Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Deja vu all over again...

So Tariana Turia is threatening to have the Maori Party (all three of them) walk away from their confidence and supply deal with John Key's government; the Herald reports:

The Maori Party is considering breaking from the National-led Government over asset sales.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the party will consider walking out of its relationship with the National Party if a Treaty clause is not extended to those state owned enterprises tagged for partial sale.

Ms Turia said today that the issue was similar to the foreshore and seabed issue for Maori.

"If it comes down to the wire, the Maori Party will have to consider its position with the Government."

She said the party would meet with iwi leaders to gather their reaction, although some had already made their displeasure known. She said the party was beholden to iwi and its constituents and would follow their lead.

This is of course not new ground for Mrs Turia, who was a Minister in the Clark government before she left Labour due to the Foreshore and Seabed controversy. That was indeed the catalyst for the formation of the Maori Party. So in a way, it's deja vu all over again, and we shouldn't be surprised by it.

We wonder however if there might be a deeper root cause than simply the issue of asset sales, which incidentally was EXCLUDED from the Maori Party's C&S agreement. The Maori Party is on a precipice, and may well not survive beyond the 2014 election.

And Mrs Turia should carefully consider the implications of such a petulant action. After all, the Maori Party did very well in its three years in partnership with National between 2008 and 2011. The Foreshore and Seabed legislation was repealed, and the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act was passed to replace it. The Maori Party gained mana from Pita Sharples' appointment as Minister of Maori Affairs. And Mrs Turia herself won a significant victory with the implementation of her Whanau Ora policy.

It would be a significant political moment were the Maori Party to walk away from ministerial appointments, and a constructive role with the government. We rather suspect that common ground will be found, and that the status quo will prevail.

Speaking of retirements...

And whilst we're on the subject of retirements, Iain O'Brien has reluctantly announced his retirement from all cricket; Stuff reports:

Iain O'Brien has finally conceded defeat to his aching body, announcing his retirement from first-class cricket to his 13,000 Twitter followers last night.

A stress fracture in his lower back, caused by a congenital fusion of two vertebrae, was the final straw and a surgeon delivered the news O'Brien half expected earlier this month.

The 22-test seamer and Cricket Wellington officially part ways today, with promising fast bowler Scott Kuggeleijn elevated to the 12-strong contract list from tomorrow.

"I'm disappointed. I genuinely wanted to play and I tried my best and did everything I could. I'm at peace with it now," O'Brien told The Dominion Post last night. "I know I'm not going to play international cricket. I'm cool about it. I'm fine."

The 35-year-old last played first-class cricket for Middlesex in July, 2010, before the England Cricket Board denied his bid to be classed as a local player.

After surgery last April to re-attach a hamstring tendon, he was contracted by Wellington with a view to reclaiming his test spot, which he vacated in December, 2009 to start a family with his English wife, Rosie. They have a daughter, Alethea. But after months of promising rehab, the nets were as close as O'Brien got to returning for Wellington this summer before his back injury worsened.

O'Brien was told he had the back of a 60-year-old after an X-ray in 2003. In 2007 he was advised by a surgeon to hang up his boots, but played through the pain. "I've cried in changing rooms and hotels all around the world, but how could I walk away? I've got more out of my body and career than I should have. Time's up," he tweeted.

He took 73 test wickets at 33.27, after walking away in peak form against Pakistan in late 2009. From 91 first-class matches took 322 wickets at 26.06.

We will remember O'Brien as a lion-hearted bowler, who gave his absolute best every time he played for New Zealand. His time at the top level was relatively brief, but he certainly made an impact.

And it wasn't just on the cricket pitch that O'Brien made an impact; he's a social media regular, and for a while had a very entertaining cricket blog. We'd link to it, but unfortunately the link is broken, a bit like O'Brien's body!

We wish Iain O'Brien all the best for life after cricket, although we don't doubt that we'll hear from his via social media. Cricket needs more characters like him.

Another big job to fill

Hot on the heels of Dr Allan Bollard's annoucement yesterday that he will step down as Reserve Bank governor, there's been another high-profile resignation signalled today; the Herald reports:

Air New Zealand chief executive officer Rob Fyfe has resigned.

Fyfe, who has been in charge at the national carrier since 2005, this morning confirmed he would be leaving his post at the end of the year.

His decision was made partly to allow the airline's "talented and capable" executives the room to realise their full potential he said.

"After almost a decade at Air New Zealand, I am an Air New Zealander to the core and I live and breathe Air New Zealand every day. At the same time I'm very conscious that I am surrounded by many very talented and capable executives and if they are to grow and realise their full potential I have to create the space to allow them to do so," he says.

Fyfe said he was proud of his role in improving the financial situation of Air New Zealand since inheriting signifcant economic challenges when he took the role.

"While many of the challenges were evident at the outset, many unexpected hurdles also emerged. That is the nature of the aviation industry, and I continue to be proud of how Air New Zealanders rally around to support each other."

Air New Zealand has certainly gone ahead during Rob Fyfe's time as leader, although he hasn't endered himself to everyone. Fyfe has a strong public profile, but his results speak for themselves.

And he has been praised by his Chairman; read on:

Board chairman John Palmer praised Fyfe's contribution to the airline.

He credited him with allowing Air New Zealand to remain profitable while other airlines lost billions of dollars in the global economic crisis.

"Alongside this Air New Zealand's innovations, high customer satisfaction ratings and culture have become the envy of airlines around the world. Rob's leadership skills have also been acknowledged internationally."

That Air New Zealand has twice been voted the international Airline of the Year in the last three years is testament to the quality of its services and its innovation, and is something which Rob Fyfe can draw personal satisfaction from. His shoes will not be easy to fill.

Emmerson finds a new target

Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson must have spent the summer studying photographs of David Shearer, knowing that there will be plenty of opportunities to lampoon the new Labour leader as any cartoonost worth his ink would do. So his first effort isn't too bad at all:

Now, remind us again. How many hectares of New Zealand land was sold to non-Chinese between 1999 and 2008? Is it the selling of the land, or the ethnicity of the buyers that Mr Shearer is lamenting?

