Tuesday, June 22, 2021



The problem of police dishonesty

RNZ has a major story this morning about the police killing of Shargin Stephens in Rotorua in 2016. The "Independent" Police Conduct Authority of course cleared police of any wrong-doing, and found police actions "reasonable" and the killing justified. The police are now using that finding to prevent a coronial inquest into their actions. But RNZ's investigation has found that the police lied to the IPCA to blacken their victims name and paint him as "uncooperative" with bail checks, while also hiding the past involvement of his killers in what appears to be a sustained campaign of harassment. The investigation also raises questions about edited tasercam footage, where significant moments just before the killing appear to have been deleted. These alone should justify an independent investigation.

The problem of course is that the police, who have been shown already to have lied, may just lie to that as well. Though unlike the derisory penalties for lying to the IPCA, lying to the Coroner is actually perjury, punishable by 7 year's jail.

But I think this is part of a bigger problem: a culture of reflexive dishonesty among police. They lie to the IPCA, they lie to the public, they lie to Parliament, to protect themselves and their "reputation", seeming to think public trust can be maintained by deceit. It has the opposite effect. And yet, they keep doing it. So maybe its time for another inquiry into police culture, aimed at stamping out this culture of dishonesty, so we can have a police force capable of performing its basic functions with integrity, rather than what seems to be little more than a gang with better uniforms.

Against the militarization of space

RocketLab is a cool company. Its right there in the title: "rocket". As someone who loves space exploration and the knowledge it brings, I love the fact that they're launching from New Zealand, and I love the fact that they're planning to send probes to the Moon and Venus (and now Mars) to learn more about those places. But like many kiwis, I'm also deeply uncomfortable with their work for the US military and the use of New Zealand to launch payloads which aren't just for technological research, but which are actively part of the US military intelligence system and part of its kill chain. Fortunately, the Greens are now speaking up for us, and pushing a members bill to ensure that New Zealand isn't used as a launchpad for weaponising space:

The Green Party has drafted a member's bill that would stop companies like Rocket Lab launching "military hardware" into space.

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono​, the party’s security and intelligence spokesman, announced the proposed legisation and attended a protest outside Rocket Lab’s Auckland headquarters on Monday.

Tuiono said, in a statement, that New Zealand’s space industry should not be “used by military actors to launch weaponry”, and the existing Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill had “so many gaps and grey areas”.

“Foreign military powers are literally launching rockets through it ... Launches from Mahia have carried at least 13 payloads for US military or intelligence agencies.

“The Government has a responsibility to make sure technologies sent into orbit from New Zealand soil do not assist other countries' armies to wage war.”

The bill is here, and bans any launch of "military hardware", defined as "weapons, equipment, machinery, or any other thing intended for use for military purposes by any armed force, paramilitary force, police force, or militia". A lot hangs on that term "military purposes", but it would seem to obviously include communications and intelligence collection, not just weapons. Note that there's no exclusion for New Zealand; NZDF is treated the same as the CIA. Which is fair enough: space should be used for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humanity, not as a military base. And while other countries have based plenty of military hardware in space already, we can refuse to be part of the problem, and encourage other countries to join us in that commitment.

Monday, June 21, 2021



Incompatible regimes

The Official Information Act is our core transparency legislation. But its only covers central government. Local authorities are covered by the parallel Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, which duplicates most of the OIA's provisions, and adds in some stuff about local authority meetings as well. Since the government has been talking about (but not doing) OIA reform, I asked the Department of Internal Affairs whether there'd been any advice on reforming LGOIMA. Their response is here (released docs are here. The short answer is "not really", but its still interesting.

First there's some advice on changes in the 2015 Statutes Amendment Bill, including a change to the Act's purpose clause from "provide for" to "increase progressively" (as used in the OIA). Interestingly, the advice claims that "increase progressively" includes and is stronger than "provide for". Which is interesting in light of the "provided for" language of some older secrecy clauses.

