3 News uses and abuses leaked sales data

I think this is a disgraceful use of and abuse of the leaked real estate data – 3 News had obtained the data and has been visiting the addresses of Chinese sounding people they got off the list.

Like Labour they proved little except a lack of care about privacy for a bit of cheap publicity.

Door knocking Labour’s ‘Chinese-sounding’ names

Some of the people with Chinese-sounding names used by Labour to attack offshore buyers have been visited by 3 News.

They didn’t add anything useful to the story or issues, all they did was use data that they knew had been wrongly leaked to breach people’s privacy.

If any of those people felt harassed I hope they complain.

I think this is appallingly irresponsible of 3 News.

UPDATE: Tova O’Brien has responded on Twitter:

Didn’t do it off leaked data, used B&T’s market reports. Public on their website.

I can’t find names and addresses of sales, addresses only. I’ve asked Tova for a link.

“Dad, why don’t Kiwis like us Chinese?”

Shane Te Pou wants an apology from from Andrew Little and Phil Twyford. He feels embarrassed for the Labour Party and sad for his boy who is part Maori, part Chinese and asked “Dad, why don’t Kiwis like us Chinese?”

Te Pou is a long time Labour Party member. Last year he was reported as being on the electorate committee in Tamaki Makaurau.

And in an interview with Duncan Garner on RadioLive today Te Pou says he has probably been caught up in the data leak and has contacted the Privacy Commissioner.

Garner: Now this is a fascinating story this one. Long standing Labour Party Shane Te Pou, been around for a long time, he’s been a member of the Labour Party, I think he was a member at age fifteen actually. He is angry with the Labour Party over this surname saga business, the whole Barfoot and Thompson releasing of the Chinese surnames.

The truth is Shane Te Pou is Maori and his wife is Chinese, and he’s been told they are very likely to have been caught up in this leaked data used by the Labour Party. Shane joins me now. Kia Ora Shane.

Te Pou: Kia Ora.

Garner: What are your concerns?

Te Pou: Oh my concerns are this, that we bought as house with Barfoot and Thompson so I gave them a call and I said “Hey look, is it possible that my information could have been leaked, and could have been used”, and yes they said it’s highly likely.

So I’m aghast that we’ve been trapped in this ’cause I can tell you that just simply because of my wife’s surname that we’re probably on the foreigners’ list, and that’s a personal insult to me and my whanau.

The other thing that I’m concerned about this is that I think this is racial profiling. What they simply did is they got a group of Chinese sounding names and put one and one together and came up with three and I think that’s abhorrent  to the principles of my great party.

Garner: So are you going to hang around in the party, or are you threatening to resign like we saw from Phil Quin? Are you doing the same, what are you going to do?

Te Pou: Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble didn’t get rid of me. These guys aren’t going to get rid of me either brother, but no I don’t intend to do that at all.

Garner: Right so you will stay on, but what do you want from Andrew Little?

Te Pou: I want an apology. I think that you know, here’s the thing, there ought to be constraints on foreign ownership. They need to be universal and they need to be thorough.

But to pick on a particular ethnicity I think is abhorrent, and really goes against the fundamental principles of our party and that’s one of equity.

And I think Mr Little and Phil Twyford, who I’ve known for years, who came to my twenty first, owe me and my whanau an apology.

Garner: So you’ll write them a letter seeking that will you?

Te Pou: Yes. And I’ll contact the Privacy Commissioner. I’ve just found out today that my information was likely part of that so I’ve contacted the Privacy Commissioner and I’m about to send a letter away to the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of my party.

Garner: What are the chances of getting an apology do you think?

Te Pou: I don’t know. I don’t know but you know I don’t like coming out publicly on these kind of issues but I think you’ve got to pick a principled position.

I’ve got a nine year old kid, you know he can do his whakapapa and te reo, ah his Chinese is very good, speaks English and he said  “Dad, why don’t Kiwis like us Chinese?”

And you know, I felt very sad for him.

So I’ve got to this for [him] and I’ve got to do this for many other Chinese who contribute very well and productively to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Garner: Are you embarrassed by your party?

Te Pou: I’m embarrassed by the actions of Phil who I think is better than this, who is a really decent man, as I said I’ve known him, he came to my twenty first.

I just think it was unnecessary and I think the way he did it actually has been a sideshow in terms of what the real issue is. And the real issue is our people cannot afford homes in Auckland and we need to put universal strategies in place.

