Some of Press Council dump on Garner

There’s something a bit funny about this issue, but the rest is of serious concern.

I posted Changing faces and population growth this morning. I thought it seemed familiar to something Duncan Garner had previously said but checked – not well enough – that it said Last updated 05:00, December 23 2017.

It was actually published in October. It was clearly marked as opinion:

OPINION: I went to Kmart on Wednesday to buy some new underpants and socks.

It has been updated with this message.

A majority of the Press Council ruled that this column breached Principle 4, Comment and Fact and 7, Discrimination and Diversity.  The Press Council decision is here.



1. Stuff ran an opinion piece by Duncan Garner Dear New Zealand, how do we want to look in 20 years? on 7 October. The column was also published inThe Dominion Post. In it Mr Garner discusses his recent visit to Kmart where he observed the long line waiting for the check-out. He used his observations of who was standing in the line to comment on current immigration policy. He considered what the future of New Zealand may be if, he argues, we do not plan better for our future population.

2. The complaint was upheld by a majority of five members with four members dissenting.

What the hell? Good on four members dissenting, but why are five members dumping on Garner’s opinion?

The Complaint

3. Eliza Prestidge Oldfield complains that the article falls short of Principle 7: Discrimination and Diversity. This principle states that “issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest, and publications may report and express opinions in these areas. Publications should not, however, place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting”.

4. She argues that the article refers to a group of immigrants and suggests that immigration is a concern because the migrants are from those countries. She points out that if the article wanted to avoid a racist subtext particular minority groups should not have been singled out.

So specific ‘sub-groups’ should not be talked about? Garner was describing how he saw things in a queue at K-Mart.

5. She also complains that the article falls short of Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, Principle 4 Comment and Fact, in that “a clear distinction should be drawn between factual information and comment or opinion” and Principle 5 that states that columns, blogs, opinion and letters should be labelled as such.

The Response

6. Bernadette Courtney, Editor in Chief Central Region, responds by stating that the column is an opinion piece and clearly labelled as such. She acknowledges that the content may not sit well with some readers but defends the right to present a variety of views. She pointed out that the paper published a right of reply from the Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy and also published a number of letters with a diverse range of views on the article.

It was clearly labelled as Opinion and other opinions were published in response, including one from the Race Relations Commissioner.

The Decision

  • 7. The Press Council in the past has ruled on complaints against opinion pieces. While an opinion piece does not require balance and is entitled to take a strong position on issues that it addresses, it needs to be based on facts that are accurate and to take into account relevant Press Council principles (such as Principles 4 and 7).

(The published decision does have numbered bulleted paragraphs).

  • 8. In relation to principle 7 it should not legitimise gratuitous emphasis on stereotypes or fear-mongering. The Council will not uphold complaints against expressions of opinion simply on the basis that they are extreme, provocative, and/or offensive. However, if the opinion is so extreme in substance or tone as to go beyond what is acceptable as opinion and amount to a breach of Principle 7, a complaint will be upheld.
  • 9. The parts of the article which are relevant to the complaint start with a statement that the visit to the shopping mall “ . . . fast became a nightmarish glimpse into our future if we stuff it up.” The writer then describes “a massive human snake” and continues: “The self-service counter could not cope. It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too. I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia. I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000. Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the cross roads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter”.
  • 10. Much of the article consists of legitimate expression of opinion on questions of immigration and population control. It is clearly labelled as opinion and there is no failure to distinguish between opinion and fact (Principles 4 and 5).
  • 11. The main questions before the Press Council relate to the requirements that there be a clear distinction between fact and opinion and that material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate (Principle 4), and to the discrimination and diversity principle (Principle 7).
  • 12. In relation to principle 4, Mr Garner appears to offer the “fact” that New Zealand’s population is growing because of South East Asian immigration. The actual drivers of population growth are more complex than that. It is only in the last three years that India and China were the top two countries of origin for New Zealand migrants, and in any event, these countries are not generally included in the popular understanding of “South East Asia”. Before that the United Kingdom topped all figures. While the Asian population in New Zealand is the fastest growing (up 33 percent from the 2006 to 2013 census), it still only represents 12 percent of the total population, and not all those of Asian ethnicity are migrants. Population growth can also be driven by New Zealanders returning from overseas or deciding not to migrate. Conflating migration and refugees is also unhelpful.
  • 13. In addition, Mr Garner singles out migrants from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, countries which are the source of relatively few migrants. The immediate juxtaposition of the figure of 72 000 with the singled out groups amounts to misleading the reader on a factual issue. At the very least the line between fact and opinion has become blurred in this case.
  • 14. In presenting the data as he did, Mr Garner has inaccurately targeted a group of migrants in a way that leads the reader to infer that these groups are driving the poor outcomes for all New Zealanders that Mr Garner outlines. Immigration data, however, tells a more complex story. In presenting the data as Mr Garner did, the reader is led to make inferences that the “blame” for New Zealanders’ poor outcomes and standard of living lies with a targeted group of migrants. As such, the complaint under Principle 4 is upheld.
  • 15. With regard to Principle 7, the Press Council acknowledges and agrees that minority groups, race and colour are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and the discussion is in the public interest. However there should not be gratuitous emphasis on any such category. In this case, the article was directed at immigration and the consequences of uncontrolled population growth. The arguments are not advanced or aided in any way by singling out certain ethnic or national groups. That certain ethnic groups were singled out and some of these are groups do not provide large numbers of migrants is of most concern. Despite the writer’s protestations to the contrary, his approach can only be seen as gratuitous racism, especially when linked with the description of New Zealand’s future as nightmarish. The Council members upholding the complaint paid due consideration to freedom of expression as discussed in previous cases and concluded that this case went beyond what we deemed acceptable.
  • 16. The complaint under Principle 7 is also upheld.