Second, there's the embarrassing incident of the Local Government Regulatory Systems Amendment Act 2019, which changed the defintiion of "working day" in LGOIMA to make it inconsistent with the OIA. Astonishingly, the Department did not bother to consult the Ombudsman about this, who learned of the changes after the fact and was not happy about it. You could see this as a problem with DIA - who on past evidence just don't seem to think about transparency very much at all - but its also symptomatic of a wider problem within the public service, where each agency works within its own little silo, and doesn't stop to think about whether they should be fiddling with quasi-constitutional legislation. One document on the upcoming Statutes Amendment Bill has been withheld, and I'm wondering if they're planning to fix this, or if there are other alignments they need to make.

Thirdly, as part of the above, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta met with the Chief Ombudsman in July 2019 to discuss the issue. Also on her agenda was the Law Commission's 2012 recommendation to merge the OIA and LGOIMA, which Internal Affairs seemed keen to progress. While they did not provide any notes from the meeting, the cover letter for the request says "no decisions were made on these options and this work was not progressed". Which given that the Ministry of Justice had at the time just finished consulting on whether to have an OIA review and what shoudl be in it, suggests a huge missed opportunity for real reform.

Boris Berlusconi

Remember Silvio Berlusconi? Whenever the Italian courts seemed to be catching up to his corrupt behaviour as Prime Minister, he would just change the law to get himself off the hook. Well, now there's a new contender for the "self-serving abuse of power" title: Boris Johnson:

Boris Johnson is to strip the Electoral Commission of the power to prosecute law-breaking, just weeks after it launched an investigation into his controversial flat refurbishment.

The watchdog has been threatened with curbs ever since it embarrassed senior Tory figures by fining Vote Leave for busting spending limits for the Brexit referendum.

Now ministers have announced that a new Elections Bill will remove its ability to prosecute criminal offences under electoral law – arguing it “wastes public money”.

This is nakedly self-serving and corrupt. But isn't that what the Tories have always been about? Preserving the privilege and status of the establishment, especially the status of being "above the law"?

Friday, June 18, 2021



Cleaning up the fishing industry

The government is finally cleaning up the fishing industry, with cameras on boats and an end to high-grading, with an easier penalties regime to enforce it. Good. Because as we've seen over the years, the fishing industry is pervasively criminal, routinely violating the law on discarding fish and reporting bycatch. We've known the solution for years - actual enforcement and monitoring - but the government has been too chicken to do it. Now that has finally changed, and we should all be glad of it. Though there is the obvious question of why they're not doing it faster, rather than allowing some fishers to continue their criminal habits for years to come.

Climate Change: Auckland fails II

Last year, the Auckland Council passed a climate change plan, setting goals of halving emissions by 2030, and net-zero by 2050. So you'd expect their new transport plan to be consistent with that goal, right? Wrong:

The 10-year transport plan for Auckland has emerged from consultation with small changes, and with carbon emissions due to fall by only 1 per cent by 2031.

The Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), which is grinding its way towards final sign-off next week, still faces a challenge from the All Aboard climate coalition, for its failure to make a sufficient dent in emissions.

A climate change analyst believes Auckland’s transport emissions need to fall by 64 per cent by 2031, if the city is to deliver its promise in its Climate Plan of halving carbon emissions by then.

It could be worse: the draft version was planning to increase emissions rather than reduce them. But as most of the savings in the new version come from the cancellation of the government's Mill Rd motorway project, it seems that the Auckland Council isn't really even trying. And they need to, because we need a massive mode shift away from cars and towards actie and public transport, and local authorities have primary responsibility for that.

But if the Council won't do its job, the Zero carbon Act now gives us the tool to force them to do it. And it sounds like All Aboard Aotearoa and Lawyers for Climate Action are going to use it.

Thursday, June 17, 2021



Australia needs a Bill of Rights Act

Australia is one of the few western democracies not to have legal protection for fundamental human rights. The closest they come is recognising an implied right to freedom of political communication (but not other forms of freedom of expression) from the "representative government" clauses of their constitution. But some of the LNP's newly-appointed conservative judges don't think even that exists:

Freedom of speech may not be guaranteed by the Australian constitution, according to a conservative judge newly appointed to the high court.

