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Newsworthy 4 November 2005

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown"

Parliament resumes on Monday with a darkening horizon for the Government on a range of fronts including:

* Revelations in leaked materials which cast doubt on claims by the former Police Minister that crime rates have dropped. This was never a credible contention.

* Corporate governance squabbles at TVNZ between the now resigned Chief Executive and the Board. The Chief Executive has been retained for six months on salary of $300,000 with an undefined work task and in six months time will also reportedly become eligible for $120,000 in superannuation.

* The Defence Force is about 2,500 people short of what it needs to meet government requirements.

* The curious circumstance of a Foreign Minister who is not committed to advancing the policy aspirations of the present government.

* A further call by the Police Association for a Commission of Inquiry into organised crime following the charging of a 17 year old Auckland student on two charges of attempted murder after an attack on members of a rival gang in Flat Bush.

* The amount of crystal methamphetamine seized by customs officers has skyrocketed.

* A highly uncertain outlook for small business.

The leaky homes saga continues

In earlier newsletters, (numbers 29-31) the point was made that the Government must intervene to resolve the leaky homes' crisis. The issues are complex - there is no doubt about that - and are well illustrated by current litigation in the Court of Appeal.

In those proceedings the owners of a 153 unit apartment block in Botany Downs, Manukau are suing the former Building Industry Authority (a Government entity) arising out of damage to the units which had monolithic cladding fixed to untreated timber framing shown to be prone to trapping moisture inside walls with resultant rot.

The Government is making a significant effort to avoid responsibility for what has occurred; the better course would be to advance initiatives perhaps modelled on the British Columbian experience to resolve the plight of the affected owners.

Labour Ministers flout OIA

The Annual Report of the Ombudsmen, released on Monday, says some Government Ministers have denied people the opportunity to 'participate in democratic processes' by withholding official information for 'political convenience'.

The law requires information requested under the Official Information Act to be released within 20 working days or an extension of time to be requested. This requirement is constantly flouted.

Auckland's volcanic cones

I have campaigned determinedly for the public authorities to commit to the protection of Auckland's volcanic cones - in particular Mt Eden, Mt Hobson, Mt St John and One Tree Hill.

The Friends of Maungawhau (the Mäori name for Mt Eden) are determined advocates for that same cause. Maungawhau is a Crown reserve with management and responsibility vested with the Auckland City Council.

The strategies which should be adopted include:

* A visitors centre based on the current Langton's Restaurant site

* The removal of bus access to the summit and replacement with a bus drop-off area in the vicinity of Langtons

* The urgent upgrading of tracks and in some cases re-routing

* The need to introduce a systematic programme to improve the vegetation including tree-care, pasture management and turf repair. Grazing by cattle should be prohibited and replaced with rotational grazing using sheep. If we can settle a plan for Maungawhau then the elements of that plan can be applied to other volcanic cones in the city.

Infrastructure On 19 October 2005 Michael Stiassny the Chairman of Vector spoke about the inevitable abuse associated with the exercise of monopoly powers. He was speaking not of the energy sector but of proposals which have been voiced by a number of people including myself relating to the reorganisation of water and waste water in Auckland.

The issue is whether there would be greater merit in a vertically integrated water supply company providing water supply from source to consumer and associated waste water removal.

It is not to assumed that monopolistic practice is necessarily evil. The reality is that currently the local network operators or retailers which supply water and waste-water services to households across the region are monopolies within their territorial council areas. An integrated region-wide supplier carrying out bulk distribution and retailing would similarly be a monopoly.

The latest annual report of Watercare Services Ltd notes that the company benchmarks its performance against local and international comparators, external efficiency reviews and internal cost savings projects.

In the Metro Water Limited Annual Report (just released) Metro Water itself is measuring its performance against 8 leading Australian water companies through WSAA benchmarking.

New Zealand heroes - Part 4 of a continuing series –

Sir Keith Park A decorated fighter pilot in World War One, Sir Keith Park was Commander of the RAF during the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk (France) in the early part of World War Two, and in charge of defending London and southern England from German bombing raids during the Battle of Britain. "If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I do not believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did to save, not only this country, but the world." Lord Tedder - Chief of the Royal Air Force, February 1947. Sir Keith was born in Thames, on 15 June 1892.

Political Quote of the Week

"Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking" - Clement Atlee, British Prime Minister

4 November 2005 No. 52

Upcoming Events 5 November Auckland Indian Assn Diwali concert 7 November Commission Opening and swearing in of MPs and confirmation of Speaker 8 November State Opening of Parliament 9 November House sits to hear tributes to Rt Hon David Lange by Party Leaders 11 November Auckland Museum Trust Board Armistice Commemoration Service

15 November New MPs Maiden speeches begin in House 16 November "End of Ramadhan" and Silver Jubilee of FIANZ function in Wellington 19 November Monaco National Day Opening of 2005 Peace Cup Art of Painting & Calligraphy exhibition 20 November Toast Martinborough Laura Fergusson Christmas Fair 23 November Auckland Consular Corps Christmas dinner 25 November Auckland City "flag raising ceremony" 4 December Christmas in the Park - Maravele

Richard Worth

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