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Conservation Week 2013

Posted by on September 9th, 2013

To mark Conservation Week 2013, I’ve compiled a list of what the Labour whānau has achieved…

Filed under: conservation
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Vickery auction piece from The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Posted by on March 20th, 2013

I posted this a couple of years ago and think it’s worth reposting….

Some of you will have read The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. It’s got some interesting pieces in it. It has a small but really interesting section in it about New Zealand. It says this:

The New Zealand government, which auctioned radio spectrum as early as 1990 with advice from some economists who seemed to have a slender grasp on reality, learned such lessons the hard way. (lessons about games not always unfolding in the way the game theorist would predict). The auctions were held without making sure that there was any interest from bidders, without minimum prices and using a theoretical curiosity called a Vickrey auction, which led to considerable embarrassment. (The auction was named after its inventor, Nobel laureate William Vickrey, who made major early advances in applying game theory to auctions.)

The Vickrey auction is a second-price sealed-bid auction. The ‘sealed bid’ means that each bidder writes down a single bid and seals it in an envelope. When the envelopes are opened, the highest bidder wins. ‘second-price’ is the curious rule that the winner pays not his bid but that of the second-highest bidder. The elegant reasoning behind this auction is that no bidder ever has an incentive to shave his bid in an effort to make more profit; making a lower bid affects his chance of winning but not the price. To a theorist, this doesn’t seem odd at all; after all, in a traditional auction at Sotheby’s or Christie’s, the price is also set by the second highest bidder, because bidding stops when the second-highest bidder drops out. To the press and many others, this Vickrey auction looked nothing short of crazy. The problem with the Vickrey auction is not substantive but stylistic; in a traditional auction nobody ever finds out the maximum price the highest bidder would have been willing to pay, but in a Vickrey auction that fact is made public. Justifiably, New Zealanders wanted to know why a bidder who had offered NZ$100,000 for a licence only had to pay NZ$6 or why one who had offered NZ$7 million was only coughing up NZ$5000. These figures were embarrassing. The theorists knew that on average, Vickrey auctions make just as much money as other auctions because, by not demanding payment of the highest bid, they encourage all bidders to offer more. But what the theorists knew did not matter to the press and to the public; the harsh reality is that Vickrey auctions were seen as a failure of the New Zealand government.

Game theory can help predict some problems, such as cheating in the US auction. Others, such as the public reaction in New Zealand, simply don’t show up in the theoretical analysis. Economists who aspire to dentistry have to think carefully and learn from mistakes,; new ones will continue to be discovered the hard way. The New Zealand government had made itself a laughing stock.

It’s an interesting story. And it’s true. So who were the key players in this unusual game?


Democracy …what’s it got going for it?

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

sat through half a day of hearings on the bill that takes away our (Cantabrians) right to vote for our regional council for another three years, today. A few submitters thought it was a good idea. Federated farmers and irrigators. That’s fine…they can express their views. What I am gobsmacked about though is how the term and the idea of democracy has lost currency.these submitters, and the National MPs on the committee response today was amazing. They said that the former Councillors, elected, weren’t doing a great job, and even though the Commissioners who were put in their place say the job is finished, it’s ok to remove our right to vote for a longer period.
Hello is anyone in National awake?? This is about the right to vote. Isn’t that important anymore? did I miss something….like a military coup or dictatorship appointed?
Their attitude to the submitters was derisory, and Nicky Wagner as chair, Jacqui Dean (prime mover of original bill to stop our vote), Nicky Kaye, Mike Sabine and Paul Goldsmith sneered as submitter after submitter expressed their anger about having their rights removed
This is an unprecedented move. Wake up National, you are smothering our region!


