Rangitoto

Adventures in Tāmaki Makaurau and the Waitakere Ranges

An open letter to the politically apathetic Facebook generation #votenz

To all who will listen,

Voting: simple and easy, even from overseas.

Next Saturday, each eligible New Zealander will be given the opportunity to vote for who they wish to represent them in government for the next three years.

Unfortunately a large number of young people won’t use this opportunity and as a result their opinion won’t be expressed.

The sad reality is that many people will happily answer online polls, express frustration via status updates and in general complain (often quite rightly) about how crap it is to be young won’t leave the house to pop down to their local school or community hall to vote and make a difference where they actually can.

However, this is the true reality: there is more power in casting a vote than three years of online polls, status updates, and complaining combined.

In New Zealand, under the MMP voting system, every vote is equal, and every vote matters.

But, when you don’t vote you are giving up that equality, you are letting someone else decide, and they will surely decide what is best for themselves, not for you.

For young people this election is particularly relevant for two key reasons: minimum wage/employment and education.

Currently the minimum wage in New Zealand is $12.75/hour and in Australia it is $15.51 AUD/hour which converted to NZ dollars is $20.52/hour – almost double.

If National is re-elected to government their policy is to set a youth minimum wage of 80% of the full minimum wage. That would lower the NZ minimum wage to $10.20/hour – less than half that of Australia’s. In other words young people get screwed.

National have also spent the last three years in government making it harder and more expensive to access education. Entry to university and polytechs are now capped, fees have continued to rise, and it is much harder to get student loans and if National get re-elected expect this to get worse.

Put simply, youth unemployment is over 17%, there are few jobs, people who currently have jobs can expect to be paid less for the same work, and upskilling is a tough gig. Young people are being screwed.

However, most other parties have policy to set the minimum wage to $15/hour and increase access to education.

But while young people continue to moan on Facebook, and fail to vote, they will continue to be screwed by a government that doesn’t care about them.

Next Saturday is an opportunity to change that and elect a government that does represent you.

About a third of people under the age of 25 are not enrolled to vote. If this is you then please enrol you must do so before Friday 25th November. You can enrol here: http://www.elections.org.nz/app/enrol/

Most importantly make sure you go out and vote on Saturday.

Chur,
Passionate young kiwi, living in Australia, wishing to call NZ home again someday.

Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill Voted Down

It is a great shame that the National Government along with the support of the Act, Maori, and Progressive parties tonight voted down Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill.

The sooner New Zealand becomes an independent nation the better. I do not mind if we become a state of the larger nation of an independent Australia or if we become an independent nation in free association with an independent Australia. But there is one thing I feel strongly about and that is New Zealand should no longer be a colony of Great Britain.

Some may argue that we already have independence through the Statute of Westminster however this is not full or true independence.

What has particularly got my back up tonight though is the arguments of the Maori Party in the debate. Below this post is the full speech given by Rahui Katene in which she argues that any move towards becoming a republic would run foul of the Treaty of Waitangi.

What a missed opportunity this is. The Treaty of Waitangi has been a source of much argument and problems for years, the founding of the Maori party was birthed in a disagreement over the Treaty of Waitangi on matters to do with the foreshore and seabed. There are a number of factions within Maoridom who do not agree with the treaty and some iwi who did not sign it and to this day do not want to!

A move to a republic gives the nation of Aotearoa New Zealand a chance to make things right, a chance to get a second go at creating a nation. However, the very politicians who represent a party that was born out of a disagreement over the interpretation of a badly worded treaty do not even want a discussion on the issue at a select committee.

I want to know if the Maori Party was forced by the National Party to vote against the bill, or if it did so on its own merits. In either case I have lost a lot respect I had for that party as a party of free thinkers. You can’t always fix the past, you certainly cannot hang onto the past, the best way forward is to always do what is best for the future and that is an independent republic of New Zealand.

SUBMISSION on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill

Submissions on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill closed earlier today. This is the full text of my submission and why I do not support the introduction of Voluntary Students’ Association Membership.