The Umpire strikes back

From the "strange but true" department, Fox Sports reports:

A cricket umpire killed a teenage spectator in Bangladesh by hitting him on the head with a bat in a dispute over a contested decision, police said on Sunday.

Nazrul Islam, 15, ran onto the pitch during an amateur game in the remote northern district of Kishoreganj and started an argument with the umpire, who took one of the players' bats and hit the teenager.

Islam showed no serious injury from the blow during the game on Friday but suffered an internal hemorrhage overnight and died in the hospital the following day, local police chief Mosharraf Hossain said.

"The two argued over a not-out decision by the umpire," Hossain said.

"He accused the umpire of bias. At one stage, the umpire became angry, took a bat and hit the young boy on the head."

The umpire was being sought for questioning but had gone into hiding, he added.

Now during our years as an umpire, there were certainly times where we would have gladly dealt to a recalitrant player, but they were generally bigger than us, so we resisted the temptation. What is reported above though does seem to be an extreme response from the umpire, and it might just put his fitness for the job in question.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Retort of the Day

Gerry Brownlee has responded to claims by Liane Dalziel that former Bexley home-owners were not notified of the demolition of their former homes. Now Stuff reports that Brownlee has responded, and as responses go, it's not that bad at all; check this out:

Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel today said some former residents were upset after not being informed of the demolition.

Brownlee called Dalziel's comments a "bit of a beat-up".

"I think this is a demonstration of the new bipartisanship approach the Labour Party wants to take and an indication of no change," he said, referring to Labour leader David Shearer's recent comments that the party would take a bipartisan approach to the quake recovery.

And Brownlee explains, for Liane Dalziel's benefit, the reality of thre job the CERA is facing:

Brownlee said residents had been informed of the demolitions and a street meeting was held on Friday.

However, with more than 5000 homes to be demolished in Christchurch's red zones, it was not practical to tell former homeowners about the impending demolition of their homes, he said.

"Once you have settled, you know the house is either going to be moved to another site ... or demolished."

The current approach of not informing former homeowners was reasonable and would not change, he said.

'Nuff said, wethinks.

Equal pay for equal work

The Australian Open pays equal prize money to the winners of the Men's and Women's singles events. Despite that, men's matches throughout the two-week duration of the Open are the best of five sets, whilst women's matches are contested over the best of three sets.

Is this fair? The weekend's events beg that question; check this out:

After nearly an hour-and-a-half of tennis racket, Victoria Azarenka had her first grand slam title and the world No 1 ranking.

Azarenka overcame a nervous start in losing the first two games to win 12 of the next 13 and crush Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 in a one-sided Australian Open women's singles final.

Compare and contrast this to the epic match from last night:

Novak Djokovic wore down Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam singles final in the history of professional tennis, winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 after 5 hours, 53 minutes to claim his third Australian Open title.

Djokovic sealed victory at 1.37 a.m. Monday local time and became the fifth man since the Open Era began in 1968 to win three straight Grand Slam finals.

The Men's final lasted a Grand Slam record of 5 hours and 53 minutes, and both players were absolutely spent at the conclusion of the match. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were on the court for almost four times as long as the Women's Singles finalists, and yet they take home the same prize money.

Where's the fairness in that? Surely, this weekend has shown once and for all that if the women want the same money as the mean earn, at the very least they must start playing five-set matches. After all, girls can do anything, can't they?

Dear Chelsea...

So Chelsea Scott's ex-partner has been arrested for the murder of six-month old baby Serenity Scott-Dinnington in April last year; the Herald reports:

The boyfriend of a Waikato mother whose 6-month-old daughter died of non-accidental injuries last April will appear in court today charged with the infant's murder.

Waikato detectives yesterday arrested Matthew Ellery and charged him with murdering Serenity Jay Scott-Dinnington at her Ngaruawahia home.

Last night, Serenity's mother, Chelsea Scott, responded to news of the arrest by changing her relationship status on Facebook from 'in a relationship' to 'single'.

She also posted a message saying her "beautiful baby gurl" could rest in peace now."Rest in peace my angel. Mummy loves u always!"

Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Greene said the accused man would appear in the Hamilton District Court.

So it's taken an arrest for Chelsea Scott to consider her relationship with the alleged killer over; excuse us, but that's poles apart from the values to which we subscribe; especially when we read this further down in the story:

On January 6, Ms Scott gave birth to a child fathered by Ellery. Child, Youth and Family took the baby less than 48 hours later.

Ms Scott's 6-year-old son, Travis, has been in CYF care since the incident last year.

Ellery appeared with Ms Scott on Campbell Live last year to protest his innocence and to rebut claims that he had anger issues.

He said in the interview that he had tried to do CPR on Serenity. "It was too hard and it wasn't working. Chelsea was a mess and I was shaking."

Ms Scott was asked if she believed that Ellery was not responsible for Serenity's death. She said: "Yes, I believe him. People haven't seen the way Matthew is with kids."

Ms Scott said she knew who the baby's killer was and pointed the finger elsewhere. On Facebook earlier, she had said the killer was walking around "as if nothing had happened" and she wanted to see justice done. "I know for a fact who killed her."

So we say this to Chelsea; if you knew "for a fact" who killed your baby, did you bother to pass that information on to the police? Somehow, we doubt it.

Sadly, this case is typical of the litany of child abuse deaths. The family clams up and bands together, because the reputation or street cred of the killer is obviously far more important than the concept of justice for a child whose life has been snuffed out in a moment of rage. That attitude sickens us.

So we're pleased that an arrest has been made in this case, and we hope that in due course, that justice is done. In the meantime, the "single" tag on Chelsea Scott's Facebook page should be an absolute red flag to potential suitors until such time as she comes to the understanding that a child's life is far, far more valuable than a partner's reputation.

Rising from the ashes

Six months ago, the future of the Wellington Phoenix was looking pretty grim. The club's owner Terry Serepisos was fighting a battle to avoid bankruptcy, and coach Ricki Herbert barely had a team, let alone a full squad for the upcoming season.