Garner: Do you buy this argument from your party that there is such a lack of concrete data on who is buying our houses that they needed to do this?

I mean I thought, I’ll be honest with my opinion on this, I thought it was sloppy, I thought it took us nowhere to be honest.

Te Pou: No, it’s taken us nowhere. There oughta be a register. We oughta know who’s buying our properties. There oughta be precautions in place.

But to racially profile, that’s what they did, they got Chinese sounding surnames and then they dumped the information based on that.

It was totally unnecessary and I just, what concerns me is that Andrew and Phil Twyford, who I think are fundamentally decent human beings, they failed to see that.

And I think perhaps if someone like me can say “hey guys, think about this again” I think they might reflect about it and do good, rather than just trying to score a few political cheap points.

Garner: Um Shane, if they don’t apologise to you will you reconsider your position in the party, ie will you resign, or will you hang on ie Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble and just hang tough?

Te Pou: I’m going to hang tough. I love the party. She’s been good to me. You know they gave us universal health and education. I’ve come from a very large whanau. We’re very committed to the Labour Party. My brothers and sisters have worked on campaigns.

My nine year old boy, he’s been delivering pamphlets in three campaigns since he was a five year old…

Garner: How will you protest if you don’t get an apology, which is obviously what you want because you’re offended and fair enough, how will you react if you don’t get what you want?

Te Pou: Oh what I will do and what I intend to do is go through and see if I can extract from the party and from the Leader and from Phil in the first place, and secondly if I have to I’ll go through the Privacy Commissioner.

You know, it’s something I really don’t want to do, but I feel very slighted. And I think thousands of New Zealanders feel very slighted over this issue, and I think in the long term it’s not helpful for our party and it’s not helpful for our chances of winning the election next time around.

AUDIO: Labour Party member Shane Te Pou asks leader Andrew Little for an apology over ‘foreign buyers’ issue

The Quin response – how Labourites treat their own

The Labour Party’s decision to dump on not just all New Zealanders with Chinese ethnicity but all New Zealanders with potentially Chinese sounding names has divided their support base. Some are defending Labour’s actions, some are horrified that Labour would so blatantly play a race card.

One of the latter is long time Labourite Phil Quin who emailed his resignation to the party secretary.

Dear Mr. Barnett

In light of Labour’s calculated decision over the weekend to deploy racial profiling as a political tactic, I resign my membership of the party.

I am stunned that Labour, as a matter of conscious political strategy, would trawl through a dubiously ­acquired list of property buyers to identify Chinese­sounding names. Even as I write the words, I can scarcely believe that senior party leaders – or anyone of good conscience, for that matter – thought it an advisable course of action. That they are now defending it – even attacking Susan Devoy for her principled comments on the subject – compounds my disappointment.

I lived and worked in Rwanda for several years, including in 2014, during the twentieth commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi minority. Many of my former colleagues, still dear friends, are among the few who survived the slaughter. They taught me something about what happens when political parties start compiling lists based on ethnicity. Nothing good can come from racial profiling of the kind Labour chose to employ in pursuit of a headline and a poll bump.

Some have applauded that as a principled action.

3 News reported Labour unwavering on Chinese buyer data:

Labour is unrepentant, standing by the unlawfully leaked real estate data and its analysis, which suggests three-quarters of Chinese buying in Auckland don’t actually live in New Zealand.

“It’s always disappointing when a member resigns from the party, but the correspondence coming to my office in the last day or two has been overwhelmingly in favour,” says Mr Little.

Many of those not in favour have chosen to express their disappointment elsewhere, like Quin. His letter was posted at The Standard – Phil Quin resigns from Labour – where there was some support.

But some Labour supporters are happy to be rid of anyone who is not in their own favoured faction. It’s as if they have support to burn and don’t care about shedding stalwarts.

Here are some of the comments celebrating Quin’s resignation.


Good riddance, Quin’s always been a fuckwit.


He is no left wing saviour. He has attacked the party publicly for years and think we made a bad decision in keeping Helen Clark as leader. He with the Paganis are firm believers of Blairite third way politics, the sort that gave us the beneficiary on the roof speech from David Shearer.

He was also allegedly in the process of setting up an alternative left wing party and/or faction within Labour based on Progress in the UK. I suspect that we will see some more activity on this part so his self martyrdom needs to be taken with a grain of salt.


I have never figured out what in the hell those bozos like Quinn were trying to achieve. Sort of socially conservative basher with a rather strange crony capitalistic bent. But I really suspect that it has more to do with some kind of “I want power/I love the game” leverage than actual thought through convictions.

