Extending Central Otago cycleways

The rail trail cycleway through Central Otago, from Middlemarch to Clyde, has been hugely successful, for cyclists, for tourists and for rural towns that had previously been struggling.

More trails have also been established, the Roxburgh Gorge trail south of Alexandra, the Clutha Gold trail And Queenstown trails.

The Government has just announced funding to supplement local funds that will link these trails, making an extensive cycleway network.

The most significant of these extensions will link the current rail trail terminal at Clyde via the Cromwell Gorge to Cromwell and on through the Kawarau Gorge to the Queenstown trail.

The Cromwell Gorge trail has been considered for some time. I was involved in a small way in checking it out about 1998 but it was then put in the too hard basket.

Stuff: Central Otago multi-million dollar cycle trail project gets financial backing

A $26.3 million project to connect Central Otago’s trail network and create 500 kilometres of continuous trail network will be a “game changer” for the region.

Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key announced at a function in Bannockburn on Sunday the Government would commit around $13 million towards the project, with the Central Lakes Trust contributing $11.15m and the Otago Community Trust contributing $2m.

“The proposal to create a 536kim continuous cycle trail network by linking four existing Central Otago Great Rides – the Queenstown Trail, the Otago Central Rail Trail, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail – is the type of enhancement to the Great Rides we want to encourage.”

1463284867049

This also shows a proposed trail from Cromwell to Luggate and presumably on the Wanaka and while that would be worthwhile I don’t think it will be as scenic a ride as the gorges.

Once this network is complete there will be one major missing link – Middlemarch to Dunedin. I don’t know if anything has been considered there but it would be challenging, the railway line is still used and the existing road is very up and down.

 

The Nation on property problems

Yesterday The Nation looked at ongoing serious property problems in Auckland. All that seems to be changing is the stories being told, in this case the ‘hidden homeless’, which is a growing problem due to very high property prices and rental rates.

Auckland’s hidden homeless

A growing numbers of families are being forced to live in cars because of unaffordable housing.

Government figures show rents for three-bedroom houses across Auckland have increased by 25 percent in five years, and that’s spawned a new type of property market — garage rental accommodation.

Social workers say some families are paying almost $400 a week to put a garage roof over their heads, and a social policy analyst says one in 10 south Auckland properties has a garage tenant.

“What you will notice is that if you drive down any road, probably every second or third garage has curtains in and windows in and people living in it,” says social policy analyst Alan Johnson.

Newshub spoke to a group of 50 social workers who said families living in garages is common. We heard of one case with a family with two young kids had been living in a garage for two years. Their weekly rent? $380.

The squeeze on housing stocks is driving the demand for garage space. There are 4500 people on the Housing New Zealand waiting list, and emergency accommodation providers like the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust have been turning families away for years.

“We house 12 families here,” says Bernie Smith of the Monte Cecilia Trust. “We have another 32 families in long-term properties, but we have 30 families waiting to be here today who are in crisis.”

Sounds dire – and it is for people who are having to live in garages and cars.

But the Government maintains it’s doing what it can to address the problem.

Are they doing enough? The problems seem to be getting worse if anything.

Freeing up more land and building more houses – many more are needed – is a long term project that has been with Auckland for many years.

And it’s not just Auckland with extreme housing problems. RNZ looked at Queenstown and elsewhere:

Queenstown rental problem worsens due to Air BnB

A Queenstown landlord says he has taken a big financial risk to buy properties in the resort town which traditionally has emptied out over summer.

Tourist workforce’s accommodation struggles

With annual tourist numbers set to rise to over four million within the next six years, the issue of accommodating the workforce that supports them is a hot topic with local mayors for Housing Minister Nick Smith.

Housing remains the Government’s biggest challenge, and they don’t seem to have risen to the challenge yet.

Easter trading changes proposed

The Government has announced plans to introduce legislation to allow local councils to to decide if local shops can legally open for trading in Easter Sunday. There is no intention to allow more trading on Easter Friday.

It’s about time this was addressed. Currently Queenstown can open for general trading on Easter Sunday but nearby Wanaka can’t. Taupo can open but Rotorua can’t.

Stuff: Govt and unions head for fight over Easter trading

Workplace relations and safety minister Michael Woodhouse announced proposed reforms that will see councils decide if local shops can open on Easter Sunday.

National will repeal current laws on holiday trading, allowing councils to pass a bylaw that can permit trading within their boundaries or in specific areas.Christmas and Anzac holidays won’t be affected – and public holidays are observed on Good Friday and Easter Monday. If passed, the changes will take affect in 2017.

