorities have to do all the regulation and manage community expectations and concerns.

The MBIE study should be interesting reading alongside the PCE report on fracking due in the same month and the research Professor Caroline Saunders has been working on for Gisborne District Council that looks at the positive and negative impacts on provincial communities when an oil boom hits town.





Beyond Petroleum… for good.

24 01 2012

2012 Investor Summit on Climate Risk and Energy Solutions

We have much to thank the oil industry for – that source of energy has enabled humans to achieve all sorts of things that people living 100 years ago would never have dreamed about. I love the fact that I can take my family on holiday to Tauranga and complete the trip in four hours instead of the week or two it would take by horse (if the weather was fine!), I love the medicines, food, clothing and technology that uses cheap oil and gas in their production and distribution processes.

I also know that future generations are going to look back on us in disbelief that we burnt good oil so quickly and carelessly. In light of the overwhelming evidence (well canvased in The Gisborne Herald letters page!) on human caused climate change and peak oil, ‘responsible extraction of fossil fuels’ is quickly becoming an oxymoron.

This is a conscience issue for me, based on the current scientific consensus about the causes of accelerating climate change, I feel I must have some tangible commitment to an urgent transition away from our reliance on fossil fuel toward renewable energy sources.

I currently own a hybrid car that alternates between petrol and electric propulsion. Recently I looked at buying a fully electric car but I could not afford it without adding 40% to our mortgage! I couldn’t help but think that the cost of that electric vehicle, which had been converted from petrol, would be much cheaper if it was more expensive to produce and consume fossil fuels here and overseas. Economies of scale mean that when more people do more of something we usually find cheaper ways to do it.

A recent OECD report estimates New Zealand taxpayers give fossil fuel users around $70 million each year from the public purse. If that is not bad enough, the same report suggests Norway – the country our government suggests we emulate – subsidises fossil fuels to the tune of over $1.8billion per annum. Recent editorials in this newspaper have claimed supporters of investment in renewable energy are proposing subsidies that would be an exercise in ‘government directed disaster’ – I imagine $1.8 billion could be considered a fair amount of government direction.

‎While the government says it is committed to reductions in carbon emissions, it has made fossil fuel production a key part of the national economic development plan. The 2011 Energy Strategy says the goal is to make this country a “highly attractive” global destination for petroleum exploration and production companies.

The Listener’s latest editorial claims “The current infatuation with the oil and gas sector runs the risk that the necessary investment in and support for new forms of renewable energy will be diminished. Of particular concern is that although the Government is rolling out the red carpet to international exploration companies, the enormous potential gains to be made from greater energy efficiency are going begging.”

Last week over 450 global investors controlling tens of trillions of dollars from four continents gathered at the UN for the biannual Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions.

“Climate change is certain to be a major factor in investments for the foreseeable future—perhaps the biggest investment factor of our lifetimes,” said Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management – this bank alone is worth US$4 trillion dollars.

The NYC summit presented a number of notable achievements including a record $260 billion invested in clean energy in 2011 and over one trillion dollars in the past six years. There was a 36% increase in solar power investments alone (reaching US$136.6 billion) in 2011. The highly successful but recently scrapped US Treasury Grant Program paid out around $9.6b over 30 months and leveraged nearly $23 billion in private sector investment for 22,000 projects in every state across a dozen clean energy industries. Investors signed onto an action plan calling for greater private investment in low-carbon technologies and tougher scrutiny of climate risks across their portfolios.

The world is moving towards renewables driven by the inescapable logic of clean energy. Gisborne may have an opportunity to tie ourselves to an outdated, dirty and what many believe irrational industry in its twilight years, or we could, with the support of central government and private investors, be a region that was bold enough to not only recognise the need for sustainable change but actually lead and prosper from it.

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NOTE: The original post suggested Norway subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $100b, this was a miscalculation using an online currency conversion tool. The figures are from this OECD report: www.oecd.org/dataoecd/55/5/48786631.pdf 

The lower tax rate on diesel provides a benefit of 3,510 million Krone = NZ$664m, the rest of the 2010 figures seem to come out at about 2,053 million Krone = NZ$426m – so close to $1.8b. Thanks to Wayne for pointing out the error, I obviously wasn’t using my currency calculator correctly when I did the original sum. I guess my argument still stands even if it is not quite as compelling! The taxpayer subsidies in Norway do not seem to be decreasing overall, are five times the state subsidies for renewables and most are either static or increasing annually, the only subsidies that decreased in 2010 appear to be the government assistance for seismic testing in the exploration for fossil fuels. 