Dignity Campaign

Posted by on October 1st, 2012

Today is international day for older people. Hopefully, we will all make it to that stage in our life. Went to the launch of the Age Concern campaign in Wellington this afternoon. Their campaign is called dignity champions. It is to start a nationwide conversation about treating older people with dignity. I like it. Judy Bailey was the guest speaker and gave a powerful and moving address, featuring the disrespect shown to her mother,during her time in a rest home. She talked about the lack of training and valuing of caregivers and older people. She’s right. It needs to be a priority. Vulnerable people being cared for by overworked and often poorly trained careers who have a highturnover rate, is a disaster waiting to happen. It’s an industry ripe for change. Three champion awards were given out. First was to Hayden Jones of tvnz’s “Good Sorts”. Then to DrJudy McGregor for her report on carers in rest homes. She taught Hayden in his journo training! And then to St John for their attitude in their ambulance ads. I have registered to be a dignity champion. You should too!
www.ageconcern.org.nz/dignity
Well done Age Concern for this campaign! And also for the best ever expo which I went to this morning in Christchurch. Fantastic fun and information. Best for me was the Papanui High School students working to make it happen – during their school holidays! Great students. Great attitude!


Posted by on September 18th, 2012

I went to a briefing when Anne Tolley was Minister of Education about the Christchurch education review. It was great, as a local MP, to get a briefing in advance of an announcement. The Minister was really clear that this was a review looking at taking positive opportunities from the earthquakes to improve educational outcomes. I remember a phrase she used which was that it was about how education was delivered, not where. She talked about collaboration and innovation. Well, we are certainly up for that conversation. But instead of innovation, we have had bizarre mergers and school closures. The new Minister has talked about earthquake damaged land and buildings and about depopulation in areas. These factors don’t apply to the six schools that are merging in my electorate. The population in four areas is stable and roll numbers increasing. In the other two, the residents are returning as their homes are repaired and rebuilt. I think they will bring their children home with them. None of the concerns the Minister talked about fit my schools. These schools are the heart of their communities. They have been the one place of stability for staff, students, their families and the broader school community over the last two years. They have been lifesavers. And now three of them are proposed for closure ( which is what merger is). The centre of our communities are going to go. The Minister said not one word about improved educational outcomes for our children. That’s what this should be about. And she hasn’t answered so many questions. Like is this a backdoor way of pushing more children into our classrooms? Or about selling land to fill the hole in the Budget caused by the backdown on the increased class size issue? But if it’s not about improving education then why do it? We have had enough change, hurt, dislocation and disempowerment. Our teachers and our local schools have been our rocks. We want them to stay. Leave them alone to do the fantastic job they have been doing. Listen to our communities. And put our children first.


It’s Conservation Week!

Posted by on September 8th, 2012

Lots of things happening around the country this week to celebrate conservation week. Noticed that no events are scheduled for Fiordland, where locals are anxiously waiting for news of the Dart Tunnel and Monorail proposals. Know that they would prefer to be celebrating these proposals being declined and the security of our World Heritage Park being assured! Join in the events around the country – http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation-week-home-whats-happening/
And starting from this Monday, register your support in the Forest and Bird “Bird of the Year” competition – opens at 9am Monday and goes through to 9am Wednesday 10th October. I am campaigning for the Mohua – vote for this spunky little bird who has survived despite the best efforts of humans!!
www/birdoftheyear.org.nz and big thanks to Forest and Bird for their work.


Choice not Chance

Posted by on August 31st, 2012

Tomorrow is Gamblefree Day. In Christchurch, we have a celebration event at Aranui High School (in Lianne Dalziel’s electorate) and I will be heading over there at about midday to support the fun. Come along if you are in Christchurch and support efforts to end harmful gambling! There are events in many parts of the country so hope you can get to something if you are not in our town. Check out http://www.pgfnz.org.nz/Gamblefree-Day-2012

The theme is Choice not Chance – and there is a great website with really thoughtful videos from people who have suffered as a result of a family member’s gambling addiction. There are few more powerful messages than those who are directly impacted by these issues. Have a look on http://choicenotchance.org.nz

It helps people to look for signs if you are concerned you or someone you love has a gambling addiction. If any of these sound familiar, it could point to a problem with your gambling. Things like spending more time or money than you planned; making excuses or being secretive to friends or family about how much money and time you spend gambling; feeling guilty or worried about your gambling; thinking you can gamble your way out of debt; losing interest in your friends, family or other activities; borrowing money for gambling

There’s lots more information – well worth a look. And there is a 24 hour information and support line. 080065465

So hope you can find an event in your town to get along and support Choice not Chance.


