Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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So what is MMP?

When discussing politics with people from around the world, one question I am frequently asked is how does Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) work. There are only a handful of countries that use MMP to elect their national legislature, Aotearoa New Zealand being one of them, so I understand the curiosity.

My attempts at describing the system are usually unsuccessful, as I tend to give an overly detailed explanation which bores the pants off the other person. So to avoid me wasting my time, and that of anyone curious, I have located a clip that explains it more succinctly than I ever could. It is explained in a North American accent, so you don’t need to struggle with a NZ accent, and it makes liberal use of a “Kiwi” connection.

Currently there are seven political parties represented in the New Zealand Parliament

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How religious are your leaders?

During last year’s general elections, a question of a religious nature was posed to the leaders of political parties. This was unusual, as we Kiwis in general believe that religion (or lack of) is a personal matter, and not relevant to holding office. Nevertheless, the question was asked, and the response from the leaders of the major parties is shown in the clip below.

One politician is notable by his absence, and that is Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First. But as he is well known for his ability to avoid answering questions, even after a ten minute reply, perhaps his absence is understandable.

If you don’t live in Aotearoa New Zealand, do you find your politicians as honest and diverse as ours when it comes to religion?


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Farming butterflies is a dangerous business – it’s official

Currently a bill is making its way through the New Zealand parliament, updating health and safety in the workplace. Michael Woodhouse (Minister of Health and Safety) has signed of on a list of high risk industries. These industries must appoint a health and safety officer if the workers want one. Fair enough, you might say, and I would have thought so too – until the list of high risk industries was published.

As you might expect, mining is on the list, but strangely, laying explosives for building demolition isn’t. Neither is dairy, cattle and sheep farming, which account for a third of all work place injuries and more than 100 deaths over the last five years. On the other hand, worm farming, butterfly farming, lavender growing and managing a mini-golf course have been classified as high risk industries.Why?

Worms and butterflies have a tendency to attack en mass any unsuspecting worker, smothering and devouring their hapless victims. Lavender plants send out tendrils to trip farmers before sucking the life blood out of them. Mini-golfers who play a poor round take their frustration out by wrapping their club around the head of the nearest course attendant. Yeah, right.

So why is butterfly farming considered more dangerous than laying explosives? Statistics. And we all know statistics don’t lie, don’t we? They may not lie, but they don’t always tell the truth in a meaningful way. And this is what appears to have happened in this case. How?

First some background for those not familiar with the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Medical treatment is either heavily subsidised or free depending on where the treatment occurs. Hospitals are free, GPs, medical centres, physiotherapists, etc are subsidised. Funding for the treatment of illness and disease is sourced from general taxation and administered by the Health Department.

On the other hand, medical treatment for injuries are paid by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). ACC funding comes from three sources. Work place injuries are funded from a fee paid by employers, based on the number of employees and the type of work undertaken. Injuries from motor vehicle accidents are funded from a surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees, and varies depending on the type of vehicle. All other injuries are covered by a fixed rate tax on personal income, which is deducted by the employer and paid to ACC via the Inland Revenue Department.

ACC keeps detailed statistics based on industry and types of work in order to levy appropriate fees from employers. This information was too detailed for the purposes of the legislation, so to simplify the system, data was collected by industry only and the number of categories was reduced. Worm farming, butterfly farming and Lavender growing are grouped under farming – other.  That by itself is bound to cause problems as they are grouped with other types of farming that are far more dangerous, such as crocodile farming. We’ll get to crocodiles shortly.

In compiling the figures someone decided that a population of 4.5 million wasn’t of sufficient size to gather reliable data from, so they decided that as Australia has more than 5 times as many people as New Zealand, they would include data from there as well.

Unfortunately Australia is very different from New Zealand. While NZ has very hilly and mountainous terrain, Australia is flat – very flat. Farms are large and farm transport is likely to be a Land Rover, a pick-up truck or similar vehicle with an enclosed cab. NZ farmers are more likely to get around on a quad bike, even on terrain where quad bikes shouldn’t go. Quad bikes aren’t required to have a roll cage and as a consequence are one of the most common causes of farm related accidents in NZ. By including data for dairy, sheep and cattle farming in Australia, with the NZ data, these industries appear safer than using NZ data alone.

Now we come to the crocodiles. The only place you’ll see a crocodile in NZ is in a museum, stuffed. But in Australia they are farmed, and you guessed it, they are classified as farming – other, as is emu farming. As a result, farming – other becomes a dangerous place to work.

Okay, I’ve explained why those seemingly innocuous farming activities have been classified as high risk, but what about mini-golf? That gentle sport is in the category recreation – other, the same as white water rafting. Need I say more?


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Ownership Of The Christian Message: A response (part 2)

This post is the second instalment in a response to a Ownership of the Christian message. by siriusbizinus You can find Part 1 here.

I have been struggling to find any satisfactory conclusion to the first part of this article. Christianity is so diverse that it’s often difficult to recognise some denominations as belonging to the same religion. While most Christians in NZ are at the liberal end of the spectrum, even here there are a few extremists. One only has to compare this rant with this statement to wonder what they have in common. As far as I can see, the only commonality is the use of the word God, although clearly not the same God.

At one end of the spectrum there are Christians who believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and the only source of authority. At the other end there are Christians who believe the Bible is valuable piece of literature full of myth, wisdom, ancient tribal law, factual inaccuracies, and with no more authority than any other piece of literature.

Some Christians believe that unless one takes Christ as their saviour and is “born again”, one is destined to eternal damnation. Others believe that if one believes/practices the essential Christian message of love, one will be saved regardless of whether one knows of Jesus or Christianity. Some believe that somehow, all but the most deliberately evil will eventually have eternal life. A few believe that salvation is a man made concept.

