Archive for April, 2015

Hurrah lets have another holiday..

Did anyone else feel a bit lost and confused about the Mondayisation of Anzac day? We have just had our long Easter break, got the autumn jobs done around the house and now we have another long weekend right behind it. Well why not? if its paid, why not indeed? Except, for many people, the workplace is not just a place of arduous toil, it is very much part of our social connection, our comfortable routine.  So taking another random, unmemorable, wintry holiday probably means just another day of dragging the family through the mall to fill in a couple of hours or watching some dvd while waiting to get back to their routine.

But this time it did not just a little bit holidayed out, this one also has a bit of a weird feel. We commemorated Anzac Day on Anzac Day. So what is this Mondayisation all about? Just keep the Anzac theme going for another day? 

This Mondayisation was the brainchild of David Clarke and Grant Robertson of the Labour Party.  The Labour Party no doubt presumed that they would be heroes of the smoko room for delivering another holiday. “Hurrah for another holiday.” But the thrashing they got at the last election showed that ‘just another holiday’ was no vote winner.

At the time of the passing of the law 61:60, Labour Party Deputy leader Grant Robertson mouthed the rhetoric. He said it was a triumph for Labour. It was about giving Kiwi workers a fair go. But no-one is buying that, not even in the smoko room. Despite the rhetoric, Mondayisation makes no sense; it has no base in logic. If you are free to celebrate Anzac day on the day and yet still transfer the paid day off work, then it is undeniable that it is all about a day off work.  Mondayisation means that the sacrifice of our soldiers over the decades is no more than an excuse to get another day off work on full pay. To get another one over on ‘the man.’

But despite the patronising attitude of David Clarke and Grant Robertson, the average worker in the average lunchroom does understand the economics that holidays cost, and eventually, workers pay. In some jobs the workload just does not go away and the employee has to work harder and faster to catch-up. In some there is a quantifiable loss of productivity. In all situations there is an increased cost; our tax-paid hospitals and schools will incur significantly extra costs that will come back to us the tax-payers. But we know that whether it is the employer or the taxman, one way or another, sooner or later, the extra wage costs or loss of productivity costs will be felt in the nett wage packets of the employees. This we know. This knowledge will have been expressed in many lunchrooms around the country on Tuesday 28th April.

So you have to ask the basic question, has the Labour Party lost the smoko room? Prior to 2013, Anzac day was one of our uncompromised commemorative days. Anzac Day was sacrosanct. It remembered Kiwis who had made the sacrifices, above and beyond the call of national interest, to help bring stability to our world.

If Labour had asked those Kiwis who take Anzac day seriously, and that number grows each year, they would have heard to a man, woman or child, that this is a ultimately day of respect. If it was a paid holiday or if they had to take a day’s leave or an unpaid day to commemorate, this is about respect and they would be proud to make their own sacrifice on this day to honour our soldiers; our relatives. And although proud Kiwis would celebrate the day whether or not it was a paid holiday, employers have never begrudged that Anzac day is a paid holiday. But it makes no logical sense to say that if Anzac Day falls on a weekend when many would normally have had the day free anyway to celebrate, they can then celebrate it twice, on the actual day and again on the Monday.

Anzac Day is the 25th April. Not the 26th, not the 27th; it is the 25th!  End of story.

Labour’s Mondayisation Bill  undermines the nobility of Anzac Day. If Labour want to do some good for the working man or woman in NZ, let them take up the tougher battle; let them meet the  challenge of gaining higher wages based on sustainable productivity and lower taxes. But maybe that is just too tough a challenge for the Labour theorists of Clarke and Robertson; men who have never had grease under their fingernails.

And so for what was little more than a political stunt, Labour have cheapened NZ’s most precious commemoration day. Unforgivable.

 

 

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of pony tails and other global tragedies

If there is one thing that makes me cringe it is the sheer desperation of our journalists to be relevant in the world. Whatever big news story occurs around the world, our journalists seem fixated on finding a ‘New Zealand connection’, no matter how obscure, so that we can also wring our hands and share our grief or claim our achievements on an international stage. So that we too (or at least the name on the byline) can be internationally relevant. Yes any New Zealand connection has local relevance, but it is one of many parts of the big story; we should never try to make it all about us because it just looks like we have a massive inferiority complex. That we are always desperate to photobomb someone else’s moment.

