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Archive for the ‘mt albert’ Category

Rugby World Cup – warm, local and friendly

Posted by on June 22nd, 2010

There was a Welsh TV crew down at my local Eden Rugby Club on Saturday where the seniors were playing. They were putting together a short film for Welsh rugby supporters coming for the World Cup to consider going to the local rugby clubs and other venues for a beer and to meet Kiwi rugby enthusiasts.

The club chairman was very open to the idea – not only would the club welcome the guests, but bar sales wouldn’t go amiss either.

The TV crew told me that most Welsh would rather be mixing with a bunch of Kiwi rugby fans – or just ordinary Kiwis – than hanging out at a big venue with other tourists. If I was in the Welsh position I’d want to do the same.

Which got me thinking that local, warm and friendly was better than cold, draughty and impersonal – which is what Party Central is shaping up to be.

Not only that, but the other areas in my electorate – Kingsland, for example, and other clubs and venues around Auckland, of which there are plenty – could really benefit if they were promoted. Most could easily ramp up to provide Kiwi hospitality that overseas fans would really remember.

And, the small amount of money needed to be invested in these places wouldn’t be wasted but would go on benefitting those communities. From what I can gather, only a small amount of that is happening.

We seem to be overlooking the obvious and it took a Welsh TV crew to point it out.


Solidarity Forever

Posted by on April 27th, 2010

This post is the first in a series (I hope) of updates on the progress of my horse, the aptly named “Solidarity,” who first entered Labour Party folklore when he won a race during the Mt Albert by-election campaign.

At the time, we were all stuck in Parliament on a Saturday debating the super city legislation under urgency. For a bit of light relief I convinced a number of my colleagues to put $5 each into a group bet on Solidarity. The proceeds from our well-timed winning bet were donated to the Labour campiagn in Mt Albert and David Shearer subsequently bolted in.

I put it all down to the the great “karma” Solidarity generated when he “bolted in” that day at Te Rapa.

Anyway, Soli kicked off his 2010 Melbourne Cup campaign (he didn’t make it in 08 or 09 but this could be his BIG year) at Tauranga on Saturday and he nearly won!

He came in second and was beaten by a short neck (that’s the margin, not the name of the horse).

But here’s the exciting bit – this race was all wrong for him.  It was run on a hard track over 1400m. To date, he’s been at his best on a soft track over 2100m.

Did I mention what a great name he has?


Standard evidence on Lee’s lies

Posted by on December 6th, 2009

The Standard has new material which shows that Melissa Lee lied even more than we knew earlier. Will be interesting to see if her mentor John Key continues to back her or whether he has the backbone to sack her.

I bet he will do neither but will be relaxed as he does.

Nats Auckland list might have a winnable spot with Worth gone, Blue, Mapp and now probably Lee going.

And isn’t it a pity that Tim Ellis is banned. Watching him trying to defend this one would have been entertaining.


Key lies in the house

Posted by on October 17th, 2009

Thanks to The Standard for reminding me of one of Key’s lies in the House this week. He said:-

“Maybe that reflects badly on NZ On Air, which thinks that the way that it should respond to these things is by leaking them to the Labour Party, without having the courtesy of sending the letter in the first place to Melissa Lee.”

I was one of the Labour people to whom the letter was sent.  I didn’t give it to the media. It came with material, partly of a personal nature, from within Melissa Lee’s company. It included  information that would not be available to NZ on Air.

In normal circumstances I would refer the matter to the Speaker but he has now repeatedly ruled that Minister’s obligation to tell the truth finishes with their primary answer and does not apply to supplementary answers.

At least Lee only took three months to agree to pay back the money received as a result of false declarations over several years – English has not yet agreed to repay over a decade of money received on the basis he resided in Dipton.


No leeway and utu

Posted by on October 13th, 2009

The Nats are facing not one but two unfolding horror dramas in the broadcasting portfolio of Jonathan Coleman.

The Mt Albert Maestro was most uncomfortable with questions today about breaches of contract between Melissa Lee’s production company and NZ on Air. Might that discomfort reflect the fact that although Lee is saying the issue was a “total surprise’”,  my understanding is she was engaged in rather concerned conversations with NZ on Air a month ago..

Meanwhile,  having said three weeks ago that Kiwis could now kiss goodbye to seeing major sports events  on free-to-air television, Coleman’s had his hand twisted up his back to fund TVNZ and TV3′s bid against Maori Television for the Rugby World Cup rights. Why, you might ask, are two government agencies now bidding against each other? Simple. The government fears that voters in election year may be  offended by part Maori commentary.