Anyway, I’d be rather pleased to see them fade to obscurity.


In my humble opinion, it is no great loss this pretender has resigned. Labour is better off.

Thom Pietersen:

Agreed – part of the ideological nutbar PC brigade – Labour – working people, working, not bloody bludging. Maybe he could join the elitist arse sitting privileged geoglobal money party (I’d bang in a bit of totalitarianism – if people would keep shtum about the price of a TV).


In all my years in the Labour Party I’ve never met, heard or seen Phil Quin taking an active or positive role at any level. Anything I’ve ever heard about him has been derogatory and derisory. His resignation should, therefore be seen for what it is, grandstanding by a nonentity in an effort to rebuild his often ignored ego.


Glad he’s gone and I hope he takes his right-wing third way friends (eg. Josie Pagani) with him. They can set up their own little think tank and run down Labour (as they have been doing for a very long time) ad infinitum.


+100 Anne

All this has done is given the likes of Quinn and whole pile of other middle class, identity politics Blairist ex-Labour types the fig leaf they needed to start honest about the fact they nowvote National. Bye bye, you won’t be missed.


So hardly a loss then.


Well if thats all it took to get rid of that prick, the Labour Party should have done it ages ago. Now if we were really lucky Josie might join her good friend. That would be the icing on top.


Good riddance.

Jenny Kirk:

Great to see him go ! He’s just a parasite and rightwing with it.


 Good the issues has forced the resignation of Phil Quin.

Te Reo Putake:

Glad he’s gone, wish he’d gone a long time ago. National and ACT are his ideological home and they’re welcome to him. The NZ Labour party doesn’t need constant undermining from people who use their membership as a device to destroy the party from within. It’s cheap, cowardly and dishonest.

Good riddance, Phil. You were very, very average.

G C:

Bye Phil bye – nobody cares


Phil Quim quits……and nothing of value was lost


never heard of him so wont miss him sounds like a twat


Good riddance to Quin – that’s probably the only bright spot to come out of this fiasco.

whateva next?

ad nauseum rather! Labour is about co operation, cohesion and compromise, not a federation of self interested separatists. Time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

A highly ironic comment.

Labour sort of need all the wheat, chaff, oats and barley that they can get don’t they? Or will those remaining be happy being a 20% party?

Salmond explains his Chinese name data analysis

Rob Salmond has posted further explanation for his data analysis of the Auckland property sales on his own Polity blog. His site has been mostly unloadable so I’ll post it entirely here as an alternate source.

How Labour estimated ethnicity from surnames

In response to requests via Twitter, this post walks readers through the general method Labour used to predict the ethnicity of Auckland house buyers from their surnames. This analysis was featured in the New Zealand Herald’s lead story yesterday.

Note that there are two points in this explanation where I will refuse to go into further detail, in order to protect Labour IP. The rest of this explanation has been made publicly in various venues already, so this post does not give away any new secrets.

Part 1: 2014 demographic study

Pre-election, Labour estimated the ethnicity of every person on the electoral roll, via standard Bayesian updating. There are 3.2 million people on the roll. This was one of many demographic estimates we did for everyone in the country. Most serious political parties now engage in this kind of demographic profiling.

To estimate ethnicity, we used public NZ census data on the ethnic distribution of neighbourhoods, and also used data we developed privately about the ethnic distribution of last, middle, and first names in New Zealand. We followed some advice – especially about estimating Asian ethnicities – from prominent US academic studies. I won’t be describing that process further, as that is sensitive IP for Labour.

Using these data, our base method was to estimate people’s ethnicity in a three-step Bayesian analysis:

  • Step 1: Prior: Neighbourhood ethnic distribution. New information. Lastname distribution. Posterior: Neighbourhood / lastname ethnic distribution.
  • Step 2: Prior: Neighbourhood / lastname ethnic distribution. New information. Firstname distribution. Posterior: Neighbourhood / lastname / firstname ethnic distribution.
  • Step 3: Prior: Neighbourhood / lastname / firstname ethnic distribution. New information. Middlename distribution. Posterior: Neighbourhood / lastname / firstname / middlename ethnic distribution.

This process provides a distribution of the likely ethnicities of each person in New Zealand, given their address and their full name.

