You Want to Live in an Apartment!

Ve vill make you!

Yes, you don’t know it but you really want to live in an apartment near a railway station and either take the train or ride a bicycle or walk to work.

And so we all have to be educated, and forced if necessary to understand this.  And this will be done via the Auckland Council’s never ending campaign to enlighten us.  And they do this via their glossy mini magazines in the post, the implementation of plan after plan (you were consulted, you just don’t remember) and the endless message via tv soundbites etc. that we are creating the world’s most liveable city (a very arrogant goal if you ask me, but no one questions it).

Part of all this is the affordable housing issue which is the topic of the day now, with everyone climbing aboard ready to point the finger of blame or offer a solution.

This article is brilliant.  It describes how local government policies are affecting the poorer people in our society.  By creating the housing affordability problem.  The conclusion is this:

The current regulatory framework and co-operation between central and local government is unsatisfactory.

The decisions that determine the supply response to housing demand and hence the market price are made by local government. But the responsibility for addressing the poverty issues resulting from unaffordable housing is a central government problem.

This split between decision making and responsibility with no acknowledgement how one affects the other is causing serious difficulties for New Zealand.

This whole area is highly dysfunctional and long overdue for reform.

Highlighting mine.

I’ve been saying this for a while; That local government policies are hurting poor people the most –  the very people they often say they are trying to help – for instance when they take development contributions off of a ‘rich’ developer, supposedly so they can use that money to provide services in the community.  But of course it goes straight into their pockets. Bastards.

But of course anyone challenging the smart growth agenda is pissing in the wind.  Over in New York, they want tiny apartments:

A possible solution to New York’s increasing over-crowding problem has been unveiled as “micro-apartments”, a collection of tiny blocks measuring as little as 23 sq m each.

Wow a whole 23 sqm.  The billionaire Michael Bloomberg apparently thinks it’s a great idea, I wonder if he lives in one?  Or perhaps a house set on a nice piece of land?

Auckland planner’s wet dream is taking shape not far from me in New Lynn.  Apartment towers, shared use roads (with fancy shmancy cobble stones, no curbs etc.), traffic lights for Africa (who wants those dirty cars anyway), a $300 million dollar rail trench, nice big train/bus depot and so on.

An artist's impression of the 50m-tall Merchant Quarter building. Photo / Supplied

It WILL be done even if they have to compulsorily acquire your property!  After all, who knows better than a council planner how a suburban precinct should be developed!

I went and had a look at the sales office today.  Mostly people of asian ethnicity there, including the salesman.    And this is not a situation unique to New Lynn, with foreign buyers flying into Auckland and snapping up apartments for their university attending offspring.

Parents of foreign students are flying into Auckland on short visits to cram in apartment viewings and making quick deals for children studying here.

This can hardly be helping affordability.

At least more are being built with consents up to 2008 levels:

Apartments boosted the increase in new housing consented last month,” said Cardno. “In December, 232 new apartments were consented, and just over half of these were in Auckland and Wellington.”

Perhaps the affordability problem will just be printed away?

By simply pressing the ‘enter’ key on the keypad we intend to give the architect the possibility to make buildings directly,” says Dini, “without intermediaries who can add interpretation and make mistakes in the realisation.”

His vision is to cut out the expensive, cumbersome manual processes of conventional construction and give the designer absolute freedom.




Climate Change – Not

We are constantly bombarded by messages that the world is warming, we need to cut our carbon output and so on.

Well I for one call BS.  Here’s a couple of links from the last few days:

Firstly Rodney Hide calling a spade a spade, as he usually does.  A bit from that:

The opinion that informs our news doesn’t shift easy. Five years ago, the British Met Office was busy along with everyone else scaring the pants off us all. It had a “new system” to predict future weather using “world-class science”.

The “world-class” science showed that the planet by now would be much hotter and getting hotter still. The Met Office trumpeted the scary result in a glossy brochure.

Five years on the Met Office now admits that there’s been no statistically significant warming in 16 years. And that there will be none over the next five years. That’s despite greenhouse gas emissions increasing at a rate faster than the gloomiest of gloomy forecasts of just five years ago.

There were no trumpets blaring for this result. There was no glossy brochure. No great headlines. The Met Office quietly slipped the “no change in world temperature” results onto its web page on Christmas Eve. There’s no better time to drop facts that you don’t want reported. There are no newspapers on Christmas Day and little news reporting.

