Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Update Aotearoa – 8th May 2019

Some news items that are of significant interest to me personally:

Climate change bill, independent commission announced

The government has unveiled its plan to combat climate change, under which methane will be treated differently to other greenhouse gases, in response to push back from the agricultural industry.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill – introduced to Parliament today – sets out a plan for the next 30 years.

The government has also set a new emissions reduction target for all greenhouse gases, except methane, to net zero by 2050, in line with New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“The government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Agriculture was “incredibly important to New Zealand”, Ms Ardern said, but also needed to be “part of the solution”.

“That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane” and adopted what’s known as a “split gas” approach.

Read more (RNZ News)

Should New Zealand history be compulsory in schools?

Is Aotearoa New Zealand alone in not mandating the teaching of its own history in schools?

A leading historian has renewed calls to make New Zealand history a compulsory subject in schools. Vincent O’Malley says the Ministry of Education’s reluctance to mandate the subject is not good enough.

He says the current curriculum was “failing” young people. “Any half decent education system anywhere in the world should deliver a basic introduction to the country you live in, that you grew up in. Ours is failing to do that. A lot of young people are asking to learn about this history.”

Read more (TVNZ One News)

Standards vital for new cannabis industry

MANU Caddie, chief executive of Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis Company, says a University of Otago academic is right to claim cannabis is unable to be considered a medicine because it contains multiple active ingredients.

Professor Michelle Glass published an opinion piece in the New Zealand Medical Journal last week suggesting there is no need for the Ministry of Health to develop new regulations governing cannabis as medicine because the Medicines Act already outlines the standards a product needs to reach in order to be considered a medicine.

Mr Caddie says recognition of cannabis as a medicine is challenging when whole plant extracts contain active ingredients in addition to THC and CBD.

Read more (Gisborne Herald)

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says anti-vaxxer parents are ‘pro-plague’

The education minister doesn’t think children shouldn’t miss out on school just because their parents are what he calls “pro-plague”.

The Northland DHB has suggested unvaccinated children stay home from school for the next two weeks, after two known cases of measles have been discovered. Northland has the lowest immunisation rate in the country at 85 percent.

Chris Hipkins said the DHB should be stepping up to ensure the region has sufficient immunisation levels. “Clearly there is an issue there that the DHB needs to address, they are responsible for that. I don’t believe that kids should be denied their right to an education, particularly if it’s a conscious choice by their parents not to immunise”, he said.

He said he uses the term ‘pro-plague’ for anti-vaxxers because that’s what they are. “It is a statement of fact. It is a ridiculous position, it is not based on science, there are very good reasons why we require a certain level of the population to be immunised, so that we’re not susceptible to massive outbreaks.”

Read more (RNZ News)

Mohua goes from rare to common in 21 years

The once rare mohua/yellowhead has for the first time become the most common native bird counted since predator control began in the Landsborough valley in South Westland.

Mohua numbers have risen more than 30-fold and overall, native bird numbers have doubled in the 21 years since monitoring began in 1998, recently analysed Department of Conservation (DOC) results show.

DOC Principal Science Advisor Dr Colin O’Donnell says the long-term study charts the response of 13 native bird species following sustained predator control to suppress rats, stoats and possums.

Read more (Scoop Sci-tech)

Celebrating New Zealand Sign Language Week and working toward an accessible future

For Deaf Aotearoa‘s executive assistant Erica Dawson access to political knowledge and information has “opened a whole new world”. It started in 2017 when a sign language version of the final debate between Jacinda Ardern and Bill English began.

For the first time the clash was aired  with a hand-to-hand battle between interpreters. Signs for policy words needed to be created, and people within the deaf community helped ensure viewers were given the correct messages from Ardern and English.

Last year Ardern announced all post-cabinet press conferences would be interpreted into NZSL going forward. That’s meant for the first time in Dawson’s almost 30-year life, she has been able to follow politics.

Read more (Stuff National)

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Update Aotearoa 18th April 2019

Recent news items I found of interest…

No capital gains tax

Aotearoa New Zealand is somewhat unique among OECD nations in that it has no payroll tax, gift tax, inheritance tax, or capital gains tax. We also have a relatively flat income tax regime, starting at 10% from the first dollar earned, and leveling out to 33% at around NZ$70,000 (US$50,000). The left of centre political parties have made much of the fact that our tax system places an unfair burden on those with lower incomes. The Labour party, and the Greens campaigned on reviewing our tax system, and on gaining power the Labour lead coalition set up a tax working group to review the current system and make recommendations on changes that would make the system more equitable.

