Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dysfunctional families

Remember Victoria Stevens? We blogged about Ms Stevens in January last year. She had just been arrested for contempt of Court after barking like a dog when her Mongrel Mob prospect son appeared on a murder charge. At the time, we reported:

As Ataria was led away, Stevens yelled, "Love you" and barked like a dog, a sign of Mongrel Mob support. When Judge Richard Watson ordered her arrest she yelled obscenities at him.

Four police officers held Stevens, who resisted arrest and kicked open the doors as she was taken from the court.

Hulio Ataria was today sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Mark McCutcheon. A non-parole period on eleven and a half years was imposed on him, which seems exceedingly generous towards him given the circumstances. Mr McCutcheon intervened to stop a Mongrel Mobster assaulting a woman outside a pub in Central Hawkes Bay. He was fatally stabbed by Ataria.

And Ms Stevens and her son had a painful parting today, as the Herald reports:

As Ataria was escorted from the courtroom his mother leaned forward in the public gallery mouthing "I love you, I love you". He waved and gave her the three-fingered Mob salute.

Perhaps if Ms Stevens had manifested her love differently, this tragedy might not have happened. If ever there was a postcard dysfunctional family, this is it.

And just when we thought we'd covered the worst of this, we were proved wrong. We've just watched Ms Stevens perform for the One News cameras after the sentencing. Part of her repetoire was a repeat performance of the dog-barking routine. Here's the link to the TVNZ story. Let's just say this; it made our skin crawl. Check this out:

Sitting in the public gallery while Paula spoke, Ataria's mother called out claiming Mark was a drunk and a bully before guards eventually threatened to kick her out.

Once outside though she let rip.

"I don't give a f*** about her pre-written f****** statement, no I don't, it's all bull****... if the hero hadn't of pulled the gun this s*** wouldn't have happened," she says.

Hulio Ataria is the author of his own misfortune. No-one but him is responsible for him carrying a knife and using it on another human being. But he is also the product of his upbringing, and judging by the public actions of his mother, it was a pretty lousy one. We wonder what HER excuse is. We wonder if she is STILL an invalid beneficiary. And we wonder if either of them will feel anything more than self-pity tonight when the door slams shut on Hulio Ataria's cell.

More from the Mayor ...

What is it about North Shore City's mayor, Andrew Williams? You'd think that after all the flak he's taken over the last 72 hours, he'd be keeping a low profile; not so!

The image above is a screenshot from his Facebook page. We've just been back to check, and it's still there, as large as life and as offensive as ever. He may not have created the image, but by displaying it on a social media site he is endorsing it. He, or someone with authority to update his Facebook page has written:

This entry for the Auckland Council logo competition has been sent to me. Would fit well with the Tui billboards!!!

This man now wants to be part of the Auckland SuperCity. That would require him to work alongside the government of the day for the betterment of Auckland. In particular, it would require him to work with the Minister for Local Government. Just in case anyone is unaware, the Minister for Local Government is someone whom Williams has said he has the "utmost contempt" for. And now Williams publicly endorses an image portraying the Minsiter for Local Government as a mass-murdering megalomaniac!

It's little wonder that the Mayor of North Shore City is nicknamed the Clown of Campbell's Bay. We could suggest that on this occasion, the joke is on him; except that this "joke" is not only not funny, it is deeply offensive.

We hope that Andrew Williams, or someone close to him reads this. Whatever his feelings towards Rodney Hide, he has overstepped the mark in our ever-humble opinion. The ratepayers of North Shore City deserve much, much better.

UPDATE - 3.15pm: The offending post has been removed. That's good, but we don't resile one bit from the comments we have made in this post. What WAS he thinking?

Looking for a sign?

If you are, you'll have to look somewhere other than Wellington. The Wellywood proposal has died a natural, and that's a good thing - although that's just OUR opinion, of course!

Over at Kiwiblog however, DPF is still promoting a giant weta ....

The Fine Art of Sly Offence

We've pinched Jane Clifton's title (or her subbie's) for this post, because we couldn't match it! Her weekly About the House column in the Dom-Post is always a good read, as is her Listener column, and today's is no exception.

Today she reports on yesterday's Question Time. After she chronicles Bill English's repeater apportionment of blame on Labour for our current economic woes, she turns her attention to exhanges from further down the batting order - read on:

Labour's Ruth Dyson tried a more declamatory approach to the art of insult, while trying to squelch Health Minister Tony Ryall's gloating over good news about operation numbers. How, she demanded fiercely, did this good news relate to the visit last week by Prime Minister John Key, where he had been "booed and called a traitor by a large crowd in Levin, due to health cuts - the first time in living memory that a prime minister has been booed in Levin?" This was a serious, if puzzling, charge. It is not known where statistics are kept on the incidence of prime ministers being booed in Levin, but Ms Dyson, despite being a South Island MP, evidently keeps close tabs on cat- calls in the Horowhenua, and regards them as a vital barometer of our times.

Mr Ryall was unco-operatively unimpressed. The booers, he said, were undoubtedly the same protesters who turned up to see Mr Key using the reverse side of old election placards promoting "Darren Hughes for Levin" - placards which hadn't worked well the first time, either. (Mr Hughes lost the seat to National.)

Heh - Darren Hughes won't have enjoyed that! A slapdown is bad enough, but delivered by Tony Ryall? That must have been almost too much for him to bear! But the next one is even better - Trevor Mallard cops it from Mr Speaker:

The time-honoured way to get an insult on to the Hansard record, however, is to tack it on to the end of a long spiel, so that if the Speaker sits you down for it, you were about ready to sit down anyway. This was in Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's mind when she indirectly likened Opposition MPs to poodles after an Annette King telling-off about not seeking officials' advice. As a way of saying she wasn't policy- whipped by officials like Labour, Ms Bennett quoted a Michael Cullen line about how he had "no intention of being a Treasury poodle".

Labour's Trevor Mallard readily took the intended inference, and complained to the Speaker that she had called other MPs poodles - but then added, "I think, coming from a dachshund, that is pretty . . ." before being halted by the Speaker, who told him, "You just blew it!"

Likening one another to dogs is a firm favourite with MPs, but the references can get pretty obscure.

Personally, we reckon that if Paula Bennett was to be likened to a dog, it would be something with a whole lot more substance than a dachshund. Erudite readers may even wish to comment and speculate as to which breed the Social Development Minister might best represent.

But we thoroughly enjoyed this column from Jane Clifton, as we do with many of her offerings. It takes a rare breed to sit through Parliament week after week after week, and Clifton's ability to find something humorous amongst all the dross is commendable.