Pita Sharples could be forgiven for  plotting utu after his mana was today so trampled. Remember he was apologising to J Key just a few days ago for not having alerted Cabinet to his approval of Maori Development Ministry money for MTS bid for RWC rights. Sharples said it was because he was a new, junior Minister; now he is being brutually shown just how junior he is.


Mt Albert Quick Analysis

Posted by on June 15th, 2009

How did it all go so wrong for the Nats. Their pollster David Farrar was calling the possibility of a narrow win for the Nats just before the selections. So what happened.

  1. Key forced an outsider on the local activists.
  2. Their local organisation was never that good but it wasn’t involved in the campaign as it had been for the general election. You can’t win if your few activists don’t vote for you.
  3. Lee started making mistakes right from the start.
  4. She wasn’t well supported. Jonathan Coleman doesn’t have the political experience or the street smarts to mind a candidate on a daily basis.
  5. Coleman gave up on Lee
  6. Key gave up on Lee.
  7. The Nats tried to turn it into a referendum on Goff – and then got hammered.
  8. We got a very good candidate – and the others who put their names in worked hard for David.
  9. The organisation worked well – better and better as the campaign went on.
  10. There was an amazing number of young people involved (say under 30 or 25) mainly from Auckland Uni and AUT including a minibus load who came up from Wgtn for the week  before the event. That experience and the willingness of electorates to toss a few hundies at the minibus bodes well for the future.
  11. ICT usage hit new high.
  12. Key’s mishandling of motorway issue.
  13. Key’s handing the supercity issue to Hide.
  14. The budget – a bit of a slow burner but there is bitterness at the lies told about tax cuts in December and late in the campaign more awareness of the cuts – some of which have gone down badly including those for gifted kids and night classes both areas valued by Nat supporters.

But remember it was just a by-election, great result but don’t read too much into it. Key did badly but he might learn from it.


Key ducks for cover

Posted by on June 14th, 2009

I was impressed to see that Melissa Lee did the gracious thing last night and went to the Labour Party’s temporary HQ in Mt Albert to congratulate David Shearer on his win. It was clearly a tough night for her but she handled herself with humility. The past few weeks can’t have been easy, given that the National Party seemed to effectively cut her adrift when things started to go wrong. It was telling that the only Minister present with her last night was Jonathan Coleman, who several TV commentators remarked “nobody has ever heard of”.

Where was John Key? He picked the date for the by-election, he picked National’s candidate and yet as the results came in, he was nowhere to be seen. Could it be that our PM only likes to be associated with things that are happy, shiny and new? There seems to be a clear trend emerging that when something gets tough, John Key just walks away and washes his hands of it.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I tend to admire people who front up and show some humility in the face of defeat. Key is the National Party Leader – he should have stood beside his candidate and accepted his share of the blame. I think Melissa Lee would be right to feel she was hung out to dry last night.


What’s that sucking sound?

Posted by on June 12th, 2009

Here’s another angle on the super city issue that hasn’t had any airtime in the public debate so far:  hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic output will be sucked out of Auckland’s peripheral cities.

Let me stress again that Labour is not campaigning against the super city per se. But one of the problems with the Government’s handling of the super city is their failure to front up and explain the costs of the project.  They’ve been clear that Auckland ratepayers will pick up the tab for the transition but much less forthcoming about what the transition will cost. So I commissioned an economist to come up with some numbers by re-modelling the Royal Commission’s numbers based on the Government’s preferred super city model. That research found that ratepayers will pay up to $750 each for the transition costs.   I also found that ratepayers in Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore will also face a hike in their water rates due to the imposition of volumetric pricing – that’s an extra $700 a year for a four-person family.

But these figures are dwarfed by the likely economic impact of the super city on the peripheral cities of Manukau, Franklin, Rodney, Waitakere and North Shore.  University of Auckland public economics lecturer Rhema Vaithianathan has used the Royal Commission’s modelling and adapted it to reflect the changes the Government plans to impose, to determine the economic impacts on the cities and districts outside of Auckland City. The Government’s plans will result in a massive centralisation of resources within Auckland City and the research shows how detrimental this will be to the other cities and districts economically and in terms of jobs.

