Category: Politics

John Key goes to the rugby while oil pollutes the Bay of Plenty

YouTube video: The last thing I need is a ship on a reef


Peter Dunne has a sense of humour

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Andrew Williams – North Shore Mayor

Andrew Williams appeared with Mike Hosking tonight on Close Up defending his position over the rumoured late night texts. It’s one of those situations of either you believe him, or you don’t. Each side seemed to have evidence that supported their own claims.

Rodney Hide, Andrew Williams, John Key

Rodney Hide, Andrew Williams, John Key

Everyone except John Key. Interviewed on Breakfast he appeared as vague as he always does when trying to evade specific questioning. He adopts exactly the tone he did when he “couldn’t remember having an opinion about the Springbok Tour of 1981”. All I can see is a man squirming and looking uncomfortable and evasive.

Williams has evidence that he only texted John Key at 12.16pm (two months ago) just after the house rose from urgency – so presumably John Key was awake at the time. But then Williams disingenuously claimed that he ‘couldn’t recall’ sending a text at 3.30am and that if he had it was longer than 4 months ago – which seems beside the point.

At the end of the interview Williams claimed this was all an ACT conspiracy to discredit him and to push the Super City – a shoot the messenger scenario. Maybe he’s right. Williams certainly has the knife out for Rodney Hide asking, under the OIA, for records on the actual meetings that took place while Hide was away with his girlfriend. Turns out there were not many.

This saga will continue until Andrew Williams is out of a job – which may be sooner rather than later.

Intensive dairy farms in the Mackenzie country

These are happy dairy cows

These are happy dairy cows

Two companies, Southdown Holdings and Five Rivers, have put an application in to start a dairy operation that would see 18,000 dairy cows housed in pens known as free stalls. You can see the application here.

What are these people thinking? And why are the Federated Farmers supporting them?

Apparently there is a plus side to this type of farming: it makes the ‘farmers’ more money; and it’s supposed to be kinder to the environment because the effluent can be easily collected.

On the negative side the animals need greater doses of antibiotics to prevent infection, plus they’ll be fed on grain, not clover or grass. Both of these things have an effect on the milk production. These chemicals leach through into the milk so that you and I end up drinking them, and being fed on grain will alter the taste.

What’s more the grain that they feed these animals is likely to come from palm plantations that are replacing natural rainforest. Any apparent lowering of the carbon footprint is more than offset by the fact that grain will need to be shipped in.

What’s more frightening is that this will irreparably damage our reputation as a clean green producer of sustainable sheep and beef meat, and milk. If a feed lot for dairy cows is allowed then the next logical step is that beef farmers will want to intensively farm their animals and we’ll end up like the US – crap meat, crap milk.

Why is the Federated Farmers supporting this move? They believe that this sort of farming should be encouraged. According to Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson:

This style of closed cycle farming means effluent can, for example, be put into bio-digesters with the resulting biogas used to power the farm offsetting farm animal emissions.  Surplus energy could be sold into the national grid and all the while, nutrient loss is minimised.

This is what the emissions trading scheme is meant to encourage, isn’t it?

What he doesn’t take into consideration is the long term implications for New Zealand as a whole in allowing this type of farming. This isn’t a farm – it’s a factory. And the welfare of these animals is compromised as much, if not more, than the pigs in pens that caused so much controversy several months back.

Mission On is off

Without any fanfare, or it would seem, media interest SPARC have decided to discontinue the Mission On initiative.

The Mission On website received many column inches of bad press in the lead up to the 2008 election when John Key criticised the expenditure on the website. SPARC, due to the political nature of their funding were ‘prevented’ from defending the program. Afterall, there was a high probability that they would be cap in hand to a National government.

And so it came to pass.

Unless I am mistaken there was nothing written about the website being removed. There one day, gone the next. Many thousands of hours reduced to absolutely nothing. The government, while accusing SPARC of wasting money on this website, have performed a greater sin in removing it.