To the Education and Science Committee

Introduction

This submission is from Bradford Heap. I am a PhD student at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. From 2005 – 2007 and 2009 I was a student at Massey University’s Albany Campus. During 2006 – 2008 I was on the Executive Committee of the Albany Students’ Association Inc. In 2008 I served as the President of the Association and as the internal students’ association representative on Massey University’s Council.

I do not wish to appear before the committee to speak to my submission.

I can be contacted at:

Summary

I oppose the intent of this bill because:

  • Freedom of Association is already secured through section 229A clause 5 – 7 of the current Education Act 1989. There is no need to remove compulsory automatic membership of students’ associations when there is already a working and effective mechanism for students to object to membership.
  • This bill will result in the loss of student representation on both a local and national level. Currently at a local level many students’ associations organise and run independent student representation through such mechanisms as class/paper representatives, college boards, university committees and ultimately the Council. On a national level students’ associations work together through the likes of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations Inc., University Sport New Zealand Inc. and Student Job Search Inc. to provide representation and lobbying for students in a unified manner.

If compulsory membership of students’ associations is removed this unified and centralised organisation of representation will be lost. At this point there is no guarantee that the university will have an independent body of students to consult with. In lieu of this there are two outcomes:

1)                        Universities will no longer consult students. The outcomes of this would be very bad for good decision making, or

2)                        Universities will consult focus groups of students. However, there is no guarantee that these students will not be handpicked by the university to represent the views that the university wants to hear.

Most importantly there will be a loss of an independent student voice. If tertiary institutions have to start directly funding student representation groups there will be a perception of collusion over the outcomes of that representation and engagement that is not currently present.

  • There will be a loss of advocacy. Not all problems faced by students are representative of all students or need to be dealt with at a university committee level. Many issues faced by students are at relatively small scale and can be resolved through speaking to a particular lecturer or head of department. Unfortunately most students do not know the correct means for raising an issue, or if any issue is raised and there is not a satisfactory response how to take the issue to a higher level. Independent advocacy services provided by students’ associations help to deal with these issues and ensure that issues are resolved as quickly and effectively as possible, student advocates both employed and volunteers are trained in problem resolution and know the processes of the university and who to deal with to resolve problems. If Voluntary Student Membership is introduced the loss of funding from a decrease in student levy income will put these vital services under threat.
  • The most important service that students’ associations provide is clubs. Student Clubs are the lifeblood of student life and culture in New Zealand. There are many established clubs within universities that have stretched back many decades. However, these clubs are under threat with the introduction of Voluntary Student Membership. The primary source of funding for the continued running of these clubs is through the allocation of club grants provided by the students’ associations. Without funding many of these clubs would become the realm of the rich who can afford high membership and equipment fees while ordinary students will be locked out of the true university experience.
  • Most importantly I oppose this bill because of the direct effects it will have on all students as already seen through the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in Australia. It is this last point that I would like to address in detail.

The Current Australian Situation

In 2010 I have begun my PhD and have been studying on the University of New South Wales Kensington Campus in Sydney for the previous two months. During this time I have become a member of the students’ union, a number of clubs, and been elected a postgraduate student representative for Computer Science and Engineering.

I should state clearly that the sky has not fallen in through the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in Australia. However, it is clear that there has been a dramatic loss of representation, advocacy, and services provided by the student union.

The only representation provided by the student union is through the Student Representative Council, effectively the same as the Executive Committee at most New Zealand students’ associations. This committee is democratically elected each year and each member of the committee has a portfolio role – e.g. women’s rights, environmental issues, etc. This committee liaises with the University over issues, but there is no legal or guaranteed framework for any representation or dialog.

Furthermore any representation at a college/faculty level is not organised by the students’ union. Within the School of Computer Science and Engineering, where I am studying, there is a committee of student representatives, this committee while voted for by students, is organised by the university, and operates on an ad hoc basis advocating for students by bringing issues to the attention of the school but there is no framework in place for how issues are dealt with.

