Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Draconian measures

I do wish there were fewer idiots. Without them life would be so much easier. And no more so than during the current pandemic. I can understand why authorities bring in draconian regulations that seem “over the top”. It’s to minimise the harm caused by idiots.

Take the Australian state of Victoria for example. Their lockdown was no where near as severe as the one we faced here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and may have worked. The idiots have not only delayed the state’s recovery, but have moved it into rapid reverse. There, persons tested positive are required to self isolate for 14 days.

Seems reasonable to me, but following evidence that some people were not self-isolating, the authorities checked on every person who should have been self-isolating. They found one in four people weren’t home! Yep, 25% of all those known to be infected were running around loose in the community!

The state government is now contemplating a lockdown similar to that which Aotearoa New Zealand was subject to for five weeks. Although in Victoria it might be for a longer period due to how widespread the virus is in the community.

I’m not sure whether we Kiwis are more sensible or more compliant. Possibly a bit of both. During all the stages of lockdown there were a few thousand breaches recorded in total, which have resulted a few hundred prosecutions. But on the whole, it was social disapproval of rule breakers that seemed to have had the strongest effect. The concept of a “team of 5 million” whether a myth or not, kept this country united and indeed is keeping this country (mostly) united in the fight against the pandemic.

Our attitude towards rule breakers can be clearly seen in our attitude to the borders remaining closed. Back in March when this country was first closed to non-residents, the government introduced mandatory self-isolation rules. Those arriving in the country were required to stay at home in isolation for 14 days. But it soon became apparent that a small minority (less than 5%) were not following the rules.

As the Prime Minister said at the time, the authorities placed a high level of trust in those in isolation. Had everyone followed the simple rules of self isolation, that’s where we’d still be. But no. A few idiots spoil it for everyone. The outcome has been that inbound residents are now required to undergo managed isolation in luxury hotels.

Originally security was minimal. Again the authorities placed a high level of trust in those staying in managed isolation. However it’s become very evident that a small handful of those returning to the country have little regard for the safety of others, and over time, security has tightened to the point now where every facility has a permanent police and military presence and perimeters have become more secure as the weeks pass by.

Over thirty thousand people have passed through managed isolation since March and there have been somewhere around ten incidents where an individual or family group have left isolation without permission. Originally the term “absconded” was usually used when the media reported these breakouts. More recently I hear the term “escaped” used instead. I think this reflects the community attitude to those who flout the isolation rules.

The public attitude towards those who now arrive in this country is unfortunately becoming antagonistic. While there’s always been a small minority of the population antagonistic towards immigration, there is now a widespread attitude that returning Kiwis should have stayed where they were. The wife has this attitude (and she’s an immigrant herself) and as far as she’s concerned every returning Kiwi is being selfish. As far as she is concerned, there’s no set of personal circumstances that can justify travelling to this country. In other words, she wants a blanket ban, even though our Bill of Rights guarantees the right of every citizen to enter and leave the country. Her attitude borders on draconian in my view.

The wife’s attitude is becoming more prevalent, and we can now see examples of graffiti sprayed on security fences around isolation facilities demanding the residents return to where they came from. Apparently some returnees have faced hostilities even after completing managed isolation. I find such an attitude understandable but totally unacceptable.

The negative attitude to returnees has culminated in a call from many, including some political parties, for all returnees to be billed for their stay in isolation. This is something the government has resisted simply because it’s likely to place an unreasonable burden on many families. Let’s face it, many of those returning are not doing so willingly. Many are returning because there is no support structures accessible to them in their country of residence. Others are returning to escape ill managed pandemic environments.

To placate the hostile attitude where returnees are seen as “living in luxury at the taxpayers’ expense”, the government has finally introduced legislation that will allow some returnees to be billed for staying in isolation. For this to occur, the government had to seek the cooperation of the opposition National Party as the Greens were totally opposed to any billing of those in managed isolation.

Eventually a compromise has been reached where those who return from overseas having been away for less than 90 days, and those who return to the country with the intention of staying less than 90 days will be billed for part of the cost of their managed isolation. The legislation also specifies grounds under which exemptions can be granted. So how many will be charged? Perhaps five or ten percent of those arriving in the country. I think a reasonable compromise.