Six months is a long time in sport. This morning, the Wellington Phoenix sits in second place on the A-League ladder after a terrific 3-1 victory over the fourth-placed Melbourne Heart at the Ring of Fire yesterday. And the good folk of Wellington listened to Gareth Morgan's pleas; 13,601 turned out to cheer the Phoenix home; their best Wellington crowd of the season; Sam Worthington from the Dom-Post reports:

The buzz is back at Westpac Stadium, as Wellington responded to Gareth Morgan's call to arms and the Phoenix came to the party with three A-League points to surge into second place.

Yesterday's 3-1 win over Melbourne Heart in front of a season-best Wellington crowd of 13,601 lifted the Phoenix ahead of defending champions Brisbane Roar and although the minor premiership is probably out of reach, a home final is now there for the taking.

It is uncharted territory for the Phoenix, who had been written off as likely wooden spooners by many A-League observers after a tumultuous off-season.

But after getting the lay of the land, the new Welnix owners are stepping up their game off the pitch, just as Ricki Herbert's charges are on it. Co-owner Morgan pleaded with the fans to turn out en masse and they enjoyed a dominant Phoenix performance as Paul Ifill struck twice and Chris Greenacre once.

There have been no star signings but things are starting to happen under Morgan and co: a new strip and new sponsors while promotion of home matches has gone up a level.

There was a lot to like in the way that the 'Nix played yesterday. Herbert has a pretty settled side, and there's genuine competition for places in the starting team; a far cry from the beginning of the season when those who were fit played.

And there's a great spirit in the side to, underlined yesterday by defender Manny Muscat. Muscat has been on leave in Melbourne since the Newcastle game a week ago, awaiting the birth of his first child. But said baby has shown no signs of emerging, so Muscat flew from Melbourne yesterday, arriving in Wellington just an hour or so before kick-off, and playing a blinder. Muscat was instrumental in the 'Nix's third goal with a pinpoint pass setting up Paul Ifill to score. Muscat now returns to Melbourne to resume what we hope will be a short vigil.

The only negative for the 'Nix is that five of their eight remaining matches are on the road, but with two away wins in their last two matches, they've broken the hoodoo of winning on the road. With third-placed Brisbane and fourth-placed Melbourne Heart struggling, there's no reason why the 'Nix can't hang on to second, which would give them home finals advantage well into the play-offs.

Well done Wellington Phoenix.

Tony Hodges? It's Mallard speaking...

So the unsightly Australia Day protest in Canberra has come back to bite the Gillard government on the bum; Stuff reports:

An Australian Prime Ministerial staffer has been linked to yesterday's ugly protest incident in Canberra, forcing his resignation and acutely embarrassing PM Julia Gillard.

In an early evening statement, the Prime Minister dismissed as 'false' claims that one of her staff had spoken to people at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy prior to yesterday's angry protest that temporarily trapped her and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

But Ms Gillard acknowledges that a member of her media unit 'did call another individual yesterday and disclose the presence of the Opposition Leader at the Lobby restaurant. This information was subsequently passed on to a member of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.'

The Prime Minister says the media officer did not 'suggest or encourage violence' but that his action 'was an error of judgement. As such, the staff member's resignation has been accepted.'

He is Tony Hodges, one of four press secretaries working in Julia Gillard's media unit.

The link is deeply embarrassing for the Prime Minister and leaves her shouldering some of the blame for an incident where many had pinned responsibility on Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott is right to be calling for an official inquiry into this incident, despite the resignation/sacking of Tony Hodges (take your pick; did he fall or was he pushed?). It's a dirty trick of the worst possible kind, but there's a karmic element in that Julia Gillard bore the brunt of the protest from the Tent People.

But it made us wonder; given that Tony Hodges is now without work, will he be receiving a phone call from Trevor Mallard offering him a job on this side of the ditch?

How good is Lydia?

Lydia Ko made history yesterday. She became the youngest golfer ever to win a professional golf tournament; the Herald reports:

Standing over a putt to put her into the record books today, it's no wonder New Zealand 14-year-old Lydia Ko was nervous.

While it was only a short one-footer, Ko had memories in her mind of last year's "failure" at the New South Wales Open, when she three-putted on the final green to lose by one stroke to Caroline Hedwall.

This time there was no slip and Ko efficiently holed out to become the youngest player to win a professional golf tournament.

Ko, the world's top amateur, took out the remarkable victory at the Oatlands course in Sydney by four shots over Becky Morgan of Wales, shooting a three-under-par final round of 69 to finish 14-under for the tournament.

In doing so she beat the men's mark set by Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, who won his first professional title aged 15 years, eight months, and the women's record of Australian Amy Yang who won the Australian Ladies Masters aged 16 years, 192 days.

The win comes just a week after Ko won Australian Amateur title in Melbourne.

Lydia Ko is an amazing golfing talent. To have the composure to hold off seasoned professionals at just 14 years old is an incredible feat, yet she remains grounded; read on:

"It's pretty amazing," said Ko, who turns 15 on April 24. "I don't really know what to say ... I'm really happy and to be part of history is like a miracle. It's not something you can have by clicking your fingers.

"It was really nerve-wracking," she added. "I had a few deep breaths out there [on the 18th hole]. I was nervous until the last second. [I was] thinking of last year and I looked back and there were so many people watching."

Ko began the day with a four-shot cushion over playing partner Lyndsey Wright, a 32-year-old who picked up five birdies on the front nine.

But rather than crack, Ko - who dropped just two shots all weekend - hit birdies of her own on eight and 16.

In the end it was Wright who came off second best when posting back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 which allowed Morgan, who shot six-under to claim second place.

And check out this response from her playing partner for the day, Lyndsey Wright:

Wright, who finished in a tie for third, said of Ko: "The only thing I could've done is get my putter out and smack her in the legs.

"She just played wonderful golf and did not make a mistake. It's amazing to see her and think she's only 14.

"This is a historic moment for women's golf. It was no different from playing with a seasoned pro on the LPGA. I put a lot of pressure on, and she did not fall apart at all.

