Thoughts of a Newtown Socialist

Friday, March 03, 2017

Guest Blog - Political Will

Geoffrey Robert Burns shares his thoughts on the housing crisis.

Plenty people got the leverage to purchase property. Too many people can barely to pay rent. There are more people than houses. Some worked hard for a decade or three and more live in ten bedroom mansions. Some people pay rent week by week for a room in a flat with x number of others. Some people do live in box on t’ side of t’ road. There is both inequality and relative poverty and it can be argued that there is also absolute poverty in New Zealand.

Whether we live in ten bedroom mansions or cardboard box on t’ side of t’ road, we are all citizens and we all have equal rights. Or so we are led to believe. I refuse to believe anything, but I do believe that we ought have equal rights.

Both wings of the political bird agree that there is a housing shortage. If one agrees with the necessity of limitless economic growth then a housing shortage needs to be maintained, so that inflation stays within 1% to 3%, GDP averages 3.1% and unemployment stays within 5% to 6%.

Suppose we do have the material and human resources and the land to create a housing surplus, what becomes of the mums and dads who have invested their live savings expecting to make enough capital gain to retire and leave a family home for their children? Honest hard working mums and dads are the back bone of New Zealand, they are also the people who the politicians want votes from.

If we do have habitable land, arable land for food fibre and fuel, and spare land with raw materials for industry plus a significant percentage of land to maintain biodiversity, what might be the obstacles to building a housing surplus, obstacles to rent controls on landlords and obstacles to medium to long term tenancy agreements?

Can the needs provide all the needs of a constantly growing population?

Monday, February 03, 2014

TV3 News Poll - Be Careful With Minor Parties

 The commentary on the  TV3 News poll that came out last Sunday that came out last Sunday was interesting but  there are two things to remember.

1. The margin of error is 3.1% so the results don't tell you much about any party getting below about 3% in such a poll. MANA has been fluctuating between about 0.3% and 1% since the election. Such fluctuations probably mean little and are likely to be more related to my second point.

2.Over two-thirds of MANA Newtown members have not given us their landline number, probably because they only have mobile phones. I believe this is the same throughout MANA. The rating we get probably depends on the proportion of how many MANA supporters with landlines happen to be contacted by the surveyors in a survey. This should be the same in any random survey but the numbers are so low that it probably isn't.

Another thing I didn't like about the analysis was that it stated that it predicted the Conservatives to win an electorate seat. Well which one will it be and what evidence is there that they will win it?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest Post by Ariana Tutanganui-Tamati - Peter Dunne -Will he rise from the ashes and save our state owned assets or is he really just a puppet?

Thanks to Ariana for allowing me to post this piece that she has written.

It's very symbolic that Peter Dunne's puppet was the worst damaged in the fire at the Backbenchers last week and that Hekia Parata was forced to evacuate a neighbouring apartment.
This is a sign. Peter has the opportunity to redeem himself. `Will he rise from the ashes and save our state owned assets or is he really just a puppet'.
Even Dunne himself admitted on National Radio that his puppet is resurrectable. "I'd like to suggest one or two improvements. I think just a general spruce up will do. I don't normally go around wearing sack cloths and ashes”.
If Dunne keeps insisting that State Asset Sales is a Dunne Deal he will forever remain in the minds eye of the public, a sad figure of insignificance who had a buffy hairdo rather than be  what he purports to be, a family centred man and the defender of the rights of ordinary mum’s and dad’s.
The partial sale of state owned assets is definitely not in the interests of his representative group. Even his own electorate have tried to show him the errs in the logic of asset sales by facilitating and presenting him with public submissions. Dunne refused to meet with members of his own electorate in person or answer the questions and serious concerns of the submitter's.
To date Dunne has chosen to tow National’s party line over his own on this issue. In the Election United Future said that they would fight for NZ Owned. Dunne thinks that having a cap of 10% for any one investor and a private sector minority share holding of 49% is enough to keep our state owned power companies from eventually being assumed by foreign companies. Members of his electorate have been trying to warn Dunne of the serious implications of the Trans Pacific Partnership since he started his election campaign last year. TPPA  exposes this Government  to be sued by large coporate entities and it only takes a foreign shareholder investment of 1% to be able to enact this.
Dunne should stick to his knitting and provide blankets for those who will be left out in the cold should he allow this Bill to go through.
But we have seen Dunne pull his own strings and pull in the Government by using the `no surprises’ clause in the confidence and supply agreement with the increased class sales that, owing to mounting heat from the public, forced Hekia to evacuate the policy.
People’s Power Ohariu will be taking a letter to Peter Dunne tomorrow to Parliament at 1pm urging him to vote against or abstain from voting on the Mixed Ownership Model Bill. The Bill is not a Dunne Deal yet. The passing of this Bill rests on his shoulders. Will Dunne do a U-turn on supporting this Bill or will he follow National by pandering to the interests of the wealthy, sharebrokers and financiers who are the true beneficiaries of this Bill.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Moving Beneficiaries into Work - Will it Work