One recommendation was the introduction of a capital gains tax (CGT). Unfortunately, the coalition minority party New Zealand First, lead by Winston Peters, would have none of this, whereas Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour party has long advocated a CGT. As say describes herself, she’s a “pragmatic idealist” and so for the foreseeable future CGT is off the table.
Capital gains tax abandoned by Government

Rights of Indigenous Peoples

New Zealand aims to be the first country in the world with an action plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in relation to Māori.

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta is travelling to the United Nations in New York over Easter to speak on New Zealand’s indigenous rights record to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

It comes after a high-level UN delegation from the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visited the country to give advice on how New Zealand can implement the Declaration, which the country signed up to in 2010.

Mahuta said the delegation had been introduced to Māori leaders and groups up and down the country and met with ministers.

New Zealand aims to be first with UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples plan

New Zealand’s environment in serious trouble

A bleak picture of the state of New Zealand’s environment has been painted by the Government’s official report, Environment Aotearoa 2019. The report is jointly produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, and is a follow on from the last report in 2015. The report says the way New Zealanders live and make a living is having a serious impact on the environment, and the benefits New Zealanders get from being in nature, though not measured or quantified, could be lost.

Damning report warns New Zealand’s environment is in serious trouble

New Zealand’s geographical centre shifts

If you’re looking for the centre of New Zealand, it’s moved. And it’s not in the same island any more either.

The change is nothing to do with how the land has shifted as a result of the November 2016 Kaikōura quake.

GNS Science researcher Jenny Black has recalculated the country’s geographic focus, taking into account that the United Nations now recognises New Zealand covers about 6 million square kilometres, 95 per cent of it sea floor.

New Zealand’s geographical centre shifts east and hops islands


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Celebrating the birth of a nation

Today is Waitangi Day, where Aotearoa New Zealand celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, whereby Aotearoa New Zealand became a British colony. There are in fact two versions of the Treaty of Waitangi: the Treaty, signed by Governor Hobson on behalf of the British Crown, which was written in English; and te Tiriti, which was signed by most of the Māori signatories, and was in written in Te Reo Māori (the Māori language). What the Crown intended, and what the Māori believed they were signing up to, were not the same thing, and has been a matter of dispute ever since, including bloody warfare. I stated my point of view in a 2015 blog post Treaty of Waitangi 101 which also includes a video clip of a presentation made to the Quaker Yearly Meeting in 2013.

There has been a call, both from Māori and from some sections of the Pākehā community to enshrine the treaty in law. There arises a problem: which version? I don’t think this is solvable. However, I think we are on the right track in looking at the principles or spirit of the treaty and working within that framework. Te Ara (the Encyclopedia of New Zealand) has a story on the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – ngā mātāpono o te tiriti that illustrates where we are at today. The Waitangi Tribunal had this to say in 1983:

The spirit of the Treaty transcends the sum total of its component written words and puts literal or narrow interpretations out of place.

In River gains personhood I wrote about how the Whanganui River and its watershed has gained personhood. This is an example of respecting the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. A similar law saw a section of the North Island change from being a national park to an entity with personhood.

There are some who find the notion that a “primitive animistic” perspective being permitted within a “civilised Western Christian” (is that Oxymoronic?) society to be totally unacceptable – mostly, but not entirely on the religious right. Some of these detractors are not Kiwi, but some unfortunately are. Personally, I find the partial absorption of each other’s culture, values and perspectives both challenging and beautiful, and long may it continue to be so

Finally I have embedded a YouTube clip of a speech from Our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Yes, I’ll concede that as well as discussing the importance of Waitangi Day, she manages to include a little politics and nationalism (after all, she’s a politician), but what I like about her style, is that she challenges us to make her and her government accountable for what they say and do (or don’t do as the case may be). I like that in a politician. (length: 12m 16s)


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Batten down the hatches!

Just as I begin recovery from the recent onslaught of a severe migraine attack, I find we are about to face a new onslaught. What was supposed to be the tail end of Cyclone Cook is making landfall about now. Over the last day it has intensified and has now been categorised as the most severe weather event to hit Aotearoa New Zealand in almost fifty years.

On the 10th of April 1968, Cyclone Giselle, the worst extratropical cyclone in New Zealand’s recorded history caused widespread damage throughout the country and the sinking of the Inter-Island ferry TEV Wahine, resulting in the death of 53 passengers.

Everyone has all but forgotten the name of the cyclone. Those like myself who lived through it simply remember it as the Wahine Storm ot Wahine Disaster. It’s an experience few can forget. Lets hope Cyclone Cook proves to be an anticlimax.