"She's going to be an exceptional player if she keeps doing what she's doing."

She is indeed going to be an exceptional player. We understand that Ko is not going to turn professional until she's at least sixteen; but that's fifteen months away, and one wonders what records she might set before then.

Lydia Ko is the world's best amateur woman player; there's no reason that one day that she might not be the best female golfer on the planet.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Who makes you fat?

Deborah Coddigton has a thought-provoking column in today's Herald on Sunday. Entitled The market's to blame for obesity? Fat chance it begins:

It's official: we're a nation of idiots who can't make decisions to save ourselves or take responsibility for our problems.

That's according to two academics from Otago University, researchers in public health, Dr Gabrielle Jenkin and Penny Field, who specialise in the obesity epidemic.

Interviewed this week by Kathryn Ryan on National Radio, Field tossed off a comment which sent me into deep despair. Obesity, she said, was "not a problem with individual choice and self-discipline, which we've proved successfully doesn't work".

Instead it's the fault of "big institutions and the market".

The obese as victims. It's come to this. Fat people are mentally incapable of choosing what's right and wrong when it comes to putting food in their mouths.

In New Zealand, 63 per cent of us are overweight or obese, so, by Field and Jenkin's reckoning, the brain power of 63 per cent of the New Zealand population is on par with labradors or ponies which can't stop eating themselves to death.

Government needed to do something, they complained, starting with more regulation of advertising, particularly on children's television.

What I interpret from this is that, zombie-like, our children are brainwashed into wanting bad food.

In turn, they demand this bad food from pliable parents who can't say no and, too dumb to discern healthy food from bad food, meekly buy that which "the market" or "the big institutions" persuade them to buy.

How conspiratorial.

If this is the case, we might as well give up. The Government could just nationalise all food outlets, supermarkets, dairies, greengrocers and farmers' markets and the Minister for Food Safety could have an army of inspectors to ensure we only eat healthy food, with no fat or sugar.

And why stop there? Why not have the Government issue us all with packed lunches every day? After all, it's not just our children who are obese.

And she's dead right. Obesity is not the fault of the government, or of the market. Obesity (other than for medical reasons such as hormonal imbalance) is the result of our choices. And progressively, we have as a nation and as individuals been making bad choices. That's why we have an obesity epidemic.

As we've mentioned before, She Who Must Be Obeyed and we have embarked on a bit of a mission this year; to get healthy, and to shed some of those unwanted kilograms that our bodies have laboured under the weight of for too many years. That too was a choice; going on eating as we were would have been all too easy, but it was doing us long-term harm. So we're following a plan which has meant we've had to eliminate a number of items from our diet. We're four weeks into a six-week phase, and the results are already becoming evident; clothes are far looser, and belts are needing to be tightened. We can't quantify it yet, because we don't weigh in for another fortnight, but the weight loss for us at least has been significant.

Has it been easy? Heck, no! Some of our favourite foods were on the prohibited substances list; what we'd do for a chocolate biscuit right now, or a slice of toast! But is it making a difference? Absolutely. We feel less bloated, less breathless and we're sleeping far better. We've never in our lives eaten as many fruits and vegetables as we have in the last four weeks, so that's great.

Did "the market" make us overweight? In a word, no. Our choices were what caused us to gain far too much weight; a sedentary lifestyle, convenience foods and comfort eating were our downfall, and they were all things that were within our control, but where we made poor or lazy choices.

We have made a choice to get healthy this year, just as in the past we made choices which had the consequence of turning us into Mr Blobby. And Deborah Coddington is right on the money when she suggests that blaming the market is just a cop-out.

Successive governments have made things to easy for us, and by and large, it's become far easier to abdicate personal responsibility and just blame someone else. We've changed our mindset this year, and thus far, it's working really well. We're not someone who is endowed with an iron will, and we reckon that if we can change the habits of a lifetime, pretty much anyone can.

We'll keep you posted on progress!

Caning The Standard

Yesterday, The Standard published a stinging attack on Fran O'Sullivan after her piece on the Crafar farm sales. It's so nasty that we won't even dignify it with a link or an excerpt.

This morning Robert Winter from Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow takes his brethren Lefties to task; he blogs:

The Standard has launched a hyperbolic attack on Ms O'Sullivan for her support for the government's decision on the Crafar farms' bid. It is a little odd. I often disagree with Ms O'Sullivan, but she is usually consistent, and has always taken a pro free-trade and investment line. She is explicit in this, and, therefore the venom in the attack on her seems to me to be that bit manufactured. My own view is that she is defending a particular view of "national interest" (see my post yesterday), one to which I do not subscribe, but it is widely held, even, I must say, in the ranks of Labour. I doubt for, example, that Mr Goff would differ from Ms O'Sullivan's view, if push came to shove.

Redlogix should, perhaps, abstain from red meat for a week or so.

We concur. Fran O'Sullvan is employed by the Herald, among other things to write opinion-pieces, and yet when her opinion doesn't tally with one of the authors at The Standard, the nastiness and vitriol comes out.

Labour seems to be having a rethink of the role of its blog Red Alert. Perhaps they need to talk to the party activists who run The Standard, becasue the only conclusion that we can draw is that Labour's supporters have learned nothing from their crushing election result in November.

Christian Music Sunday - 29 January 2012; a Parachute special

Parachute Festival is on at Mystery Creek in Hamilton this weekend. A combination of events has conspired to keep us away this year, but we're there in spirit!

So here's one of our fave Parachute moments. In 2005, American worship leader Jeff Deyo recorded a worship album live at the festival during Sunday night's worship session. Here's his signature song, captured live from Mainstage:

Have a wonderful festival Parachutees; we hope to be there next year!

What a rout

The Black Caps have totally routed Zimbabwe, in the best possible start to the test cricket season. For only the third time in test cricket history, New Zealand took twenty wickets in less than a full day's play as they powered to a crushing victory.

The win by an innings and 301 runs is New Zealand's largest, and the eighth-biggest margin in history where the winning team has batted only once. And it's likely to raise questions about Zimbabwe's ability to compete at test level, especially away from home.

