EQC mess to be sorted out

The government is likely to be sorting out a botched job at EQC for the Christchurch earthquake response for some years to come. Taxpayers will be funding this for a while. Let me think who was in charge during 2011-2017?


Sweden’s lax approach proves fatal

Connection, Covid-19, Coronavirus, Virus, China

Sweden’s disastrously weak and lax response to Covid-19 has proven fatal for many elderly, migrants and other vulnerable people which the Swedish government failed to protect. The death rate in Sweden is many times that of comparable countries.

The old, the weak and the infirm have been treated as second class citizens as bars and cafes remained open and the elderly were encouraged to be shut away.  Religious leaders working with vulnerable communities including migrants have now spoken out publicly

Countries which have taken a tougher stance against the pandemic, such as New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway and Australia have demonstrated a much more effective and compassionate approach to vulnerable communities.

9,000 protesters arrested amidst police brutality

See the source image

Police brutality and gross infringement of human rights.  This is happening much closer to the South Pacific and involves one of our major trading partners – China.

Church leaders are now speaking out :

“Over the past year, there have been many protests in Hong Kong, most of them peaceful. However, while over 9,000 protesters have been arrested, not a single police officer has been held accountable for their disproportionate brutality.” – Cardinal Bo. on behalf of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences,

Protesters and police officers should be held accountable according to the law.

The communist government in China has ripped up the Agreement it entered into with the United Kingdom when Hong Kong was handed back to China. Freedom of belief was to be respected and protected. Now that promise is as broken as the Hong Kong’s dreams of freedom and democracy.

Now is not the time for silence in the face of Chinese government threats, intimidation  and brutality. Join with the people of Hong Kong as they strive for freedom and for the rights we take for granted in parliamentary democracies.


Overcoming racism will not wait

silent about things mthat matterThe killing of George Floyd by a white police officer sparked worldwide condemnation and created headlines around the world.  The killing is another example of an unarmed black man being killed by American police officers in recent years. 

In the spirit of being generous let’s assume that the majority of police officers are going about their duty to serve and protect all Americans. Even so, the death of George Floyd cannot be excused as an isolated incident. Clearly something is very wrong with the relationship between the Police and African American men in the United States. It needs to be fixed and it needs to begin now. 

For people of faith we need to see this as a matter of justice. Black Lives DO Matter. We don’t have to agree with everything protest movements demand in order to recognise that the cause of the protest is legitimate.  Christians of all hues need to recall the basics of the faith – all people are made in the image of God, we are called to be part of the ministry of reconciliation which Jesus Christ spoke about and lived out.  An article published in 2019 provides additional reasons why Christians – conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats – need to take a stand for justice this time.  

Perhaps this is the moment in time when Americans decide that enough is enough. Some change is now beginning to take place but much more needs to be done. In Minneappolis the police department is going to be rebuilt from top to bottom.  Demands for increased transparency in reviewing police conduct must be addressed in a meaningful way. Robust complaints procedures should be accessible to all and protection of police whistleblowers needs to be established and publicised to ensure that bad behaviour is held to account and bad cops are weeded out. 

On the conservative side of politics Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, marched with protesters in Washington toward the White House on Sunday, appearing to be the first Republican senator to join the thousands across the country protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police.  Mr. Romney told a Washington Post reporter that he had joined the march to show that “we need to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”

The United States is a country with so many opportunities and so many strengths. It has done so much to contribute generously to aid and development overseas and through international agencies. But America’s reputation is suffering right now. It’s time for authentic leaders at every level to step up to the plate and acknowledge that there is a serious problem of racism that needs addressing. 

For Christians in the US and around the world it means remembering the lesson of the Good Samaritan and not passing by on the other side of the road. It means remembering that in Christ there is neither jew nor gentile, we are all one in Him. Rev. Martin Luther King envisaged an America  where his children would be judged by the content of their character not be the color of their skin. Five decades later there is still much to be done to make King’s vision a reality. The time for action is now.



Its not the origin of the capital, it’s the purpose that counts


In these uncertain times it is easy to become fearful and to take a more insular view of the world. That is understandable and sometimes that is the best response – particularly if you are a government that needs to stop the importation of a dangerous virus crossing a border.

But in normal times and in the new normal that even now some thought is being given to we need to take a balanced approach which weighs the costs of sole ownership with the benefits of partnering with someone else’s investment capital to develop this country for the better.

New Zealand has a history of using overseas capital for development of our infrastructure. From colonial times British investors provided funds for developing the new economy from which we derive our living standards today.  More recently American, European and Asian investors have sought stable, open economies into which to invest their capital.

A recent report shows that overseas ownership of New Zealand shares has remained steady in recent times. In fact with superannuation savings kiwis are now beginning to own more offshore assets than they ever used to. This is a good thing.

Ultimately it is the purpose of the investment that counts – not the national origin of the funding. Better questions would be: are these investors here for the long term or is this a speculative investment?  Do these investors align with important NZ values of honesty, integrity and transparency?  Will this investment serve future generations well in terms of environmental sustainability and a low carbon future? Will the investment serve the public interest or the common good?

As we move out of the lockdown phase and begin to emerge in to the bright sunlight of the post-Covid19 world lets take a careful look at who we partner with and lets do that on the basis of shared values in search of a common goal – rather than on the basis of a mistaken insularism or worse still racism.