Already we’re seeing comments in overseas media that such moves are another step in the erosion of our freedom and rights, usually accompanied by associating such moves with recent legislation that tightens some aspects of gun ownership. I’ve previously posted about ignorance some foreign media have about our handling of the pandemic, and no doubt the ignorance will continue unabated. I would like to remind such critics that the nation still has the highest level of freedom, ranking at number one or number two on every freedom index, but I suspect I’d be wasting my effort. Those people seem so willing to ignore the facts whenever it’s inconsistent with their prejudice.

So my question is: do most jurisdictions impose restrictions with the aim of gaining greater long term control of the population – in other words tyranny, or are restrictions reluctantly imposed because some idiots give the authorities little choice if they are to prevent widespread harm?


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To Alex Berenson: You’re so wrong!

I am aware that Alex Berenson is somewhat of a controversial author, but if his recent claim about indefinite detentions in Aotearoa New Zealand is so wildly inaccurate, how factual are his comments about other causes he promotes? Fact checking on the situation on Aotearoa New Zealand is so simple, that Berenson’s comment borders on being hilarious.

According to a recent tweet, Berenson claims that people here are being detained indefinitely:

https://twitter.com/AlexBerenson/status/1282059985288036358

Knowing Berenson’s opposition to the way most nations are managing the pandemic, I don’t know whether his tweet is a genuine misunderstanding of the context, or he is being deliberately disingenuous.

Let’s get the story straight shall we?

  • Currently our borders are closed to everyone attempting to enter the country except for NZ citizens, residents and those who have qualified for special exemptions. There is no restriction on anyone leaving the country.
  • Everyone arriving in New Zealand must go into managed isolation for two weeks.
  • There is a high level of trust required of those in isolation. They are put up in mostly 4 and 5 star hotels at taxpayer expense and the facilities are made “secure” by the way of temporary fencing of the type typically seen around construction sites. As has been demonstrated by one “escapee”, it is very easy to cut the plastic ties that hold the fencing together.
  • Of the more than 30,000 people that have passed through managed isolation, just four have broken the rules and left the premises where they were isolated without gaining permission.
  • There is no indefinite confinement. The statement that thousands of people will be quarantined in isolation facilities for months and possibly years was in reference to the protocol of requiring inbound travellers to isolate for 2 weeks in managed isolation.
  • When the 2 week isolation period is up, the returnees are free to go about their lives as we all are: no social distancing; no masks; unrestricted crowd sizes; sports facilities, bars, restaurants, nightclubs etc operate as normal. In other words, business as normal.
  • There is no community transmission of COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • The NZ COVID-19 cases being reported to WHO are those of people in managed isolation who tested positive within the managed isolation period. In other words, they contracted the virus before arriving in the country.
  • If it wasn’t for the fact that most countries have failed to get COVID-19 under control, this country would have no need for border restrictions at all.

While I’d like to think that it was a genuine error on Berenson’s part, the fact that he has not removed the tweet or made a correction is telling.

Perhaps what is less surprising is the fact that so many people accept the tweet as factually correct, even though many Kiwis have replied, made it clear the comments by Michael Baker, professor of public health at Otago University have been taken entirely out of context. In fact a quick scan of the comments and retweets seem to indicate that only Kiwis are contesting the accuracy of Berenson’s tweet. Is the rest of the world really so ignorant and willing to believe a lie?

As one Kiwi tweeted “Who needs comedy when you have Americans on Twitter”. With that, I can’t help but nod my head in agreement.


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Will COVID-19 harm our democracy?

The question posed in this blog’s title refers to Aotearoa New Zealand, and no other country. America, has an orange clown who all by himself is harming that nation’s democracy more than the virus can. Putin has already sunk Russia’s fledgling democracy, and Boris is trying to do a Trump impersonation, but is hamstrung by the collective decision making process inherent in a parliamentary democracy.

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s the government’s success in squashing the virus that makes me a little uneasy. It has made Jacinda and the Labour Party too popular based on recent polls. We have our triennial General Election in September, and if voting is anywhere near recent opinion polls, Labour will romp home with an clear, outright majority. And that’s the problem.

What I like about our MMP voting system is that since its introduction in 1996 no political party has been able to govern alone. This may not seem all that important to many today, but as one who lived through decades of governments that in many respects acted as three-year dictatorships, I’m grateful that no party can steamroll whatever legislation it likes through Parliament.

