Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The criminal fishing industry must be exposed to scrutiny

Over the past few years, the Official Information Act has been a vital tool in exposing our appalling fisheries management regime and the way it turns a blind eye to serious criminal behaviour by the industry. Those revelations have driven the push for a better monitoring regime, including video monitoring of fishing boats to detect and deter false reporting, dumping and high grading. But the fishing industry - which according to MPI would go out of business if the law was enforced - is deeply unhappy with its pervasive criminality being exposed. Their solution? Secrecy:

The commercial fishing industry wants to stop the public getting access to videos and images of fish being discarded and seabirds being caught by fishing boats because they say it could be bad for New Zealand's reputation.

The industry has asked the Government to change the law so that the Official Information Act could not be used by journalists, competitors and other groups to access such information.


"We suggest that the Fisheries Act be amended to clarify the purpose for which the IEMRS information (and other information on commercial fishing activities) will be obtained by MPI, and to expressly provide for the OIA to not apply to this information," the letter reads.

The document raises concerns about video revealing secret fishing spots, and that "potentially embarrassing" footage of paua divers getting undressed and changed into their wetsuits would be held by MPI.

Of course, privacy and commercial interests are already protected by the OIA. But that's not what really concerns them - what the fishing industry is worried about is pictures and footage of protected species caught in their nets and lines, or of criminal behaviour by fishers, which would damage their reputation. But to echo Kevin Hague, if fishers don't want the public to see pictures of dead dolphins in their nets, maybe they should not kill any? If an industry relies on secrecy to maintain social licence, then it deserves to die.

The OIA has been called a "quasi constitutional" statute. Its principle of transparency of government information is fundamental to our democracy. And we shouldn't be exempting information from it without a seriously good reason. The law and the Ombudsman are clear: the potential for political embarrassment is never a good reason to withhold information. That applies to politicians and public servants, and it should apply to the criminal fishing industry too.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Asia New Zealand Foundation and the OIA

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is a charitable trust established by the government. All members of the trust are appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and several key public servants are deemed ex officiio members. The trust exists to fulfil a government objective - strengthening relationships with Asia - and is accountable to Parliament for that mission under the Public Finance Act. Over 90% of its revenue comes from the government (and most of the rest is interest from past government endowments). And yet, it is apparently not subject to the Official Information Act. They're not explicitly scheduled, and as far as I can tell, do not fall into any of the categories in the various schedules. Weirdly, many of the organisations in schedule 4A of the Public Finance Act are subject to the OIA, though not according to any system that I can determine.

That said, you may be able to obtain information from the Secretary of MFAT, the CEO of NZTE, or the Secretary of Education by the roundabout way of s2(4A) OIA: because they're on the trust solely in connection with their official position, any information they hold about the Foundation from that source is thereby Official Information. And conveniently, the trust deed requires that they get sent board papers ahead of any meeting...

But obviously, you shouldn't have to do that. This is clearly a government body. It is spending our money. And it should be accountable to us, through the OIA.

The government could fix this - and all of the other weird little exceptions and exemptions - in an instant by adding it to the OIA schedule by Order in Council. The question is, will it? And if not, does anybody want to take a member's bill to fix it?

New Fisk

Why are doctors in the Middle East cosying up to foreign armies?
Jared Kushner’s connection to an Israeli business goes without scrutiny – imagine how different it would be if that business was Palestinian

Spain refuses to respect Catalonia's election

Last year, the Spanish government in Madrid dissolved Catalanoia's regional government and forced regional elections in the hope of overthrowing a seperatist majority in the regional Parliament. They lost. Catalans marched to the ballot boxes in record numbers, and re-elected the people Spain wanted to get rid of. They now seem set to re-elect the Carles Puigdemont - the man Madrid overthrew - as President. So naturally, Spain is having another tantrum:

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned Madrid will continue to run Catalonia’s government if separatist leader Carles Puigdemont tries to govern from Belgium, where he is living in self-imposed exile.

Separatist parties last week agreed to reinstall Mr Puigdemont as Catalonia’s president of government, following fresh elections in which they kept their majority in the Catalan Parliament.