Dr Vaithianathan’s work calculates:

Rodney: annual regional GDP falls by up to $74 million and 270 job losses
Waitakere: annual regional GDP falls by up to $139m, over 680 job losses
Manukau: annual regional GDP falls by up to $189m, 702 job losses
Franklin: annual regional GDP falls by up to $41m, 113 job losses
North Shore: annual regional GDP falls by up to $162m, 658 job losses

The negative economic impact is likely to be even greater than this analysis shows, as it is also likely that council contracts that currently go to small local businesses will be lost. These contracts will be centralised and will probably go to larger firms which can operate across the entire region.

I think the Government hasn’t been upfront about this, but Aucklanders deserve to know how the changes will affect them and their communities. Labour has consistently supported the idea of a unitary council but, like the Royal Commission, supports a model which gives local councils the powers and resources to deal effectively with local issues. This would lead to less centralisation than the Government model, fewer lost jobs outside of Auckland City and less loss of spending in local communities.

* Dr Rhema Vaithianathan is a member of the Labour Party.


Melissa in Disabled Park?

Posted by on June 11th, 2009

Just stupid.  Can two days pass without her cocking up?

Remember she is John Key’s handpicked candidate.

Both lack judgement.

There has now been an explanation that the car was legally parked and that Lee was just making a phone call. So post withdrawn or whatever kawa is.


Regulation in NZ

Posted by on May 26th, 2009

Cactus Kate is generally not my cup of tea. This is however worth a read.


Lee investigation amateur whitewash

Posted by on May 26th, 2009

NZ on Air claim to have investigated Melissa Lee. There are a few unanswered questions:-

  1. Did they interview the staff member who made the allegations especially in relation to Lee’s standover approach during the editing of the election special?
  2. Did they establish how many staff members were required to work on the National Party video?
  3. Did they interview those staff members?
  4. Did they establish whether the staff members worked during paid hours or outside of that time as volunteers?
  5. Did they establish who owned the copyright to the stock footage used in the video?
  6. Why was it not made clear that Lee’s company relied completely on taxpayer funding – the company had no other funding source?

Cock-up or Machiavelli @ Work

Posted by on May 24th, 2009

I’ve been reflecting on the last couple of weeks in politics – Melissa Lee, Christine Rankin especially and wondering if it is possible for a government in New Zealand to use up so much political capital accidently or whether there is a possibility of some sort of weird plan.

We have the budget coming up this week. It is an enormous opportunity for the government. For the first time since 1984, when our diplomats had been using post credit cards to draw down foreign denominated loans,there are no rules.  Key and English have a blank canvas and enough political credit given the scale of their win and the economic crisis to do almost anything.

What we don’t know is whether they have the guts to invest some of their massive political capital in the sort of change that could ensure not only they win the next election but also become the natural party of government for the next couple of decades.

But they have to be bold. They have to have real vision. They won’t do it with a few places for tourists to ride bikes and other changes at the margin. Every now and again I see glimpses of that from Key – but this is the test. There won’t be another budget with such an opportunity.

I write this safe in the knowledge that the budget is in bed. Nothing I write can change it.

And more importantly that is the case for the government as well. And what I can’t work out is whether their massive and extraordinarily highly paid political pr team has for the last three weeks been focusing on a massive effort to sell a radical budget, whether Lee and Rankin are crude old fashioned deliberate diversions or whether the old “if in doubt its a cock-up” theory prevails.

John Key chose Melissa Lee. I could never understand why. Her maiden speech was intellectually incoherant – it was an enormous untaken opportunity. It was a sign of lack of political savvy. She was a shiny star but with no substance. A real contrast with just about all of the Labour maiden speeches and several of her National colleagues.

Mt Albert was the wrong electorate to use her Korean ethnicity as an electoral plus. It was a selection certain to cause local upset.

And she has performed in a way that was predictable. I don’t need to catelogue her mistakes but not many people who have watched her in parliament are surprised.

So why did John Key chose her?

Similarly with Christine Rankin. The Cabinet was divided. McCully has made it clear to Trans tasman he was away. John Key ended up backing Bennett against all her more experienced colleagues. It was a decision that didn’t make sense.  National owed Rankin nothing. No one voted National because she appeared at their rallies. In fact the reverse could be true. Her support was as valuable as that given by Cardinal Tamaki to English and the Brethren to Brash.

Joyce appears to be running the government pr machine these days. He is good. We saw that through they way he built the Nats from their 2002 train wreck.

So what is he up to?  Maybe the budget is massive. Maybe they took more risks than they intended and the last couple of weeks have been a bit of insurance so Lee and Bennett can take the blame if the budget doesn’t work?