Perhaps the worst part of FPP voting is that it almost invariably leads to a two-party system, and if as in Aotearoa New Zealand, you have a unicameral legislature, the majority party has almost unbridled power and that was the case until the introduction of MMP.

Given that the NZ Parliament is sovereign and we don’t have a formal constitution, it is perhaps surprising that this nation has the highest levels of economic and personal of freedom and lowest levels of corruption worldwide. Perhaps it says something about our politicians, or about respecting social and parliamentary conventions?

Two conventions that have arisen from MMP ensure that a single political party does not hold sway over Parliament. One is that political parties do not form coalition arrangements before an election. The other is that coalitions are very loose allowing the coalition partners to pursue their own policies apart from those specified in the coalition agreement.

A case in point is the current government formed after a coalition agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the New Zealand First Party. Together they form a minority government, and to ensure stability on matters of confidence and supply, the Labour Party entered into a confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.

So, getting back to my concern:

Prior to COVID-19, opinion polls placed both the two major political parties, National and Labour, each with a little over 40% support, although national was usually slightly ahead. I’m comfortable with that although the slow decline in support for minor parties as a concern.

However, the success of the government’s handling of the pandemic, which at its height had an approval rating of 87%, has seen opinion polls reporting those who intend to vote Labour soaring well above 60% while National have slumped to the low 30s, with one poll showing only 28%. That, I don’t like.

Just as alarming is that Labour’s popularity has resulted in support for minor parties dropping away. The outcome is that there are likely to be fewer political parties in Parliament after the elections given that a party must gain at 5% of party vote or gain an electorate (voting district) seat to be represented in Parliament.

While governments need to be able to govern, they also need to be subject to effective scrutiny. They also need to be inclusive – to listen to minority voices. One way of guaranteeing this is to ensure that no political party has absolute control over the legislature. One method is to have a bicameral or multicameral legislature, although my observation of such arrangements is that scrutiny often disintegrates into filibustering and political point scoring.

Here, the parties that make up the government are free to disagree in all policies apart from those specified in coalition or support agreements. Given that Labour’s partners are a centrist nationalist party and a socialist environmental party that have about as much in common as chalk and cheese, it often requires a lot of negotiation and compromise all round for bills presented to Parliament to be passed.

As sometimes occurs, Labour is unable to gain the support of one or both of its partners, in which case either the bill is dropped from the Parliamentary schedule, sent back for further consultation and redrafting, or support is negotiated with National. All round, it results in more inclusive and better written legislation.

If Labour does achieve an absolute majority in September’s election what guarantee do we have that we won’t return to the pre MMP days where poorly drafted and ill considered legislation too easily became law? The only safety net would be the select committee process that all legislation must pass through.

The select committee process allows for the public to present oral and or written submissions and committees themselves can recommend and draft amendments to bills for consideration by the Parliament. The select committee stage may take three to six months for all submissions to be considered. Convention has it that these changes are accepted, but if one party commands an absolute majority, would it continue to adhere to convention? Would it heed the voice of the public?


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A call for action after Covid-19

Yes, in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is now after COVID-19, although I and the rest of our nation are under no illusion that the rest of world has some way to go (some nations much further than others).

As we recover from the pain and difficulties that COVID-19 wrought, we should take the opportunity to reevaluate what we are doing to harm the planet and our fellow human beings. Most people, especially those with privilege, simply accept the status quo and seldom think that it is we who are responsible for the harm we’re causing in communities, nations and the environment.

I firmly believe that this recovery period give us a unique chance, perhaps the only chance, for us to take action, individually and collectively that will bring about lasting changes that will enable us all to live in harmony with one another and with the planet.

As a community, Quakers of Aotearoa New Zealand have published a statement calling all Kiwis to action. As much of the call is applicable to people everywhere, I’m reproducing it here in its entirety:

To the Citizens of Aotearoa/New Zealand

At this critical time in the history of New Zealand, and the world, the Quaker Community wishes to convey to you and to the broader community, some principles and values that we feel are key to the decision making that will guide the nation to a better future.

We invite you to consider the enclosed Call for Action

A Call for Action after Covid-19

HOPE

We Quakers find hope in the communal response to the Covid-19 crisis across our nation. The collective action of New Zealanders has demonstrated how much we can achieve together in a short time. We see the current pandemic as a warning which creates an unprecedented opportunity for systemic change and as a call to remodel our nation guided by the principles of sustainability, non-violence, simplicity and equity. This is a transformation that will require redistributive and regenerative economic, government and social policies that ensure all members of society benefit in an equitable manner.