In a speech at his centre-right People’s Party headquarters on Monday, Mr Rajoy said: “It’s absurd that someone aspires to be president of the Catalan regional government as a fugitive in Brussels – it’s a case of common sense.”

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo added: “Parliamentary rules are very clear. They do not contemplate the possibility of a [parliamentary] presence that is not in person.

Maybe Spain's parliamentary rules do. But Catalonia's parliamentary rules are a matter for Catalans. And I'd look to Catalonia for their interpretation, not Madrid. As for Madrid's threat, the will of the Catalan people is clear: they want the seperatists as government and Puigdemont as President. Spain needs to respect that. But that's the whole problem, isn't it?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mosquitos and the Human Rights Act

The Mosquito is a sound system that emits a deafening whine at a frequency older people cannot hear. It is explicitly used to deny access to public space to young people and to "deter" them from "congregating". Over the past few years, such devices have been installed by a number of New Zealand local authorities in parks and other public spaces, often at the behest of the police.

It also pretty obviously violates the Human Rights Act.

The Human Rights Act includes age (meaning any age above 16 years) as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Refusing access by the public to places, vehicles, or facilities on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination is illegal. But this is the explicit purpose of Mosquito devices, and the sound they emit is expected to be heard by people up to the age of 25. So, the explicit purpose of such devices is to deny people access to spaces (by making it damn unpleasant to be there), on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Using such a device might not be unlawful where the space is already closed to everyone, regardless of age. "Might" because local authorities (and the police who are advising them) have wider obligations not to discriminate under the Bill of Rights Act, and these may rule out specifically age-based measures unless they can meet the stringent test of a justified limitation. And because the effects of these devices may intrude into areas which are not closed, which immediately violates freedom from discrimination, as well as the freedoms of movement, assembly and association. What is clear is that deploying them in or in a way which affects public streets, open parks, "pedestrian links", or any public space is discriminatory and illegal.

As for what to do about it, complaining to the Human Rights Commission seems to be a good place to start.

(This post was inspired by a request on FYI, the public OIA request site, about the Dunedin City Council's use of a Mosquito)

Monday, January 08, 2018

Freedom of information in the ACT

Last year, the Australian Capital Territory updated its Freedom of Information Act. The new law came into force on the first of January, and besides removing some of the more obnoxious features of Australian FOIA law, it also introduces a new concept of "open access information":

The new laws also introduce an open-access scheme. Open access is a "push model" for providing government information to the public without the need for a formal request. Information that will now be proactively and regularly disclosed includes policy documents, details about agency activities and budgeting, technical and scientific reports prepared for government, information about ministerial and staff travel and hospitality expenses, ministers' diaries including all ministerial appointments and meetings, minutes of meetings and reports of government boards and panels, summaries of cabinet decisions, and the triple-bottom-line assessment for cabinet decisions.


The open-access scheme will greatly benefit the community by allowing people to discover and understand information about government decision-making that they didn't even know existed or realised they were interested in. The community is crying out for more transparency from government and this is a really strong way to improve this, without putting people through the formalities of an FOI request.

There's also a statutory disclosure log scheme, requiring agencies to publish responses to FOIA requests.

Much of this information is routinely proactively published in New Zealand - but not all of it is. And the stuff we do get is purely by grace and favour, and can be redacted however an agency pleases (well... you could use the Ombudsman Act to challenge on reasonableness, and the Ombudsman would probably say that what's reasonable is what's in the OIA, but its difficult to mount a substantive challenge to redactions). We'd benefit both from statutory backing for routine disclosure, and by requiring automatic disclosure of material such as Ministerial diaries, cabinet papers and minutes, and minutes from government boards. At the least, it would help prevent shit like this, where requests for routine, easily found information are obstructed out of sheer bloody-mindedness.

How convenient

The UK has a regular programme of release of historical material through their National Archives. But this year, in addition to the usual end-of-year release stories (Margaret Thatcher hated pandas, apparently), there's also the news that files on some of the UK's less stellar moments are being systematically "misplaced":

Thousands of government papers detailing some of the most controversial episodes in 20th-century British history have vanished after civil servants removed them from the country’s National Archives and then reported them as lost.