On the student services side of the union there are not many services that are provided free to students. The big events held like bands, dance parties, and other student night type stuff are all user pays and run on a competitive basis against other local venues. But more importantly it is the student clubs that have suffered. All clubs charge a membership fee and in the past where a lot of funding has come from students’ associations, instead there are heavy membership fees upfront and additional funding is provided to some clubs by university faculties. Again the biggest problem with university funding of student bodies is that they are at the whim of the university for continuation of this funding from year to year and for the most part there is little in the way of set policy or openness surrounding the allocation of these funds.

Conclusion

At the end of the day the issue of voluntary verses compulsory membership of students’ associations comes down to two components, money and ideology. One ideology says that students’ associations should be entirely voluntary and user pays, the other is those who see the benefits of a compulsory system where the collective greater good is advanced. The largest problem with a user pays argument in students’ associations is what about those who get up against the wall with their finances at university and are not able to pay the bills and face the prospect of being forced out of university or their accommodation, when they go to their students’ association for financial or food help; is it expected that they be asked to pay for that help up front when they can’t afford to pay anything more?

Bus lane fine being challenged

It is interesting to read today that a person is challenging the fine they got for driving in a bus lane: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10595321

The $150 question of how far motorists can drive in a bus lane before making a turn goes to the Auckland District Court next week. Motorist John Foote says the law states it is the minimum distance necessary to safely make the manoeuvre. The Auckland City Council says 48m is a safe distance for a motor vehicle travelling at 50km/h. The council fines motorists $150 for travelling more than 50m in a bus lane. Mr Foote said this policy had resulted in the law being applied unlawfully and has sought a ruling.

Being a bit of a maths and science geek I decided to work out what is the minimum distance a car can stop in when traveling 50kmh. It turns out it is 24m if the car is in good shape, the road is dry, and the driver is fully aware (Stopping distances for cars – Road Safety Authority Rules of the Road) so say for instance it is a wet day this can affect things by a factor of two hence 2*24m = 48m. And this is the value that the Auckland City Council has set.

The major problem that I have with this is it is best case scenario maths. No consideration has been given to cars already stopped to turn within that 48m area, or the amount of distance required to change into the lane, or the fact that many cars travel faster than 50kmh, it may be the limit and the law but that does not mean people actually obey it. In the interests of safety it would be better to set it at a minimum of 65m which is the minimum distance at 60kmh on a wet day to stop.

None of this takes into account just how hard it is to judge precise distance when traveling at 50kmh or 13.8m/s while driving.

I hope the appeal succeeds, it is simply not safe with the number of factors involved to limit it at 48m. 100m would be a much more sensible solution.

Porters 09

On the weekend I headed to Christchurch for a short holiday. While there I went skiing at Porters Ski Area. Awesome is an understatement. It rocked. Beyond Rocked.

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The road to Porters/Arthurs Pass
Looking up the right side of Porters from the base area.
Looking up the right side of Porters from the base area.
Looking down from the top of T1 nice wide open slopes.
Looking down from the top of T1 nice wide open slopes.

There were a few things that made Porters really special. The first was the atmosphere. Until 2007 it was a club field, and despite turning commercial it still has a really friendly feel to it. The second is the lack of people, because it has T-bars rather than chairs there are fewer people so you have more space to yourself. Finally the terrian just simply rocks. No dodging rocks or narrow runs. The beginners have plenty of space at the bottom of the field. The intermediates have some good runs down the 1km long T1 and there is expert terrain to die for. I didn’t get to go out on Big Mama because the vis was poor. But I did go down Bluff Face twice which was such an awesome experience. Would definitely rival my run down the waterfall at Turoa the other week.

The view from the top of Bluff Face
The view from the top of Bluff Face
Me sitting comfortably at te top of Bluff Face laughing in the face of danger.
Me sitting comfortably at te top of Bluff Face laughing in the face of danger.
Bluff Face as seen from the base area. 38 degree slope. Pure awesomeness.
Bluff Face as seen from the base area. 38 degree slope. Pure awesomeness.
The 2008 2.4L Toyota Camery Rental Car I took up the mountain. A dream to drive.
The 2008 2.4L Toyota Camery Rental Car I took up the mountain. A dream to drive.
The access road to Porters 6km of gravel. Was resonably wide and good, much shorter than the 15km Mt Hutt road
The access road to Porters 6km of gravel. Was resonably wide and good, much shorter than the 15km Mt Hutt road

As I sit here and post these photos it makes me want to go again, it was that good. Next year I will go for a week (maybe – if I can afford it).

