Stephen Franks

With all the waste it isn’t really a wonder that others are relieved

The Auckland “SuperCity” has proved to be a failure in delivering on the promises made when mooted.

Yes we have a unified voice to Wellington, but that is about all. Poor governance and out-of-control spending from a wastrel Mayor and his little band of helpers have seen ratepayers fleeced, services reduced and rates massively increased…all for nothing.

The latest debacle is the more than a billion dollars blown on IT costs.

Others around the country who resisted amalgamation plans are relieved. Stephen Franks covers this well.

Remember this time last year – before Uber-Wellington was killed by overwhelming resistance from suspicious voters. Our ‘betters’ were deriding the instinct that empire building, not democracy, was the motive for bigger, more remote Councils. The Local Government Commission was still peddling claims they must have known were dodgy on how much more efficient big local government would be.

An ‘efficiency’ goody we missed out on was consolidation of ‘fragmented’ computer systems.
Bernard Orsman in the Herald tells us how that is going for Auckland, after spending of $1.24bn. At one stage it was going to save money, despite estimated transition costs of $600m.

Now it seems Aucklanders have to be satisfied that some day they will have the huge benefit of being able to use the same system across Auckland, for example to hire their local hall.

No one has ever explained who, other than a compulsive tidier, thinks it a benefit that everyone across a region must use the same processes and systems, when they rarely, if ever, want or need to use more than the nearest.

Orsman’s  report does not make clear how much of that $1.24bn since 2010 would have been spent without supercity amalgamation. But I’m reliably told that the  cost for Auckland local government IT recently has been around $165 per annum per person. Not much, you think – a couple of cups of coffee per week per ratepayer. Possibly worthwhile if dealing with the Council is 10x quicker than before, or elsewhere.

Read more »

Could farming our rare species ensure their survival?

Stephen Franks thinks that with the advances in technology and DNA testing we could protect our wild but rare species by farming them.

This would have a two-fold success. Firstly it would provide the market with legal product, ending poaching, and secondly it would ensure the survival of the species that are threatened.

Our outdated laws against trading wildlife had a simple worthy purpose – to make it unprofitable to steal animals from the wild. The prohibition is intended to prevent scarcity in the wild. Unfortunately it guarantees scarcity in the market, and therefore assured profits for thieves from wild populations.

Using DNA tests to legalise revenue for breeding can make anti-poaching laws more practically enforceable. Farmed breeding populations can be conclusively distinguishable from wild populations. DNA identification is now fine grained and cheap enough to eliminate any need for GM tags or other alterations of the farmed population.

DNA testing does not end all complications. For example if kereru farming was licenced it might be difficult to prevent wild birds from mating with farmed birds. Such species could need periodic re-profiling and re-licencing of the breeding line. Science offers a back up though. Diet oriented stable isotope tests on a feather, for example, can support DNA fingerprinting. They can show whether a bird was reared on a wild diet or a farm diet.

It will need law changes – New Zealand is always the ‘goody good’ in these matters and we have diligently reflected in our law the international prohibitions on trading (CITES) to which many other countries pay lip service.   Read more »

Farrar wrong on Franks

In a superb post explaining why Sue Bradford is not in the running for Children’s Commissioner, Arts, Travel & Lifestyle blogger David Farrar says the following:

Stuff reports:

Poverty activist and former Green Party MP is in the running to become our next Children’s Commissioner.

No she isn’t. Applying for a job doesn’t mean you are in the running. If I applied to be UN Secretary-General, that doesn’t mean I’m in the running. To be in the running you need a non-zero chance of getting the job.

Read more »

Speaking out against dodgy Auckland Council and their Maori pandering

David Rankin speaks out against the council’s mana whenua sites policies:

Aucklander and Ngapuhi cultural expert, David Rankin, who will be standing for the Auckland Council in 2016 election, has lashed out at the latest Council moves affecting ‘sites of cultural value’ in the city.

Mr Rankin says that the Council’s recent decision to remove 1373 locations from the list of supposedly culturally significant sites shows that the process has been what he describes as “a farce from the outset”.

Mr Rankin, who relocated the bones of his ancestor, Hone Heke, says that the process of claiming these “sites of value” reflected a snatch and grab mentality, and was culturally ignorant.