Press Council members upholding this complaint were Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Hank Schouten and Marie Shroff.

Shame on them.


17. The chairman, Sir John Hansen, and three members of the Council, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and John Roughan, disagreed with the decision to uphold the complaint. In their view the column, while unpleasant, did not overstep the boundaries established by the Council’s principles and previous decisions regarding expressions of opinion on subjects involving race.

Good on them.

18. They noted the Council is reluctant to limit freedom of expressions of opinion on any subject and its principles and rulings allow ethnic issues to be debated so long as the references to race are not gratuitous and do not ascribe adverse characteristics or behaviour to an entire racial group. (See cases 2253 and 2260)

19. The columnist in this case was expressing concern about the ethnic diversity of New Zealand’s high immigration over recent years. He singled out several nationalities as those he thought he recognised in a shopping queue. While these groups were not a large component of New Zealand’s immigration, he was using them as an example of “the changing face of New Zealand”. In this context, the references to ethnic groups were not inaccurate or gratuitous in the minority’s view and he was not ascribing any characteristics to them.

20. The columnist did not explain why he was concerned at the ethnic diversity as well as the scale of immigration in recent years, and the clear implication that this did not need to be explained gave the column an unpleasant “dogwhistle” odour. But this sort of opinion is best challenged, in the minority’s view, by open debate rather than objections to its expression.

It was challenged and debated.

21. The Council has long stressed the safe guarding of “freedom of expression” in relation to opinion pieces. We find it impossible to distinguish this case from Toailoa also decided by the Council at this meeting. In that case the Council unanimously declined to uphold a similar complaint against an opinion piece.

The other case decision was discussed here recently in Complaint against David Garrett/Kiwiblog.



Changing faces and population growth

I think that Duncan Garner has had a go at this before, but here he goes again: Dear NZ, how do we want to look in 20 years?

 I went to Kmart on Wednesday to buy some new underpants and socks.

Now, normally this outing to the mall wouldn’t be a big deal but this one fast became a nightmarish glimpse into our future if we stuff it up.

As I started walking towards the self-pay counter I saw a massive human snake crawling its way around the self-service island near the middle of the store. And it snaked and snaked and snaked. The snake was massive.

I wondered what the attraction was? It wasn’t immediately obvious. Then it was. The self-service counter couldn’t cope.

It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too.

I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia.

I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000.

Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter. Every four minutes and 51 seconds New Zealand’s population grows by another person. We are growing faster now than compared to any other time in our history. And faster than most countries in the world.

New Zealand’s population grew by 100,400 to the June 2017 year.

This is not an opinion column designed to be deliberately inflammatory on race grounds, flimsy grounds or any other grounds.

But do we have any idea what we’re doing here? No.

Predictions show we will have 6.3 million people by 2038. There’ll be more Asians than Maori. Is anyone leading this debate on how big we should be? No.

Does it matter? You bet it does.

Garner raises two main issues here.

Many will probably focus on “Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads…”

It makes a big difference where this particular K-Mart was. I went to The Warehouse and New World last night. Both were a completely different picture. Both were remarkably uncrowded – I went straight up to a counter and got served at both. And it was a typically Dunedin mix of faces, nothing like Garner’s K-Mart description.

I think the more important issue is population growth. How big should the new Zealand population be allowed to grow?

Over the last few years population growth has been running at about 70,000 per annum. That doesn’t sound much, but if that was sustained over fifteen years it would be over a million more residents.

Population growth isn’t even over the country. Auckland is obviously facing the biggest growth problems. I happily choose not to go to Auckland if I can help it, the traffic is often diabolical, and when I have gone to Auckland in the past for non-work reasons I usually choose to get out to less populated places.

I actually work a lot in Auckland (as well as in Australia, South Africa, the UK and the US) but fortunately, with today’s technology, most of that work is done from an office in Dunedin. World wide networks now operate far faster than inter-office networks of a couple of decades ago.