Another species set for extinction

Posted by on August 3rd, 2012

Another species, the Hookers Sea Lion, is on the brink of extinction and the lack of action from Government has many of us concerned. Primary Industries Minister David Carter has announced that he will leave the fishing-related mortality limit of 68 Hookers sea lions per season. Pup numbers of sea lions on their main breeding site, the Auckland Islands, have halved since 1998. There is no argument that fishing is the main human threat to their survival. If this trend in decline of numbers continues, they could be extinct by 2035 – within our lifetime. This is a serious and real threat. So maintaining the mortality level at 68 is, in my opinion, too high. It’s too risky. Our government should be adopting a precautionary approach in this situation. In January, I called on Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson to take action. She has taken no action. Retention of the status quo has been the response from Minister Carter. These are New Zealand sea lions. They are the rarest in the world. Noone else but the Ministers can intervene to help save this species. Yet they are doing nothing. As we have seen with their inaction on Mauis’ dolphins, the real and imminent threat of an extinction of a species is not enough to get them to act.
They should be ashamed of their inaction. they bring international shame to our nation. Let them know what you think!


Maui’s dolphins – last chance to save them

Posted by on April 19th, 2012

The DOC submissions on the Intrim extension of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary and Seismic Survey Regulations to Manage the Risk of Maui’s Dolphin Mortality has been extended from today until midday Friday next week, 27th April. I put my submission in today and said this -
I would like to begin by welcoming the Department of Conservation’s document, offering interim additional measures for protection of Maui’s dolphins, until the Threat Management Plan is undertaken and recommendations as a result of this are implemented. The imminent extinction of Maui’s dolphins is unacceptable to us as a developed natio, particularly as one which relies on our “clean, green” image to survive. Our international reputation, particularly in regard to marketing our fish and promoting tourism would be irreparably damaged should we be seen to be taking anything other than all possible actions to save this subspecies.

So, whilst welcoming these proposals and understanding the criticality of action, I do not believe that these proposals go to the extent necessary to deliver what is required – a change in the trend of declining number of Maui’s – and an assurance of their survival.

Unfortunately, the current sanctuaries do not include management of the key threats. Whilst it is an admirable suggestion to extend the boundaries of the sanctuaries, it is not satisfactory to do that without ensuring that effective protection measures are in place. Reading the MAF document on the same topic alongside the DOC document is frustrating, givent aht although they state a shared objectie, and cross reference the consultation documents and submission process, they do not have an “across Deparment” approach. Without such an approach, based on shared evidence and best practice, we risk having a weakened approach to protection. Moreover, this approach also fuels the temptation of the discussion being framed in a “conservation vs fishing” environment, when this is clearly not the best frame for the overall wellbeing and survival of the dolphins.

Having different boundaries, different rules and different management regimes is problematic and could lead to claims of consuion within the fishing industry. It is my view that, givent he critical nature of the Maui’s dolphins numbers, that a more rigorous regime, clear, evidencebased, monitored and enforced by bth agencies, would be more likely to succeed.

I attach with this submission, a copy of my submission on the MAF proposals, so that you can be clear about the point that I am making in regard to the variations.