Finally this was a cool inscription at Christchurch Cathedral.

2009-08-24 10.03.36

What to do on a sunny Saturday?

Go for an epic car trip.

Auckland – Marsden Point – Whangarei – Doubtless Bay – Kaitaia – Auckland

710km+, 10+ hours driving.

And enough hills to test your stomach. Check out this section of State Highway One through the Mangamuka’s, brilliant way to test out your power steering.

Green Party Billboards

Yesterday the Green Party launched its billboards for the upcoming election. I particularly like this one:

The problem however is that New Zealand is not on the centre of the earth. It must be!

So in setting out on resolving this problem I decided to be inclusive of all and therefore put the entire globe, spinning behind it. And viola!

Day Eight: Ruapehu Take Two

Because of some changes in plans I got to go skiing for a second time!

Don’t be fooled by the nice photos below the day started in much worse weather.

I left Wanganui at 6.30am to drive to Ruapehu and I arrived just before 8.30am. The weather was average to terrible driving up to the mountain. Snow in lots of places (not as bad as a week ago though) and lots of rain.

When I got to the base of mountain the upper mountain lift facilities were on hold. Because of this I decided to wait at the bottom of the mountain for an update on their opening status. This wait lasted almost a whole hour before I decided to head up the road at 9.20am.

In my hour of agony and dilemma I came very close to heading around to Turoa as it had more facilities open then Wakapapa. I was lucky that I didn’t though because it was only open for two hours before the weather packed in and closed the ski field.

Anyway back to the story. Like last week the road up to the ski field was closed unless you hired chains for your car. Chain hire costs $25 and there was quite a queue of cars waiting for chains to be fitted. I paid for my chains at 9.20am and then waited until 9.40am for them to be fitted. At 9.30am while I was waiting, and after I had paid, they decided to open the road up until Day Park 10. But no because I had already paid for chains I still had to get them fitted and go up the now open road on them.

This was a minor pain in itself but never mind chains are very helpful on mountain roads and because I was on chains I would be able to go to one of the higher and closer car parks when I got up the mountain. Sweet! However, when I got up the mountain I was directed to park at Day Park 10 despite having chains and arguing with the parking attendant. (I was told later he was wrong and I was right.) I was not happy about this for two reasons. The first is that I was made to hire chains that I did not need, and secondly I was forced to park low down on the mountain just because I was 2WD and the parking attendant was blind to the fact I had chains on!

Anyway. I couldn’t be bothered waiting for a bus so I walked the kilometer or so up the road to the Top of the Bruce. Here I hired gear and passes. The upper mountain was still on hold so they were only selling lower mountain passes. GRRRR I thought. By this time the weather had cleared a lot. After getting my gear sorted I headed out to head up to the top of the lower mountain. Well I ended up in a queue for this chairlift for close to 45mins! By this time it was approaching 11am! Yes I had been on the mountain for over two and a half hours and I hadn’t even got to go skiing yet.

When I finally got onto the chairlift they decided to open the Upper Mountain. When I had purchased the lift passes they had told everyone if the upper mountain opened everyone would have to go back and pay more. However, everyone on the mountain, including myself just headed for the upper mountain lifts without the extra passes. We had had enough waiting! There were at least 100 of us wanting to go higher up the mountain and it was not our fault they hadn’t sold us the right passes so thankfully the ski field operators saw the sense in letting us go higher!

After all this the weather cleared and the skiing was great. I skiied for just under five hours and now two days later I am still paying the pain for it. Sore legs, knees, bruised side and motion sickness is still mucking about with my sleep. But it was great. And fully worth it. Except for the chains!

Check out the reflection in the goggles. Nothing but snow and sky!

Note to self: When taking photos remember to smile!

To go off the edge or not. That is thy question.

Snow. Snow and more Snow!