communication politics

Taking responsibility, positively.

Hysterical negativity doesn’t drive opportunities. We have to make room to be positive.

Prof Joseph Haldane is founder, chair and CEO of the International Academic Forum (IAFOR).

With a doctorate in french studies, his research and teaching is on history, politics, international affairs and international education, as well as governance and decision making.

We talk about global governance and ethics and the politics of fear. The Machiavellian playbook of fear is being used quite deliberately – setting up the “other” and changing the balance of victimhood. From this we see “fake news” and strongman politics. But Haldane is positive and sees a path of positive politics and international cooperation . Travel, he says, is breaking down racist paradigms. But to do that we have to change to a future of thriving and regenerative future. While the challenge is intergenerational, it is also urgent, so we can’t be forced into inaction by negativity.

Definition: We have to be the best version of whatever we have at the moment

Superpower: Decent host, bringing the right people together.

Activist: I have the ability to run, to be excited by projects, and to focus on the long term drivers of change.

Miracle: Inequality is the most egregious injustice. We need meaningful international and national public policy to address.

This conversation was recorded at IAFOR’s Asian Conference on Education in Tokyo in November 2019.

community local government permaculture politics

being better at imagining better

Nándor Tánczos describes himself as a Dad, social ecologist, educator, permaculturalist and a Whakatāne District Councillor. Others describe him as New Zealand’s first Rastafarian MP and one our our first Green MPs. We talk about what drives him, how he became socially active (radicalised in Darlington!), his new project – social permaculture, and our bigger goal – to recreate our society and culture as a homeotelic culture.

Talking points

We need to be better at imagining and rehearsing paradise

That awoke me to the potential – a transformation of consciousness.

The soft infrastructure is just as important for well-being

Social permaculture – how do we apply ideas of permaculture to regenerating society?

We need to avoid ecology becoming a reductionist science.

I’ve been inspired by Goldsmith‘s concept of homeotelic – to maintain and enhance the integrity of the whole. The default behaviour of any healthy part of the system serves to maintain and enhance the integrity of the whole. Human culture was – Goldsmith calls it the vernacular culture – and can be homeotelic – but in our industrialised culture the default behaviour of human individuals serves to undermine and degrade the integrity of the ecological whole. Our industrial society is hetereotelic. It was a real moment for me, realising that the task is to recreate our society and culture as a homeotelic culture. So it’s about mindset.

This whole reality is our collective creation – we can change it.

There’s a profound shift taking place.

Superpower: ability to work with different people

Challenge: Writing. We need people to be painting how things could be different.

community leadership participation politics

Generating good

Georgie Ferrari is Chief Executive of the Wellington Community Trust.  Before that she Chief Executive Officer for the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria for 14 years and before that a variety of roles in the not for profit sector in Australia and New Zealand.  But before all that, she grew up in Dunedin.  Home for a brief visit we talked about making a difference through advocacy.

Talking points

I didn’t want to use my labour to turn a profit for someone else.

To use my power for good, not evil.  So that meant working in the not for profit sector – putting my energy into organisations that generated good in the world rather than money.   I’ve been true to that.   I’ve been driven by that.

Engaging the voice of young people…that’s powerful work

It’s easy to live in a bubble in activism world, we assume that all voices are heard.  And so we live in that bubble…an echo chamber, it’s important to remember that there’s a range of views out there.

We have to read conservative newspapers and engage in the conservative debate, otherwise we forget that a huge percentage of the population think like this.  And then we don’t understand what their arguments are or what their mindsets are and we can’t fight against them.

I’m not spouting some leftie Communist manifesto, I’m just making some pretty basic sense, if a child is traumatised in their lives…no one is looking after them, them trauma plays out, then we lock them up. that’s not working, I think that’s common sense.  If even a deeply conservative politician can go and spend a couple of hours at a youth justice facility and come out and see that, then we can change every heart and mind.

Energised by work I was doing.

Ethical investment: If we give money out in the environment space, but we’re invested in a company that’s degrading the Great Barrier Reef…I’m not interested in doing a little bit of renewal in a creek bed if over here we’re funding a corporation millions of dollars to degrade the Great Barrier Reef – it doesn’t make sense.

Or funding refugees and government bonds of governments creating those refugees – it doesn’t make sense.

And ethical investments strategies are doing no worse over the long term than broader investment strategies,  so the argument is going away.   We have to know that we’re not feeding the problem over here and trying to ameliorate it over here.


Sustainable: Living gently on the earth.

Success: Growing an organisation in Victoria that it is not only financially stable and productive, but also deeply harmonious and gentle and supportive of all the staff.

Superpower:  Collaborative leadership.   I’m not afraid to make decisions, but I’m very keen to engage everyone involved.

Kind corporate.   Efficient and effective, but care about each other.  We do need training in that.

Activist: Yes.  (in my new job I have to manage that a bit differently) there are causes to champion, how I need to be an activist is to be provide evidence that these are things we need to fund.   Back room diplomacy rather than in your face advocacy.

Motivation: Knowing that there is far more good done in the world than bad, and wanting to contribute to that good.

Challenges:  Reintegrating back into New Zealand that’s different to what I left.   My responsibility as a Pakeha woman.   Philanthropy across New Zealand can be more effective by working smarter and together to make it easier for our grant seekers.

Miracle: Elimination of all forms of violence.  (smallest thing that would make a difference) Live peacefully ourselves.

Advice: Be kind to your mother.  Ring your Mum.


democracy government green party law Middle East peace politics

Civility to fight injustice

Golriz Ghahraman is an international human rights lawyer who is also a former refugee from Iran.   She has worked to restore communities after war and human rights atrocities, particularly in empowering women engaged in peace and justice initiatives.   She is standing for NZ parliament on the Green Party list.

Update:  this was recorded on 28th July 2017, broadcast 3rd August 2017.


“I prosecuted for the UN, but I also defended”.

Defence comments at 10mins, 20mins & 25:05

Talking points

Standing up to might – don’t take no for an answer.

Bringing down the bad guys.

Each (horrific) situation begins with dehumanising a group

Changing back to language of inclusion.

Sustainable: Environmental and social justice measures are intrinsically linked so we need to sustain humans at the same time that we sustain the environment.

Superpower: Making an argument and being persuasive.

Activist: Yes, activism is the rent that we pay for being on this planet.

Motivation: Justice, I’m the type of person who gets deeply annoyed by injustice, getting involved and fighting for the justice system.

Challenges: Getting into parliament is a pretty massive challenge for me.

Miracle: On a global scale for me it would be about democracy, about giving that dignity to all global citizens. The only way we can be sustainable is through self determination.

Advice: Please vote, not everyone can.

climate change dunedin politics

Engaged generation



I realised, “Oh, crap. That’s going to have to be me.” Or that’s going to have to be people like me, who want to see the change going on, and realise that the political process doesn’t involve waiting every three years for an election to come along.


Shane: So our guest tonight is Finn Campbell from Generation Zero. Finn is a masters student at Otago University, studying politics. Generation Zero is a youth-led organisation in New Zealand, focus on transitioning society away from its dependency on fossil fuels, and combating climate change. And you’ll know if you’re a regular listener to our show, we’ve had Generation Zero on several times over the years.


So, Generation Zero was founded with the central purpose of providing solutions for New Zealand to cut carbon pollution through smarter transport, liveable cities, and independence from fossil fuels. And the group believes that young people must be the forefront of tackling climate change, and that young people are the inheritors of humanity’s response. Welcome to our show.


Finn: Hello, how are you?


Shane: Not so bad. So, before we go on to talk about Generation Zero, let’s tell a little bit about yourself. Where were you born, and where did you grow up?


Finn: I was born in Christchurch when my dad was doing his PhD. Quickly moved over to Wagga Wagga – in Australia – for the first two years of my life. Didn’t have a great impact on me. Don’t really remember it, being a young child. And then Dad got a job at the University of Otago, and I spent the rest of my life here, living in sunny old Dunedin.


Shane: So what schools did you go to?


Finn: Opoho Primary was my first school, right around the corner from the house. Went down to Dunedin North Intermediate, and then shipped my way over to Logan Park High School before somehow ending up at University of Otago. So, I think that’s been about two kilometres of my education radius.


Shane: And if anybody doesn’t live here, that’s a very typical set of schools to go to for-


Sam: A very good high school.


Shane: Very good high school.


Finn: Thank you very much. I think-


Sam: I think so.


Shane: All our sons have gone there.   Excellent. Excellent school.


So, what got you involved with … What was your passion at school?


Finn: Passion at school … I think I had the pretence that I was going to be a dentist. And I think that was – on reflection – that was a terrible idea. But I always, at the same time, wanted to do something right. I don’t really know where to put my thumb on the mark and say, “That’s what ‘right’ is,” but I’ve always felt like, if you’re going to be doing something, you should be at least trying to make a difference. And then what’s going on around you.


Shane: Where did you pick that up from? Is that something you just developed, or is that something that’s part of your family?


Finn: I feel like it’s been a family thing. My dad is a food sociologist. Does a lot on sustainability. But at the same time, he’s never really pushed that one on me. Maybe it’s … I haven’t quite felt his breathing down my neck, telling me, “You must get into sustainability. It’s the only option for the future.” I think it’s just more of an osmosis – naturally picking up everything from just casual conversations. Seeing things going on and just realising, “Maybe that’s just the way that things should be done.”


Shane: Do you think you actively tried to avoid it?


Sam: I think he actively tried to avoid it.


Finn: I think he would have been horrified to think that he was forcing a son to do something in particular.


Shane: What did you do at school?


Finn: Lot of music. Lot of music. Played in the jazz band. Played chamber music. Did science. Biology. Chemistry. Physics. No English – I dropped that as soon as I could. I thought it was terrible. A waste of time. I thought science was the way to go. I regret that one.


Shane: Was what’s turned into, now, a bit of a direction in terms of sustainability … Did you know that was going to be there, underneath whatever the actual job you did?


Finn: I don’t think so. I think during my high school years, I didn’t really have a clue. Was just travelling through, thinking, “Got to do something, but … ” I’d sit down at a park bench and look out across the park, and say, “This is great, but what am I going to do? Perpetual existential crises of, “I’m going to have a job, but where? Why? How? I better go to University and find out.”


Shane: So, what did you do when you first got to University?


Finn: I signed myself up for a double major – Bachelor of Applied Science in Energy Management and Environmental Management. I thought my pathway to success was becoming an electrical engineer. Someone who’s very in tune with the physics. What was going on with renewable energy systems, with conventional energy systems, fossil fuels. Understanding, doing the geography parts of it. Thinking this was absolutely the pathway to go. “I’m going to change the industry from within.” And then I realised that, holy-moly, I do not like the maths. If I came out and followed that degree through, I would have been a fairly average engineer. And I thought, “The world doesn’t need another average engineer telling people what to do.” And then I realised it wasn’t changing people through action, it was changing people through actually being the positive change I wanted – without becoming an engineer. That politics and people were really the problem that we’re facing these days. That we’ve got great wind turbines, we got great solar panels. Not so great hydro-electric, but still not burning fossil fuels to use them.


Sam: Did you have a moment of epiphany that the problem’s not technical, but people?


Finn: I think getting into politics – studying politics at the University of Otago – thinking, “Holy moly, this is great.” First of all, I was really into it. Really passionate. I always thought … Reading the newspaper in the morning – I’d get really excited about what you’re reading about – was just a hobby. And maybe it still is. But, kind of clicking and going, “Oh. Politicians are the ones who are telling people how to do things.” Policy-makers. Planners. All these people having such a great influence on how we actually use what we’ve got. So I’m not going to try and tackle what we’ve got. I think what we’ve got is great. But how we’re using it, on the other hand, is where the problem lies. In my mind.


Shane: You said you started studying politics. So when did you-


Finn: Yes.


Shane: When was that? Was that like, you’re at the end of first year, went, “Ah … ”


Finn: I wish it was the end of first year. I was a little bit stubborn-headed. I went and studied for two years, doing my Bachelor of Applied Science. And thought, “I need a break,” and went and worked in a hospitality job for about a year. And went backpacking around Europe. One of those classic, “I’m just going to escape from all my problems, and maybe find some energy for energy management again.” Give it a second shot. Came back, gave it a second shot, and went, “Ah, man, no, something’s not going right, here.” But at the same time, I was picking up a politics paper, and I was just killing it. Loving it. Having a great time. Such a great time that I was kind of skipping out on my energy management work that I should have been doing.


Shane: Is it something fundamental about that energy management approach? Or is it you? Or a combination of those two?


Finn: I think energy management is excellent if you’re going to end up working in the field, or maybe telling people how to work from within the industry. But I think – for me, personally – I think I look at a problem and, for me, it’s never the numbers game. The message we have is, “Fantastic. It’s such an easy sell. How come we’re not selling it?” And so it’s always been in messaging. Messaging, messaging, messaging. Where’s it going wrong? How’s it getting lost out there, and what on Earth can we do to actually bring it back into the forefront?


Shane: So you should have been listening more to those English teachers and Drama teachers at Logan Park.


Finn: Yeah. Yes. I’m sure the English teacher would have had a few words to say about my blog post writing. Still work in progress.


Shane: So, you got yourself a politics degree.


Finn: Yes.


Sam: You sort of changed career on the basis of the first paper that you loved. Did the rest of the degree deliver on what you hoped for?


Finn: If you say maybe from where you’re around from the start in a nursing degree, or a law degree, sending you directly into a career of law or nursing. A politics degree, I think … I got pretty tired of people asking if I wanted to be an MP. But I think it’s certainly and interesting way to study how things are happening. It’s a study of people in a very strict environment, if you talk to a political scientist, political theorist. I’m sure that I can say politics is very broad, and I’ve had to write many an essay on all that.


But you say politics, and the governance, and the systems, and the understanding of power relationships and how they form – why they’re there in the first place – you have a different lens through which you approach things. You realise you can be a sort of normal citizen, but you’ve got a extra pair of glasses that suddenly see through all the nonsense that’s going on. And you go, “Why do we have to accept this?” “Why do we have to accept that?” “Why is this person even here? What are they doing? They’re monstrous.” They really don’t care. What are they in it for? Is it just a meal ticket for these politicians? I don’t know.


Sam: And why has it turned into such a game? Or theatre, perhaps?


Finn: This is one of my struggles. This could leave me leaving this interview, going home, and just staring at the ceiling for a long time. How does it end up like this? People vote for their instinct. People vote for what makes most sense to them. They voted for their interest. And you can’t fault them for that. You can’t fault someone for voting for something they believe in, because it’s just sensible to stand up and say, “I should take care of myself, because that’s in my best interest.” And so you sit there like, “Why is that your best interest? What’s been teaching you? Who’s been teaching you? What’s been involved in your life to make you think that that is your version of the optimal outcome?” That’s the problem. And then you get politician that reflect that behaviour. They’re merely a mirror of their constituents. People who just voting for self interest.


Sam: Is politics broken?


Finn: No, you can’t break politics – unless you somehow inject a whole lot of money into it, so it’s represented by corporations. But democracy … You’ve just kind of got to accept it at face value that it’s everyone gets a say.


Sam: There seems to be a lunatic in the White House.


Finn: Yes. I hold out hope that ultimately there will be a good outcome from that. He is a terrible person, but what he might do for the American political system might be good. If he goes, and goes quickly. Because they’ll say, “Let’s not let that happen again. Let’s figure out what went so horribly wrong.”


Sam: And in the meantime, he appears to have fallen out with Europe.


Finn: Yes.


Sam: Pulling out of Paris.


Shane: I was reading the articles just today, thinking, “Trump might pull out.” “Trump might pull out.” “Trump says he’s going to pull out.” “Trump has pulled out.” And I’m like, “Oh, crap.”


Finn: Oh, no. I guess that’s the problem with international agreements. International agreements always pretend to be some sort of higher authority upon states. “Look, we’ve got the UN now. Now we’re going to tell you what to do.” No, no. Every international agreement’s just pretend. People buy into it because they can, or they want to. And so they’ve got to think that there’s a reason why people should get involved. So if the US pulls out, and they think it’s not their interest, you can’t do much to stop them.