You Give Ludd a Bad Name…

1 04 2011
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Opponents of Petrobras drilling off East Cape have been labelled Luddites. This month is the 200th anniversary of the British Luddite protests and I appreciated Mark Engler‘s exploration in ‘Dissent‘ magazine of whether or not those demonstrators of old should really be described as anti-progress.
The Luddites did not oppose technology per se, but rather asked some important questions about the ends to which new technological discoveries were being used and who in society would benefit from them.
The original Luddites were neither opposed to technology nor inept at using it. Many were highly skilled machine operators in the textile industry. Nor was the technology they attacked particularly new.
The Luddite disturbances started when British working class families at the start of the 19th century were enduring economic upheaval and widespread unemployment. The war against Napoleon had ‘brought the hard pinch of poverty to homes where it had previously been a stranger’. Food was scarce and rapidly becoming more costly. Then, on March 11, 1811, in Nottingham, a textile manufacturing centre, British troops broke up a crowd of protesters demanding more work and better wages.
That night, angry workers smashed textile machinery in a nearby village. Similar attacks occurred nightly at first, then sporadically, and then in waves, eventually spreading across a 70-mile swath of northern England. Fearing a national movement, the government positioned thousands of soldiers to defend factories and Parliament passed a measure to make machine-breaking a capital offense.
As the Industrial Revolution began, workers naturally worried about being displaced by increasingly efficient machines. But the Luddites themselves were totally fine with machines. They confined their attacks to manufacturers who used machines in what they called “a fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labour practices. They just wanted machines that made high-quality goods and they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns.
Ironically opponents of oil and gas exploration in the Raukumara Basin are calling for more investment in clean technologies like solar and electric vehicles to replace our reliance on old technology. Arguments about technology (much like those about deep sea oil and gas drilling) often come down to legitimate debates over values. I would like to see some more discussion on competing values in the current debates on mining in this country.
One of the more prominent supporters of the Luddites is poet-farmer Wendell Berry. Berry writes: “Like almost everybody else, I am hooked to the energy corporations, which I do not admire. I hope to become less hooked to them. In my work, I try to be as little hooked to them as possible. As a farmer, I do almost all of my work with horses. As a writer, I work with pencil or a pen and a piece of paper.” When branded a Luddite, Berry rises to the group’s defense. “These were people who dared to assert that there were needs and values that justly took precedence over industrialisation,” he writes; “they were people who rejected the determinism of technological innovation and economic exploitation.”
We would do well to maintain such skepticism today, Berry contends. He does not reject new inventions out of hand. He flies in airplanes, drives a car, and cuts wood with a chainsaw. But he is not willing to accept technological “advances” for their own sake. He challenges us to ask “what higher aim” each new innovation serves, and what its likely impact on our communities will be.




Happy New Year

27 12 2010

So there goes 2010, and as 2011 rolls in we see petrol going over $2.00/litre in town, which probably means $2.50 up the Coast. This year the International Energy Agency referred to Peak Oil in the past tense, saying output will never again get to the “all-time peak of 70 million barrels per day reached in 2006.” Global demand for oil is increasing exponentially and the cost of production is going up as the stuff gets harder to extract.

The good news is that while the New Zealand government has acknowledged the need to plan for life beyond cheap oil, so has a growing number of Gisborne people. Planning to adapt our lifestyles seems like a better strategy than having change forced on us.

Local residents face similar challenges if we like the lifestyle the district offers. Gisborne District Council is an entity we pay money to that ensures decent roads, safe drinking water, some agreement about who can do what where and the provision of other basic services essential to maintaining our quality of life.

There has been a lot of column space dedicated recently to complaints about rates rises for some sectors of the community and suggestions we should cut Council services or delay maintenance and replacement work.

Despite all the table thumping, the good news is that a significant proportion of ratepayers will have a reduction in their rates and the vast majority will probably have an increase of less than $2 per week.

With the Reserve Bank predicting inflation of five percent next year, we should thank staff and the former Council for ensuring the average rates rises are well below inflation. While farmers and some businesses complain about the rises, we should compare them with last year when residential property owners in the city were hardest hit and faced increases in the poorest parts of town of over 16%. So we all have to do our share and while legislation prevents rates from being used as a mechanism for wealth redistribution, if you have a multi million dollar property that is also a business, you expect to contribute a bit more than the average.

As a recent editorial pointed out, Gisborne is no longer in the highest bracket for rates in the country and while we have high levels of poverty we also have a lean Council, expensive rural roading and flood protection infrastructure to maintain in the face of decreasing central government support.

Gisborne has 360,000 hectares of grassland, 150,000 hectares of planted trees, 40,000 hectares of native bush and 9,000 hectares of horticulture.

Gisborne also has huge areas of ‘Maori land’ a lot of which is termed ‘unproductive’ (because it’s not being intensively farmed or forested) and ‘unrateable’ (because the multiple owners are either deceased or impossible to track down to recover rates from).

If a fraction of the time, passion and resources committed by councillors, staff and lobby groups to cutting Council services was redirected into developing a strategy for attracting long-term residents to the district, we could have a really effective campaign.

