Belonging & Beyond 2012

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The holiday season rolls around and the crowds flood into Paradise while a few of us seek time out around the coast or further afield. Thanks to all the locals who keep Gisborne humming over the busiest period of the year, I hope you too find time to relax with your friends and family.

It’s been a roller-coaster year in terms of local issues.

10,000 locals signed a petition and thousands marched to convince the Government and KiwiRail that retaining the line is essential for the prosperity of the region as local business demonstrated its value.

Air New Zealand cut flights in response to Eastland Group increasing the cost of using the airport and the Government cut local roading subsidies while increasing fuel tax to pay for billions worth of new motorways in other parts of the country.

Petrobras pulled out of deep sea exploration and two Canadian companies submitted an application to explore onshore while the Government plans to have 90 percent of the district under oil and gas exploration by 2014.

Housing New Zealand has over 70 empty properties in Gisborne while many families will spend Christmas in overcrowded conditions, in boarding houses and a few just sleep in the open.

Local government legislation had an unpopular overhaul along with the rules around financing council election campaigns (they probably should include a requirement to disclose political party positions of councillors too). The ETS was scrapped with no effective replacement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while some of the most successful national business leaders pushed for greater public and private investment in the green economy.

Locally the representation review has resulted in a new configuration for Gisborne District Council after the October 2013 elections and the challenges of unpaid rates on Māori land have been shelved while we sort out some gross anomalies in the new rates structure that hit some landowners very hard.

Children living in poverty, youth mental health, our sexually transmitted infection statistics and gangs have been other issues I have worked on this year.

On a more positive note we have seen great progress being made on most of the major projects Council agreed on in June. Walkways and cycle lanes were the big winner based on massive pubic support. The focus needs to be on commuter cyclists – the Taraheru boardwalk and Kaiti to Wainui cycleways will result in the largest gains.

The Transit of Venus was a highlight of the year for many of us, especially the Transit Forum that brought the best minds in the country here to discuss the future of our country.

The inaugural Tairawhiti Techxpo was a roaring success as it exposed local students and their families to the potential of careers in the technology industries and plans are well underway for a bigger and better event in 2013.

It is great to see many young people who grew up in Gisborne returning for the holidays and exciting to hear about the interesting work they are involved with outside of the district. New partnerships with universities have been established in the district and we look forward to the opportunities these bring for innovation and new business.

Belonging has two meanings. One is the sense of connection to a place and/or a group of people, the other relates to ownership. For all of us to really belong here we need to develop and maintain both a strong sense of connection and have some degree of ownership in decisions and public resources. I hope both of these factors have been strengthened locally over the year and will continue to grow in 2013. 

The Most Important Issue in the World

OK, here’s a potentially boring but important law change that citizens should take an interest in.

Submissions on the Local Electoral Amendment Bill are due this Friday. Given the Government’s desire to have the amendments enacted for the 2013 local government elections, the consultation period has been short.

The Bill tightens the rules around anonymous donations, and basically aligns the local election requirements with those that apply to Parliamentary elections. Candidates can not accept an anonymous donation of more than $1500 and the definition of anonymous donations has been amended so that a donation is anonymous if the candidate does not know the identity of the donor, or could not be reasonably expected to know the identity of the donor – I hope John Banks supports this!

The Bill also incorporates amendments that were in a similar bill Rodney Hide introduced into Parliament just before Parliament rose for the 2011 general elections.

There is a need to minimise the undue influence of wealth in local body election campaigns and to promote transparency and accountability in relation to election financing by introducing caps on donations, limiting the use of anonymous donations and regulating third party spending.

The purpose of this Bill is to strengthen the law governing electoral financing in relation to local body elections, in order to increase transparency and accountability in relation to electoral donations, and strengthen the integrity and efficiency of the local electoral system. As a result, the hope is public confidence in local elections will increase.

Key provisions in the Bill provide for anonymous donations not to exceed $1,500 and more regulation of third party spending.