Sam: If, when they do pull out, what’s the message for New Zealand politicians, do you think? Should we pull out too?


Finn: No, I don’t think we should pull out. I think, when you’ve got the US pulling out, yeah, that’s definitely not good. But the fact that China and India are still committing to it – and they’re the sort of economies that you’ve really got to worry about with that sort of transition. They’re the ones who are often brought to the negotiation table and think, “Why should we commit to this? You’ve had a life of luxury, United States, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain. Why should we not follow in your footsteps? We have every right to industrialise. We have every right to develop.” And the fact that they’re buying into this and continuing to say, “We’re going to move forward,” is very optimistic. It’s a great sense of possibility that these countries are still continuing to think that this is something worth following.


Shane: So, you finished your degree?


Finn: Yes.


Sam: And then went back for another one.


Finn: Back for a master’s.


Shane: Must be in the blood.


Finn: It’s terrible. I don’t know what I was thinking. I think I made one smart call, in that the Masters of Politics has only been around for its second year, now. I thought, “I don’t really feel like being a guinea pig.” So, I worked in hospitality, again. Kind of escaped, I think. From where I started university in 2011 until last year, I’d spent quite a long time in and out. And I thought, “Time to just have a wee rest.” Stop thinking about it so much, academically. Do my volunteering. Do my activism, but also take a break. Recharge. Give the batteries a chance to get going again.


Shane: So, eventually, you got back?


Finn: Yes.


Shane: And you’ve decided to do what?


Finn: For my Master’s of Politics? Factors of water scarcity in conflict in what will be the Middle East will be my case studies as part of my dissertation. But it’s a part taught, part dissertation in master’s. So I still have my theoretical “Theory of Politics” paper, and then I have comparative regional conflicts. I still have to learn the whole suite of things expected to come out as an Pols student.


Sam: Did you say, “as a driver of conflict”? Water scarcity?


Finn: Yeah. As a factor, I think … When you read political journals talking about climate change and conflict, the narrative is not always the same. An I get a bit bemused by that. But I guess all my friends from Generation Zero – sustainability-minded people – go, “Of course climate change is related in scarcity. How could you not think that?” And because there’s water scarcity, of course there’s conflict. Water scarcity runs into crops. Disease. All these sorts of other factors. Of course there’s a relationship. And I’m sitting there going, “Okay. Okay. Okay, I’ll have a look at that.” I want to pull that apart, and really look at what the academics have been writing.


Some people say that is not a factor. That water scarcity is not good – there’s no doubt about that. I don’t think anyone stands up and says, “Water scarcity is fine, don’t worry about it.” Everyone seems to be saying it’s either good governance, or bad governance. You can have plenty of drought. And, “Where’s the war? Where’s the conflict? Where’s the starvation? What’s going on, here?” And the other places, which have got plenty of clean water, and far more conflict. So, with something as complex and multi-dimensional as this, you got to try and figure out some cases where you can really pull them apart, look at water scarcity, and go, “All right, this is where it’s going wrong. This is a direct factor in conflict.” And that’s what I’m looking for. Hopefully I’ll find something like that, but I guess for the sake of academic integrity, I can’t just say, “There’s going to be water scarcity. Let’s go for it.”


Sam: Presumably, just to jump ahead to a thesis you haven’t written yet … You’re going to be concluding something about complexity, systems thinking, wicked problems … It’s all that mushy stuff put together.


Finn: Yeah.


Sam: You already know it’s not as simple as yes or no.


Finn: Yes.


Sam: Through that politics degree, things like complexity, system thinking, wicked problems … Are they a thing that we’re actively teaching people?


Finn: No, I don’t think so. Not at any level, I think. You’d only really start approaching that, at least in a political sense, when they do lots of conflict analysis. That’s still very much like, “Oh, you’ve got this factor, so X is going to happen. There’s no doubt about it.” And you think, “Well … We need more information. We need a better understanding of what’s going on, here.” And then you realise as soon as you start getting more, and more, and more, and more complex, that there are so many factors going on. That you can’t look at one thing and say … You can only create building blocks, which you can contribute toward something. But you can never quite say, “This is exactly what’s going to happen.”


In politics, you hear a lot about political theory trying to predict conflict – predict why states act. And all of it’s just useless forecasting, at the end of it. They have some sort of pretence that they’re going to know exactly when the next conflict’s going to rise up. When it’s going to happen. How it’s going to happen. Who’s going to be involved. And you go, “That’s a bit rubbish.”


Sam: Does political theory cope with that kind of complexity?


Finn: No, it doesn’t. Not at all. It likes to think it does, but when you start applying it you realise you almost have to become a complete specialist in one country, or one conflict to really know such of the information that’s going into it. You can’t … Specialist in the Middle East, and even then, they specialise in Syria. And then they’ve got no understanding of what’s going on, necessarily, in the Pacific Islands. And you’ve got someone else going in there. And it’s just … It’s interesting stuff. There’s no doubt. But as soon as you start getting into it, you realise you can’t really make proper claims, assessments, or forecasts without understanding the information. It just gets so complicated so bloody quickly.


Sam: So, somewhere along the line, you decided not just to study stuff, but to do something about it?


Finn: Yes.


Sam: What led to that?


Finn: I think that itch was going on in the back of my head, going, “You’ve got an obligation to be the change that you want to see going on. If you want a future, why not fight for it?” I can’t just expect to sit at my computer all day, wonderfully, in bliss, playing on my computer, reading news articles, and then expect someone round the street corner to show up and show me what the world could be like. What a nice Utopia world we have amongst us. I realised, “Oh, crap. That’s going to have to be me.” Or that’s going to have to be people like me, who want to see the change going on, and realise that the political process doesn’t involve waiting every three years for an election to come along.


And so, I found out three years ago that the group Generation Zero – which I’d just heard about – was doing enrolments on campus for the students. And that main goal there was actually to be completely non-involved of the politics of it. Whether you’re a National voter, Labour voter, Green, New Zealand First, ACT … We didn’t care. We said, “If you’re a young person, you should be participating.” We held events. We had a gig down at Refuel where the door entrance fee was signing up and proving that you’re on the electoral roll. And if you weren’t on the electoral roll, we had a form right there. And I remember I got my right hand onto TV-3. It was in some back shot somewhere, writing on a form.


Sam: So, give us Generation Zero 101.


Finn: Generation Zero 101. So, nationwide organisation – wonderful – where a sort of governance going on at a national level. And then you have teams based in every city, and they’re relatively autonomous. I’m the convener for Generation Zero Dunedin at the moment, or co-convener, with another person. And we do what works for Dunedin, I think. We don’t have a lot of people coming from national level team and saying, “Dunedin needs to be doing this, because this is the most important thing for all of New Zealand.” We kind of sit there as our group, and we go, “What’s going on in Dunedin? What’s actually the problems? Why is South Dunedin a big issue? What’s going on with cycleways? What’s going on with housing? Why are these things not being addressed, and how can we, as a group, best target them?


I guess we felt like being a regional-based organisation and contributing to a national cause … Sometimes you spend a lot of time feeling like you’ve got a megaphone held up to nothing. You’re just shouting your message out there, and you’re thinking, “It’s just bouncing off the walls. Surely no one’s picking this up.” So when you talk at a regional, local level, you find yourself sitting in council chambers, hearing councillors talk. You go to resource consent applications. We go onto the second generation district plan. We’ve made submissions on that. And we find that we get immediate feedback and an understanding of what impact you’re having at that level, specifically. And then through a combined effort through all these teams doing this in Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Auckland …


You find that all these major centres in New Zealand – really slowly but surely – having sustainability and Generation Zero’s vision embedded into what’s going on. So that cycleways are getting passed because there’s been a record amount of submissions coming through one of our online forms. I think Auckland team has the pride of having one of the largest submissions ever held for a consent application for the SkyPath. They adopted it. Their SkyPath wasn’t their plan, but they found out, and thought, “Wow, this is bloody excellent. How can we best make this happen?” And so they wrote an online form, basically got a couple of text boxes for people to come in on their website and say, “Yes, we want this.” And I think they got 10,000 submissions. Which I think, for anything of its kind, it was the largest.


And then councillors found out about it and said, “Yes, that’s all right.” They tried to do it again, and counted it as one. So, we had hundreds of people would come in. Thousands, whatever. They would say, “That’s the Generation Zero submission.” And we’re, “Oh, crap, we’re going to have to change our form options, because otherwise they’re going to … One person vote at a council policy submission doesn’t really count for much.” So we had to change all the forms, so everyone gets their own name put on it. And we just adjusted the system slightly, and carried on. Writing a whole boatload of those.


Sam: Is influencing the people who are sitting around the tables making decisions … Is that the best way of making change?


Finn: I think it’s one of the ways. That’s how I feel. I think there is a fairly comprehensive sustainability – so climate change – or transport movement going on in New Zealand. Or, I can speak for Dunedin – say, Dunedin, I think, has got a very interesting one. And trying to figure out what piece of the pie you make up. Everyone contributing in some particular area. You’ve got students for environmental action doing environmental focuses on campus. You’ve got SPOKES, who do cycle-related things. And we think, “How can we best fit into this piece of the puzzle, so we’re not doubling up?” We’re not expending unnecessary energy doing something that’s been done before. And the councils, planners … Whenever they hear us come along, they almost say, “Please come back. Come back for more. We need to hear what you people actually want to say.” It’s like finding out you’re the youngest person in the room by half, and then it’s amazing if someone in their 30s shows up, and you’re 24.


Shane: Not just because you’re turning up, and you’re young, but because you’re turning up and being constructive.


Sam: Yes. Because you make a point of not just having a submission saying, “We don’t like this,” but actually putting forward quite detailed proposals, and things.


Finn: We have some people in Dunedin who have background – who have done the Masters of Planning, everything. So they’ve basically got the credentials enough to become a planner. We’ve had people who are law students, and so they have a great understanding of the law, and what’s actually helpful or not. And so, we get down, we figure out what’s going on with the Resource Management Act application. We try and figure out what’s going on with the Second Generation District Plan. We try and figure out, “What are they actually trying to do, here?” And sometimes we’ve gone, “Oh, man, we’re just scratching our heads. What on Earth are they actually trying to do, here?”


And so we went along to the hearing, and we … The lady before us went, and she didn’t like wind turbines. Sitting there, bashing my head, biting my teeth, trying not to say anything as she went on a big tirade. But democracy is democracy. And she attacked wind turbines, and I went, “Oh, crap. Why is this person … ” And she just basically abused the planner. “You need to do this. You must never let these things happen in our city. Never again. This is terrible. They’re windy. Noisy.” Whatever. You name it. She’s got something wrong to say with it. And the look on the planner was just like, “What have I done to deserve this?”


And we didn’t know what to do. And we said, “What would it mean to have wind turbines, here? Why do you want to do this?” And she went, “Ah, there’s a reason X, reason Y, reason Z.” And we said, “What would it take to change the policy? Because we don’t know how to write these things. We’re not a planner. We have no idea what to do. What do we do? What do we ask for?” And they go, “Ah, you’d want to ask for this.” And we go, “Yes, please, can we have that option there?” Our wind turbines. And we got a mention from one of the other councillors, being like, “That was one of the most productive things we’ve heard from one of these sessions.”


Basically, because the planners know exactly what they’re doing, but they’ve got to write a plan that is the will of the people. And the people are showing up and abusing them. They don’t write very much. And what they write isn’t very helpful. and so we sit there and go, “We want to be helpful. What can we do? How do we say it?” Because as soon as you show up to a council meeting, you show up to anything, and you say, “I would like this,” they can do something about it. But they can’t write a vision for the city as much as they would like to.


Sam: You’ve clearly identified a point of leverage, there, that’s actually making a difference. Which is what you said you wanted to do.


Finn: Yeah.


Sam: Do we also need to take the community along with us?


Finn: I’d love to see the community come along for a ride. That’d be great. But, I mean, we are busy.


Sam: I mean, you don’t look like a hippie, but-


Finn: No, no. That’s probably a …


Sam: Do you get accused of being one?


Finn: Lee Vandervis described me as a climate change fundamentalist. That was wonderful. It was great fun. I had a great chuckle. I thought it was the best thing ever. I thought, “If only he knew what I looked like.” I went along to a meeting a couple of weeks after he’d said that, and he couldn’t spot me in the crowd. He had no idea who he was talking to, obviously. I mean, he was referring to Generation Zero, the climate change fundamentalists who want nothing but to ruin his life.


Could you get the community along for the ride? Yes. But I think this touches on another issue for me, which is almost – not a great big, grand issue – but it’s like, “How do we re-democratize politics for young people?” I’ve thought about that. What steps does it actually take to change the political system – the way that it is – so that engagement is there? Engagement is convenient, or that people just see the virtue, or the value, in stepping up. Putting a hand up and saying, “Maybe I want this.”


There’s a UN Youth meeting happening in a couple of weeks, and they want to talk about how to get young people involved in politics. And to make sure they do their bit. And I was tempted to go along, but I realised I’m so busy – full of exams and essays, and I got no time for … And then I sort of found out what they wanted to do. And it’s basically trying to get them involved at a national level or politics. And I thought, that’s not … Just stamping your meal ticket every three years and saying you participated is not what politics really is. It’s showing up to the meetings. Actually being a consistent voice. Actually saying, “What can I do at this meeting to embed sustainability into everything that’s being said?” If the DCC has every policy document coming out for the next ten years, and some group of plucky young people have made sure that everything says, “sustainability” in some way or another, they can’t really avoid it. They don’t really have a choice, at that point. They’ve got to do what the document says.


Sam: You’re calling yourself Generation Zero. Is there a generational divide?


Finn: Sometimes it feels like it. And then sometimes I have bigger supporters – retirees. It’s unfair, I think, to categorise everyone as, “Oh, you’re old, and you’ve got your foot out the door, and you simply don’t care.” I think that’s not true. I think there are a lot of people who see what we do, and some of our biggest supporters are from some of the older communities who think they’ve got a good message, and we can certainly give them our resources to help them achieve what they want to do. Is there a bit of a divide? Maybe, but in our advantage. For some reason, people think that when a young person shows up, a lot of the time that you don’t have to display all these sorts of credentials. You don’t have to wear your badge on your shoulder that says, “Oh, look, you’re a planner, you should know exactly what it’s talking about.” “You’re a lawyer, you need to go all … ” We’ve got these people who basically have these same sorts of credentials. Certainly not the industry experience that some of you would desire.


Shane: I mean, I think it could be part of that, as you say, you’re busy.


Finn: Yeah.


Shane: And so, somebody that would know you’re busy-


Finn: Yeah.


Shane: Or, you could just be having a party.


Finn: Yeah.


Sam: Yet, you’re deciding to put your time into this. People give you some respect for that, I think.


Finn: Yeah. Seems to be the case.


Sam: Generation Zero makes a point of being apolitical. Politically active, but not aligning with any party.


Finn: We try to avoid it.


Shane: Despite the fact that some obvious connections to one side, if we put it on a left/right continuum.


Finn: Up until now, yes. Since we released out Zero Carbon Act, actually, there’s been a lot of buy-in from National, which has been humbling. Surprising. Stunning. What on Earth do these guys want to do, stepping foot near this document? And I think it’s a really promising sign that maybe this change is going to happen. Is this really going to be the[party’s initiative it’s always been? Or is the shift happening? What’s going on? Struggling. Don’t know what to do. There’s no one to attack.


Shane: So, tell us what the Zero Carbon Act thing is?