Woodhouse argues the laws are “arbitrary” with some towns like Queenstown and Taupo exempted, but others such as Rotorua and Wanaka unable to take advantage of tourist trade. “The result is that some businesses and regions have an unfair advantage over others,” he said.

Not surprisngly unions aren’t happy.

But unions say it’s unfair to workers who will lose one of the 3.5 days a year that workers are guaranteed off.

The Government says the law will allow workers to decline to work, without penalty.

But it will extend what trading can already take place in some areas. New Zealand at Work – Shop opening hours:

A limited number of areas, generally tourist resorts such as Taupo and Queenstown, are covered by exemptions to the trading restrictions. Some shops in these areas can open on restricted days, but only if the exemption order allows.

The change would allow other towns to also be exempted.

And it’s not a case of Open or Closed anyway. A range of businesses can already open on Easter Sunday:

What shops can open on restricted trading days?

Is your shop one of the following? Then yes, you can open so long as:
Dairy The only goods you sell are:

  • Food
  • Drink
  • Household items
  • Personal items
  • Petrol, oil, car parts and accessories
The goods you sell are items people can’t put off buying until the next day, such as baby formula or pet food, and the quantity of goods for sale is no more than needed to meet the needs of people in the area.
Service Station The only goods you sell are:

  • Food
  • Drink
  • Household items
  • Personal items
  • Petrol, oil, car parts and accessories
The goods you sell are items people can’t put off buying until the next day, such as baby formula or pet food, and the quantity of goods for sale is no more than needed to meet the needs of people in the area.
Take away bar, restaurant, cafe You only sell prepared or cooked food ready to be eaten immediately in the form in which it is sold
Duty free store You are only selling duty free items
A shop providing services, rather than selling goods, such as a video rental store or hairdresser You only provide a service, such as renting videos or cutting hair You don’t sell any goods, such as videos, or hair products.
Real Estate Agency No conditions, real estate does not fit within the definition of goods as defined by the Act
Pharmacies No conditions
Garden centres You can only open on Easter Sunday
A shop at any public transport terminal or station You only sell books, magazines and newspapers, or duty free items/souvenirs, or food that has been cooked/prepared and is ready to be eaten
A shop in a premises where an exhibition or show is taking place. This includes markets, craft shows and stalls at these exhibitions and shows The shop/stall must be within the premises of a bona fide exhibition or show The bona fide exhibition or show must be devoted entirely or primarily to agriculture, art, industry, and science, or any of these. MBIE considers that to be quite a strict requirement, and that to be considered ‘devoted’ to a show or exhibition a shop must be selling goods that are connected in some way with the show. For example, arts and crafts at an art and craft show, or farming supplies at an agriculture show, rather than general goods.
A shop selling only souvenirs The criteria for whether or not an item is considered a souvenir is quite strict. To be considered a souvenir MBIE considers that items must be connected in some way to a place or culture in New Zealand.

Who can tell me if I am allowed to open?

If your shop is listed in the table above then yes, you can open provided your shop meets the required conditions. If your shop is in the premises of a show or exhibition or your shop sells souvenirs, then you are strongly advised to contact MBIE before assuming you can open. Shop owners are responsible for determining if they meet the criteria above.

If your shop is not listed in the table then you must have an area exemption to open (see below), otherwise you cannot open.

Cone of silence on Central Otago meeting

A cone of silence remains over a meeting in Queenstown last month between Labour leader David Cunliffe and high profile Central Otago man, ex All Black and ex National MP Grahame Thorne.

This was a controversial meeting leading into an election campaign, with rumours swirling about the motives for the meeting including possible links to donations.

It was also odd to see Cunliffe having a photo in public accepting a bottle of wine from Thorne considering recent controversy with Labour and wine auctions for fundraising. Is that what the gift of wine was for – more fundraising?

That this issue isn’t being examined by media is perplexing. There appears to be an indecent cone of silence with deliberate suppression of information of public and political interest.

See Cunliffe and a gift of wine.

Rodney Hide, David Cunliffe and a “sexual predator”

Rodney Hide has continued his series of columns about a sexual offender with name suppression in Predator hiding in clear sight. Hide states that he believes David Cunliffe did not know the person was an offender when he met what Hide refers to as a “sex predator”.

I was wrong when I claimed that leading politicians knew the name of the “prominent” New Zealander hiding behind name suppression. David Cunliffe did not.

The Labour leader has met the sex predator. “If I had known of the suggestion [that the man was a sex predator hiding behind name suppression], no such meeting would have taken place.” I am sure that’s true.

