Your Punt

The issues surrounding child uplift are complex, but we won't make progress without a better understanding of whānau and the tikanga behind it

Later this month, thousands of people are expected to march to parliament as part of the #HandsOffOurTamaraki movement. At its heart, the movement is about preserving whānau and demanding that the state stop removing children from their whānau, hapū and iwi.

There has been a call for a review of the Waitangi Tribunal based on a view that the Tribunal leans against the Crown in challenges to settlement negotiations.  Lets just fact-check that.  

Shane Jones has come out swinging against the Waitangi Tribunal and suggests it is over reaching.

Overlapping claims in Treaty settlements have been before the Supreme Court and raised on Parliament’s lawn this week. Here’s a quick explainer as to why these can be such difficult issues. 

This week has seen the issue of how to manage overlapping claims in the negotiation of Treaty of Waitangi settlements came before the Supreme Court and led to protests on Parliament grounds.

Attitudes to 'artificial intelligence' and predictive algorithms seem to oscillate between hype and hysteria. The true picture is a good deal more mixed, but as more examples of predictive analytics in government come to light, it's time for some proper oversight.

(With Ali Knott, James Maclaurin and John Zerilli)

The chief science advisor to the Prime Minister has just issued a damning commentary on the way in which the media presents 'information' about crime and punishment in New Zealand

Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser has released a report stating that for the last 20 years, the media narrative about crime and punishment has been driven by dogma.

A year ago New Zealand's top soldier stood in front of the cameras and insisted that the book Hit & Run had got it wrong. This week, after a year's wait, an OIA request prompted the NZDF to admit the photos in the book had the right location after all. This is the story of that request

News broke on Tuesday that the New Zealand Defence Force had released documents that corroborated important parts of Jon Stephenson's and Nicky Hager's book, Hit & Run, and fatally undermined their central, crucial critique of the book. 

The makers of app LegalFling claim it creates a "legally binding contract" for sex that can result in remedies for breach, including enforcement of penalty clauses. I think it doesn't.

The Dutch company LegalThings is developing an app called LegalFling. The basic idea is that it allows two people to record their consent to sexual contact, including details like whether or not condoms are required, whether explicit language (vaguely defined as “language that may be considered offensive”) can be used, and whether BDSM and photo and video recording is OK.

My anti-apartheid protest convictions nearly kept me out of Canada. Luckily, I had friends in high places. What though of those many people in our world, especially those seeking refuge from war and oppression, who do not?


The Court of Appeal ruling and his critics suddenly championing free speech has left the creator of the famous Planet Key video baffled and asking, who's being satirical now?

It started with a song and a Facebook post and has ended with a baffling court decision, one that seems to have little connection to where we began. Frankly, the whole Planet Key episode has been a very expensive exercise for everyone involved – both the taxpayers and plaintiffs – just to establish a definition of free speech and our right to exercise it.

Up to 90% of prison inmates have problems with substance abuse and addiction. But Corrections does not require the counsellors who provide rehabilitation programmes for them to have a graduate degree in the assessment and treatment of addictive disorders. In fact, they don't even need a degree - just a qualification.

In April last year, Radio New Zealand reported that the Corrections Department was paying for non-existent alcohol and drug counsellors.

President Donald is going to be a headache for the intelligence community. He can't keep his own secrets safe, so how can they trust him?

The spies will be feeling a chill after a month of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

That includes New Zealand’s spies, now in surprisingly familiar territory as concern about Trump’s behaviour spreads across the intelligence community.

The inquiry reports into Kiwi issues raised by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are nearly complete. Gwyn's reports are likely to shed great light on how our intelligence agencies operate.

When Edward Snowden’s NSA haul finally turned out a few New Zealand documents, it created an awesome and instant workload for Cheryl Gwyn.

The new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security suddenly had her hands filled. That was almost two years ago.

In many respects, Judith Collins has been the worst Minister of Justice and Corrections New Zealand has ever had. She had to go – even if that changes absolutely nothing about how the country deals with the drivers of crime or the growing prison population. And it won't.

The Corrections Department puts out a monthly magazine called, guess what – Corrections Works.