In his judgment of a challenge to Australia’s foreign influence transparency scheme, Justice Simon Steward said freedom of political communication implied in the constitution may not exist and was not “settled law”.

The opinion could be seen as a shift towards more conservative legal interpretations after the former attorney general Christian Porter was lobbied to appoint more restrained, “black letter” judges to the court.

While the decision of one justice is unlikely to prompt more than 25 years of legal thinking to be overturned, it marks Steward as the most conservative high court judge since Dyson Heydon, who declared in 2013 that the implied freedom of speech was a “noble and idealistic enterprise which has failed, is failing, and will go on failing”.

This is one opinion of five in a case which ultimately upheld the government's foreign influence transparency law, but its still troubling. And with the LNP's continued American-style attempts at court-stacking, and the tendency of both parties to enact ever-more tyrannical legislation, Australians may wake up one day to learn that the only human right actually (weakly) legally recognised has been removed by judicial fiat.

The answer of course is formal recognition. Australia needs a proper Bill of Rights Act, to affirm and protect human rights. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be on either major political party's agenda.

Fallout

Last week I revealed how the Police had lied to the public over their "emissions-free fleet" strategy. Stuff's Henry Cooke has done the obvious followup of asking the Minister what she thinks about it, and it seems she is not happy:

Police Minister Poto Williams says she is disappointed with police after the Ombudsman found the agency had misled the public about a plan for cleaner cop cars.

[...]

“While I am disappointed that it appears the Official Information Act was not sufficiently adhered to in this instance, police have advised me that they are undertaking work to look the way it responds to OIAs can be improved, in terms of both timeliness and in the quality of responses,” Williams said.

“Recruitment is underway to double the size of the OIA team.”

Asked if she was upset with Coster misleading media, Williams said she had “already expressed her disappointment.”

“I have not discussed this with the Commissioner - but have not ruled out doing so in the future."

The increased resourcing is good news. The Police have been getting adverse Ombudsman's findings about their OIA practices for years, without it changing anything. Now, finally, they've turned into an embarrassment for the Minister, so they're going to be fixed. As for Coster, he lied to the public. Ministers used to get sacked for that. Why should we hold chief executives to a lesser standard?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021



Let it die

The fishing industry is complaining in the Herald about their "labour shortage" and lamenting the fact that Young People These Days for some reason don't want to work for six weeks at a time doing hard, dangerous work on a boat in the middle of nowhere, and never seeing their loved ones (or acquiring any). Funny that. People expect more from their work and more from their lives now, and industries which don't support and enable that are obviously going to have trouble attracting workers. They can counteract that to a certain extent with money, but even then they're only going to get temporary staff, not people who want to make a career of it.

In which case, maybe we should just accept the reality. People don't want to do these jobs anymore. So maybe the industry should shrink to match the available workforce, rather than whining piteously for more people to exploit and abuse.

More bigotry in Hungary

Last year Hungary ended legal recognition of trans people and banned gay people from adopting children. Now, they've followed that up with a Russian-style "propaganda law", banning "promotion" of homosexuality in schools or on TV:

Hungary’s parliament has passed a law banning gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s, as Viktor Orb├ín’s ruling party intensified its campaign against LGBT rights.

The national assembly passed the legislation by 157 votes to one, after MPs in the ruling Fidesz party ignored a last-minute plea by one of Europe’s leading human rights officials to abandon the plan as “an affront against the rights and identities of LGBTI persons”.

[...]

The Hungarian legislation outlaws sharing information with under-18s that the government considers to be promoting homosexuality or gender change.

There's an obvious parallel with the UK's infamous and now-repealed Section 28. While it was never tested in court, one of the reasons for its repeal (besides basic decency) was that it was believed to be inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe seems to think Hungary's law is the same, describing it as "run[ning] counter to international and European human rights standards". Hopefully this time there will be a legal challenge, and this institutional homophobia will be outlawed forever in Europe.