Finn: It’s a piece of climate change legislation modelled off the UK Climate Change Act, which was implemented in 2008 under David Cameron’s Tory government. It passed almost unanimously, and has been quite responsible for UK’s positive climate change impacts it has on its own carbon emissions, and transport infrastructure. And so, we took the guts of the document, kind of ripped it apart – not me personally, I don’t pretend to have any law experience – but we’ve got enough policy wonks out there to basically write a document for New Zealand. And that suits New Zealand’s climate change needs. And so we’re trying to pass that at the moment. I think we have 3,500 signatories signing on. We’ve got quite a few people who are buying in who want to say that this is something that’s important. We’ve had MPs from both – across the board – saying that this is good. We’re getting Youth Party buy-in. People all over the place are saying, “Maybe climate change is not going to be an election issue.”


Sam: But somehow you need to broker that it’s okay that …


Finn: Yeah.


Sam: The first party that comes out and says, “We support it,” you don’t want the other party to knee-jerk reaction and say, “That means we don’t.”


Finn: Yeah. We spent a lot of time talking to everyone. And everyone kind of knows it’s there. Some people like it more than others. Parties maybe like it more than others. But also individuals within parties see there’s something. So maybe we don’t need a complete party buy-in from one or the other. Some people might jump across and say, “Look, this is a conscious vote from me. I want this to happen, and I can see this happen.”


Shane: Has Generation Zero – locally or nationally – worked out what you’re going to do, running up to the election this year?


Finn: Locally – I don’t want to quite say it, because it’s always got a bad word, but – lobby. People always have negative connotations of what lobbying is, because you think, “Money, guns, tobacco, alcohol, and drug companies.” And then you go, “Wait, why can’t we have nice green sustainability lobby, too?” We don’t have much money, but at least we’re cool. So, I think Generation Zero Dunedin … This year, leading up to the election, we’re going to spend a lot of time doing our standard meat and bread policy. Work with the council. But we’re going to be targeting a lot of groups, saying, “We want you to come in and buy in with us, and say that this is something you need.” That sustainability – climate change, all these things – requires a framework to work with it.


If a government’s not doing it, you’re kind of swimming against the tide. If the government’s not providing you the framework to do it, how can we expect the local councils to enact it? They’ve always sort of expressed that they’re sort of hamstrung by what national governance wants. And so, if we can get them to buy in … We had the greater Wellington regional council chair saying he wants to get all the local councils together and lobby on the behalf of the Zero Carbon Act. And I thought, well, I guess I’d better ring up Dave Cull then. I haven’t done that just yet. But that’s something we want to do. We want to make it an issue as such that where … Come next election – when it’s happened, end of September – and we’ve got a new sitting government, that they can see that this is something that young people, old people, middle-aged people, from all across the board see this as a vital part of our future. And that some bandaid policy coming out from one side is not quite going to cut it.


Sam: You said it, probably – climate change, that is – probably won’t be an election issue. But it looks like water might be.


Finn: Yes. Trouble trying to segue into it, I think, when you try and bring the conversation to climate change. People sometimes just shut off. And then go, “Why this? We’ve got housing. Climate change? We can think about that one next year. We got to figure out all these highways. Climate change can happen next.” And so it’s always on the agenda, but it’s always being deferred until next time.


Sam: I’ve always thought it was a shame that we couldn’t say, “Climate change starts next Tuesday.”


Finn: Yeah.


Sam: 4:00pm.


Finn: Come on, let’s do something about it.


Sam: Although, somebody said that that wouldn’t work, because you would get to that time, and you’d have people saying, “See? Didn’t happen.”


Finn: Yeah, and you’re going, “Oh, okay. Well, I guess-”


Sam: “Maybe it starts next year.”


Finn: “Yeah. You got me. Wow. Got you.”


Shane: Do you have a go-to definition of sustainability?


Finn: I had to think about this one. Being sustainable is acting or providing an action which you know, without a doubt, is going to be able to carry on in its form. It might adjust with the times, but a sustainable action’s something that will just carry on, no matter what. That’s how I thought about it. I don’t want to go into some deep … I can go on forever, I think, about what sustainability is. But for me, that’s … If you’re being sustainable, you’re doing something where you know it’s going to carry on.


Sam: Some people are talking about sustainability not being enough, anymore. That we need to be regenerative. We’ve wrecked the place enough that just stopping and carrying on like we are … It wouldn’t be enough.


Finn: Yeah.


Sam: Do you think … Do we have to not just slow the ship, but turn it around?


Finn: I feel like … Yeah. There’s something extra that will need to be done if we’re not doing something now. If it’d been 1990, and we had sat down and said, “All right, guys, let’s stop it now,” no problem. Maybe that would have been the case. Now we’re sitting here thinking, “We’re going to have to give up something unless something else changes.” We can’t predict what’s going on, here.


Sam: We’ve been using that line – that it’s not a lesser life, it’s a better life. Do you think we can still pull that off?


Finn: We’d have to change what is normal. We’d absolutely have to change what is normal, and I guess that’s part of what I’m trying to do, is trying to get people to think about what’s normal. What’s acceptable. Everything that’s going on at the moment – sustainability, whatever … Your life has been dictated by politicians. Policies. Personal choices. The influence of your parents. And all these things that … These are just normal. And right now this normal should not carry on. Can you live a happy life? Yes, I think so. But what we’ve got to accept now is that … Why are plastic bags still coming out of supermarkets? Why is there a terrible bus transport system in Dunedin? Why is it every time a cycleway gets put in, people put up in their arms and say, “These are terrible things”? Something’s got to change for what “normal” is. And people are going to appreciate that “normal” is just kind of accepting a status quo of what’s going on, and being an influence in the change that you want. Accepting normality is accepting that someone else is probably going to make a decision for you.


Sam: What’s the biggest success you’ve had in the last couple of years?


Finn: Last couple of years? Interesting to think that far back. I almost feel like I’ve had setbacks with last election – Greens lost a proportion of the vote. Turns out if you enrol youth at the university you get a lot more conservative ones coming down from Auckland. So, maybe next year. Next time, we’re not going to enrol so many people on campus. Immediate success … Just recently, the Dunedin city council is finally putting funding back into environmental strategy. They gave options on their annual plan submission, and said, “Do you want $150,000, or $200,000?” And we went, “More.” And we got enough people to say, “More,” that they ended up giving us – not Generation Zero specifically, but the environmental strategy [inaudible 00:41:36] – $250,000, through complaining, and saying that maybe that’s not enough. We managed to get a 25% increase on the funding for environmental strategy.


Sam: You’ve hinted at the answer to this several times. In fact, you’ve been explicit once. We’ll ask it anyway. Do you consider yourself to be an activist?


Finn: Yes.


Shane: Why?


Finn: Activist? Someone’s got to be active. Would I be a traditional activist? No, not really. I haven’t done many protests. I haven’t showed up to many marches. I think one I did was in 2003 against the war in Iraq. That was about as far as marches and your traditional forms of activism go. I think my form of activism, if you can call it that, is pretending you’re a grey old man in a council chamber. And pretending you’re like them, and thinking like them. And then suddenly going, “Wham! Here’s some sustainability for you!”


Sam: So, we’re writing a book of these conversations. We’re calling it, “Tomorrow’s Heroes”. How do you describe your super power? What is it that you’re bringing to the good fight? Other than pretending you’re a grey old man and then going, “Wham!” I’m not letting you have that.


Finn: I wouldn’t call it shape shifting, then, would it? I guess it’s all about people and communication. What I try and bring to the table is participation. My objective is making democracy easy. And when you make democracy easy, you make input – your idea of what democracy is – easy. And for hopefully most conscious, breathing people who want to see a future that does include some form of climate change/sustainability response in your daily life … And changing what we currently have – which is no good – to something excellent, which we can keep under.


Sam: What’s the biggest challenge you’re looking forward to in the next couple of years?


Finn: We’ve got the Zero Carbon Act. That’s certainly going to be a big challenge. One of my personal challenges will be ensuring that this sort of movement doesn’t die off – when it’s happening because you need it. I don’t want this to be a reactionary movement that says, “We’re going to be here because there’s a problem. And as soon as this giant, pressing issue goes away, and we think the solution’s gone, we’re just going to sit down on the couch and ignore it.” I want to see that people take a more proactive, continuing approach to how they live their lives, but also their participation in everything. We got this way because we didn’t act until we needed to. So let’s not get it so we act until we need to, next time. For whatever that may be.


Sam Okay. Very quickly, because we’ve almost run out of time.


Finn: Not a problem.


Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur, what would it be?


Finn: Just, change the normal. Change what is normal.


Sam: And advice for listeners?


Finn: Participate. Participate. That’s the best part.


Shane: Fantastic. And we’re going to leave it there.


economics politics

Passionate rationality

Gareth Morgan on economics, inter-generational alienation, philanthropy, politics, Putaruru, and motorbikes and cats.

I think the public are pretty well starved for quality…for intellectual contributions that are on par with them not reduced to the lowest common denominator

Shane: And our guest tonight is Dr Gareth Morgan. Gareth was born and raised in Putaruru. He then attended Massey University for four years, gaining the BA honours in economics. In 1982, he graduated from Victoria University with a PhD in economics. He the father of Sam Morgan who is the founder of Trade Me and that’s the New Zealand equivalent of eBay, and was an early Trade Me investor and director. When it was sold to Fairfax Media, Gareth received 50 million dollars, which he donated to their charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which administers the Morgan philanthropic work, and Gareth and his wife Jo Morgan are also UNICEF good will ambassadors.


So he worked for the reserve bank in New Zealand for a few years, before founding an economics forecasting company, Infometrics Limited, back in 1983, and Gareth is well known for taking New Zealand’s financial services industry to task for questionable ethics and abuse of investors.


So he’s published four works, four books. 2009 was Poles Apart, a book surveying the state of the science around climate change. 2010 was Health Cheque, a book assessing the state of New Zealand’s public health system. In 2011 the Big Kahuna, which is probably his most famous book, and this book investigated the contribution that unpaid work makes to New Zealand’s society, and the consequences and measures of economic production not explicitly recognising such contributions, from community service to care of the young and the elderly.


In 2011, he also published another book, Hook, Line and Blinkers, a book assessing the state of the world’s fish stocks and then appraising the state of New Zealand fisheries here. And then in 2013, his most recent book was Appetite for Destruction: Food – the Good, the Bad and the Fatal, and that was with Geoff Simmons, and a book, which analyses the pitfalls of contemporary processed food and the problem with contemporary diets more generally.


So most recently, and this is why Gareth is here today, he started a new political party in New Zealand called the The Opportunities Party. Welcome to our show.


Gareth: Thanks very much. Nice to be here.


Shane: So you’ve had quite a busy life but let’s talk about your childhood. What was it like? What was growing up in New Zealand like for you?


Gareth: Well it was a very small town, Putaruru, 4,000 people back in those days, 50 and 60s, it’s still like that. I had a big shock I guess, so it’s a bit like some of these back puddle towns in the Appalachians and southern states of the U.S. and the Rust Belt and the sense of when I was there. There were seven sawmills in Putaruru. So I would work in those during my holidays right through school. In fact, I think I had my first job there when I was in standard four, but I kept doing that all the way through university, then worked in the bush a lot.


So I was pretty able in those days, to fund myself, through university. I didn’t need any money from anybody. Such were those sort of harrisome days. But Putaruru has undergone a whole series of shocks and now it has no sawmills. Of course what happen with euthanasia in 1990 there were [inaudible 00:03:07] budgets was that that really hurt low income people, really hurt, and Putaruru was reeling from that shock plus the fact that the sawmills were all closing. And so what’s happened in Putaruru is that the families least able to cope are still there and the families who have the means to move have moved. So Putaruru high school, my school that had 700 when I was there, is down to 300 and that includes the intermediate school these days and of course it’s very low just the whole school as opposed to my day where it wasn’t like that at all because even the capable families or well to do families that are there now all sent their children out to school, to Cambridge, private schools in Cambridge or Hamilton. And even the teachers, only three of the city teachers in Putaruru actually lived there.


And it’s had a lot of troubles. The education review board that has been in there because the schools had suicides and things that put stress on these kids, kids bullying and da-de-da. So I think that’s a bit of a microcosm of what’s happened, the worst of what’s happened during the economic adjustment. Let me put it to you this way, they are still waiting for trickle down.


Shane: Obviously you see that happening right across New Zealand in the small towns … a big shift there.


Gareth: Yeah, I mean, well creative destruction is part of, you know, that’s part of economics and how economies work. Industries, businesses come and go but really I would have thought the role of government in the civilised society has to cushion the impact of those inevitable changes. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have the changes but cushion the impact of those inevitable changes on the most vulnerable people, who tend to be the ones with the lowest skills, the lower wealth, basically the lower capability to adjust themselves. And I think that’s probably where we let ourselves down a bit with the Rogernomics revolution that had to happen, there’s no doubt about that. And of course that was a liberalisation type move, Americans were over regulated and we were, we had a constitutional crisis back in ’84 so Rodgernomics was a response and so I was quite a fan, and still am actually, of liberalising markets. What I’m not a fan of neoliberalism and there’s a very big difference.


Liberalisation, as any economist will tell you, is when you move to free and competitive markets. Neoliberalism is when you have free markets but they don’t have to be competitive, in other words they can be dominated by one or two players who in economic [inaudible 00:06:01] extract economic wind because you have no choice but to buy from them. And unfortunately that’s what ergonomics moved on to. Under the Nats mainly but also under Helen Clark’s government, she didn’t pull it back sufficiently. And so as a result of that now we’ve got this rising inequality in New Zealand that’s been, that really took its fist in 1990 when the mother of all budgets in the town of Christchurch under John Key’s government. That’s come under the guise of extreme unaffordability of housing that he has allowed to manifest itself. So rising inequality, rising in probably a ridiculously low affordability of housing is where we are now.


Shane: So we have two parts to this question. One is obviously there is a bit, I can hear the upset in your voice when you’re talking about your home town and what happened there. So obviously it’s very personal, you felt personally the effects of those…


Gareth: It was just so unnecessary. We had a thriving cross section of community, we had some fantastic people come out of that school, Lorraine Muller the runner, of John Graham who was the head of Auckland grammar, Wayne Smith the All Blacks coach, you know? It was a real, I mean, schools are the centres of communities and so if you start [guessing] the community like we have under tomorrows schools and encouraging people to move to a distant school then those capable are going to do that and there was no evidence whatsoever internationally that that sort of streaming of people into the education system does the people at the top any good at all. There’s no evidence for that but there’s a hell of a lot of evidence that tells you that the people left behind in the residual schools do suffer. And the reasons were obvious. The incomes of the parents tend to be lower, the capability of the parents in the terms of being trustees tend to be lower, they’re lower school people, and so you just do not get the community support of your school and the school is nothing without the community support.


So I’m not a fan of tomorrow’s schools at all. I would rather we went to yesterday’s schools and then go straight from there onto the Scandinavian model.


Shane: Where would you describe yourself on the political spectrum? Because you’ve done pretty well out of the economy as it happened, you know?


Gareth: Thailand.


Shane: But at the same time you’re also still pretty upset about what happened and you have described a fairly interventionist approach to the economy. Where would you describe yourself or do you have, how would you describe yourself?


Gareth: Some would say I’m indescribable but I would say progressive liberal if you want a label. Or my political pal Jeff Simmons calls us radically centrist and I think we just are keen to do stuff that works so we are very evidence based as a party. Just about every policy we’ve done, we’re offering, has a book behind it and that book will basically be a researcher’s survey of you know the Brains Trust on that particular subject. I’m not putting us up as the geniuses but what we’re doing is saying, “well what is the state of academia on this particular issue?” We’ve actually just released another book called Pennies from Heaven which is all about how do you actually solve poverty in New Zealand so the books keep coming. But others would call it capitalism but I would put it this way, you cannot build sustainable prosperity on anything but a foundation of fairness.


Sam: So if you are looking, you conceived the party because obviously there’s a gap somewhere, you’ve perceived a gap in the political spectrum that’s been offered in New Zealand, so where is that gap? Where is it?