Twenty years ago, even fifteen years ago, if I wanted data from a client I would tell them how to zip it onto a diskette – or often many diskettes – and put it in the post.  Now I connect directly and work or copy data.

So in some ways population concentrations are not needed. Working from a distance has never been easier in some lines of work.

But there has been a tendency in the last few centuries, and especially over the last half century, for people to flock to and inflate the populations of major cities, turning them into mega cities, while provincial cities like Dunedin chug away slowly.

Perhaps Garner and others in media could work remotely. But they choose to join the overcrowding in Auckland. That is their choice, so I am not entirely sympathetic to their complaints about population.

But back to immigration and overall population growth.

People are lining up to come here because we are the last paradise on Earth.

Our small population is our winning card. Let’s not lose that.

Everything we do we must ask ourselves this question: Will this make our country better for those living in it now?

If the answer is no then we must pause, stop and think again. Your great-grandchildren will be so grateful. And it’s our legacy.

But there’s little sign that the new Government is pausing, stopping and thinking again. There were varying signals about immigration in the election campaign, but there has been little sign of major change or rethink.

On the beehive website this is the only Press release from the Immigration portfolio:

Building occupations added to skill shortage list

It will be easier for the building industry to find the workers it needs to help address New Zealand’s housing shortfall, with seven building-related occupations being added to the Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL), Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced today.

“Employing skilled migrants will meet the immediate demand for people with the skills required to rapidly increase the number of houses in New Zealand.”

The focus is on bringing in more builders to build more houses to cater for the growing population.

When Garner wants to buy more undies and socks in the future he will probably find little has changed.

Lessons for Ghahraman (and others)

Golriz Ghahraman and the Greens have taken a hammering this week. Some of the criticism has been justified and fair, some has been way over the top and unfair.

Lessons should have been learned – but there is no sign of that yet as far as I’m aware.

Duncan Garner writes in Prosecuting evil but quietly defending the indefensible:

Green MP and human rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman and her party learned a tough lesson this week about truth, honesty and spin.

Be upfront. Tell the truth. Don’t massage and carefully manipulate your image and public reputation when it ain’t entirely true.

The Greens thought they had stumbled across an angel on the side of good,  sending bad men away. Not quite.

And what did we, the public, learn?

We learned these Greens are no better than the rest of the buggers despite an at times holier than thou outlook.

Truth is Ghahraman was happy to let it spread that she was a crusading international prosecutor. Sounded great, looked even better.

There was nothing wrong with what she did as a lawyer. Her problem was how some of what she did, defending people accused of horrendous crimes against humanity, was glossed over in her and her Green party spin.

No wonder her leader James Shaw said sorry this week for getting it wrong twice. Shaw, like the rest of us, assumed she was doing god’s work. You can’t blame him.

When he got it wrong, why didn’t Ghahraman fix it? Why didn’t she put The Guardian right three weeks ago when it made the same mistake? Why would she?

Truth is Ghahraman looks embarrassed to be defending those responsible for genocide. She looks embarrassed to have been on the side of defending some of the most evil war criminals this world has seen.

She wanted her role minimised because Rwanda was ugly.

It’s normal for people to downplay ugly things from their past, but it was handled poorly this week.

With all the ferrets and weasels trying to trip you up in Wellington it pays to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But, no, she should not resign as an MP.

No, this is not about defence lawyers.

Yes, this is about the truth. And her wrestling match with it.

Sadly she has shown a serious lack of contrition. She should have said sorry rather than been so offended by the expose.

If she learns anything from this we should see a better response from her.

One emailer told me this week I was attacking her because she’s a “woman with lovely brown Persian skin”.


What indeed. Being attacked because the target of criticism is female or non-European or an immigrant or whatever has become common in New Zealand political forums, and it’s crap.

This is a simple little story. A very basic one. This is about being economical with the truth. This is about minimising the unsavoury and seemingly indefensible.

It’s a rookie mistake, not telling the full story. Let it be a lesson – and stop taking us for fools. We see bull…. a mile away.

It’s been a tough week for Ghahraman. If she learns well from it she will become a stronger politician and a better MP.

I haven’t seen much sign of lessons learnt yet from her or her supporters.

A plea to Ardern on Paid Parental Leave

Both Labour and National are playing politics on Paid Parental Leave.

Labour insisted legislation needed to be passed under urgency – with a plan to increase PPL by four weeks next July, and by another four weeks in 2020 (for a total of 26 weeks). That doesn’t sound very urgent.

Then National proposed an amendment – to give parents the choice how they shared that leave – one parent could take it all, or one could reduce theirs while the other could get some leave too.

This was opposed by Labour who said they wouldn’t allow leave for the mother to be reduced, even if she wanted to. That’s nuts.