Destiny's problems

We don't want to dwell on the myriad of accusations surrounding Destiny Church. In fact we're starting to reach the conclusion that one or two media organistaions have now moved into vendetta mode - in particular 3News and the NZ Herald.

So ironically, it's to the Herald that we turn this morning. It's not because we give too much credence to the story, and we're not even going to link to it. But there's a point to be made here - have a read of this:

Destiny Church Taranaki pastors Lee and Robyn Edmonds have quit amid allegations of sexual misconduct against two family members.

In a statement issued by the church yesterday, spokesman Richard Lewis said "management" had accepted their offer to stand down and would be looking into the circumstances of both cases.

If Richard Lewis did indeed use the term "management", then it does nothing to diminish the perception that Destiny Church is more concerned with commercial than spiritual issues. We've attended a number of churches over the years, both mainstream/conservative and more charismatic, and we have never come across "management". Most churches are overseen by a pastor or minister, and a leadership of elders or other senior church members. As far as we're concerned, there's only one Manager, and He'll be getting a mention on Good Friday!

On the other hand, Richard Lewis may not have used that particular term; the word is in quotation marks after all. In that case, the Herald is guilty of slanting the piece it has published this morning to strengthen its case against Destiny.

Now get this straight. We have little to no time for Destiny, and its focus on extracting money from the flock, many of whom cannot afford to give. The Destiny Church does itself no favours in the public relations arena, and that's something its leadership needs to address. But let's make sure that those reporting on Destiny Church get their facts straight. After all, Jesus got a pretty bad rap too, did he not?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Right here, right now

Keeping Stock readers; meet the OFFICIAL RWC 2011 song Right Here; Right Now, covered by The Feelers.

Our first impression? We love it. It's a catchy, singable chorus and it's played by an iconic Kiwi band. We reckon that once people get to hear the tune and the words a few times, it'll be a great stadium song.

There'll doubtless be plenty of naysayers, but we're giving it the big Keeping Stock thumbs-up. We're actually starting to get just a touch excited at the prospect of another Rugby World Cup taking place on our fair shores. Who knows; our boat might come in between now and then, and we might even get to our second Rugby World Cup final ...

Heatley cleared

The Auditor-General has released her report into allegations of inappropriate spending by former Hosuing Minister Phil Heatley. The Herald reports:

An inquiry into former minister Phil Heatley's spending of taxpayer money has found that he did not intentionally break the rules.

The Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, today published her report on the findings of the audit of expenditure incurred by Phil Heatley's ministerial office from when he became a minister in November 2008 until he resigned from his ministerial portfolios on February 25.

"Mr Heatley's overall ministerial office expenditure was reasonable compared to expenditure incurred by other ministerial offices for the period we looked at," the report said.

"We found that a total of $1402 of Mr Heatley's expenditure - $608 in Vote Ministerial Services and $794 in Vote Parliamentary Service - was outside the rules. In all cases, Mr Heatley thought that the expenditure was within the rules, but he did not understand the rules correctly.

And Lyn Provost suggests that the misunderstandings were not limited to Heatley:

"In the case of the expenditure in Vote Parliamentary Service, the Parliamentary Service was also administering a rule incorrectly for members of Parliament, and Mr Heatley is not the only member who will have been affected."

We are delighted that this matter has now been resolved. It will be interesting to see whether Heatley is restored to Cabinet in the short term, or whether the PM will require a longer spell of penance.

And we're also looking forward to the release in May (hopefully) of the spending of ministers in the former regime. Phil Goff's response to any inappropriate expenditure will be closely evalutated against the standards set by the new administration.

UPDATE: John Key has announced that Phil Heatley will return to Cabinet as from Thursday:

Any reasonable New Zealander would reach the same conclusion that I did," he said.

"There was no deliberate attempt to rort the taxpayer."

Mr Key said mistakes had been made, but the Auditor-General had pointed out that the rules were "confusing."

He said it was a wake-up call for ministers and all MPs that they need to be more careful when they spent taxpayers' money, and that the message would not be lost on them.

The full report from the Auditor-General can be viewed here.

.... not gone!

He's staying. Will the photographs now be released?

BUT - he has announced that he will be standing at the upcoming local body elections for a yet-to-be-advised position. Over on Newstalk ZB, we've just heard Danny Watson suggest that the Mayor might be "pissing into the wind" - we couldn't have said it better ourselves!!

Side by side by side by side

We've mentioned before that we are petrolheads from way back. And last night, we watched one of our favourite motorsports on the telly - drag racing - but like nothing you've ever seen before.

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is the sanctioning body for drag racing in the USA, and its newest innovation was launched over the weekend. The zMax Dragway at Concord, North Carolina hosted the very first NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, and what a spectacle it was. Instead of the usual two lanes, zMax Dragway is FOUR LANES wide, and the Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars race side by side by side by side.

Those vehicles develop around 8000 horsepower EACH. They no longer run the full quarter-mile, but rather are timed over 1000 feet - about 300 metres. They cover that distance in around four seconds, and attain speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour. It's breathtaking stuff when there are two cars running, but four? That's insane.

And we're delighted to report that our hero, John Force, won the Top Fuel Funny Car division. Force (pictured above) is the winningest driver in the history of dragracing, and in the final round, the second car across the line (of four) was driven by his daughter Ashley. Both cars recorded speeds of over 316 miles per hour; the fastest recorded by the class since the 1000 foot change two years ago.

So here's a taste of what it was like from the stands. This may not spin your wheels, but it sure as heck spins ours!
Crank the volume up and enjoy!!

Emmerson's view

Rod Emmerson's cartoon in this morning's Herald is a beauty; rich in irony at the thought of Rodney Hide taking the moral high ground ....

Going, going ...

That seems to be the likely fate of North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams, otherwise known as The Takapuna Tree-sprinkler. Newstalk ZB and TVNZ are reporting that Williams will make a "significant announcement" at 1pm this afternoon. Unless he is inviting everyone for a night on the vino, we can only speculate that he is about to resign.

Meanwhile, it's worth having a watch of last night's Close Up programme. Mark Sainsbury had Nick Kearney (Act member and Williams opponent) and Grant Gillon (former Alliance MP, Williams supporter and NSC councillor). One guest was balanced, reasonable and talked a lot of common-sense. The other guest obfuscated, ran intereference, and smeared all and sundry. See if you can work out who was who!

Monday, March 29, 2010

That man deserves a DB

Yes, that man there in the picture. His name is Patrick Drumm, and he is the prinicpal of Aorere College in Papatoetoe.

Why does Patrick Drumm deserve a DB? Have a read of this, from the Herald website:

Teachers at an Auckland high school are upset after being told they need to wear "businesslike" clothing, including ties, to set an example for students.

