The Egonomist on local government changes

My friends at the excellent podcast, The Egonomist, covered the subject of local government reform in their latest episode. It covers the subject well, and is well worth a listen. The clip in question is here. You should also check out their website, and subscribe on iTunes.

And if you really care, make sure you make a submission on the bill. Annette King has setup a submission guide, which can just take a few seconds. So you really have no excuse…

Down with the kids?

This just in from Christchurch.

The right-wing local government ticket, “Independent Citizens” have undertaken a bold new re-branding exercise to ensure they are relevant to the youth of the city.

Ladies and gentlemen… I give you… iCitz!


If you live in the Riccarton-Wigram ward, then this alone should be reason to vote for Natalie Bryden, the People’s Choice-Labour candidate for the current local board by-election. Get out there and vote!

“Community campaigning is a model for the future”

An Australian friend was kind enough to send me a link to an excellent new progressive blog from over the ditch, Chifley’s Hill. I’ve skim read the articles that are there, and there is lots of great material to sink your teeth into.

One article in particular grabbed, my attention, “Community Campaigning is a model for the future“. This is a position I’ve also been advocating, and I’m surprised that there isn’t more mention of it in New Zealand Labour’s Organisational Review – I intend to make a submission to that effect.

Take a read of the full article, but here is the main point…

The recommendations of the National Review, the centrepiece of this period of collective introspection, appeared to disappear into the ether on the floor of National Conference. Regardless, it’s worth thinking about some of the practical things that party units and rank-and-file members can do to help improve our party.

One thing we as progressive party members should at least consider is community campaigning and providing our membership with the tools to push Labor causes in their own neighbourhoods, networks and workplaces.

The primary benefit of community campaigning is the most mundane, and one of the most persuasive. Community campaigning works. Recent political history demonstrates that those political organizations that are able to mobilize their membership and supporters to engage with the community in a direct and practical way are some of the most electorally successful. This is true of the unions campaign in 2007, the Obama campaign in 2008 and the Tea Party’s 2010 push in the US midterm elections.

The success is more than anecdotal. Marketing experts have known for years that a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance is a powerful factor that can have an impact on an individual’s choices that rivals the traditional media.

Guest post: Chris Trotter doesn’t like modern social democracy

This is a guest post by Josie Pagani.
In replying to my criticism of his post, Chris Trotter reveals he doesn’t like modern social democracy.

He’s entitled to be disappointed by every social democratic party in every developed liberal democracy if he wants – but he shouldn’t pretend that they are all selling out, or abandoning their principles.

He says talk of “hard work and personal betterment” is the language of Labour’s opponents. In this he is wrong. Since it was formed Labour has fought for the right of working people to have the same opportunities as someone born into money or privilege.

Here’s Julia Gillard:

It is periodically fashionable for there to be outbreaks of existential angst in the Labor Party where the cry goes up ‘we don’t know what we stand for’. Even if Labor isn’t raising the cry, media commentators raise it for us with never ending predictions of our imminent demise. Let me say to you tonight, I am deeply intolerant of this bunkum. I am absolutely clear what Labor stands for, what we aspire to achieve, what our culture is and our role as a party of government. The historic mission of our political party is to ensure the fair distribution of opportunity. From the moment of our inception our mission has been to enable the son of the labourer, the daughter of the cleaner, to have access to the same opportunities in life as the son of the millionaire, the daughter of the lawyer. Creating opportunity and enabling social mobility has required different policies in every age. We have moved beyond the days of big government and big welfare, to opportunity through education and inclusion through participation. But at every stage in our history fair access to opportunity has been our historic mission.

This is the tradition Labour in New Zealand today fits easily into. Trotter implies Gillard is another great disappointment. Every social democrat leader to him is a disappointment. Schroeder, Obama. He even slags off Neil Kinnock as a modernising sell-out.

Well I saw the ferret faced sneers of too many people who said that about Kinnock, and they did more than Murdoch ever did to elect Margaret Thatcher.

(Apologies to Nick Cohen)

If every social democratic government in modern liberal democracy has been a disappointment to him, then that suggests his problem is with modern social democracy, not with its practitioners.

“The British Labour Party wasn’t rendered unelectable by holding fast to its founding principles, it was kept out of office by the deliberate defection of its right-wing MPs,” he claims.