VISION
Our vision is of a society that is inclusive and respectful of all people. We affirm the special constitutional position of Māori and a Treaty-based, bi-lateral system of government. We seek government which leads with integrity, shares information based on evidence, and engages with communities prior to decision-making. We oppose violence at every level and look to practices that bring peaceful dialogue and non-violent management of conflict.

SANCTITY
Quakers have a strong sense of the sanctity of creation. We are committed to the development of systems and new societal norms to rebalance climate disruption, preserve biodiversity and water quality and enable New Zealanders to live simpler lives within sustainable natural boundaries. We support the use of national resources to provide housing, low-carbon transport, and regenerative food production to benefit future generations.

CONSUMPTION 

We see that society has been putting profit and consumption above other considerations despite clear evidence that earth’s natural limits have been exceeded. Consumer lifestyles have been destroying the natural ecosystems required by future generations. Decades of neoliberal economic and social policies have allowed a few people to set the agenda and benefit disproportionately. This has condemned many to low wages, poverty and insecurity whilst also degrading the environment.

OPPORTUNITY

Quakers consider that the current pandemic offers the people of Aotearoa New Zealand a chance to reassess the situation and to create a new sense of community and purpose. The Light of the Spirit has inspired Quakers through the generations into social and environmental action. We see this experience with Covid-19 as the impetus to find a way forward based firmly on the Quaker values of peace, simplicity, and equity

ACTION

Quakers call on every person in Aotearoa New Zealand to bring about whatever changes they can to enable us to live in harmony with one another and with the planet.


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A new strange world!

What a strange world COVID-19 is creating! The entire season of the New Zealand National Basketball League is being streamed on ESPN – all 56 games!

I have to ask why. It’s not like we rank highly in international basketball, and while its popularity as a participant sport is increasing, it has a very long way to go as a spectator sport here to match the likes of Rugby Union, Netball, or Rugby League. Is it because so little sport is being played in the US that broadcasters are desperate for any form of familiar sports code, irrespective of its source and quality?

If, at the beginning of the year, someone had suggested that a season of any NZ sports code would be live streamed in the USA, we would have laughed ourselves silly.

As I said, it’s a strange new world we live in!


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Two worlds (or living in a bubble)

It’s almost surreal. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we’ve almost forgotten what social distancing is, face masks are rarely seen and life is mostly back to normal.

Sure, there’s reminders of COVID days: Perspex screens remain at almost every checkout; a few shops display a QR code for scanning into the official COVID tracer app (but not enough to make use of the app meaningful); foreign visitors are conspicuous by their absence; and the Director General of Health still gives daily live updates on TV.

Other subtle changes like extra flexibility in the workplace and changes in advertising to promote domestic tourism and “buy local” may well become permanent fixtures.

Many ads that have used the allure of status, ego, excitement, adventure, one upmanship, or perfection to promote products have been replaced with ones where product promotion seems to be secondary to messages promoting kindness, empathy, sharing and similar sentiments. I doubt this will be a permanent feature, even though I would like them to continue.

For myself personally, the pandemic has given me the opportunity to attend Quaker worship on a more regular basis through the platform of Zoom – something that may never have been considered had COVID-19 not arrived.

Geographically, Aotearoa New Zealand is indeed isolated from the rest of the world, and we have compensated by being one of the world’s most prolific international travellers. The Big OE (Overseas Experience) has almost become a rite of passage into adulthood and responsibility for young Kiwis.

On the whole life here is back to normal, but I and many other Kiwis are beginning to feel that the metaphor of us being a bubble of 5 million is taking on an ominous reality.

Our borders are closed, and may well remain that way for years. Social unrest across the world, and particularly in America, is played out daily in news broadcasts. In some sections of the community, antagonism towards returning Kiwis is replacing antagonism towards immigrants.

There are now two worlds: A safe kind Aotearoa, and an increasingly hostile world “out there” where the Trumps of that world would like nothing better than to see our bubble fail if only to make themselves look less ridiculous. That may be an exaggerated metaphor at the moment, but the trend is definitely there.