A more solid argument is that it would require re-writing and more work, and that should be dealt with at another time. But given that there is no real urgency making a good bill better should be given some sort of priority.

Duncan Garner slams Labour:  Pathetic, petty and poor form, Labour. Dads matter too

So why is it just for mums? Why can’t families split the 26 weeks so mum and dad can share it, spend time together, bond with baby? Because Labour says it’s best for mum to have 26 weeks with baby. Bullkaka. Plunket says flexibility would be good. Stop while you’re well behind.

What is Labour to be telling us what’s best for our families? It has no right. No-one is asking for a dollar more. We just want flexibility for mum and dad to take the time together. I would have taken it – it would have been so very welcome.

No, this is a case of Labour throwing its toys out of the cot. Labour can’t see past its own nose on this one.

It doesn’t want to pick up the flexible approach because it’s National’s idea. Plain and simple. It can’t be seen to be accommodating the baby blues when the Nats saw red over paid parental leave in the first place.

This is truly pathetic from Labour on an overall policy that most support.

Nothing National is asking for will cost more, it’s a disgraceful, short-sighted, pathetic and petty decision by Labour to deny families the chance for mum and dad to share the early weeks together at home.

Of course National is grandstanding. Yes, their record on this issue is poor. But on the flexibility argument they are right.

All it takes now is for Labour to listen.

All this happened while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was out of the country.

But now she’s back she could fix it. The PM could say families are too important to get this wrong. As a father, Jacinda Ardern, I urge you to do it.

Are you really a positive new government that cares for people and doesn’t leave people behind?

If you are all that, then do the right thing. Allow families the right to decide their own future.

I know you’re planning to make it flexible later anyway, so do it now. Give families the right to choose, after all, it’s their life, their baby. Over to you now Jacinda. What will it be?

Will Ardern step in and do something about this? She was asked about it in Question Time on Thursday (edited transcript):

Hon Paula Bennett: Why is the Government opposed to parents having flexibility in how they use their paid parental leave?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I thank the Opposition for bringing forward their suggestion. I personally see merit in the amendment they’ve suggested; that’s why we’ve said we’ll look into it next year.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why doesn’t the Government then send the bill to select committee to consider the changes, given that they do not take effect until 1 July 2018?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The current legislation that’s been considered under urgency has gone through a select committee process twice. That’s why we’ve suggested—[Interruption] That’s why we’ve suggested that…

Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave to move a motion to refer the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill back to the relevant select committee for further consideration.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process? Yes, there is.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why she would not allow this bill to go back to select committee, when there is plenty of time for that to be done? She’s often stated about their preference to have Parliament actually exploring things well. There’s plenty of time for it to go to select committee, and they could actually explore these changes there.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve actually said, I see merit in what the Opposition have put forward, which is why I’ve given an undertaking that we will look into this issue further and use further opportunities when we’re looking at other employment legislation—if it proves to have merit.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think that her intentions to look at this at a later date are good enough for those families who will suffer financial hardship because they won’t have the opportunity to simultaneously take paid parental leave when there may be causes where a woman is unwell or the baby is unwell and both parents need to be at home?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think parents will appreciate that unlike the last Government, we’re extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks. I think it’s disappointing, given the vehemence that the member’s showing, that she didn’t use the opportunity when in Government to pursue this issue.

Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Prime Minister think she knows what is best for individual families, with all their uniqueness; and if not, why not simply, instead of having good intentions, do what is best and allow flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For clarity, again, I have already said I see merit in the idea, which is why we are undertaking now that our first priority is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks. We will then look at the idea that’s been brought forward by the previous Government. I have to again say that if this was an idea that they felt so passionately about, the last nine years would have been a good opportunity to do it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would she and her Cabinet and the Government be so much more wise and informed on this matter had the Opposition put in place this policy in the last nine years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister is absolutely right; this is an issue that could have been pursued in the last nine years. In fact, I do need to point out we reached out to the member who put up the Supplementary Order Paper and she’s refused to collaborate with us on her very suggestion.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can I simply say, what does she suggest then to these dads and same-sex partners—what does she suggest that they do if they want to support these new mums and their babies but can’t afford unpaid leave, and would benefit from paid parental leave with flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will say again, we are going to look into this issue because, as I’ve already said, we see merit in it—we see merit in it. Our first step, however, is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, which is a milestone we should all be proud of.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept that she’s actually the Prime Minister that could take action and do something—instead of just talking about intentions and whether something has merit, she could actually do something about this?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking action means, within our first 100 days, pursuing 26 weeks’ paid parental leave, which was an issue the previous Government not only voted against; they vetoed.

Is it too late to change the bill?

Or will the pragmatic Prime Minister add a worthwhile amendment?