The Herald understands the Post-Primary Teachers Association has been involved in mediation with Aorere College after teachers became upset following the change in policy by principal Patrick Drumm.

Mr Drumm took up the leadership of the Papatoetoe school midway through last year after moving from St Peter's College in Epsom.

One teacher, who asked not to be named, said some upset resulted among teachers after a letter was put in pigeon-holes advising them of the new dress code about one month ago.

"It was something to do with business attire and that men are wear to wear ties and women to dress in business clothing.

"[Mr Drumm] basically was just talking about how he wanted the students to raise their level of dress with the uniform and all that.

"So he thought that the best way to do it would be to start with the staff, and we would be the role models for the students."

We've heard a lot in the last few months about National Standards. Standards need not only apply to students. We applaud Mr Drumm's edict to his staff. We might be getting old, but we can well recall our high school days, and almost without exception, our male teachers wore jacket and tie, and looked smart. Many wore academic gowns over their jackets.

Some will argue that professional or business attire is not relevant to students in South Auckland. We reckon that's complete and utter bollocks. Why should our young people be condemned to a gangsta lifestyle merely by accident of birth or residence? Just because a young person is being raised and educated in South Auckland doesn't mean that they cannot aspire to a professional career.

And we'll cite an example:

My personal story is borne of the fabric of the community I represent. Born in Samoa, I migrated to New Zealand when I was a child and I lived in Māngere with my family. We lived in a three-bedroom home with a double garage, where our custom to care for our extended family sometimes meant that we had up to 16 people living in our home at any one time. My father, in particular, made huge sacrifices. The stories he told of shifting from the warm climes of Apia to the snow and sleet of Bluff move me. The stories he told of having to walk from Ponsonby to Parnell to save the bus fare in order to have some lunch humble me. My parents suffered and endured a great deal just so that we children could live better lives. We were not a wealthy family but we were rich in spirit, resourceful, and determined to succeed in this country. My family continues to be the cornerstone of my life. My parents instilled in us strong family values, Christian principles, and a diligent work ethic. The values are of honouring our elders, respecting others’ opinions, and treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated.

I was taught at a young age that education was a key to a successful future, not only for me but also for my wider family. I am grateful to my parents, who sacrificed and saved in order for my sibling and me to attend reputable State schools and universities. For me, education was the key to unlocking so many of the opportunities that I have enjoyed in life. Education allowed me to travel, meet new people, and experience different cultures. Those cultures also taught me that the best teachers in the world can—and should—be our parents. Our parents should encourage aspiration, and teach core values and an honourable way of life. I was taught that success is ultimately defined by doing our best in the area of our choice. If we set out to be the best that we can be in any role, and apply ourselves diligently and honestly, then success will be the fruits of that labour. A solid education gave me employment opportunities in finance, law and commerce, and a chance to enjoy these varied experiences. Education blessed me with the many lifestyle choices that I have today. I was taught that my success will not be based on my bank balances, assets or looks; success will be based on the breadth and the depth of relationships, and the ability to positively impact on and love others. I am proud and humbled to live in a country that has offered me so many opportunities; I want to apply all my effort so that future generations of New Zealanders get those same opportunities.

Throughout my life I have taken the notion of aspiration into my work endeavours, within both the private and public sectors. As an Auckland City councillor I have seen how local government works, and how it strives to improve the lives of its citizens. In critical times like these, it is crucial that the Government proceeds with caution. This implies the notion that fiscal prudence and accountability will be prioritised, and that bureaucracies are to be challenged to produce the desired outcomes for our people.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga had the honour of leading the Address in Reply Debate for the 49th Parliament. His is a story which illustrates our contention; any New Zealand child can succeed if he or she has the right people around them.

Patrick Drumm has our highest regard for believing that he and his staff can influence the young men and women entrusted to his care. Accordingly, we'll leave the last word to him (with our emphasis added):

Mr Drumm said feedback to the new policy had been positive.

He acknowledged that there had been some opposition among staff members, but he believed this had been resolved.

"It's been overwhelmingly positively received by the staff community and student community.

"With young people, it is about setting expectations in terms of their presentation and pride in the school, and that floats on to better focus in the classroom.

"We are pretty proud of what we are doing."

Warriors on fire

When the cricketers went off for bad light yesterday afternoon, we flicked the telly over to the Warriors vs Broncos match. And we're glad we did. The Mighty Vodofone Warriors were on fire, and there might even be cause for a little optimism this season after all.

Four minutes into the second half, the Warriors conceded a soft try and trailed the Broncos 16-14. Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei has already left the field with hamstring strains. Cue an embarrassing loss. It was just that - for the Broncos!

As though someone had flicked a switch, the Warriors came to light, scoring 34 unanswered points, including six tries. And some of the tries were absolutely top-drawer, and from a long way out. In short, it was vintage Warriors.

Therein lies the worry. Like the Hurricanes and the New Zealand cricket team, the Warriors get our hopes up, then crash and burn. Let's hope that is not the case in 2010. To have played so well without two of their stars, and with Steve Price still waiting in the wings suggests that this Warriors side has pretty good potential, and that early predictions of the Warriors being wooden spoon contenders (not by us!) are off the mark.

It's a long season, but the Warriors' performance yesterday on a hot Brisbane afternoon augers well for 2010.

You know you're in trouble ....

You know you're in trouble when even your mates from your side of the political divide call time on you. And that's the scenario that faces North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams this morning - the Herald reports:

A defiant North Shore Mayor, Andrew Williams, has denied he has a drinking problem and says he will not resign after allegedly urinating in public and driving home after drinking at a local restaurant.

Speaking exclusively to the Herald yesterday, Mr Williams said he did drink alcohol, but he did not drink excessively. "I'm like any other normal Kiwi male. I'm very mindful of being reasonable."

Defiant he may be, but there is discontent in the ranks. Even though it's led by an Act member, the petition for Williams to stand down has attracted support across the board - read on:

Glenfield Community Board member Nick Kearney asked councillors and community board members to join him in calling for the mayor to step down.

Mr Kearney said he had the signatures of five councillors - Chris Darby, Dianne Hale, Ann Hartley, Margaret Miles and Lisa Whyte - and five community board members on a letter calling on Mr Williams to go.

It will be presented to council chief executive John Brockies today.

A mayor cannot be fired as he is an elected official.

The five councillors who signed the letter are not part of Mr Williams' 'A' team of nine councillors who hold all the important committee jobs.

One of the signatories, Ms Hartley, a former Labour MP, said Mr Williams' behaviour last Thursday summed up the past two-and-a-half years.

