Climate changeby Listener Archive
It is unfair and wrong for a mining company to increase New Zealand’s carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 25% when we must urgently reduce them. Solid Energy, Greywolf and L&M must be stopped from mining lignite. But how? Environment Southland has denied the public a chance to make submissions on Solid Energy’s proposed pilot briquette plant at Mataura.
The Ministry of Economic Development has estimated New Zealand has 8.6 billion tonnes of recoverable coal, which if used would release a minimum of 12.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is an issue of national and international significance. Leave the coal in the hole.
The article ignores one vital ingredient. The land we stand on is not static, as shown by the Canterbury quakes.
New Zealand is an emergent land mass sitting on the boundary of two tectonic plates with a major transverse fault, the Alpine Fault, spanning two opposing subduction zones. As well as major horizontal movements there are significant vertical movements; some are imperceptibly slow, some are disastrously violent, as seen in Christchurch in February.
Most of the recent earthquakes in New Zealand have shown significant uplift of land relative to sea level. Wellington gained significant shoreline in 1855. There are four raised beaches above the present shoreline at Pencarrow Head. In the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, a tidal mudflat was raised sufficiently to become usable as Napier Airport.
Any planning for sea-level rise by one metre by 2100 must also allow for land rise in the same timeframe. Tectonic uplift is as much assured as is sea-level rise; it is just likely to be sudden, large, catastrophic and associated with unpredictable earthquakes.
Peter D Graham
Now even the most significant denier, the International Energy Agency, is admitting peak oil has already occurred. The overwhelming response by governments and corporates is deep-water drilling and ever-higher uses of coal, with the highly inefficient extraction of oil from shales and tar sands to come when prices are high enough to justify it. There’s no hope of reducing carbon emissions with these responses.
And there is no hope of a recovery from economic recession without new energy technology. Because the current responses are contingent on oil prices being higher, global GDP movement will be mirrored by the price of oil, with any rise in GDP forerunning an oil-price spike, as we are seeing now, followed by another recession when the price becomes economically intolerable. We need radical change: in government economic management, in international co-operation, in R&D funding priorities and in industrial development priorities.
One thing we don’t need is more motorways. The solutions to peak oil are also the solutions to reducing carbon emissions. In fact, global economic disaster will occur because of peak oil well before the economic hit from climate change.
Environment Minister Nick Smith defended the recently released policy paper “Fresh Start for Fresh Water” and that it will not be mandatory for regional councils to set water standards. There is frequent reference to the cost/benefit of water use, but nowhere is the principle of “the polluter pays” mentioned.
By coincidence on the same day Prime Minister John Key was squirming under questioning by BBC Hardtalk interviewer Stephen Sackur on New Zealand’s claim to be clean and green compared with the reality of our polluted waterways.
Water is water whether it is flowing in the Manawatu or the Buller rivers. Scientists have all the tools to measure water quality. The obvious question must be asked: who is against the setting of water standards? I think we know.
(Aro Valley, Wellington)
BACK TO WORK
I am on an invalid’s benefit for which I am grateful (“The time-off trap”, May 7). In February 2007, I had to leave a rewarding career after developing multiple chemical sensitivity. I loved working, but with the high use of chemicals in all environments, I now live a very isolated existence. I know working would benefit me, but until there is awareness and accommodations are made for chemical-free working environments, people like me will continue to rot on the invalid’s benefit.
Environmental illness is an emerging demon around the world, and until governments address the overuse of all chemicals (eg, fragrance, air fresheners, toxic cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides), people like me will be a burden on the taxpayer. The Government could start by addressing air quality indoors and out and spending research dollars to find solutions.
The article was particularly relevant to ACC and to patients like Dylan Owen, who have a work history and a time-limited medical condition. Applying these ideas to people on sickness and invalid’s benefits, particularly those who have been on one for a long time, is more problematic. These people are the most vulnerable in our community; they often have multiple barriers to work, in addition to their health problems.
In the past few years we as a community have been making those barriers higher. We have encouraged prospective employers to seek police records, making it harder for those with a criminal record to get work. We have cut funding to community night classes that teach English as a second language.
There is an increasing use of drug testing. Given that a test for cannabis can be positive for many weeks or months after the last use, there is a high risk this testing can be used in a discriminatory way rather than because the person’s work performance is impaired by cannabis use.
The pay and conditions of low-paid workers have been eroded and they rarely have union support. A simple outcome of this, for example, is the lack of provision of transport to work for those with jobs in the hospitality and cleaning sectors, who often work when public transport is not available. The cost of transport may take several hours’ work to cover.
The methadone programme in Wellington has a waiting list a year long. Issues for people with enduring mental illness, low educational achievement and disabilities have been getting worse.