New Zealand has fallen prey to penal populism: our prison population is at an all time high – driven by victims rights groups and the public's moral panic over violent crime

In 2011, Bill English said that prisons were “a moral and fiscal failure” and New Zealand should never build another one. Well said – and achievable – but only if Governments stop pandering to the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the moral panic manufactured by the media whenever a violent crime occurs.

The reasons Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler give for their constitution-writing project are not convincing.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler, both of them former legal academics and current barristers, Sir Geoffrey having also served as Attorney-General and Prime Minister in between, have published a book

The Government announcement of a Predator Free goal for New Zealand by 2050 sounds good. But the budget for this is woefully inadequate, and comes on top of years of cost cutting - some say the deliberate, reckless weakening - of the Department of Conservation. We need to do more.

One per cent please.                                           

Prison volunteers as the bridge between prison and civil society

“I have been involved in this strange, fascinating and tragic world of incarceration for over 25 years. I have had many ideas about penal reform in that time, many of the subsequently proved quite wrong. I now think there are two basic things for which one should aim.

If the Government was serious about reducing re-offending, the Corrections Department would pay for professional reintegration services instead of relying on well meaning volunteers like Ngapari Nui

Black power member, Ngapari Nui, has been working as a prison volunteer for the past five years trying to steer young gang members away from crime. By all accounts he’s been doing a great job.

Let's not just blindly cheer for Kiwis such as Helen Clark and Steven Adams, let's judge them on merit

I am not supporting Helen Clark or Steven Adams.

Before you choke on your coffee, here’s why. I do not support New Zealanders just because they are New Zealanders. That’s near blind loyalty of the “my country, right or wrong” variety. Neither Helen Clark nor Steven Adams really thrill me and I decline to jump on the bandwagon.

Tony Robertson has a lot in common with Graeme Burton, William Bell & the Beast of Blenheim. They were all serious high risk offenders – but none of them got to attend a rehabilitation programme in prison

Tony Robertson was sentenced to eight years in prison for indecently assaulting a five year old girl in 2005. He was considered a high risk prisoner and the parole board declined to release him on four separate occasions.  He was eventually released in December 2013 at the end of his sentence.

Colonial monuments have rightly come under scrutiny. We should not the remove controversial reminders, but we do need to tell a wider range of stories about history in our public places

From South Africa to South Carolina, and from

Three strategies to combat the Islamic State insurgency

I am in the camp that believes Iraq’s current situation is not intractable. With sufficient clarity, political will and coordination, its ethnosectarian strife can be put to an end. Here are some thoughts:

Redrawing borders: a functioning federalism

The statistics from Oregon are clear: the people who have the "choice" of assisted dying are disproportionately white, wealthy and well-educated. Who pays the price for their choice?

So who wants assisted suicide? 

In Oregon, the poster child for New Zealand advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the statistics after 17 years of the Death With Dignity Act are emphatic[1]:

Rhona's death-it was not what she would have wanted.

Rhona and I were married for 54 years and about 45 of those were good, until vascular dementia began to affect our relationship.  She died in April 2014.

Jamie Whyte claims that poverty statistics based on relative measures of poverty are misleading. I explain why his argument is unpersuasive.

Former ACT party leader Jamie Whyte recently wrote that:

There is no poverty in New Zealand. Misery, depravity, hopelessness, yes; but no poverty.

We're told it is inevitable that a boat carrying asylum seekers will one day arrive in New Zealand. This is one imagining of that meeting.


There’s a sail on the horizon. 

Not really a sail. More like a blanket on a stick.

And today is suddenly going off-script. The complication of others intrudes. And I’m to be their savior.


John Banks' win at the Court of Appeal hopefully sheds some much needed light on the sorry state of costs in criminal cases.

Earlier today, the National Business Review reported that (paywall): “A legal expert says Crown Law should pay for the “stuff up” which misled the court in the John Banks’ trial.” It turns out that the “legal expert” in question is my colleague and Punditeer, Professor Andr

There's lots to celebrate in our schools, and even Maori achievement has more to say for it than often acknowledged, but questions remain

While there is much grumbling about New Zealand's education system, the evidence suggests it's doing very well. Every three years the OECD surveys a sample of 15 year-old students. The exercise, known as PISA: (Program for International Student Assessment) looks at three dimensions: reading, maths and science knowledge.

Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics has provided the disinfectant of sunlight but the kinds of behaviours are long-standing. Take this example from 2005. Does it look familiar?