The clip linked to below is taken from the evening news bulletin that day. For those of us there it seemd more dramatic as we had the “privilege” of watching the event unfolding through our television screens and knowing that the weather prevented any effective rescue.
https://www.nzonscreen.com/embed/7e15d764847b5b81


Postscript: All very much a let down in this part of the country. The cyclone tracked further east than had been predicted and my side of North Island received only a moderate amount of rain and winds that fell short of being gale force. Other parts of the country did experience gale force winds and torrential rain, flooding, fallen trees, power cuts, block roads etc, here it could barely be described as a storm at all. Cyclone Cook will not go down in history as the second most severe weather event to hist the country in recent history.


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On flu shots and statistical nonsense

This morning I took a pleasant twenty minute walk to my doctor’s surgery for a flu shot. This was the first time I have had a jab for the flu. It’s not that I’m afraid of injections, it’s just that I’ve never felt the need to be vaccinated against the flu.

Firstly, I’m one of those fortunate people who seldom catch the flu. If I do, It’s no more than a very minor nuisance.

Secondly flu shots aren’t cheap. My bank account would likely be lighter by around $50. That’s not an inconsiderable amount when my only regular income is my superannuation.

So why did I have one today?

It was free. As I recently turned 65, the health system in its wisdom has decided that I am eligible for a free flu vaccination. Do I really need it? possibly not. If the doctor’s surgery hadn’t phoned me, I would not have bothered But if it’s free, it’s worth considering. Besides, I’m not getting any younger, so I guess that the odds of becoming seriously ill with the flu is increasing.

While I was waiting the mandatory ten minutes after the shot before being allowed to leave, I picked up the morning newspaper. An article on the front page was titled “Dumb ways to . . . end up in hospital”. The statistics looked dubious immediately as one of the first “facts” they presented was that there were “nearly 200,000 hospital discharges in 2012”. That seemed to be an extraordinary low number for a population of 4.5 million people.

The article then went on to say that you were more likely to end up in hospital being injured by a powered lawn mower than being injured by a gun. Over 200 were injured by power mowers which means than more than 1 in a thousand admissions to hospital were caused by lawn mower injuries. That seemed an impossibly high rate. Perhaps I should stop mowing my lawn.

Following a few other statistics about the number of discharges following dog bites compared to bee and wasp stings, and similar inconsequential injuries, the article mentioned that almost 70,000 patients were discharged after suffering injuries arising from their medical or surgical care. What!? One in three people were injured while in hospital?

I’ve been in hospital more than 10 times over that last few years, so either I’ve been incredibly lucky, or there’s something I don’t know about but should. Then I remembered that lies and statistics often go hand in hand, and resolved to clarify the fact when I returned home.

Although I couldn’t find the statistics for the year quoted in the newspaper, I did manage to locate the statistics for the preceding year. And they paint a quite different picture.

The “nearly 200,000” referred not to total discharges, but to hospital discharges involving unintentional and intentional injury.The total number of discharges was a little over one million. This puts the rest of the statistics in a more reasonable light. The “statistic” on in hospital injuries included complications after surgery, abnormal reactions to medication, no matter how minor and several other cstegories. Actual “medical misadventures” totalled less than 500, or less than 0.05%. I can breathe a sigh of relief.

The statistic of one in a thousand discharges following lawn mower accidents drops to one in a thousand injuries requiring hospitalisation. Perhaps I’ll have to find another excuse to avoid mowing the lawn. 189 people were discharged following “contact with a powered lawnmower”, while 73 were discharged following firearms injuries. The statistics don’t mention the number of deaths, and as admissions nationwide don’t seem to be kept, I’m not able to ascertain the relative danger mowers and guns, but I think I can sleep safely knowing that mowers are more of a threat to life and limb than a gun.

One interesting fact that struck me was the difference in the rate of discharges between males and females. The total rates are quite similar, but of the more than 700 types of injuries listed I am hard pressed to find any where male injuries are less frequent than female injuries. For almost all types, males are two or three times more likely to be hospitalised than females. In the case of guns, 71 of the 73 cases were male, while for lawn mowers, 143 of the 189 cases were male. So far the only injuries I have found where females clearly outnumber males is falls on stairs (2341 vs 1431) and unspecified falls (3389 vs 2196). The disparity of injuries between the sexes is worthy of a post in itself.

I’ve always had a healthy dose of cynicism when reading/watching news, and the article in question does nothing but to reinforce that cynicism. It’s a shame that so many people are easily taken in by “facts” without doing a little research of their own.