Given our high unemployment rate, why would an employer take on a person on a sickness benefit ahead of a person on the unemployment benefit?
Caring for family members (young and old) also makes it hard to find suitable work. Many on a sickness benefit would be able to do part-time work, but take the costs of transport and the abatement in their benefit and other allowances into account and they could easily end up with less money.
The Welfare Working Group had a principle that underlined the responsibilities of an individual receiving a benefit to use this support to try to find employment where possible. What was missing was a principle underlying the community’s responsibility to support these vulnerable people into work by addressing the many barriers we have created.
Dr Ben Gray
BRINGING UP THE REAR
Callipygous is the word Bill Ralston is struggling for (Life, May 14) in the two references to Pippa Middleton. Had it been a Brian Edwards column, it would have had to have been Callinghams, I guess.
Regarding the Maungatautari Ecological Island Reserve, Gareth Morgan (Letters, May 7) says, “The philanthropic dollar faces an abundance of opportunities; an iwi/council joint venture would not logically feature among them.” Why not?
The “logic” of it goes to the heart of our culture and respect for the tangata whenua. It appears Morgan thinks the dollar (philanthropic, of course) speaks loudest. This particular piece of colonial-era type bullying from him does not surprise me given the pliant political and media environment feeding his ego. It does disappoint hugely, though.
The rather ill-tempered interview of Radio New Zealand board chairman Richard Griffin by Eva Radich on Upbeat (Radio NZ Concert, May 6) suggests there are those in the organisation who are still determined to suck exclusively on the Government teat. As a Radio NZ Concert listener, I fear this intransigent attitude could be the death of the service. I applaud the board’s consideration of setting up a trust or foundation to attract financial support.
In over 35 years of arts administration, I have found no better way of loosening the public purse strings than by demonstrating one can generate extra income from other sources, as this shows people care enough about your service to support it financially.
Breaking the solely government-funded habit may be scary for some, but having a variety of funders means the piper can be more adventurous and less dependent on the whims of politicians. The result would be a stronger, more flexible Radio New Zealand.
The problem in the 2008 election when New Zealand First got no seats but Act got five as a result of winning an electorate seat (Editorial, May 7) could be fixed by dropping the MMP threshold from 5% to 4%, the percentage I think was originally proposed by the Royal Commission. This would have meant in the first MMP election in 1996 the Christian Coalition, with 4.33% of the party vote, would have got three or four seats in Parliament, which would have sent to Parliament their co-leaders, Graeme Lee and Graham Capill. Act is not the only party to benefit from winning an electorate seat. In the 2002 election, Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party got one electorate and one list seat with 1.7% of the vote. The Maori Party gets more seats than its low party vote warrants, hence the overhang of one extra seat in 2005 and two in 2008.
The electorate would be spared a lot of needless confusion if people understood there are only three possible outcomes from all voting systems (Letters, May 14). They are being offered only two.
First-Past-the-Post: where a simple majority decides governance, irrespective of whether a party achieves more than 50% of the vote. The 1993 election saw National elected from 35% of the vote. Hitler did better in 1932 with 37.3%!
Proportional systems: MMP, PR (fully proportional), SM (limited proportional), STV (crudely proportional). All invariably produce multi-party coalitions sharing power, by reliance on political consensus to agree and pass legislation.
Preferential Voting: producing multi-party representation, but where the people, not ideologues, elect one party by a 50% plus nationwide consensus of the electorate to govern.
For the intended referendum to be truly “free and fair”, we should be offered a clear choice between politicians reaching consensus under MMP, or majority people consensus under a modified version of the Australian preferential voting system, offering greater stability and broad proportionality and safely lowering thresholds to reduce wasted unsuccessful votes. No existing voting system can guarantee all three. The FPP, SM, PV and STV options are a sideshow distraction from a sounder option.
LOSING TVNZ 7
A fiscally painless solution lies at hand (Letters, May 14). Australia has several public service channels offering a variety of quality shows. A simple dish brings in SBS 1, 2 and 3 to us, but the even more enticing ABC stations are not available here, apparently as a matter of policy. Switching on a single transponder would allow us to join the Pacific islands as viewers. An even more interesting prospect would be for our authorities to link with the ABC, perhaps offering some Kiwi programming for its benefit, and broadcasting over our infrastructure. If Sky can manage it, why not?
RIGHT ROYAL SCOFFING
I do not understand why it is necessary for some columnists to always denigrate and scoff at great social occasions that inspire spiritual and hopeful emotions rather than materialistic returns (Listener, May 14).
I am not an ardent royalist and I only watched the wedding because my wife asked me to, but I am pleased I did. I was thrilled by the grandeur and majesty of Westminster Abbey, the well-controlled horses, the colour of the guardsmen, the craftsmanship of the carriage and the respect everyone had for each other.