It dates back to 2005, another election year. And as one of those responsible for seminars for the School of Government and the Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington I assisted with the organisation of two pre-election forums focusing on substantive policy issues of interest at the time.

There is a lot of lip service paid to employees being an organisation's greatest asset, but the reality is rather different

'People are our greatest asset'.

Put it in to Google, with New Zealand as the specific country, and the range of companies that appear with the strap line is remarkable. From accounting firms through science to media and volunteer organisations. The employees of some of the companies might, however, give the Tui billboard response… Yeah, right.

What shape is the Trans-Pacific Partnership taking on and what impact will the election result have on whether or not New Zealand signs up?

For decades now National and Labour have had a cosy little arrangement when it comes to free trade. Both parties could count on each other to provide a solid bloc of votes in parliament to pass any bill implementing free trade agreements.

An alcoholic 58 year old man with twenty convictions for drink driving has been disqualified indefinitely but keeps getting his licence back.

Two months ago I was asked to interview Brian Hart, a 58 year old chronic alcoholic on his 20th conviction for drink driving. My job was to figure out how bad his drinking problem was and what treatment he needed. I discovered that as a child he had been physically abused and eventually abandoned by his parents. As a result he had long-standing personality problems.

Stigma against state tenants is perpetuated when journalists fail to get the facts right

There has been welcome attention in recent days on the stigma attached to being a beneficiary in New Zealand. As Catriona McLennan explained in the Herald, beneficiaries are discriminated against, and their fraud is disproportionately punished.

The Ombudsman has released a highly criticial report into the eight month segregation of Arthur Taylor in Auckland prison. Dame Beverley Wakem says the conditions for segregated prisoners "could be described as cruel and inhuman for the purposes of the UN Convention against Torture"

During his current incarceration in Paremoremo, Arthur Taylor has got right up the noses of Corrections officials by repeatedly taking them to court.

Pundit and Scoop are pleased to offer you the chance to win two tickets to Music at Matua. For free. Just for fun. Make a comment now and be in the draw.

Music at Matua is on Saturday 8th February 2014 at Matua Wines, Waimauku (30 mins West of Auckland city). And this is your chance to win two passes for 1 adult + up to three children.

EQC is broken and needs to be rebuilt. Or does it? If the complexity of the situation, some complaints and conflict are to be expected, right?

Let’s look at the facts. The first Canterbury earthquake occurred over 3 years ago. In February it will be three years since the second, but the rebuild has barely begun.

The laudable, lamentable and laughable in sport this year

First, what were the highlights? We have the Black Sox men’s softball team winning their 6th World Title in Auckland at the start of 2013.

Brilliant and winsome teenager, Lydia Ko, won in just her second tournament as a professional, the rather curiously named Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan. The world is her lobster, as Arthur Daley once said.

The Corrections Department removes opiate pain killers, ritalin, and even anti-depressants from prisoners. It uses a 'mimimum dental services policy'. This causes intense suffering for thousands of prisoners. So does it amount to torture?

Many New Zealanders seem to believe that those who end up in prison get what they deserve. I can only suspect they're unaware the Corrections Department uses a variety of cruel, inhumane and degrading practices on a daily basis, which induce intense pain and suffering for people in prison. These practices are a form of psychological torture.

Proposed planning reforms have been heavily contested by environmental, community, legal and professional organisations around the country

Environment Minister Amy Adams recently released the Government’s proposed changes to the principle planning legislation in NZ (the Resource Management Act 1991).

I was surprised the dominant response to the Ed Snowden leaks in the United States has not been concern at invasion of privacy and the misuse of state power, but anger at the leaker... until I remembered something about US DNA

When I lived in the United States some years ago I was captivated by some of its salty expressions. One was, “His head’s up his arse”. I took it to mean the said person was unaware of his surroundings because of his personal preoccupations. I guess that's the opposite of what's most prized in American mainstream culture – being a regular guy.

Is failing to "walk" in cricket symptomatic of a wider malaise?

The England fast bowler, Mr Stuart Broad, nicked a ball off Ashton Agar to the first slip, Michael Clarke, on day 3 of the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. The ball was cleanly caught and the entire Australian team celebrated.