Significantly, the new legislation provides for more latitude on the application of the +/-10% of voters to councillor rule that caused some controversy during the Gisborne District Council representation review this year.

The bill also requires candidates to identify their primary place of residence because we could have a situation where someone living in Auckland is a ratepayer in Gisborne and could stand for election here.

Other suggestions not included in the bill would lower the anonymous donation amount, put a limit on the total amount that could be donated by an individual or group, a ban on donations from overseas and a pecuniary interests register for members of local authorities.

If I’d written the bill I would have included the requirement for local body candidates and elected members to disclose on a public register any position they hold within a political party. The position could be for any appointed or elected role with a registered political party. Perceived or actual conflicts of interest can exist when local issues are affected by central government changes and a local politician is in a local or national leadership role of either a party whether it is in government or opposition. I’m not suggesting this has happened in Gisborne District Council but the bill claims to be about increasing transparency. While all elected councillors swear an oath to act in the best interests of the whole district, voters should be able to know of any official position a candidate or councillor has with a political party.

Submissions close this Friday (http://tiny.cc/mh0bpw) and though very unlikely, changes may still be made at the select committee stage. I’m sure hundreds of readers care about our democracy so much they will be keen to spend the week before Christmas holidays analysing the bill and writing a submission.

MEDIA STATEMENT 13 December 2012

An independent review of the KiwiRail report used to justify mothballing of the Gisborne to Napier railway line has been completed this week and is now with the Government and KiwiRail for consideration before public release.
Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie says the review undertaken by BERL and a specialist rail engineering consultancy has identified inconsistencies within the KiwiRail report that suggest a different conclusion on the viability of the line.
“We want to give the Minister of Transport and KiwiRail the opportunity they did not provide the affected businesses and communities by letting them read the report before it is released publicly” said Mr Caddie who was part of a community fundraising campaign to pay for the review.
“Given the proximity to Christmas, we will give the Minister and Jim Quinn the holiday period to consider their response before we publicly release the report in early January. We had over 100 individuals, families, businesses and organisations donate to pay for the study and I know they are keen to see the outcome and we want to make sure the process has the best chance of success.”

Petrobras gone but challenges remain

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Gisborne District Councillor and opponent of deep sea drilling Manu Caddie said he was pleased to see the back of Petrobras.

“While the Government and Petrobras claim the decision was based on the business case and domestic issues, we know that local opposition was a contributing factor in that business case.

Using the military against New Zealand citizens to protect a multinational oil company and going to court here is not a great look for the Government or the company.”

While the region bore all the environmental risk, there would be little if any local employment from offshore drilling and Mr Caddie said he was ‘disappointed with the way certain sectors of the community fell over themselves to support petroleum development when no objective evaluation of the risks and benefits of various scenarios had been undertaken.

“The Government is only now producing its rather one-sided assessment of the potential benefits to the region while the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is saying there is a heap more risk assessment to be done before a decision can be made on the safety of unconventional drilling on the East Coast.”

“Over 130,000 New Zealanders have said ‘no’ to deep sea oil and the wheels are coming off the Government’s only answer to the failing accounts deficit while the country and this district misses opportunities to secure a sustainable economy.”

We desperately need decent jobs here and a focus on technology, value added land-based industries and manufacturing are the obvious areas that we need to focus on.

Councillor welcomes interim report

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie has welcomed the interim report on fracking by the Commissioner for the Environment.

Mr Caddie said he was pleased Commissioner Dr Jan Wright had repeated a number of concerns raised by local residents. “Many ordinary people have raised these same issues and been dismissed and belittled, not only by the industry and politicians but also by local critics who think they know better.”

The report says a list of questions ‘need to be asked and answered’ in relation to the specifics of the East Coast situation. “The report’s revelation of previously secret legal advice to Taranaki Regional Council suggests councils would be in violation of the Resource Management Act if plans continued to omit rules related to discharge of fracking reiterates the need for an urgent review of the Combined Regional and District Plan for Gisborne” said Mr Caddie.