Whatever the future of the government and of John Key could well be at stake.


Hone Rehabilitated

Posted by on May 20th, 2009

John Carter is emerging as the new Mr Fixit for the National Party. Fresh from saving Gerry Brownlee’s bacon he has now been assigned to mind Melissa Lee. An even bigger task.

As someone whose career has had some ups and downs myself it is great to see.

John was nearly dropped as a candidate in 1996 after his Hone phone call with John Banks in 1995. Last year he was, along with Williamson and Worth told that it was likely that he would be pushed to make way for the younger talent in Key’s reshuffle later this year.

Now it is likely that not only will he make Cabinet but he will lead the House from the front bench. Just goes to show there is room for a battler even in the Nats. Street savvey is just as important as the ability to flit from cloud to cloud.


End of NZ First?

Posted by on May 19th, 2009

There is no NZ First candidate in Mt Albert. The poor old chemist won’t have anyone to vote for. Even Future United is running Judy Turner from Whakatane.  Really is turning into a classic two horse FPP race. Voters understand that a vote for Norman might let Lee win. It will either be Shearer or Lee and the more the voters see of them the better Shearer looks.

Is this a sign NZ First has died?


Where are they?

Posted by on May 15th, 2009

We’ve now been debating the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill since about 4pm on Wednesday. Interesting to note that none of the wannabe Mt Albert MPs have had anything to say on the Bill. I’ve sat through most of the debate and haven’t heard a peep from Melissa Lee, John Boscawen or Russell Norman. These guys are already MPs, so they have the right to speak and vote on these proposals which will have a significant impact on the electorate that they want to represent. Why should the voters of Mt Albert elect an MP who isn’t interested in defending their interests?


Cracks showing

Posted by on May 15th, 2009

There’s been a lot written on Melissa Lee’s week from hell and the Chrisitne Rankin appointment but worthy of more investigation is how National left their star Mt Albert candidate and their fresh Westie Minister like fish flopping about on the rocks all week.

I’ve taken a few risks over my political life and every now and again got into trouble – sometimes big and sometimes not – sometimes public and sometimes not – sometimes fair and sometimes not.

But there was always a team that got around me. There was generally public support and more importantly support privately and personally. No matter how grumpy Helen, Michael, H2 or even Lange were with me they always ended our full and frank discussions with how to move forward together.

I suppose it is a bit like a sports team. When someone cocks up the measure of the strength of the team is the abilty to rally around support the individual and move move forward together. When they are abandoned then the team not just the individual is in trouble. The exception is when the indivdual is just cut loose – or dropped from the team. But that has to be public and clinical.

Remember, Melissa Lee was handpicked by Prime Minister John Key to stand in Mt Albert and don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, National harbour real ambitions of winning Mt Albert, Helen Clark’s former stronghold. At least they did until this week.

First up was a failure to prepare Lee for her appearance on TVNZ’s Q+A where she took the wrong tone and approach. She attacked Labour’s plans for a tunnel without having a view of her own and followed it up by continually interupting David Shearer. She also had a dig at David’s love of surfing. No one told her an announcement on the Waterview tunnel was just days away. Surely that would have been a nugget for her to use. Curious when part of her platform was that as a sitting MP she had the ear of government.

Come Monday, and still no one had bothered to let Lee know there was an announcement just 24 hours away so Lee declared she wanted a motorway bulldozed through Mt Albert. This forced Key to tell New Zealand his rising star was out of the loop on the decision. Strange.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Stephen Joyce announced the amount the Nats were prepared to provide for the project. This killed the tunnel stone dead. When asked if he had briefed Lee on developments, Joyce replied “not yet”. This simply reinforced the impression she was out of the loop. Campbell Live then revealed concerns about Melissa Lee’s actions as a journalist before the last election including the allegation that taxpayer-funded staff and equipment were used to help produce a National campaign video, which doesn’t seem to be accounted for as an election expense returns.

By Wednesday, and the clanger of all clangers. Where was National’s support for her? Was anyone helping work out a legitimate line for her to use in what was always going to be a feisty meeting about Waterview? Instead, she was left exposed and under pressure, and we all know where that got her.

Along rolls Thursday morning, and with the fall out the only course of action was to apologise and shut the story down. Unfortunately, no one from National told Lee that before she went on radio to defend her comments, explain them, and kind of apologise but not really. Head office didn’t get an apology out of her until mid-afternoon. Far too late. By then though, the 9th floor spin doctors are running a mile from her campaign with a “nothing to do with us” line.