Gareth: Well there’s no progress so if you want to go backwards you would vote Winston Peters because Pearce essentially harps back to the past all the time he’s worked on, he’s described as an old fashioned conservative. So that’s where you would go with Winston. If you want to go nowhere then it really doesn’t matter vote National or Labour they will give you nothing. And the reason for that is that these are establishment parties with career politicians who basically their mantra is do not disturb or do as little as possible because you could put your voting base at risk. And we’ve seen that with superannuation you know? This is Muldoon’s biggest election bribe, the most successful election bribe that’s ever happened in this country and just remember Winston Pearce lays his craft on Muldoon’s knee.


And that’s what, you know, it was a populace policy and here we are 42 years later and we still haven’t dealt with that. That’s the do nothing governments that have fallen. But you know we have to do something about this thing, it’s like a monster, and I just think that people are ready for it and I don’t see anybody offering to go for it. I mean obviously we have the Green’s as well, who I have a lot of respect for, obviously on environmental matters, their economics worry me but we’re not far apart at all on environmental issues.


So the decision we made was let’s just put common sense, this is how you go forward in stuff, in front of people now, and they will either say, “yeah run it by us, let’s give these guys a bit of influence” or they’ll say, “nah we quite like no change”. What really concerns me with no change is that we are drifting, you know we are drifting to the inevitable, which is an extreme reaction, which is what you’ve just seen in the U.S. and you will soon see in France and the spectre of that I don’t like at all because that is really polarising across the population. So I’m trying to head that off at the pass but it’s like, hey. We can do these changes in an orderly fashion and we can reestablish our democracy so that these governments that we get actually serve everybody in New Zealand not just sector interests.


Sam: So when you think about the kind of person that’s going to vote for you, who is that? What does that person look like?


Gareth: Well, we’ve done a couple of gigs so far on the road in Invercargill and Dunedin, they’ve both been big crowds. They’ve both been right across the age spectrum. One thing that’s quite common is people will say to you, “I’ve never been to a political meeting before in my life”, I’ve heard it from every party that’s on offer over the years and you know I’m just woken up by the fact that we could do something. The questions at the gigs have been fantastic so if they ask you a question as, do you think it’s any New Zealander that cares? That cares beyond themselves, beyond their immediate family. That cares about what the future generations are facing in this country.


Which is, you know, I’m concerned that my grandkids won’t even be able to afford the blooming rent. Let alone, you know, buy a house. And who actually do care for the people at the bottom of this rising and the quality. So those people, that I’m talking about, are right across the political spectrum so I cannot give you a two dimensional profile of who we’re talking to. I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen at the end of the …


Sam: You’re speaking with some passion there. Are economists allowed to have that passion?


Gareth: No. That’s why I’m a little estranged from my colleagues. I mean, you know, you look back through all our books and you know, we’ve had help on a lot of these issues from some extremely confident and leading New Zealand academics and global, actually, when it came to the climate one, academics. Quite flawless research, quite flawless. So then I get to this point and I say all right, it’s time to stand up now and do something about this. We’re going to go with the political so the first thing I want, is I want competent team mates.


I want a competent team around me so I turn on these people who are all in their own authorities, in their own right, come on you’re getting near the end of your career at the university or wherever, come and give us a hand. Because you are the icon on your treasure map and I want you. God no. Why would I give my, that’s too much. Why would I subject myself to ridicule? And you know, so they are all in the head share and I can’t get them out and it’s exactly the same experience I had when I raised the issue of cats, which you might recall. You know, I had a 40 year economics career and I spent two weeks on cats and what do I get known for? Cats.


When I did that it was because, when I launched cats to go, it was because I had been told by DoC and Forrest and Bird actually, that cats were by far the main predator in New Zealand. So I said, “well come on then. Let’s tell the people and the people will do something about it.” Forest and Bird said, “we’re telling the people.” I said, “why?  And they said, half of our subscriptions come from people with cats.” And I said, “but that’s not the point. They’re still sensible people, they’ll know that by confining the cats they can have both so that’s the price of your ethics is it? It all begins and ends at the tail.” Yes. So and SPCA was the same.


Okay. So now we’ve made traction on cats and now we’ve got councils doing it. Chipping, something. Whatever it is. Snip and chip in Wellington for cats. Auckland all wandering cats are feral even if they’ve got those on them and a chip so. It’s getting heavy now. Councils have picked it up and they are running with it. so it’s now, four years later, conventional wisdom. But at that time I went with it. It was like the pioneer getting all the arrows in the bag. No one would stand up with you and it’s like this now with the politics. So you wait. If this thing gets momentum they’ll come out of the woodwork, which is fine, everybody’s got to find their own comfort level but to answer your question that’s why I’m a little estranged right at the moment from the economics establishment.


Sam: Where do your ethics come from?


Gareth: Boy, that’s a hard one. I don’t know, I think it’s emotional. I think when I see somebody, I mean I have a core belief that you should treat other people exactly the same as you want to be treated yourself. So it’s very simple, you know, I’m going to say ridiculously simple and so when I see that not happening it actually emotionally upsets me. I can’t control it, it just happens. So it’s about combining that with the logic, the analytical skills, da-de-da-de-da. All that stuff we are doing at the university, whatever, and trying to get the evidence based to help you to achieve your value set. And actually believe that’s how New Zealanders feel. I think New Zealand’s just traditionally other people who, you know, champion a fair go. And that actually puts us incredibly close to what drives what they call the Scandinavian model on many fronts.


We don’t actually mind paying a bit more tax if we had the most civilised society in the world and I think that’s something to aspire to. And obviously so does the rest of the world, that’s why they are banging down the doors to come here.


Shane: So what you’re describing is a passionate view of ethics but that’s not what, you know, economists always talk about the rational actor [crosstalk 00:18:39]. So what’s your opinion on the so called rational actor in economics and society?


Gareth: Yeah.  Well I think people are rational, not every single one of us. I think if we’re going to use economic balance we have a very high discount rate. Which means, in English, we value what happened yesterday and what we think is going to happen tomorrow a hell of a lot harder than anything that’s a year ago or a year ahead. You understand what I mean? So we don’t look past our noses, how I put that in English, and that can be a real encumbrance in terms of doing things that have a longer pay back period. That’s why I say in the Health Check that you will see politicians prefer to be opening hospitals, cutting waiting lists and opening hospitals, than investing money in prevention. Because there’s no cheer and that’s what you’re seeing with the National Party at the moment.


They are announcing these wonderful policies that don’t kick in until world end, you see what I mean? So the discount is actually high, so they say, “well we know that we’ll get you emotionally or swimming holes whether they don’t even have any water in them they’re still a swimming hole by the way. You know the Greens got to get upset about this. But we won’t do that until the year’s up and we won’t do it until New Zealand’s secrets will get us 76. Well the problems sort of were …” you see what I’m saying? So we’ve got this emotional, yeah this is the right thing to do but I’m not taking any risks tomorrow so let’s put it off on the never, never.


So they’re trying to straddle the two aspects of our, so to answer your question, the rational being I would rephrase it this way, if crowds get full information, so I’m getting safety in numbers here, okay? I’m not talking about you the individual but you and me and all the rest of us as a crowd, if we get full information then the crowd will elect very rationally. Doesn’t mean to say each and every one of us does but the average will be rational. So yeah, that’s where I come from and that’s why I suppose I’m pretty supportive, or a champion, of free and competitive markets because all of the markets are an expression of a crowd. So you cannot allow the market to be dominated by one or two players. That is neoliberalism. That is what we mustn’t have and that’s what we must address so it’s free and competitive.


Shane: So on that matter of good information, one of the things that has been a real issue with the Princes of Brexit Campaign and with Trump’s election in America was being this proliferation of you know what could be called fake news, anyway, what we would call propaganda beforehand. How do we assure, and the fact that the media is often, is now captured by one or two key organisations. How would you address, for instance, that problem here in New Zealand?


Gareth: Well don’t let the problems get so extreme that that’s what it drives people to. I mean I can remember when Trump put himself up for nomination for the Republican party and my wife Joann said, “He’s going to win this thing.” And I said, “of course he’s not going to win, the guy’s a moron.” And she said, “Gareth, you’ve spent a lot of time in the Appalachians in the southern states, you know he’s going to win. Because those people are going to run on fear and the people in Washington and California wouldn’t have a clue about how those people feel.” You know? They’re the bullets for the guns in the middle east, you know, cause it’s their kids that go to the middle east. They’ve got no jobs now and the Democrat regime hasn’t delivered them anything in the terms of social services. I mean, you know, it used to be the dream in America to have a three bedroom home in the burbs and you know a Chevy pickup and now it’s a trailer home and a ride on mower, then it’s a John Deere if you’re really doing well.


And it’s that complete smashing of what they thought they stood for and the fear that they haven’t won against terrorism and it’s coming their way, to their town any day, that’s actually driven that extreme reaction. Now I’m not saying that’s imminent in New Zealand, I’m not saying that, but what is imminent in New Zealand is the thing that we’re talking about which is, you know, housing. You want to own your own house? Forget it, it’s not going to happen. They’re being bought up by guys like me and on masse, foreigners, on masse and you know land bankers who are surrounding cities now holding hand and choking a city for expansion until the prices are right.


So all that does, that sort of stuff, is alienate people. And the one I’m worried about in New Zealand is the intergenerational alienation. I mean I’ve saw, not too happy about towns today like Putaruru and all the rest, but the thing I see looming is this massive intergenerational resentment. I mean my generation was basically born with its head in the trough and still got it in the trough. So we need to wake up. Now the good news with the boomers is that when I talked to them they’re all prepared to invest more in their grandkids than they are in themselves at this point.


So I think that the politicians have got it wrong here saying that, you know, we’re not going to change super, we’re not going to do anything to injure the boomers and all the rest of it because they’re our voters, you know? And two things on that. People younger than boomers now dominate the polls, there are actually more of them, problem is that we can’t get the voters out of the bed in the morning to vote, so that’s a real issue and secondly they’re reading my generation wrong. My generation does not want to leave the environment worse than we found it, we don’t want to leave our kids with climate change and we don’t want to leave our kids not even being able to afford their rent. So I think that we’ve got [crosstalk 00:24:36].


Shane: But the evidence is that you’re not dealing with climate change, as you say, your generation is buying up all the houses so it’s not that they are reading the generation wrong.


Gareth: No. You’re two liberals here. That’s exactly the reality, what you just said, but what I’m obviously going out there and presenting to them is, this is how we deal with climate change, this is how we deal with rivers, this is how we deal with the unaffordability of housing in the inequality game. And my age is saying, “yes, we need to do this. It’s about time.” That’s where I get the optimism from. So we’ll see. September will tell us but you know. So I agree with you but I’m looking forward here. In terms of there’s a mandate here, I suppose.


Sam: So how do we switch from fear to optimism? Is there a lever somewhere?


Gareth: Well I think you’ve just got to sell the vision and you’ve got to present credible ways to deliver on that vision. And then I think you will get the support and that’s the sort of challenge that, you know, I’ve set myself really. I may be totally wrong and I might be back on my motor boat come September and that’s fine too.


Sam: Do you want to be Prime Minister?


Gareth: No. I don’t’ actually need a job like that. No. I do have the life of Reilly at the moment and that’s a wonderful life and I want to keep it but I’m very concerned to get New Zealand on the right political, do the right thing basically. I mean I’m not far off from dying now so it would be a tragedy if I walked away from all this work that we’ve done and other people have done having belief in us and all of this, you know, saying “I’ve done all those books and everything and just said I’m satisfied now. What can be done? I’ll see you later.” I think you’ve got to at least just put it out there and the people of New Zealand will say, “Nah. See you later, Gareth.” Or, “We’ll have some of that.” Or, “We’ll have it all.” And see.


Sam: But could you stand being a small party with no influence? I mean, those are good ideas, wouldn’t that drive you crazy?


Gareth: Yeah, I wouldn’t go into Parliament. So we’ll talk about that, aye? I need for me 10 to 15% for me to feel there’s a mandate for this. Okay? So if we got in that sort of range for things over there then I’d go and roll my sleeves up and try to have a difference on whoever the party, the leader, you know. Coming from the days we’d stay in the cross benches because I think as soon as you go into coalition you lose yourself. You actually lose your identity, which is the main thing so you know, and we can see under and plead the evidence for that so that’s no no for us. And also I’m not into just governing day to day, I mean who the hell would want to deal with some disaster with P in a house or something and the minister has got to come up with smart answer today, forget it. Get that to go as we want, cohesion politics, I’m interested in top seven major, major reforms.


Now if we don’t get there and we’re down at naught too, well depends I suppose if you get a list seat but if you’re down in one, this is the way, one level seats and you really are treading water having not a fit. But that’s a building block. That’s a building block isn’t it? Just sit there, I mean that’s for the Green’s. I mean the Green’s are down there and they’re doing blooming well and they’ve put in the yards and they’ve, you know, they’re up to wherever they are in that 8 to 15% somewhere. So that’s a long, so I need people around me who are prepared to do that but it’s not me.


I would rather be outside still doing the research on the stuff, still making a hell of a noise, I don’t need the empowerment to be noisy and I’d still be funding that building team. It’s just that I’d get on with my life of Reilly as well. So I’ve got a few personal scenarios there but the main thing now is to get the message in front of people for you, as a public, to make up your mind and then to try and get some decent candidates coming out of the woodwork too, cause somebody said we’re around the electorates, you understand them. And I said we’re somewhere between zero and sixty, it depends on how much talent comes out.


And actually Winston Peters said that when he started too, with New Zealand First and he ended up of course taking in people. He found out how shallow the talent pool was, who were prepared to go political I mean, that’s the problem. It’s a very small fraction of the talent in New Zealand who are prepared to put their families and themselves on the line. And he ended up filling his ranks with no talent. Well, I’m not going to do that.


Shane: So why do you think that is? Why do you think the people are reluctant to go into politics?


Gareth: Because it’s visceral and it’s just horrible. I mean I’ve noticed that already. I mean I, what have we been in this thing? Three and a half months now, we’re babies but I mean it’s stuff like that right.  ACT does an OAA to the electoral commission on us every second day. Just to cause trouble. That’s just the politics that some of these people get off on. That’s like the worst of Facebook, that’s like trolling, it’s no different. You have to put up with that shit. You know that’s my point. You have to be resilient enough to, and I’m not the sort of guy who normally doesn’t react so somebody is awful to me I tend to be awful back with interest and it’s just my natural instinct and people say put yourself above, put yourself above but you can’t get one without the other.


You can’t get the sort of compassion of go forward without the passion of reaction. Which is why it’s very difficult. I admire people who have got that capability, I don’t. So you have to be prepared. Like I’ve had a woman working with us, the researchers working with us, who are the most stunning, fantastic academic brains that you could have met. So I say to them, “come on girls, you’ve got to come and help people. You’re the expert in this.” No way are they coming near it and putting their family at risk and themselves. And that’s just the reality of politics.


Shane: People say that’s reality but realities can change and there’s just something that the toxic environment, do you think that’s levity created to exclude or do you think … what do you think has created that? How would you change it?


Gareth: Well I think it has been amplified by media, I would have to say. Corporate media has definitely amplified this. I mean look at what they’re doing to journalists. They’re losing their ethics, they’re being told to be stars and get a hit or a sound bite with everything they do. You have the celebrity media thing, like the Hosking  type phenomenon or the Paul Henry type phenomenon where the show is all about them and all you are is somebody to walk over, you know, so you come on as the expert and then you get called this, that and the other thing. So that’s what corporate media does.


I mean I don’t support Trump in any way, let’s just get that clear, but by golly we’re that. He read that straight away and he just excluded them. And the media in America are still struggling to understand the Trump phenomenon. They’re still having a [inaudible 00:31:52]. They’re still having to come to terms with it. And I’ll never forget that graph on election day when the New York Times was there with all the polls and it started at 8:00 in the morning, a 97% chance that Hillary is going to win this and of course at the end of the day it was a zero percent chance.