Sir Bob Jones knows there's no such thing as a free lunch, but his cafe codswallop shows the multi-millionaire is woefully ignorant about reality of poverty in New Zealand

The New Zealand Herald a few days back had a column by Bob Jones on the problem of poor people. What he says is stunningly obtuse, and it perpetuates some silly ideas.

How can we move forward with the fluoridation debate? Hamilton City Council has an obligation to show that its decision will not cause harm

Fluoridation of public water supplies is a public health measure that has been around since the 1940s.

Auckland's sky-rocketing house prices could do the country a service -- as long as they are not artificially lowered

There have not been a lot of real issues about so far this year. We have had the usual silly season diet of non-consequential stories, interspersed with stories on the weather, accidents, crimes and so on.

France's adventure in Mali is both a result, and potential cause, of instability, and highlights once again the often-forgotten issues surrounding foreign military intervention

For now, French Prime Minister Francois Hollande may well consider France’s intervention in Mali a success. French airstrikes and ground troops halted the rebel advance toward Mali’s capital and weakened rebel control of the North.

Mike Lee's extraordinarily obtuse article in the Herald this week ignores the importance of rugby in Kiwi culture and the fight for gay rights. John Forde explains why the time is perfect for rugby to come out of the closet

New Zealand’s struggle for gay rights has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. Ten years ago, gay rights were of interest only to the gay and lesbian "minority" who were directly affected. Now, issues like marriage equality and homophobic bullying appear to have caught the national imagination.

Alfred Nobel intended his peace prize to go to those most responsible for creating "fraternity between nations," and the "reduction of standing armies." Yet a brief look at Obama's accomplishments since shows that the further we move from 2009, the further he turns from this legacy

Three years ago this month, the Nobel committee awarded its vaunted Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama. While many dubious names appear on the prize’s long list of winners, this decision was met with near-universal approval at the time.

The media have told us that Murray Wilson refused to attend a rehabilitation programme while in prison. In fact, the Corrections Department refused to let him attend

Murray Wilson, aka the ‘Beast of Blenheim’, sat in prison for 18 years doing next to nothing – and the whole country (well, Wanganui anyway) is up in arms. Why? That ‘doing nothing’ in prison seems to be at the heart of the problem.

Kennedy Graham is very experienced and knowledgeable in international law and process, but would his framework achieve what he claims?

Kennedy Graham has published a series of posts on Frog Blog where he has described his experiences of Rio's 3rd Earth Summit, expressed frustration at the lack of determination and resolve from the attending states (our own government sent a 

Since when did church buildings become a matter of public vote?

What do the Anglican Church’s decision to demolish the Christchurch Cathedral and the Destiny Church’s decision to build a three-storey church, café, gym and school complex  (the ‘City of God’) in South Auckland have in common. What do Bishop Victoria Matthews and Bishop Brian Tamaki share?

 About 400 people packed a Wellington hall to protest the planned closure of TVNZ7.  Among them was former ABC TV current affairs journalist Duncan Graham

The hikoi that clogged the forecourt of an empty Parliament in early May was an ecumenical event, embracing causes from dolphin rescue to fracking the terrain and the public service.  But foremost were the proposed asset sales.

Do you believe in an interventionist God? Well, don't say so ... in case you offend people.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently ruled that a church’s billboard stating “Jesus Heals Cancer” was in breach of the Advertising Code of Ethics. The Equippers Church billboard was found to be offensive, misleading and social irresponsible.

Could immigration policy save the French incumbent? Nicolas Sarkozy's political future is decided this weekend

After the first round of the French presidential election saw a record vote for the anti-immigration National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, Nicolas Sarkozy’s advisor Patrick Buisson has orchestrated a reorientation of Centre-right incumben

Depressed and suicidal prisoners in New Zealand are placed in so-called 'at risk' cells where they are deprived of sleep and subjected to humiliating searches

Kim Dotcom recently spent a month on remand in Mt Eden prison after the police agreed to act on behalf of US authorities. The police took away his cars and froze his bank accounts.

The first nation to give women the vote now has few women leading newspapers, businessness and political parties. So this international women's day, what can we do about that?

To uncover and address the many reasons why New Zealand women continue to be under-represented as leaders, a friend and I started Women’s Futures Month for March 2012 from our home city of Christchurch, the birthplace of the suffrage movement.

There are altenatives to selling off the SOEs, so why not look at some other options?

