Sanity Prevails

So this morning there was a mini-hearing into whether there would be a rehearing at the Disputes Tribunal into the judgement against Mike McDonald (formerly of McDonald & Co. Accountants).

I had to reread that sentence several times to make sure it made sense!

So, to explain, as per the last post, I got judgement back in late November 2013 against Mike McDonald.  He waited for nearly the maximum time and then applied for a rehearing.

He was arguing that there was no dispute, while disputing absolutely everything he could.  So this did nothing but get him nearly 4 months breathing space.  Today the referee ruled that the original decision stood.

But this was what he was after, a delay.  It’s taken around 7 months to get to this point.

But now things can move on…

A Good Use for Land

This is a nice story, some people are turning marginal farm land back into Manuka so that their bees can extract honey from the Manuka trees:

Unsuitable farming land now home to 900 hives

JAMIE SMALL

SummerGlow Apiaries Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
FAMIY BUSINESS: The SummerGlow Apiaries family handle every stage of honey production, from the hive to the jar. From left: Bill Bennett, James Jeffery, Alan Bennett, Margaret Bennett.

It is a hot summer afternoon at SummerGlow Apiaries just outside of Te Kowhai. Bees hoon around the house, sounding like small cars coming and going on a highway.

From the front it looks like a small family operation: a house, three hives sitting in front of a truck, a shed out the back. But in truth it is a not so small family business, operated by founders Bill and Margaret Bennett, their son Alan and son-in-law James Jeffery.

What you can’t see is the 2200 beehives SummerGlow has spread around the country, including 900 hives on a new land acquisition in Taranaki.

SummerGlow purchased the 900 acres of marginal farmland late last year. Margaret calls it “razorback land”, steep and unsuitable for regular farming.

“Very poor soils, but perfect for manuka,” she says.

Rest of Article

 

Now this land would have initially been covered in bush, but cleared for farming.  Which is a stupid idea since it’s so steep and marginal to begin with.

But now it’s being returned to bush, which is nice to read about.

Another Veranda Story!

Ages ago I had a lot of trouble with the council and the issue of verandas.  Specifically, whether you can built a balcony into a veranda or not.  And if you do, do you have to then lease airspace off the council  I was told I had to, but managed to fight it off.

This story:

Man pays $420 for permission to not build veranda

 

HANNAH MCLEOD

Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
EVAN HARDING/FAIRFAX NZ
RIDICULOUS: Lumsden business owner Rob Scott is frustrated he had to apply for consent not to build a veranda outside the town’s old bank, which he is converting into a cafe.

A rule in the Southland District Plan is ridiculous and defies common sense, a Lumsden business owner says.

Rob Scott bought the Lumsden bank to convert it into a cafe, but has become frustrated by a rule in the District Plan that has resulted in him paying $420 for permission not to build a veranda.

The Southland District Plan says any building used for a commercial activity must have a veranda that extends across the entire road frontage.

If a building owner wants to be exempt from the rule, the matter is dealt with as a discretionary activity, requiring public notification to allow the community view to be considered.

Scott’s application for building consent for the alterations was noticed by the Southland District Council’s town planning department, which asked him to get a resource consent because the building did not have a veranda.

However, he maintains it was an unnecessary cost for someone taking a risk by investing in a small rural town.

“I’d definitely like to see [the rule] changed. I can see the logic if you’re adding a new building in a town where all the shops on the main street have verandas, but this building has been here for 60 years and never had one.”

When he filed the application, he paid a processing fee of $675, but was told by council staff he would be partially refunded.

His final bill came to $420, he said.

Sounded eerily familiar.  And it’s, in  a nutshell, what is wrong with this country.  A guy wants to start a business, so the council sees fit to TAX him for the privelige.  He gets nothing out of it, the council get nothing out of it except money and a bit of control.  And that is of course why they do it.

This part, where they explaind their charges:

A report from resource management manager Simon Moran says the 3.5 hours was made up of 15 minutes for a customer service officer to process the application, half an hour for a manager to conduct the original assessment and assignment of the consent, discuss the consent with a processing planner, and check the final draft, and 2.75 hours for a planner to assess whether further information was required, liaise with staff to identify a way to grant the consent because there was limited information and no consideration of the plan requirements, and capture resource consent information in the database to enable reporting and consent tracking.

