Archive for August, 2015

For whom the electoral basket waits….

I decided the shiny new stainless-steel knee needed to be taken through its paces and so I set off for the west harbour pathway on a beautiful, almost-Spring Saturday afternoon. What a pleasant experience it turned out to be. I was walking the track but walkers, joggers, family groups and cyclists were all very well-represented. All getting along on the same pathway safely and courteously.  I might yet be attracted to cycling, the jogging option is highly unlikely, stainless steel is less pliable than cartilage. One cyclist even gave his bell a little ring as he passed.

I differentiate this pathway from the ‘cycleway debate’ on two grounds. Firstly that this west harbour pathway is primarily a community recreational facility for all foot-powered users. And secondly because it is located on spare land adjacent to the busy roadway and railway tracks and does not try to put cyclists into an antagonistic situation with motorists on a potentially dangerous roadway intended primarily for motorists.

And so my hour-long experiment demonstrated that walkers, joggers and cyclists can all get along very well together on a shared pathway.

I noted in an ODT article, 20.8.15, from Councillor Calvert that 3 years ago the City Council first approached the NZTA for its recommendation on making the SH1 roadways safer for cyclists. Following that process the Council resolved, in May 2013, to agree to the recommended use of the eastern footpathway for cyclists. From my observations on Saturday, this seems a perfectly workable idea. Well done Council.

“But I like not this idea.” said Henny Penny.

“We like not this idea” said Cocky Locky, “bring us another idea.”

So plan B was brought which incurred the sacrifice of hundreds carparks along SH1 and the putting of a cycleway directly onto the busy roadway separated from the sixteen wheels of a truck and trailer by a cement ledge with little more protection for cyclists than a line of paint.

“I like that idea” said Henny Penny.

“We like that idea” said Cocky Locky.

“What about the motorists and the businesses and the hospital and the university who will then be deprived of essential carparks?” asked Cr Vandervis.

“Get out of my meeting” said Cocky Locky.

“Oh, Cocky, you are my strong white knight,” purred Henny.

So South Dunedin, stage one, is completed; at $6 million dollars it is quite a bit over the $4.5 million budget. And now starts stage 1b: undoing much of stage one. Ripping up the brand new ‘traffic calming’ islands; re-sealing roads to cover up confusing paint lines; two-way intersections that were changed to one way now being reverted to two-way.

“Well that’s turned out to be a bit of a lock-up, Henny. Buses and fire engines can’t get down streets; hardly anyone using the cycle lanes and the damned floods making it all look a bit pointless” said Cocky. “So what do we do now?”

“Blame someone else” said Henny Penny.

News break: ODT 24.08.15: Gene Ollerenshaw, the Council’s transportation group manager who oversaw the rolling out of the bungled South Dunedin network, resigns.

Ollerenshaw is conveniently well out-of-the-way on a 3 month family holiday in Europe at the time of resigning. No comment.

‘That should quieten down the rabble, Henny.” Said Cocky as he gazed contentedly over the window ledge, surveying his kingdom. “By the way, I wonder if that guillotine-like structure over there in the Octagon has resource consent?”

 

 

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Fun with flags

Its all fun and games until someone loses.

When designs for a new flag were called about 10,000 of us got our digital crayons out and had some fun. But now that the 10,000+ have become 40, it’s no longer any fun for the 10,000. Soon it will be 4 and then it will be ‘the one’ and the ranks of the ‘not having fun’ will be everyone except ‘the one’.

And even if ‘the one’ gets the final nod as a replacement flag, will ‘the one’ still be having fun after the party is over? Or will he/ she be like a one-test All Black boring everyone they meet and trying to score free drinks in bars and invites to dinner parties for decades to come? 

So how about the Government? Are they having fun through this process? They did, after all, put a lot of effort and money into it. A happy government is always a numbers game and I am not sure there is much numerically induced fun for the government, whatever the outcome.