My summertime reading has included David Lange’s autobiography My Life. Yep I know, it’s a few years old now, but being written on his deathbed made it candid. It’s a great insight into the man, running the country and at times is hilarious.

The Corrections Department wants to build a new 1,000 bed prison at Wiri for $424 million - based on justice sector projections from 2010. The projections for 2011, however, show a new prison is no longer needed

Does New Zealand need to build a new 1,000 bed prison at Wiri?

In 2008, a depressed man robbed a bank – not for the money but so the judge would send him to prison. He got no help in prison and three years later he did it again. Is it time for an inquiry into our judicial system?

Last week, the Dominion Post reported the sad case of Mr Craig Andrew Blair who robbed a bank in Rotorua – not for financial gain but so that he would be sent back to prison.

We may have got rid of Nanny, but someone’s clearly still doing the babysitting

This time three years ago, a two-word phrase seemed to be gaining unprecedented coverage in New Zealand: Nanny State.

As the tenth anniversary of September 11 approaches, Americans are learning what Hope and Change really mean... Is Osama bin Laden still winning?

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist and member of the Black Hand, shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The purpose was to throw off the yoke of Austro-Hungarian rule and form an independent Yugoslavia. Within 37 days, all of Europe was engulfed in a tripartite war.

New Zealand is widely perceived as a safe country and yet we don't seem to feel safe -- and 20,000 Kiwis spend time in prison each year

Compared with other Western democracies, New Zealand seems to be keen on sending its citizens to prison. Our prison population has been rising for the last 50 years and in October 2010, reached a total of 8,892 inmates. New Zealand now locks up 199 people per 100,000 of its population.

Rehabilitating prisoners requires more action than rhetoric, says the author of a new book on the justice system

In 2009, in an attempt to improve its woeful performance, former chief executive Barry Mathews announced that the Corrections Department’s rehabilitation and reintegration services would be combined into one team.As part of this new strategy, Corrections Minister Judith Collins recently announced the Department is to employ 227 case managers --

Healthy, energy-efficient buildings are a key component in creating a healthy community and sustainable city. They are very easy to achieve through the use of the readily available, well proven and inexpensive Passive House standard

Christchurch City's draft Central City Plan is a laudable document, containing exciting goals of, amongst others, urban sustainability, a sustainable city and sustainable buildings. The document essentially outlines a city which is a healthy community in which to live.

The disaster unfolding across the Horn of Africa is a man-made catastrophe that reflects decisions by developed countries about poverty, war and climate change

The harrowing images from the Horn of Africa are all too familiar – silent columns of the severely malnourished converging on refugee camps that are already overcrowded and struggling to cope. The United Nations has finally declared that parts of Somalia are suffering not just a food crisis, but a famine.

Hardly a day passes without the media reminding us how alcohol is causing harm. Now the government has a golden opportunity to create a change in our binge drinking culture, so will it step up to the mark?

Another week in Godzone and we have seen yet more evidence of the harm alcohol can cause in the lives of our citizens.

Why the Government’s proposed Regulatory Responsibility Bill is ill- founded, constitutionally radical, and likely to hurt democracy.

John Key yesterday announced in his speech from the throne that the Government “will introduce a Regulatory Responsibilty Bill and send it to a Select Committee for submissions and debate".

As we approach Waitangi Day, it's worth considering that New Zealanders are not (contrary to popular belief) uniquely plagued by self-doubt

As an Australian migrant to New Zealand, one thing that still surprises me is the commonly-held belief here that Australians have a self-confident sense of nationhood, while Kiwis are full of angst and self-doubt.

Why debate the greening of the Mackenzie Basin when in reality it is being overrun by weeds and wilding pines and the topsoil is being blown away?

Claire, I have just now caught up with your latest blog on the Mackenzie Basin.

In response:

Firstly, "sneaky":

As Warner Bros. executives arrive in the country, let's put to bed the concept that the studio would waste its time manufacturing a crisis and look at the economic realities

I saw on TV last week actor Robyn Malcolm explaining that there was never an intention to cause mayhem over the Hobbit. "All we wanted to do was have a talk over wages and conditions," she said.

And all I want for Christmas is world peace and to end hunger.