"We have had to put up with a lot of very questionable behaviour from the mayor," she said.

"He is quite a bullying person and gets away with it because he has his 'A' team who support him 90 per cent of the time."

Now our recollections of Anne Hartley centre mainly around her time as Assistant Speaker where she was, shall we say, just a little partisan (in our ever-humble opinion, of course!). So for Ms Hartley to have turned against against a fellow leftie is significant. We give her much credit for her candour.

It will be interesting to see whether Williams survives the day, or the week. We suspect that he will be engulfed by a tide of negative opinion, and will make his one wise decision as Mayor; to step down. We hope, for the sake of the residents of North Shore City that he takes that course of action.

FOOTNOTE: Just in closing, we can't help to note that it is just as well that Williams relieved himself against a tree and not the council building per se. We would have thought that North Shore City had enough problems witrh leaky buildings already!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Still another journalistic fail

Amy Kelly on One News tonight:

We've obtained a copy of the e-mail Andrew Williams sent on Thursday night ....

Well done Amy. So have we. Thanks to WhaleOil, we first saw the e-mail on Friday morning, less than twelve hours after the Clown of Campbell's Bay hit the SEND button. Your breathless expose tonight can't hide the fact that TVNZ is 48 hours behind the blogosphere on this one. You'd think that television would be a little bit more on the pace ...

Another journalistic fail

The Herald is currently carrying the story of a Northland man (not Mayor Andrew Williams, we hope!) who was so drunk that his breath alcohol level could not be recorded. The story begins:

A driver stopped by Northland police had drunk so much his alcohol level exceeded the breathalyser's maximum range.

The driver, in his 50s, was spotted swerving back and forth over the centre-line of the road north of Whangarei earlier this year, the Northern Advocate reported.

The breathalyser was unable to give a reading because it only measured blood alcohol levels up to 2000mcg.

But then check this bit out:

The man was blood tested, recording 2290mcg, nearly six times over the legal limit.

This man must be a freak of nature, being able to record breath alcohol in his blood! Do reporters not know that breath alcohol is measured in terms of micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, whereas blood alcohol is measured in terms of milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood? There's a pretty significant difference.

Perhaps we're getting pedantic as we get closer and closer to old age. But we're wondering why the person who wrote this piece didn't ask the obvious question - how much blood did this fellow have in his alcohol? Perhaps the Mayor of North Shore City might have the answer for us!

Christian Music Sunday - 28/3/2010

It's Palm Sunday today; the Sunday before Jesus' crucifixion, but also the day on which he made his triumphant entry back into Jerusalem. let's set the scene with a passage from Matthew's gospel:

The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in highest heaven!"

As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, "What's going on here? Who is this?"

The parade crowd answered, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee." - Matthew 21: 6-11 (The Message)

The song we've chosen to feature today is one we've used before, but we wanted a song appropriate to what we will be celebrating today. Penned by Brooke Ligertwood (nee Fraser), it's proof that the words shouted by the crowd that day in Jerusalem are no less relevant today as we exalt Jesus.

The big difference of course is that we know where this story is leading; to the cross, then the grave, then ultimately to the miracle of God's grace - enjoy Hosanna:

Of Mayors and cars

Who's been a silly boy then? Andrew Williams, Mayor of North Shore City, also known as the Clown of Campbell's Bay, that's who. The Sunday Star-Times reports:

Local Government minister Rodney Hide last night called for the "immediate resignation" of North Shore mayor Andrew Williams amid revelations the mayor urinated outside his council building after drinking at a nearby bar, then drove himself home.

The Thursday night incident is the latest controversy to engulf the father-of-three and justice of the peace. In December the Sunday Star-Times revealed Williams had been sending rude text messages to Prime Minister John Key as late as 3.30am.

"It's been clear for some time that Mr Williams is under a lot of stress and is not handling it well," Hide said.

"It's been a big disappointment for council staff and the people of the North Shore... it's time for him to go."

Oh dear! We've heard the stories about Williams' stress, and his ways of reacting to it, but this is terribly, terribly embarrassing. And there's more:

By chance, the Star-Times observed Williams drinking barside at Takapuna's GPK bar and restaurant around 10pm on Thursday. He talked to a couple at the popular eatery and could be heard referring to himself in the third person. He said he was North Shore's mayor and enjoyed his role.

Inquiries with two bar staff revealed Williams had been drinking red wine at the establishment since 4pm. Six hours later Williams left GPK alone and headed down Hurstmere Rd towards the offices of the North Shore City Council, where he has been mayor since 2007.

On his way he stopped, pulled down his trousers and urinated on a tree outside the council offices.

Williams then headed for the council underground carpark, collected his mayoral vehicle and drove home to Campbells Bay, a 6km trip.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for the Mayor, it did. WhaleOil reported on Friday about a very odd e-mail sent to council staff late on Thursday night. The SST knows about that too:

Shortly after Williams arrived home he sent an email to members of his council's executive team in which he commented on a scheduled visit the following day by Hide and acting Housing Minister Maurice Williamson.

"These two individuals deserve any and all appropriate comments in relation to the rape and pillage of the North Shore by this Auckland takeover. I have only utter contempt for both of them," Williams' email, sent at 11.38pm, says.

The message said Williams would not be there for the ministers' visit as he was attending the Auckland Mayoral Forum at Eden Park. "They will be getting away lightly with me not being there."

This really is bizarre behaviour from the Mayor of one of New Zealand's largest cities. The voters of North Shore must now really be regretting having given George Wood the flick in 2007 when they reflect on his replacement. There is only one honourable course avaiable to Andrew Williams; immediate resignation.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour

We're making our contribution to Earth Hour.

The lights are on, the curtains are open, the big-screen TV is glowing and the surround sound is pumping out. We haven't gone outside and started up the car yet, but there's still half an hour to go.

D'ya get the picture? We don't really have too much truck at all for publicity stunts such as Earth Hour ...

Competition for Chris Carter

A while ago, we boldly appointed Chris Carter as The Shadow Minister for Own Goals, based on all the gaffes he was committing. Now it would seem that TSMFOG has competition for that role - from none other than his own leader - John Armstrong reports (our emphasis added):

Oops. Phil Goff issues a statement claiming "the usually media-friendly" Prime Minister seems to have disappeared off the political radar in the past few days. "What could possibly be the reason behind this strange disappearance?" the Labour leader asks with a measure of sarcasm. Well, one reason was John Key paying his respects to the late mother of one of Goff's MPs. Key held formal press conferences on Monday and Tuesday, plus the usual pre-caucus meeting media scrum on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday - a day he usually spends in Wellington when Parliament is sitting - he flew to Hamilton for the tangi of Lady Raiha Mahuta, widow of one-time Tainui leader Sir Robert Mahuta and mother of Labour's Nanaia Mahuta. Key's flight back to the capital was cancelled because of Wellington's winds, thus preventing him from attending that afternoon's sitting of Parliament.