The Zimbabweans batted poorly yesterday; of that there is no doubt. But right from the start of their first innings, they were placed under pressure by an accurate New Zealand bowling attack, and an efficient fielding unit. It's only Zimbabwe's fourth test back since their exile from test cricket, and their first away from home, and that inexperience was ruthlessly exposed.

But let's take nothing away from the New Zealand bowlers. Veteran Chris Martin bowled superbly, knocking the top off the Zimbabwe side in both innings. His eight wickets for the match now places him alongside Christopher Cairns as New Zealand's third leading wicket-taker in tests, with 218. Martin received great support from Boult, Bracewell and Southee, and in those four New Zealand has an attack which will grow in confidence the more opportunities it has to play together.

And the bowlers were very well supported by a terrific fielding effort. Almost every chance that was offered was taken, and the sole "offender" Dean Brownlie redeemed himself with a stunning catch late in the match. Good fielding builds pressure for the bowlers, and that was well illustrated yesterday.

John Wright will be delighted by a strong team performance which bodes well for the season ahead. Let's hope that the new-look squad can play to a similar level in the shorter forms of the game which lie ahead.

And as for Zimbabwe; test cricket is a tough school. The Zimbabwe players need to learn from the lessons handed down to them in Napier over the last three days; tight bowling, disciplined batting and enthusiastic fielding. And they need to be playing test cricket, and plenty of it, even if they suffer some more big defeats along the way.

Well done New Zealand; but the next test will be tougher by far.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quote of the Day

Tracy Watkins is, like the politicians, back from her summer holiday. And she makes this astute observation to illustrate the dilemma that David Shearer is about to discover he has:

For Labour, stoking up opposition to the sale is an opportunity to set the agenda at the start of the political year. Mr Shearer's challenge is finding a way to talk over the top of Mr Peters on the issue.

Labour suffers from the disadvantage of having to be reasonable - the jingoistic NZ First leader has no such constraints. He has crusaded against foreign ownership since year dot, even from the lofty heights of foreign minister, and is also blatant about playing the anti-Asian card. He will say what Mr Shearer won't because he knows he will never have to be bound by his rhetoric.

That's ever so true. Winston Peters is the consummate Opposition politician, because he knows he will never again have to put his moeny where his mouth is, and when he HAS had to, it's always ended in tears!

The big bluff

We're not great fans of celebrity weddings, or the celebrity culture itself. But we have to compliment Mike Hosking and Kate Hawkesby on their smarts. All week, the talk has been of a secret wedding on Waiheke Island this weekend, but now the Herald reports:

Newstalk ZB has confirmed the marriage of broadcasters Mike Hosking and Kate Hawkesby.

The couple wed in an intimate ceremony at Huka Lodge in Taupo on Wednesday.

A group of 30 to 40 friends and family celebrated with them.

The wedding will feature in Woman's Day, released in Auckland tomorrow and nationwide on Monday.

So good on them; they got the private wedding they wanted, and the photographers that have been hanging around on Waiheke Island will go home empty handed.

But be assured; we WON'T be buying the Woman's Day!

O'Sullivan on the Crafar farms

Fran O'Sullivan has nailed here economic colours to the mast in this morning's Herald. And what she says will go down like a cup of cold sick with those who are trying to beat up the Crafar farms decision as some sort of attack on our birthright; she opines:

The Crafar decision is a victory for economic rationalism over blind xenophobic nationalism. Long may the former reign.

Instead of bowing to whipped-up public pressure (which it can't do anyway without breaking the law and marring New Zealand's international reputation), the Government has stuck to its guns and allowed due process to triumph.

The approval for the Chinese bid by John Key's government is a welcome sign that he intends to hit his stride in his second term and make the most of the economic opportunities that are available to New Zealand.

Not to run a mile the moment the xenophobes or the greenies start belting their predictable tambourines and unsettle the nervous nellies in his own caucus.

This is what we want to see more of from our Prime Minister. Not the poll-driven behaviour that (at times) played too big a part in his first term in office. Key has the opportunity to make some very bold calls in the next 18 months. His Cabinet minister's decision to run with the Overseas Investment Office's recommendation to approve the bid is the first.

"Make the most of the economic opportunities that are available to New Zealand"; isn't that what we elect governments to do? With such turmoil in the European markets at the moment, we are fortunate that Asia, and China in particular is literally on our doorstep; emerging markets, with whom we have already built trade relationships.

And the sale of the Crafar farms is all about opportunities and relationships, with mutual benefits; read on:

Key is clearly excited about the opportunities for New Zealand from the successful Chinese bid for the Crafar farms. So he should be. The Shanghai Pengxin bid has obviously been carefully constructed to ensure significant economic upside for New Zealand.

But when Chinese billionaire Jiang Zhaobai comes down to New Zealand this weekend as a prelude to writing the final cheque of $200 million his firm is putting up for the Crafar dairy farms, he will still be put on a ministerial-required 'good behaviour' bond.

In fact, the first condition the two ministers have put on the bid is that "the individuals with control of Milk New Zealand must continue to be of good character.

That individual is Jiang who has 99 per cent of the shares in the controlling vehicle.

I doubt that Jiang - who is listed as one of China's wealthiest men by Forbes magazine - has ever faced such an extraordinary up-front pre-condition before investing elsewhere in the world. But it is clearly a price the Shanghai Pengxin chairman is willing to pay to get a toe-hold in New Zealand as the first step towards expanding his footprint in the Kiwi dairy industry.

Make no mistake about it.

Despite claims by the Sir Michael Fay-led consortium that Jiang is paying too much for the 16 farms and will eventually exit from the investment, Shanghai Pengxin will, in all probability, emerge with a joint-venture with state-owned Landcorp to run the farms and pave the way for both parties to establish a thriving international dairy business.

Pengxin has pledged to co-operate in developing retail and distribution opportunities within China for high-value New Zealand dairy brands, something that is notoriously hard to do without deep pockets and on-the-ground capacity. It will also later form 50-50 joint-venture partnerships to produce more refined products here instead of simply shipping sacks of milk powder off to China.