Institutionally corrupt

Over thirty years ago private investigator Daniel Morgan was murdered in London. The UK police repeatedly fucked up the investigation so obviously and blatantly that the government was forced to call a public inquiry. Now, after years of obstruction, it has finally reported back, finding the police to be "institutionally corrupt":

The Metropolitan police have been described as “institutionally corrupt” and its commissioner, Cressida Dick, personally censured for obstruction by an independent inquiry set up to review the murder of the private detective Daniel Morgan.

The findings of an independent panel inquiring into Morgan’s killing in 1987 triggered calls from his brother, Alastair, for Dick to consider her position, and denounced the actions of Britain’s biggest police force.

The panel’s findings were a victory for the 34-year long struggle for justice by the Morgan family during which they said they endured being “lied to, fobbed off, bullied [and] degraded” by those institutions they believed they had the right to rely on.

But within hours the Met rejected the report’s key findings, and dismissed Morgan’s call for Dick to consider stepping down. The two people who could oust the Commissioner – the home secretary and London mayor – let it be known she still enjoyed their “full confidence”.

So what's the point of an inquiry then? But of course, we already know the answer to that: to distract the public and make them think the government cares, while in reality giving it more time in which to bury the truth and ensure nothing changes. That key finding might as well apply to the entire UK government.

Meanwhile there's this bit:

Concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation’s public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit. In the panel’s view, this constitutes a form of institutional corruption.
There's a New Zealand body that this obviously applies to. And maybe we should be clearer about calling it what it is to discourage them from doing it in future.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021



Inaction speaks louder than words

One of the good things the government has done is implement a proactive release policy, requiring most cabinet papers to be published within 30 working days of a decision being made. Its not a perfect policy (note "most", but also they get to redact them however they want, without oversight), but its a significant advance, especially compared to backwards regimes which still keep Cabinet material secret (and then wheel stuff through the Cabinet room on tea trolleys so they can claim it is "Cabinet material"). According to the original Cabinet paper, the policy was meant to be reviewed by December 2019. But as Newsroom reports, that just hasn't happened:

More than 18 months on from that deadline, that review has still not been completed. Work on a single point of access for the proactively released material, mentioned in the paper, also does not seem to have been meaningfully progressed.

Speaking to Newsroom, Hipkins said there was no particular reason for the report’s delay but there had been “ongoing reviews” about the effectiveness of the proactive releases and where to head next. The proactive release of Cabinet papers was working well, as was that of ministerial diaries – although there were some ministers who “need to be chased from time to time” to meet the required deadlines.

["ongoing reviews"? To the OIA!]

Hipkins says he's pro-open government, and I've heard that from TKM-PSC as well. But actions - or rather, inaction - speaks louder than words. If this is actually a government priority, then maybe they should start acting like it. I would love to see progress on this, not just more material and a central repository, but also a legal framework obligating release, release of cabinet agendas and ministerial briefing lists so we can see what is not being released, and extending the Ombudsman's OIA jurisdiction so we can challenge those decisions. In other words, legal rights, not grace and favour. That would be a massive advance in transparency, and a great legacy for a pro-open government minister.

Monday, June 14, 2021



A long-overdue apology

The New Zealand government is going to formally apologise for the "dawn raids" which targeted Pacific peoples in the 1970's. Good. Terrorising people on the basis of their race was wrong and something which should be a lasting shame to New Zealand. But there's another wrong they need to apologise for, and that is Muldoon's law stripping Samoans of their New Zealand citizenship. This law was immoral, racist, and wrong; it needs to be repealed, people's citizenship restored, the victims compensated, and measures put in place to allow their descendents to claim citizenship by descent should they choose to do so.

Climate Change: The return of feebate

The government has resurrected its feebate policy to lower transport emissions, taxing dirty vehicles to subsidise clean ones. Good. We've known for a long time that passive measures such as fuel economy ratings and up-front labelling of lifetime costs weren't enough, and neither was the ETS (which adds just a couple of cents a litre - a "signal" lost in the market's noise). More active measures are required. Feebate is a good one, a perfect application of the "polluter pays" principle. And because the polluters are paying, it will cost the government next to nothing.