Documents concerning the Falklands war, Northern Ireland’s Troubles and the infamous Zinoviev letter – in which MI6 officers plotted to bring about the downfall of the first Labour government - are all said to have been misplaced.


Almost 1,000 files, each thought to contain dozens of papers, are affected. In most instances the entire file is said to have been mislaid after being removed from public view at the archives and taken back to Whitehall.

An entire file on the Zinoviev letter scandal is said to have been lost after Home Office civil servants took it away. The Home Office declined to say why it was taken or when or how it was lost. Nor would its say whether any copies had been made.

In other instances, papers from within files have been carefully selected and taken away.

How convenient. Its amazing how its the documents on the UK government's controversial actions, which might not show it in the best light (or which might lead to justice for its colonial victims), which are being "misplaced" in this way. If the British establishment was trying to give the impression that it had stolen these documents and then destroyed them in a crude coverup, they couldn't do a better job.

And they can do it because the UK Public Records Act does not include any offence provisions. In New Zealand, it is a criminal offence to destroy public records. In the UK, of course, they have an outdated law designed to protect the establishment rather than hold it to account.

But it does make me wonder if anything similar happens here. New Zealand has a statutory process for temporary return of archive material and you'd expect it to be checked when it comes back to the archives. So, I guess its time for an OIA about how often this happens, and whether anything goes "missing" in the process. Hopefully its rare enough that I can get a list...

Friday, December 22, 2017

New Fisk

Why Mohammed bin Salman is taking an interest in the Arab Bank

...And fuck you, Spain

Catalans went to the polls last night in snap elections forced by Madrid. The results are still coming in, but with 90% of the votes counted, it looks like a clear victory for pro-independence parties (and an even bigger one for pro-referendum ones). As for the Spanish parties, they fought amongst themselves for a shrinking pool of votes. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's People's Party was slaughtered, but votes went to the (even more pro-fascist) Citizens. Rajoy forced these elections in an effort to unseat a pro-independence Catalan government. Instead, the Catalan people have reconfirmed its mandate.

So far, the elections appear to be free and fair, and the Spanish government did not attempt to pervert the results. The question now is whether they will respect them.

Fuck you, Donald Trump

Yesterday, the United States threatened the world if we voted to condemn their recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. And today, the world told them to go fuck themselves:

The United Nations general assembly has delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The vote came after a redoubling of threats by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said that Washington would remember which countries “disrespected” America by voting against it.

Despite the warning, 128 members voted on Thursday in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal. Countries which voted for the resolution included major recipients of US aid such as Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq.

And for once, New Zealand was on the right side of history, standing up for international law and against American oppression.

The US's position was legally untenable, but the bullying approach of their president and UN ambassador won't have helped. The vote shows how small the US has become on the world stage, and to some extent, how hated it is. And while they'll scream and bluster and kick a few people like an angry drunk, it won't help. Trump has basicly burned US goodwill so that countries are no longer willing to look the other way and abstain on acts which are blatantly illegal under international law, let alone actively collaborate in them. Which doesn't bode well for the next US war of aggression...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Nick Smith strikes again!

Last week, the government finally published guidance to councils on sea-level rise that National had been sitting on for a year. Over on Newsroom, Eloise Gibson explores the reasons for that delay. And it basicly boils down to Nick Smith being obstructive, as usual:

Documents from this period show staff were worried about the reputational risk to ministers from not releasing the guidance in 2016, as they had promised to do. The new plan was to publish it on about February 25, 2017, perhaps at an event “related to the Kaikoura earthquake recovery” or at the BlueGreens conference.

By March, though, it was clear that Smith was worried about the economic implications, including costs to property owners if insurance or value was affected. He decided, over strenuous objections from his ministry, that the guidance needed to go through Cabinet. On March 15, the Ministry’s climate change director Roger Lincoln wrote a strongly-worded briefing to Bennett and Smith, noting that taking the guidance to Cabinet would “delay it several months at least”.

