Where Are The Greens


It seems somehow appropriate to parody Sondheim at this time. For a number of years now I have been waiting to see what the Green Party would do in New Zealand, especially with an election coming up. I’ve blogged extensively on the poor state of our lakes and waterways, the apparent lack of management of dam capacity and maintenance and the continued practice of feeding Aucklanders water from the Waikato River.

Brown Waikato Water

I’ve complained about our eagerness to send money based on the Kyoto Protocol offshore instead of spending it on restoring New Zealand to the clean green country we like to tell the world it is. Above all I get really frustrated that we still don’t have a policy of interest free loans for solar power with feed in tarrifs allowing us to sell excess power generated back into the grid. So with the latest election coming up I don’t mind telling you I gave the Greens my Party Vote.

I have to be astounded that they didn’t take this opportunity, the best in their history to become part of the Government in this MMP environment. No, they said they would not back John Key on Supply and Demand. Sure they are strongly against asset sales, but that is only one policy albeit a huge one. They could have found imho a middle ground which would have National supporting some real green policies and sustainability and made a serious difference with their 11% vote and 14 seats! I have to wonder if their ideology is more important than their policies. Are they now going to focus on being a jeering opposition in the house, or will they fight for my feed in tarrifs, making the rivers drinkable again, encouraging green and sustainable urban development, enforcing emission control etc? Are they going to show respect for the people who voted them in by concerted positive action or be the jeering laughing annoying opposition party there to undermine our Government and hold us back until the next election.

So back to Sondheim:

Isn’t it rich

Is this a fair

You here at last on the ground

NZ in mid air

Send in the Greens

Isn’t it bliss

Don’t you approve

One who keeps tearing around

One who won’t move

Where are the Greens

Send in the Greens?

Just when I’d stopped

Writing my blogs

Finally knowing

The one that we wanted was you

Making your entrance again

With your usual flair

Sure of your lines

No one is there.

Don’t you love farce

My bad I fear

I thought you’d want what I want

Sorry my dear

But where are the Greens

There ought to be Greens

Quick send in the Greens

Isn’t it rich

Isn’t it queer

Losing their timing this late

In their career

And where are the Greens

Quick send in the Greens

Don’t bother – they’re here

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Workplace Bullying in Christchurch


Further to my blog this morning on how people are, or are not coping with stress from the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, we are now hearing stories of increased workplace bullying in Christchurch. I don’t know how much it would take place normally, but this is another example of ordinary people being stretched to extraordinary limits.

According to a story published in many media this week, the stress levels are as high as would be found in a war zone. An AAP story says that scripts for sleeping pills and anti anxiety drugs are up and many people are self medicating with alcohol often resulting in violent incident, domestic and otherwise. Women’s Refuge reports a 30% increase in demand since the February earthquake.

A poll in The Press established that only 38% of people in Christchurch don’t want to leave. Of course as I mentioned in my blog yesterday on  Post Traumatic Stress in Christchurch, because of mortgage commitments, and the logical lack of buyers, many people can’t afford to leave if they wanted to.

Meanwhile Prime Minister John Key is still unable to say whether a decision will be announced this week on which streets or  suburbs will not be rebuilt.

Here’s another every day view from NZ Herald TV, brushing your teeth with lemonade because there is no water.

Post Traumatic Stress in Christchurch and EQC


I was ashamed and embarrassed a few nights ago. I was lying  alone in bed listening to talk back radio (as my wife was in hospital) and heard a woman from Christchurch talking to host Kerre Woodham about how she had not had any response from EQC or anyone else since the first earthquake.  The bottom of her Kaiapoi house was basically destroyed and she was at her wits end. She was crying and pleaded “I need help”. Kerre handled the situation extremely well, took the woman’s number and said they would do what they could to help her offline.

Then a couple of nights ago I watched TV3’s Campbell Live which interviewed loads of Christchurch residents who were in a similar situations and trades people who were going broke providing plumbing and drainage and other services on behalf of EQC, but had not received any payment from them in some cases dating back to last year’s first quake in September. The head of EQC tried to tell him that they were doing everything they could, but tried to say that it was the worst incident in the world since EQC was founded in 1947, then he said the worst in NZ.