Is just like a piece of comedic writing isn’t it?  How did they write this without bursting out laughing?

And the end result?

All but one of the members voted against giving Mr Scott a further refund, concerned that it would set a precedent.

Mr Moran said it was an issue with the plan requirements, rather than the amount charged for processing resource consent applications.

Committee member John Douglas abstained from voting, and said the council should be encouraging economic development.

“I don’t think an action such as this should trigger the need for resource consent.”

So they voted not to give a refund because it would set a precedent.  Yep, turn off their never ending flow of money that is.  Expose the whole charade for what it is – a money grab by the council, nothing else.

The last line is at least encouraging, at least one councillor can see that they shouldn’t be taxing those who want to set up businesses. But why only one?

There’s still a long way to go in terms of reducing council red tape and interference in people’s lives.

 

Christchurch City Council Aims to Improve Development by Banning It

So in Christchurch, after the earthquakes, many buildings had to be demolished.

And then new ones built.

But the people building them, are building them in the wrong places – according to the Christchurch City Council.

So the have to be STOPPED.   BANNED from building anywhere apart from the central city.

This is how councils think.  Regulate, control, ban, impose costs.  Even activities creating jobs, investment etc. – they still have to be CONTROLLED.

From Stuff:

Plan aims at Christchurch ‘s ‘beating heart’

 

LIZ MCDONALD

Last updated 05:00 24/03/2014

The Christchurch City Council wants to stem the haemorrhage of business from the central city by clamping down on commercial growth in the suburbs.

However, it could be another year until the changes takes effect. Central city landowners have welcomed the plan, but say it comes far too late.

The new rules are in the city’s draft district plan review, and would ban new office, retail and hospitality buildings in light industrial (business 4) zones.

This would halt construction in most parts of Addington, Lincoln Rd, Blenheim Rd and much of Moorhouse Ave, where new buildings have sprung up since the earthquakes. It would also affect many suburbs and land near the airport.

The plan, open for public feedback now, comes as developers complain of insufficient tenants to start rebuilding in the central city.

And then right at the end this bit:

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the council was interested in hearing from people about the draft plan.

“The idea is that we encourage commercial development in commercial areas.

“We do need a vibrant beating heart to our city,” she said

 

 

 

CIA Goes Rogue

From the NZ Herald:

CIA ‘tried to hide torture details’

By Raf Sanchez

8:21 AM Thursday Mar 13, 2014

Agency searched Senate computers to thwart inquiry into interrogations, says intelligence committee head.

The CIA illegally searched Senate computers as part of a shadowy campaign to conceal details of its “brutal and un-American” torture programme, a senior senator claimed yesterday.

Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate’s intelligence committee, made the accusations in a dramatic speech that shed light on the behind-the-scenes power struggle between the US Congress and America’s leading spy agency.

Feinstein said she had “grave concerns” that CIA agents had violated the US constitution and were trying to “intimidate” the Senate committee meant to ensure their operations remained within the law.

This is the sort of stuff movies are made out of:

The CIA are believed to have done something wrong, so they are investigated by a committee.  But while they’re being investigated, they’re allegedly interfering with the committee’s documents and threatening court action against it’s members!

Has the CIA gone too far this time?

 

Torture in China

Story in Stuff today. This is the country we are dealing with:

Reflections of a tortured man

GILLIAN WONG
Last updated 11:55 10/03/2014
 

The local Chinese official remembers the panic he felt in Room 109. He had refused to confess to bribery he says he didn’t commit, and his Communist Party interrogators were forcing his legs apart.

Zhou Wangyan heard his left thigh bone snap, with a loud “ka-cha”. The sound nearly drowned out his howls of pain.

“My leg is broken,” Zhou told the interrogators. According to Zhou, they ignored his pleas.

China’s government was under strong pressure to fight rampant corruption in its ranks, faced with the anger of an increasingly prosperous, well-educated and internet-savvy public. 

However, the party’s methods for extracting confessions exposed its 85 million members and their families to the risk of abuse. 