Of course, it took much longer than that, because Smith then refused to take the paper to Cabinet. In the meantime, residents groups worried that their property values would suffer if potential buyers knew the real risk of their property flooding lobbied hard, and managed to get a further delay for yet another round of consultation (they had already been consulted twice). Of course, consultation requires Cabinet approval, and Smith didn't bother asking for that - in effect, burying the entire proposal. And in the meantime, councils screamed for guidance, while approving developments that should never have been approved, because they didn't have something official they could point to to justify saying "no". And the developers laughed all the way to the bank, having offloaded their risk on others, who will no doubt then demand compensation from councils when their homes flood in the future...

Pretty obviously, we should present the bill for that to Nick Smith. Because the only reason this stuff was approved was him and his delaying tactics.

The United States of Thuggery

The United Nations General Assembly will vote on a motion condemning the US's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and calling on all countries to respect international law and previous resolutions on the issue. So naturally, the USA is threatening to cut aid to any country which votes in favour:

Donald Trump has threatened to withhold “billions” of dollars of US aid from countries which vote in favour of a United Nations resolution rejecting the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

His comments came after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning that she will be “taking names” of countries that vote for a general assembly resolution on Thursday critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump amplified Haley’s threat.

“Let them vote against us,” he said.

“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

So, this means they'll be cutting military support for Saudi Arabia, right?

The US is legally on the wrong side of this issue: the UN has already ruled that the final status of Jerusalem must be decided by negotiation, not Israeli force. But the US no longer cares about laws, either internationally or domesticly. So they're resorting to thuggery instead. Its a sign of how far outside international norms they are that they're openly making such threats. And hopefully the world will respond with a resounding "fuck you", followed by a "nice policy on Iran and North Korea you've got; shame if anything were to happen to it..."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Climate change: China gets an ETS

China has introduced an emissions trading scheme for its electricity sector:

The world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, China, has launched the world’s biggest ever mechanism to reduce carbon, in the form of an emissions trading system.

China’s top governmental bodies on Tuesday gave their approval to plans for a carbon trading system that will initially cover the country’s heavily polluting power generation plants, then expand to take in most of the economy.


Under the trading system, power plants will be issued with allowances to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide. Plants that manage to undershoot their targets, by cleaning up and becoming more efficient, will be able to sell their excess permits to other generators, which will be expected to seek greater efficiency as an alternative to paying for their emissions.

China’s power sector is responsible for about 3.3billion tonnes of carbon emissions annually, making this potentially one of the world’s most important mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gases.

So, at the minimum, this means that Chinese powerplant emissions will effectively be capped, and will no longer increase. The same will happen to other industrial sectors as the scheme expands. And hopefully, they will then gradually reduce the caps, driving emissions reductions and production efficiency. Unless of course its just cheaper to bribe officials to ignore emissions than it is to reduce them.

Good luck Catalonia

Catalonia goes to the polls tomorrow night (NZ time) in regional elections forced by the Spanish government. Madrid's plan was to force elections, then prevent pro-independence parties from running by jailing their leadership and banning displays of support (it is illegal to display the colour yellow or the word "democracy" because these are seen as advertisements for "seditious" parties). But despite this, pro-independence parties have a solid lead in the polls. While the exact structure of the government will depend on the coalition process, if the polls are accurate and the election results are allowed to reflect the popular will, the result will be another pro-independence government with a reinforced mandate.

Of course, this being Spain, a country where the government beats people in the streets to stop them from voting, those things are not guaranteed. Neither is Madrid respecting the election outcome and allowing a newly-elected pro-independence government to take office. But if it cheats or ignores the elections, it will show even more clearly that it is no longer a democracy in any meaningful sense. And if that happens, the European Union should act immediately to restore democratic norms.

Ending state house sales

The government has officially ended National's selldown of state houses:

The new Government has put a full stop on state house sales today, halting a 2,500-house transfer in Christchurch.

Making the announcement at the famous first state home in Miramar, Wellington, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said housing was at the core of her Government's agenda.

"Our belief is that housing is at the heart of what makes our community strong, and everyone deserves to have a warm, dry and affordable home."

​Families in 2500 state homes in Christchurch would no longer be switching landlords next year.

Good. National sold off over 5,000 state houses as part of their ideological programme to get the government out of helping those in need. That programme led to mass-homelessness, and conflicted with basic kiwi values, so I'm glad to see it end. Hopefully Labour will now be able to repair some of the damage National has caused, and get us back to a society where everyone has a proper roof over their heads.