So that told you what the conventional wisdom, how wrong it was and I actually think we have seen that here already. Where they’re talking about more Labour and National day-to-day, do-nothing, do-nothing stuff. That is not what I’m feeling out there and I’ve only done these two towns but I can tell you now there are people who are very concerned about New Zealand that we are drifting doing nothing and they want change and they want it in a positive way which is what you’re alluding to. So we’re going to have to overcome this toxicity of you know these sort of grubby political movements like ACT and you know John Brash’s  extreme right , those sort of guys. We’ve just going to have to somehow deal with them. And we’re going to also have to go past the commercial media, all the stand there type media, because they just amplify what the corporate owners want them to amplify.


Shane: I mean that’s the real issue isn’t it? I mean like here we can have a conversation and we can actually get into some issues really deep, you know, actually get in a deep conversation and explain complex issues that are facing New Zealand or the world but you can’t do that in a two minute interview on national TV can you? And then you wind just butting heads who is the exact opposite [crosstalk 00:33:37].


Gareth: And that’s the show and that’s nothing in terms of informing the public. But I feel the public is pretty blooming intelligent when it comes down to it and they recognise that as well. And I think the public are pretty well starved for quality, …for intellectual contributions that are on par with them not reduced to the lowest common denominator so I think there’s a demand, I mean I can see it, I can just see it in the numbers of these people that are turning up. And the pillar I look forward to every night is their questions because they are just awesome. You know, that tells me, man that guys thinking. You know? So yeah, it’s cool.


Shane: So the other question, the last question I have, is building your party because you could have done it from the top down. You could have said here’s the party come along. A lot of other parties are going to fill up from the ground as well so how are you finding that as a …?


Gareth: Well it’s lonely. We’re seven people, with seven policies, with seven months until election so how’s that for an outsider? But you know I just hope as we get momentum that we get some real talent come out of the woodwork and we actually have seen it on the volunteer base. I mean we did that by election Mount Albert where we got just under five percent which wasn’t bad for a three month old party, I thought, and against two blooming good candidates. Particularly Julie Anne Genter of the Green’s, she’s high quality that woman.


Shane: [crosstalk 00:35:09]


Gareth: Oh she is. She’s very awesome. And you know Jacinda is not a slouch either so it was a good contest and I only met those three so it was quite a dig. What were we talking about?


Shane: Oh just [crosstalk 00:35:26].


Gareth: So yeah, the volunteers that we had at Mount Albert were just superb people in terms of just their intellect, you know, that’s the part that really got me just the ideas they had on the poll. And we just had it again here in Dunedin the same sort of thing. So I just feel from the volunteer base that’s coming forward and wants to be part of this, they don’t just want to give out stickers and crap you know? They actually want to engage with the public on stuff, you know, themselves and they want to head discussion groups and have them Skype in and all that sort of stuff. Which is sort of the thing you were talking about, democracy from the grass roots up so it’s coming, it’s just that you know I sat at the beginning of the year or the end of last year thinking “how am I going to do this? Oh, I’m just going to do it and see what happens”, you know? It’s a standard technique for me.


Sam: You’ve made a lot of money.


Gareth: Yeah, you’re telling me. It’s ridiculous.


Sam: Couldn’t you just be off on a yacht somewhere?


Gareth: Yeah, I do a bit of that. In 2015, I was only two months in New Zealand, in 2016 I was only four. People think I’m here because that’s the power of social media isn’t it? I can communicate, I can do phone interviews and people not have a clue where I am. So I do have that life of Reilly very much and love, we both love running circles around the world and last year we did Indonesia from the top of Sumatra to East Timor so we’re still pretty active and Joann is planning for us to go from Nigeria to Japan so you know, we’re still pretty heavy in that stuff.


But I can’t do that, and if you read any of the travel books I’ve done you’ll find with me it’s not really about the motorcycle it’s about the society and the politics and how do these people get by trying to scrape a living out of bloody rocks and nothing. And you look back at New Zealand and we’re only worried about property prices, it’s pathetic really. Tend to the problem we really had back in NZ. So it’s not enough for me, that life of Reilly I have to, I’ve spent my whole life in this area on economic and social policy so I probably, no matter what happens with the election, I’ll probably still keep doing that work just to keep my intellectual satisfaction going.


Sam: What did you want to be when you grew up?


Gareth: I hope that never happens. But the answer to that, I just want to be me. And I’m a sort of spontaneous sort of out there guy and, you know, I’ve got wonderful people around me and I’m a very, very lucky chap.


Sam: Your investment company for the kiwi saver is ethical investment. To what extent is that viable or to what extent is that perhaps, you know, what do we need to do, I suppose my question is, to make that the norm?


Gareth: Well I think consumers are actually demanding it, just like they are demanding better quality food and a lot of things. So that’s definitely the case in finance and that’s great to see, isn’t it? Rather than saying, “well I know if I invest in a company that sells guns I’ll probably make more money than anything.” And then they say no thanks. The issue with the ethical investing for an investment company like the one I own, I’ve sold it now, that’s actually where I made most of my money, it’s about the degrees of freedom. You can actually, no gain companies no smokes, no oil companies, you know what I mean, fossil fuels [inaudible 00:39:21], but what about banks? Because banks bank them all, you know? So you can only go so far with that because you can’t see through that’s the issue. I’m not saying it’s just tokenism but it’s understanding the limits of that. I think the best thing you can do is live an ethical life in terms of your fellow human beings.


Sam: Do you have a go-to definition of sustainability?


Gareth: Yeah. Our environmental policy is to, for each generation to leave the environment at least as good in condition as they found it from this point on, hopefully better. So that’s all economic growth and all economic growth is is income growth has got to be subject to that constraint so that’s why in the environmental policy we had this whole polluted place thing, so I can give you an example of that. Farming. Just talk about farming, dairy farming, talk about the sub-catchment we’ve been leaking nitrates so the authorities that be, whoever they are have to decide well here is a tolerable level of nitrogen leaching so you set that and over time you might set that down, down, down but you set it and any farm that leaks more than that gets taxed.


These are collective taxes, economics 101. And then the revenue of that goes to any farm that leaches less than that, gets that revenue. So we base it so that it’s completely neutral within the geographic area and within the industry. So what you’re doing is inciting good behaviour and distancing bad behaviour and so far as the environmental target is concerned. So we are very much with the Green’s on the environmental bottom line. Same with the rivers. The Nats have just come up with this unbelievable definition of swimable rivers, they don’t have to have any water in them, I mean come on.


Sam: You talked before about the discount rate but is the problem with the discount rate being, I was thinking about the future or people further away than us if you apply it… what is the economics, can do to overcome that? Is there an alternative model for how we should be thinking for the future?


Gareth: That’s just full information. Once you understand the consequences of the situation, not just for tomorrow but further down, and what the unintended consequences might be further down, you’re discount rate will fall. You’ll say okay, “well if I let this go”, say climate change, “if I let this go then the consequences are could be by year X South New Zealand is under water. Oh shit, maybe we should do something.” So you just dropped your discount rate. So I think it’s about knowledge, I think it’s about people being educated on stuff. And people are hugely hungry for information rather than Mike Hosking sound bytes.


Sam: But after almost every news article, particularly on national radio, and there’s an economist comes on and says oh yes, but that’s going to reduce job rates by seven percent or is able to put a number on something that is quite specific we might argue about whether or not those are just made up, but if we’re talking about some impacts into the future we’re not able to have someone come on and say in a sound bite well that’s going to increase jobs by …


Gareth: Yeah so what you need with every policy is here’s the benefits and here are the costs so that’s the draw and that’s what I’ve done with all these policies, is said here is the good news, we’re a very radical flagship policy which is shifting the textbooks, here’s the good news, eight percent of your income comes into your pocket with the tax cuts and I say here’s the bad news, your house is going to get taxed on the half percent of every vehicle they own, okay.


Every policy has got a positive, there’s no free answers here and the stats quo with establishment parties is tendered to be, “here’s a free lunch, here’s another free lunch”, you listen to Winston, how is he going to solve the housing thing? I’m just going to have the government build more houses. Well hang on Winston, where the hell is the money coming from? Specifically, which tax bar are you going to take the money from? Please tell us the downside of your policy because every policy has got a downside. That’s all economist do so I think, people aren’t stupid, we all know it’s a world of trade offs so once the general public understands the nature of the trade off they all make an informed decision.


Shane: What’s the biggest success you’ve had in the last couple of years?


Gareth: I think just doing the books. Yeah, they’ve been. For me, the biggest joy has been working with those cool people, who are so good in their areas and just learning. Understanding, I mean I was the biggest climate change skeptic on earth basically until my wife read Flannery’s book and said, “Gareth, you have got to understand this because you don’t, it’s clear.” Three years later we had a book. That was harder than my PhD, that darn thing. So it’s just the joy of learning is by far the best part of life.


Sam: What’s the big unknowns?


Gareth: For me going forward?


Sam: Yeah.


Gareth: Or for all of us?


Sam: Well, for all of us. What’s on the next on the list of books?


Gareth: Next on the, well I’m almost through with my book phase, actually contrary to what you said I’ve actually done twenty books. Six of them were on travel and the last one was riding motorcycles across North Korea, you know, it’s never been done before or since. So it was a big seller, that book, in Korea anyway, South Korea. I think the big unknowns really for me is how is New Zealand going to handle the opportunity and the threats that are sitting out there. I mean I am not a great fan of what I sort of call the foreign peril when New Zealand is actually selling it’s land and allowing foreigners to have permanent residency without New Zealander tax status. I just think that’s nuts. The demand from abroad for stake in New Zealand is infinite and the value they are putting on it is going through the roof this is what Sir Paul Callahan referred to as a place where talent wants to come and live. That is probably the biggest gold mine for New Zealanders, I mean, that’s available and we need to cap that gold mine in one way or another.


Sam: We are writing our own book about these interviews. We are calling it Tomorrow’s Heroes. What we’re trying to do is capture the things people are doing that are making a difference because then if we can work out what that is we can bottle it and get other people to do that. So a couple of questions from that. How would you describe your super power? What is it that you’re bringing to the good fight?


Gareth: Well I do think we all learn from other people. As our son Sam said there’s no such thing as an original idea, it’s all in the execution and we do learn from what other people do. And I’ll give you a couple of examples of that.


You know we’ve been riding these motorcycles around the world since 2001 and the number of New Zealanders that will come up to me and say, “I’ve read this book, I’ve read that book on travel and now we’ve gone and done the same.” Or whatever has been just awesome you know and so another thing that we’ve, Joanne and I have been very busy doing, is all this charitable stuff. I mean we had to get rid of that Trade Me money, right, so we’ve been doing all this charitable stuff overseas.


Mainly in the country we ride bikes through with funding hospitals and all sorts of projects, Kiwi Heroes is working over there and there’s some amazing people, New Zealanders around the world, in the most desolate places doing incredible stuff. And that has rubbed off too. We’ve been on speaking tours around New Zealand talking about that and other New Zealanders will say because of that we just sold up. We just sold the house, everything and we’ve been off the last three year doing …” and you just go, blooming heck, it doesn’t take much to turn us does it? You know. So you get a lot of satisfaction out of that sort of thing and I’m the same. I get influenced very heavily by my heroes.


Shane: Do you make any mistakes?


Gareth: Heaps. You know, like I say some of my investments weren’t successes, 30% is probably too high probably 20. So you know I’ve done a lot of those. I don’t think I handled the beach discussion as well as I could have. That’s another one. The beach discussion really made me angry because the public ended up paying three million for a beach that we could have gotten for 300,000 and I just couldn’t get that across. I tried to do it in a way but it was a wee bit too complex and it got lost so I see it as a bust. So you know, not everything works. I thought cats was a big mistake for awhile but I don’t now, it’s been an outrageous success. So yeah. You take risks.


Sam: Do you need to find some outrageous things like that over the next seven months?


Gareth: Yeah, I mean I’m basically an anarchist from way back so you know I get no more satisfaction than throwing the marbles across a dance floor and seeing what happens.


Sam: Do you consider yourself to be an activist?


Gareth: Yeah, in my own funny way. My trouble is that I’m a bit of a lone wolf. I like teams as long as I can be boss, which is almost an oxymoron. But I do, as Jeff put it one day, we are very team oriented, it’s fantastic. We’ll all have a really good discussion and you know we go back and forth and Gareth makes his decision. But that’s the only way we get go forward. And that’s why I reserve the Green’s actually. I mean I love the democracy of the greens but the trouble is that it’s your worst enemy at times, you know, what did Churchill say, he said something like that about democracy didn’t he? You know or actually Churchill has another great quote about democracy which really resonates with me right at the moment, “I used to believe in democracy really strongly until I had a 5 minute conversation with the average voter.” I’ve had a bit of that but that is actually a bit disparaging. I have found that the people who have shown up for me are really wonderful. But, yeah, democracy isn’t everything but it’s what we’ve got.


Sam: Given that you may or may not get in to Parliament, and even if you do you’re not going to be there forever, what do you need to change? What is it that you would do that you were there that we need to be doing differently over the next 10, 20, 30 years?


Gareth: Well the biggest thing for us, for me personally, in our policy offering as the democracy we see it, that by far for me personally. I mean the climate thing is important but it’s a no brainer you know you’ve got to do it. Same with the river, with the environment all that so a lot of that stuff is you know, you’re just falling off a log really from a technical point of view.


But the democracy we see is a bit more subtle and what I’m concerned with democracy in New Zealand is that actually Parliament doesn’t have sovereignty. Sovereignty lies with the cabinet and despite the fact, you know, the law, that’s what it says Parliament does. All the National MP’s who aren’t in the cabinet are essentially just voting further and all the opposition MP’s you know are almost a waste of space. It’s not their fault it’s just the way the system works. So I would like the sovereignty of Parliament restored and the proposal to do that is first you get up a constitution so I agree totally Palmer on that and the point of a constitution is that it means that you and I understand very succinctly what it is that New Zealand values and what we stand for and we will not allow those rights to be infringed on.


So Muldoon would have never, ever have got that superannuation fund changed in 1975 if we’d had a constitution because a constitutional board would have said immediately this is a breach of human rights of future generations. So you have the constitution so that we all know what we stand for and we’re all in the same canoe and then you have either an upper house or a constitutional review board, whatever you call it, but it’s got to have some sort of teeth. It hasn’t got sovereignty, Parliament has got sovereignty and they can say this coming up legislation that you are proposing breaches human rights.


We’re all aware of it, we know our constitution and we say yeah, you’re not doing that to us. So we would have nipped that New Zealand super bribe in the bud and it never, ever would have happened. Rather than 10 years later Cullen trying to caw it back with the Cullen Fund and with Kiwi Saver because it was such a balls up. And we’re still fighting, here we are 30 years later still trying to deal with it. And to me that’s the biggest thing is to get democracy back on the rails in this country.


Sam: What gets you out of bed each morning?


Gareth: I just enjoy people. I just, you know, why wouldn’t you, you know? I know I’ve only got a limited number of days left I want to max out here so that when the grim reaper comes I can’t say “Hang on I haven’t done this, I haven’t done that.” I can say, “oh thank God! Take me away, I’m knackered.”


Sam: What’s the next motorbike trip?


Gareth: Lagos to Japan. So it goes up West Africa and then across the top of Russia, because we have done [soc row] but we haven’t done the top and gets to Japan just in time for the World Cup.


Sam: Well. If you could wave the magic wand and have a miracle occur what would you have happen?


Gareth: I’d get fairness back in the tax system. That’s our number one policy. I think that would solve so much in New Zealand. Take the tax burden right off salary wage earners and get it across us all so that people like me pay our fair share of tax, basically and I think that just solves so many issues, it solves the housing issue, it gives businesses capital for investment because that’s where the savings have to go. It reduces our reliance on foreign savings and stops the Prime Minister from going around with the bloody begging bowl overseas and bending over backwards to help, to give foreign investors tax breaks. It makes us resilient, self sufficient, makes us fear and makes us more prosperous. I mean come on, what is there not to like here?


Sam: And lastly then, do you have any advice for our listeners?