“This should be enough for the Minister to reconsider his proposal to accelerate petroleum development on the East Coast” said Mr Caddie. “Let’s take it slowly and see what happens with the permit areas that have already been granted to the Canadian companies. The PCE makes it clear that oil rushes are not good for the host communities.”

Mr Caddie said he is satisfied with Dr Wright’s assessment that the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing may be managed at an acceptable level of risk and appreciates that the PCE is reserving the right to call for a moratorium once she has completed her investigation into regulations.

“Not knowing who is responsible for well integrity seems like a pretty fundamental problem already identified by the PCE and the kind of ambiguity we saw contribute to the Deepwater Horizon and Pike River disasters.”

Mr Caddie said the PCE and government seemed to be at odds on industry claims that everything is fine and New Zealand is a world leader in fracking regulation.

“Given the lack of confidence the PCE has in the current rules and plans, I look forward to her final report that will make recommendations to ensure we don’t see a continuation of the cowboy approach taken by at least one regional council and an over-enthusiastic central government.”

At the end of the day, local communities will decide what is appropriate for them and local regulators will rely on these kind of ‘expert’ reports to inform local decisions. For this reason Mr Caddie is disappointed many of the issues explored in the report seem to end half way through the investigation – the section on well construction and completion is a good example of this. “I have spoken to the PCE staff who say further evidence and analysis of the issues will be included in the final report as this was all they could do to date.”

Mr Caddie said the ‘contribution to climate change’ section clearly needs more work. “The PCE says climate change is the biggest issue facing the world then implies we don’t need to be concerned if New Zealand exports all fossil fuels because they won’t impact on our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report quotes a range of studies, experts and news reports but neglects to provide a systematic assessment on the validity of competing claims. For example the PCE quotes a recent Cornell University report suggesting fracking produces more greenhouse gas than coal and cites criticism of that study but provides no suggestion on what the most likely emissions scenario is.

Boomtown Rats

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.

Auckland-centric national policy won’t help here

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Government announcements to make more land available to reduce house prices may backfire in Gisborne according to a District Councillor.

Manu Caddie said there are more than 40 empty state houses in Kaiti alone, and he knows of situations in his neighbourhood where 12 people are living in a one bedroom flat. “This is a bizarre situation when there are half a dozen empty three and four bedroom state houses in the same street that are being vandalised since the tenants were moved out by Housing New Zealand.”

“This is an increasingly common situation since the government reduced eligibility for public housing. We don’t have a housing shortage in Gisborne, we have a logic shortage. One size fits all policies are the problem with central government, our situation is the opposite of Auckland but policy is being designed for the Auckland situation and applied here.”

“Housing materials and construction are a much higher proportion of costs in the Gisborne District, we don’t have a land shortage issue like Auckland. Making it easier to expand the city boundaries will not make it easier for low income families on the East Coast to afford safe and healthy housing” said Mr Caddie. “If the government was serious about finding policy to make housing affordable they would introduce a capital gains tax or other mechanisms to put a damper on the rampant speculation that ramps up property prices.”

Mr Caddie is sceptical about introducing income related rents for private rentals. “That would see a massive transfer of taxes to landlords at the same time as the government is also planning to privatise a large proportion of the public housing stock by transferring state houses to ‘social housing providers’.

Mr Caddie recently wrote on behalf of the Tairāwhiti Housing Advisory Group to the Minister of Social Development requesting a review of the Accommodation Supplement that is supposed to help tenants with rents relative to the average housing costs in their region. Gisborne residents are on a lower rate of subsidy than those who live in regions where the average rental price is lower. Paula Bennett said in a letter that the Ministry would not be reviewing Accommodation Supplement in Gisborne because it would be inappropriate to focus on only one region. The Tairāwhiti Housing Advisory Group agreed last week to ask Anne Tolley and Parekura Horomia to take up this issue on behalf of the region they represent.