But won't it just free up space in the ETS cap, resulting in no real reduction in emissions? Economic purists keep saying this, and its predicated on the idea that the ETS works. Reality is already telling us that it doesn't, at least not at current prices. Partly this is because, contrary to economists assumptions, actual people are not perfectly omniscient rational cost-benefit calculators able to asses the long-term costs and benefits of every purchase decision and factor in the potential for rising carbon prices and climate apocalypse on their future selves. Partly its because the ETS is so full of subsidies - including a "cost containment reserve" which just hands out extra permits if polluters pollute too much and prices get "too high" - as to make it useless. And partly its because the government is internally valuing carbon at $150 a ton, roughly four times the current ETS prices, and policy looks very different at that price. But mostly, its because nobody cares about purism anymore. Those fuckers have led us down the garden path for the last thirty years, stopping all practical policy in pursuit of their "perfect system", which when finally implemented, turns out not to work at all in practice. People who are serious about solving this problem - rather than defending a theological position - recognise we need to throw the kitchen sink at it. And that's what the government is doing. That said, to avoid any possibility of this happening, we should rip the estimated savings out of the ETS budget in advance, just to make sure that reductions in transport emissions don't just see Huntly burn more coal. But I suspect that the purists' response would be "not like that!" Which tells you that they're not really about emissions reductions at all, but delay and denial.

And speaking of the kitchen sink: obviously, this is only part of a solution to transport emissions. We need more. The good news is that the government seems to be doing it, with the first steps towards pushing the massive mode shift to public and active transport, plus a biofuels requirement to reduce the emissions of the fossil vehicles still on the road. There are obvious components missing: an e-bike policy to push the mode-shift, and a scrappage scheme to get rid of older, dirtier vehicles. But those look quite economic at $150 a ton, and I think they'll come quite quickly.

Government for sale again

When the National Party ran a "Cabinet Club", selling personal access to Cabinet Ministers in exchange for large donations, I called it Government for Sale. Now the Labour party is doing the same thing:

The Labour Party is selling tickets to a “business conference" featuring the prime minister and finance minister for more than $2000 apiece.

An invite to the “Labour Party Business Conference” was emailed out by Labour Party president Claire Szabo to businesses in recent days, with tickets costing $1795 plus GST.

Those who attend the conference are promised “interactive” policy sessions with Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson, Environment Minister David Parker, Transport Minister Michael Wood, and Local Government minister Nanaia Mahuta, as well as “networking drinks” at the end of the day.

These high-powered ministers are all listed as the Labour Party spokespeople for these roles, rather than as ministers. This keeps the invite and the event within the rules set out in the Cabinet manual for such party fundraisers.

Those rules were of course written by politicians, for politicians, so playing the hat game and claiming "its within the rules" is not even worth the usual eye-roll. The reality of the situation is that the only reason people are willing to pay so much to speak with them is that they are Ministers, and that Labour is selling access, just like National did. The only difference is that they're cheaper: two thousand dollars instead of ten.

Friday, June 11, 2021



The police lied to Parliament

Earlier today I blogged about the Ombudsman's final opinion on an OIA request for the police's "emissions-free fleet" strategy, in which the Ombudsman found that there never was such a strategy, and that the police repeatedly lied in an effort to hide that fact. But it turns out that I'm not the only person they lied to. They also lied to Parliament.

The proof is in their response to their 2019/20 annual review questionnaire, specifically question 112 (p 70) in which they say:

Police is currently developing a 10-Year Fleet Strategy (2020-30), which will include a roadmap to reducing C02 emissions and improving sustainability across the Police Fleet over the next decade.
According to the document properties, this document was compiled on 23 February, shortly before their annual review hearings began. At this stage, according to the Ombudsman's final opinion, the police had "realised... that there was no 10-year plan", and had extended (and were about to refuse) the request "to buy more time to try and get its internal organisational reality to match its public statement". But I guess no-one passed that on to the poor schmucks preparing for the annual review, because the lie made it in anyway.