Hide may be right. But there is doubt over that The above quote is from the Herald last Monday, but on Tuesday Cunliffe spoke on this in a standup Interview. Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB):

Mr Cunliffe admits a prominent New Zealander’s possible sexual offending had been raised with him before he met with the man in Queenstown last week.

The Labour leader says the meeting went ahead because no proof had been supplied.

“There is a suspicion that a person who asked to meet me and my candidate down there might be a person in that category. All I can say is had I known that, and we did ask around if there was any reason not to meet, we wouldn’t have had the meeting.”

Whichever of those explanations is accurate (if either of them are) we now have a problem. This is an important issue leading into an election campaign and because of the name suppression of the offender media are very reluctant to investigate this as they normally would be sure to do.

If Cunliffe did not know of the person’s offending or his reputation (which Hide has previously said was well known in Parliament) before meeting him then it would have just been an unfortunate embarrassment for Cunliffe, especially having just made a strong statement to a Rape Crisis group.

But Cunliffe is unable to clarify if this is this case.

And unfortunately for Cunliffe the alternative and more embarrassing scenario that Soper reported on, which is unclear and potentially contradictory of Cunliffe’s earlier claim, is getting some coverage. And the media seem reluctant to explore this because of the name suppression.

With an election looming the voters should know what the true version is on this story.

Name suppression protecting a “prominent person” is preventing this from being clarified.

And worse, it means that people are not warned about this man’s apparently recidivist predatory sexual behaviour. Hide is right when he concludes:

The sex predator’s prominence is such that Cunliffe was attracted to meet him. Knowing the sex pest’s background and history it’s easy to see why. We are all attracted to and flattered by the attention of “prominent” men.

We have a sex offender in our midst. He has not been shamed. He has no remorse. His prominence makes him attractive for women to pass time with. Name suppression means they don’t know to be wary. His “prominence” means women drop their guard.

Does anyone other than the offender have a responsibility should he offend again? The judge who felt the poor man had suffered “a bit of a cross” by being prosecuted? Our MPs for their silence and name suppression laws?

What would we say to his victim if he attacks again? And, ask yourself, what’s the culture in New Zealand that your answers imply?

The offender is sort of protected from embarrassment.

But women of New Zealand, especially women of Queenstown in this instance, may not be aware of the potential danger that this man may pose to them if they don’t know who he is and what he has done.

Note: if the offender in the case at the centre of this issue is unfairly being labelled a “sexual predator” that can’t even be publicly explored.

Cunliffe cheerleader chumped by change of tune

David Cunliffe’s chief cheerleader at The Standard, Greg Presland, has been chumped by Cunliffe’s change of tune on whether he knew anything about the sexual offender before meeting in Queenstown.

Presland posted in Herald says weird things about Cunliffe and Labour Clutha Southland candidate:

The Herald said:

… the Labour leader threatens to be distracted by internal ill-discipline and criticisms over his judgment, including the holiday itself and a meeting last week with a prominent New Zealander given name suppression on charges of performing an indecent act.

Mr Cunliffe confirmed to the Herald last night that he had arranged for the person – whose case has been the topic of media coverage – to meet a Labour candidate but said he had no idea about the controversial background until yesterday.

“If I had known of the suggestion, no such meeting would have taken place.”

You have to wonder why the meeting was mentioned and why it was thought that it would cause a distraction to Cunliffe.  

No doubt the intent is to continue with the bad news narrative that the right have been pushing but what was Cunliffe to do?  Have a Police vette conducted of all people that he may meet?  Even this would not have helped because the person involved received a discharge without conviction and had all details suppressed.  

And Cunliffe confirmed to the Herald he had no idea of the background until yesterday.

Presland is presumed to be close to Cunliffe in his electorate and he’s the lawyer who organised the donations trust. He’s been a dogged and loyal supporter.

But now Cunliffe has changed his tune in “Sometimes tough times make you tougher” – Cunliffe.

 Mr Cunliffe admits a prominent New Zealander’s possible sexual offending had been raised with him before he met with the man in Queenstown last week.

The Labour leader says the meeting went ahead because no proof had been supplied.

“There is a suspicion that a person who asked to meet me and my candidate down there might be a person in that category. All I can say is had I known that, and we did ask around if there was any reason not to meet, we wouldn’t have had the meeting.”

It must be tough  being a Labour cheerleader at the moment when Cunliffe keeps saying weird things.

There’s not much cheerfulness at The Standard these days.

Grudging Green gratitude for Nick Smith

Nick Smith made a well considered and courageous decision when he turned down the Fiordland tunnel proposal – see Good Dart tunnel decision.

This has been applauded by many, but very grudgingly by some. I had a Twitter exchange with a Green caucus representative (who was retweeted by a number of supporters including Green MP Julie Ann Genter).