Gisborne flights cut will hurt local business

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A Gisborne District Councillor says Air New Zealand reducing services to the district will make the region less attractive not only to tourists but also potential and existing residents. 

Air New Zealand currently fly in and out of Gisborne 144 times every week and they plan to cut around 11 percent or 16 flights a week to both Auckland and Wellington. 

Earlier this week Air New Zealand announced new low fares of $29 between the main centres but it can cost on average at least ten times that amount to get in and out of Gisborne.

Mr Caddie said staff from companies in Gisborne that need to travel regularly to meet clients are not impressed with the changes.  

“We are trying to attract people to base themselves here and work nationally and internationally so this decision will be another barrier to attracting and keeping those high earning individuals who choose to live here for the lifestyle. Reducing transport links further is not good for Gisborne and both the airline and the airport company claim Gisborne is important to them, so they need to reassess this situation.” 

“Air travel is not the most affordable or environmentally-friendly mode of transport, but it is an essential link for many local business people that rely on a regular service, including these off peak flights that are now under the axe.” 

“Maintaining easy access to the main centres is absolutely vital for this district – the rail is being cut and now air travel is too.”

Kainga Whenua changes ‘best achievement’ of current Government

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Making it easier for whanau to build on multiply-owned Māori is probably the best achievement of the current government to date says Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie.

Changes in eligibility criteria and an increase in the amount Kiwibank will loan under the Kainga Whenua scheme were announced yesterday by Māori Party co-leader and Associate Minister of Housing Tariana Turia.

“If anything can make a difference to unlocking the potential of Māori land on the East Coast then this will” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie said the changes that will allow non-resident shareholders to be guarantors for a loan, lifting the restriction from only first home buyers and raising the income threshold will make it easier for people earning more money, who can afford to service a mortgage, to look at returning to their traditional lands.

Mr Caddie said rates arrears on Māori land in the northern part of Gisborne District were spiraling out of control and this kind of policy would make it much easier for families to return to the land and make it even more productive than it had been 100 years ago.

“With the opportunities technology offers to work anywhere, the idea of living on tribal lands and trading globally is going to be very appealing to more families.”

Mr Caddie has been critical of the Kainga Whenua scheme in the past because the restrictive criteria had severely limited its uptake. “These are the changes we have been calling for and it is great to see both the Maori Party and National Party have been listening.”

Mr Caddie said a presentation on the new criteria would be on the agenda of the Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group meeting at Council on 24th October.

The fund will now be open to Maori Land Trusts, whanau or hapu groups who wish to build on Maori land and to all individual borrowers assessed as able to service a mortgage, not just first home buyers.

The income cap for borrowers has been raised from $85,000 to $120,000 for one borrower and up to $160,000 for two or more borrowers.

Loans can also now be used for home improvements, repairs and maintenance.

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Vulnerable children strategy misses opportunity

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Government plans to better support children at risk of abuse have a range of good ideas but miss some important opportunities to reduce reliance on agencies according to a group using volunteers to improve child safety.

“The white paper strategy is almost exclusively focused on professionals and agencies – both government and non-government. We think they have missed a critical piece of the puzzle, which is utilising the healthy, caring adults in communities and neighbourhoods that children are being raised in. It takes a village to raise a child and healthy villages raise healthy children” said Manu Caddie the project manager for Tiakina o Tatou Tamariki, a neighbourhood project focused on keeping children safe in two suburbs of Gisborne and Whanganui.

“We have seen how adults within neighbourhoods can develop their skills and grow their commitment to supporting vulnerable families, including parents and children. Everyone can agree that kids should be safe, and providing opportunities for neighbours to get to know and trust each other reduces isolation and risk.”

Mr Caddie said some of the measures in the Government white paper released today sound ‘big brother’ and intrusive but there are a group of adults who should not have children in their care.