“Traditionally, tapu [sacred] sites were made tapu only for a specific reason, such as being the site of a battle.  Afterwards, they were made noa [ordinary] so everyone could return to using the site as required.”There is a brief karakia and ritual involved in returning a region to its noa status, says Mr Rankin, and he intends to perform this ceremony sometime next year.  As he explains.

“Once the tapu has been lifted, these sites will no longer have any sacred significance, and can be used as any other land in the city.”

It was essentially brownmail…and Stephen Franks points that out in a  recent blog post, although he doesn’t use my rather crude term.

We have advised a public spirited group called Democracy Action on the unlawfulness of Auckland Council’s ‘Mana Whenua’ provisions.

We have lately been investigating the prospects for a class action against the Council. In our opinion there are strong grounds for liability, but so far there may not have been enough evidence of realised loss to justify the costs of action. Today’s Herald reports that the Council will shortly vote on a proposal to remove 1,373 of the 3,600 ‘sites of value’:

That removal could delay the time when it would be economic to launch a class action.    Read more »

Organ donor veto review is underway

The government is conducting a review into the law surrounding organ donations and looking at removing the veto of the donor’s family.

This is a sensible review being conducted by Peter Dunne.

The Government is looking at whether families should continue to have the right to overrule the wishes of organ donors.

Currently whilst people can indicate on their drivers licence that they want to be an organ donor, families can overrule the decision.

Organ donor campaigners say the veto is one reason that New Zealand has one of the lowest organ donor rates in the world, although they say it’s very hard to tell just how many deceased organ donations are overruled. There were just 46 deceased organ donations last year.

The Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says he and the Health Minister Jonathan Coleman have launched a review to see if there are ways to lift New Zealand’s poor rate of organ donation.

He says one of the things that will be looked at is the veto rule and whether it is appropriate. He says there are strong arguments for and against it.

He says there is also an argument about the weight that should be placed on the veto, and working out whether it’s the donors wish to donate or the families wish which is paramount in the end.

Read more »

Stephen Franks short but blunt message about our judicial system

I have refrained from entering into the Teina Pora debate until some sensible thoughts emerged.

Stephen Franks is short and blunt, but he is right.

Another embarrassment for our criminal justice system dealt with by  the Privy Council, the world’s best independent  top court.

There will be too much political resistance to admitting a stupid mistake in dumping that inexpensive heritage assurance of judicial objectivity. But the need remains.

We should promptly ask the High Court of Australia to accept our appeals where we need demonstrable assurance that the result will not be influenced by insider defensiveness or local groupthink.

The single worst thing that Helen Clark did, with it appears little actual thinking, was the removal of appeal tot eh Privy Council.   Read more »

Woe betide the Uber City for Wellington, promoted by proven liars

Anyone who thinks the so-called “Uber City” for the Wellington region is going to deliver anything like that which it is hyped to needs a good crack across the bonce with a length of 4×2.

Same goes got he Hawkes Bay.

The name Uber City is a joke too…even if you combined them all they still won’t have the population of South Auckland.

Stephen Franks highlights a problem with the promotors of the Uber City…they are proven liars .

According to Ms Wilde her Council not being allowed to lie in official advertising “could drastically restrict how local bodies operate”. She believes it “poses a real risk to robust political debate”. Putting aside the inconvenient fact that Council advertising should be informative, not political propaganda, it is incredible that there is no media furore over her further defence that seeking the Advertising Standards Authority ruling was “legal nitpicking”.

The DomPost has reported the matter under the heading “Advertising Standards Authority calls GWRC super-city ad ‘misleading’”. Note the implied warnings to ignore – “calls’ instead of “finds” and the word ‘misleading’ in quotes to distance the DomPost from the dreadfully unwelcome judgmentalism implicit in ‘misleading’.

Take a look at the ASA report, ( 15/004) which attaches my firm’s letter setting out the facts. Someone in the GWRC was either too stupid or too reckless to merit staying employed, or set out to deceive. See also the submission on behalf of the GWRC which says essentially that councils should be free from ASA supervision of their advertising, because being constrained to the truth would be problematic.

How do the honest members of the Council feel about this? Will they seek an inquiry into it. Will anyone be held accountable?