Oh dear! This has to be the Labour own goal to end all Labour own goals. Not only was John Key attending the tangi of a Labour MP's mother (and respected kuia), but it would seem that Phil Goff either wasn't, or that he did, but chose to ignore the courtesy that John Key showed, and mislead the media.

This is an incredible misjudgement by Phil Goff, and we daresay that the BBQ's will be fired up, if not this weekend, then certainly over the Easter Parliamentary recess. The Labour caucus may have pledged its support to Goff until the 2011 election, but as it faces the prospect of decimation next year, survival mode will kick in. Goff, we reckon, is gone. Who will succeed him? Well, that's another matter altogether!

Congratulations Dan!

Daniel Vettori becomes New Zealand cricket's second test centurion today in Hamilton. It's a fantastic achievement for a guy who has become a terrific servant of the game. Sure, he doesn't bowl teams out very often, and he doesn't turn the ball much now. But he's learned to play within his limitations; he's overcome a career-threatening back injury, and he's now one of the top all-rounders in world cricket.

He's one of a select band of test players with 3000 runs and 300 wickets; it's a club which includes such greats as Imran Khan, Sir Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham, Sean Pollock, Shane Warne, Chaminda Vaas and Kapil Dev. And he's only 75 runs short of leaving a number of those in his wake, moving into the 4000/300 club where he will join Botham and Kapil Dev.

Plenty has been written of Vettori's batting in the last six or seven seasons, where he has taken his average from around 16 to a respectable 30.90. He's unconventional, and that makes him a challenge to bowl to. He hits the ball to parts of the field that defy logic.

It's too early to judge Vettori as a leader, so we won't try. But what endears him to us the most is his love of cricket. He is a real student of the game, with a keen appreciation of those who have gone before him.

We wanted to feature something a little different in this piece - and we found this story on Cricinfo which we really enjoyed - here's a taste:

Robyn Vettori still remembers the day her son, just turned 18, stepped out onto the Basin Reserve for his Test debut. She was nervous; Daniel wasn't. Or at least, it didn't show. He'd become an adult 10 days earlier, had just enrolled in a health sciences course at university with the hope of becoming a pharmacist, and all of a sudden was playing cricket for his country.

Thirteen years later, Robyn and Renzo Vettori will be there once again to watch their boy become only the second New Zealander to play 100 Tests. Except that he's not a boy any more. He's the captain of his country, a loving husband and father to one-year-old James. He's also one of the most accomplished players in the world.

"I can still remember him walking out for his first Test and I had two cups of tea in my hands and they were shaking as he walked across the ground," Robyn says. "And I can remember thinking, 'He always looks so relaxed when he walks out there.' He'll probably be the same again.

"For him, inside it will feel like a great achievement but he always keeps it pretty close to his chest. We'll reminisce a bit that, goodness me, he walked out there as an 18-year-old and now he's a man, he's a father. But he'll come home and James will be running around and it will all just be normal."

We've watched Daniel Vettori grow, both as a cricketer and as a bloke. His family has every reason to be proud of him. We congratulate him on this fantastic achievement, and hope that he can produce something special over the next five days.

Kia kaha Luca!

The Thompson scandal

There is indeed fresh scandal surrounding the conviction and sentencing of Mary Anne Thompson. And this new scandal has nothing to do with the conviction or the sentence. Have a read of this, courtesy of Tracy Watkins from the Dom-Post:

A woman who blew the whistle on Mary Anne Thompson's doctored CV six years ago was hushed up by the country's top civil servant and told to stop digging further.

Thompson was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and do 100 hours' community service after pleading guilty yesterday to one charge of using a document with intent to defraud.

That gets the antennae buzzing, does it not? Read on:

Executive recruiter Lilias Bell was the first to stumble on Thompson's secret, after a tipoff caused her to question Thompson's claim to a doctorate from the prestigious London School of Economics.

Mrs Bell had been hired by the State Services Commission to recruit a new chief executive for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – one of the most prestigious and sensitive jobs in the civil service. Despite Thompson having clearances from the Security Intelligence Service, digging by Mrs Bell revealed that there was no record of her ever receiving her doctorate.

But after Mrs Bell flagged the issue with then state services commissioner Michael Wintringham, Thompson withdrew her application and Ms Bell was told to cease her investigation. In court documents, Mr Wintringham revealed that he was worried about the damage that news of the inquiries would do to the reputations of both Thompson and the State Services Commission.

He left the commission shortly after, passing on Mrs Bell's inquiries to his successor, Mark Prebble, only when Thompson landed in strife at the immigration service.

Prime Minister John Key said he was "extremely surprised" that Mr Wintringham did not pass on the information earlier, "and a little disappointed".

Mr Wintringham said yesterday that he had questioned Thompson about her doctorate and she was adamant it was legitimate. After that, there had been no reason to pursue the matter.

This raises some very serious questions over the integrity of Michael Wintringham, and by extension, the entire State Service which he oversaw. But we cannot help but wonder if he was acting on instructions from above.

Six years ago the country was ruled, with an iron fist, by Helen Clark. Was it her, one of her Ministers, or her Chief of Staff who shut this inquiry down? Let's not forget that Mary Anne Thompson worked for some time in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as a senior adviser. She had friends in high places.

Whoever called off the dogs, be it Michael Wintringham or someone higher up the line, this is a stunning revelation. In effect, in any position to which Thompson was appointed subsequently, the State Services Commissioner was a party to her fraud. This matter must be investigated, and investigated with urgency.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Time for Cambo to draw stumps?

We see that Michael Campbell has had another shocker on the PGA Tour this morning. Stuff reports:

Kiwis Michael Campbell and Danny Lee have struggled in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament in Florida on the US PGA tour today.

Campbell, now ranked a lowly 535 in the world and playing on an exemption following his 2005 US Open win, parred his first three holes, but then double-bogeyed the fourth and fifth holes, bogeyed the ninth and 14th, doubled the 15th and bogeyed the 17th.

His sole birdie was at the par five 16th.

Campbell is using the tournament as a build-up to the US Masters which begins at August on April 9.

It's getting to the stage now when it would be newsworthy to report that Michael Campbell has had a round where he DIDN'T struggle! For such a talented player, it's really sad to see him fall from grace. We wonder if it's time now, when his five-year exemption to the US Masters and US Open ends this year to chuck his clubs in the closet and retire.