Gareth: Well I would just say that don’t, especially don’t think you’re powerless. You’re hugely powerful. You cannot throw rocks at what’s happening and say this is terrible, this is terrible. And moan and groan about the government. If you don’t exercise your rights in the voting booth, and to do that in a responsible way you have to be informed. Not just a single issue person and not a bigot. Now the biggest issue we’ve got with the voting at the moment apart from what we just talked about, the whole democracy alienation, is the young ones. Trying to get these young ones out of bed in the morning.


So we took a poll on that you know. We went last season, we just did a whole lot of polling, what would actually get you off your bums in the morning to actually exercise your vote? And I couldn’t believe the answer but the number one issue was Cannabis reform. Talk about a first world problem, you know, I’m not saying it’s completely irrelevant, I’m just saying it’s pathetic in terms if that’s the top if your tree, you know, boy just stay in the educational system mate, you’ve got a way to go.


Shane: Okay. You’re listening to The Sustainable Lens on the Otago Access Radio on 105.4FM. This show was recorded on the 10th of March 2017. Our guest was Dr. Gareth Morgan. Your hosts were Sam Mann and Shane Gallagher. You can get podcasts of previous shows on or you can subscribe on iTunes or on [inaudible 00:55:36]. We hope you enjoyed the show.


green party politics

Activist at heart

Kevin Hague

The pre-eminence of the economy and its treatment as if it were the point of society is so powerful, consumerism has been such a powerful force, that people believe their primary relationship is with the economy and not with their fellow members of society.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague has followed his heart through several intertwining careers, in health, in commerce, and in activism. We ask what motivates him and how he sees the world.

Talking points

If I see something that needs doing…I don’t get how you can live with yourself and allow an injustice to continue.

(in the anti-apartheid protests) we created circumstances where people had to make a stand

That experience tells me that it is possible. It tells me that we can go from 20 people on a picket and within six months have 200,000.

It turned our national identity on its head.

It was of justice and deep ethics…

It is possible to awaken some deep sense in New Zealanders that motivates them to move from passivity to action

Climate change maybe the thing. It doesn’t have the same national identity aspects, but there are still the same deep ethical duties that could be awakened.

What is our duty to our kids and their kids? What is our duty to those future generations? What is our duty to the Pacific – our neighbours?

I suspect that when we crack the formula of making the connection for New Zealanders between climate change and their lives and their sense of duty to those future generations – they’re going to be very angry.

Boiling down the sense of duty…what’s the relationship between me as an individual and the collective – being part of a society.

Any one of us in New Zealand could probably construct a life that is a bit insulated from the effect of climate change, but the world cannot insulate itself from climate change. The consequences of the climate change that we have already locked in are going to be catastrophic.

If we can find the key that can unlock that relationship between each of us as individuals and our responsibility to each other and to future generations, that is what will get the 200,000 on Queen Street again.

One of the slogans of the occupy movement that I really loved was “citizen, not consumer”.

A sense of engagement and ownership of government is an essential component of making change.

We have the relationship wrong between the economy, environment and society. We have a situation where the environment is constructed as the raw materials or the waste disposal for the economy. And people are the consumers or the labour input into the firm. And that treats the economy as the end-point, it says the economy is some kind of immutable force of nature that the environment and society need to serve. That’s 100% wrong. We made the economy, it’s not something that can’t be changed – we made it to do a particular set of things, largely to make a small proportion of society richer at the expense of everyone else and the natural world. Well, we can make it do different things. We need to start with our environmental and social goals and then recognise the economy as being the set of tools that we use to achieve those.

We need to be asking the question – what is government for anyway? It is about achieving our environmental and our social goals. A sustainable relationship with the environment, a just society where everybody’s needs are met – those are fundamental to what government is for. And our economy is very clearly not meeting those.

Reaching a consensus on some goals, then working with citizens to understand their agency – their power as a collective – to change that relationship between the economy and those goals. This is high on my list of what we need to try and do as a society.

What we have now is essentially unfettered profit maximisation. If I am a business, I am setting out to maximise my profit, the way I do that is minimising my cost, and that means spending the least I possibly can on labour, and the least that I possibly can on raw materials and waste disposal.

Profit maximisation in a largely unregulated setting leads to environmental degradation, and massive inequality and exploitation of working people.

Deregulation kills people.

People’s health status is a function of their environments

I have a personal theme of inter-generational equity and empowering people

We need to recognise that the lion’s share of the benefit that comes from public education is public good

(Role of student loans in diminished student political movements) Student movements have been a crucial part of the conscience of society…it clearly suits neo-liberal establishment to silence critics.

The pre-eminence of the economy and its treatment as if it were the point of society is so powerful, consumerism has been such a powerful force, that people believe their primary relationship is with the economy and not with their fellow members of society.

Consumerism has atomised and disempowered people, and that’s no accident.

Is there something that I can add? The thing that tipped the balance was climate change. The urgency around climate change was such that if I felt that I could add something, then the duty that I had was to take that risk and give it go.

(Activist) Interesting question. I don’t think of myself as an activist. I see myself and the Green Party in Parliament as the parliamentary wing of a bigger movement for progressive environmental and societal change. That’s the job I have now. I don’t go out and organise demonstrations, I do develop strategy, I do participate in partnership with community based organisations that very definitely are activists. I’m absolutely proud of my record of activism, of the convictions that I have for all of those protest related activities – badges of honour.

(Motivation) I’m motivated by the same things that have motivated me all along – social justice. I don’t see how anyone can be satisfied with their own life knowing that so many people do not have the same opportunities, knowing that so many people live in injustice and poverty. I don’t see how anyone can be happy with their life knowing that we have this unsustainable relationship with the environment that condemns future generations – our kids and our grandkids to a poorer life than we have now.

(Challenges) Enter government, implement green policy for years to come.

(Miracle) A reversal of fortunes. The primary task is to engage a bigger consensus of citizens.

(Advice) Vote Green. Please engage in the process of taking back democracy. Demand the citizenship rights that you are owed.

politics union

Actively changing the world

Andrew Tait

Activism is really important. It is entirely possible to change the world.

Andrew Tait is a Dunedin journalist, he is an active member of the EPMU, and the Mana Party, and was involved in Oil Free Otago, and the Otago Occupy Movement.

Talking Points

Possibilities for positive change.

“One law for all” is dog whistle, it’s code word for racism. Our justice system is inherently, systematically racist from start to finish. Maori are more likely to be apprehended, once apprehended they are more likely to be charged, once charged they’re more likely to go to court, once they go to court they’re more likely to be convicted, once they are convicted they are more likely to receive harsher sentences, custodial sentences.

Law and order, one law for all is absolutely the new rhetoric of racism.

(On meritocracy being an abstract that doesn’t work in context) Anyone that’s interested in real change has to recognise where people are really coming from – you can’t approach things from an abstract point of view, you have to work with from actual communities where they really exist, the concrete realities of their lives.

One of the big problems in western society is the rift between ourselves and the environment. It’s to do with urbanisation, its to do with externalisation of costs and the privatisation of profits, and the exploitation – the idea that the environment is there to be used, and the idea that things are there to be used and then thrown away.

The challenge for us is not to fall backwards, but to maintain the level of civilisation, the level of science, in a conscious way, but to restrengthen the natural collectivism of what it means to be a human.

Fundamentally what it means to be human is to be part of humanity, to be part of a group.

We have to work with those we can work with….don’t waste your time with people who aren’t going to listen.

Working class people have got the power to change the world, we create all the wealth and we’ve got an interest in changing the world. That’s a very different point of view than lobbying the powerful – or at least the people who apparently hold the power in the system.

We need to radically change the system.

Everybody has contradicting conscientiousness.

Somebody might have internalised capitalism too much, they might be living alongside us, but they believe the way to get ahead is to knife somebody in the back.

This is not some Utopian future, we’re talking about standards of human decency that we impose on society in general – the idea of the 40 hour week, the idea of free health care, the idea of education…these things were just ideas, until people worked together to make them a reality.

We do need radical change, but we have already won major victories.

My orientation is always towards what increases the power of working people, because what increases the power of the community, increases the safety of the environment. I don’t think you can separate them.

The best guardians of the environment are the people that are living and working there.

We need a movement of confidence,

Activism: Absolutely. Activism is really important. It is entirely possible to change the world. The world is changing all the time and what we do can make a real difference – so much of what we have has been won by people working in the past.

Challenges: Building an organisation of activists, of people committed to responding. Strengthen the ability, the self confidence of working class people…to fight for rights for the oppressed.

Advice: Study. Our culture is quite instant, it doesn’t encourage thoughtfulness, if you can join a union join it , look after one another but look for big changes as well.

green party politics

Community at the heart of change

Shane Gallagher

Regular co-host Shane Gallagher is standing for election in Dunedin South. Accordingly, to comply with the Electoral Act, he is unable to appear on the show as host until after the regulated period. In this show he appears as a guest. 

Shane Gallagher is a Green Party candidate for Dunedin South and a trade unionist. He works at the University of Otago and formerly owned AliMcD Agency. He was born in England to Irish parents, grew up in Dublin and went to university in Dublin and Edinburgh where he studied Linguistics and English.

Talking points

The idea that you have to sacrifice the environment for the economy is crazy thinking

Science informs our understanding of complex systems but it doesn’t fully explain it.

That technology can fix everything is the Prometheus myth – that technology is going to come along and solve all the problems that we have. But it’s not, it can’t – the problems we have are systemic, they’re massive, they’re to do with our behaviour, they’re to do with our relationships and to do with the quality of our exchanges in this world.

The system we have developed is driving us in a direction that is destructive, and it’s destroying the planet. Technology is not going to fix that problem because the problems aren’t really are of technology. We have solutions already, we can move extremely quickly to total renewable energy, we could go green very quickly, the technology is there or in its infancy but if threw the weight of our amazing intellects, innovation and incredible problem solving at them we could probably solve the last problems we have fairly easily. But the problem isn’t the technology but the systems that we have created: the corporatisation of the world, the drive to constantly grow – we can’t grow infinitely.

We have an elite that don’t want to say “hey, the party’s over, we’re living in the age of consequences”.

Solutions are myriad, and innovative and they’re all about community.

The innovations that we need – for instance insulating homes, solar panels on roofs, switching to 100% renewable energy, switching to a closed loop system for all our products – all these things generate economic activity and create jobs, they save us money, they improve communities as we build community gardens, create local resilience with local food gardens and market where people make genuine connections and communities come together to do positive things together

We need to shift away from a consumerist model of people being isolated in their homes…communities fragmenting, to rebuild community, to rebuild caring and empathy – empathy and compassion are really at the heart of what this is about.

When we look after the earth we look after each other and we look after ourselves. We do all three things simultaneously – it’s about love.

It’s about transforming the economic model. Some companies are starting to understand that if they want to exist in the long term, they have to start thinking about the long term. They’re not amoral agents in society, there to extract profit and nothing else. They have to do good in the world. It’s not enough not to do harm, they have to do good. You can make a profit out of that,

People are starting to understand that they are part of this world. That if they want a good life for themselves and their families their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren then they have to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Business is getting on board.

The old extractive industries making as much money as they can with no care for society or the environment or their workers – they’re there simply to make profit – they’re being superceded by a new generation of business people who actually understand that they’re part of society, they’re part of the world and they need to make an active contribution.

Activist: Yes. I knew I needed to change the world in some way.

Challenges: Bring the message of sustainability out there – firming up what it means for people, and how its different from what is happening now.

Advice: Get out and communicate with people.


Administering governance

Michael Woodhouse

When the city and the cycling advocates and the business community can come together and get a plan for urban cycling in this city, I will make it my personal mission that funding is not a barrier to getting that plan implemented.

Michael Woodhouse is a Dunedin-based list MP for the National Party. He is Minister for Immigration, Minister of Veterans’Affairs, Land Information Minister and Associate Minister of Transport.

Talking points

I would like to be thought of as someone who really beats the drum for Dunedin. Sometimes we suffer a loss or two, but it’s a long game, I’m in it for the long term.

(Are you the unofficial Minister for Dunedin?) Well I guess I’m the official Minister for Dunedin. Because I am the member in government and now around the Cabinet table, the expectation on me to fly the flag for the city have gone up, and rightly so, but we must also be very careful not to fall into the trap of pork-barrel politics because we would be overwhelmed by numbers around the table by people from other centres. There’s obvious positive parochialism about things I advocate for, but we need to be careful not to get into that space because we already punch above our weight.

Every region…has a case that they hang onto for extra funding.

How many kids are in poverty? It doesn’t actually matter. What we can all agree is that there is an unacceptably high number of children growing up in circumstances that we would not consider to be satisfactory.

We have a significant challenge in the social engagement that underpins our community

GDP growth is just measure…there is work to develop a more holistic measure…but for this government perspective, GDP growth, growth in incomes and controlling inflation will remain really important variables in the things that we do.

We can continue to get growth out of a finite planet – the question is virtually answering itself. The argument is about the speed of a transition away from a carbon economy and into a non carbon economy essentially. Politically we won’t always agree about whether we are moving far enough fast enough, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that science is taking us into a place where we’re going to be better off.

I don’t think we’ve maximised our potential for growth in our agricultural sector. The question then, is are we going to do that at an unacceptable cost to our environment. I think we can grow the sector, yes it’s finite, but I don’t think we’ve reached the limits of our potential for food production, for forestry production, for sustainable fishing…

We’ve got no shortage of water, it’s just not always in the right place at the right time when we need it.

We risk looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

We’ve solved point source…now we have a much more thorny issue of non-point source, farming run off. I am open to the view that geologically there are parts of our country that are not well suited to intensive farming – particularly dairy. I worry about the Manuherikia and parts of North Otago – the soils are just too porous for that kind of farming.

I’m really encouraged but by how the farming sector has improved its practice. There was a photo in the paper the other day – its always a file photo – of a cow standing with dirty legs standing in a dirty creek dirtying the water. And thats simply unacceptable, but it’s also very rare relative to what it was

Selling our (National’s) environmental record is problem, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily our Achilles heel. We have a strong blue-green lobby and environmental management is not the preserve of the left.

We have to balance a number of sustainable issues, including economic sustainability. Primary industries remain the backbone of our export sector. A balance has to be made, there’s always a tension around where that balance falls. I think we do extremely well.

By exporting food we’re getting double hit by our environmental record. We don’t blame Saudi Arabia for our fuel consumption.

We are reliant on extractive industries….and always have been…this is business as usual. It’s unfair to portray the National government as different or extreme when it comes to exploiting our natural resources because that’s been going on for a very long time.

(Why are we investing in roads, when we’re faced with Peak Oil and Climate Change?) Oil is finite and is having an environmental impact…in one year new cars are running on a fifth of the fossil fuel, next year it could be a tenth, by 2020 …I think we are much closer to the technological tipping point than people think.

When you factor in technology, yes oil is finite and wee need to remove reliance on it, there’s a rapid uptake of new technologies, and human nature is such that we like our independence – especially kiwis – we will still need roads, that’s what buses go on by the way.

We sell them as new roads, but…with most of them we’re not creating capacity for the future, we’re playing catch-up after years of neglect and years of very rapid population growth.

The more freight we get on the rail the safer our roads will be.

The one that affected me the most has been Invermay, you expect some things in decision making to go against your city, but for me that has been the one that has bounced hardest…I have to defend a crown research institute to make the decision they think is right for the countries science even though it might not be good for Dunedin. I’m more convinced though not completely convinced that they’ve got that right.

Hillside was very problematic politically, the wonder for me was that the decision wasn’t made sooner.

I think everybody in parliament does so for good reason, and we all want the same thing – we all want New Zealand to be the best it can be, and the most sustainable it can be for that matter. We might disagree very vehemently on the path to that destination, but we’ve all got the destination in mind.

(Activist) Yes, but not a publicist. I found (protests while I was at university) rather curious, that doesn’t make me any less active or less passionate about making change. If I was around in the Vietnam era I’d probably by sitting quietly on the side watching not throwing eggs at the police…I was in favour of the Springboks tour…the protestors intrigued me.

You don’t need to be waving a banner to say you’re on the side of the oppressed, it’s all about method.