Gordon Campbell's article on moving people off benefit is very good.

The Government could be congratulated for wanting to improve psychiatric health services. It must have realised that in 1970 (the year John Key uses to compare with today) there were thousands of patients in psychiatric hospitals not receiving benefits.

Treating psychiatric illness is only the first piece of the puzzle, the other pieces include having enough jobs and a change of attitude among employers. I wonder when John Key thinks these pieces on the puzzle might appear.

Before his Government continues in its programme to move people off benefits, John Key should spend a Saturday morning at Newtown Mall.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Is There Life on Enceladus?

Ever since the Galileo probe left to orbit Jupiter and pass by some of its moons, I have been interested in the possibility of life in other parts of the Solar System (apart from Earth). Scientists were and are still speculating that Europa has a liquid ocean under its ice but Galileo could not determine whether it has.

In 2005 the Cassini probe, which is orbiting Saturn discovered a geyser coming from near the south pole of one of its icy moons Enceladus. There is debate over whether this is due to a liquid ocean beneath the surface. Below is the latest finding, which suggests there is. It is a news release from NASA released last Thursday.

RELEASE: 09-147


PASADENA, Calif. -- For the first time, scientists working on NASA's
Cassini mission have detected sodium salts in ice grains of Saturn's
outermost ring. Detecting salty ice indicates that Saturn's moon
Enceladus, which primarily replenishes the ring with material from
discharging jets, could harbor a reservoir of liquid water -- perhaps
an ocean -- beneath its surface.

Cassini discovered the water-ice jets in 2005 on Enceladus. These jets
expel tiny ice grains and vapor, some of which escape the moon's
gravity and form Saturn's outermost ring. Cassini's cosmic dust
analyzer has examined the composition of those grains and found salt
within them.

"We believe that the salty minerals deep inside Enceladus washed out
from rock at the bottom of a liquid layer," said Frank Postberg,
Cassini scientist for the cosmic dust analyzer at the Max Planck
Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. Postberg is
lead author of a study that appears in the June 25 issue of the
journal Nature.

Scientists on Cassini's cosmic dust detector team conclude that liquid
water must be present because it is the only way to dissolve the
significant amounts of minerals that would account for the levels of
salt detected. The process of sublimation, the mechanism by which
vapor is released directly from solid ice in the crust, cannot
account for the presence of salt.

"Potential plume sources on Enceladus are an active area of research
with evidence continuing to converge on a possible salt water ocean,"
said Linda Spilker, Cassini deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Our next opportunity to
gather data on Enceladus will come during two flybys in November."

The makeup of the outermost ring grains, determined when thousands of
high-speed particle hits were registered by Cassini, provides
indirect information about the composition of the plume material and
what is inside Enceladus. The outermost ring particles are almost
pure water ice, but nearly every time the dust analyzer has checked
for the composition, it has found at least some sodium within the

"Our measurements imply that besides table salt, the grains also
contain carbonates like soda. Both components are in concentrations
that match the predicted composition of an Enceladus ocean," Postberg
said. "The carbonates also provide a slightly alkaline pH value. If
the liquid source is an ocean, it could provide a suitable
environment on Enceladus for the formation of life precursors when
coupled with the heat measured near the moon's south pole and the
organic compounds found within the plumes."