Cambo did well financially from his US Open and World Matchplay victories in 2005. If he has invested wisely, he ought not need to play for pay. Perhaps there may be an opening for him in the media. Frank Nobilo and Craig Perks have become excellent TV analysts, and the US TV viewers seem to enjoy non-American accents presenting golf.

It would be sad to see Cambo go, but we take no pleasure from watching him struggle and fail. We, like most Kiwis, were thrilled with his US Open win at Pinehurst #2. We would far rather remember him as a champion.

This Sporting Life - 26/3/2010

It's a poignant This Sporting Life today, because tomorrow marks the beginning of the end of the cricket season. The cricket season is our favourite time of year; it's also a time we sometimes hate - especially when the New Zealand cricket team disappoints us. We've been followers for nigh on 50 years, and you'd think we'd be used to it by now, but no!

Anyway, the season comes to a finale with the second test match at Hamilton, and it's hard to imagine any other result than a convincing win to Australia. The Black Caps were quite simply outgunned at Wellington. The Australians batted far better, and their bowling was faster and more hostile which allowed them to keep the pressure on the New Zealand batsmen. At least there were some positive signs from the New Zealand second innings. Nonetheless, we're looking forward to the match.

And when stumps are drawn on the cricket season, our focus can turn to winter sports. We've maintained a passing interest in the Super 14 and in the first two rounds of the NRL, but cricket has been our first priority.

So with that, the floor is yours - what will you be watching over the weekend?

Even his Mum has given up!

Bailey Junior Kurariki, on the run again seems to have lost his last supporter. Have a read of this:

Bailey Junior Kurariki's mother says arrest "might be the best thing" for her son after he failed to appear in court.

Kurariki, 20, one of New Zealand's youngest convicted killers, was due to appear in Manukau District Court yesterday on two charges of indecent assault of a female over 16 and one charge of committing an indecent act.

When he failed to appear by 4pm the judge issued an arrest warrant.

TV3s' Campbell Live presenter John Campbell visited Kurariki's home yesterday, where he spoke to his mother, Lorraine West.

Kurariki had got "all dressed up" for court yesterday morning, Ms West said. When she was told her son may be arrested, she said it "may be the best thing" and that he had been "getting on my nerves".

When she told her son to behave he would say he was nearly 21 and to stop nagging, she said.

"I'm always on at my friends, `Who's got a gun with one bullet?' That's all I'd need, I'd shoot him. I brought him into this world and I'd shoot him."

It's a pretty sad indictment when even your mother wants to shoot you! On a more serious note though, it's probably an insight into a pretty dysfunctional family, and may go some way to explaining why Kurariki seems destined to spend a large proportion of his life behind bars.

Hypocrisy Mr Parker?

We're calling the "h" word on Labour MP David Parker this morning. He's issued this media release:

National’s comedy act defence of mining iconic areas continues

Hon. David Parker | Thursday, March 25, 2010 16:49

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee’s latest defence of National’s plan to dig up our national parks goes way past its usual spin and into the realms of fantasy, Labour Conservation spokesperson David Parker says.

"In the House today Mr Brownlee was forced into a feeble episode of show and tell.

"It’s great to see Mr Brownlee has got his sense of humour back after storming out of the house on Tuesday. But nonetheless, National is now being forced to resort to the preposterous and laughable.

Yes; there was a bit of comedy in Gerry Brownlee's performance. But as the Jane Clifton reports in the Dom-Post, David Parker tried a similar stunt himself:

It's an old joke, a corny joke and not even a particularly funny joke, so naturally politicians never tire of it – but now it has been outlawed in Parliament.

Yesterday, Labour's David Parker became the last MP to try to table a blank piece of paper. The tradition was popularised in the 1970s, when MPs enjoyed publishing blank volumes supposedly representing the achievements of their rivals, but it does not enjoy the support of Speaker Lockwood Smith.

He gave Mr Parker a lecture fit for a naughty schoolboy when he tried to table a blank piece of paper purporting to list the mines Labour had licensed on high-value conservation land.

"How is this behaviour consistent with ... good order in the House? A blank piece of paper is not a document. I take a dim view of grandstanding like that. It will not be tolerated," Dr Smith said with uncharacteristic sternness.

Though pinkening, Mr Parker flourished his pen, scrawling a zero on the paper, and for a terrifying minute it looked as though he was going to try to table that. But perhaps noting the absence of Dr Smith's normal beatific smile, in favour of a warning glare, he didn't push his luck. "This nonsense will stop," Dr Smith concluded.

Oh dear!! David Parker joins the long list of Labour MP's who say one thing but do another. What amuses us the most is that Parker's bizarre media release was issued AFTER the dressing down he got from the Speaker. His visage may have even still had a pink tinge! Did he think that no-one would join the dots?

So we say to David Parker; cut out the hypocrisy and faux outrage. Labour is in full spin mode following the revelations that the previous government didn't just allow 74 permits for mining on conservation land; it had in fact allowed 218!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yo, Gerry II

For those who prefer visual media to reading Hansard, here, courtesy of WhaleOil is the entertaining video of Q6 this afternoon

Bucks for Bain?

So David Bain is applying for compensation.

We simply hope that he and his defence team (which we are bound to be paying for) have taken into account the fact that the burden of proof for the Crown is considerably lower in this case. We can only surmise that this is a risk he and Joe Karam are prepared to take.

Regular readers will know our thoughts on this case; we do not believe that justice was done with last year's verdict.

Yo, Gerry!

Question Time on a Thursday is often good fun. And Gerry Brownlee got a little bit of revenge today for Trevor Mallard's "ambush" on Tuesday - check this out; first the "straight" question:

SANDRA GOUDIE: What are the economic benefits from environmentally responsible mining in New Zealand?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : There are many economic benefits. Mining in New Zealand is a $2 billion industry, and in 2009 exports were worth about $1.1 billion. Including workers in oil and gas, the industry employs about 6,000 people. Jobs in the industry are well paid, at double the national average, and jobs are highly productive, contributing to GDP, per worker, at six times the national average rate.

So far; so good. Brownlee gives a straight answer suggesting that there are indeed significant economic benefits to New Zealand from the mining industry. And then come the supplementaries:

Sandra Goudie: Has he seen any evidence of support for the mining industry in New Zealand?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have seen a great deal of evidence of support for the mining industry in New Zealand. Indeed, I have some photographic evidence here today to show the House of some members who support mining in New Zealand. The photograph shows the Hon Damien O’Connor, the Hon Trevor Mallard, and a New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union official standing outside the Rūnanga Miners’ Hall, when Mr Mallard was launching a document about health and safety in underground mining. It will come as no surprise to members that this photo was taken during the 2008 election campaign.