Now it’s Friday, and there’s spin that she’s struggled because she’s not used to campaigning, that by-elections are pressured environments, and that she hasn’t stood for an electorate seat before. Hang on, Key and National knew all about this when they pushed aside the loyal former candidate Ravi Musuku for Lee and quietly talked up her chances. Key has to take responsibility for a) choosing her and b) failing to support her properly. This is a serious gaffe.

Then there is the Christine Rankin lead ballon. Paula Bennett was warned at cabinet committee by several experienced colleagues that the proposal was a mistake but in this case Key backed her on the basis of incomplete information. Again now there is no one in the big team of very highly paid taxpayer funded press secretaries who is prepared back Bennett’s judgement or the process she followed.

In fact it is worse because at least one Minister has made their opposition clear and leaked that Turia sat mum while it went through the cabinet committee.

No wonder Key was so keen to call a press conference on his telephone call with Obama. But then the dopey twit accused me of giving TV3 the National Party Asian video produced by Melissa Lee. I first saw it on TV3 early this week. I presume they got it from YouTube. Thats where the Nats posted it. For a supposed young technosavey bright new PM the cracks are showing.


What others are saying

Posted by on May 14th, 2009

I can remember some bad weeks in government and might blog in morning about this week but thought others would like to share the view of some of our most experienced journalists:

Colin Espiner, Political Editor, the Press:

This is, without a doubt, National’s worst week in government. And it’s only Thursday. [link]

Duncan Garner, Political Editor TV3:

Melissa Lee has lost the Mt Albert by-election. She has been a walking, talking disaster all week. [link]

Audrey Young, Political Editor, New Zealand Herald:

Dear oh dear oh dear. Can things get any worse for National this week? There have been so many cock-ups it’s hard to know where to start. [link]

Tim Watkins, TVNZ Q+A producer:

A week that began badly has only gotten worse. [link]


Gallery Gossip Lee No Show

Posted by on May 14th, 2009

I hear from the gallery that Melissa Lee on John Key’s instructions is no longer giving interviews. We will see on TV tonight if the gossip is true. Four days is a long time in politics – she has gone from wonderwoman to someone whose list placing will drop next election.


The Melissa Key Guide to Crime Busting

Posted by on May 14th, 2009
  1. Build a motorway – the more lanes the better.
  2. Direct all criminals (from areas you want to insult) to travel on the motorway preferably with signs on their vehicles saying “CRIM-IN-TRANST” to help Police identify them.
  3. Chose an electorate as far away as possible from the place you want to win as the destination for the mobile crims.
  4. Have all off-ramps removed to ensure a smooth flow of crims to chosen destination.
  5. Dedicate one lane as an expressway for crims who own cars.
  6. Dedicate one lane for a busway for crims who don’t have cars or haven’t stolen one yet.
  7. Increase public transport concessions for crims who are prepared to travel during off peak times to carry out their crimes.
  8. Encourage car-pooling of crims to cut down congestion and reduce the carbon footprint.
  9. Build motorways which cut through communities removing hundreds of houses thereby reducing the number of homes that can be burgled.
  10. Get a TV production company to make a video of your success in reducing crime.
  11. Avoid the PM at all costs because although you were once his “chosen candidate” he now thinks your crime busting ideas are silly.
  12. Avoid the good people of South Auckland you have labelled as crims.

Cynical manipulation by National

Posted by on May 14th, 2009

Yesterday the government announced the preferred route for the completion of the Western Ring Route, most commonly known as the Waterview connection. This is a very significant decision that involves billions of dollars of taxpayer money and will have a significant impact on the Waterview community, which also happens to be in the Mt Albert electorate.

Labour sought to debate the announcement using a provision of the Standing Orders that allows for an Urgent Debate on a matter of public importance. Applications for an Urgent Debate have to be lodged with the Speaker by 2pm. The Speaker rules on the application following Question Time.

Labour lodged an application knowing that the government was due to make the announcement that afternoon. The Speaker ruled the request out on the basis that no announcement had been made by the end of Question Time. As soon as he resumed his seat, the government released the announcement.

This is a cynical manipulation of the parliamentary process to avoid scrutiny and debate. One can only conclude that the government wanted to avoid the debate for two reasons. First, they know that the decision to build the motorway overland rather than through a tunnel will be very unpopular in Mt Albert. Second, they want to ram through their Auckland Super City plans under Urgency so didn’t want anything to delay that. Yesterday was a sad day for democracy.