Experts estimated at least several thousand people were secretly detained every year for weeks or months under an internal system that was separate from state justice.

In a rare display of public defiance, Zhou and three other party members in Hunan have described the months of abuse they endured less than two years ago, in separate cases, while in detention.

It was in September that the interrogators broke his leg. Two weeks later, Zhou started slipping into unconsciousness. Only then, he said, did they let him go to a hospital under the false name of Wang Yan, with the story that he had fallen in the bathroom.

Medical records showed that upon admission to the Zhuzhou City No. 1 People’s Hospital on September 29, his thighs, calves and feet were swollen, his skin red and hot and his left thigh badly bruised. 

Further tests revealed fluid in his thighs, kidney stones, an enlarged liver and swollen lymph nodes on his groin. Scans confirmed that his left thigh had broken into several pieces.

A week after surgery, Zhou’s investigators took him back to Room 109, he said.

It was three months later, in the winter, when Zhou finally caved. He signed a confession saying he had accepted 40,000 yuan, or NZ$7800, in bribes and wrote a resignation letter.

He was released in January last year. An amateur video shot that day by his family showed a visibly thinner Zhou hobbling out of the building on crutches. He was helped on a stretcher and into an ambulance.

Despite everything, Zhou hoped for justice.

“I still believe that the Chinese Communist Party is a good ruling party,” Zhou said. 

“I also believe that not too far in the future, there will be a place in the People’s Republic of China in which we can speak freely, a place where my terrible case will receive a fair and just response.”

Source

So you know, this is modern China.  The China of today.  No wonder anyone with money is getting the hell out of there.

Why we have an FTA with these people I’ll never know.

 

Mike McDonald Gets His Rehearing

Mike McDonald (formerly of McDonald & Co. accountants) is a slippery one.

As per my last post on this issue, Mike McDonald applied for a rehearing on the 16th December 2013 for a decision on 28th November 2013.  The rehearing is scheduled for 10th April 2014.

So he’s bought himself over 4 months of time for no reason at all.  He’s been given a rehearing on a point that has already been ruled upon – against him.

So I’d have to say the Disputes Tribunal is fairly useless for chasing debtors.  They seem to bend over backwards for those wanting to evade debts.

But, oh well, I’m not going away, the debt is not going away, the interest is just mounting up and up.  He owes over $33k now.

So, of course, don’t deal with Mike McDonald,  formerly of McDonald & Co. accountants and based in South Auckland.

This Seems Almost Unbelievable…

So now various snooping government agencies can look through your webcam!

Not only that, they can apply facial recognition technology to try and figure out if you’re a wanted crim!

Man big brother alright:

 

Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ

• 1.8m users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone
• Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk
• Yahoo: ‘A whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy’
• Material included large quantity of sexually explicit images
Yahoo webcam image.

The GCHQ program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Councils are Going to Play Nice…

“Business-friendly councils” the new look for local government

on Wednesday 26 February 2014 in Councils, Forward thinking, Governance, Sectors

Local Government NZ launched “business-friendly councils” guidelines yesterday to encourage economic development by identifying ways councils can support local businesses.

Local Government NZ produced the guidelines in partnership with the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Tauranga mayor & Local Government NZ metro sector chairman Stuart Crosby said:  “The guidelines identify 6 key principles that are intended to reduce the regulatory & non-regulatory barriers, costs, risks & uncertainties in all forms of commercial activity to stimulate & support local business growth, retain local business and attract new business.

The 6 principles:

  • Build excellent relationships & partnerships – at the heart of a business-friendly council
  • Context matters – identify local challenges & local business needs
  • Provide certainty & clarity for business decision-making
  • Make every interaction with business count
  • Be proactive and look for opportunities to support businesses, and
  • Respond rapidly & flexibly to business after major emergencies.

That’s about as woolly as any set of flexible principles can get. The real key one is missing: Go for a walk down the street and look at what your city’s about.

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule said councils were investing over $8 billion/year in infrastructure & services.

Attribution: LGNZ & ministerial releases.

 

Oh yeah? And pigs might fly!

Celebrating Life's Little Achievements