Advice: Enjoy life, happiness is journey not the destination.

politics poverty

Child Poverty Panel

Child Poverty Panel

What do you plan to do to improve the lives of children living in poverty?

Tonight’s show comes to you from the political panel on child poverty held in Dunedin on July 10th 2014. The panel was wonderfully organised by the student led group Choose Kids. The session was chaired by Dunedin mayor Dave Cull.



The entire, unedited Q&A section is available at

government green party politics poverty


Jan Logie

Can we afford policies to address child poverty? First, Yes. Second, Can we afford not to?

Jan Logie is a Green MP. Before becoming an MP Jan worked widely in New Zealand social and human rights organisations. She is Greens spokesperson for Income Support, Immigration, Women, Pacific Island Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, Human Rights, Rainbow Issues, Overseas Development Aid and Associate for Housing. We begin by asking if there is a common thread running through all those areas.

Talking points:

A lot of what is going wrong in our society is around unbalanced power. That’s around people access to things and it’s also around treatment of the planet.

I’ve always been bemused by people making social justice separate from environmental issues – it seems to me that the people messing up our planet are the same people with the wealth and the resources. They are able to do both of those things because they have too much power – an uneven share of power.

Go out and listen to people, rather than tell.

I really want everyone to be able to live up to their potential and live free lives. Domestic and sexual violence are massive barriers to that in New Zealand…epidemic rates…1 in 3 women likely to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In terms of sexual violence, the figures for girls are around 1 in 4, and for boys between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 are likely to be sexually abused in this country… that’s horrific.

For some people the silence around these issues and the blame around these issues, will mean that they won’t get the help that they need…the consequences of that violence will be really compounded.

We need to make this a priority for us to deal with as a country.

We had a bit of a spate of taking it seriously politically, and then it went off the agenda, it’s almost like “oh we tried…there’s nothing more we can can do”. We’re starting to get another wave of a response, of people saying “this is ridiculous”. It doesn’t have to be like this, we need the systems responses, government departments to actually do what they need to do in response. And they’re not. The systems have been breaking down terribly.

It is absolutely a result of decisions made around the Cabinet table. Womens Refuges have had their baseline funding reduced over the last six years.

(On banknotes getting $80M but sexual violence advocates struggling) It’s just skewy values.

The women’s vote can swing an election.

What is primarily (but not exclusively) male violence against women is founded on a sense of entitlement…and that is founded on women having a lesser place in society.

Trickle down has been so thoroughly discredited, yet we hear it all the time….(To see how it doesn’t work)…you only have to look at how productivity has increased so much more than wages.

Child poverty is outrageous. A quarter of our children living in poverty. Numbers are disputed, but it was about 10% in the 1980s, and now it is around a quarter. And the levels of severe deprivation have increased.

They aren’t getting enough food, they don’t have warm houses, their houses are damp, they don’t have proper clothing, or shoes without holes.

Houses full of nothingness.

We’re taking out all of the things that help our children and young people grow and learn and thrive – they’ve just been sucked out of their lives by government policies.

Think about how important the first seven years are to someone’s entire life – and what we are doing to them, and as a consequence to all of us. It will require much more expensive interventions later, and it’ll never be an even playing.

To make inter-generational changes: start. Go beyond piecemeal.

Claims that you just need to be out working, shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of people’s lives and what we consider work. There’s also not enough jobs. And what about people with disabilities…are we saying that they’re not deserving to participate in society? And the value of parenting? And because levels of social harm haven’t been fully addressed…and not everyone is going to fit into our ultra-efficient high performing world. Some people fit into that and some people don’t – are we saying that they don’t deserve to be able to live a decent life?

There’s a really strong interaction between income support and work policies, we need to make people help make those links. It is in most of our interests to drive towards a high wage economy, where part of that economy is a decent social security system.

I’m getting a sense that there is a cultural shift away from individualism.

A meritocracy, deserving/undeserving poor concept rests on an individualistic approach. I’m sensing a cultural shift towards recognising our interdependence and the links between us.

The world, sadly, is proving our policies right. (would you like to be wrong on some of them?) Absolutely.

That’s the biggest question facing any movement for social change. How do we get there? The policies are clear, but it’s how do we bring people to the idea that those policies might actually work, that we all have something to gain from these policies.

There’s too big a gap between parliament and our social movements.

I see amazing people doing amazing things, and think this is really exciting, how do we create the tipping point of cultural understanding?

New Zealand has had a really vibrant civic society, that has characterised our society…the weakening of that it a huge lose to our society.

In my heart I’m an activist. But maybe I’m too deeply compromised as a politician…I like to think I’m an activist-politician.

The whole world feels a better place if you are active and trying to create the world you want.

(Miracle question) If everyone suddenly got that we’re all in this together.

Bryan Bruce’s survey of political parties on child poverty.

Patricia Widener who discussed the role of activism and social movements.

government green party politics transport

Changing transport win:win

Julie Anne Genter

I realised that there’s not much you can do to improve things (in urban planning) if you don’t address transport…it affects many of the public spaces between the buildings, it impacts on the energy we have to use to get from place to place, and it also has a big impact on household expenses.

Julie Anne Genter is a Member of Parliament for the Green Party. Amongst other roles, she is spokesperson for Transport.

Talking points

Transport is the easy win:win the thing we can change that would have a positive economic impact, positive impacts for society, and very positive impacts for the environment

How can walking, cycling and public transport possibly be more expensive than every household being utterly dependent on two or more cars?

“No blood for oil”…I was 12,and that made perfect sense to me, we shouldn’t be going to war, and certainly not for oil.

It would be useful to have more critical training. In politics there’s a lot of logical fallacies being used and they’re repeated in the mainstream media. It’s not that hard to pick it apart with training in critical thinking, but if people haven’t had that training there’s no reason people should be able to innately do it.

(On the argumentative theory of reason) Most people are quite bad at abstract reasoning…reason isn’t something that people use individually, it’s something that functions in a collective, it works through argument.. .people are really good at arguing their case, they’ve already got a position and they’re really good at finding arguments to support their position – whether they are logical or not – so reason operates as part of a group, we argue and debate, it is the wisdom of the crowds that sorts out which argument is best and makes the right decision.

Maybe what we need is critical thinking, but on the other hand maybe what we need is to be less afraid of having open debates…maybe that’s what’s missing in our democracy is having more people engaging in debate.

(one of the four values of the Green Party charter) appropriate decision making…decisions will be made at the lowest level at which they affect people…it’s important for all of the different points of view to be represented in political debate and that we have to be willing and open minded about listening to each other in order for us to make good decisions as a society…that doesn’t happen in parliament, the political parties already have their positions decided and most of the debate is just for show.

We’re not really listening, it’s like one party gets in power and they do whatever they want, then another party gets in power and does something different, but aren’t collectively having a debate and making decisions based on the information that’s available to all the different citizens of New Zealand, and I think we’d make better decisions if we were able to do that.

Spending almost half the entire transport budget on 4% of vehicle trips is a huge opportunity cost – those projects aren’t going to substantially reduce transport costs for households or business, they’re not going to reduce congestion in the medium or even short term…dumping more cars onto congested local roads…and it’s so crazy…spending this much money on new highways when we know highways don’t reduce congestion, they don’t increase economic productivity…what we could buy with 12 billion dollars to invest in the rail network, in public transport, in walking and cycling in towns and cities…we could have a much more balanced transport system.

It’s very strange that the rail network is expected to be funded by the profit from a rail company while we’re dumping billions of dollars on the state highway network.

the government treats them as two separate things…despite there being obvious benefits for the road network from improvements in the rail network.

Very few people benefit from the status quo

Getting more people onto public transport, walking and cycling is great for freeing up the roads for people who need to drive, including the truck drivers.

It’s a huge opportunity, it’s going to be so easy to do things smarter because we’re doing them so stupidly at the moment. What a win:win, we could spend the same amount of money on transport from a government perspective but spend a lot less in terms of vehicles and fuel, get massive health benefits…

When you look at the benefits of reducing vehicle dependency, it can be justified on economic grounds alone on the money your save, but also there’s the health benefits, benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and water pollution, benefits in terms of using land more efficiently, safety benefits…

(do we have the population density?) We had high functioning rail network and public transport before when we had a smaller population, more spread out…being a long skinny (country) lends itself to rail

Our system is built now for the car, and that has spread things out.

We don’t have to keep doing it…if we invest in the alternatives, people will still be able to drive but some people will have the option to walk, cycle or take public transport, and move their goods by rail or coastal shipping, and that will make the roads function better and people will make different location decisions.

We’re not talking about replacing the car, about replacing every car trip people make now with a public transport trip or a bicycle trip, it’s about getting it from 8 or 9 out of 10 to maybe 5 or 6 out of 10 – an incremental process. But that incremental change of getting back in balance requires a total revolution in funding and policy because otherwise we’re going to keep going in the car dependent direction.

People everywhere systematically overestimate the importance of car parking and car access to their businesses

It’s either a vicious or virtuous cycle and we can quite easily break the vicious cycle of car dependence because we’re the ones who started it….transport and planning bureaucrats who made the decision to do everything around cars

Electric vehicles solves the fuel problem but not everything else

(about the response to banners on the beach protesters being dismissed because they drove their car there) their argument is that you can’t argue for things to be different inf you are living in the world as it currently is – I don’t think that is a good argument, it says ‘if you want things to be different then you should somehow make the different’, but that’s what people are trying to do. I don’t blame people from using a car because we’ve created an environment where it is pretty difficult to do anything but use a car. That’s why I’m advocating for government to change its funding and policies to make it easier for more people not to rely on a car.

People are saying they want other choices, but they can’t go and live in a cave somewhere and change the world.

The only place where people call the Greens crazy is the National Party in parliament..they repeat this point over and over again in order not to have to engage in a proper debate with us, it somewhat works but it’s starting to make them look bad – for example over the climate plan…they called us “off the planet crazy” but they haven’t got a real argument.

I’m not anti-car and there’s nothing anti-car about our policies, this is going to be good for people that need to drive… we plan to increase road maintenance, increase the programme of road safety works, have a more ambitious road safety target…

Green Charter
Green’s Climate protection plan

government labour politics

Regional development


Pillaging the planet for every last ounce of resource in the hope that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we’ve always done is not sustainable growth.

Grant Robertson is the MP for Wellington Central. He is Shadow Leader of the House, he is Labour Spokesperson for Economic Development, Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training and Associate spokesperson for tertiary education, the SIS and Arts, Culture and Heritage. He grew up in Dunedin and was student president at University of Otago. He was visiting Dunedin wearing his Regional Development cap.

Talking points:

I think the legacy of this government will end up being around cronyism

No politician should ever feel that they are above the law

Willful blindness is not acceptable

I think I’ve got a good sense of right and wrong, and when I see something that is wrong I don’t like sitting by

(on Labour introducing student fees in the late 1980s as part of neo-liberal reforms) I wasn’t a member of the 4th Labour Party then and I wouldn’t have voted for them either – those things took New Zealand in the wrong direction…The Labour Party of today – and indeed the Labour Party of the Helen Clark government – is very very different. I recognise that we do have to re-earn the trust of those people, but I’m from a different generation. I opposed those things, I marched against them and I’ve done my best to undo them.

(Why don’t students protest so much now?) I think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, education has become very commodified, the people that can afford to be there are there and the people that can’t afford to be there aren’t. Students are trying to get through in the shortest amount of time possible to incur the least amount of debt.

(As a staffer in Helen Clark’s government) Interest free student loans made a huge difference…
I felt a real emotional sense of having wound something back, we were able to bring it back to something better.

(On student allowances) We’re moving to everyone getting an allowance.

According to DMB Financial reviews, 20 cuts to loans and allowances in this government, the most insidious cut is the cutting of post-graduate allowances… New Zealand needs more people doing post-grad study not less…mad!

We’ve created a situation where 37% of our population lives in Auckland, projected to get as high as 45%, there is no capital city or large city in the developed world that has that level of the country’s population. It’s not good for country, we’re seeing the problems today and they’ll just get worse.

we desperately need regional economic development…we need a spread across New Zealand in the way in which jobs are created.

Dunedin is an example of a city with huge potential and opportunity, it just needs some support to catalyse that.

The strategic advantages for Dunedin are education, ICT and health.

When you’ve got a regional development policy with a government as an active partner, then you’ll start to solve some of the problems.

(Coal on the West Coast) The Labour Party knows that we have to transition off fossil fuels…we have to go there, the world’s gone there already, its about timing and about phasing, it’s about saying how do we use the resources that we have available to us…we have to have a plan for transition, while the resources are there the Labour Party believes that we should use them but is has to be part of a planned transition.

(On differences with Greens) Resolvable tensions

I’m both cautious and doubtful about oil and gas…it’s being promoted as an amazing silver bullet…but they haven’t found anything. That’s because now they are having to desperately drill in places they never would have thought of drilling, depths they never would have thought of drilling because we’ve reached peak oil.

New Zealand needs to think very carefully about (oil and gas), we don’t have the response capability, and while accidents are uncommon, they are catastrophic. I’m not comfortable unless we have stronger regulation…a regime more similar to the RMA…improve the response capability…health and safety…with all of those changes it it possible for it to be done, but it’s by no means a blanket agreement that it should be. Seismically, areas around the east coast of New Zealand are not appropriate, maybe it is OK over in the Taranaki Basin. But I’m very cautious and very doubtful and it’s certainly not where I think the future of New Zealand lies.

Growth is possible but we have to rethink what growth means

Pillaging the planet for every last ounce of resource in the hope that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we’ve always done is not sustainable growth.

It is growth, but it’s not unfettered growth.

We can’t grow the economy on dairy alone. Paul Callaghan calculated that to keep out standard of living now based on growth in dairy alone, we would have to quadruple our dairy output – well we’re not going to do that we’d destroy our country if we did that. Primary industries have got a place, they’re very important to us, but he future well-being of New Zealanders is in other sorts of industries that are added value, that are lighter on the planet.

We can do so much better to capture value.

There’s a core to me, fairness, opportunity and spreading the benefits of economic development more fairly, more evenly in society…giving all people opportunity regardless of their financial or family background.

At the UN the principle of fairness was key…with the caveat of the Security Council…it is one country one vote, on the floor of the General Assembly Swaziland is as important as the United States – I like that.

It’s quite clear to me that Labour and the Greens will be able to work well together. The Greens have taken a different attitude this time around, they want to be in government…a big call for them but we know there is scope for negotition.

75% of voters who gave their electorate vote to the Maori Party gave their party vote to Labour. I have no idea what the Maori Party is doing on the right – they haven’t got much out of it, I think they’re part of a government that has potentially damaged Maori and Maori aspirations.

(on the Green’s Carbon tax versus Labour’s support for the ETS) I don’t think they are major differences, both of them are aimed at reducing emissions, both set a price on carbon, one’s a market based mechanism, the other is a tax…in end we can talk that through. we both want to do something, we both know that we urgently need to do something.

The current government has utterly undermined the ETS – failed to include the sectors that we needed to include to make it a real scheme…done terrible things to the forestry sector. we need a proper functioning ETS, but we can work on a climate tax.

Other differences (Labour and Greens) resource extraction issues – manageable but quite different policies, minor differences around taxation, but the spirit is OK, and I think the values of the party are ones that the Greens can look at, and say ‘we can work with these’, we are different parties…we work work with the people, more often than not we’re working closely with them, every day.

It’s coopertition, we are cooperating, but we’re also putting our own platforms forward and asking people to vote for them.

(On people not voting) We have to make politics relevant and making our campaign positive, our biggest problem in 2011 was we told people what we were against, not what we were for…we’re talking about the kind of country we want to be.

Non-voting is a global trend and it comes back to the nature of how we do politics…

Social media…is a conversation…it’s hard for politicians to make the time…but I’m keen for it to be me, not someone pretending to be me

The younger generation are interested in issues as opposed to parties (political!)…if you give young people issues that they care about, they’ll get involved.

Activist: Yes.