I do not feel an inferiority complex about being a New Zealander. I quite comfortably accept that we are historically a new country, that we have a very small population by international standards and that we are quite remote from most of the world. If I did not feel comfortable with that I should emigrate and join the larger world as so many other New Zealanders have done. I feel no ill-will to them, everyone should live where and how they feel most comfortable. But what makes me cringe are the hand-wringers who stay in NZ and just want to continually self-congratulate to the world that we ‘box above our weight’. Yes maybe we often do, but let others say that about us, and they do. When our athletes, businesspeople and others achieve international success, we do get international recognition. But self-promotion is just  embarrassing and tiring. And frankly it is unkiwi. To the outside world, if it is even noticed, it may be bemusing but no doubt also a little tiresome.

What we have not had in this country, that I can recall, is a decent political sex scandal. USA had Clinton, Italy had Berlusconi, France has Hollande; to say nothing of the dearth of celebrity sex scandals. But now at last our Prime Minister has been outed for tugging playfully on a waitresses pony tail, in a public cafe, which he regularly patronised with his wife. Familiarity and joking with staff being a regular part of the Key experience in this cafe. None of this is particularly eyebrow raising; certainly it is consistent with the informality that has made John Key one of the country’s more popular PMs.

However when he realised she had taken offence he apologised and presented her with wine by way of reinforcing the apology. But this particular waitress, in the words of her employer, ‘had very strong political views’ and so this woman of strong political views subsequently published an article on a left-wing blog site exposing the PM’s inappropriate, implied sexual, behaviour to the nation and the world. Again that is ok, that is what political opponents do to each other. Part of the political game. The PM needed to learn that he should check on political bias before being playful.

The mainstream media picked this story up and spent considerable resource in maximising exposure for the ‘scandal’ and that is when I started to cringe. Again! The local media then rejoiced in the recognition that a handful of other newspapers around the world picked up on their journalistic exposé

Really? From newspapers that regularly deal with their own quite significant sex scandals involving politicians, actors and socialites, did they really think this was a credible sex scandal? Or were they just a little bemused at little New Zealand once again hand-wringing over some insignificant, politically hyped-up incident in a public cafe and presenting it to the world in a way that says: “we share your shame with Clinton, Berlusconi and Hollande. We too have been rocked to the core by a major sex scandal. We are therefore internationally relevant.” Our journalists are even tagging it ‘Ponytailgate‘  through a delusional belief that this exposé ranks alongside Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate investigation. How totally embarrassing. Cringe.

I want to tell the world that is just our media, it is not us. This is not the view of the normal Kiwis who are generally happy with, and getting on with, their lives. We will deal with this issue locally, it is not worthy of sharing with the world. If we collectively think it is serious enough, we have an election to express our views; we are a democracy. But right now we do have more serious concerns. Our level of domestic violence is tragic. The level of class A drug abuse is frightening. The rising dollar making our exports more expensive in overseas markets which, combined with falling milk prices, will have significant impact on our economy over coming months. Meanwhile we are still trying to pay for the rebuilding of a city.

Can we please just put the “Maaahmmm…. John pulled my pony tail” whine into perspective?

Ironic Café Dunedin. Just being playful 🙂

 

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Dunedin Stadium

Rockin’ Rod Stewart created another successful event at the Dunedin Stadium. The people came to Dunedin in their thousands. I did not attend myself, but from all observations they enjoyed a weekend break; filled our motels and hotels, dined out at our cafes and restaurants, took the opportunity to shop up for winter and to top it off Rod apparently lived right up to their expectations.

Well mostly. Again there were a few niggles about the suitability of our venue for concerts. Sound issues still persist. Even up close apparently Rod’s microphone was completely dominated by the rest of the bands’ microphones. From halfway down the pitch right to the back seats the visibility of the performer is pretty well non-existent and those in the two main stands have to keep looking sideways to watch the performance. Lets face it, it is a rugby stadium not a concert venue.

To declare my bias, while I enjoy a great concert as much as the next person, rugby is my primary interest in the Stadium, but I know we do need to make this stadium about more than rugby. The whole community is paying for it and so the whole community needs to be getting enjoyment from it.