Garner versus Waititi

Duncan Garner has taken issue with ‘treasonous’ comments by Taika Waititi .

Garner at Newshub: Taika Waititi threw NZ under the bus 

Duncan Garner has called out filmmaker Taika Waititi after he said in an interview he’s ashamed of his homeland.

The Thor: Ragnarok director, who won New Zealander of the Year 2017, told Marae the country’s reputation overseas isn’t the reality.

“I’m not very proud of coming from a place that everyone overseas thinks it’s this pure, clean, green country but, in reality, all our lakes and waterways are poison.

That sounds a bit extreme. Garner responded.

“He’s a brilliant guy, a really talented guy.

“But he’s wrong. [The rivers are] not all poison. Some of them are pretty dodgy I agree – but not all poison, and he was New Zealander of the year, this year, 2017. So he’s an ambassador for New Zealand now.

“You cannot be this treasonous about your own country.

You cannot say you’re not proud to be a New Zealander if you’re the New Zealander of the year.

You can if that’s how you feel.

“I’ve got a problem with that. You have to be accurate as well if you’re New Zealander of the year. And I reckon he’s throwing New Zealand under the bus.

“I’m proud of our country and I get more proud when I go overseas. I still get goosebumps when I come back to New Zealand after being away for a long time. I love this place and I would never say I’m not proud of it.”

Waititi also said:

“We’ve got a lot to learn about our depression rates, our suicide rates, teen suicide rates, child poverty numbers and the housing crisis.”

Fair comment.

Garner says Waititi’s “heart’s in the right place” by addressing mental health and poverty – but believes the filmmaker didn’t paint a full picture, including the country’s merits.

Should a public figure always ‘paint a full picture’ when being interviewed, even when just commenting briefly?

An immigrant’s story

There are a lot of immigrant stories in New Zealand – about a quarter of the population were not born here so most will be immigrants, that’s over a million of us.

Last week Duncan Garner stirred up the immigrant issue with a column for Stuff.

In response one immigrant, Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, who has lived here most of her life (since she was 4) has written her own column:  ‘They speak English and have good lamb’: a Kiwi immigrant’s story

My parents moved here from Iran for simple but horrid reasons. They had just lived through a massive revolution, which brought in a new autocratic regime which implemented archaic laws oppressing the masses and completely overturning the nation. On top of that, there was a bloody war where the city they lived in was bombed on a daily basis by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

Interestingly enough, the straw that broke the (culturally appropriate) camel’s back was being arrested one night after a party where the sexes were mingling (not allowed) and some hipster had brought their homemade vodka for all to enjoy (definitely not allowed). I know this because I was there and so became the youngest in my family to be arrested. As a four year old. To be honest though, I was lucky. Some of the other partygoers got public lashings as punishment. I just developed mild claustrophobia for the rest of my life.

She seems to have also developed a determination to confront immigrant-bashing.

1987 in New Zealand was an odd time. It was an old time. It was a time when everything shut on a Sunday and ‘immigration’ was some strange term that seemed straight from colonial days. Except as modern immigrants, you were expected to assimilate. And fast. It was the first time in my life that I learned the power of language. When I arrived I only knew three words in English: “One, two, three”. Ironically, maths has never been my strong point.

At primary school I had the ghastly Mrs. M as my teacher. She resented me because I couldn’t understand English. One time, I drew her a darling picture of she and me and a tree – standard kid drawing stuff. She yelled and yelled at me until I cried. This wasn’t the homework we were meant to do.

One of the cool boys felt sorry for me so helped me instead. His name was Ben. If you are reading this Ben, know that I love you and hope to swipe right on you on Tinder some day.

Vowing never to be that embarrassed again, I set about reading as much as I could. I read anything I could find – to myself, to my parents, to anyone who would listen. And so I suddenly began to learn the language. My reading and writing comprehension went up so much that I got put up a year. Take that Mrs. M, you dream crusher.

Having dreams crushed at school isn’t confined to immigrants but must make it very hard for them. Parents of immigrant children seem to be good at encouraging them to succeed despite hardships they encounter, something quite a few born here Kiwis could do with learning.

Why I can’t trace my lineage to Scotland/Ireland/England like everyone else in my class? “We’re just Persian,” my mum tried to explain. “But that can’t be it!” I replied desperately. “Yes – it’s one of the oldest civilisations in the world.” Not good enough, I thought. It wasn’t until my late teens when I threw myself into writing and drama that I learned to accept my differences. It helped that I hung out with other marginalised friends who got it. They were immigrants too, or in the arts, or redheads who couldn’t sit in the sun for too long either. Or just accepting.

I was lucky I was able to feel like I did fit in, despite the redheadedness.

Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. It not only altered or destroyed the lives of those people whose lives were directly affected, but it changed the way the world looked at so many of us.