Businesses, remember that indifference to honesty, when you next want to shade the truth to GWRC. Its leader thinks that “misleading advertising” which was “not prepared with a due sense of social responsibility” is just robust debate.

In 2008 I blogged on journalistic blind eyes to lies by politicians, compared to their frothing pursuit of easily made mistaken business claims.

“As a commercial lawyer I’m sickened by the left’s sanctimony toward business. Labour love passing laws they could never satisfy in their own conduct. They lie happily, yet business people (properly) face prison or huge fines for faulty prospectus statements.”

I’ve had some journalists and politicians claim that it is because business can lose people so much money. We saw that claim in full lynch mob glory in the media’s repeated whipping of two former Ministers of Justice. They were found by a court to have been honest though mistaken. They’d failed to add enough emphasis to their written warnings of the risks facing Lombard Finance.

The company’s failure (like most mezzanine development finance lenders) had nothing to do with the misleadingly mild warnings. Many commentators wanted them in jail for years, nonetheless.

Read more »

Why business people generally make poor politicians

Stephen Franks has a considered piece about why business people make poor politicians.

Few business people are good at democratic politics. They expect what works in business to work in democracy. They’re frustrated by the messy necessity to maintain a working consensus, by multiple conflicting objectives, and by the unreliability of delegates.

They think that if only the right people were in charge, the best structures and systems would be like those in business, where everyone accepts single prevailing decisions from nominated rulers, and he who pays, rules.

Business people who get embroiled in politics commonly hate it so much they eject before they flame out. Those who survive and learn may be small in number but they are among the best we have, and we owe them a lot for their patience.

Many good business people are equally hopeless in assessing policy. I could not count the number of times I’ve heard the idiocy that the RMA is a good law, with nothing seriously wrong with it except how it is administered by council people who are stupid or wrongly motivated. These business defenders have no idea that they’ve just explained exactly why the RMA is  so badly conceived and written as to besmirch the rule of law.

They’re misled by objectives. In business, if you can get your objectives clear, and set them out for your staff, much of the work is done. But the promoters of all law recite noble objectives, usually purposes we can all agree on.  The key problem in both policy and law-making is the unintended, often the application of law for purposes never thought about.

What distinguishes bad law from good law is simple. Well designed and drafted law works whether or not ‘idiots’ are in charge. It is predictable because it limits what rulers can do. It is very carefully  designed knowing that people of malign intent will try to misuse any law. Frequently they will have power. Good law is drafted by wise sceptics about human nature. It remains predictable in effect despite attempts to distort it.

Read more »

New Zealand’s Silliest Local Government Spending Competition, Ctd

A mare and an ass talk amalgamation

A mare and an ass talk amalgamation

Thanks to a number of eagle eyed readers who have nominated Ray Wallace, Mayor of Lower Hutt, For New Zealand’s Silliest Local Government Spending.

The ratbag mayor of Lower Hutt gets the nomination for the Silliest Local Government Spending Competition.

Ratbag is probably too kind a word to describe him with as he has pissed away $47,000 of ratepayers money trying to stop amalgamation and protect his own job.

Lower Hutt ratepayers have stumped up nearly $47,000 to fund an anti-super-city lobby group fronted by mayor Ray Wallace.   Read more »

Stephen Franks on the lie that is the Religion of Peace

Stephen Franks is a smart man, he has realised that we are in a war and he is now speaking up.

He explores the statements made by defence expert Dr David Kilcullen about the fight against ISIS and what we have to do to combat militant Islam.

Kilcullen highlights the risks from our internal responses (if the West fails to destroy the caliphate’s appeal to its own citizens):

“…if we fail to face the threat where it is today — primarily overseas — we’ll suffer the consequences at home. This isn’t to rehash some Cold War domino theory in which we “fight them there or we’ll fight them here”. It’s just to recognise the reality that a purely isolationist, defensive, policing strategy — protecting ourselves at home rather than seeking to defeat terrorism abroad — ultimately means the end of society as we know it. Mass surveillance, secret police, a national-security state, guards on every gate, a garrison society: that’s what a “defensive” strategy actually entails.”

He seems to be warning against the current mealy-mouthed approach to Islam within our countries, pretending that the conservative Islamic leaders, their schools and their doctrine are part of the solution, instead of recognising that they are fuel for the problem:    Read more »