And to be fair, it was pre-sold as a multi purpose venue, not just a rugby venue. The ongoing costs and losses incurred still irritate many in our community and I guess that is because they feel disenfranchised. They have a point when we continually hear these niggles about poor viewing and poor sound simply making the Stadium not suitable as a concert venue. So, if the venue is not ideal for concert-goers why did we secure three top acts this year? Well just look at the numbers for the promoters. Around 25,000 at Rod Stewart in Dunedin. He then went onto Auckland playing at Vector Arena with a capacity of 12,000. He did two performances there to get the same crowd as Dunedin in one concert. Before Dunedin he was in Australia he played at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with a tiered seating capacity of 11,000 (plus additional standing capacity ) and even in Sydney, a city the size of the whole of NZ, he played at the Hope Estate outdoor amphitheatre in Hunter Valley with a maximum capacity of 20,000.

And our first mega concert at the Stadium, Elton John, flew in and out from Sydney to perform at Dunedin Stadium to a crowd of 35,500. But in Sydney he was performing at the Lyric Theatre which has a seating capacity of just 2,000. In 2012 Elton John opened the ‘state of the art’ Perth Arena to an audience of 15,000. It sold out and he did two performances. The Arena can hold over 50,000 for a sporting event, but as a true multi-purpose venue, the concert section of the arena, to ensure top quality sound, has a maximum capacity of 15,000.

With audiences of 30,000, Dunedin Stadium is certainly an attractive proposition for the promoters. But do we really have to compromise a concert experience to continually deliver those levels of numbers? The performer located at the end of the rugby pitch, 20,000 people viewing him from side-on progressively from a few metres away from the stage to over a hundred metres away, a few thousand seated progressively along a hundred + metre grass pitch and all at the same level, and Mitre 10 end stand which is well over 100 metres from the stage.

Dunedin always seems to have this ‘target’ of a 30,000+ audience which we seem to think we must deliver to get the acts here. We got there with Elton John, we will get there with Fleetwood Mac. But do we really need to make such a compromise in the concert experience to attract such acts to Dunedin when we compare the seating capacities of other venues they perform at in Auckland and Australia?

Imagine for example that we put the stage/ sound shell on the pitch facing the Speight’s Stand:

  • We have a seating capacity of 10,500 (similar to Auckland and Brisbane).
  • The performer is facing the audience.
  • The sound is directed straight to the audience.
  • The seating is tiered.
  • The proximity of the stand gives the audience a real intimacy with the performer.
  • Food and beverages are readily accessible at one of the hospitality lounges immediately behind the stand.

What a show that would be.

At $200 average per seat this is a revenue of over $2 million dollars for the night which is still not a bad night’s work. And if we can sell 20 or 30,000 seats then an extra show or two can be put on. Rod arrived in town on Thursday for the Saturday show. He could have easily put on a Friday/ Saturday performance.

Mega events are all well and good, but if you simply cannot deliver a mega experience then they  simply will not be sustainable. Add to the concert experience the other big niggle from this Rod Stewart concert, that many motels not only charged  premium rates in this low season period, but also put minimum stays of 2 and 3 nights, and people will soon be looking at the relative benefits of Auckland or Brisbane with more appropriately designed venues, more intimate experiences and more competitive accommodation.

I really think that if we want to make concert events a sustainable business for Dunedin, we need to think very carefully about the balance between audience numbers and experience delivery.

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Dunedin’s department of immigration

The mayor is delighted. In the year ended February 2015 Dunedin had a migration surplus of 659 people.

So, in the mayor’s eyes this justifies the endless strategic planning meetings and the tiresome trips around the globe all arranged to persuade people from all cultures that Dunedin is a wonderful city in which to live and work.

Well it makes a headline, I guess. But where is the substance? I would have thought that given the investment of Dunedin ratepayers’ resource to achieve sustainable economic growth, the mayor would have analysed the migration results in intricate detail before indulging in this self-congratulatory high-fiving off nothing more substantial than a headline.

The first important question to ask is: ‘was this migration surplus a result of:

a) more new immigrants choosing to come and live in Dunedin? or

b) more ex pats deciding to return to Dunedin (which is just recovering previous losses)? or 

c) fewer residents deciding to emigrate from Dunedin?”

if c) the reason is probably more a result of fewer job opportunities in Australia and exorbitant house prices in Auckland and Christchurch forcing people to just stay put.

In reality it probably is a combination of all three, but the proportions are very relevant and certainly something the mayor should have bothered to find out before launching another P.R. release.

Then there is the question of comparative context.