I was there, at party conferences, on picket lines at the coal mines, and Wapping, and branch meetings with Sinn Fein, Arthur Scargill and Ken Livingstone. Someone who had never left NZ at the time should be careful about condescendingly providing a “short historical and psephological lesson for Josie.”

It wasn’t just Militant – it was an entire school of Trotter-like groups who preferred dogma to actually governing for working people. One individual at a conference assured me an election defeat was a good thing because the more working people suffered, the more likely it was that they would rise up and revolt, bringing in the Socialist utopia.

I’ve been suspicious of anyone on the left or the right who talks about utopia ever since.

If he thinks David Owen and Shirley Williams were the reason Labour was kept out of power, then he knows too little of what happened. The counterfactual is not that Labour plus SDP would have beaten the Tories; it would be more accurate to add up the Tories plus SDP to see where Chris Trotter’s wishfulness gets you.

He might not like the kind of social democracy that the Labour party stands for, but he doesn’t get to dismiss it as ‘National-lite’ just because he doesn’t agree with it, nor to hound every modern social democrat as a Rogernome heretic in the wings, waiting to pounce.

Good trends

As you may have noticed, Labour have been doing rather well in recent polls. Tony Milne has written a useful piece pointing out the trend that is emerging, which he has since updated to cover last week’s One News poll, and this evening’s 3 News poll.

(Side point: tonight’s poll has National on 45.8% and John Key’s personal popularity plunging to 40.5% – not good for Mr Key)

Of course, I’m quite satisfied with how this trend is emerging. There is one minor issue though which hasn’t had much (if any?) coverage.

Both Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are on record saying that they won’t contest the next election. Fair enough, and all the best to them.

This does however create problems for pollsters who traditionally calculate how many seats there would be in Parliament by assuming the number of electorate seats each party holds will stay static, and then extrapolating their poll results out for the party vote.

In a situation where two electorate MPs are going to retire, this does create an interesting situation.

Being the partisan hack I am, I re-ran the numbers from tonight’s poll, using the scenario whereby Turia and Sharples retire in 2014 and Labour retakes those electorate seats. I realise that is a very subjective assumption, and might be something I write about in future, and I certainly hope Morgan Godfery writes about.

Anyway. Here are the numbers according to tonight’s 3 News poll:

Party Poll % Electorate Seats Total Seats
ACT 0.5 1 1
Greens 14.4 0 18
Labour 33.2 22 42
Mana 0.3 1 1
Maori 1.4 3 3
National 45.8 42 57
United Future 0 1 1

As Duncan Garner pointed out and David Farrar was happy to re-iterate, on these numbers, the Maori Party would have the balance of power. National + ACT + UF + Maori would have 63 seats (the exact number needed to govern in a 123 seat Parliament), on the other side, Labour + Greens + Maori would also have 63 seats, and they could possibly also get Hone on side. We could speculate until the cows come home who would get to form the government, but lets take another look, assuming that Labour pick up Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru.

Party Poll % Electorate Seats Total Seats
ACT 0.5 1 1
Greens 14.4 0 18
Labour 33.2 24 42
Mana 0.3 1 1
Maori 1.4 1 2
National 45.8 42 57
United Future 0 1 1

With the Maori Party reduced to one electorate seat, their 1.4% of the party vote is just enough for them to bring in a list MP (I’d assume that Te Ururoa Flavell would be joined by Rahui Katene). Labour’s total number of seats of course does not change, but the size of Parliament reduces by one seat, meaning you could pass a budget with 62 votes rather than 63.

This dramatically changes things. National + ACT + UF + Maori would now only muster 61 seats, and simply would not be able to form a government. Labour + Green + Maori would have their requisite 62 seats, and as before could take that to 63.

It does show quite clearly just how close things are at the moment. If National lose just a few more percentage points to Labour, then John Key would have absolutely no way of forming a government.

One final thing: never write Winston off.

Income inequality can be seen from space

Great article over at Boing Boing. Income inequality can be seen from space…

How? It’s surprisingly simple. Turns out, demand for trees in neighborhoods behaves a lot like a luxury item, as opposed to a basic necessity.

Tim De Chant at The Per Square Mile blog wrote about research on this a couple of weeks ago. Then, he went out and found examples, using images from Google Earth.

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover.

…They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent. That’s a pretty tight correlation. The researchers reason that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees. On the public side, cities with larger tax bases can afford to plant and maintain more trees.