Hostile reception for Minister of Education in Invercargill

Plans to reform the administration of schools is in it’s consultation stage. Good on Minister of Education Chris Hipkins fronting up in Invercargill, where he received some good Southland straight taking.

ODT: Hostile southern reception for Hipkins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins’s bid to reassure a public meeting in Invercargill that the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) would not be destroyed in his plans to merge the country’s 16 polytechnic was met with disbelief and hostility.

In his address Mr Hipkins paid tribute to SIT’s achievements and said the Government wanted this replicated on a national scale.

It has been pointed out that one size doesn’t fit all pupils or regions in education.

One speaker at the public meeting of about 500 people made it clear how angry she was at the proposals.

“If I had sandals or something I would be giving it to you because you are flip-flopping all over the place.”

Any size would probably do there.

Invercargill councillor Toni Biddle said his decision would be detrimental to the community, the iwi, housing and future generations.

“I feel frustrated because there is a lot of smoke and mirrors and no guarantees. You never worried about Southland before, so why worry about us now? You don’t want to be the minister that completely demolished the work that we have done for the last five years.”

He drew a rebuke from SIT CEO Penny Simmonds when he said that much was already decided nationally, including the institution’s budgets.

Ms Simmonds pointed out that a third of SIT’s did not come from government, but from other sources.

Speaking afterwards, she said much of what Mr Hipkins was saying was not in the proposals.

“We don’t know how this works. We are lost about what he is saying here and what is written.”

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, speaking in the afternoon, after Mr Hipkins held a meeting with the SIT Council, said Mr Hipkins had offered “nothing specific” in terms of SIT’s future.

“It was a lot of vague promises taking us into the promised land.”

That isn’t going down well in Southland where they prefer that a swede is called a swede (the turnip variety).

But speaking before a visit to Waihopai Primary School, Mr Hipkins said that the community’s understandably “passionate” welcome had been fully expected.

He said that that while the country was moving to a national system it had to still be decided what would be run nationally and what would be run locally.

He repeatedly stressed that no decisions had been taken and described the the proposal as “a framework” in which to improve vocational training.

That sounds like mushy overcooked swede.

He said fears that SIT would lose its distance learning facility were unfounded.

His attempts to appease those in the audience appeared to fall on deaf ears and one speaker accused him of punishing SIT for being successful.

SIT is something Southland has worked hard for. Taking away their points of difference would be like banning the Ranfurly Shield from Southland, or banning oysters.

More from ODT: ‘Vague promises’ over SIT’s future

I wonder if Hipkins will go to Invercargill to announce what reforms he ends up deciding on.

Morgan/TOP touring the south

Gareth Morgan has begun his second tour of the country in his campaign for The Opportunities Party, starting in the south.

I saw him in Dunedin last night – he comes across as very well informed, passionate,  and determined to make a difference.

This is in contrast to my impression of Winston Peters (last year) and Andrew Little (earlier this year) who played to their faithful with slogan laden speeches. Morgan sounded original and was interesting right through his presentation.

On Monday: Southlanders voice their concerns at public meeting with Gareth Morgan

Mental health, the economy, environmental issues and poverty were among the concerns raised by Southlanders at an Opportunities Party meeting on Monday night.

About 100 people were at the meeting, led by party leader Gareth Morgan, and held at CentreStage in Invercargill.

Morgan said the newly founded party aimed to turn around concerns with its radical policies, and make the best of the people, economy and resources in New Zealand.

It was the second trip to Invercargill for Morgan and his team, who have been touring the country.

With New Zealand having one of the highest rates of teenage suicide, the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and thriving families policy would be the first step to smoothing the path to adulthood, Morgan said.

“That’s [rates of youth suicide] pretty bad. It’s just one indicator that things aren’t great,” he said.

The aim of the party was to “persuade the government to make all boats lift” and make progress as a nation, he said.

Tuesday night in Queenstown Morgan targets inequality:

Speaking at a public meeting in Queenstown last night, The Opportunities Party (Top) founder outlined sweeping economic and social reforms for tackling what he said were growing income disparities among New Zealanders.

The audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from pensioners to a toddler, were told the economy appeared to be doing ”reasonably well” on the surface.

But New Zealand had become a low-wage, ”treadmill economy” in which most people were working harder and producing more, but were not getting wealthier.