OIA dieback infects MPI

The Herald has another story about the abuse of the OIA, this time at MPI. Forest & Bird requested information from MPI on its handling of Kauri dieback. MPI dragged its feet, and extended the timeframe into the never-never. The Ombudsman has now ruled their extension was unlawful - and oddly, the information was released immediately, suggesting that the delay was political rather than practical:

The Ombudsman has asked the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to apologise to Forest and Bird after the group waited for months to receive information it had requested about kauri dieback management.

The group has accused MPI of sitting on the documents, which were released one day after Ombudsman Leo Donnelly responded to its complaint over the four-month delay.

However, MPI insists it released the information "immediately after it was ready".

So why didn't MPI want to release the information? The request was prompted by several reports of how the response to Kauri dieback was mismanaged, so there's an obvious reason there. And if you're in any doubt, there's a piece in New Zealand Geographic about both Kauri dieback and the MPI response, which ought to dispel any doubts. Its very clear from it that MPI has simply not bothered to fund the basic science into this disease. It seems that it thinks its biosecurity responsibilities only extend to subsidising commercial industry, not in protecting our iconic species from extinction. Scientists have said what research is needed, told them what they need to do. MPI has ignored them, apparently because it thinks there is some "conflict of interest" (which sounds like the same sort of argument climate change deniers used against studying climate change). When they have responded, its taken six or seven years to get things done. During which the disease has spread.

Interestingly, New Zealand Geographic has its own OIA horror-story on this issue:
It has been difficult to report more extensively on the Kauri Dieback Programme’s work as MPI failed to supply information to New Zealand Geographic. The Official Information Act dictates that government agencies must respond to requests for information within 20 working days, or 40 in special cases. As this magazine went to print, 55 working days had elapsed without New Zealand Geographic receiving any of the documents it had requested. The matter has now been referred to the Ombudsman.

Which is beginning to look a lot like an agency trying to cover up its own mistakes, rather than one which is obeying the law. As for the solution, I think the Minister needs to make it crystal clear that this is unacceptable, and that he expects information to be released in a timely fashion, and to set some incentives to make that happen. Starting with firing the Chief Executive for cause if there is any repeat of this criminality. And if the Minister doesn't do that, then the opposition needs to be asking him why not in Parliament every day. Otherwise, MPI's case of OIA dieback will spread and infect other departments.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Climate change: The slow boring of hard boards

Yesterday, the government announced that it was planning to publicly consult on its proposed zero carbon law, before introducing it in October next year. In the interim, it was establishing an interim climate change board to provide preliminary advice, including on whether agriculture continues to receive a billion dollar a year climate subsidy.

This doesn't sound very exciting, and National's happy mischief makers (who have consistently opposed any action on climate change) are already trying to present the government doing exactly what it said it would do as a betrayal. But it is understandable. The Zero Carbon Act is going to provide the framework for climate change policy for the next thirty years. While we know roughly what that framework is going to look like - budgets, reporting, advice given publicly to make it costly for the government to refuse - such fundamental legislation needs a bit of thought into it. And you can bet that if the government wasn't consulting, those same happy mischief makers would be wailing about how undemocratic and irresponsible it was being. Farrars' gonna Farrar, after all.

And that said, there is a tension between taking climate change seriously enough to set this sort of long-term framework to reduce emissions, and continuing to allow fossil fuel exploration and extraction. I accept that it can't all be banned overnight - if only because it takes time for the legislation to be passed through Parliament - and that the government is therefore bound by the existing legal framework (and that it can't talk about specific projects like Te Kuha to avoid handing them a judicial review on a plate). But if we are to have any hope of meeting our targets and saving the world, then it has to end, and sooner, rather than later. We can't afford to burn the coal, oil and gas we've discovered, let alone any more. In such a situation, talking about "transition" sounds like continuing the unaffordable and destructive status quo, while allowing new exploration runs the risk of creating powerful vested interests in more destruction if they find anything. So, it would be better to end it, and quickly, rather than pretending that it can continue. Otherwise, we're going to continue the same old policy of setting targets but doing nothing, and that is going to cost us tens of billions of dollars.