…I was also treated to heavy-handed racist diatribes whenever some mentally unstable gunman with a beard terrorised innocent victims in the West. “We need to bomb them all. Fuck the Middle East.”

It’s disheartening to hear this from people who have never even seen a bomb, let alone lived through a war.

It is sad to see intolerant people promoting violence, especially on a large scale.

I’m sure military veterans and other victims of war would agree when I say – no, you have no idea, you fucking sadist. War should not be the answer. Ever.

Ever. But that requires many people to openly oppose violence.

One of my favourite incidents was in my twenties. I got accosted by a man in a Hugo Boss suit on the bus who kept yelling at me about how there are too many of “us” in NZ. “There should be a bomb to get rid of all you immigrants, a nuclear bomb to get rid of all this rubbish like you!” Everyone on the bus just stared at me and I refused to engage.

Sad that no one spoke up against this extreme bullying.

Instead, I wrote about it and won an award. I put it into my work. I used that anger and hatred as fuel for something better. If you are reading this Mr. Suit Man, know that you are being immortalised in a film soon. I hope you see your monstrous self reflected back and think about it.

There are a few people that would benefit from seeing themselves as they are, or as they appear to others.

I know I am speaking from a privileged position. Even as an immigrant there is an obvious pyramid of hierarchy. I am privileged in that coming here as a child allowed me to develop a typical Kiwi accent. I am privileged that my parents had skills to allow them decently paid work. I am privileged that I am not usually subject to the racist vitriol directed so often at my fellow immigrants from the Asian continent.

No one in New Zealand should feel privileged that they avoid being on the receiving end of racist vitriol, but sadly it happens far too much.

That’s abbreviated, it’s worth reading the whole thing: ‘They speak English and have good lamb’: a Kiwi immigrant’s story

Many Kiwis are tolerant and peaceful, but need to do more to make it clear that intolerant and violent behaviour should not be the Kiwi way.

Greens fail MMP basics

In some respects the green party has been very successful under MMP – they have gradually grown their vote to over 10%, safe from the threshold, and they now have 14 MPs in Parliament.

They launched their list this week with great media fanfare and self congratulation – it looks like a good list overall, with some interesting newcomers.

But so Greens have failed a fundamental of MMP – getting into Government and implementing policies. They have influenced some things but not a lot that they can claim as major successes.

Limiting themselves to one pathway to power they have significantly hobbled their bargaining power and only have a 50/50-ish chance of getting into government – dependant on how Labour do, and probably on what NZ First do, and the latter has so far been very unhelpful for Green aspirations.

Duncan Garner puts it bluntly: The rub of the Greens: The party that’s become Labour’s little play thing

So what really happened this week? Nothing much. The Greens released their party list. Normally it’s a complete bore. But the Greens are media darlings. And this was like a beauty contest.

No-one asks any hard questions because the Greens have never made any tough decisions or been responsible for anything.

Jubilant photos of the Green-grinners on happy pills were plastered across sexy social media sites and the traditional media websites, too.

Shock horror: They have young people, white people, an older grey guy they referred to as the ‘eye-candy’, a Maori and wow-wee, a real-life refugee who just happens to be a rock-star lawyer with looks. So they got our attention.

But – and here’s the big but – are they any closer to government? Nope. Not that you’d know that from this week.

The Greens’ chances of being in power still rely on Labour. Bugger that, but that’s the rough path they have chosen.

They have fully hitched their wagon to a struggling Labour locomotive.

The Greens have tied themselves to Labour this election, so they rely on the success of a floundering party as well as their own success.

No matter how much Maoriness and femaleness and youngness and environmentness and democracyness and niceness the Greens have they have pretty much handed their fate over to Labour and Andrew Little.

If Labour gets in a position to govern then the Greens might have some influence.

And that is a big might, especially if NZ First are in the mix.

If they don’t, then the Greens are once again assigned to the oblivion benches again.

Yes, they’re a strong voice in opposition but surely they want to be in power one day – don’t they? But they’ve chosen to work only with Labour.

This is a major flaw in Greens under MMP. Too much arrogance and idealism.

A fundamental of politics and democracy is to achieve as much as you can with whoever has the power. Getting stuck with idealism and principles on the sideline is failure.

Apparently, National is evil, too Right-wing, doesn’t care about the environment, has made our rivers dirty and the list goes on. But I wonder what life would be like if they hadn’t thrown their lot in with just Labour.

What would a Blue-Green government look like? Imagine if the Greens had left the door open to prop up either of the big parties in office? Is Labour really that economically different from National?

Why couldn’t the Greens have been truly independent and said we’ll keep both the bastards honest and just fight for our principles and influence in any government we can be part of?

Because the majority of the Green membership is against MMP 101 – working as closely as possible with the government of the day. And at least half of their current leadership appears to be committed to shunning National, and therefore influence.