When we choose the ‘one’ in our first referendum the majority, collectively, will still most probably have chosen one of the other three; then in the final selection against the status quo, it will again be a split vote. So if a new flag is chosen, the number of people who voted for something different from ‘the one’ along the way will be quite substantial. I wouldn’t count on too many free drinks if I were the designer of any new flag, nor too many votes generated from this exercise for National in the next election.

But if we stay with the existing flag then will be no one happy. The supporters of the status quo will bemoan the wasted money and effort, the supporters of change will bemoan that change did not happen. The government depends for its continued support on making people happy, so a ‘status quo’ decision would be really, really bad news for them going into the next election. If the dairy prices fail to rise, house prices fail to drop and the All Blacks lose the World Cup, the Rugby Championship Cup and the Bledisloe Cup before the 2017 election, then the flag might just be the thing that is draped over National’s electoral coffin. Just sayin’ is all, most certainly not wanting. If I was in National’s strategic planning department, I think I would have been opting for a flag referendum tied into the election which is when a distraction might be most needed and which could have provided the theme of an heroic advertising campaign for National to lead New Zealand to a brave new future. “Change our flag and everything will come right!”

But that’s all academic now; the decision will be made well in advance of the next election and if we are to spend $28 million on it, I may as well try to get my $7 worth of fun and make my own shortlist of four, in priority order which gives my #1 pick.

2166-kyle-lockwood-silver-fern-nz-flag-final-cr-1.png1: This effectively replaces the Union Jack with a fern, retaining the familiarity of the existing colour scheme and the southern cross. I think this is the one that will settle into the kiwi psyche most quickly. The Union Jack is symbolically no loss and the Brits won’t take offence. I don’t think Britain ever really wanted us, they just wanted Australia as a prison then found that Australia had a little brother that seemed to come with the deal. We were colonised in 1840 at the insistence of sequential governors of New South Wales and then given our independence back just 13 years later. Then in 1973 they told us to just bugger off with our lamb and butter as they preferred to shop at the local butcher and dairy.

Huihui-SNIP.PNG2. A Euro-blend of the red white and blue colour scheme with the Maori flag. Graphically quite appealing but it would take a lot more getting used to than #1 and would be a lot more challenging to get global recognition with what is very much an in-house design rather than one with existing international familiarity.

 

14125-flag33. If the only objection to the existing flag is the Union Jack, then just get rid of it and keep only what’s left. Good pragmatic thinking; but the four stars do just seem to me a little lost in all that blue. Still a simple, strong graphic with a sound logic.

 

 

4. I couldn’t find a 4th worth talking about.  So I didn’t.

After initially leaning towards the black colour scheme I changed my mind completely during the process. Colour is created by light and, technically, black is not a colour, it is the complete absence of light and colour and, when you think about it, just looks very sombre. It would suit a funeral march national anthem. Red, white and blue just has a much more joyful feel about it; trombones, trumpets, piano accordions and five string guitars

I would have liked a Kiwi logo version to choose from but that didn’t happen. They were probably nervous about what might have to happen if the European imported rats and stoats succeeded in bringing the Kiwi to extinction outside of fenced nature parks.

And finally I would choose #1 over the status quo; but if any of the other designs were chosen as ‘the one’ then I would pause for thought. My #2 would be a very brave move and  a long-term one; and I am not sure the design has that longevity. It is very much a 20th century Gordon Walters graphic. Choosing #3 would be to just get rid of the Union Jack at any cost but without any positive replacement, so that’s a really hard to sell unless we just really hate Britain; which I don’t. Actually I think their Union Jack flag design is the best on the planet, but if we decide that its time to cut the apron strings then so be it, but not until we actually have something to replace it.

But in the end, what does a flag really matter? As a great poet once wrote:

Earth

 

 

 

 

 

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How on earth did we get here?