"Deliberately attempting to mislead the House or a committee (by way of statement, evidence, or petition)" is a textbook example of contempt. There's an obvious question here about whether the lie was deliberate, and the select committee should look into it. But the charitable answer suggests an organisation so incompetent and dysfunctional that one part doesn't know what the other is doing, and where people at the top lie to the public and everyone just obediently repeats it and tries to bury any evidence to the contrary. And that seems like something the select committee might want to look into as well.

There was never an "emissions-free fleet" strategy

Last month, I did a post about my efforts to excavate the Police's "emissions-free fleet" strategy, and how my OIA request had been extended "for consultations", whizzed past its extended deadline, then refused as it would "soon be publicly available". My complaint to the Ombudsman gained an attempted explanation from police, which boiled down to "it is still under development and no we're not going to give it to you".

The Ombudsman has now sent me their final opinion, which is one of the most damning I've seen. In addition to finding the police's actions to be unlawful, they also find that there was never an "emissions-free fleet" strategy, and that the police adopted a strategy of deceit in an effort to hide that fact:

Police explained that, at the time of [the] request, it did not actually have what one would consider a ‘plan’ for an emissions-free fleet. It did have a goal or aspiration for such a fleet, but not much more than this. Work towards this plan was at a very early stage and the only relevant document was a 13-page power-point presentation.

Police realised the disparity between its public statement and the internal organisational reality soon into the 20 working day period. Police initially thought it might be able to develop the aspiration into a plan relatively quickly. This was the reason for the extension, as well as the section 18(d) refusal.

[...]

In this case, it does not appear that consultations were necessary to make a decision on the request. Police realised early on that there was no 10-year plan. As soon as this occurred, Police was in a position to make a decision on the request. Section 18(e) has obvious applicability. Police have explained that the consultations in this case were essentially for the purpose of creating information to match Police’s public statements; not for the purpose of making a decision on the request.

[...]

To justify an 18(d) refusal, the agency must be reasonably certain that the requested information will be published in the near future. This is plainly not the case here. Police knew that requested information did not exist at the time of request. Essentially, it appears to me that Police used section 18(d), as well as the 22 January extension, to buy more time to try and get its internal organisational reality to match its public statement.

[Emphasis added, and I've redacted my name because I'm a very private person. As for that 13-page power-point presentation? It's laughable, the sort of thing a marketing department puts together. it has inconsistent numbers and no effort even to cost them, let alone any further analysis. Its not a "plan" so much as putting "have a plan" on your wall-planner.]

So, essentially the Commissioner lied to the public, then police staff lied to me repeatedly in an effort to hide that lie. The Ombudsman is sadly too polite to say this explicitly, or to say that it is unacceptable. And he needed to, lest people get the idea it is remotely acceptable. Because pretty obviously, the whole OIA system breaks down if agencies lie like this.

But do the police accept they were lying? Hell, no! After the Ombudsman had released a provisional opinion, they sent me a pissy little letter (with a copy of that laughable powerpoint presentation), saying:

Police accept the substantive findings of the Ombudsman in this case; however Police believes it is not a fair representation to find Police did not have a plan at the time of the request, as there was both a clear intent and a draft plan underdevelopment.
In which case, why didn't they just give me what they had at the time? Because it would have exposed the yawning gap between what the Commissioner had told the public, and how little they were doing. Their May 3 letter said that release "could impact... the public's trust and confidence in Police" - and they're right, because that powerpoint makes them look like muppets. But I suggest that their decision to lie and obfuscate has a far greater impact, and not just on trust in confidence in their OIA handling, but in other areas as well. After all, if they're willing to lie and obfuscate and make up the law as they go along in this area to avoid mere embarrassment, it really makes you wonder what else they're willing to do in e.g. criminal matters where the stakes are that much higher.

Finally, the lesson in all of this: always complain. If an agency extends "for consultations", ask who they are consulting and why it could not be completed during the legislated timeframe. If they refuse because material will "soon be publicly available", ask them when and where. And if their answers to either are not completely satisfactory (or they just ghost you, as agencies are often want to do), go straight to the Ombudsman. The OIA system depends on your complaints to discipline agencies and ensure they behave lawfully. So play your part, and complain.