Part of such a strategy should focus on attracting Maori with connections to Te Tairawhiti to come home to work and build on the ancestral land everyone seems so proud of.

We also have a great opportunity to profile our community as a potential new home for the thousands of visitors here over summer. We have no traffic jams (except at New Years!), no air pollution, no crowded waves, no in-fill housing, no crass multinational strip malls… in fact, there’s not much here except a beautiful environment, laid back lifestyles and a lot of very friendly people.





GISCOSS Candidates Survey

21 09 2010

Here are the results of the Gisborne East Coast Council of Social Services – Questions for DHB & GDC Candidates…


1. Do you think Gisborne District Council should continue to facilitate the process for desired community-wide social, economic, environmental and cultural outcomes even if it was not a requirement in legislation?

Name of Candidate Response
Andy Cranston Yes – Definitely. Though we may be in partnerships or collaborations for this purpose.
Clive Bibby Yes
Allan Hall Yes
Anne Pardoe Yes
Brian Wilson Yes
Manu Caddie Yes – it’s a no-brainer… GDC is the only district-wide, public institution that can coordinate these aspirations, if GDC does not do this then no other organisation is going to and we will have a much more fragmented community as a result.
Murray Palmer Yes
Owen Lloyd Yes
Rehette Stoltz Yes
Steve Scragg Yes – so long as it was only to facilitate and coordinate
Tina Karaitiana Yes – it seems a shame that a Council would require legislation being the Local Government Act to do so.  Communities work best when we consider all of the things that impact on people’s lives, and not just rubbish, roads and rates.  All of these areas do not stand alone, they are all inter-related and are each in their own right critically important to our identity and our ability to create a community that is progressive.  In a nutshell, we will never meet the needs and do our job as councillors’ justice if we don’t know what outcomes the community want us to achieve.
Don Blakeney No comment
Larry Foster Yes
Nona Aston Yes Definately

2. Which Community Organisations have you had active involvement with in the past five years?

Name of Candidate Response
Andy Cranston
  • Council Committees: Community Development, Wastewater Management, Civil Defence and Environmental and Policy.
  • Volunteered on to Youth Transition Service which I chair.
  • Youth Voice
  • Heart of Gisborne
  • Arts and Culture Advisory Panel
  • Gisborne Boardriders Club (Executive member)
  • Sport Gisborne Tairawhiti (Trustee)
  • Wainui Community Group
  • I attend virtually all the community consultation meetings in the city ward
  • Affordable housing is an area of interest
  • Also in the past have been a Board of Trustee member for Awapuni School and Lytton High School
Clive Bibby
  • Tolaga Bay save the Wharf Trust
  • Dr Paratene Ngata Coastguard Rescue Boat – Tolaga Bay
  • Tolaga Bay Foreshore Development Trust
Allan Hall
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Holy Trinity Church
  • Rotary

Anne Pardoe

  • Chamber of Commerce (past president)
  • Rotarian Gisborne West Rotary
  • QUEST Charitable Trust (Foundation Trustee)
  • SPCA
Brian Wilson
  • YMCA
  • Tairawhiti Youth Voice
  • CPHAC/DSAC health board committee
  • Healthy Homes Retrofit steering committee
Manu Caddie
  • Waikirikiri School, Board of Trustees (Chairperson)
  • Gisborne Cycling Advisory Group (Chairperson)
  • Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group (Convenor)
  • · Presbyterian Support East Coast (Board Member)
  • Whanau Ora (Tairawhiti Regional Advisory Group Member)
  • Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti Trust (Trustee)
  • Gisborne Council of Social Services (Executive Member)
  • Tairawhiti Men Against Violence (Foundation Member)
  • Gisborne Chamber of Commerce (Executive Member)
  • · Rongo-i-te-Kai Marae (Treasurer)
  • · Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti (Whanau Committee Member)
  • · Te Toka o Te Kokonga Te Kohanga Reo (Whanau Committee Member)
  • · Council for International Development (National Board Member)
  • Tairawhiti Youth Workers Collective (Chairperson)
  • National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa (National Working Party Member
Murray Palmer
  • Te Iwi o Rakaipaaka Inc.
  • Te Rakato Marae
  • Tairawhiti Environment Centre
  • Whakaki Lake Trust
  • Te Penu Marae
  • Transition Tairawhiti
Owen Lloyd
  • Truancy
  • BOT Lytton and Whatatutu
  • GISCOSS
  • NZCOSS
  • Social Services ITO
  • YOTS
  • Te Kupenga net Trust
  • Tairawhiti District Police Advisory Group
  • Trustee of Mangatu marae Arts in Public Places.
Rehette Stoltz
  • Whataupoko Playcentre
  • Montessori Pre-School
  • Sunshine Service
  • Central Baptist Church
Steve Scragg
  • East Coast Hawke’s bay Conservation Board
  • New Zealand Fish and Game Council
Tina Karaitiana
  • Tairawhiti Men Against Violence
  • Women’s Institute
  • Maori Women’s Welfare League
  • Women’s Refuge
  • Te Whare Whaia Matauranga
  • Eastland Helicopter Trust
  • Super Grans
  • Gisborne Budgeting Services
Don Blakeney
  • Ngati Porou
  • Uawa FM
  • Whanau Whanui Kohanga Reo
  • Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu (correspondence)
  • NZ Film Commission
  • Tolaga Bay Area School
  • Gisborne Netball Association
  • Uawa FM Netball Club
  • Tokomaru Bay Netball Club
  • Uawa Rugby Club
  • Uawa Boardriders Club
  • 48Hour Film Festival
  • Dancing with the Pa’s
  • Anaura Bay Youth
  • Anaura Association Charitable Trust (Chairperson)
  • Public Health Nutrition Ltd
  • Sport Eastland
  • Cre8tive Tairawhiti
  • Tolaga Bay Area School Netball Club
Larry Foster
  • Heart of Gisborne
  • Gisborne Port Company
Nona Aston
  • Te Whanau Aroha Positive Aging
  • Te Kupenga
  • Cancer Society
  • GISCOSS
  • Problem Gambling
  • Kaumatua Group Road Action Committee
  • Safe Tairawhiti Housing Action Group
  • E Tu Elgin
  • Aikinson and Taruheru Crescent
  • Mangapapa Residents
  • Rotary Gisborne
  • Sister Cities keep Gisborne Beautiful
  • City Safe Youth Council YTS Chair
  • Health Camp School now
  • Age Concern