European New Zealanders! How on earth did we get here? And why? This South Pacific region is the southern part of the Asian world.  The Aborigines arrived in Australia from South East Asia an impressive 40 – 50,000 years ago when the ice age climate meant seas were about 100-150 metres shallower than now and New Guinea and Tasmania were joined to the continent. The Aborigines were therefore able to island-hop from South East Asia to Australia.

New Zealand was, even then, very distant from Australia and so did not receive Homo sapiens occupation from this ancient southern migration. The original Maori immigrants actually arrived here comparatively recently, probably around 12-1300 AD, having travelled for an unknown period of centuries or millennia by an open sea route from China via Taiwan and Hawaii.

And here the Maori lived in a secluded, primitive, tribal existence for hundreds of years. It was not as if the Chinese lacked for the technology to follow this route en masse and totally dominate the South Pacific. In the very early 1400’s AD, 200 years before Abel Tasman sailed by and 300 years before Cook, a Chinese Admiral, Zheng He, was a far greater explorer than Magellan, Columbus, Tasman or Cook. Under the direction of the Yongle Emperor, Zheng He led seven armada from China throughout the Indian ocean. The biggest of his voyages included 300 ships with 30,000 sailors on board. That absolutely dwarfs Columbus’ Tasman’s or Cook’s efforts. But a change in the balance of political power in China resulted in the massive maritime exploration policy being stopped in 1433. The new rulers believed that the only important land was their own “Middle Kingdom” so why spend so much money sailing to the lands of filthy barbarians? And so the Maori lived quietly in Aotearoa, oblivious to these goings on in their Asian homeland.

But then, in the mid 18th century, scientists in Britain decided they desperately wanted to know the distance of earth from the sun. They worked out by some calculation that this measurement could be achieved by taking astronomical observations of the transition of Venus across the sun from different points around the globe; one of those points being the South Pacific. And so the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge had a chat to the Navy and asked them if they wouldn’t mind taking eminent astronomer Charles Green down to Tahiti to observe the 1769 transit of Venus. “No trouble at all, old boy,” said some crusty old admiral over a brandy in The Club. So Captain James Cook was given the job. But since going all that way, the navy thought they may as well have a bit of a nosey around while they are there. A few more passengers were added to paint what they found, collect fauna and draw maps and off they set. And so Cook visited Australia and New Zealand that Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, had discovered 120 years earlier in 1642 and had called Staten Landt, believing that it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America. In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. This was the period in history when the Dutch had taken the alpha-pirate mantle from the Spaniards & Portuguese. But the Dutch were capitalists and this visit was funded by the Dutch East India Company; they only invested in the expensive business of slaughtering natives when they saw an economic return. The Dutch East India Company, with its mercenaries, had already colonised Indonesia and were active in New Amsterdam (renamed New York by the British) but apparently neither New Zealand nor Australia cut it as prudent investments.

The 18th century saw Britain emerge as the global economic and imperial force, but Britain was also going through major social trauma. Industrialisation saw the large volumes of urban drift from the increasingly impoverished countryside. Overpopulation in the cities created major unemployment resulting in an increasing crime rate which threatened the governing upper and middle class citizens. Public hangings did little to deter crime since the criminals had no choice but to take the risk or starve. The Government saw another solution and that was to export its excess population from the lower classes on any minor criminal charge. On Cook’s return to old Blighty, Joseph Banks, who had been the botanist on the voyage, brought the good news that a perfect penal colony in Australia had been identified. While it seemed a good idea, it was an expensive option and so they pursued hanging for a few years later until the situation got so desperate that they bit the bullet and colonised Australia as a prison. In 1788 the first shipment of prisoners arrived at the newest declared British colony in Botany Bay. It may not have appealed to the merchants as an investment like India or America, but it looked like a jolly good place to put your unwanteds.

Following the colonisation of Australia, this South Pacific region started to attract whalers from around the world, America, France and Britain. Whalers raided the New Zealand coastline throughout the last quarter of the 18th century and well into the 19th century. After trading settlements began to establish here, the missionaries were not far behind. There is nothing quite like teaching a bunch of savages the missionary position to stir a missionary’s religious passions. The French established their own settlement on the Akaroa harbour and Bishop Pompelier arrived to save a few heathen souls.