Usually I’m blind to growth and changes in social mood and prejudice, but the trend towards isolationism, a “them and us” attitude,  I find unsettling. In the long term it’s unhealthy, especially for a small nation that has placed a heavy reliance on international cooperation in the course of its development.

The optimism and excitement that existed and I experienced as a teenager and young adult in the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by something darker, at times almost sinister, at least in the eyes this child of the ’60s social revolution.

I hope I’m wrong, but my once enthusiastic optimism is now tempered with a little more caution and realism. Perhaps I am a child of another era and I’m mistaken in thinking the current generation is more conservative, serious, sombre and pessimistic than the one I have been immersed in all my life. But I have my doubts.


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Second wave? What second wave?

Yesterday as I was passing through the supermarket checkout I overheard two women in an adjacent isle complaining that New Zealand is doing no better than other countries and is now seeing a rise in new infections after being COVID-19 free for weeks They were convinced that the 14 cases now active in NZ are the beginning of a second wave. They are wrong.

Their concern appears to be widespread as the public demand for testing has soared over the past week to the point that demand exceeds the ability of the health system to process tests in a timely manner. The health authorities have had to apply limitations on eligibility for free testing.

We are now testing at a rate of 10,000 per day, which by way of comparison is equivalent to the US population being tested at the rate of 700,000 per day. The difference is that not one test over the last month has returned positive, whereas in the US, approximately one in nineteen tests is a positive result. NZ: 0%, US: 5%.

So why am I confident that the two women are wrong? True, there are now 14 active cases after being COVID-19 free for weeks, But those 14 cases are actually evidence that our system of managing the pandemic is working as planned.

For those who are unaware, NZ closed its borders completely way back in March and they will remain tightly closed for the foreseeable future. The only people permitted to enter the country are NZ citizens and permanent residents. Everyone else is excluded (although exemptions may be granted in exceptional circumstances). In effect we are closed off from the rest of the world

Expat Kiwis are returning home in ever increasing droves, and it does not seem that it will ease for some time. Everyone arriving in New Zealand is placed into “managed isolation” – quarantine facilities that are now overseen by the military. The number of daily returnees has stretched the capacity of the quarantine facilities in Auckland beyond breaking point, and new facilities are being set up in other parts of the country.

All those put into managed isolation are tested at day 3 and day 12 of isolation, before being permitted to leave after 14 days. Currently there are around 4300 people in isolation, and this is expected to increase significantly over the coming weeks and months.

All COVID-19 tests that have returned a positive result are from returnees while they are in managed isolation. These are people who have brought the virus with them on their journey home. So long as the virus is on the loose in the rest of the world, those returning will bring COVID-19 with them. It does not mean that it exists within the NZ bubble of 5 million people.

Community transmission of COVID-19 has been eliminated from Aotearoa New Zealand and remains so. As long as all cases are confined to isolation facilities, it doesn’t matter what the number of infections are. At the height of the pandemic here, there were less than 90 active cases on any given day, and even if the number of cases among returnees in isolation ran into the hundreds, its a reflection of the situation outside the country, not inside it.

Currently, hotels emptied by the lack of tourists are being used as isolation facilities, but as the rate of returning expats increases, the pool of suitable accommodation will become more and more fragmented, increasing the risk of of COVID-19 escaping from isolation.

How many Kiwis will return of the coming months and possibly years? how long is a piece of string? There are half a million Kiwis living in Australia, and hundreds of thousands scattered across the rest of the globe. I can foresee a situation where it might be necessary to restrict the flow rate of our own nationals into the country.

Public opinion here is swinging towards hostility of those returning home due to the perceived risk of returnees reintroducing the virus into the community, and the fear that they will swell the ranks of the unemployed , or worse, take jobs from those already working here. Now where have I heard similar sentiment before, but applied to a different group of people? The simple fact is that immigrants to this country are now almost exclusively Kiwis!

I’m more sympathetic towards returning expats, and this is one situation where the wife and I have agreed to disagree. Actually I’ve agreed to disagree, she’s adamant she’s right and I’m wrong. As far as she’s concerned they are placing us all in danger, and they are being selfish by choosing to return home at this time. And this is coming from someone who is an immigrant herself!

There’s probably as many reasons for returning home as there are returnees, but I think a major factor for many will be the lack of a support network in a crisis. For example Kiwis living in Australia are not eligible for unemployment benefits or other forms of social security, even though they are required to contribute to those services in the form of taxes and levies at the same rate as Australians. I dare say the situation is similar in other jurisdictions.