However, in another study published in Nature, researchers doing
ground-based observations did not see sodium, an important salt
component. That team notes that the amount of sodium being expelled
from Enceladus is actually less than observed around many other
planetary bodies. These scientists were looking for sodium in the
plume vapor and could not see it in the expelled ice grains. They
argue that if the plume vapor does come from ocean water the
evaporation must happen slowly deep underground rather than as a
violent geyser erupting into space.

"Finding salt in the plume gives evidence for liquid water below the
surface," said Sascha Kempf, also a Cassini scientist for the cosmic
dust analyzer from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics. "The
lack of detection of sodium vapor in the plume gives hints about what
the water reservoir might look like."

Determining the nature and origin of the plume material is a top
priority for Cassini during its extended tour, called the Cassini
Equinox Mission.

"The original picture of the plumes as violently erupting
Yellowstone-like geysers is changing," said Postberg."They seem more
like steady jets of vapor and ice fed by a large water reservoir.
However, we cannot decide yet if the water is currently 'trapped'
within huge pockets in Enceladus' thick ice crust or still connected
to a large ocean in contact with the rocky core."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the
European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Cassini
cosmic dust analyzer was provided by the German Aerospace Center. The
Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL
manages the mission for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA
Headquarters in Washington.

More information about the Cassini mission is available at:


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Friday, February 06, 2009

"Maori Leaders" Don't Mind Asset State Sales

According to Radio New Zealand some Maori leaders don't oppose further sales of State assets provided Maori are involved.

Sure, holding on to State assets is not in itself socialistic and many State assets are held by State-Owned Enterprises whose primary function is to make profit, not serve the people, but many State assets can or could be used for the benefit of the people. For example people generally have access and can enjoy activities on Department of Conservation land. Also the electricity network and the Government's three electricity companies could come under the control of an organisation whose function is to both assist energy conservation and to ensure that everyone gets electricity when they need it. These things wouldn't happen if State assets were all sold off.

Privatisation can, however, benefit some people - investors. Perhaps this is who these Maori leaders are representing. The bulk of Maori are working-class, ie., they work for wages or salaries, are waiting for a job, are retired or live in families of workers.

The statement was made at a closed-door meeting between the leaders and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi. Since it was a semi-secret session, did the leaders seek the views of the mainly working-class people they purport to represent?

Another worry is that this meeting discussed the ownership of water.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Local Body Elections in Wellington - My Picks

Why should a socialist be interested in the local body elections? After all, whoever gets in will be helping to run capitalism. Well, socialists live in the real world and the working class faces everyday issues such as basic services like water and housing. One group in Wellington fighting to keep public services is the Wellington Residents' Coalition.

My picks are based on:

1. Answers to the Residents' Coalition questions;
2. Candidates' opinions on the end of capitalism;
3. Personal commitment to a candidate;
4. Trade union affiliation; and
5. Past performance.

One thing about the answers given by some candidates is that they weren't unequivocal. Equivocation is an enemy of working people. Here I would like to praise Kerry Prendergast and Robert Armstrong, who although directly opposed to what the Residents' Coalition stands for, gave unequivocal answers.


As far as the Residents' Coalition questions and answers go Bryan Pepperell, Helene Ritchie, Nick Kelly and Jack Ruben rate equally. Both Nick, who is a fellow Workers' Party member and who has campaigned well on workers' issues, and Bryan realise that capitalism will come to an end. Bryan once stated that "People will end up working for nothing.", realising that the wages system (capitalism) will come to an end. I told Bryan that I would vote for him before I knew that the Workers' Party was standing a candidate.