Tonga's royal coup fails

Back in August, Tonga's king dissolved parliament and called new elections because the unelected inbred nobles didn't like the elected Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva. The subsequent elections saw a landslide victory for Pohiva's Democratic party. And now, the Tongan parliament has finally met and re-confirmed Pohiva as Prime Minister. So, instead of getting a patsy who would look the other way on their schemes, the nobles and the king have succeeded in giving Pohiva four more years to reform Tonga.

...assuming, of course, that they respect the people's decision. They've already ignored it once, and there's no reason to believe they won't do so again. Which makes it all the more important to end Tonga's undemocratic noble gerrymander, which sees a third of parliament reserved for a mere thirty people. Instead, those seats should be abolished, and the parliament fully elected. If the nobles want to sit there, they should face the judgement of the people like anybody else.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The British Army committed war crimes in Iraq

Its official: the British Army committed war crimes in Iraq. Their own courts say so:

British troops breached the Geneva conventions and subjected Iraqi civilians to cruel and inhuman treatment by hooding them and taking turns to run over their backs, the high court has ruled.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) breached the conventions as well as the 1998 Human Rights Act in the way in which it detained civilians after the 2003 invasion, the court concluded on Thursday.

The judgment comes 10 days after the international criminal court (ICC) declared there was “a reasonable basis” to conclude that British troops committed war crimes against Iraqi detainees.


The court also ruled that the MoD’s policy of detaining individuals as prisoners of war unless it was certain they were civilians, rather than releasing them when there was no proof they were combatants, was based on a misunderstanding of the Geneva conventions.

The victims in this case were mistreated in other ways - subjected to forced nudity and sexual humiliation and burned with cigarettes - but couldn't prove that they were in British (rather than US) custody at the time. Still, they've been awarded £84,000 in compensation, and there are over 600 cases pending.

But the kicker is this bit:
Despite the court’s findings, the MoD said no service personnel or veterans had been interviewed by investigators, nobody had been charged with any offence and no criminal charges may ever be brought in the UK.

A court finds war crimes were committed, and the Ministry of Defence says they won't do anything to find and punish those responsible. Which seems like a deliberate policy of turning a blind eye, a criminal conspiracy to ensure impunity. And that's exactly why the International Criminal Court needs to get involved, and why the British generals and politicians responsible for the invasion and its conduct need to be tried in The Hague.

Climate change: Costs and benefits of ending oil

On Friday, SSC released the information it had provided to political parties during the coalition negotiations phase. Among this was advice to the Green Party on the cost of ending all future coal mining, offshore oil drilling, and fracking. Using a present-value approach - basicly, all the money we will ever get from those industries, discounted for time, and not including benefits such as stopping spills and environmental destruction - put the cost of ending oil at $15 billion. Note that that's not an actual price tag, but a cost in terms of "money we will never get". Ending coal was priced at $441 million, which in present-value terms is next to nothing.

$15 billion sounds like a lot, and it is. But as noted above, it doesn't consider benefits, only costs (which largely fall on foreign oil companis, not kiwis). So what are those benefits? Avoiding sea-level rise, for a start:

The most recent national assessment found nearly 170,000 buildings sat within 3m of the mean high water spring, exposing them not just to sea level rise, but also storm-tide and wave flooding that could reach 1-2m in exposed places.

If all of those buildings were lost, they would cost $52 billion to replace.

About 68,000 buildings are below the 1m mark, carrying a replacement value of about $19b.

The report didn't include other assets or infrastructure on the damage bill, other than identifying the kilometres of road and rail exposed, and the number of airports.

So, the benefits of ending fossil fuel burning outweigh the costs by a margin of at least three to one. Even if the first metre of sea-level rise (which will drown South Dunedin, New Brighton, Eastbourne and Petone) is already baked in and unavoidable, its still a two to one benefit to cost ratio. Which seems like a complete no-brainer.

Two thirds of kiwis live in areas prone to sea-level rise. Ending fossil fuel use isn't some green quack - its an essential survival step. And while ending it here will only be a small amount, and won't protect us from foreign CO2, the journey is made of single steps, and we can't expect others to do what we won't do ourselves.