The cost of managed isolation is around NZ$4000 per person, and let’s face it, hotels are not really set up for prolonged periods of confinement. Currently the taxpayer foots the entire bill and there seems to be growing public demand for most all all of the cost fall on those who are quarantined. I disagree. Having to stump up with airfare up to ten times higher than pre-pandemic days, many will not be in a position cover isolation costs as well.

As an alternative to using hotels for isolation, there is one very under used resource that wouldn’t cost any more be person than currently, but would for a more pleasant confinement. Anchored all over the world are large cruise ships that would provide more secure isolation and provide facilities that would no hotel can. Why not transfer a few such ships to NZ waters where they could provide more beds than the total capacity of all the hotels in the country?


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Update Aotearoa 19th June 2020

Call in the military
A Police shooting in Aotearoa
Gun registration in Aotearoa

Call in the military!

And we were doing so well!

It seems that Ministry of Health (MoH) staff managing the quarantine of incoming travellers have failed to follow the processes and procedures that have been laid down by their own organisation. Among their numerous guffaws was granting “compassionate leave” to two recent arrivals without first testing them for COVID-19. The pair traveled from Auckland to Wellington by car, a trip of approximately eight hours.

The day after their arrival in Wellington they were tested and the result two days later was positive. In the meantime they had come in contact directly and indirectly with more than 200 people, all of who must now be traced, and go into self isolation for two weeks.

This is just one of many errors, including allowing those in quarantine to take supervised walks outside the quarantine facilities where two metre distancing from the public was not observed, instances where new arrivals in quarantine were allowed to intermingle with those whose quarantine was about to expire, and the failure to perform the madatory two tests over the two weeks for all those in quarantine.

As a result of the very lacklustre performance of MoH staff, the Prime Minister has called in the defence force to manage the entire quarantine process. Given the number of anecdotal stories about poor quarantine management, I’m surprised that our defence forces weren’t called in weeks ago. This is an area of operation where the military should perform better than civil servants. Let’s hope so.

A Police shooting in Aotearoa

No, this isn’t a report of NZ police shooting a member of the public. It’s a report of members of the public shooting NZ police officers. This morning two police officers were shot while undertaking a routine traffic incident. One has since died. A passerby was run down and seriously injured by the offenders’ vehicle as they made their escape.

Such events are rare in Aotearoa New Zealand, and it does not alter my position on arming the police. Unfortunately, we will likely see some call for such action, as often happens after unfortunate events like this.

There’s a significant section of society that genuinely believes that the number of murders is increasing year by year, when the facts show a very different trend. In the 1970s there were 60 to 80 murders per year. In the last decade, that number is down to less than 40. Last year, 2019, is the outstanding exception where more people were murdered in the Christchurch mosque shooting than occurred throughout the rest of the year.

In the history of this nation, 33 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, The last occasion prior to today was eleven years ago. While that’s 33 too many, it’s about on par with the number of people killed by police, mainly after discharging a weapon at police or presenting a weapon with an apparent intent to use it.

Gun registration in Aotearoa

Yesterday, a significant change in gun laws passed its third and final reading in Parliament. Up until now there has been no system of firearms registration in this country, even for those weapons that became prohibited in the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacre. I was beginning to think that the legislation would not be passed into law before the General Elections in September due to differences of opinion between the parties that make up the governing coalition.

After some intense negotiation between Labour and NZ First, the government got the numbers to progress the reforms. In essence, some reforms have immediate effect, while some such as a firearms registry won’t come into effect until 2023.

Immediate changes

  • A Ministerial Arms Advisory group will be established
  • Reduced length of firearms licence from 10 years to 5 years
  • Offences and penalties that will include a two year jail sentence and $20,000 fine
  • More high-risk firearms are prohibited including short (pistol-length) semi-automatic rifles
  • Endorsements for pest control have a shorter duration and need to be renewed
  • More people involved in agricultural and similar businesses can obtain pest endorsements
  • Those who come to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year will no longer be able to purchase and take ownership of a firearm in New Zealand

Changes over the next three years

  • In six months’ time anyone who sells ammunition will need a firearms licence
  • New rules will take effect in six months to determine who is “fit and proper” to possess firearms and who will be disqualified from holding a firearms licence
  • After one year, new rules governing a gun dealer’s licence. This is to recognise the range of dealer activities and associated risks of theft or misuse of firearms
  • In two years time, there will be new requirements for shooting clubs and ranges, which up till now have not been regulated by law
  • The establishment of an independent authority by 2023 to manage the licensing of firearms owners and the registration of firearms. Currently police are responsible for firearms licensing.