Cardinal takes communist Chinese regime to task

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)  is “morally culpable” through its negligence and repression, lies and propaganda for allowing coronavirus (COVID-19) to spread. It is having a lethal effect on the world’s poor, a cardinal from Myanmar says.

In an article published in CathNews   Cardinal Muang Bo says: “The Chinese regime led by the all-powerful Xi Jinping and the CCP — not its people — owes us all an apology and compensation for the destruction it has caused.”

Bo, who is head of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, denounced the CCP’s for hiding information about COVID-19.

He also condemned the CCP regime for punishing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world of the virus’s potential danger.

Cardinal Bo made it clear that his concern was with the current Chinese dictatorship’s actions rather than with the Chinese people or nation.

What we can learn from Covid 19

farm scene

What can we learn from the 2020 Covid 19 experience and what are the ways in which we can change to create a better world?  Here are a few points that I think are worth reflecting on:

We’ve been reminded that pandemics are predictable.  History teaches us that pandemics happen time and again.  Microsoft founder Bill Gates, went public back in 2015 with a warning about a forthcoming pandemic and the need to prepare.  Unfortunately few governments heeded his warnings. We also have examples of the 1918 influenza pandemic, SARS, MERS and now Covid19.  There will be another one sooner or later. Hopefully we will be better prepared next time.

When a crisis happens a nation’s underlying values shine through – for better or worse: New Zealand showed  that we still have a culture that values all people regardless of health status, age or geography. Other countries showed by their actions that they placed a higher value on economic growth and the damage to wealth rather than on public health as the main priority.  Such an approach will always fail against a pandemic.  Such an approach can result in the worst of both worlds – a failed health strategy as the virus spirals out of control with large loss of life AND a failed economic strategy as the pandemic lasts much longer than necessary. The UK and USA are examples of what happens when governments act too late and too timidly. The economy is not an abstract thing with a will of it’s own. It is the collective actions and well being of all the people.  If the people are hurting the economy will also hurt. 

National border controls continue to be important. Covid19 may not recognise borders – but the people that carry it do. So too do the national health authorities that have to deal with it and so too do the taxpayers of each nation that have to fund the war against Covid19.  It’s important to remain an open and outgoing nation with our own identity and values. But that doesn’t mean that we should be naive when it comes to the effects of global travel on the spread of a pandemic.  This is an area where a blind ideology opposed to border controls can be deadly – particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities.  Just ask the UK or America. 

Local production is really important in a global crisis: In a crisis we need locally produced food, water, shelter and medical equipment and supplies.  New Zealand has been very blessed in its ability to produce food and clothing in a crisis. It was a pleasant surprise to most people that we still had at least one manufacturer in NZ that was able to produce thousands of face masks when they were needed in a hurry.  Specialisation of trade is usually a good idea but like anything it can be taken too far. We should always keep a strong local capacity to produce what we are likely to need in an emergency – and that should include a good range of medical supplies. So after this crisis let’s buy local. Better still governments of both left and right could build a strategic amount of local production into our national infrastructure planning and investment for the future. 

Some workers are long overdue for a decent pay rise: Nurses, ambulance services, police and teachers are underpaid compared to their value in a crisis.  Decades of focus on economic efficiency and running public hospitals on commercial lines means when we needed spare capacity in a hurry we didn’t have it and thousands of people could have died. We need a good supply of skilled medical staff here in NZ.  Its about time we got better at longer term workforce planning and strengthening the links between school, tertairy, training and employment. I realise that we cannot run the whole health sector with a large under utilisation rate long term.  But maybe it’s also not wise to run the health sector at 110% utilisation normally. A lesson of Covid19 is that economic efficiency is not the be all and end all. We need to build in some spare capacity for emergencies and have easily scalable emergency plans which can be enacted in a matter of days – not weeks or months. 

In a major crisis strong Government leadership and excellent communications are crucial. If we can rally resources and focus the nation to defeat Covid19 then we can do the same to house all our people and to create a low carbon economy. Let us decide that simply going back to the old, exhausting and exhausted model of globalisation, hyper-specialisation and over-reliance on overseas suppliers needs changing.  Homelessness and climate change are also key challenges facing us today. Let’s tackle them with a similar energy and focus.

Stay true to our values as we face the new challenges of the 21st century: Let’s decide that we will combat high carbon in our economy and homelessness with the same focus we used to combat the Covid19 virus. And with these other great challenges of our time –  let’s continue a commitment to treat each other with kindness and compassion – especially for those who are most vulnerable. 

China and WHO leaders should be accountable

Officials in protective suits check on an elderly man wearing a facemask who collapsed and died on a street near a hospital in Wuhan on Thursday [Hector Retamal/AFP]

The current focus is rightly on containing and eliminating the virus with minimal loss to people and livelihoods. The failure to contain the virus means that poor and vulnerable communities require help right now.  But later, when this latest coronavirus – Covid 19 – is behind us, there should be an investigation into what happened in Wuhan, how the outbreak was initially covered up by the communist Chinese government and how the leadership of the World Health Organisation (WHO) failed to alert the world to the risks and allowed the virus to spread more rapidly by opposing travel restrictions.  The list of WHO mistakes in this report makes very interesting reading.