Above all, I was overwhelmed by the mass of well-behaved, happy people who moved like a giant tsunami down the Mall, obedient to only a relatively few police officers without guns or riot gear and not showing force or power. A great example of human society at its best.
At the end I reflected on the thousands of people who over the centuries have fought battles – military, political, religious and social – to give me constitutional monarchy, democracy, freedom and peace; and I said thank you.
(East Tamaki Heights, Auckland)
PLAN B, ANYBODY?
As a former Wellington rugby player in the 60s, long domiciled in Melbourne, I was delighted to receive a copy from family of the special April 2 edition on the Rugby World Cup.
But as a fan who was at Cardiff Arms Park in 2007 on the fateful day the All Blacks lost to France (yet again), I was disappointed to read Paul Thomas’s comment blaming a referee for the loss. It was mind-boggling to see the ABs continuing to try to bash their way up front through a do-or-die French defence right near their goal-line. After this went on fruitlessly for 10 minutes or more near the end of the game, I thought there must be a Plan B, especially when our team had some superb outside backs just waiting for the ball. Amazingly, it didn’t happen and the ball did not move beyond the front eight. It was probably the worst example of rigidity rugby I’ve seen in a Kiwi test.
If the All Blacks do not have a Plan B that encompasses both the strength of a terrific forward pack and the tactical hard running of the talented outside backs, anything could happen this time around. As someone who was present at the 1987 final at Eden Park – the only NZ triumph – I sincerely hope there is a successful Plan B if required this time.
(Brunswick North, Victoria, Australia)
Max Cryer believes banning commercial advertisements between 4.00pm and 6.00pm will prevent parents being “coerced or nagged” by their children (Letters, May 14). Such regulations typically create undesired incentives that have to be “solved” by yet more regulations.
Banning ads won’t wish away a company’s advertising budget, but it will encourage kids to watch TV for two hours instead of running around outside. In turn, this will promote product placement in children’s TV programmes, as well as the activity of undercover marketing specialists in public places.
On the other hand, if parents feel “coerced” by their child into buying a bunch of plastic dolls, perhaps that’s the problem that needs to be solved.
“From 1985 to 1995 [politicians] said they were creating a fairer society, but as a result of their policies, inequality was objectively growing faster in New Zealand than anywhere else in the rich world.” (Brian Easton, Economy, April 30, 2011)
In a more equal society there are fewer health and social problems … less crime and an improved quality of life. So, how do we effect change to achieve this?
In this election year we need to ensure politicians commit to a vision of a more equal society by promoting policies such as a lesser emphasis on growth and profit-making and more on sustainability, and encouraging more participatory forms of business ownership, for example.
WITH A PINCH OF SALT
Sheila Skeaff’s advice about iodine sounded worrying (Nutrition, April 30). Skeaff’s colleague, Dr Mary Enig, noted in Nourishing Traditions (NewTrends Publishing) that salt’s chloride component is necessary for digestion, and that sun-sea salt provides organic forms of iodine. In particular, she noted the problems of highly refined salt where the high temperatures and chemicals remove valuable magnesium and trace minerals. To replace those natural iodine salts, potassium iodide is added. It is then stabilised with dextrose, which turns it a purplish colour; hence the need for bleaching to restore whiteness.
I would have thought one should avoid processed salt, and instead use natural sea salt such as Celtic sea salt, which contains organic iodine from the “bits of plant life” preserved within it.
So, yes, to natural foods high in iodine like fish and oysters, which Skeaff recommends. But “pass the iodised salt”? I don’t think so.
Dr Neil G Hilford
The public appear to have no understanding of the horrendous cost and complexity involved in investigations and remedial work on leaky homes. Once owners have become ensnared by the “leaky homes” machine, a bevy of experts is required, and charges of between $350 and $600 an hour are not unusual. Valuation updates, expert opinions, building surveys, structural reports, peer reviews, ongoing legal costs – and then there’s the cost of actual repairs. It’s a long and expensive nightmare.
Many New Zealanders are still not aware so many fellow citizens are in real strife over this. Or that their taxes are funding councils to pay for legal action as they claim, nonsensically, they should not have to be accountable for the job they were entrusted with, and paid to do.
We must make sure developers and builders do their job properly – or be accountable if they fail. Council inspections need to be more than just drive by, and construction companies have to be accountable – not able to fold up then start again under another name. The least corrupt country in the world? Sorry, not while our politicians neglect to close these loopholes.
Which leads to the discussions about dispensing with unnecessary regulations. Are we confident our leaky homes are a thing of the past? Will regulations with real teeth replace those we discard? If so, perhaps we can all move on. Yet there still remains the injustice of owners of defective homes being denied the proper support and assistance they deserve from society and their fellow countrymen.
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