Sandra Goudie: Are there benefits to members of seeing firsthand the operations of mining in New Zealand?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, I believe it is beneficial for members to become familiar with mining operations in New Zealand. To prove that Mr Mallard’s commitment to mining is not short, I have this photograph to show the House. It shows Mr Mallard fully kitted-out in his little miner’s suit, about to go down the pit. This photo was taken when the Labour Party liked to identify with mining as the industry that was its birthplace.

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask the member to table the photos so that I can have a copy of them.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not believe the photos are official documents.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave for those wonderful documents to be published.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to seek that leave, Mr Speaker, as these documents already have been published.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the House has had enough fun on that one.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is there any further evidence of why there is interest in support for the mining industry?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It would appear that fresh from Mr Mallard’s visit down the mining pit, with the exhilaration of coal dust still up his nostrils, he must have told such wonderful stories about the experience that his colleague the Hon Phil Goff was encouraged. For those who cannot recognise him, he is the guy on the end of this photo. He was encouraged to put on his gear and go down the mining pit. This photo is from a time when Labour was proud to support workers and proud to support the mining industry in New Zealand.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is rather unfair that they have not shown the photograph of me when I went down the mine.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I understand the problem was that when Annette King when down the mine, the workers were scared to come out. In order to accommodate the Hon Trevor Mallard’s request, I seek leave to table these three wonderful photographs, which have previously been published. I am sure that if Mr O’Connor contacts my office, we will make a PDF for his next electorate newsletter.

Mr SPEAKER: I have previously ruled out tabling photographs and that kind of thing.

This wasn't quite as much of a command performance as Big Ger's Brokeback Mountain speech before the Christmas recess, but it went close. It has to be said that Labour members took it in good humour, and Annette King even applauded Brownlee's final offering at her expense.

But it shows one thing in particular; it's going to be hard for Labour to get traction with their opposition to mining when they supported mining whilst in government. As we've noted before, they simply can't rewrite history, no matter how hard Phil Goff tries.

Pots and kettles

Is there any difference between a quarry and an open-cast mine?

We wonder what Phil Goff's response to that question would be. Over at Gotcha, WhaleOil notes that one of Phil Goff's near neighbours in the Roskill electorate is the Winstone Quarry; it's a mere 350 metres from the absentee Member for Roskill's electorate office. We guess that's few enough degrees of separation to well and truly qualify Phil as a NIMBY! And Whale lists a number of high-profile ex-quarries in Auckland which have since been transformed and opines:

Don’t believe Labour when they say that mines and quar­ries leave the land ruined and unus­able for any other pur­pose. The proof peo­ple is right before your eye every­where you look.

All that we need now is for some astute Honourable Member to hum the tune of Neighbours whenever Phil questions the Government over its mining plans! Pot; meet kettle!!

Hat-tip: WhaleOil

ETS cup-of-tea time?

We've long been very sceptical about Global Warming. More to the point, we've long been even more sceptical about the claims that climate change in a man-made phenomenon. And we were disappointed when the John Key-led Government rushed to enact its Emissions Trading Scheme legislation last year.

At around the same time, the tide turned against the AGW lobby. The revelations from the leaked "Climategate" e-mails have been damaging; very damaging indeed. The credibility of many of the world's leading climate scientists has been called into question, as has the science used to gulit-trip world leaders into taking expensive action to counter climate change.

WhaleOil reports this morning that France has "indefinitely postponed" its proposed carbon tax on the grounds that it would damage the competitiveness of the French economy. Australia's version of the ETS is in tatters, and Kevin Rudd seems to have given up hope of passing his measures into law.

Set against this background, New Zealand's "flagship" Emissions Trading Scheme is set to come into force in just three months time. The transport, energy and industrial sectors will be the first to feel its effect, as will the taxpayer. The Government seems determined to swim against the tide on this, and we don't feel at all comfortable with that approach.

So we say to John Key, Nick Smith et al; do what David Lange did in 1989; stop for a cup of tea, and think about this some more. The coming-into-force of the Emissions Trading Scheme can be delayed; it will be far more difficult to roll things back after 1 July. We don't have to be world leaders on this issue. And as time goes by, it is looking less and less likely that other countries will follow our lead!

The New Zealand economy is still delicately poised as we emerge from the global recession. Now is not the time to be taking risks with legislation that may well be based on shonky science. C'mon John and Nick; pour yourselves that cuppa, and have a REALLY good think about this!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two teens; two murders

We don't know about you, but over the last couple of years, we've noticed an upswing in the number of younger teenagers committing serious violent crime, including murder. It's been brought home to us this morning by two reported cases.

Firstly, the Herald reports on the case of a then-16 year-old girl who pleaded guilty to a particularly callous murder:

A teenage girl told police she knew a Pukekohe mother was at home, probably sleeping with the television on, when she started a fire that blocked the woman's chance to escape and left her to die.

The 16-year-old set fire to a sweatshirt drenched in absinthe at the bottom of a stairwell in Lynette Chapman's home and left the house as the house began to burn.

She yesterday pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of arson. She has been remanded in custody until she is sentenced on July 23. Her name is suppressed.

The girl, now 17, admitted to police she heard the television playing upstairs when she approached the house, knew Ms Chapman was home, and had earlier spoke of knowing, "Lynette sleeps with her television on all the time".

The girl went to the home Ms Chapman shared with her sons Brad, Todd and Cole. They would normally be sleeping there but on January 20, 2009, they were staying at their father's house elsewhere in Pukekohe.

The girl knew one of the sons and there was animosity between them, but there was none between her and his mother.

That last paragraph is the single most aggravating feature of this apalling and tragic case. The victim was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time as the killer tried to get revenge on one of the victim's children. At least the girl involved has pleaded guilty, and the family is spared one ordeal.

The second case was the sentencing of Hermanus Theodorus Kriel for the murder of Libby Templeman in Kerikeri in 2008. Kriel was 14 at the time. Now 16, he will spend at least the next 11 1/2 years in prison. And he will do it tough. Stuff reports:

As a 14-year-old in November 2008, Kriel beat and strangled Liberty, 15, and dumped her into the Wairoa Stream in Kerikeri. Unconscious and face down, she drowned.

In the High Court at Whangarei yesterday, Justice Raynor Asher sentenced Kriel to life with a minimum period of 11 ½ years for the murder and indecent assault.

As Mrs Templeman finished reading her victim impact report, she looked at Kriel. "We saw the marks on her face, the bruising on her face. The battered and bruised face of the girl who saw the good in everyone."