New Zealand as a whole had a nett migration surplus of 55,121 people. That means Dunedin’s share was just 1% of the national growth. That puts a bit of a dampener on the great news. With Dunedin being the 5th largest city in NZ you would expect to get a little more than 1% of the total surplus.

Further, this immigration ‘influx’ represented half a percent of the existing Dunedin population, again hardly Hi-5 material. And of the migration surplus in the Otago region, over half was from outside Dunedin. Central Otago, including the Lakes District experienced about the same growth as Dunedin (648) but that represented a 1.4% growth from their population base. And Waitaki had  growth of 125 which was 0.6% . So where were the special advantages of living in Dunedin? Central Otago and the Lakes district had a much stronger relative result than Dunedin and even Waitaki was slightly ahead of Dunedin.

So the mayor’s claims that a surplus nett migration of 659 people is a vindication of his mayoralty rings pretty hollow without any substantive data to clarify the headline.

Claims that Dunedin City Council has a strategy to make Dunedin a better place in which to setup a business certainly do not align with any comments I have heard from business people trying to get a business going in Dunedin. Dunedin City Council is still commonly talked about as a most obstructive and inflexible institution which appears to be actively discouraging new business.

And the only migration surplus we should be interested in is one that is driven by increased employment opportunities. There is absolutely no point in having more people here if that results in more people simply drawing their social welfare cheques each week.

So don’t tell us what a nett migration surplus is. That is irrelevant on its own. Tell us how much more is being exported from our city and region.Tell us how many more people are actively employed in productive work in our city and region. And if the mayor did not think that he should seek the answers to these questions before launching a self-congratulatory press release, is he the right person to be wearing the big red cape?

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who’s afraid of flying…

If you or any family member or close friend suffers from this phobia, you will understand how debilitating it is for them. Beyond a slight nervousness, true ‘fear of flying’ victims experience cold sweats as they board the plane (if the can even board the plane); they grip your arm like a tourniquet at the slightest aerial tremble; they search the crew’s eyes every time one passes to search for signs of concern; and breathe out with sheer relief at touchdown.

But even those who witness it regularly tend to list it with other common phobia: spiders, outdoors, caves etc. And, as with these other phobia, fear of flying has been traditionally categorised as an “irrational” fear. After all, “the odds of you being killed in a road accident on the way to the airport are much higher than in a plane crash, and you don’t worry about that drive. Do you? You silly billy”.

Then a few days ago the co-pilot of a German aircraft decided to lock his pilot out of the cockpit and send the plane with 150 souls on board crashing into the French Alps. This happened only eight months after Ukraine rebels shot a commercial plane, MH17 out of the sky killing all 283 on board which incident was only four months after the pilots of Malaysian Airlines MH370 changed the course of their flight and the 239 souls on board were never found.

I don’t have any facts to support this assumption, but I very much doubt that in the past year more than 670 motorists have died while driving to the airport.

Will these incidents reduce the numbers of people who fly? It is, after all a lot of people have been tragically and frighteningly killed in a relatively short time; and a lot more people are affected for life by these deaths. Even so these will probably not significantly reduce the number of people choosing to fly. Will they increase the number who suffer from ‘fear of flying?” Again, probably not significantly, although the ‘slightly nervous category may increase, temporarily unless there is another major incident soon.

And the reason for that is the same reason we jump into our cars each day despite the undeniable statistics of road accidents. Most humans who do not have a fear have, instead, a ‘delusion’. ‘It won’t happen to me.’ I have no idea where we get that confidence from, but it seems to be some inbuilt mechanism to ensure the world doesn’t just stop working because of an assortment of doubts and fears.

And in an analytical sense, there were millions of people in aeroplanes over the last year and so 672 dead was a very small percentage. To demonstrate graphically the percentage of incidents, have a look at this attached video.

Flights through Europe

If one or two of these beautifully coordinated little lights falls off the spectrum each year, is it really significant in the greater picture?

What this latest incident of mass murder in the French Alps will do is add another chapter to the security procedures manual. This will appease the nerves with an assurance that new procedures will prevent this incident happening again. The  increased costs of these new procedures will simply be passed onto the passengers and we will all carry on flying convinced that this could never happen to us.

But one thing I think we who do not fear flying should concede is that the words “irrational” and “phobia” should really be removed from the description of those who break into a cold sweat at the prospect of flying.

 

 

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