So what about Helene and Jack? Both have had a fine voting record on the Council as far as Residents' Coalition issues go but Jack blotted his copybook during the last Annual Plan by voting for increased library and swimming pool charges. Thus Helene has a slight margin over him in this rating. Carl Gifford dipped out on the Marine Education Centre question but is with the Coalition on water, rates, housing and the Waterfront. Rob Goulden is with the Coalition on rates and housing but favours a uniform annual charge for water. Paul Bailey gave some quite good answers but was not unequivocal in them. Neither Nick Wang nor Ray Ahipene-Mercer replied to the questionnaire but I do not that Nick Wang believes in the right to protest. Ray was
supportive of the Coalition in the past, especially on water but unfortunately voted in 2003 for the formation of a company to manage the City's water network.

My mayoral picks are thus :

1 Bryan Pepperell, 2 Nick Kelly, 3 Helene Ritchie, 4 Jack Ruben, 5 Carl Gifford,
6 Rob Goulden, 7 Paul Bailey, 8 Nick Wang, 9 Ray Ahipene-Mercer

Southern Ward:

1 Bryan Pepperell, 2 John Robinson, 3 Lorraine Edwards, 4 Rex Nairn, 5 Celia Wade-Brown, 6 Ida Faiumu-Isa'ako, 7 Shelagh Noble, 8 Bernie Harris.

Eastern Ward:

Only Ian Macfarlane was with the Residents' Coalition on all issues. Josie Bullock is with the Coalition on water and rates whereas Rob Goulden is with the Coalition on rates and housing. I have judged Leonie Gill on her past record as someone who has voted against shifting the rating burden onto residents.

1 Ian Macfarlane, 2 Josie Bullock, 3 Rob Goulden, 4 Leonie Gill, 5 Paul Bailey,
6 Ray Ahipene-Mercer, 7 Ruth Gotlieb.

Lambton Ward:

Stephanie Cook as for a long time supported the Coalition. In the ten years of the Coalition's existence, the only times that I know of that she has departed on where the Coalition would stand are when she voted to cut back the number of public playgrounds and when she voted for the 125 lease of the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Ed van Son is also with the Coalition on all questions asked. Iona Pannett is with the Coalition on water and housing, and has pledged to try to do something about poverty whereas as Callum Strong is with the Coalition on rates and housing but is not unequivocally opposed to user charges for water.

1 Stephanie Cook, 2 Ed van Son, 3 Iona Pannett, 4 Callum Strong.

Western-Onslow Ward:

Only Jack Ruben and Pauline Scott bothered to reply. Pauline is not in favour of income-related rents for Council flats but is with the Coalition on the other issues.

1 Jack Ruben, 2 Pauline Scott

Northern Ward:

Helene Ritchie is the only one with the Coalition all the way. Jim Candiliotis is with the Coalition on rates and rents, but supports a uniform annual charge on water and some more buildings on the Waterfront. Roger Ellis and Jonathan Fletcher are both against user charges but again, they equivocate on rates and housing. This is a difficult one.

1 Helene Ritchie, 2 Jim Candiliotis, 3 Roger Ellis, 4 Jonathan Fletcher.

Greater Wellington Regional Council:

All of the people listed below are against user charges for water as are Michael Fleming, Ian Hamlin and Michael Gibson. It is a shame the the Regional Council did not decide to use STV because I would like to give these three consolation prizes.

Michael Appleby, Paul Bruce and Yvonne Legarth oppose local body amalgamation. Other candidates either supported it or were vague in their opposition. I have therefore decided to support Judith Aitken and Hugh Barr for the past performance in general but particularly on the issue of water.

APPLEBY, Michael
BARR, Hugh
AITKEN, Judith

Capital and Coast District Health Board:

The first ten in the list below all answered "No" to the privatisation questions so I then rated them on their answers to how they would foster public participation in the planning and delivery of health services. Michael Appleby has given good direct answers to all questions asked.

1 Michael Appleby, 2 Jim Delahunty, 3 Peter Roberts, 4 Adrian Webster, 5 Margaret Faulkner, 6 Gordon Strachan, 7 Trisha Inglis, 8 Felicity McLennan, 9 Sandra Patton, 10 Helene Ritchie, 11 Donald Urquhart-Hay, 12 Judith Aitken, 13 Petra van den Munckoff, 14 Virginia Hope, 15 Colyton Shaw, 16 Ruth Gotlieb.

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