But it was the British who made the call to colonise Aotearoa/ New Zealand, probably not wanting France to establish their own colony so close to Australia; never can trust the froggies, what? And also several Governors of New South Wales had taken political interest in New Zealand in support of the Australian traders dealing with Maoris. So finally a treaty was established with the Maori in 1840 and Aotearoa officially became a British colony under the Anglicised Dutch name, New Zealand. The rest is history. Circumstances in Britain such as the Irish potato famine, Scottish religious disharmony, high unemployment and the stratified class system brought, over the next century, 3 million  immigrants to establish New Zealand as a dominant British society as the Maori native population fell dramatically. The New zealand climate and geography was significantly more British that in Australia.

NZ EthnicityBut a hundred and fifty years later, give or take, we are starting to see both a resurgence of the Maori population, or in those declaring Maori ancestry, as well as a renewed interest from Asia. In the 2013 census, 12% of New Zealanders identified as Asian, an increase of 33% since 2006 and now surpassing the Pacific Islanders at 7% and only slightly behind Maori at 15%. Europeans still dominate at 74%, but look at the trends.

Equally interesting to the population trend is the median age of each group. Europeans median age is 41; Asians is 30; Maori 24 and Pacific Islanders 22.

Population dominance trend

Population dominance trend

Prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840, Australians and British citizens negotiated directly with Maori over land rights. When the Crown showed intent to annex New Zealand, an association of British investors tried in 1838 to get legislative backing from the British government to colonise New Zealand; their attempt failed. The Association was then dissolved and some of its members formed the New Zealand Company. This Company also failed to get Government backing  but decided anyway to proceed with its investment plans and sent an expedition led by Colonel William Wakefield to purchase land as the site for the first settlement.

Colonel Wakefield’s party reached Wellington Harbour in September 1839 and initiated negotiations with a number of Maori chiefs for land on both sides of Cook Strait. The Company claimed to have purchased 20 million acres of land and parcels of this land were being sold in London by this property speculation company before these negotiations were concluded.

So when the settlers arrived at Wellington Harbour on 22 January 1840, just four months after Wakefield, they found that the land  had not even been surveyed and the Maoris were disputing ownership of much of it. The property speculators of the New Zealand Company had been in a race against time to get in before the Crown formally took control over New Zealand which was done only two weeks later on February 6 1840 with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Initially New Zealand was seen only an extension of Australia to the British Crown. The commercial dealings with New Zealand were primarily between Australia and New Zealand. The British Crown only initially took an interest in annexing New Zealand because such product imported into either Australia or Britain was ‘foreign’ and therefore subject to duties which did not suit the merchants.

Investigations into the New Zealand Company’s claim to have purchased 20 million acres continued for several years, and only a small area was finally agreed as purchased; meanwhile, the disputed land purchases led to fighting and threats of fighting at each of the company’s settlements, Wellington, Wanganui, New Plymouth, and Nelson. But the New Zealand Company was given its charter from the Crown in 1841 to buy and sell land and subsequently Church associations were assisted to establish settlements in Dunedin and Christchurch.

But the initial colonisation of Aotearoa was founded on the very dodgy dealings of British property speculators which the British Crown has tried to sort out over the subsequent 175 years. Once the New Zealand Company had created such a political mess with the Maori, the Crown had to take the role of militarily protecting its British citizens and sorting the mess out. The mess is still not totally sorted out but the interbreeding has been to such an extent that Maori are battling in Court on behalf of one set of their families against the other set of their families.