Already NZ First, the Greens and Labour have decided that the Crafar farms sale is a sell-out, and the fast track to becoming tenants in our own land. We reject that entirely; for a start, the farms aren't "our land"; they were privately owned and run (unsuccessfully), and are now in the hands of receivers. But even worse, the abovementioned political parties are far more interested in political advantage than in long-term benefits to the New Zealand economy. And shouldn't that be the overriding concern?

And whilst O'Sullivan congratulates Key on his boldness, she makes little mention of the ultimate irony; Winston Peters by default supporting Sir Michael Fay. Have a read of this speech from Peters in Parliament in June 2007, and you'll see the dislike and distrust that Peters has for Fay. Now he'd rather see a man he refers to as "guilty as sin" lead the bid to buy the Crafar farms than a Chinese businessman who wants to partner with New Zealand. If anyone ever wondered why we have such a loathing for Winston Peters, they need look no further; he is a hypocrite and political charlatan of the worst order.

The sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin will, we believe, be good for New Zealand in the long term. The Overseas Investment Office has approved the sale, and the government has no reason to intervene. And that is the way it ought to be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Classic catches

The match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal last night at the Australian Open was an absolute belter, but a ball-boy stole the show; check this out:

That's a grab that any slips fieldsman would be proud of!

Stand by for the outpouring..

It's just been announced that the sale of the Crafar farms to Chinese interests has been approved; the Herald reports:

The Chinese Government-backed Shanghai Pengxin bid for the 16 Crafar farms has been approved.

Land Information Minster maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman today announced that they have accepted the recommendation of the Overseas investment Office to accept the bid from Pengxin.

In a release just published, the ministers said that it was clear that all criteria under sections 16 and 18 of the Overseas Investment Act were met.

"We are satisfied that Milk New Zealand's application for consent meets the criteria set out in the Act," said Coleman.

See the OIO decision here.

The approval follows the receivers, KordaMentha's acceptance in late 2010 of Milk New Zealand's bid for the farms.

"Milk New Zealand's acquisition will further support the supply of high quality dairy products into the Chinese market and help set the foundations for further economic and export opportunities with China," said the Government.

"Stringent conditions policed by the OIO will ensure that Milk New Zealand's investment delivers substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand."

"These include investing more than $14m into the farms making them more economically and environmentally sustainable; protecting the Nga Herenga and the Te Ruaki pa sites and improving walking access to the Pureora Forest Park and Te Rere falls. An on-farm training facility for dairy farm workers will also be established."

It hasn't been a good week for the left-leaning blogs. Firstly, Ernst and Young exposed the misinformation that MUNZ has tried to spread. Then the Auckland council got rid of the Occupy protesters, and Penny Bright paid a visit to the cells. And now there's this.

As we said earlier, if you have sensitive eyes and ears, you might wish to take precautions. The Left is about to shriek in indignation again, aided and abetted by Winston Peters, the Clown Prince of Xenophobia.

And in the meantime, someone might like to ask David Shearer why it was ok for the previous government to sell 650,000 hectares of New Zealand land (the Crafar sale involves 8000 hectares) to purchasers from a variety of nationalities, but why the Chinese purchasers of the Crafar farms are unwelcome. We'd love to hear his answer.

UPDATE: This graphic from DPF shows the relationship of the land which comprises the 16 Crafar farms compared to the land which was sold during the time of the Clark administration.

Do you still want to go down the "tenants in our own land" road Mr Shearer?

Give us strength!

Sonny Bill Williams is back in the news; Stuff reports:

All Black heartthrob Sonny Bill Williams has a new girlfriend - the daughter of another sports star.

Williams,26, has been seeing Aucklander Jaime Ridge, the teenage daughter of former league star Matthew and his ex-wife Sally.

The pair have been seeing each other for about three weeks and have been spotted out together. They have reportedly spent time together in Auckland where Ridge lives, and in Hamilton where Williams plays Super 14 rugby for the Chiefs.

But then comes the bit that gives cause to the heading of this thread; read on (with our emphasis added):

"They're both very publicity shy and it's very early days for the relationship, but they have been spotted together on a regular basis," a source said.

Whatever. Sonny Bill Williams may be many things, but publicity shy isn't one of them. He lives his life in the media, and the media makes a significant contribution to his lifestyle, via the efforts of his manager Khoder Nasser. Williams appears in a number of television commercials and publicity campaigns, and even his foray into boxing is designed to enhance the SBW "brand". So don't tell us that he shies away from publicity.

And Miss Ridge is hardly a shrinking violet either. Her parents are regulars in the women's magazines, and she herself is no stranger to the media, as the Stuff story notes:

She is a regular in the social pages with mum Sally, and recently featured in a Metro magazine photo shoot of Auckland celebrities.

She has done some modelling work, including at last year's Fashion Week where she modelled a lingerie creation designed by her mother.

So how about a bit of honesty please Stuff. In all probability, this has been carefully released to the media so don't give us the "They're both very publicity shy" nonsense, because it simply doesn't wash.

Farewell; it's been brilliant!

Fear not; we're not going anywhere. But hundreds of vintage and classic cars, and their owners will be leaving Wanganui this morning at the conclusion of the Vintage Car Club of NZ's International Rally 2012.

VCC 2012 has been an overwhelming success. Even t
he weather played ball, with only some brief rain on Sunday afternoon. It is, however, bucketing down this morning as the cars hit the road; an expression of sadness from above, perhaps!

The people of Wanganui fully embraced this eve
nt, which will be long remembered. Around 30,000 turned out on Sunday to an Open Day at the Wanganui Racecourse where all the cars in the rally were on display. Vintage cars parked in the main street of the city, at supermarkets, petrol stations and shops have become a common sight, and a perfect fit with Wanganui's heritage theme.

And to say "thanks" to the people of the city, the cars split into three groups on Wednesday night, and ventured out to the suburbs where they were me
t by hundreds of people of the roadsides throughout Wanganui. It was a wonderful gesture by the rally organisers, and was warmly received.