The distribution covered the probability that a person was each of the following ethnicities, drawn from the level 1 and level 2 ethnic classifications from the New Zealand census: European, Maori, Pacific (not further defined), Pacific (Samoan), Pacific (Tongan), Asian (not further defined), Asian (Chinese), Asian (Japanese), Asian (Korean), Asian (South Asian), Asian (Middle East), other.

For the person-level point estimates, we used the largest single probability. That probability was typically above 0.9.

We refined these estimates further with three tweaks to account for moderate issues we encountered estimating certain ethnicities. I won’t be describing those tweaks further, because IP.

We then tested our predictions against a more-or-less-random sample of around 3,500 known New Zealanders for whom we had ethnicity data. Our best predictions, which we have used since, were 94.8% accurate.

This is an important point. Having developed our method for estimating ethnicity, we then tested it for accuracy against real world data. Only once we were satisfied it was accurate were we willing to rely on it in our work.

Part 2: Applying the predictions to housing data

To apply our general predictions, derived in part 1 above, to the Auckland housing data, we followed a two-step process.

First, we collapsed the 1.4 million Auckland-based ethnic estimates we had by surname only, as that is the only data we had in the real estate data. This allowed us to also partly leverage the earlier electoral roll-based information we gleaned from first names, middle names, and locations as part of our surname-based estimates.

Most of the surnames pointed strongly (pr>0.9) to one and only one ethnicity, although there were some examples with more mixed predictions. It created estimates such as the following (these are the real values):

Name pr(European) pr(Maori) pr(Chinese) pr(other)
JONES 0.938 0.054 0.001 0.007
HOTERE 0.048 0.887 0.000 0.065
LEE 0.481 0.027 0.400 0.092
LI 0.028 0.001 0.957 0.014

Having done that for each individual purchaser, we then summed the probabilities across all 3,922 sales in the dataset. This provided an aggregate estimate, based on the distributions of likely ethnicities in each individual sale, for the overall ethnic distribution of house buyers in Auckland.

In doing this aggregation, we tested various ways of accounting for the fact that some sales had one surname attached, while others had two or even three, accounting for multiple people with diffrerent surnames purchasing a property together. No matter how we cut those observations, the overall pattern remained within 2% of the numbers that appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

It is that overall distribution, not data cherry-picked from any particular sale, that we then compared with various other aggregate datasets about the ethnic distribution of Auckland residents, or various subsets of Auckland residents. Many of those comparisons are detailed in the Herald article and in my Public Address blog post yesterday.

Is the foreign ownership ban Labour policy?

On The Nation this morning Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford stated:

Okay, if it is such a big issue, what would Labour do about it?
We would ban foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses, end of story.


We’re going to crack down on speculators generally, and we have a policy review underway. There are a myriad of different tax and policy approaches that we can do to level the playing field away from the current incentives for property speculation in our economy. So we’re going to do that. We’re going ban foreign buyers.

So a policy review is under way, but Twyford seems to be stating Labour policy. What does Labour say about this?

Nothing yet, officially at least going by their website:


Nothing yet on their Facebook:


Twitter has nothing official but whoever is on duty re-tweeted two of Twyford’s tweets…


…but that’s only related to the sales data (which does nothing to identify Chinese descent), no mention of ‘no foreign buyers’ policy.

Leader Andrew little seems to have had no social media activity since 8 July (on Facebook and on his Twitter account).

So far there is no sign of this being  official Labour policy. There’s no sign of Little.

Has Twyford gone to far by saying “We would ban foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses, end of story ”  and “So we’re going to do that. We’re going ban foreign buyers”?

Little will have some explaining to do. And if he doesn’t back Twyford’s statements the Twyford might have some explaining to do as well.

UPDATE: A tweet from @TheNationNZ

@PeteDGeorge only confirmed existing policy. And the release involved leader’s office

So Little’s office were seemingly involved in this but have kept their distance.

Whale Oil language gaff

Whale Oil frequently blasts other media when they make mistakes, especially NZ Herald. Missy pointed out:

I was having a brief look over at Whale Oil today, and I noticed a post Cam Slater has done on NZ Children learning languages, specifically Chinese, what struck me is that before posting a regurgitation of the article he put the following line in.

“Really? They don’t choose to learn Swiss or Brazilian?”

Now, since I thought it was common knowledge that Brazilian and Swiss are nationalities not languages – Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, and French, German, Italian and Romansh is spoken in Switzerland – I would have expected someone who seems to be picky about journalists in the MSM getting their facts straight would not have made such a stupid error.


