A Tale of Two Ports

Port of Tauranga has cracked the $100M net profit mark for the first time, underlining how efficient it has become as NZ’s largest port. The NZX-listed Mount Maunganui-based company also reported this week its long-term credit rating had been elevated from ‘BBB+’ to ‘A-‘ by credit rating agency Standard & Poors. The short-term rating was affirmed at ‘A-2’.

PoT’s market capitalisation hit $4.3bn in the wake of its latest result, a huge leap from the $78m at the time of its IPO in 1992. The company has provided a river of gold for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which retains 56% of the shares.

So why have other local bodies, which own ports, been so slow to follow the example of the BOP Council in partially privatising their port businesses and reaping the rewards?

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Ports”

EU – the success story of our times – so far

This blog has from time to time brought out flaws in critiques of the UK leaving the EU. Don’t conclude from this that Brexit is risk free.  Far from it. It is a fundamental decision with profound consequences  – but not the ones getting most the headlines.

Start with the remarkable success story that is the EU.  We take it for granted. Yet in a world which has witnessed the disintegration of the USSR, Yugoslavia and various African and Middle Eastern sovereignties, welding two dozen European countries into an effective political union is perhaps the most significant political event of the last forty years, ranking alongside the rise of China or the decline of the Soviet Union.

Continue reading “EU – the success story of our times – so far”

Parliament is sovereign – but that means it has to exercise its sovereignty

As every first year constitutional law student knows, in the Westminster system, Parliament (or the Queen-in-Parliament) is sovereign.

There is no question where responsibility for the UK’s leaving the EU must lie – with Parliament.

So the British Parliament exerted its plenitude of sovereign powers when it installed a government pledged to Brexit following the 2017 general election. And when it passed laws setting a leaving date.  Also when it rejected the EU withdrawal treaty negotiated by former PM Theresa May.  And definitely when it granted supply to the May government and its succeeding Johnson government to keep on trucking.

So what is one to make of Boris Johnson asking the Queen to prorogue Parliament (that is end the Parliamentary session in mid-September and then start a new one after a delay of a month or so – ostensibly to pass his triumphantly-negotiated but highly-unlikely new EU withdrawal agreement). Continue reading “Parliament is sovereign – but that means it has to exercise its sovereignty”

The Ihumatao saga could have a far-reaching impact on NZ politics

Is the government digging itself into a hole as it awaits a solution to the problem of contested land at Ihumatao?

For two days in a row, PM Jacinda Ardern has backed away from questions over a   Crown loan being used to purchase the land where a housing development has been held up because of a long-running protest.

Continue reading “The Ihumatao saga could have a far-reaching impact on NZ politics”

Testing times for NZ’s dairy industry: Can its leaders find the right formula?

Dairy giant Fonterra has taken a hammering in the media in the wake of its disclosure it expects to report a full-year loss of as much as $675m and won’t pay a dividend as it slashes the value of global assets. It will be the second annual loss in a row.

Investment guru Brian Gaynor in the NZ Herald argued Fonterra’s farmers have drained the co-op almost dry in terms of milk prices and dividends and have left it in an extremely vulnerable position. Earlier another Herald columnist, Matthew Hooton, contended NZ has put all its milk in one pail – in a company with inadequate governance and capital to match its aspirations.

Continue reading “Testing times for NZ’s dairy industry: Can its leaders find the right formula?”

PGF provides for peanut processor Picot’s expansion project

The government has been splashing money around from an array of troughs in the past week.

Shane Jones was not the only minister to announce the handouts and the handouts weren’t peanuts, although a thriving peanut processor will be among the beneficiaries.

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has disclosed these projects for government spending and investment – Continue reading “PGF provides for peanut processor Picot’s expansion project”

How to think about tech

What’s the most useful model of tech to keep in your head.  Most models are rationalisations of the status quo. But tech forces us to visualise something which exists everywhere but is developing constantly. Watching the foundation-of-Facebook movie ‘The Social Network‘ is a start but probably not enough.

For a structured but approachable model, listen to the podcast ‘Software has eaten the world’ by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape and tech venture capital pioneer.

He captures the pervasive quality of tech – and positions it as the fundamental driver of change in our environment and lives (at a pinch, you might also throw in the vastly increased mobility of peoples in recent years).  He demonstrates this through three claims about the world:

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Is PM Ardern’s halo beginning to slip?

Is the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at risk of losing the halo she has worn so gracefully for so long?

No way, say her legions of supporters.

Just look at the reaction when Sydney radio veteran Alan Jones called on Australian PM Scott Morrison to “shove a sock down her throat”.

Continue reading “Is PM Ardern’s halo beginning to slip?”

Being advised to contact Fig might have a fruitful outcome but perhaps we have gone to the wrong translator

It looked – for a few moments – as if the government was again favouring something from The Bible when looking for Te Reo names for its agencies and programmes.

One thing they want to avoid, for reasons only they can explain, is to connect the name too directly with the actual work done.

In the good old days, a visitor to this country who saw a sign that said “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade” could reasonably conclude this was the agency whose staff handled the country’s foreign affairs and trade activities.  Likewise, the prosaic but uncomplicated names of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health effectively and unambiguously signal the nature of the work undertaken by those state agencies.

In short, these are user-friendly names.

But if you are told you might benefit from attending a state-funded Piki programme – what help or service should you expect? Continue reading “Being advised to contact Fig might have a fruitful outcome but perhaps we have gone to the wrong translator”

Victims of a no-deal Brexit: the civil service?

When London’s Sunday Times splashed Government contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit – five pages of fearsome consequences – the public response was surprisingly tepid. That they appear to have been prepared under the previous administration might lessen the scare factor. But this sort of material seems to be losing its power to shock, surprise – and convince.  Partisans of both sides mine the data to support their views.  But it may be useful in another way.

Continue reading “Victims of a no-deal Brexit: the civil service?”