We've interspersed this thread with a few photos w
e took on Sunday, but most of the memories we'll have of this last ten days will be in the mind's eye; it's been fantastic seeing history on display, and so lovingly restored.

And lastly, here's a comment from a visitor, sent to Cr Jack Bullock, Wanganui's youngest councillor:

I have just returned home to Christchurch after having spent a week in Wanganui. I was there for the VCC Rally and what a week it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it. More importantly I love your city and think it has many under rated attractions. I fell in love with your main street Victoria Avenue and I think your gardens are delightful. The people were so nice and friendly. I was pleasantly surprised by the value of property in the region and am seriously considering moving up there as Christchurch is never going to be the same or remotely as good as your city from the cultural side. I am retired and want to spend the rest of my days in a city that is complete.

Just keep up the good work and encourage people to continue to take a pride in what they have achieved and what they can improve on in the future.
We've thoroughly enjoyed VCC 2012 as well, and we weren't even directly involved! It's got 2012 off to the best possible start for a city that is too often in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Fifty years on

It's an important anniversary for Wanganui today. It's fifty years to the day since the great Peter Snell established himself as a miler of international quality when he broke the world mile record on the grass track at Cooks Gardens.

Last Sunday, the Herald on Sunday carried a lengthy piece about that famous night. We've held it back until today; the actual anniversary; here's how it began:

For Sir Murray Halberg, it was a night tinged with death and sadness. For Peter Snell, it was the moment he realised he wasn't just an 800m runner.

For athletics official (and an athlete himself) Toby Bowyer, it was a time when the police detective didn't mind suffering 'grievous bodily harm' at the hands of jubilant coach Arthur Lydiard.

For Nick Willis, Wanganui's Cooks Gardens has a special significance too - which is why he is the star turn at Friday's track meeting there to celebrate Snell's world mile record set on January 27, 1962.

That night, a menacing black cloud hung over Wanganui. Outside the town, rain pelted down and threatened to put a dampener on the Agfa International Athletic Meeting. But at Cooks Gardens, apart from that cloud, the evening was still and perfect.

"It was almost an eerie thing," recalls Sir Murray Halberg, who was trying to warm up for the programme's feature race under the weight of some tragic news.

The reigning Olympic 5000m champion had promised to help his mate Snell become the first man to break four minutes for the mile in New Zealand.

The pair, both coached by the legendary Lydiard, had already contributed a unique piece of Kiwi sporting history, winning gold medals within an hour of each other at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Halberg held the national mile record at 3m 57.5s, achieved in the same race that Australian Herb Elliott had set the existing world mark in Dublin four years earlier. Now he was expected to help break his own record.

But Halberg was struggling with the revelation that a training buddy had died on the trip south from Auckland. Popular Owairaka athlete Peter Hitchens had drowned while swimming off Foxton Beach.

"Whenever I think about that night, I think about Peter Hitchens," reflects Sir Murray. "He was a middle distance runner, a typical enthusiastic harrier and a good club member. I heard about his death before the race but I don't think we told Peter [Snell] until afterwards."

Out on the track, Toby Bowyer was checking and re-checking the markings. As clerk of the course, his job was to ensure the circuit was correctly laid out and, if records were broken, that task would become doubly important.

"I had to make sure everything was running right and all the pegs were in the right place," explains Bowyer, a detective at the time. "It was all surveyed beforehand and right up to scratch."

In the book Peter Snell: From Olympian to Scientist (2007), written by Garth Gilmour, Snell would describe the grass surface as bare in patches and not particularly beautiful, "but as a running surface in the conditions that prevailed, it was excellent".

The gathering crowd of 15,000 was expecting something special. While Snell, then 23, fully expected to better four minutes and perhaps challenge Halberg's national record, he was annoyed to find Lydiard had predicted a time of 3m 55s in the local paper.

"If I did end up running well inside four minutes, I preferred it to be something better than expected," he said later.

It was a magical night for Sir Peter Snell, and for the thousands who turned out to watch the event. And it was replayed in 1992 when a re-run was staged, and all the surviving athletes returned to Wanganui to run the race again. Naturally, Peter Snell won!

There's a big athletics meeting in Wanganui tonight to celebrate Snell's achievemnt, and his inextricable link with the River City. Unfortunately, Snell himself won't be there, but American runner Bruce Tulloh will be; he ran second to Snell on that famous January night.

And although there's no longer a grass track at Cooks Gardens, Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis will run tonight, and he too has strong links to the venue; his father was there on 27 January 1962, and Willis himself holds the fastest mile time on the new Cooks Gardens track; 3:52.75.

We might just have to wander down to Cooks Gardens tonight, and celebrate the achievement of an athlete who can truly be described as one of the greats.

The Friday Forum - 27 January 2012

It's Friday again; the final Friday of the first month of 2012; the year is literally disappearing before our eyes! And for those in the northern half of the North Island, it will doubtless be a well-received long weekend, being Auckland Anniversary Day on Monday.

But let's get through Friday first; the Friday Forum is the place to come to just let off steam, or have a rant about your pet hobby-horse. You set the agenda here.

Welcome aboard; the floor is yours...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A leaky Caption Contest

We haven't had a Caption Contest for a while. But when we saw the image below on a couple of blogs, it just seemed like the perfect opportunity:

You know the ropes; what state secrets may John Key and John Banks be exchanging? Keep 'em brief, pithy, and most of all, amusing.

Go on; you know you want to...

A policeman's lot...

According to Gilbert and Sullivan, a policeman's lot is not a happy one, especially when constabulary's duty is to be done. And we doubt that the officers who attended Aotea Square this morning to evict the remaining officers found it a particularly pleasant experience.

Veteran protestor Penny Bright was among the 20 or so people arrested at Aotea Square today. And 3News happened to have a camera on hand as the arrest was effected; you can watch the action at this link.