“It’s disappointing that most of the measures seem to give more power to the state and professionals, I guess we would have liked to see more focus on Government supporting neighbourhoods and communities to become healthy, trusting and well connected” said Mr Caddie.

“The Vulnerable Kids Information System to identify risks prior to birth may be useful, because it’s quite possible to see the train crash coming, but combined with the recently announced Government sterilisation of beneficiaries, there is a risk you are heading down a pathway to eugenics”.

A database of at-risk children could be a very powerful tool in child abuse prevention, but Mr Caddie points to existing national databases of at-risk children and wonders how successful these have been.

“We know for all the good work Child, Youth & Family do, their extensive national database that tracks children and families still contains many, many children who are being mistreated.”

Mr Caddie said he hoped parents would be supported to access the information agencies held about the families as professionals can misuse their power, even when they think they are helping.

Mr Caddie said Te Ora Hou Aotearoa, the organisation he works for supports the white paper proposal for a national education campaign to identify signs of abuse, but would also like to see a campaign focused on keeping kids safe and cared for.

Tiakina o Tatou Tamariki involves ‘Community Animators’ mobilising neighbourhood residents and other volunteers to build trusting, supportive relationships within communities with a focus on keeping children safe and healthy. The three year project is privately funded and a recent evaluation suggested it is demonstrating value for money as an investment in the prevention of child maltreatment.

Te Ora Hou is a national network of faith-based Māori and Pacific youth and community development organisations established in 1976. Te Ora Hou supports volunteers to mentor children and young people as well providing a range of educational and developmental opportunities for children and parents including teen parenting initiatives, early childhood centres, alternative education programmes and rehabilitation services for young offenders.

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More information:

www.teorahou.org.nz

Tel. 0274202957

KiwiRail agrees to cooperate with independent review

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KiwiRail have agreed to fully cooperate with an independent review of their decision to mothball the Gisborne to Napier railway line.

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said he had been assured in person and in writing by CEO Jim Quinn that KiwiRail would provide any information requested to BERL and engineers reviewing the calculations and conclusions announced by KiwiRail last week.

“Rather that using the Official Information Act, Jim has agreed to give us access to their staff reports, briefings, cost assessments and any other information required by the review” said Mr Caddie.

We have agreed to organise a meeting with the relevant KiwiRail staff and the independent review team to discuss the review process and work out what information is likely to be required.

“We are pleased Mr Quinn has offered to be the first point of contact and work constructively with the review team to help them understand how KiwiRail arrived at its decision” said Mr Caddie.

“Mr Quinn and I agree that it is important we all have a common base of assumptions to draw our conclusions from. If there is some error or new information KiwiRail are happy to revisit the decision” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie said BERL start work on the review tomorrow (Thursday) and expect to take about two weeks to complete the study provided they have access to all the information required.

Initial Analysis on KiwiRail Report

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Plans by a Gisborne lobby group to seek an expert independent economic analysis of the KiwiRail report used to justify the Gisborne-Napier railway line have had a boost with nearly $8,000 being raised over the weekend.

Gisborne Rail Action Group member and District Councillor Manu Caddie said the response has been overwhelming. The group hopes to raise at least $10,000 to pay for independent economic analysis of the business case for the line.

“This is not just a Gisborne issue, we have had some huge donations from all over the country, many New Zealanders are as angry about this decision as us locals.”

The group has released its initial assessment of the KiwiRail report and says that even if conservative freight figures are used the future for the line looks secure.

“Based on this initial analysis we are keen to get independent experts to have a close look at the KiwiRail figures and also an engineering second opinion on some of the claims made in the KiwiRail report.”

“Of course there are also wider economic impacts that KiwiRail should consider as a State Owned Enterprise such as the loss of tourism and the potentially much higher costs of freight should the rail not be available and it would have been good to see some of those included as well” said Mr Caddie.