Beneath the facade of our supposedly tolerant, modern and multicultural society, lies a seething undercurrent of bigotry, racism and ignorance

As an Asian immigrant who first arrived to these shores 36 years ago, I am grateful for what New Zealand has given me and my family. I also like to believe that I have contributed something back to this country. My family certainly has.

Misleading media reporting is fuelling misperceptions of Iran, and even the BSA has recently backed me in that claim

So ONE News has won the Qantas Award for Best News for the third year in a row. Big deal. It's not as though it really had any serious competition.

Is our government signalling a green light for the further privatisation of water services?

New Zealand's decision to abstain from supporting a UN resolution declaring access to clean drinking water as a basic human right is deeply disappointing. Equally unfortunate is the scant coverage that this important issue received in our mainstream media.

New Zealand's main political websites are joining together, asking you to support an up and coming young journo. Who says we can't agree on anything?

Many people are concerned about the quality of public affairs journalism in New Zealand. Being concerned is a good start, but how can you take the next step? How can you help make it better? Yes, you.

Removing elected officials, replacing tried and true legal tests and processes with a non statutory, unreviewable Strategy, and changing rights of appeal half way through statutory processes - these features and more are the result of the new Act that signals a new era for the management of water in Canterbury.

Whether or not you think the  Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act passed under urgency last night, 31 March, is a “

Why a robust constitutional framework requires Archives New Zealand's organisational independence

The Minster of State Services, Tony Ryall, has announced a merger between Archives New Zealand, the National Library, and the Department of Internal Affairs. While modest savings are promised, Ryall says the move is not primarily about saving money; rather, it is motivated by a desire to “future-proof” the Archives and the Library for an increasingly digital world

At the next election New Zealanders will decide whether or not to keep MMP or replace it with something else. So what does history tell us about our voting system and why did we change to MMP?

It was Winston Churchill who said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Like the names of loves long lost, we often forget, and so it is with politics.

With postal voting for the new Auckland Council now less than eight months away, it seems that local boards will have some clout as they seek to represent the will of the people

Gaps remain in the new Auckland city structure, as do questions about just how much influence citizens will have over decisions that will affect their daily lives, but the importance of local boards is becoming increasingly clear.

If we are serious about climate change, we need to challenge the very fundamentals of the global economic order

Climate change fatigue has well and truly set in. This isn’t surprising. Despite all the hype, Copenhagen was little more than a talkfest that ignored what lies at the root of the issue - the fanciful notion that unlimited economic growth (premised on perpetual consumption) is somehow possible on a planet with finite resources and a limited capacity to absorb waste.

Memory has a habit of intruding. It knocks. It wishes to be recognised. Broken Embraces is an act of commemoration, a tribute for the dead

Pedro Almodóvar is a treasure of the screen, supremely sensitive to surfaces, characters, and the workings of the cinema itself. His devotion to the craft is unmistakable, demonstrated by constant hints, persistent allusions to past greats, and the mechanics of filmmaking.

The fallout from Mexico’s so-called drug wars continues unabated. What is really behind the carnage?

Since December 2006, more than 13,000 people—police, soldiers, gangsters and civilians—have died across Mexico in shootouts, bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and torture.

Is New Zealand inadvertently supporting the cause of the Tamil Tigers?

In the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka, New Zealand should re-examine the small but potentially incendiary role it may have inadvertently played in the conflict.

Is netball too old-fashioned in this aggressive age?

I watch Silver Ferns netball because it is the game played at the top level, particularly significant when New Zealand plays against England or Australia. It is the game played at its best.

Jeanette Fitzsimons’ Sustainable Biofuel Bill has been drawn from the Member’s ballot. It’s sustainable, all right—defying repeal—and the first real test of this Government’s green credentials

Jeanette Fitzsimons’ Sustainable Biofuel Bill began its first reading last week. She says it corrects mistakes in the government’s Biodiesel Grants Scheme, which commenced on 1 July.

Can Maori language be anything more than an intellectual or cultural indulgence?

During my short stay at grammar school I learned some Latin and French (as well as English). French was never much use to me but Latin, in later years, became more and more valuable because it is not only at the heart of much English but has also helped with what little Italian I’ve needed for several trips to that country.

The Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee is deliberating—and lobby pressure is building towards Copenhagen, where international emissions reduction targets will be debated. That’s heavy weather up ahead

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Review Committee has finished hearing submissions. Peter Dunne says it aims to report “as soon as possible”. It’ll take more than common sense - is there a Solomon in the House?