Within DOC’s boundaries, there should be no gillnets or trawling. That must be one of the “specific activities” that the Minister restricts. I agree that there should be restrictions on seismic activities. But the sanctuary areas, the prohibition on gillnets and trawling, and the restriction on seismic activity must all, of necessity, be a precautionary approach. The proposal of out to 12 nautical miles is supported but I believe that both MAF and DOC regimes should more logically consider the use of depth contours and, as I said earlier, be consistent.

The social media and standard media commenting on this issue has been of the order of the international commentary around the kakapo and the Chatham Island Robin. We can be very proud of the conservation efforts made in regard to these two birds. It is now vital that we take equally focussed measures in regard to saaving the Maui’s dolphins.

Dedicated staff with expertise in marine mammals must be given resources and the mandage to be leaders in this regard. Without such commitment and leadership from the Department of Conservation these proposals, however strengthened, run the risk of failing, and that is not a risk that New Zealand shold be prepared to take.


Media Release & Submission to MAF re Maui’s Dolphins

Posted by on April 10th, 2012

Here is my recent media release and you can check out my submission to MAF regarding Maui’s Dolphins:

Global eyes on Government over dolphin response

Media Statement 10 April 2012

The Government’s response to the possible extinction of the Maui’s dolphin will be under worldwide scrutiny, Labour’s Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson has warned.

“With only 55 Maui dolphins in existence we cannot – as a developed country – allow inaction to be the cause of their extinction.

“There’s a huge win/win opportunity for ministers Kate Wilkinson and David Carter here. Not only should we be doing everything possible to save the species, but we should also be leading the world by moving our fishing industry to sustainable fishing methods,” Ruth Dyson said.

“We know that consumers are become more discerning – wanting to know how and where food is made. We could market sustainably caught fish internationally to huge benefit to our economy.

“And the by-catch of sustainable fishing practices would be saving the dolphin, unlike the current method, which is killing them.”

Ms Dyson, who, in a written submission to MAF has called for a comprehensive monitoring programme to help protect the Maui’s dolphin and an extension to a proposed set net ban, says the government can no longer close its eyes to the issue.

“The world is looking on. The Ministers have, to date, appeared cowed and compliant.

“They must strengthen their resolve to do the best for both the dolphins and the fishing industry, as well as New Zealand’s international reputation,” Ruth Dyson said.

Submissions on the MAF consultation close at 4pm Wednesday 11 April 2012 with parallel consultation on a DOC proposal closing the following week.


A brief history – of great work and survival

Posted by on March 19th, 2012

Between 1970 and 1988, the population of Hector’s dolphins declined rapidly from 30,000 to fewer than 8,000. Helen Clark as Minister of Conservation created our first marine mammal sanctuary, around Banks Peninsula. In 2003, Pete Hodgson as Minister of Fisheries created protected area for Maui’s dolphins. In 2008′ Jim Anderton as Minister of fisheries, put in place comprehensive measure of protection for Hector’s and Maui’s. And in 2011, Phil Heatley allowed commercial and recreational fishing into previously protected Marlborough area.
Spot the difference.


A big challenge – please deliver on it!