Notably New Zealand was given its independence of government only thirteen years after the signing of the Treaty. In fact Britain took very little interest in New Zealand until the frozen meat technology in the 1880’s made it a good source of lamb and butter for its increasingly urbanised population. It really was only the shipping of frozen meat and butter that lifted New Zealand from a third world backwater to, eventually, a first world nation. But in 1973 Britain decided it no longer needed New Zealand as a farm any more as it had done  a deal within the European Community. So we had to source other buyers for our farm produce from Asian and Mid Eastern nations. China became a major customer and is now investing in the infrastructure to secure its source of food supply.

It is ironical that so many descendant beneficiaries of the British and Sydney-based land speculation of the 19th century are now so morally outraged about the actions of the Chinese coming in 175 years later, an historical blink of an eye, and actually legitimately buying our ‘birthright’ from willing sellers in order to establish some control over a farm to feed its very urbanised population in China, a nation that has a genetic kinship with our Maori population just as Europe has with our Pakeha population.

It’s a funny old world.

 

 

 

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Trust the Greens, they know what they are doing….

Throughout the cycleway debate we have been confronted with an arrogance from the green political lobby both within the Council and within the NZTA, who promote and partially fund the retro-fit of cycleways into our motorised communities. Last October, Cr Kate Wilson represented our City at a conference in Nelson, The 2WalkandCycle Conference, to receive an award for being the Council that most easily bent over to receive the will of the NZTA as regards implementing cycleways (Officially titled the NZTA Cycle friendly award). The official wording of our Council’s achievement is “The commitment to improved  cycling displayed by the Mayor and Councillors of Dunedin since 2012 is fast making Dunedin the leader for high-quality cycling infrastructure in New Zealand. In particular, their commitment to installing separated lanes on SH1 through central Dunedin has already inspired other cities around New Zealand to seriously consider separated lanes. The City Council recognized local expertise and explicitly directed Council staff and NZTA to include cycle advocacy group SPOKES Dunedin in the SH1 working group.
The Dunedin SH1 separated cycle lanes project is quite possibly the most significant breakthrough for urban cycling in New Zealand history. This marks a turning point where Councils are willing to support high level separated facilities, even at the expense of on-street parking loss.

Cr Kate Wilson proudly returned from the Nelson Conference with her silly little tax-funded trophy and with a giggle of pride presented it to the beaming Mayor at a Council meeting. This naive arrogance must be based on believing that the NZ Transport Agency is the ultimate intellect in deciding the road layouts in and around our cities. The NZTA have an annual budget of $1.7 billion dollars to ensure all the expert staff, well-funded research and access to the best overseas case-studies; so surely they must know best; and if they award Dunedin Council with being the most cooperative Council in implementing their will then that means we must also be right on track with the best thinking that $1.7 billion can buy. Yes?

Roto o rangi road near Cambridge NZ

Roto o rangi road near Cambridge NZ

So, how about this little project that NZTA Cycling division recently implemented near Cambridge? Lots of people love cycling in Waipa; pleasant terrain, pleasant climate. So attached is what the finest transport minds in the country came up with.

Yes you are seeing it as NZTA cycling manager, Dougal List, conceived and implemented it. A standard two lane road with centre line was divided into three lanes, two of them for cyclists and the centre lane, just 3 paces wide, to be shared by motorists traveling in opposite directions. It is a rural road; so in order to make this new layout ‘safe’ for truck drivers and motorists travelling in opposite directions along this centre single car lane, Dougal reduced the speed limit to 60kmh. Two cars or trucks, or combination of both, travelling towards each other along this single lane at 60kmh each is supposed to be safe? Is this really the intellectual outcome of a $1.7 billion budget?