3. Do you support the idea of a bylaw requiring a Warrant of Fitness (to ensure basic health and safety requirements are met) before any property is rented in the District?

Name of Candidate Response
Andy Cranston Yes – I am often horrified by the standard of many rental properties. Renting property is a partnership with responsibilities sides and often a higher standard by the landlord will be met with a higher standard of upkeep by the tenant. Unfortunately many landlords do not seriously assess and meet their responsibility and are coming up well short. It is a shame that a bylaw would be a requirement but a sad reality that sometimes the right thing needs to be enforced.
Clive Bibby Yes
Allan Hall No
Anne Pardoe Yes – This is a residential tenancies act
Brian Wilson Yes – In principal but would need to see the ramifications first of doing so
Manu Caddie Yes – I have been promoting the idea through the Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group
Murray Palmer Yes – but note possibilities for work in lieu of rent where house safe etc
Owen Lloyd Yes
Rehette Stoltz Yes
Steve Scragg No – I see this as a role of the Department of Building and Housing and the Health Department.
Tina Karaitiana Yes – on the basis that the proposal is not beaucracy gone bad and not another strategy to generate huge amounts of revenue from landlords.  My support is on the basis that healthy housing is a basic fundamental of good health and that we need to support standards that could increase the living conditions for the most vulnerable in our community.    We lead many of the worst health statistics in the country and we need to think wider about how we can work collaboratively to address this.  These are not good statistics that boost the image of our community.   Those landlords who rent out safe, clean and healthy homes will have nothing to worry about.
Don Blakeney No comment
Larry Foster No
Nona Aston Yes I would the problem would be the practical vetting of it

4. Would you support a proposal to require a permit to consume alcohol consumption in public places?

Names of Candidates Responses
Andy Cranston Yes – It is generally not necessary or desirable to consume alcohol in public places. It would be fantastic if alcohol consumption was partaken in a responsible and considerate manner, but that is very often not the case. Should an event or initiative be planned where consumption of alcohol was deemed to be appropriate then I believe the controls around meeting permit conditions would offer an appropriate enforcement tool.
Clive Bibby Yes
Allan Hall Yes
Anne Pardoe Yes
Brian Wilson Yes – again I would support some extra controls on alcohol consumption but would need to see the pros and cons of doing so
Manu Caddie Yes – especially around parks, reserves and beaches
Murray Palmer Yes – if that was the consensus of health providers etc
Owen Lloyd Yes
Rehette Stoltz Yes
Steve Scragg No – not with out further information on its implementation

Tina Karaitiana

No – when we think about what we are trying to address when we put restrictions on drinking in public places it is to generally address drunkenness, violence, damage to property and harm to people, even perceived feelings of being unsafe.  The people that are likely to get a permit are unlikely to be offenders in any of these categories and the offenders unlikely to get a permit, so a waste of time and paper.  There are already laws available to the police to address this type of behaviour and drinking in public places is currently under Sale of Liquor Act review so direction on this issue would be lead nationally and not at a local level.  However liquor bans can be used at a local level to
address problem areas or to protect areas that alcohol shouldn’t be publicly consumed at, ie children’s playgrounds.
Don Blakeney No Comment
Larry Foster No
Nona Aston Yes definitely again it is the practical vetting. I would rather see a by law saying which places it was allowed.