Posted by on March 19th, 2012

Sometimes jobs you do as a Minister are really challenging and really satisfying. You can tell if a Minister is up to the job when they meet those challenges. The jury is out on Kate Wlilkinson and David Carter in regard to the big decision they are soon to make. It has to be one of the biggest responsibilities of all – saving or destroying a species. The very future existence of the Maui’sdolphins depends on their decision. There are around 55 Maui’s dolphins left – in total – on the planet. Hard to get closer to being extinct. The Ministers are now consulting about extending the set net bans. Set nets are one of the human induced death traps for dolphins. And they have
brought forward the recovery plan for these dolphins from next year to this year.
So what would I do if I was the Minister of Conservation? I would put the dolphins first. I would do every single thing possible to make sure that this wonderful dolphin was available for our grandchildren and their grandchildren to see, to swim with, and to enjoy.
It is a big challenge. With only 55 Maui’s left, there is literally no time to waste. But there is plenty that can be done.
No population of this size is sustainable without intervention to reduce every possible avoidable death. I would eliminate fisheries by catch. Gill nets and trawl nets in their habitation areas must stop. There are sustainable fishing methods available. I would want them to be the only methods used in these areas. And these areas need to extended in a principled precautionary approach. Protection should extend across the Taranaki Coast and south to at least Cape Egmont. Tasman and Golden Bays also need to be included.
And the relationship between the South Island and North island populations needs to be considered and protected.
So Labour’s commitment is to do everything possible to save these dolphins. Yes, it’s a big ask but we can do it.
Dolphins as fishing by catch has to be eliminated.
Population monitoring has to be rigorous, and transparent with the aim of restoring the population to their original population size for Hector’s andMaui’s by 2100.
Ban gill net and trawl fisheries in waters shallower than 100m. This is great for dolphins and also for seabirds and fish stocks.
We can do this. It does seem a big call, but, with the right actions, we can stop these dolphins from becoming extinct. And that’s worth it.


Maui’s dolphins dying to hear from Conservation Minister

Posted by on February 5th, 2012

Every New Zealander, especially our young ones, is so proud of saving the Chatham Island robin. So we should be. It’s a huge responsibility to have an endangered species in our area. It’s really a no brainer to do whatever we can to save that species. We only get one chance. We won’t always be successful. But we must always try our hardest.
But right here, right now as they say, we have a critically endangered species and a Conservation Minister saying, and doing, nothing. It is an outrage! Last month, but only reported this month, a female Maui’s dolphin was killed on the Taranaki Coast in a fishing net. There may be fewer than 25 breeding female Maui’s left. In total. Anywhere. That’s why it is critically endangered. We need to act now. If I was the Minister, I would act immediately to reduce the bycatch by allowing only selective sustainable fishing in this area. And more areas may need this as well. I would introduce a plan for the sustainable recovery of Maui’s dolphins. And I would ensure that the recovery is closely monitored.
There may be fewer than 100 of these dolphins left. New fishing methods are available and also reduce the number of seabirds killed. Helen Clark led the way on protection of dolphins with the sanctuary on Banks Peninsula. It is one of Canterbury’s favorite tourism destinations because of the dolphins. Pete Hodgson and Jim Anderton followed in the same vein.
So what is happening with the government now that there is a total absence of action? There is a DOC report due out soon about the dolphins. But Ministers are allowed to act when they see something that needs a response. That’s what they get paid for.
In the meantime, Maui’s dolphins are dying to hear from the minister. literally. And perhaps permanently leaving our planet.


Vickery auction piece from The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Posted by on August 18th, 2011

Some of you will have read The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. It’s got some interesting pieces in it. It has a small but really interesting section in it about New Zealand. It says this:

The New Zealand government, which auctioned radio spectrum as early as 1990 with advice from some economists who seemed to have a slender grasp on reality, learned such lessons the hard way. (lessons about games not always unfolding in the way the game theorist would predict). The auctions were held without making sure that there was any interest from bidders, without minimum prices and using a theoretical curiosity called a Vickrey auction, which led to considerable embarrassment. (The auction was named after its inventor, Nobel laureate William Vickrey, who made major early advances in applying game theory to auctions.)