Dutch cycleway with single car lane

Dutch cycleway,  Fiesstrook, with single car lane

What was he thinking? Dougal said the road layout gave additional priority to cyclists and encouraged drivers to share. Apparently it was based on seeing this Dutch cycle lane. Why is it that our cycleway enthusiasts automatically think that if it is done in Holland, then it must be right? The Netherlands is the planet’s poster country for cycling. A total of 16,500,000 bikes represents an impressive 98% of population; almost one bike for every person in the Netherlands. And yet on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index ranking for average exposure to PM2.5 (dangerous fine particles in the air) the Netherlands ranked 152nd worst out of the 178 countries in the year 2014. If I was the transport planner in the Netherlands I would not be thinking cycling through that airborne mist of respiratory-destructive particles was to be encouraged. And if I was looking at the attached photo from a NZ perspective I most certainly would not be thinking ‘that looks a great idea for safe traffic management, we must set those up throughout NZ.’

Roto rangi road everted back to normal.

Roto o rangi road reverted back to normal.

Outrage by locals when they saw the single lane for two-way motorist traffic resulted in the new lines, which were painted on Thursday 23 July 2015, being repainted on the following Saturday. Roto-o-rangi road was reverted to a two-lane road. It was extremely lucky there was not a collision in the short time the lanes were changed. Presumably all road users, including cyclists, just pretended the new lanes were not there and reverted to common sense road rules. So NZTA did an embarrassing back flip, but how did it ever get to the point that it got approved in the first place? Dougal and the cycle advocates apparently just got their way and the local Waipa Council had also been aware, in advance, of the trial. I wonder if they were wanting to get NZTA’s award for most gullible council at this year’s conference. But now Dougal is saying: “We’ve seen that there has been strong public reaction to it and that the layout isn’t right for that location and we’ve reacted quickly to that feedback.” He is the well-paid expert on this subject, why did it take common sense feedback before he could see what a stupid idea it was. And what does he mean that this is the wrong location for a layout with a single 2-way car-lane with two separated cycle lanes on either side? Where in New Zealand does he still think might be the right location? Probably Dunedin, he has got a pretty docile Council here and if he saw our Portsmouth Rd ‘trial’ in Dunedin and saw that DCC got away with that, he can surely get away with this lunacy in Dunedin.

It is not that I do not get the environmental cause. I am very concerned about the pollution of our waterways and landfills. I am concerned that in less than a 1,000 years humans in Aotearoa/ New Zealand have been responsible for the extinction of so much million+ year old flora and fauna, including the extinction of the planet’s largest bird, the Moa, through destruction of habitat and unsustainable hunting. Intensive dairy-farming today is causing me concern for the quality of our vital waterways. And beyond New Zealand, the same happened with other mega fauna in Australia when the Aboriginals arrived and wherever Homo sapiens migrated throughout Europe, Asia and America. I am concerned about our growing reliance on genetically modified crops when we have allowed so many natural crops to become extinct.

I get it all, but the “Greenpeace” and its “Green Party” organisation owns this political landscape and that organisation is, regrettably, dominated by people who say and do totally illogical things. Like the cycling decisions above. Like trying to persuade us that more and more wind farms, with the accompanying pollution crisis from mining Neodymium, are the green future for energy to replace oil. Anyone serious about finding environmental solutions to our challenges have to disassociate themselves from the Greens and that is the worst impact of the Greens. By being so illogical in their fanatically advocated ‘solutions’, they are actually counter-productive to solving the pollution and species extinction crises.

Homo Sapiens has been the most destructive species on the planet over the last fifty thousand years. The destruction took a quantum leap with the introduction of farming about 10,000 bc. whereby more and more intensive farming allowed for exponential population growth. And that, my fellow Sapiens is the genie we cannot put back in the bottle, unless we make a universal decision to revert back to a hunter gatherer culture and 90% of us volunteer for euthanasia for the sake of the deserving 10%, the health of the planet and its other species.

Either that or we use our gifted problem-solving intelligence to find some better solution. What we need is for the mainstream political parties to all incorporate policies that fund the scientific research and tap into the surplus employee resource to create a cutting-edge ecological sustainability industry, developed and fine-tuned in our own environment and then exported to the world. But placing two cycleway lanes one either side of a single size car-lane for two-way car traffic is not part of the solution, my silly little green friends.

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