The 28,268 children (as at May 13, 2009) who regularly visited the site, and played the games that taught them about how to play outside and build vegetable gardens and eat properly are left with nothing except the promise of new sporting equipment. A rugby ball or basketball is useless unless there are people available to teach children how to use them – in our decile 10 school there is no-one. I’m guessing that the National Party initiative will be as ineffective as they claimed the Mission On website to be.

It’s a tragic waste of money.

Read my original post here.

And here’s the notification on the SPARC website – a wonderful understatement.

Disclosure: I worked at the agency (but not on this account) that brought the Mission On website to life. I know the many many hours of research and focus grouping that went into ensuring the website would be a success for the young people that interacted with it.

OECD says New Zealanders are the 3rd fattest nation

There is no disputing the fact that the general population is getting fatter. Now there’s a study to prove it, and New Zealand comes off badly. The OECD Health Data 2009 – comparing health statistics across OECD countries is behind locked doors, available only to journalists or people who subscribe to the OECD ‘service’. So, there’s no way of me knowing how the OECD arrived at their conclusions.

All I can confirm is that we are third only behind the USA, and Mexico. The USA has nearly one in three obese people whereas we are nearly one in four.

You only need to look at the weight restrictions in lifts to see how much our weight has increased over the years. A lift that can hold 13 people OR 900 kgs would suggest that the average weight of lift-users is approximately 70kg. That’s clearly rubbish. My nickname is Skinny and I weigh 75kgs – put 13 of me in a lift and the alarms would sound.

A few ideas (of mine) as to how and why people are putting on weight:

  1. People are eating the wrong food.
  2. People aren’t exercising enough.
  3. Recessionary times increase levels of anxiety and depression and so people eat more
  4. Recessionary times means people are watching their dollars and eating cheaper, more fatty, more unhealty food
  5. People work longer and so have less time to cook good quality healthy food
  6. People have forgotten how to cook good quality healthy food
  7. Coke is cheaper than milk
  8. Eating a burger and fries is cheaper, easier and quicker than cooking a good quality healthy meal
  9. There’s a hell of a lot more sugar in everything we eat, even in our apples, and bread!
  10. More and more of the population sit on their arse all day staring at computer screens instead of working in jobs that require them to move and exercise
  11. Advertising pushes and pushes crap food (down our throats – literally) under the guise of it being healthy and quick when it is neither

Digging round the OECD site to see if there is any free data on obesity I came across this working paper:
(1319kb, PDF)

They identify the following issues:

…changing diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, particularly in the last thirty years, have contributed to a generalised increase in body weight. Spreading obesity has been associated with growing rates of chronic diseases, possibly affecting longevity…

and there is an

…epidemic of ‘lack of cardio-respiratory fitness’ associated with sedentary behaviour…

as well as

…many people are consuming too much salt, which is one of the determinants of rising levels of hypertension…

They also reveal

…male obesity rates have also been growing faster than female rates in most OECD countries…

but that

…pre-obesity rates (are) increasing at a faster pace in women than men in countries such as Australia, Switzerland, United States or United Kingdom, while the opposite is true in countries such as Finland, Japan or Spain…

There’s also evidence that “identified women as one of a number of groups, along with low-wage earners and ethnic minorities, in which declining real incomes, coupled with increasing numbers of hours devoted to work, have been associated with escalating obesity
rates since the 1970s.” (See my point #5 above)

And the relationship between socio-economic condition and obesity?

In low-income countries obesity is generally more prevalent among the better-off,  while disadvantaged groups are increasingly affected as countries grow richer…Men and women in poor socio-economic circumstances may also differ with regard to their patterns of physical activity. Low-paid jobs typically reserved to men tend to be more physically demanding than those more often taken up by women.

So, there you have it. The government aiding and abetting this situation, this epidemic, by not restricting advertising of food to children and by removing funding to grass-roots initiatives aimed at increasing health and fitness (SPARC).

What will New Zealand look like in 10 years time? How much will we, as tax payers, be paying for our overburdened public health in the treatment of diabetes and heart problems? Will we eventually ride in lifts where the maximum number of people allowed will be six (or 900 kgs)?

I hope not.

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