Challenges: child poverty, economic challenges around sustainable growth and jobs in the regions

Advice: Vote. It does matter.

Labour’s Policy Platform

climate change politics psychology

Increasing IQs but bewildered in a complex world

Jim Flynn

Despite our increasing IQ, the bombardment of conflicting information combined with a paucity of training in critical thought renders us bewildered cynics, unable to manage our increasing complex world

Emeritus Professor of Political Studies at the University of Otago James (Jim) Flynn researches intelligence and is well known for his discovery of the Flynn effect, the continued year-after-year increase of IQ scores.  His research interests include humane ideals and ideological debate, classics of political philosophy, and race, class and IQ.   His books combine political and moral philosophy with psychology to examine problems such as justifying humane ideals and whether it makes sense to rank races and classes by merit.  Flynn campaigns passionately for left-wing causes, and became an initiating member of both the NewLabour Party and of the Alliance.   He is currently working on a book on climate change.

Our fundamental question to Prof Flynn is if people are getting smarter, how come we’re making such a mess?

Talking points:

We are seeing a gain in ability to solve cognitively challenging problems in an increasingly complex world around them.

Universities are failing to train critical thought.

I intended studying maths, but I realised it was too much like chess – an interesting diversion.  To engage in real problems that mattered, the hard ethical problems I moved to political philosophy.

Young people are being bombarded with information, without the tools to manage this they are turning off, becoming cynics – less politically active, less informed.

Young people today are no more liberated than a medieval serf.  A medieval serf didn’t have the equipment to think beyond what society told him, these young people may be cynics, but they don’t have the conceptual skills and the information and the historical depth to their thinking to really counter the modern world.

It’s a very bewildering world if you cant find any guideposts to find your way through it.

Universities aren’t giving a critical toolset – you know a lot about spanish literature, or geography or torts, but then you are let loose on the world without a trained mind to analyse it.

One of the chief confusions among students is they are being given conflicting information on climate change – perhaps the greatest issue of our time.

Today with globalisation, climate change we have infinitely more complex issues in the past…today we are menaced by problems that we weren’t in the past

Many things disillusion you when you study climate change,  I have always preached against materialism – that is defining yourself by your possessions, and I continue to do so, because every one of them that doesn’t want a 10,000 sq foot house and a new car every year and wants to serve people, be humane, every one votes with their feet, the more of those people there are, the better of we’ll be. On the other hand, climate change may well derail the world in terms of industrial productivity.

If only I could turn everyone into a humanist…

If you reconcile yourself to the fact that the first world is not going to share with the third world, and the only way that people are going to come out of poverty is that industrialisation keeps marching on and some of it manages to filter its way into the third world, you’re in the ludicrous position of saying that I want the world’s gross national production to continue to increase over the rest of this century. It’s not my ideal but its the only way I can see…we need to get nations in Africa/SE Asia to adopt middle class aspirations…or else we’re going to breed ourselves out of space.  So despite my anti-materialism, I want the industrial machine of the world not to fall apart.  I would prefer that there is industrial progress, that filters into Africa,and gives them the aspirations that means we won’t have this terrible population explosion.

Everyone wants a growth economy, no one wants to see their standard of living diminish.  The only way you can have a growth economy is to freeze temperature at its present level through climate engineering, to stop emissions increasing over the next 50 years, and then at about the 50 year point(because we won’t be able to hold it forever), and make sure that by then we have moved to a more…cleaner and more equitable society.

You can’t exploit the earth forever.

Am I optimistic? No.  I feel there’s a chance.  I’m presenting a third way that means you could at least write scenario that would get us out of this mess.  Clean energy by 2050, do away with carb0n based fuels by 2100,  hold the temperature down in the meantime with climate engineering, thanks to industrial progress in the meantime that has set Africa on the way to middle class aspirations to peak our population.  There are a lot of ifs in there aren’t there!  But at least it’s coherent and better than what we’re doing.  What we are doing is just crazy – there’s no chance at all of this working.

You can’t work for an ideal until you know what is possible.




democracy politics

Systematic disadvantage of ecological interests

Lisa Ellis

For policies such as preserving fragile habitats, democratic policy flux means there’s only really one medium term policy outcome and that’s extinction…
We need to adjust our structures so that there’s fluctuation within a sustainable range.

Lisa Ellis is an Associate Professor in University of Otago’s Department of Philosophy.

Talking points:

(on difficulty of senior management dealing with sustainability issues)

You need someone with access to reality bringing those messages up

We shouldn’t expect enlightenment at the top to save us

One thing that climate deniers have on their side is a really simple, easy to communicate message – that these elite people who are nothing like you, want you to make sacrifices for no good reason – it’s a very simple message, wrong, but easy to understand.

As we make our baby steps towards an appreciation of complex reality, which is chaotic with feedback loops, where even the best modellers are modest about the probabilistic nature of their predictions, it’s very difficult to mobilise the majority in any democracy behind a probabilistic slogan.

“If we all make this change then probably most of us will be better off, but we’re not sure” – nobody is going to go out and vote on that

The message hasn’t gotten through or people wouldn’t be hoping for a Promethean solution… a silver bullet technological solution for anything that nature throws at us (which assumes a divide between humanity and nature).

The timeframes are difficult for us…but if you have access to family photos of really good fishing expeditions, you might notice that the futher you go back in time, the larger and more delicious the fish your family caught were – the prize winning fish are shrinking.

(see for example)

You don’t have to go so many generations forward to get at the structure of contemporary environmental conflict – the majority sustainer, minority extractor

The future generations problem is a flaw in our current political structure

The structure of environmental conflict is straight democratic, we have political structures that disproportionately represent a tiny minority interest – those with interests in the extraction of resources

We systematically disadvantage ecological interests vis a vis extraction interests.

If you are trying to keep your seat at the table but your opponent is continually willing to break off negotiation because the default position is continued extraction not conservation, then you are going to be led willy-nilly to make continued sacrifices in order to keep the negotiations going…So you find yourself mystified, “Why are representatives bargaining away ecological interests?”, they’re doing it not because they are stupid, but because they are structurally disadvantaged.

There are really tough conundra, but we don’t have an alternative to democracy. It is based on a set of easy to understand ethical principles – opposition to injustice…

The very flux that democratic changes of government introduce into the policy making world (and of course if you have a democracy you must have changes in power, otherwise it’s not a democracy) but if you have changes in power then your policy changes, well if you policy was conservation and every move for conservation is temporary, but every move for extraction is permanent, then you have a real problem with unifying democracy and conservation policy, because you’ll necessarily have changes in policy, that’s what democracies do, that means sometimes the extractors are in power and sometimes the sustainers are – well everytime the extractors are in power they can make permanent changes, every time the sustainers are in power they can only make temporary changes, so…for some sorts of policies such as preserving fragile habitats, democratic policy flux means there’s only really one medium term policy outcome and that’s extinction.

We need to adjust our structures so that there’s fluctuation within a sustainable range. (eg Portland’s approach to development).

How is it that this lie that opposes all our interests has become the dominant ideology to which we all submit? Simple message, powerful interests. But these messages not impossible to counter. Unfair ideologies tend to fall when message gets through of the logical of equal justice.

All science is normative

The world is giving us messages that are harder and harder to ignore.

Shane’s number of the week: 40. 40% of bumblebee foraging trips were successful in a pesticide environment compared with 63% in a control environment (Feltham in Nature).
Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Sam is currently studying the relationship between the sophistication of ethical views and position on an anthropological/ecological worldview continuum.

climate change communication policy politics

Shifting the paradigm

Nathan Argent

Nathan Argent is the Chief Policy Advisor for Greenpeace New Zealand. He says we need to challenge the current narrative, that fossil fuels are the future: “New Zealand can get back it’s Mojo, putting us back on the world stage for being the innovators of a smarter greener society, that’s the challenge for us”.

Talking points:

(Am I an activist) An activist largely depends on peoples’ definition an perception of what an activist does. The young me was definitely an activist, I’ve been with Greenpeace now for nearly 12 years. Am I active in trying to change the way we do business, the way we power our homes – that we do in in a much smarter cleaner way, that we reduce pollution? then yes, I’m an activist in that sense, But I think as I’m becoming older and my experience and knowledge has grown, I’m probably more of a pragmatist..pragmatic but in a disruptive sense.

I’m probably more of a pragmatist..pragmatic but in a disruptive sense. Thinking about the landscape, thinking what are the pragmatic ways that we can reach our goals, but ensuring that those goals are always pushing the boundaries of change. Trying to disrupt the ways we do things, trying to shift the paradigm.

One side to Greenpeace, we need to be out there agitating, and we are reliant on the vast number of people who come to us to volunteer to be part of the grassroots activist movement, but we are also an organisation that has to through necessity sit at the boardroom table and engage with business, and push business in the right direction – and sometimes hold their hand if need be.

Sometimes once we’ve put someone on the front pages if need be – if they’ve done something wrong, my job is to go in there to work them to get it right – to embed more sustainable ways of doing business.

We are an activist organisation, but there’s also a degree of pragmatism as well.

The lions share, 90% of our work is solutions focussed – thinking about he science, working with experts, academia to think about the best and quickest way that we can deliver those solutions to our environmental challenges, the greatest of all being climate change. A lot of our solution side work never gets any pick up. The media perception of us and that’s largely the lens through which people see us is all about us breaking the law or climbing onto ships to stop them coming into port, so we need to think about how we tell our story better, but sometimes the substance of that solutions is seen as not really newsworthy when I would like to see that it should be.

People on the phone think “oh no, Greenpeace is on the phone what have I done wrong”, when that’s not the case at all, I see them as an important stakeholder in the problem and want to work with them to try and find that solution.

Our role is to keep pushing the envelope. There is a real sense of urgency about the work we need to do. Not just as an organisation, but there’s a sense of urgency that we’re not doing enough as a society to deal with the problems we have. And that’s when we go back to being the activist organisation, we need to keep pushing the envelope, we need to keep spiking interest in those issues, so that we create the space for that conversations to be had and for those solutions to be found.

At the moment we (NZ) has got a government tat is very pre-occupied in investing all its political capital in resource extraction, typically oil and gas, and that’s largely overlooking that fact that New Zealand as a country has become very good at through several generations at generating clean green energy. We are also very good at pioneering innovation…(yet we’re investing in inviting oil and gas companies to come here).

Given that there’s a growing sense of urgency globally about climate change, and countries and businesses around the world are investing the types of technology that New Zealand is very good at…we would rather see the NZ government put its emphasis on supporting our own engineers and innovators now before it becomes too late.

We don’t endorse any party…we will work with anybody who is prepared to have a conversation about delivering those progressive policies that we need to embed. But, by the same token, as a lobby group we are politically active, and we will criticise a government for not doing the right thing.

The current government in NZ has been woeful on its efforts to tackle climate change, their rolling back of environmental safeguards across the board, our emissions profile is going up instead of down, and we’re not growing our clean energy potential in the way that we should be, so we will be critical of that.

We need to fundamentally challenge the paradigm, we can’t continue to grow and grow and grow infinitely and and just tweak it to a cleaner smarter way. Perhaps growth is too often used to talk about the economy. As part of a transition – this is the practical side of Greenpeace – the radical side of us would say we need to fundamentally address growth, and really think about how we sustain ourselves and embed the environment and understand that the environment is core to everything that we do and we are dependent on our environment. But I think that as part of the transition we need to position ourselves in the debate.

Climate change is the greatest challenge we face, if you look an environmental, or developmental challenges – even if you can separate the two and I don’t think you can – climate change will lead to displaced populations, lack of water resources, more extreme weather events – the impacts are very broad, very widespread and will have severe consequences for many regions or the world.

The way we see it is, all roads lead to dealing with this overwhelming challenge that is climate change.

Climate change is the symptom of everything we do.

The scientific community needs to become better at communicating what they do.

There should no longer be any oxygen for the climate denial debate.

Conversation is dictated by me trying to reason with them about the scientific certainty about climate change, when I’d much rather be talking about what we could all do to deal with the problem. Accept that there is a problem we need to get on and do something collectively, and dealing with the problem doesn’t need to be that painful.

In the longer term it makes sense to do things in a cleaner, smarter cheaper way. If we get locked into a high carbon economy, that’s going to cots you and I a lot of money – there’s going to be a lot of stranded assets. So why not start now.

It’s about putting in place those safe-guards so our kids have got a future to look forward to- that we don’t have oil washing up on our beaches, that we’re no longer inhaling pollutants in the cities we live in, it all makes sense, why would we disagree with it when the outcomes are better for everybody, and most importantly the planet.

Is it the neo-liberal ideology that the markets will come up with a solution? Markets are the problem. Climate change is an absolute market failure. And the market hasn’t come up with a solution.

Plans to feed the world from NZ with dairy product… completely fails to recognise the limits of our country. We can’t multiply our dairy industry by a factor of two or three to meet these needs. It would ruin New Zealand.

Until there’s a price on activity, and you can continue to externalise costs so that the rest of the taxpayers have to pay because we suffer because we can’t swim in the rivers of the taxpayer has to pay for clean-up programmes, until you start making the farmers pay for the resource use, then there’s no incentive for them to do things in a cleaner way.

(On carbon pricing increasing the cost to families) It’s a politically paralysing story to tell when it’s an incomplete story. There’s always a lack of political will to do something if it’s going to hit the taxpayer in the pocket and this is often a reason for not doing stuff. The cost needs to be kept with the producer, but the whole premise of increasing cost is to make them change their behaviour, but the system seems to be incomplete.

Our actions are often bourne of frustration – it’s the final tool we’ve got in our toolbox when dialogue has broken down.

We do have to put things in the public eye. Sometimes the most effective thing in moving a company is consumer pressure. Unless consumers know that there’s a problem with the products, and that through their buying power they can change the company’s policy, so sometimes that’s the most effective thing.

Companies are acutely sensitive to their brand. We use that a lot and we’re not shy about saying so. Sometimes putting a company on the front page of a paper is the most effective way you can get them to move – and move really quickly.

This can transform an industry, as a major player doing the right thing, and telling their customers they’re doing the right thing they get an advantage, and that can be the gravity or the catalyst for others to be doing the right thing so it has a positive knock-on effect.

(On criticism of anti-oil protesters driving cars) It is demotivating , because people think “Well, yeah, actually I did drive my car here. Does that make me a hypocrite?”, well no I don’t think it does. We all pay taxes, do we not have a right to say where our taxes should be spent, whether it’s on education or arms. The system is not working, it’s failing, pollution is an absolute failure of the current system we live in, does that mean we’re not allowed to ask questions and challenge that and ask that it be done in a better smarter way. Ideally we’d all drive electric cars to those protests, but currently we can’t because the system doesn’t allow that. But surely we’re entitled as individuals to ask that we do change the system. Then we won’t need to drive to protests, or banners on the beach, because there won’t be a need to do so.

Other Sustainable Lens conversations mentioned in this podcast:

Mike Sammons
Naomi Oreskes
Rob Burton.

climate change ecology economics health politics

Wise Response (Part 2)


Previously on Sustainable Lens Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark (pod) described work towards the Wise Response campaign.   This call to face up to New Zealand’s critical risks was launched in Dunedin recently with a series of speeches. Sustainable Lens highlights these messages (Part 1 last week).

  • Russell Tregonning: (OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council). Climate change is the #1 threat to health.   NZ a global free loader.
  • Neville Peat : Each generation defines “natural” without realising baseline has shifted – unwittingly we are accepting less and less.  These baseline shift results in community amnesia.  We need a baseline assessment of true relationship of economy & ecology.   Danger of DOC’s dual role of conservation & tourism.  Community fatigue while government dodges responsibility
  • Professor Tim Hazeldine:  Economics is our friend. Problem is not enough market (why are we subsidising polluters?)
  • Louis Chambers:  Generation Zero is not doing this because we’ve nothing better to do, we’re doing it because we must.   It needs an all systems, all society transformation.   We must find allies; change culture; strategic microcosms; clarify vision; pick strategic battles; repeat until we win.