The economics of killing Huntly

RNZ reports that Genesis Energy's use of coal has spiked over the past few years, as they use to burn it rather than pay for gas:

New Zealand has significantly increased its use of coal in recent years, despite its status as the worst, most polluting fossil fuel on the planet.

In the first three months of this year, the same amount of coal was used to generate electricity as in all of 2016 and 2017 combined. Coal generated 10.35 petajoules from January to March, slightly under the 10.52 petajoules in all of 2016 and 2017, according to MBIE's Quarterly Energy Statistics, released yesterday.

10.35 PJ is just under a million tons of CO2, in three months. And that was in summer, when load should be low. For winter, they've cut a deal with Methanex so they can burn gas, but that's not exactly a clean fuel either.

How much is this costing is? The government is meant to internally value carbon at $150 a ton. So Huntly burning coal for a single quarter costs us ~$140 million. A quarter. Gas isn't as harmful as coal, so its carbon value is only ~$100 million a quarter. And when you start adding that up, its doesn't take long before you're talking Real Money.

(Gensis will be paying some of this cost - ~$40 a ton - through the ETS. But that's a tiny fraction of the social cost of the damage it is causing, and it shows the scale of the effective subsidy we are giving it to pollute)

What could we do with this money? Well, a standard-sized windfarm costs ~$300 million. If Huntly burns coal half the time and gas the other half, you can basicly buy one and half windfarms every year to reduce its emissions. You need about seven to replace it completely, so its economic for the government to completely replace Huntly with wind over five years. And that is exactly what they should do: establish a special purpose SOE solely to build renewables, with the explicit purpose of driving fossil fuels out of the market permanently (and as a bonus, they get a revenue-generating asset). Alternatively, they could just pay existing power companies to bring forward construction of already-consented projects, or to plan and build new ones (which is a good idea, given that a whole bunch of consents will expire in the next few years). And from next year, they'll have a dedicated pot of money from ETS revenues to fund it.

But its also worth remembering that Huntly isn't the only villain here - there are a pile of gas power stations too. And exactly the same logic applies to them: it is economicly worthwhile for the government to replace them in a fairly short timeframe; the only question is exactly how short.

Thursday, June 10, 2021



Another sign of MBIE's captivity

When the government asks the public to conserve electricity, its usually because we're on the edge of a supply crisis, and its necessary to ensure our own lights will stay on. And when it does that, people generally buy into it, because they can see the reason. But last month, MBIE pushed for a conservation campaign not to keep the lights on, but to protect large energy users' profits:

Officials last month advised the Government to consider asking consumers to conserve electricity as one of two options to keep a lid on soaring wholesale electricity prices, documents released under the Official Information Act show.

[...]

MBIE advised Woods consider two options to bring wholesale prices down.

One was to encourage the country’s largest gas user, Methanex, to cut back production to free-up more gas for electricity generation.

Methanex has subsequently done that by agreeing to suspend production at its Motunui facility for almost three months, but Woods’ spokeswoman said there had been no intervention by the minister.

The other option MBIE advised Woods consider was “facilitating electricity demand reductions from mass market consumers” who are on fixed-price contracts and not exposed to spot market prices.

In other words, we should suffer to keep electricity prices low for big users, like good little peasants. Fortunately, Woods said "no", and I'm glad of it, because this would have been an abuse of the public trust which endangered cooperation in times of actual need. But the fact the suggestion was even made tells us whose interests MBIE serves, and who it really works for - and it isn't us. Instead, they've been captured by the group they're meant to regulate, and are basicly just lobbyists for them. In which case, why are we paying for them again?

A republic is demographicly irresistable

Via New Zealand Republic: younger kiwis support a republic (where "younger" is basicly "people under 50"):

NZRepublicPoll

There's a bit more on NewsHub here.

This is basicly like the support graph for Scottish independence, which seems to have become demographicly irresistable. Sadly, Jacinda Ardern - who implicitly claims to be the voice of generational change in New Zealand politics - is pushing the Olds' position of "no change", which is going to become increasingly unsustainable. But if she's not going to push for this, then maybe younger New Zealand should get a Prime Minister who will?