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News Worthy, 7 July 2006 - No. 78

News Worthy

7 July 2006 - No. 78

Labour Vote Plunges 3% To 37% - Now Trail The National Party By 8%

The latest Gary Morgan poll shows that in late June, support for the National Party was 45% - up 0.5%, the fifth consecutive rise, and 5.9% above the National 2005 General Election result. Support for the Labour Party plunged to 37% - down 3% in a fortnight and 4.1% below the Labour 2005 General Election result.

If an election had been held towards the end of June, the National Party would have formed the Government.

Among the minor parties, support for the Green Party was 6.5% (unchanged), New Zealand First 5% (up 0.5%), the Maori Party 2% (up 1%), United Future New Zealand 1.5% (down 0.5%), ACT New Zealand 1.5% (unchanged), Jim Anderton's Progressive Party 0.5% (up 0.5%) and other parties received 1%.

Average rates rise nearly three times inflation rate

A random snapshot of 29 local authorities nationwide reveals average rates hikes of nearly three times the rate of inflation.

A snapshot of 29 territorial authorities shows an average rates rise this year of about 8.39%. The North Island councils National approached are expecting an average 7.84% increase, and in the South Island the figure is 10.12%.

The increases include:
- Auckland City Council 13.5
- Auckland Regional Council 4.9
- North Shore City Council 9.9
- Waitakere City Council 6.8
- Rodney District Council 10.2

Clearly there is a problem with the way local government is funded and new initiatives need to be advanced including a greater focus on user-pay systems and public/private partnership initiatives. Meanwhile a draft report has recently been published for the Metro Auckland Project Team. The international review team presents 15 key recommendations for the Action Plan for Auckland which will be drawn up by the project partners in Auckland between June and August 2006.

The report (which has been substantially ignored by the media) runs to just under 70 pages.

The highlights include:
- An investment prospectus for Auckland seeking to identify investment choices beyond what the public finance regime is currently delivering. It suggests that if necessary the prospectus be put to a referendum in 2007 at the same time as the local elections
- One plan for Auckland
- Transport improvements of which a key proposal is improved rail links between the central business district and the airport.

In timing terms the process is being driven by the hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Babes in prisons

A Members Bill has been introduced to allow female inmates to care for and breastfeed babies in prison. The proposal is that children would be with their mothers for 24 months.

Most countries allow mothers to keep their babies with them ranging from 18 months of age in some countries to six years in others.

Research indicates that maternal separation causes long term difficulties, while keeping babies with their mothers allows better bonding and a better start in life.

The National Caucus supported the Bill to the first reading but has reserved its decision beyond that.

Muddled Police priorities

The Government has been caught out by this week’s revelations of so-called police ‘targets’ for the issuing of traffic tickets.

Many have questioned whether policing of our roads is designed to maximise ticket writing rather than traffic safety. An internal police memorandum confirms the suspicions of many.

The leaked “Central District Highway Tasking Sheet” clearly shows that traffic police have ticket targets and competitions, and makes it clear that police are sending traffic patrols to high traffic flow areas rather than accident black spots.

Scarce police resources should be allocated according to where they will do the most good – not where they will collect the most revenue.

The emphasis of policing needs to be firmly on violent crime, not gathering revenue. It is a matter of priorities, and ticket-quotas send a wrong signal about what those priorities are.

Recent personal injury awards in the US part II

Last week I published the fifth place recipient of the Stella Awards awarded to the most unlikely but successful lawsuits in the United States. Here was the fourth place recipient:

Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next-door neighbour’s dog. The beagle was on a chain in a fenced yard.

The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been a little provoked by Mr Williams, who had climbed over the fence in the yard and was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

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