The EU is not all it's cracked up to be

Looking objectively at a distance of 20,000 km from the land of my birth I have always found it hard to believe that the EU will survive; that it will be more than an anomaly in a restless history of self-serving tribes.

Alain de Botton’s latest foray, into The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, is for the vocationally-challenged, not romantically-inclined

Alain de Botton and I parted company a while ago. As he’s said himself, Essays in Love and The Romantic Movement are books for a certain age and stage.

I've been fretting about the new, vast Auckland and the plethora of shibboleths that will ensue therefrom—especially the logo

In the modern drive to re-define and re-name entities, almost the first task of any new one is to commission a logo design.

The International Whaling Commission is staring extinction in the face. Sir Geoffrey Palmer talks about its struggle to save itself, let alone the whales.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets in Portugal next month, in the throes of delicate and difficult negotiations, which might be a metaphor. It has to save itself, before it can save the whales.

It’s got all the right ingredients: local celebrity, an epiphany, cute animals, industry bad guys, hoodwink, public outrage - the media’s happy as a pig in muck, this week. But why did it take so long?

The story’s been around for years -- decades, actually. Sue Kedgley has repeatedly climbed in and out of sow crates and posed with bald startled chooks, patiently asking the questions and releasing the statements.

It was W.C. Fields, wasn’t it, who made that enlightened and penetrating remark about the wisdom of avoiding animals and children?

I am no great animal lover. Not that I’d do them any harm, mind you, but I always circumnavigate paddocks containing beeves that look the least aggressive and I’ve always thoroughly disliked zoos.

Vegetarians and vegans have taken the moral high ground, but think again - in a fossil-fuel challenged world, animals need to be part of the food chain.

Meat-eating in Green circles is considered rude, and cruel. The received wisdom is that one can’t credibly plug animal welfare and the environment while trashing them. I was, for many years, convinced of the utter rightness and unassailable logic of being vegetarian and, more briefly, vegan.

Once upon a time, wrote Oscar Wilde, there lived little Hans the miller’s friend. Hans lived in a tiny cottage all by himself and worked in his garden every day—like the heroine of this story

Once upon a time there lived a little gardener in a little house with one too many cats. It seemed possible, thought the neighbourhood children, that she might be a witch.

Our politicians seem incapable of giving us straight facts on the serious matter of waste reduction. If only MPs would talk more rubbish...

The statistics defy comprehension. All of them are shameful; some should make you weep.

The PM wants American-type tax breaks on charitable donations... but the British model that sees donations benefit the charity rather than the giver would be more our style

I'm currently on holiday at home and enjoying the end of what I am reliably informed has been the best summer in years. I’m also enjoying observing what’s rattling the cages of New Zealand’s politicians.

Electronic media, television in particular, are marred by detestable mannerisms from unprofessional presenters

In advance of making a maiden speech (I cannot remember when or where) I was once advised, by someone who knew about these things, to select a face from the crowd and to address myself to that face.

Green is the new black, but if the Green Party wants to attract mainstream voters it must confront its daggy image and cliquey mentality

“I don’t want to wear a hemp shirt and hairy knickers, I want a 21st century lifestyle with a coffee machine.” —Dick Strawb

The vexed question of what to do with convicted criminals


At last, some happy news: the end of the cheap food era

According to Gwynne Dyer , the era of cheap food is ending.

The environmental implications of the government's first 100 days are worrying, but not for the obvious reasons

Apropos George Monbiot, I have been thinking about how to inculcate the necessary sense of urgency. In the eye of the perfect storm, not much seems to be happening.

Gardening for food is not just about saving the world, although that is one compelling outcome

The case for gardening for food is simply this: turning your lawn into vegetables saves money, saves the planet, tastes good, and is good for you.

A tech company CEO offers ten tips on making 2009 a great year in business without laying off staff

With all the economic turmoil, everyone is talking about cutting staff.

Pundit reader Kate Hannah muses on anti-intellectualism in the United States and New Zealand

The preferred mythology about academia goes something like this: innocent students arrive at university, largely untainted by politics, and are corrupted into radical views through the influence of their left-wing professors, who use the lecture theatre as a bully pulpit for postmodern relativism and