RachelAnderson-Smith@rachelcerelia 

Grateful to all those who gave a damn and made the Minister make the right decision to decline the Milford tunnel.

U know we have a dastardly govt when we’re in shock after the Minister of Conservation makes a decision in the interests of conservation.

Why not just give credit where it’s due? Every party can make good decisions

I give credit to those that deserve it, in this case that is everyone who campaigned to protect our national parks.

And those who listened and advised and acted accordingly?

U want me to credit the bureaucracy for not destroying a national park that thousands of NZers fought to protect? Sure, why not

Rachel Anderson-Smith is an Executive Representative of the Green Party Caucus.

A blog post by Green MP Eugenie – Sage Tunnel decision a victory for Kiwis who stood up for World Heritage Area – congratulates those who campaigned against the tunnel but alsogives Smith a bit of praise.

It’s wonderful that the Minister has listened. His decision also reflects what is required by the law.

There was both suspicion and praise at The Standard in No Milford tunnel. The post led with…

Nice to be able to congratulate the Nats on an environmental decision for a change!

…there were some not so complimentary…

“Nan ! Shonkey just got a real good deal on a 2nd hand monorail from Springfield and Skyshitty is going to operate it. No kickbacks to see here. move on.”

“The cynic in me says that the decision was made after focus group polling rather than for reasons prick says.”

“Monorail it is then. I just can’t see them saying no to both.”

…but more were prepared to give credit where it was due.

“Oh FFS, maybe, just maybe, Nick Smith made the decision based on the facts and actually wanted to make the decision based on what was best for New Zealand. I know this is a strange concept but hey, let’s assume this is the case.”

“Yes, he made a damned good decision, and deserves some serious credit for doing so.”

“This is a major conveservation issue, and a major win for conservationists. It’s also a significant decision by the Minister that sets precedents.”

“I heard him talking on ZB. Very sound reasons for him declining which made good sense.”

And I’ll leave the final word to ‘Chooky’:

This is very good news from Nick Smith!!!…… and congratulations to those who fought long and hard against the proposed tunnel…..I never could understand why people/tourists wanted to be in beautiful remote areas instantly and with ease…..taking lots of time getting there and with effort is part of the experience , the beauty and the rarity.

 

Good Dart tunnel decision

Environment Minister Nick Smith has made a courageous and well considered decision to turn down the proposal for a Dart to Hollyford tunnel, which would have provided an alternative link between Queenstown and Milford Sound..

“In my time as an MP and as a minister this would be one of the more significant and difficult decisions that I have made. I have given it a huge amount of consideration and careful thought,” he said.

Dr Smith said there was a balance between the economic benefits of tourism growth and the environmental effects of the proposal “. . . and on this decision I have said that the environmental impacts of this proposal are too large and on that basis I have decided to decline”.

At 11.3km it would have been one of the ten longest road tunnels in the world – see road tunnels. The longest currently in New Zealand are rail tunnels – Kaimai (8.879 km), Rimutaka (8.798 km) and Otira (8.566 km).

New Zealand’s longest road tunnels are Mt Victoria (623 m), Homer (1.2 km) and Lyttelton (1.9 km).

It would have gone underneath both the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring national parks and would have impacted on the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.

Environmental concerns were a major factor in the decision. Stuff reports Smith swayed by trip through pristine valley.

While pondering the decision whether to allow the tunnel to be cut through the world heritage area, Conservation Minister Nick Smith visited Fiordland.

The trip swayed him, he said yesterday as his decision was celebrated by environmentalists.

“When I thought about half a million tonnes of tunnel spoil being dumped in the pre-pristine environment of the Hollyford Valley, I took a deep breath and said: ‘I don’t think it is a runner’,” Dr Smith told reporters.

“I could not feel comfortable with being the person responsible for having given the OK to that sort of environmental degradation.”

Depositing that amount of spoil would “permanently damage the natural and landscape values” of Hollyford Valley.

The impact of the new roads and portals at each end of the tunnel, and particularly the effects on visitors at the entrance to the Routeburn Track were also significant factors, with Dr Smith saying the proposal ran counter to the National Parks Act.

Smith also had safety concerns, and this would have impacted on costs and liabilities.

He also had concerns about the economics and safety of the plan, as ventilation and emergency systems would be costly.

He thought the Milford Dart company proposing the route was likely to be underestimating costs, and if the company went broke the Government would be left having to take over the project and the risk.

A private company project with access limited to the company’s own transport that went through two publicly owned national parks heightened the commercialism versus environmentalism arguments.

Nick Smith has looked intently, listened well and made what I think is the right decision.