When the Labour-Green memorandum of understanding to work together came out, Jesus wept and so did the centre-Left. Labour and Green voters went all weak at the knees.

They closed off their options and became Labour’s little play thing.

Between Labour and the Greens, both parties have just over 40 per cent of the vote. That’s called opposition.

They need to grow their vote – not cannibalise the vote from each other.

It looks like they are competing for many of the same votes. Left wing votes. Socialism votes. Greens are targeting Maori votes, something Labour seem to think are theirs as of right. Generally if one of the two goes up in the polls, the other goes down. In the latest Listener poll Greens are up to 16% but Labour is down to 25%.

They can target young voters with cool young candidates but historically these young ones haven’t gone to the polls.

Another failure under MMP so far. Last election both Labour and the Greens targeted the ‘missing million’ via major campaigns (run by proxies), and came up short.

I would love to see solutions for dirty rivers, climate change, child poverty and sustainable Green solutions for housing and transport. They are now modern ideas not silly ideas from 1970s hippies.

Yet the Greens are stuck in the past strategically by limiting who they will work with. I for one would love them to stand solo and work with all-comers.

And imagine this message from Bill English; Sorry Winston, we’re going with the Greens. This year I promise you won’t hear that.

Metiria Turei and a majority of Green party members won’t play the party field. They will be left on the sidelines while Peters does that with most of the negotiating power.

If the Greens are lucky they will get something allowed to them by Labour and NZ First.

Because they have put themselves staunchly in a position of weakness.

And that weakness is worse than just in post-election negotiations.

Because the Green position is weak, and because they have tied themselves to Labour, and because Labour is also weak, voters may well thumb their noses at both parties this election.

On current polls and party positions it looks that, at best, the fate of Greens (and Labour) could be in Winston’s hands, and that may only be if National do poorly.

What’s a good population for New Zealand?

In Packed to the rafters Duncan Garner asks what the ideal size for New Zealand would be.

This week the population was ticking past 4,792,550.

We are now the fastest-growing country in the OECD. That’s because we make it easy. We welcome immigrants, we welcome their families, we want their businesses – and their money. At all costs.

Infrastructure expert Stephen Selwood noted this week that given our population increase we need to be building a city the size of Nelson every year just to keep up, along with all its relevant highways, roads, drains, footpaths and houses.

We’re not even close to doing this. Our public policy-makers have let us all down. Big time.

Do our cities (especially Auckland) not want the growth that our Governments have wanted and allowed?

It’s a disaster. We need a proper debate about our population. What is the ideal size of our country? Is it 6 million? Is it 8 million? And how fast do we want to get there?

We need a public conversation about the size of our country, we needed it more than a debate about our bloody flag. And we still need it.

It’s easy (or at least it should be easy) to have a debate and a couple of referendums on our flag.

It’s a lot more difficult to have a debate about something changing as much as our population.

I suspect many people want the benefits of population growth without the additional people.

With immigration, some people win – but as many economists point out, many Kiwis lose out with rising house prices and foreigners competing for jobs.

We shouldn’t resent these immigrants. It’s not their fault. They’re just trying to find a better life. They’re ambitious for success. Good on them. Who doesn’t want a better life?

We need immigrants. They’re hard workers. And overwhelmingly the stats show they are not over-represented in crime.

Here’s the stat that got me this week:  For the year to March we issued 43,000 work visas, yet we have 140,000 Kiwis unemployed or wanting more hours.

I just don’t get it. If we have people available for work, why the hell aren’t we making them work?

It’s not easy to make people work, especially if they don’t have the skills or don’t want to move to where work is.

Clearly our employers prefer immigrants, our welfare system is encouraging lazy Kiwis to sit at home, and maybe a market economy like ours prefers keeping 140,000 unemployed while we bring in cheaper, hard-working foreigners. I sense all of the above is true.

We should also have a proper discussion about unemployment levels. It may be that there is a proportion of the population that either isn’t in a current position to work, perhaps for family or health reasons, or are incapable of productive work.

We used to hide the unemployable in mental institutions and hospitals, or give them jobs where over staffing meant they didn’t have to be productive, even if they were capable.

Back to population – what should we be aiming at? A continual increase, on average?


We had a similar increase in 2016 (slightly more). Fluctuations tend to mirror Australian changes.

An increase of 1.9% per year may not seem much but it adds up over time. Approximate projections if it keeps going at a similar rate.

  • 2017 – 4,792,000
  • 2020 – 5,070,000
  • 2025 – 5,571,000
  • 2030 – 6,121,000
  • 2035 – 6,725,000
  • 2040 – 7,388,000
  • 2045 – 8,117,000
  • 2050 – 8,918,000
  • 2057 – 10,174,000

So the population could more than double in 40 years. And that’s for the country as a whole.

Auckland is likely to grow at a faster rate. Both from immigration and also from population movements within the country.