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DOWNLOADS: Initial Comments on KiwiRail Report (PDF) + Appendix (PDF)

Over $5,000 already donated in 24hrs!

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East Coast rail supporters are trying to raise $10,000 by Tuesday to have the KiwiRail report independently peer reviewed by one of NZs most respected independent economic analysis companies.
 
“Of course it should be KiwiRail and/or the Government that pays for such a review but we don’t want to wait another six months for that to happen” said Gisborne District Councillor and Rail Action Group member Manu Caddie. After sending an appeal last night, Mr Caddie said about $3,000 has already been pledged and he is hoping Gisborne, Wairoa and Hawkes Bay residents will help reach the goal.
 
“It seems like a lot of money to find in a short time, but expert analysis is expensive and we believe an independent review of Kiwirail’s figures and conclusions will be the best way to force the Government to relook at the situation and the Government has ignored overwhelming public support so far.”
 
Mr Caddie said he has been working with a group of analysts who believe the numbers, process and conclusions in the KiwiRail report do not stack up. “We want to double check these alternative conclusions with a reputable independent organisation providing robust economic analysis and we want the people to have access to an accurate assessment.”
 
Instead of focusing on adding a few passing lanes to the highway, Mr Caddie believes pressure needs to remain on ensuring rail is retained because products from Gisborne and Wairoa region are going to become less competitive if the efficiencies of rail freight are not available for local producers.
 
The Tairawhiti Environment Centre is holding funds for the Rail Report Review. 
 
If anyone wants to make a donation towards the report review, they can make a bank deposit at ANZ or online, the account number for donations is 01-0641-0058800-00.  Cash or a cheque can be sent to PO Box 1376, Gisborne 4040 (cheques should be made out to Tairawhiti Environment Centre, but enclosing a note that the donation is for the Rail Report Review). Tairawhiti Environment Centre is a charitable entity, so donors should include their name and address, so they can be sent a tax deductible receipt.
 
More information is available at: www.rail.org.nz

Studying the Study

 

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.

Courting Coexistence

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The tragic spectre of more violence and deaths this week from religious riots highlight the dark side of fundamentalism.

It is also a timely reminder of the importance of interfaith dialogue and the value of initiatives like the Gisborne Interfaith Network. The local interfaith monthly meeting last night discussed ‘The Purpose of Life’ from the perspective of each tradition represented.

Such dialogue is not intended to be a debate, rather it opens a space to respectfully enquire and share the experience, worldviews and ways of approaching issues all humans face. Learning how to coexist with people outside of our friends and family is a big part of growing up in the modern world.

For all their history as the cause of conflict, faith traditions of the world have had shining examples of peacemakers in places as diverse as Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the United States, South America and the Soviet Union. Humble people have been loyal to their faith and had the courage to speak out and step up to build bridges that move beyond hatred, intolerance and violence.

What is a Christian response to the current wave of religious violence? No easy answers, but I suspect it would include being an instrument of God’s peace; where there is hatred, sow love; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light. Remember: “Perfect love casts out ALL fear”.

At 8am on Saturday 6th October, the annual interfaith service at Gisborne’s Cook National Memorial will focus on the ‘Creation of a Nation’. As a nation, we have produced some of the finest mediators in the world, let us pray that tolerance, peace and understanding can spread from Gisborne to all places currently afflicted by fundamentalism, bigotry and violence.

Turbo-Charging Tairāwhiti Technology Take-Up

Lytton High School students demonstrating Auto-CAD to Ilminster Intermediate students at Tairāwhiti Techxpo 2012.

I recently visited two initiatives in Auckland to look at what they are doing with young people and technology. At Point England School in Glen Innes students all have their own NetBook, each family pays $3.50 per week for the child to have their own device for school and home work. At Clubhouse 274 in Otara I visited the Community Technology Centre where students go after school to use high-end equipment they can’t access at home and many were working on commercial projects.

Recently a number of local people and projects have converged to progress some exciting technology opportunities for the district that are already having positive social and economic outcomes, but more support is urgently required.