Liberty's father, Andrew Templeman, told the court that if it wasn't for the support of his family he would have walked off a cliff. "How do you summarise the emptiness that accompanies the loss of your daughter. I smile and cry in equal measure when I think of Liberty."

After the hearing, Mrs Templeman questioned what message was being sent to young criminals when sentences being imposed for heinous crimes were "mere tokens".

Four families have been devastated by two senseless crimes, where the violence used was manifestly excessive to any supoosed motive. We say that four families have been devastated, as the families of those convicted have been traumatised as well. How can they not be?

But what has gone wrong with us as a society when such extreme violence is a part of the landscape for a 14 year-old boy and a 16 year-old girl? Clearly, we've lost our way as a society.

So we're going to pose a question that we don't have the answer to, but we'd welcome your thoughts on;

Where did it all go wrong?

The welfare balancing act

In 2008, John Key's National Party campaigned on a pledge to reform the bloated welfare system. Yesterday, Paula Bennett began the process of delivering on that pledge - the Herald reports:

Solo parents will have to look for part-time work once their youngest child turns 6 or have their benefit halved.

But if they take a job they will be able to keep more of the money they earn before their benefit starts being reduced, with new thresholds for abatement rates that will immediately benefit 28,000 with part-time jobs.

Under a raft of tougher rules announced yesterday more beneficiaries will be pressed to return to the part-time workforce just as the economy is starting to pick up after the recession.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said however that if the work was not there, that beneficiaries would not be penalised.

The changes meant that the welfare system would be there for those who needed it "without becoming a lifestyle choice for those who don't".

Those last words encapsulate the welfare issue as far as we are concerned. Before you lambast us for our lack of compassion, we freely acknowledge that there are plenty of people for whom the welfare system is a lifeline, and not a lifestyle. But equally, there are large numbers of people who CHOOSE to be on benefits, and who have no desire to work. And it is these people whom the Government must target.

The reaction has been predictable. Those to the left of us are up in arms, and the cries of "bennie bashing" have already begun. Those far to the right of us are complaining the the Government has not gone far enough, and that ALL benefits should be cancelled as of last week! OK; that might be stretching credibility a tad. Let's just say that if the Government is being criticised from both margins, then the balance is probably about right.

The real issue for the Government will be the availability of jobs, and we are sure that is why this policy is only being rolled out now, and not last year. Doubtless, that aspect will be canvassed widely over the next few days. But we believe that there are considerable numbers of people using the welfare system in a way in which it was not designed to be used; to finance a lifestyle outside the workforce. We are delighted to see that the John Key-led Government has the will to address this.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Generational stupidity

Is it any wonder why New Zealand is so full of dysfunctional families, when you read a story such as this:

The parents of a New Plymouth Prison inmate were busted last week allegedly attempting to smuggle cannabis to their son.

The Corrections Department said the father, who arrived first, became agitated when a prison drug dog handler informed him his vehicle would be searched.

He tried to hide a package containing about 12 grams of cannabis in his pocket but was spotted and asked to hand it over.

Later that day the mother arrived and quickly drew suspicion when she stopped her car halfway to the prison entrance, apparently debating whether to enter the grounds.

The drug dog handler arrived and asked her to get out of the car so it could be searched, the department said.

She tried to palm something and on being asked to hand it over tried to slip it into her pants. She failed and a bag, containing cannabis leaf, fell on the ground.

Police were called in both cases and the parents arrested.

"Parents should be the last people bringing drugs in for their children, but unfortunately this is not the case," prison manager Peter Madsen said.

We're actually a bit gobsmacked over this story, but we probably shouldn't be. D'ya reckon the parents have the intellectual capacity to understand that it is probably largely down to THEIR lifestyle that their son is in the pokey? Somehow, we doubt it. We almost feel sorry for the son; almost, but not quite.

Mining the reaction

We've done a quick trip around a few of the sites that we visit to ascertain reaction to the Governments mining proposals. Guess what? There's a clear left/right divide! So here goes - the results of OUR mining:

Homepaddock presents an eminently sensible view:

It’s too much to hope that the discussion will be calm and reasoned when the hysteria preceded the announcement.

But those who take the time to read the media release will find that no-one is suggesting digging up vast tracts of the conservation estate.

John Armstrong hints at rough times ahead for the Government:

In selecting pockets of land in the Coromandel and on Great Barrier, it has chosen to fight on territory where the conservation lobby and its arguments are at their strongest.

Our "friends" at Red Alert are naturally complaining:

If you are a country where people really treasure and value the environment around them, and you sell yourself and your products/ideas to the world as being ‘clean and green’ (even though you know you could do a little better), what is about the silliest thing you could do?

That’s right, start mining the National Parks. Of course the spin is that this is only 7000ha, but the plans are there to do much more. They will also say it is just like what has happened before. Except its not. They are changing the law and removing land from the protection of Schedule 4. Putting a bit in does not make up for the damage of taking the land out.

The Dom-Post prefers to comment on splits within National:

However, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye spoke out yesterday against proposals to allow mining on 705 hectares of Great Barrier Island.

"My personal view is that when environmental and economic factors are taken into account, and given the island's status in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, mining on Great Barrier Island doesn't stack up. I'll be strongly advocating that position to my colleagues in the Government."

She had not yet discussed the issue with other caucus members.

And we've saved the best for last. Cactus Kate is usually quotable, and today is no exception:

Rather than slashing government spending John Key now has declared he has a plan. A master plan to prove he doesn't just "smile and wave" but is a leader.

Mining and whaling.

I am not opposed in principle to either activity. Problem is not all voters are as rational and level-headed as I am especially about these highly emotive "green" issues. If they were Rodney Hide would be Prime Minister trying to control an out of control Sir Roger Douglas, not plotting leadership coups but in his role as Minister of Finance running amok for good cause with the nation's finances.

The brains trust in the National Party inner circle have decided that mining and whaling (and an increase in GST) will upset the public less than slashing government spending. Perhaps they are right. But I am willing to bet they are not.

Because the New Zealand voting public are not rational beasts.

Witness - we have a Green Party and a Maori Party. One party that represents the rights of birds and trees and the other that purports to represent an entire race of people over others. That's not rational.

We couldn't agree more with Cactus on this one.

Bear in mind that this is merely a sampling of opinion. There does however seem to be, as we said earlier, a clear divide with little to no middle ground. Doubtless the Government has taken the likely level of opposition into account before announcing yesterday's decision. We know that there will be opposition, and we hope that last week's jury verdict in Wellington doesn't send a few tree-huggers over the top in their protests, believing that what they do is for the greater good. Right at the moment, we can't think of ANY greater good than New Zealand's economic future.