5. Do you support the proposal for Tairawhiti Youth Voice to have a non-voting seat on Gisborne District Council?

Name of Candidate Response
Andy Cranston Undecided – As a member of Youth Voice committee I absolutely want to say yes but there are some very practical issues to be worked through first.  This of course would set a precedent to dozens of other organisations to have a seat and the council process could very quickly become compromised and unwieldy. This initiative is a great tool for our Youth though with regards to learning and mentoring and it is definitely worth further consideration. As a start point I would be trialling a non voting seat on the Community Development Committee.
Clive Bibby No
Allan Hall Yes
Anne Pardoe No
Brian Wilson Yes – as I am one of the ones promoting this idea
Manu Caddie Yes – this is an excellent proposal and would require some ongoing support from GDC staff and local youth workers
Murray Palmer Yes
Owen Lloyd Yes
Rehette Stoltz Yes
Steve Scragg Yes – but would rather see a Tairawhiti youth council, we need to grow, develop our future community leaders
Tina Karaitiana Yes – I believe that youth voice is critically important for our district. However I’m unsure whether a non-voting seat is the most effective way or only way to achieve this.  What I do know is that we have a high youth population, they are our districts future and we need to get it right.  I would need to speak with TYV to see how they think the relationship between Council and TYV could work best but I am in support of TYV and the young people who give their time to make our community a better place.   We definitely need to utilise their skills more and the fresh perspective that they can bring not just to youth issues but to community issues in general.
Don Blakeney Yes
Larry Foster Yes
Nona Aston Yes definitely

6. Overall do you think GDC is effective in involving people affected in decisions that affect them?

Name of Candidate Response
Andy Cranston Yes – GDC has been putting a lot of effort into consultation and really trying to find a way. There are frequent community meetings which are strategically placed throughout the region to enable high level participation. Management have continued to work with staff to enhance their customer service levels. I believe as councillors we have huge responsibilities in this area and should be available and participate at every opportunity. Our vote is on behalf and it is absolutely appropriate that we understand the community views on all manner of issues. We must be available and participate with all affected persons to have the ability to make any decisions on their behalf.
Clive Bibby Yes
Allan Hall Yes
Anne Pardoe Yes
Brian Wilson Yes – Council has got a lot better at doing this in the last couple of years but still needs to work on clever ways to more involve the community.
Manu Caddie No – but there have been some real improvements since the new CEO has been in the job and new managers for Engineering & Works and Community Planning & Development.
Murray Palmer No – not always – but very variable
Owen Lloyd No
Rehette Stoltz Yes
Steve Scragg No
Tina Karaitiana No – but I appreciate that often council is stuck in a hard place, with very limited resources, limited room for negotiations and many competing priorities however we can do better and we need to acknowledge the skills, ideas and local knowledge that our communities and subsectors of the community have.  And to be honest, Council is more likely to get it right when we fully understand how these decisions that we make will affect people in our community.  It’s far easier to consult properly and make well informed decisions than to be going back to redress poorly informed decisions, not to mention the cost of doing a job more than once.
Don Blakeney No
Larry Foster Yes
Nona Aston Yes I think it is now on the right track . There is still a lot of work to be done but the staff have been really good and need support to get it better.

7. How confident are you that GDC has effectively implemented the Disability Strategy?

Name of Candidate Response
Andy Cranston Confident – The strategy has been ratified and is a work in progress. I believe awareness is growing and there is a lot more appreciation of the purpose and need for such a strategy.
Clive Bibby Confident
Allan Hall Confident
Anne Pardoe Confident
Brian Wilson Confident – at least that is what feedback I am getting from this sector. However the area that has not been dealt with sufficiently so far is the access of people with mobility scooters and other disabled people crossing roads especially at intersections and round a bouts.
Manu Caddie Confident – there have been a number of practical actions taking such as installing ramps and fixing the crossings near roundabouts, kneeling buses, larger more obvious mobility parking spaces in the CBD, etc. but much more work needs to be done including a pedestrian crossing on Childers Rd near the CBD, responding to the needs of residents with disabilities in rural areas and an audit of Council facilities in relation to the needs of children and young people with disabilities
Murray Palmer Not Sure
Owen Lloyd Not Confident
Rehette Stoltz Not Sure
Steve Scragg Confident/ Not Sure
Tina Karaitiana As a new prospect I am unable to answer this question, the best people to answer it are the disabled community, their families and workers in the sector, they would see daily the differences that this strategy may have made to their lives and if I was elected, I would be sure to involve this sector of the community in all stages of the strategy, making changes as we need to along the way so that they are able to participate as fully as possible in our community
Don Blakeney Not Confident
Larry Foster Confident
Nona Aston Confident we can keep it up together





Profile & Priorities

14 09 2010

Te Poho-o-Rawiri, Waitangi Day, 2010

I am standing for Council because I want to encourage much more public participation in discussions and decisions about the future for our communities. Diversity around the council table is important so the district leadership truly reflects the people they serve and we all move ahead together.