To be fair Cameron Slater may have been trying to be cute with his opening comment – surely he wouldn’t pick two countries like Brazil and Switzerland in total ignorance, and he makes a dig at ‘Chinese’ versus ‘Mandarin’ – but Missy is right, that’s the sort of apparent ignorance he would blast the Herald for.

It looks dumb, especially on a post about language.

Also, to be fair to language correctness, Standard Mandarin is also referred to as Standard Chinese (as well as Putonghua and Guoyu) so ‘Chinese’ is as correct as ‘Mandarin’.

And if you want to be nit-picky about ‘Chinese’ versus ‘Mandarin’ then perhaps it should be pointed out that “there are as many as 292 living languages in China.”

The languages most commonly spoken belong to the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which contains Mandarin (spoken natively by 70% of the population), and other Chinese languages: 

While 70% speaking Mandarin is a significant majority 30% of the Chinese population is over 400 million people.

The official language of China is Standard Mandarin, a variety of Mandarin based on the Beijing dialect.

Mandarin is also known as Standard Chinese (so ‘Chinese is a correct-ish variant) and also as Putonghua and Guoyu


Challenging Peters’ racism, and ambush hypocrisy

Campbell Live ran an item on Winston Peters tonight, questioning claims Peters made in a speech to Grey Power in Takapuna entitled “Auckland, super city or sin city?”

Winston Peters’ sin city claims investigated

In it, he used the word “China” 21 times and he asked the question “who’s running things here, us or them?”

Is there any other immigrant group that gets singled out like that?

It was all in a speech that refers to corruption, crime, money laundering, shady dealing, pokey machines, sex workers, cheating Asian students, a slave trade, drug importation and the seven deadly sins.

So Campbell Live asked Winston Peters for proof.

The item ran through a number of claims made by Peters and disputed them all, backed by various people knowledgeable or expert in their fields.

Emma Espiner@emmawehipeihana

Nice to see some actual facts to challenge Winston’s ridiculous racism tonight. Thanks @rebeccawright and @CampbellLiveNZ

John Campbell said they wanted to interview Peters around Auckland to try and elicit justifications and show examples of his claims. Campbell said a prepared studio interview with Peters is often futile as Peters won’t answer questions.

Reporter Rebecca Wright was then shown meeting Peters as he arrived off a plane at Auckland Airport. She asked him questions on the couple of hundred metre walk to his taxi.

It was a fruitless discussion with claim and counter claim of lying.


You’re lying. NO, YOU’RE LYING! This might be the funniest segment I have seen in my life. @CampbellLiveNZ

It even led to a threat to sue:


“I will sue you. I will sue your programme.” Tonight @CampbellLiveNZ pic.twitter.com/YvmzheXlE0

That’s rich from Peters threatening to sue, supposedly for (as he claimed) lying about him. He’s been making many things up and accusing people of criminal offences and suggesting salacious behaviour wihtout producing any evidence.

Some praise for Wright.

Juanita Copeland@JuanitaCopes

@rebeccawright gold star for enduring yet another arrogant winston peters “chat”. He’s a piece of work. Excellent grace under fire Rebecca

And Peters bit back.

Winston Peters@winstonpeters

Gutter journalism from Campbell Live. Offered to do a live interview, but instead they lurked at the airport for an ambush.

That’s also rich from Peters, who seems to spend his time in Parliament trying to ambush opponents. Two weeks ago he ambushed Peter Dunne in a select committee with off topic accusations. So crying about an ambush hypocritical from him, as usual.

Greens versus China – clash of reds?

Of watermelons and chinese gooseberries.

From “PM won’t reveal checks in spying row”:

Green MP Gareth Hughes said Parliament’s security and intelligence committee should investigate.

“If there are these security concerns, that’s the appropriate forum to look into it.”

The state was handing over a significant amount of money in broadband contracts – $1 billion in total – and should satisfy itself that “we are not being snooped on by the Chinese Government”, he said.

Greens seem to have a bit of a “pick on the Chinese” obsession. That’s curious as both have some communist roots.

If we are worried about being snooped on by technology providers shouldn’t we be suspicious of all provider countries?

What if a country like the US ended up with too much business influence on dramatic selective arrests and shutting down of competitive companies?

A lot of our international communications come and go via Australia. Perhaps they attach sublimal messages like:
“Move to Australia. Move to Australia.”
“Don’t catch up with our wages.”
“Use the Auckland wharfies as a test for how to deal to ours”.

And Finland, well, who knows what all those little Nokias tell them?