A widening gap between the asset-owning class and everyone else was causing social stress reflected in rates of youth suicide, workplace and school bullying and imprisonment that were among the highest in developed countries, Mr Morgan said.

Both of those reports sound similar content to last night.

ODT reports: Morgan impresses Dunedin audience

Mainstream political parties who underestimate Gareth Morgan’s influence in the September 23 election will do so at their peril.

Mr Morgan, the leader and founder of The Opportunities Party (Top) attracted about 200 people to hear him in South Dunedin’s Mayfair Theatre last night

That’s a good number for a new party. Morgan asked how many had been to his previous Dunedin meeting. He estimated about 1/3 of the audience had.

For 40 minutes, Mr Morgan enthralled the audience, fielding applause and laughter as he outlined only one policy – although it was a very wide-ranging and quite detailed policy -before taking questions.

”I promised I would only talk about one policy tonight, otherwise I would have you all in a coma,” he said to much laughter. When the economist-turned-investor and now politician formed his party, much was made about his style of delivery, which was described as dry and casual.

Although he was dressed casually, often with his hands in his pockets, those attending last night paid close attention to what he was saying.

It was different to normal polispeak, he is very much a non-politician politician.

Mr Morgan’s delivery was slick, peppered with colourful language. He said his job was to offend everyone and often mentioning his party’s policies would go down like a ”cup of cold sick”.

His job is to battle against the same old, against the status quo in politics.

The audience ranged from those in their 20’s through to retirees. Those spoken to by the Otago Daily Times said Mr Morgan had good ideas and was talking sense, something other political parties might be wise to take note of, three months out from the election.

Given the main parties are coming across poorly and could do with a good boot up the political bum, there are votes in Morgan’s approach, but it’s a big challenge to look like getting close to the 5% needed.

I went to an Internet Party meeting in the 2014 campaign and that was very different – more showy but much less substance.

I also went to an ACT conference and David Seymour impressed, Jamie Whyte didn’t. The election result suggested that was a common impression.

The provincial media seems to be warming to Morgan, but the political media establishment in Wellington and Auckland still seem unexcited.

If anyone can shake up the political establishment this year it’s Morgan. Time will tell whether he just shakes up the campaign, or gets to also shake up Parliament.

Morgan says his intention if successful is to not take sides but to sit on the cross benches pushing for any policy gains they can get. Some of their policies are radical considering how bland National and Labour are in the main, but they are well researched and could make a good contribution to the mix.

But he has a long way to get there. The TOP van moves to Timaru today, the campaign for a party that can’t use free MP travel is a long haul.

 

Policeman charged with murder

A police officer handed himself in to Invercargill police after (allegedly) murdering his wife and attempting to murder a man she was with.

Stuff: Invercargill policeman Ben McLean accused of shooting wife dead, injuring man

An Invercargill policeman allegedly shot dead his wife, tried to kill the man she was with, then handed himself in at the local station.

Constable Ben McLean’s alleged Anzac Day attack could be the first of its kind in recent New Zealand history involving a serving police officer.

Verity Ann McLean died in the shooting. Garry William Duggan, who suffered several gunshot wounds, phoned emergency services at 8.19pm on Tuesday.

Ben McLean, 47, was injured in the incident, though police have not said how.

The constable was in Southland Hospital, where a bedside court hearing took place on Wednesday afternoon.

He made no plea to murdering Verity McLean and the attempted murder of Duggan.

A firearm was recovered at the scene. Basham would not say what kind of gun it was, but said it was not a police issue weapon.

McLean was not on duty at the time. He and his wife were separated.

“This is obviously a huge tragedy for everyone involved. We are dealing with three different families who are affected,” Basham said.

It is obviously awful for the families. There are three children involved, it is terrible for them with their mother dead and their father likely to be in prison for a significant length of time.

 “We are also supporting police staff … who are naturally very shocked and dismayed at what has taken place.”

This is tough for the police, but it seems to be more of domestic problem rather than a police problem, it just happens that in this case the killer was a police officer.

When asked what might have led to the shooting, his mother said, “It’s a very, very long story”.

Marriage breakups are often complicated.

While it is not clear what actually happened in this case it appears that it could be a man not being able to handle his ex partner being with someone else.