I moved to Gisborne with my wife Natasha Koia in 1998 to provide care for her elderly grandparents. We still live with her grandmother and now have our own family with two young children.

I have a degree in communication design, a post-graduate teaching qualification and have worked as a graphic designer, teacher, researcher and community organiser. My research and project management business was established in 2004 with local, national and international clients including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education and The World Bank. I currently hold governance roles with the Board of Trustees for Waikirikiri School and Presbyterian Support East Coast, and I served three years on the board of the NZ Council for International Development.

More information about my priorities, track record and a list of respected locals who endorse my election are available at: http://www.manu.org.nz

- – – – -

Question 1. Rates

Our region currently has huge infrastructure, transport and energy costs, low incomes and limited employment options. I would support Council appointment of a skilled advocate to influence central government so that any impact of national regulations are fully understood and compensated for by central government not ratepayers.

GDC needs to get much smarter at securing external resourcing for major projects. We need much more sophisticated negotiation skills to make the case for private and public investment in local infrastructure.

We should establish a ‘50,000 Taskforce’ with the goal of reaching this population by 2020. Design and implement an aggressive national and international marketing campaign to attract world class talent to relocate to the region bringing expertise and increased earnings.

- – – – -

Question 2. Infrastructure

Cycling and walking needs to be made much easier and safer than it is at present.

We need to urgently establish alternatives to more logging trucks in the city. We need the companies benefitting to pay for the constant road upgrades required.

The rail needs a rescue plan in place by April – based on a robust study of the options not rushed reports.

We need ultra-fast free broadband to every home by 2012.

We need a bylaw requiring all rental homes to pass a Warrant of Fitness to reduce the negative health, education, financial and social outcomes from substandard housing.

The community needs to think about and decide how we best support local businesses and how much big box retail we want in our town. We should take a different development path to places like Tauranga.

- – – – -

Question 3. Council involvement with economic and community development

The sobering social and economic issues in our region are not just statistics – they have faces and names as friends, family and neighbours.

Council doesn’t need to lead economic development but needs to ensure it is smart and takes into account potential impacts on social, environmental and cultural wellbeing. Similarly council doesn’t need to lead community development but needs to work with residents and other stakeholders to ensure communities lead their own development.

Local authorities should have a key role in coordinating central government funding coming into our region for social and economic development to make sure it is lined up with local priorities. I will encourage council support for residents groups at neighbourhood and village level to determine local priorities and development plans.

Question 4. Council provision of facilities and events for young people

Council doesn’t need to provide these directly, but should work with young people, community organisations and businesses to develop more opportunities for young people. This could include computer clubhouses, homework centres, all ages music venues, business incubators, community gardens, and sports and recreation facilities.

Young people are full citizens and Council should provide a non-voting seat for the Tairawhiti Youth Council around the Council table and on all committees.

- – – – -

Question 5. Biggest environmental problems

Significant challenges facing the district include farm and beach erosion, waterway sedimentation, agro-chemical pollution, minerals exploration, native habitat destruction, increased risk from extreme weather and our dependence on oil-based energy.

However one of the most important issues is the need to secure a collective commitment to adjust our lifestyles to ensure future generations are also able to enjoy the abundance we have been blessed with.

Council should lead by example – using more solar energy, providing loans paid off by rates for solar water heating, switching to hybrid vehicles, using bicycles around the CBD and planting vegetables in public gardens.

Council should facilitate more environmental education and community action and establish a regional Environmental Forum with statutory agencies, businesses and non-government organisations to identify, plan and monitor action to address priority environmental issues.

- – – – -





A goal is not a strategy

21 08 2010

A report released this week from independent think tank The New Zealand Institute should be compulsory reading for all local leaders. ‘A goal is not a strategy’ concludes that New Zealand needs to get more businesses to establish themselves overseas, ensure we have a high skilled, well supported workforce and put more focus on the science and technology of industries like farming, forestry and fishing.

The report concludes that lifting labour productivity depends on improving things like entrepreneurship, innovation, skills, investment and natural resources.

The report suggests New Zealand’s most important export sectors – tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing – have lower than average productivity so simply growing these activities without also substantially lifting productivity will not lift GDP per capita.

There are many opportunities in the areas Gisborne excels at, such as agriculture, horticulture and tourism. But information, communications and technology (ICT) and niche manufacturing, along with value-added goods and services based on primary production, are where we need to invest most aggressively.