The Vickrey auction is a second-price sealed-bid auction. The ‘sealed bid’ means that each bidder writes down a single bid and seals it in an envelope. When the envelopes are opened, the highest bidder wins. ‘second-price’ is the curious rule that the winner pays not his bid but that of the second-highest bidder. The elegant reasoning behind this auction is that no bidder ever has an incentive to shave his bid in an effort to make more profit; making a lower bid affects his chance of winning but not the price. To a theorist, this doesn’t seem odd at all; after all, in a traditional auction at Sotheby’s or Christie’s, the price is also set by the second highest bidder, because bidding stops when the second-highest bidder drops out. To the press and many others, this Vickrey auction looked nothing short of crazy. The problem with the Vickrey auction is not substantive but stylistic; in a traditional auction nobody ever finds out the maximum price the highest bidder would have been willing to pay, but in a Vickrey auction that fact is made public. Justifiably, New Zealanders wanted to know why a bidder who had offered NZ$100,000 for a licence only had to pay NZ$6 or why one who had offered NZ$7 million was only coughing up NZ$5000. These figures were embarrassing. The theorists knew that on average, Vickrey auctions make just as much money as other auctions because, by not demanding payment of the highest bid, they encourage all bidders to offer more. But what the theorists knew did not matter to the press and to the public; the harsh reality is that Vickrey auctions were seen as a failure of the New Zealand government.

Game theory can help predict some problems, such as cheating in the US auction. Others, such as the public reaction in New Zealand, simply don’t show up in the theoretical analysis. Economists who aspire to dentistry have to think carefully and learn from mistakes,; new ones will continue to be discovered the hard way. The New Zealand government had made itself a laughing stock.

It’s an interesting story. And it’s true. So who were the key players in this unusual game?


From rescue to recovery

Posted by on March 3rd, 2011

The hardest/saddest message to our families, waiting/hoping that their loved one would be the miraculous live recovery, was received today. The official declaration from rescue to recovery was handled so sensitively by civil defence leaders, including taking family through the areas where lives were lost. But it’s still the worst news possible. My thoughts are with them tonight. May our lost lives rest in peace.

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Attitude Awards 2010

Posted by on December 2nd, 2010

Last night, Lynne Pillay, Vui Mark Gosche and I attended the annual Attitude Awards. This is the brain-child of Robyn Scott-Vincent, an extraordinarily talented and passionate woman, who also started the Attitude programme on TVNZ. The wonderful Curtis Palmer (featured in the haka this evening) was right there sharing the vision and the passion – and the work.

From the Karanga of Natalie Te Paa to the Wheel Blacks haka, through the beautiful Cook Island dance and music of Enuamanu, and the supurb music of Ease – and the music by Tae Kami, through to the finale of Holly Smith playing and singing Mamma, the night was a black-tie spectacle of exposure of talent.

Our MC Simon Dallow, with his co-presenter Jaden Movold – a 6 year old eyeing up Simon’s job!! – along with Chance, a Mobility Dog – were stunning.

But the stars of the evening were the finalists and the winners.

For us, the audience, their life stories were compacted into the 60 second film clip. Those clips opened the door to a life of challenge and courage, of ambition and achievement, of spirit and conquering – to the extent that we were all filled with absolute admiration and pride in the ability of our fellow New Zealanders.

So – wow – and congratulations to the finalists and the winners -

In the Attitude Courage in Sport Award – winner Jayne Parsons and finalists Jessica Hanilton and Shakti Krishnan

In the Attitude Youth Award – winner Alex Sneddenand finalists Duncan Armstrong and Lynn Chen

In the Attitude Artistic Achievement Award – winner Celeste Strewe and finalists Andrew Blythe and Susan King

In the Spirit of Attitude Award – winner Melanie Sloan and finalists Elixabeth Charleston and Pati Umaga,

In the Attitude Employer Award, winner Melrose Kiwi Concept Chairs and finalists Bunnings Warehouse, Shirley and Halberg Trust

In the Attitude Sport Performer, winner Adam Hall and finalists Michael Johnson and Carl Murphy

And the Supreme Award winner Melanie Sloan.

Don McKenzie became the 2010 inductee into the Attitude Hall of Fame.

An amazing night which celebrated people’s ability – extraordinary ability.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be there. I have been to every Attitude Awards night since their inception. They have all been amazing. Tonight was the first night that there has not been a single Government Member of Parliament present. The Governor General and Lady Susan were there but no Minister or back-bench National Party member. That was a shame.

They missed a brilliant night and should have been there to celebrate such great contributors to our country.