The legislation makes no change in our rights to gun ownership. As has always been the case here, there is no right to own guns. It’s a privilege, and more than ever, this legislation spells that such a privilege comes with responsibilities.


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Will there be a “new normal”?

During COVID-19 lockdown much discussion was made about changes in socialising and doing business becoming a “new normal”. For example, working from home where possible, staggering work hours to reduce the density of foot traffic and crowding in office spaces.

A great many businesses have discovered that productivity increased markedly in stay at home workers, and the majority of such workers found both work and general life-style more satisfying. While city centres were much quieter, pollution was down considerably. But now that all restrictions have been lifted there is pressure from central and local authorities for businesses to return to pre-COVID conditions.

The argument is that this is necessary to restore the “vibrancy” of city centres and to help inner city cafés, bars and such recover from dire financial situations. Is this a satisfactory reason to go back to the old normal? is it worth sacrificing the health and well being of thousands of workers for the sake of a few struggling enterprises?

How about considering the interests of the many as well as the interests of a few. Some of our major telecommunications providers have all but closed down their bricks and mortar call centres, with all or most staff working from home. Apparently this is what most of the staff prefer. The telcos benefit from increased productivity, happier staff, and lower costs associated with smaller premises.

Not only does it remove the stress and wasted travel time involved in commuting to work, but it allows staff a great deal of flexibility, particularly when it come to family, but also with lifestyle in general. A win all round don’t you think?

A major insurer here has announced that it too is to downsize its head office, moving much of its operation to the suburbs and to working from home where possible. Disappointingly, the government has criticised the the company claiming that it will harm the recovery of city centre.

Other businesses have found rostering staff on a 4-day week has improved productivity, staff satisfaction and staff loyalty. Other organisations have adopted a mixture of practices such as requiring office attendance only one or two days each week, and flexible office work hours. How many people wish to return to rush hour commuting that the authorities are pushing for?

Most of my readers are aware I’m not a fan of “vibrant” when it comes to city crowds, but I really think we’re missing an opportunity to re-evaluate the wisdom of cramming so much into city centres, and making suburbs little more than dull lifeless dormitories for city workers.

Perhaps, before the advent of modern forms of telecommunications, concentrating commerce into compact areas was the most productive means of conducting business. But does that still hold true today with modern forms of telecommunications? I’m not convinced.

At the least we should take the opportunity provided to us by COVID-19 to look at life/work balance, not just individually, but as communities and societies. Perhaps we’ll end up choosing the old normal, but unless we look, we’ll miss any chance of finding a better alternative.


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Freedom!!

Not that I’m looking forward to it.

COVID-19 has been eliminated in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In less than half an hour, COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted as we drop to Alert Level 1. Apart from our borders remaining tightly closed we’ll be back to pre-COVID conditions. We’ll be able to cram ourselves by the thousands into every type of venue imaginable and we can shake hands, hug and hongi to our heart’s contents with loved ones and total strangers if we are so inclined. I’m not.

One characteristic that I and many other ausistics have is an aversion to large gatherings, physical contact with other people and the need for greater personal space than many neurotypical people find acceptable.

I’ve never felt more comfortable around other people that I have during the past 70 days of the various COVID-19 alert levels. All alert levels have mandated a 2 metre spacing between people if they didn’t belong to the same social bubble.

I’m going to try to maintain at least one metre of social distancing. I find that anything less than that raises my level of discomfort. While I don’t think many people will think it odd to begin with, I wonder how long it will be before my minimum social spacing is deemed unacceptable by the community.

I’ve really enjoyed the occasional coffee and cake in a local eatery over the past month as the nearest person would be seated two metres away, and all food was delivered to the table instead of me having to dance around other patrons all trying to grab items from the display cabinets. What I have I to look forward to?

However, I appreciate I’m an exception and just about everyone else is looking forward to join the throngs and crowds, and get up close and personal to friends and strangers alike. I’m pleased for you.

But please be a little understanding if I take a step back when you take a step forward.