A Stats New Zealand medium-variant scenario predicts that the population of Auckland will reach 1.93 million by 2013, just 14 years away. It is currently about 1.377 million.

If the Auckland population increases at the current national average it would be 2,562,000 by 2050, nearly double what it is now.

Imagine the impact that would have on housing and transport.

This is obviously all dependant on future Government immigration policies, and other factors like nuclear holocausts elsewhere and natural disasters here. International social or political changes may encourage Kiwis to return to New Zealand in bigger numbers.

It’s also dependent on politics, and the possible election of an anti-immigration government – like NZ First or even Labour, Andrew Little says he wants to reduce annual immigration by tens of thousands.

Immigration and population should be openly and properly discussed.

However election year is probably not the best time to do it as parties and leaders try to target voters who might respond to populist promises.

Arrogant, complacent Government

It’s not unusual for Governments to become more arrogant and complacent the longer they are in office.

It’s even less surprising when the main opposition party is weak, at risk of weakening further, and has failed to have good leadership for eight years (and four leaders).

Duncan Garner writes An aloof Government and some criminally bad spin doctoring.

If you ever want to see a government attempt to spin its way out of trouble then wait for the annual release of the crime statistics.

And on cue came National’s Oscar-winning performance this week.

Except no-one was fooled. It was bad comedy. They simply got handed the gong for the all-time international award for ‘bullshitters of the century’.

The ‘criminally bad spin doctoring’ was the announcements by Judith Collins and John Key that the Police were going to do a bit more about burglaries, and then a day or two later we find out that crime statistics show that burglaries have increased significantly.

…crime is creeping up and the Government is seriously exposed on the rates of burglaries.

There were a staggering 11,000 new victims of crime in the past year. Burglaries are up almost 12 per cent in just one year. And only one in 10 burglaries are resolved. Crime clearly pays.

It’s hard not to think this Government has become dangerously complacent: out of touch and aloof in too many areas.

It’s quite easy to think that. In part because it’s obvious that they are slipping into aloofness and out of touchness. And in part because they aren’t even spinning with any conviction any more.

Surging house prices is a classic example of this.

Housing Minister Nick Smith sneered this week that he hadn’t even bothered to read the latest OECD Housing Affordability report – which says our houses are now the most expensive in the world.

You’re clueless minister – I’m not sure what’s worse: that you don’t have any solutions, or that you don’t give a toss. Incompetent? Or just arrogant? Both, clearly.

There’s a growing perception that Smith’s and the Government’s handling of housing has been hopeless and hapless.

The one thing in their favour on housing is that many people will quite like the value of their properties escalating.

National got caught out this week trying to spin its way out of trouble.

But the truth is there is more crime and fewer police per head of population, compared to when National arrived in office.

For the party of law and order – I say they’re guilty of complacency and taking their eye off the ball, at the very least.

The problem for national with crime is that the vast majority of voters are victims or know victims or sympathise with victims.

There’s no counterbalance to the Government dropping the ball on crime.

This is exacerbated by the previous portrayal of Judith Collins as being tough on crime – the crime Crusher.

And all she can say now is that suddenly the Police will start actually attending every burglary to try to stem a crime wave – or try to stem a wave of bad PR.

Many aspects of property values are out of central Government’s control or very difficult to get under control.

The level of resources given to the Police and the focus of the Police is very much under the control of Government. If they keep fluffing that and if the remain out of touch about how us the people feel about increasing crime then voters may give up on them regardless of the governing alternative.

Arrogance and complacency in general is risky enough for a stale Government.

Failure to keep crime under some semblance of control could easily result on the jury of voters condemning Key’s tenure.

Story on the death of Moko

Story on Newshub devoted their whole programme last night to the death of Moko Rangitoheriri.

You may have heard the name Moko Rangitoheriri.

You may have heard about his brutal death.

Three-year-old Moko was so horrifically abused, tortured and beaten to death over days and weeks that his mother did not recognised him in the morgue when she had to identify him.

The coroner Wallace Bain says it’s likely to be worse than what happened to Nia Glassie who was murdered eight years ago.

This story is confronting and harrowing but one that must be told.

Young Moko was under the care of early childhood teacher Tania Shailer and David Haerewa who have pleaded guilty to his manslaughter after murder charges were dropped.

The couple was looking after Moko and his sister while their mother cared for her other son in Starship Hospital in Auckland.

Moko’s mother, Nicola Dally-Paki first heard of the harrowing details of Moko’s prolonged death from her daughter who was just seven years old at the time.

Ms Dally-Paki is speaking out publicly for the first time to get justice for Moko and because she wants her other children back from Child Youth and Family’s care.

She sat down with Story to talk about exactly what happened.

Video: Moko’s mum on her search for justice

Warning: This story contains graphic details which some may find distressing.