Tairawhiti Techxpo was a great day last week that provided a solid foundation for a bigger and better event next year. Thanks to the schools that participated, we had hundreds of young people get a taste of employment and career opportunities in the Information and Communication Technology sectors of robotics, hardware, networking, software, app development, entertainment, aerospace, imaging, animation and computer-aided-design industries.

Thanks must also go to the generous sponsors including Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, EIT Tairāwhiti, Eastland Community Trust and the small businesses and individuals that contributed on the day and through the event organising.

One of the Techxpo keynote speakers from Wellington joined the monthly Gizzy Geeks meeting in the evening. Nathalie Whitaker is a net entrepreneur and is keen to move to Gisborne with a number of her colleagues, the lifestyle, surf and clean environment are what attract them. Something that would make Tairawhiti even more appealing to these IT entrepreneurs is for Gisborne to have a bunch of competent geeks who can do the technical programming work that sits behind the software products Nathalie and her friends develop.

What the Techxpo highlighted was that our high schools are now growing such talent locally. Lytton High School had a large contingent of IT experts and Gisborne Girls’ High School and Campion College were also very well represented in the demonstrations provided by students. Other schools have already booked a spot for next year to showcase the skills and products being developed through cutting-edge teaching and learning.

A number of Gisborne school students are now making and selling smartphone apps internationally – this is a $40billion global market with over 10 billion downloads last year alone.

The Rangitawaea Nati Awards next week is an annual fixture that encourages and recognises IT talent in Ngati Porou schools, another fabulous showcase of skills and creativity grown in our region and reaching out to the world.

The Techxpo, the Gizzy Geeks group, the Nati Awards and the new Tairāwhiti Computer Hub Trust have proved a fertile ground for collaboration between technology specialists and a number of exciting new business opportunities are emerging from the relationships built around particular skills, interests and networks.

And where does all this sit in terms of regional economic development planning? It is dismissed in the Regional Economic Development Strategy (2009) as an unlikely prospect and rendered invisible in the subsequent Economic Development Action Plan. Perhaps this absence is not a big issue considering the Action Plan has been largely ignored from the day it was produced.

What is important is that the IT sector is recognised as a cornerstone of every local business and that it is factored into the priorities of entities like the Eastland Community Trust and Gisborne District Council that have a focus on supporting sustainable economic development. While public entities ‘don’t pick winners’, they do provide limitations and opportunities for the expansion of particular industries.

We need to look urgently at what infrastructure beyond Ultrafast Broadband will enable a fledgling IT sector to quickly become a serious economic driver for our local communities. Neighbourhood computer hubs, low-cost residential wi-fi and a commercial programming academy seem sensible ideas to explore.

Cenotaph Vandalism

District Councillor Manu Caddie said he is disgusted with recent vandalism of the Cenotaph. Obscenities and other statements have been written on two of the carved lions around the Cenotaph.  
 
“A growing number of local young people have little appreciation of the significance of the Cenotaph. It is disturbing that as a community we have haven’t done enough to teach young people what is a sacred space in memory of those who were killed in The Great War.” 
 
Mr Caddie said some of the comments posted on social media under photos of the graffiti were also concerning with death threats and other physical threats made against the culprits. 
 
“We are all responsible for our actions and the offenders need to understand what they have done and make amends for the offence they have caused.” 
 
“We also need to look at ourselves as adults in this community and think about how we can do a better job of connecting with all young people so that the values, ideas and memories we hold dear are passed on to the next generation.”
 
Mr Caddie has referred the graffiti to Council staff for immediate removal and is appealing for the offenders to come forward and take responsibility for their actions or for their peers to out them. “There are a number of names written on the stone, some people will recognise them and we’re going to ask around to see who knows what.”
 
Mr Caddie has posted the names from the graffiti below…
 
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ETS Amendment Bill Submissions Closing Soon…

Submissions close Monday 10 September… here’s mine.