I don’t give a damn how bad it was, that is why NZ taxpayers have been paying EQC levies for years. The whole point of having such an organisation is to ensure that when the inevitable disaster occurs, the country is prepared in every way. This includes experts to evaluate damage, the capital and resources to ensure repairs are made as quickly as possible, no excuses. It doesn’t matter that there was more than one quake, this is what we paid for. So where has the money gone that we paid all these years?

It has been well known by Civil Defence, Police, Health Services and others that it is not just about repairing buildings and digging up liquifaction, its about the people and nothing seems to be happening. Behind closed doors there is talk about increased use of drugs and alcohol, increased domestic violence, people freaking out every time there is another after shake. People don’t know what to do. They can’t leave their broken homes because they have mortgages on them and of course no one wants to buy them.

What we have is a quite unique situation in that we have an enemy we can’t see, situations we can’t predict and the Government and Insurance organisations simply are not prepared. We can’t deal with the physical manifestations and I don’t think we know anything about dealing with the human emotions. Even in the military you know who your enemy is and you can pull out. You have at least a feeling that there is someone in control and whilst they haven’t always been great in dealing with PTSD, they recognise it and have systems in place.

Recently I listened to an excellent Harvard Business Review Ideacast podcast with Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the HBR article Building Resilience. He is also the author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. He spoke of a new program that they had been working on with the US military, which had amazing results with their soldiers. It was heartwarming. Unfortunately the full report has yet to be released to the US Government, but the anecdotal reports were amazing. This should be something that the NZ Government needs to be looking into.

I look back to the first news coverage where Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and Christchurch Cathedral Dean Peter Beck were saying the bricks and mortar can be replaced, but its the people that matter. Well herein lies my problem. We aren’t even dealing effectively with the buildings. We are hardly touching the broken people! They can only be staunch for so long and if we don’t help them very soon, we are going to have a generation of traumatized people.

So I say to the Government, to EQNZ, to the city councillors, to my fellow Kiwis: This isn’t good enough. No more excuses. We have paid our taxes for years, in good faith expecting that the money would provide for resources and expertise when they were needed. We were told the big one would come and we would be ready. If you can’t deal with it, bring in people and resources who can. We aren’t the only country to have disasters, they happen all over the world, many much worse than Christchurch. Have the grace to accept you don’t know how to deal with the situation and find people who can.

If you can’t do that, its election year and you will have to fall on your swords and we will find others who can. The current situation may not be man made, but our response to it is a disgrace. Kia Kaha Christchurch. Thanks to the media for making us more aware of what is and isn’t happening. Maybe now we need to tell the world stage that we are not coping and we need specialist help.

Have a read of the comments left on Campbell Live’s Facebook Page. This tells the story that our Government departments are not addressing or are trying to minimize. The situation is not under control and it is not just a few people who haven’t been seen to yet. This is a crisis. What are you going to do John Key? The Rugby World Cup will not be enough of a distraction.

The Insurance Aftermath of an Earthquake


First there were several people who had inadequate insurance in Christchurch. I have no idea what the situation is in Japan, but I understand that some of the worst hit were apparently poor communities illustrated by the ease with which the  tsunami washed away the houses.

I think the first thing goes back to my previous blogs on preparation lessons, the aftermath and getting your household ready. The Earthquake Commission is there to help after a natural disaster which isn’t covered by normal household insurance. But the scope was huge. They had over 440,000 claims and even in dealing with those, their liability is up to a maximum of $100,000 for dwellings and $20,000 for personal property. Try building a house for $100,000 or replacing even your basic possessions including appliances, furniture, clothing etc for $20,000. Some people will pretty much walk away with nothing.

Now insurance itself is a risk game and they take our premiums on the expectation that for a large number of people they will never have to pay out. Now I haven’t seen the financials for EQC, but I suspect that most of the money has gone into running the organisation over  the years, especially given that after the event John Key says that the government may have to treble the levy in our taxes for future incidents. Does this mean that we are now going to start to pay for what happened, borrowing from the future because the funds weren’t there? Are wee robbing Peter to pay Paul?

We always knew a major disaster looming. Of course we thought it was most likely to happen in Wellington. It hasn’t, which of course doesn’t mean it won’t because Christchurch and Wellington are on different fault lines. But I would have thought with years and years of taxes and no major incidents, EQC would have been flush with funds.