Some will say that the doctrine of the Trinity is an essential element of faith. Others will say it’s optional. Some insist that the doctrine is a heresy, and either they are three completely separate persons, or that there is only one person.

A few believe the Second Coming is imminent. Others believe it might happen sometime in the distant future. Others believe it is a metaphor. A few believe the kingdom of God is in the here and now, and it is up to humankind as to whether it turns out to be a heaven or a hell.

Most Christians believe in the divinity of Christ. Others believe Jesus was was a radical Jew. A few wonder if Jesus as portrayed in the Bible existed at all.

A few believe all the laws in the Old Testament (over 600 I believe) apply to everyone (although I have yet to see a Christian who obeys them all). Most will argue that the laws were a covenant between the tribe of Israel and God, and doesn’t apply to Gentiles, or that Christians have a New Covenant that supersedes the old one. A few believe all laws (biblical or otherwise) are man made, created to to regulate society.

A few Christians believe the world was created in six days and the earth is 6,000 years old. Most don’t. Even the concept of a Personal God isn’t universal among all Christians.

At one end of the spectrum, some Christians believe that God is a White male, all knowing and all powerful. At the other end, there are Christians who believe God is little more than a quiet voice that pricks their conscience.

Some Christians believe the church is the source of authority, others believe the bible is the only source, while others believe in a more individual (direct?) source.

In other words there’s almost no belief about God, Jesus and the Bible that is shared by all Christians. And we haven’t even touched upon morality, ethics and proselytising.

So is there a Christian message at all? I’m still pondering this question. To siriusbizinus: I had originally hoped to contain my response in a single post, but the question you posed has given me considerable food for thought, and to be honest, I haven’t been able to reach a conclusion as yet. It looks like this is developing into a series of posts as I work through the process.

To anyone who happens to stumble across this post: While I appreciate any and all comments, I would prefer that on the question of the ownership of the Christian message, you keep on topic, and that comments don’t degenerate into a slinging match of believers verses non-believers. If you haven’t read siriusbizinus’ post, I urge you to do so before commenting here


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Please don’t eat Kiwis

I consider myself a reasonably tolerant person, but in one aspect I realise I fall somewhat short. There are some things that irk me – particularly where there is a New Zealand connection. One in particular is the use of the word “kiwi“.

Google for an image of a kiwi, and you’re likely to find this:kiwifruitThat is not a kiwi. This is:

1024px-ApteryxHaastiiKeulemansIt makes as much sense to call it a kiwi bird as it does to refer to a turkey as a turkey bird or a sparrow as a sparrow bird. The kiwi has been named just that for around a thousand years, and I can see no rhyme or reason for adding bird to its name today. And while we’re on the subject of kiwi, the plural of kiwi is not kiwis, The plural is kiwi. The day that the plural of sheep becomes sheeps is the day I will reconsider my stand on this.

As to the name of that brown furry fruit: it’s a kiwifruit (pl. kiwifruit). It is not native to New Zealand. Seeds were originally imported from southern China in 1904, and at that time it had a small, gooseberry sized fruit. Locally it was known as a Chinese gooseberry.

Export of kiwifruit to the U.S. started in the 1950s, but due to the cold war, the The name Chinese gooseberry proved to be somewhat of a stumbling block. The name melonettes was first thought of as an alternative, but as the U.S. had high import tariffs on melons, bureaucracy could have become the hurdle. Eventually the name kiwifruit was chosen because it is brown and furry like a kiwi, and has a NZ connection.

The name was originally a brand name, but the exporters didn’t think to register it, so the name has become generic instead.

In case you’re thinking that everyone knows its real name is kiwifruit, but it is shortened to to kiwi for convenience, I have news for you. When visiting the U.S. I got a kick out of seeing the incredulous look on the faces of Americans when I mentioned that in NZ it was a serious offence to own or eat kiwi, and that dogs must be muzzled when going into areas where there are kiwi. I was also often asked why New Zealanders liked to identify themselves with a fruit. When I said we didn’t, they would ask what we prefer to be known as, and I would say “Kiwis”, which usually resulted in a very confused look. Invariably I had to explain. Clearly a great many Americans don’t know the difference between kiwi and kiwifruit.

So why have I used the word Kiwis in the title when I’ve stated that the plural of kiwi is kiwi? When it comes to the mammalian variety (NZers), the word is spelt with a capital “K” and the plural does end with an “s“.

So ends this rant lesson.


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Farewell Haka

Some non-kiwis may have seen the haka performed, possibly before a sports event where a NZ national team is represented. Perhaps the most famous haka is that performed by the All Blacks (our national rugby team), “Ka Mate“. 

You may know that the haka originated as a Maori war dance to instil fear in an opponent, to raise the moral of the performers by psyching themselves up and calling on the god of war for assistance. The were highly choreographed and performed with precision timing. these are known as peruperu haka.

What you may not realise is that another form of haka evolved over time and is known as ngeri haka. Here the purpose is not to cause fear, but to psychologically move both the performers and the viewers. In ngeri haka movement is more free to allow each individual the express his or her feelings. The haka has become part of the NZ identity and is performed at weddings, funerals, sports fixtures, local events, and on many other occasions. It is performed by both Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori), men and women, young and old.

Two weeks ago, a colleague at the high school where my wife teaches died suddenly. He was greatly admired and respected by both students and staff. At the commencement of the funeral, over 1700 students welcomed the funeral procession onto the school grounds with a haka. I didn’t attend, but my wife said it was a very moving and emotional occasion, but that unfortunately the clip below, doesn’t fully convey the the effect the haka had on those attending. 

Rest in peace Dawson Tamatea.