Ngati Porou schools with support from the Ministry of Education have invested millions in ICT over the past ten years, Lytton High School has been producing world class computing graduates and some of our most successful local entrepreneurs found success through internationalising their business.

I was at the Federated Farmers presentation to the Community Development Committee of Gisborne District Council last week and have some sympathy for their frustrations about the high value of our currency. As the son of a farming family, in the early 1980s I saw similar stress on farming families from record droughts and 24% interest rates.

The reality is that unless our primary production sectors make a quantum shift from high volume, low value exports into new knowledge and technology based goods and services our region will be left behind. Local leaders need to get much better at building the case for attracting some of the billions available for research and scientific investment in our primary industries. The world is hungry and looking for more sustainable production of both food and construction materials. While we cannot feed and house the planet, we can provide new technology and productivity skills to other countries. Organics, biofuels, renewable energy are all industries with massive growth potential this century.

So, where is the strategy for retaining and attracting talent to our district? How can we support local businesses to internationalise their expertise? What are we doing about the social issues that impact on our children and their ability to reach their full potential? What is the Plan B once transport costs make our low value exports even less competitive? Who is doing the thinking and influencing to help our region step up as a model for the rest of the country?

The proposed Economic Development Agency has great potential to lead some of this work provided that it avoids being captured by special interest groups; appreciates the interdependent relationship between social, economic and environmental wellbeing; and encourages the development of national educational leadership from local schools.

We live in a region that has everything going for it – a wealth of natural resources, rich cultural heritage, world class innovators, a clean environment and caring community. We don’t need to follow the path of places like Tauranga that might have gained the world but in the process lost its soul.

Our regional development strategy has to be smart and sustainable in a way that enhances our communities, economic security and natural environment.





My Priorities

3 12 2009

These are the things I think are important and would strive to promote if I was elected to Council next year…

  1. A region that values the rich traditions and diversity of all its residents.
  2. A region of safe communities based on caring relationships between families.
  3. A region that fosters innovation, enterprise, the creative sectors and scientific discovery.
  4. A region that nurtures well-educated young people and leaves no one behind.
  5. A region that is a magnet for young families and values the contributions of older people.
  6. A region that will leave the natural environment better than we found it.
  7. A region that is committed to ensuring housing, energy and healthy food are affordable and that supports families to manage their finances wisely.
  8. A region that understands the importance of increasing the economic productivity and sustainability of agriculture, horticulture and forestry.
  9. A region that promotes the use of cycling and walking for most people making short journeys.
  10. A region that is well connected with the rest of the planet through low-cost, high-speed, internet access.
  11. A Council that encourages public participation in decision-making.
  12. A Council that is able to keep any rates increases at (or below) the rate of inflation while still providing quality services and infrastructure.




Local Leakage

23 08 2009

EC-686.fig1

Congratulations to the new Bunnings store on their opening of a ‘community friendly’ business. They did a great PR job. While it may be true that 50 ‘new’ jobs have been ‘created’, selling the same stuff in a community that already has businesses selling those products doesn’t create new jobs, it simply shifts the employment from one company to another… the equivalent of 50 people will lose their jobs because the demand for the product has not increased.

What this kind of change does is increase financial ‘leakage’ from the community as locally owned businesses shut down because the out-of-town and overseas owned companies take most of the money we spend out of the community instead of it being reinvested locally.

The simple economics suggest a net loss to communities when retail businesses who take profits out of the community replace locally owned shops. The more times a dollar is spent in a local location and the faster it circulates the more income, wealth and jobs there are in that location

Michael Shuman, author of “Going Local. Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age”, cites a number of recent studies that have shown how a dollar spent at locally owned businesses will deliver two to four times the economic impact of a dollar spent in businesses owned outside the community.

In recent presentations Shuman has criticised politicians for focusing on how to attract and retain large corporations and failing to champion the development and retention of small local businesses.

Shuman argues that local businesses produce better economic results for communities for three main reasons: 1. They stay put – they don’t usually have big ambitions for growth or need to manufacture goods offshore; 2. They spend more of their money locally – they use local business services like lawyers, stationary suppliers and advertising and any profits are retained locally; 3. There are significant environmental benefits from shifting our diets to eat more local produce and less imported food – packaging, carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption are all reduced when we eat locally.

Our region would benefit from better use of the $700m we take home in annual household income. It would be good to see an organisation like ECT investigate the opportunities associated with the establishment of a regional bank similar to the Taranaki Savings Bank in an effort to keep finances within the region rather than send both our savings and interest payments off-shore. Other communities in similar situations to our own have successfully created local currencies, local stocks and local exchanges (one recent example is: www.thelewespound.org). By spending local money in local outlets we can strengthen the relationships between local shopkeepers and the community. It also supports people finding new ways to make a living.

It may be useful if the Economic Development Unit at Council could provide ongoing analysis on the amount of financial leakage from our community to non-local business and to see Council adopt some concrete plans to reduce the leakage.