Anyway, back to the present. If you don’t have adequate insurance to cover everything, think again and do what you can, even if money is tight, things could get a whole lot worse. I hate insurance. I was once asked to do a whole lot of psych tests by an insurance company who thought I would be a star life sales person. The idea of selling life policies to my friends was anathema but I loved tests, so I spent a whole day doing the tests and they came back apparently saying I would be hugely successful. I declined despite the offer of a big package. Today I wonder if I should have taken the money, because I better appreciate the importance of insurance. It’s a gamble by both parties, both hoping we will never be in a position to need the cover.

I have life, income protection, health, car, house and contents policies and it eats up a lot of money. So far the insurance companies have enjoyed a lot of meals from my table, but if something major did happen, I feel secure that if my company closed for 6 months because its buildings ceased to exist, if I was injured or ill long term, or if my house washed away in a tsunami, I could rebuild. As the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral said, its the people that matter, the church can be rebuilt.

One concern I had with the aftermath was seeing people throw away their household appliances, carpets, furniture etc and wondering how they would be able to prove what they had lost. The share scale meant that many people had to do that, but it does show the value of having a list of your possessions and also photos. I once had a software app that did that, but never fully used it. Another thing to my be prepared list methinks.

 

Household devastation after the earthquake

So I recommend you grab a digital camera or video camera at least, so that you can go through each room and record your possessions and the state of your property, so that you will have proof in the unlikely event that you could need it. Then store the information somewhere safe. I used to keep my songs in safe deposit on video, with the bank, some people thought I was stupid, but again its just insurance.

Enough for now. I hope I’ve given you some more food for thought. Here’s some fond memories of mine of Christchurch a couple of years ago, with a song I am still writing.

 

The ANZAC Currency is approved


Yesterday evening agreement was reached between the NZ Prime Minster, John Key and the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to create a common currency. In a joint statement they said that this had been on the table for many years and successive governments had decided to see how the Euro fared as a shared currency. Given this success they have announced that within one year of today, there will be a new shared currency between Australia and New Zealand called the ANZAC Dollar, or ZAC for short.

There will be a commemorative ZAC Dollar silver coin minted next month as a collectors item. Given the relationship between Australia and New Zealand, whose soldiers fought side by side in 2 World Wars, the commemorative coin will be minted on two sides. One side will feature Sir Charles Upham, possibly the most decorated Kiwi, with a Victoria Cross & Bar, Greek Medal of Honor and African Star. The other side features Australian War Hero, Alfred Shout, who earned many citations including the Victoria Cross, Memorial Scroll and Kings Message.

The existing currencies of each country will be phased out over a 2 year period and from 25 April 2010, the date of the ANZAC Day commemmoration, either currency will be accepted in both countries until the new currency is released.

“This will herald a new era of a close relationship that has existed for over 200 years”, said John Key  from his Beehive Office in Wellington, where he quipped that he had of course not been around at that time. He went on to sayb that in these difficult economic times, a joint currency would have a stabilising effect on the local economy.

These are the days and surviving a recession


Within days of a black president being elected as president of America, and a life of protesting against racism, Miriam Makeba has passed away. I pinch myself to check that I’m really living with these experiences and am so grateful to be alive in this era of exciting times, great times and troubled times. I hope that Obama goes on and becomes one of the great presidents, which is a big ask, but it is very necessary.

Meanwhile downunder, Helen Clark has resigned her leadership of the Labour Party having lost the New Zealand election to probably one of the youngest Prime Ministers in our history. To me amongst other things, she represents the Politically Correct which is ironic, because I know she lost many staunch Labour voters in her campaign by trying to make the National Party and John Key in particular look untrustworthy. The TV advertisements at the end of their campaign were all trying to smear John Key instead of focussing on their successes and their future plans, and in my humble opinion, it backfired badly. When you throw mud, some of it stays on your hands and she should have known better. Several people told me that they decided against voting for labour because they didn’t like smear campaigns.

Now we are heading into the biggest recession / depression in living memory. The 30’s and the 80’s will pale in comparison. The depression is a bad thing, but there are different ways of thinking about it and smart people will do well, or at least survive.

Something that has amazed me for some time is how business has teased people, who should know better, to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need and keep doing it over and over. Retailers and finance companies ought to take some responsibility for what they have done, but many will because their business will dry up. The finance companies will go broke because they loaned money to people that they couldn’t secure and most of the goods had dropped way below their value, the minute they left the showroom.