There will no doubt be accusations from the occupiers and their mates that the police action was heavy-handed. The allegation of police brutality is an easy one to make, but on the basis of the video evidence there the police showed commendable restraint in dealing with Ms Bright who was assailing them with a shrieked potted summary of her previous police record, and of the ills of corporate greedies. Lesser trained and disciplined people may well have been provoked by the haranguing the police were receiving, but these officers operated firmly and professionally.

And so the occupation of Aotea Square is over, and already work has begun to make good the damage caused to a civic amenity by Ms Bright and her fellow occupiers. And the question must be asked; have they actually achieved anything?

We think not.

Leaky teapot

The infamous "teapot tape" has been leaked online; the Herald reports:

The teapot tape has been leaked online.

The infamous recording of the conversation between John Key and John Banks at a Newmarket cafe was uploaded just hours ago.

Meanwhile over at Kiwiblog, DPF comments on the leak, the source, and the possible legal consequences:

A copy of the teapot tape has been placed online, and the link e-mailed to a huge number of people from an anon e-mail address.

There are a very small number of people who have that file. Bradley Ambrose and the senior staff of the Herald on Sunday and TV3. Will any of them be brave enough to admit they did it? I will say I don’t think it is anyone from the Herald on Sunday. To be fair to them, they didn’t publish the tape originally, and it was TV3 that turned it into a daily circus.

I said before the election it was inevitable it would come out at some stage.

The recording is on You Tube (uploaded by 2Johns2Cups), plus two other locations. I’m not providing a direct link due to the questionable legality, but I do not believe saying where it has been published (as I have done) makes me a publisher, anymore than when newspapers reported Whale Oil had broken a suppression order (which sent everyone off to his site).

The irony is that the recording is quite benign, as the PM has said. The media beat this up into a nonsense, that just lowered their standing with most New Zealanders.

We won't be providing a link either, and will delete any post which attempts to provide one given, as DPF says the "questionable legality". The 2011 General Election has been and gone, and it's far too far away to the 2014 version for the leaking of the tape today to make any material difference. In fact, we speculate that when people hear the contents, they'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Right; time to make a REAL cup of tea and have some lunch!

On yer bike occupiers!

Breakfast is reporting that Auckland council officials, backed by a large contingent of police are evicting the stragglers from Aoatea Square.

That's good news; we'll update as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Stuff reports:

Police and security guards have returned to Auckland's Aotea Square this morning, removing gear belonging to Occupy protesters.

At least 30 officers were at the site and had formed a perimeter around the protesters, who were taking down their tents.

About eight tents had been taken down, leaving four remaining, and security guards were taking down the fence.

One man in a hooded sweatshirt tried to stop security guards taking his couch, yelling "That's my property".

He was surrounded by several security guards, who then started removing his tent.

Protesters yelled "assault" and "willful damage" as the tent ripped and the man tried to stop it being taken.

They vowed to stay in Aotea Square.

Once again, get ready for an outpouring of venom from the Left, especially if Penny Bright gets arrested.

The Wonderful Days of Summer...

Test cricket is an integral part of our New Zealand summer. And it's been a while since the Black Caps' gutsy win in Hobart; we've had to satisfy our love of cricket by watching a one-sided test series from Australia, supplemented by a plethora of T20 cricket from both sides of the Tasman; described by James Stephenson as cricket for those with short attention spans.

But REAL cricket returns to New Zealand today with the start of the one-off test match against Zimbabwe in Napier. The Zimbabweans are returning from test cricket exile, but have already shown some signs of promise, and test cricket is better for their presence. The skipper Brendan Taylor has spent the summer in New Zealand, and his will be a crucial wicket for the New Zealand bowlers. It will take time for Zimbabwe to develop depth at the top level, but they will be a good opponent for a New Zealand side which has played little more than T20 cricket for six weeks or so.

The New Zealanders have asked for a bouncy, green McLean Park pitch, and it seems as if they have go their wish. The bowling attack will be the same as that which bowled Australia out twice in Hobart, with Daniel Vettori in support, replacing Jesse Ryder. Ross Taylor's first job today is to win the toss so that the Black Caps can have a go at their opponents in bowler-friendly conditions.

We have a few reservations over the decision to play Vettori as a #6 batsman. His best batting has come from the #8 position, and playing him that high in the order leaves a long tail if the top order does not fire. There will be pressure aplenty on the top five of Guptill, McCullum, Williamson, Taylor and Brownlie, especially given their lack of long innings in recent weeks.

New Zealand has never won a test match at Napier, probably due to the benign McLean Park pitch. An all-round team effort will be required if they are to break their duck over the next five days. It just so happens that we have work to do from home today, so we'll be looking forward to the start of play later this morning. It'll be great to see test cricket being played here, even if it is but an entree to the South African series which follows.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Fiji floods

Just a few months ago we spent a wonderful few days in Denerau, Fiji. Now the western side of Fiji's main island is being devastated by floods after days of torrential rain. Stuff reports:

Fiji's major tourist town of Nadi is under a 6pm to 6am curfew as severe flooding continues to hammer the western part of the nation.

The death toll in nearly a week of torrential rain remains at two, Fiji's Ministry of Information said in its latest bulletin.

The man-made resort island of Denarau has been cut off, forcing some guests with plane connections to fly by helicopter the nine kilometres to the international airport at Nadi.

The ministry says no hotels have been harmed in the flooding and adds "no complaints have been registered".

Forty nine evacuation centres are holding 1056 people.

The urban areas of Nadi, Ba, Lautoka, Rakiraki and Sigatoka have been by the deep tropical depression to the east of Fiji.

"To ensure security and safety of the central business districts for all towns and cities the enforcement of restriction of movement is now enforced to ensure the maintenance of security, safety and confidence to the business communities," the ministry says.

"This restriction of movement will end when flood waters subside and business returns to normal."

The statement says food security is being monitored as shops and farms are hit but adds "there is no current threat to existing supplies".

"The police had been monitoring the high-risk areas and the general public had been advised not to cross flooded roads and crossings and to stay indoors."

The aspect of Fiji that left the biggest impression on us was the friendliness of Fijians. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as the rains continue to pour down, and their livelihoods are threatened.