It’s sadly not uncommon for men to go to extreme lengths when they can’t deal properly with the loss of a relationship. Access to children can be a complicating factor.

A significant number of murders and attempts at murder involve domestic relationship problems. It’s hard to fathom why a man can go to such extremes when they can’t deal with failure or lose their perceived position of power over others.

Also from Stuff: Anzac Day shooting: The McLeans were a ‘role model’ family

That may be how it appeared to some, but it proved to be far from a ‘role model family’.

 

Wellington to Invercargill: “Small shithole town. Fuck them”

That’s not from the Government, who have agreed to spend $30 million on keeping the Tiwai smelter going at least until 2017.

It’s not from David Farrar at Kiwiblog, who is expresses his disappointment relatively reasonably.

Rio Tinto screws taxpayers for $30 million

I’ve got no problem with the pricing agreement between Meridian and Rio Tinto, as that is a commercial contract.

But bloody annoyed they screwed $30 million from the taxpayers as a subsidy. I think the Government shouldn’t have given them a cent. If the smelter closes, so be it. It is not the job of taxpayers to subsidise unprofitable industries.

I can understand that from an ideological point of view and have some sympathy for Farrar’s sentiments. But Farrar lives and breathes in Wellington.

But most of the other commenters on Kiwiblog are more angry and more blunt. Especially one Wellingtonian, RRM (he lives a bit of a train ride out of Wellington but works in the capital).

I commented at Kiwiblog:

Don’t forget that Bill English is Clutha/Southland MP – and he will be (or should be) well aware of the growing anger in the south over jobs being moved north and the amount of money being spent of things in the North, especially Christchurch (much of that is understandable) but particularly Auckland.

If Tiwai closed English may not want to venture south, there would be a huge outpouring of angst and anger.

Then an outburst comes from RRM:

Huge?

Population of Invercargill = 53,000 according to Google.

It’s no secret that it’s a small shithole town at the arse end of the world, with limited employment opportunities, it’s always been that.

The aluminium smelter is a lucky score for them but by rights it should be nothing more than a service centre for the dairy farmers and a few fishing boats.

You’d have to be mad to move there. mad, or retired.

Fuck them.

I replied: RRM – that’s pretty much the Wellington attitude that many down here presume. Perhaps you should start building a lot more windmills. And hope that cold says aren’t calm.

RRM:

When you say it like that, I realise how selfish I’m being. OF COURSE I should continue to subsidise the lifestyle of Invercargill people. If they want to be basically morally equivalent to beneficiaries or prison inmates, let’s formalise that with a cheque for thirty million dollars.

There, now we own you, you mangy Catholic Scots dogs. Show us a little highland fling now. Go on.

That’s from someone who’s livelihood is in a city that is far more supported by Government spending than any other. Who commutes to work on Government subsidised transport.

And from the thumbs up responses, his views are shared by others from the north.

No wonder the South is getting very annoyed at the gutting of the provinces. Just this wek sightly to the north Dunedin mayor has called for a summit over the announcement the agricultural research in the south (centred at Invermay) is going to be moved north.

Unemployment surges

Southland’s unemployment rate has increased by more than 50 per cent from the March quarter to the June quarter, new figures show.

Invercargill Deputy Mayor Darren Ludlow said the increase in unemployment was a disturbing trend and reflected the flow-on effects of job losses at the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter.

Southland businesses continued to struggle after the global financial crisis, he said.

It’s hard enough with the downsizing of the Tiwai workforce.

Slightly further north:

Otago unemployment up 37% on year ago

As Otago struggles with layoffs and reduced hours for manufacturing workers, the region’s unemployment rate continues to climb, rising 37% in the year to June.

“Small shithole town. Fuck them.”

And there’s a common feeling that this is how Wellington views the south in general – as well as other regions like the west Coast, the East Coast and Northland.

And they wonder why agriculture and horticulture has trouble attacking New Zealanders to work down here.

If Tiwai closed there would be a huge outpouring of angst and anger from the south. And the frustration and annoyance is growing regardless. The Tiwai news is a relief, but just a pause in the growing concern.

Southerners are already murmuring about politics – see Call for South to form own party. Will they get annoyed enough with Wellington to say “Big shithole Parliament. Fuck them!”