You can submit yours here (feel free to use anything in this one).

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Submission on Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

I object to the unreasonably short time-frame for submissions on this important bill.
This bill seems to be a deliberate attempt by the Government to undermine the price of carbon and kill off our clean energy sector in favour of greenhouse gas producers and consumers.
The Government is re-writing environmental legislation to suit our biggest polluters at the cost of ordinary New Zealanders. This is irresponsible. The Government should be sending a clear message to industry that they must move to a cleaner, smarter way of doing business.
By further weakening our environmental laws the Government is putting our global reputation at risk.
Government should bring in an action plan for the 21st century that phases out old fossil fuels that pollute our land, water and air and phase in new, clean and safe energy that can create thousands of jobs and strong economic growth for New Zealand.
I do not agree with the amendments to:
– maintain the 1-for-2 surrender obligation after 2012, without specifying an end date in legislation;
– maintain the $25-a-unit fixed price option after 2012, without specifying an end date in legislation;
– remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture.
The ETS has long been criticised for being too weak because of the fixed, low price on carbon and a high allocation of free credits to our biggest polluters. And these proposals will allow this status quo to continue. It sends a signal that its business as usual as there’s no incentive for our biggest polluters to clean up their act and change their behaviour. The taxpayer is left subsidising this free allocation of permits to the tune of nearly a billion dollars a year.
By further delaying the inclusion of agricultural emissions indefinitely, it’s clear that the Government has no intention of including this sector in the scheme, which was designed to include all greenhouse gases from all sectors. The ETS simply cannot function without the inclusion of our largest emitters.
The purpose of emissions trading is to place a cost on emissions significant enough for them to reduce pollution and start investing in a cleaner, safer way of doing business. However, these proposed amendments to defer the increase in cost of polluting and surrendering the two permits for the “two for the price of one” obligation, will only result in more pollution, not less.
Put simply, these amendments will further undermine the very premise upon which the Emissions Trading Scheme was set up and weaken the only major tool that the Government has in place to reduce our impact on our climate.
I am concerned about the very short time within which the public can have our say on these important changes.By limiting the consultation period to just two weeks, the decision-making will not be as robust as it could have been on this issue that is absolutely critical to the future of our planet.

Business case to close Gisborne rail link needs independent review

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Photo: KIERAN CHISNALL : “This is train 687. One of the weekend fert trains that were running before the squash trains started. This was taken just south of Black’s Beach winding back down to Nuhaka.”

Gisborne District Councillor and Regional Transport Committee member Manu Caddie says KiwiRail needs to provide the Council with a copy of the full business case that has led to the decision to close the Napier to Gisborne railway line.

“KiwiRail may have skewed the figures to justify closure rather than invest in what is at present a marginal business proposition for them but a lifeline for us. The communities of the East Coast need an independent review by reputable economists of how KiwiRail arrived at its claim that there is no alternative. I think that is the least the Government and KiwiRail owe our region if they are going to strip us of this billion dollar investment.”

“Make no mistake, mothballing is not a temporary arrangement – look what happened in the Bay of Plenty when the line was mothballed, it doesn’t take long to deteriorate to a point where its unsalvageable.”

“Hard on the heels of provincial roading cuts, this Government is clearly abandoning the regions.”

Mr Caddie said his grandfather worked on the railway line in the 1940s and 22 men died while building the section between Wairoa and Gisborne.

“The Government this week passed legislation that will cost $85m to underground a short piece of Wellington motorway so the national war memorial can have more space – our railway line is the memorial for the 22 men who gave their lives for it and we may be the generation that abandons their work.”

Federated Farmers, Gisborne Chamber of Commerce, Hawkes Bay Chamber of Commerce, forest owners and transport operators have all said it is essential to keep the line open. And before the washouts in March, business on the line was booming.

“Fuel prices are only going to increase and rail will become more and more the mode of choice for exports and imports to the region.”