Banks forgot about their commitment after the 1987 crash. For a while they started looking at people’s ability to pay their mortgages and required that they have at least 20% deposit. Then as property values increased they suddenly decided to finance people with 100% of the loan, figuring that the property values would keep going up and it wouldn’t make any difference. Of course while the mortgages were being paid they were making a tidy profit.

The retailers (including car companies) figured they weren’t taking any risks because it was the finance companies that were lending the money, not them.

Funny really because we often say that instead of employing politicians, who have a short term focus and often little experience in running a business, we should pay a premium and get successful business people to run the biggest business of all, our country. The rational was that in business anyone that went to the board and said, “Whoops I miscalculated and we have half a billion dollars less than we thought”, would be quickly helped into a new career, but it seems business has been doing the same thing and thinking that they can get away with it.

By saturating the market with things they can’t afford (and this hasn’t stopped) with 18 months deferred payment and interest free for another year or so, all they are doing is compounding the crisis. Who wouldn’t be teased into buying a new 42″ LCD widescreen HDTV with freeview built in, especially when the Jones’ have one next door and you don’t have to pay anything for over a year.

So we aren’t just heading into an economic crisis, we are adding fuel to the fire to make the mess even worse and if our government’s are broke, we are walking straight into the arms of the waiting Chinese Government who would be delighted to buy our failing banks and finance companies.

Has everyone taken leave of their senses? Have you taken advantage of a 100% mortgage? Have you bought products on special deals that you wanted but didn’t need? Come on, be honest.

There is potentially an exciting side to this as well. If you were smart and saved money, or invested in assets or property that you could afford and that made sound business sense, you could be looking forward to exciting times. Many of today’s wealthy families made their fortunes in the great depression of the 1930’s. If you were prudent during the boom, you could find yourself on top when the crunch comes, ready to buy into a business or buy some real estate at rock bottom prices and benefit from this situation. Even now it isn’t too late. What are you going to do now?

Christmas is coming. Don’t take that overseas vacation, pay half of the money into your mortgage and have a local holiday. The domestic tourism industry is hurting and you should be able to have a great time enjoying your own back yard. Reduce your debt as quickly as possible and only have debt in things that will increase in value when things come right. I think it’s called delayed gratification.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Election Promises


It’s full on election time, we have had the first debate. One thing that I thought was very cool was that TVNZ ran the debate in conjunction with YouTube. People were invited to record their questions for the leaders of the Labour and National parties on YouTube. The questions and responses, such as this one on Law and Order are also available to view on YouTube which means everyone has easy access to the parts of the

debate they are interested in. Great use of new technology and kudos to TV One.

And the NZ Herald has regular features talking about the different offerings on a topic, from each party. Today’s topics are law and order. I was telling my wife about the Act policy which I like.

Key things I like are that you serve the sentence you are given and 3 strikes and your out. I think this policy is based on the system that made many of the streets in New York safe. The first time I went to New York and wanted to go to the Cotton Club, I was told that taxi’s would take me there before dark, but they wouldn’t come back to pick me up because it was too dangerous in Harlem and taxi drivers were being murdered. In recent years the Zero Tolerence policy has made the area much safer.

They also said that if you are sentenced to 5 years in jail, you should serve 5 years. This is something that we have been asking for for years. The problem is that parties make all these statements, but they have very little credibility because they never seem to follow through. I am thinking that one possibility is using our political system to vote for a party like Act on the party vote to give them the legs to push through one of these policies.

Law and order is an election issue and in my humble opinion Helen Clark and the Labour Party want everybody’s vote and are saying they are against gangs and organized crime, but sympathizing with the reasons people join them. The National Party doesn’t seem to be much better. John Key is saying that he wants to lock up recidivist criminals and will build a new prison to house them. In my humble opinion young gang members who go to jail will add to their ‘mana’ (in simple terms Maori for honor or power) within the gang and will be heroes when they come out. They will be looked after ‘inside’ by their gang family and life won’t be too bad at all.

My wife said, “It’s all very well them saying these things when they want to vote for you, but after the election all the promises go out the window”, well actually she said something more colorful, but she’s pretty much on the mark. How many times have we been conned by politicians, voting for them on the basis of their election promises and then when they get in they have loads of great reasons why they couldn’t go through with it, usually blaming the outgoing parliament.

The addage is that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, a politician will always get in. It’s funny really that at election time we elect people that mostly we don’t trust to keep their promises and give them a mandate to run the biggest organisation, our whole country!