Letter to the Editor – Endless Summer or Last of the Summer Wine?

18 07 2009

gisborne

Recent Statistics NZ projections that Gisborne is likely to have a lower population in 20 years time should come as no surprise. That we are likely to have the fourth highest rate of population decline should be concerning and something everyone in the region is committed to reversing.

I’m yet to see a clearly articulated strategy for attracting people to relocate themselves, their families and business to our great region.

The first place to start would be with the upwardly mobile young people who grew up and left to study, work and/or explore the world. One such young man recently contacted me from Queenstown and said he would love to live in Gisborne again. He thought more young people and families would choose to make the move if the following things were addressed:

  1. providing low cost, reliable access to high quality broadband and mobile coverage across the whole district;
  2. cheaper transport by air and rail in and out of the region;
  3. enhancements to lifestyle amenities like recreation facilities, cafes and entertainment options;
  4. promotion of the relatively low cost of land and houses in the region.

I would add to the list a proper analysis of the benefits of doing business in the Gisborne region compared to Auckland, Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty. This analysis would include the cost of labour, rental comparisons for offices and warehouse space, road use intensity, port charges and education profiles.

It is encouraging to see the “Endless Summer” brochure going into Air New Zealand planes over the next three months, but I can’t help thinking this needs to be connected into a much longer and more strategic plan to carefully position the regional profile with potential residents and visitors. Such a strategy could be something that all of us understand and support for the future of this place we call home.





Council Draft 10 Year Plan Submissions

4 05 2009

Here are some of the submissions I helped prepare on the Council’s Draft 10 Year Plan – opportunities to speak to the submissions come up in early June:





What do I know?!

19 09 2007

My wife and I are both 34 years old. We have two children. We both have bachelor degrees and post-graduate qualifications. We own two businesses and are involved in a wide range of local community organisations in addition to the marae committee, Kohanga Reo and the school our five year old daughter attends.

We are part of a demographic group that Gisborne needs to appeal to as a place to live and work.

Tarsh grew up around Tauwhareparae, Makarika and Kaiti. She left Gisborne during her last year at high school and went away to university. I grew up in Tauranga and did the same. We both ended up in Wellington and moved home 10 years ago to live with and care for Tarsh’s grandparents who raised her.

We understand what needs to change to make people like us want to move back to Gisborne to raise a family. We can count at least twenty outstanding individuals that we can claim some responsibility for influencing their decision to move to Gisborne over the past seven years.

I believe Council needs one or two people of my age and experience around the decision-making table. Some others need to move on!  

Working with teenagers for the last 15 years has given me a good insight into the way young people think about their future, their families, neighbourhoods and the wider community. I have recently been working with a local project that brings a group of elderly women and a group of teenage girls together regularly to learn from each other. This kind of interaction is what our community needs much more of and the positive outcomes flowing from these relationships will benefit generations to come. 

Living in a neighbourhood that even the pizza delivery people won’t come to has some good and not so good things about it. Every human being has an absolute right to personal safety and to know they are valued members of their community.

We all have contributions to make. Young people have idealism and energy, parents and working aged people provide social and economic security for the less enfranchised, people with physical and intellectual impairments teach all of us to appreciate whatever we have, elders provide their wisdom, knowledge and experience to guide the next generations. Maori and Pakeha share rich histories in this region, new immigrants bring fresh ideas and different ways of doing things that we can all benefit from if we value diversity and create an inclusive community.

As a self-employed researcher I like to have all the evidence before making a decision and I understand that there are pressures on this region that other areas of New Zealand do not experience as severely. I also recognise that for a large proportion of the world’s population, this place would be considered Paradise.

I was pleased to see the recent Rates Enquiry commissioned by central government recommended that rates make up no more than 50% of Council income. This signals some relief to rates rises as central government contributes more to costs incurred by local government. But the key I believe relies on us becoming more self-sufficient so that as a region we can rely less on external influences and develop the capacity and resources within the region to care for ourselves and make this the place we all know it has the potential to be.

For more information about my views on a wide range of issues visit my website: http://www.manu.org.nz (or invite me for dinner)





Council involvement in economic and community development

5 09 2007

Councillors need to provide strategic leadership and decisions based on high quality information and long term goals that encourage wide understanding of and participation in the key drivers of economic wellbeing and community development.

Council staff have a facilitation role to increase cooperation within the region and advocacy capability and capacity on behalf of the region.

Council should be advocating for far more local accountability of public funds spent in the region but currently answerable only to Wellington.

The Council urgently needs a well considered policy statement and plan, developed in partnership with the community, for its role in Social Development. This could have a similar structure to the recently released Draft Economic Development Strategy (A Framework for Sustainable Prosperity) which provides an excellent overview of how Council can best contribute to ensuring a sustainable future for the region.








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