The Met Office went out of its way to ensure that a 20-year hiatus in global warming went unreported. The facts can’t be allowed to shake opinion or kill off a good story. There’s no chance the political reporting here will now change or that the dopey Emissions Trading Tax will be dropped.

Opinion is against all that.

And then something a little different, but similar in that it’s a prediction based on nothing. A much shorter timeframe, but no less zeal:

Climate scientist Jim Salinger has backtracked on a forecast that was going to see the mercury hitting 40 degrees for the next few days.

Instead parts of the country will reach temperatures between 30C and 35C, Dr Salinger said today.

So, I’m a total greenie but one of the very few greenies who don’t subscribe hook line and sinker to the global warming scenario.

The biggest problem though is that climate change is dominates every other green topic so that we never hear of over fishing, deforestation, other pollution etc. etc.  And these are the real problems that actually need addressing.

And that for me is what makes me annoyed.



There Simply Won’t be Enough Jobs

We have 7 billion people on the planet now.

A percentage of these will be of working age, i.e. 18 to 65 say.  I imagine it might be something like half.  So that’s 3.5 billion people who are of working age and if they all lived the lifestyle we have in the westernised countries (and increasingly they are), then these people would have a job each.

And what are jobs for? What do people do when they’re at these jobs?  Well if they’re in the private sector, they produce a product or provide a service.  So they might be making widgets or serving cappuccinos.  If they’re in the public service then they are taking care of some aspect of society.  So they might be cleaning the streets or providing an electricity supply.

But the idea is the same either way, these people are engaged in providing a product or service.  And they usually work for a company who pays them a wage or salary.  And this is how they survive, how they pay the rent, buy their food and so on.

Now this assumes of course that there’s someone else who is paying to consume this product or service.  A bunch of people who are going to pay for that cappuccino or that unit of electricity.  And so far there has been and it all works well.  They call this capitalism and it utilises the free market.

However, as Bob Dylan once said, times they are a changing.  How? Well the thing is we simply don’t need 3.5 billion people to provide the products and services the 7 billion of us need. Why? Well we’ve been getting very good at increasing labour productivity, that’s why.  What does this mean? Well essentially it means we need less people to produce the same amount of stuff.

And so we’re seeing long lasting unemployment in westernised countries now.  Just look at this:

Eurozone crisis live: Global jobless to hit record 200m this year

LiveThe UN jobs watchdog says global spillover from the recession in Europe is driving unemployment higher

The crisis in the eurozone is the single biggest risk to global employment this year, says the International Labour Organisation.
The crisis in the eurozone is the single biggest risk to global employment this year, says the International Labour Organisation. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Why is this happening? Well basically we’ve gotten very good at producing a lot of stuff very cheaply and easily.  As an example, take food production.  Only a few decades ago, 50% of US families were farming families, now that figure is 1-2%.  And this is achieved by mechanisation, better growing methods (technology) etc.

So our societies are going to have to change to accommodate this.  How? Well I’m not sure and I’m not sure it’s even really being addressed.  Everyone’s still focussing on how we can create more jobs.  And this debate is happening in every developed and developing country.  Here’s an example of that.  Very few are pointing out that we will never have full employment again.

I did come across this article which addresses the issue.  In it the author says this:

The key question to ask is how does the individual live in a society where the “reservation job” now pays a lot less? 

The simple answer seems to be that we allow people in this situation the opportunity to increase their skills, and where they can’t redistribute some of the gains from mechanisation to these people in the form of an income payment – where the income payment represents the fact that the “reservation job” that previously gave an individual a certain standard of living no longer exists.

The existence of an unemployment benefit, the existence of student loans, and the subsidisation of education are clear and consistent methods that society has already taken on board to deal with the possibility of the increasing mechanisation of low skilled work – and it is this these types of solutions that are appropriate moving forward, not an arbitrary call to stand in the way of technological innovation.

As a result, the rise of the robots is not something to fear, as long as society and the government that represents it are conscious of the changes that are occurring – and that they provide a security net for those who may otherwise lose out.

So he’s basically saying they go on the dole and that’s OK.  Well I’m not sure that it is at all OK.  People use their jobs to buy stuff, pay their mortgage etc.  Are we going to agree that there’s a number of people who get this money for free, while the rest of us work?  Wouldn’t we all want to be the ones who get the money for free instead of slaving away at some job we don’t even like?

Another way of addressing this is job sharing.  This has been proposed for decades.  So perhaps we work 2-3 days a week, with someone else working say 2-3 days a week to make up one full time job.  And then we all have 3-4 days of leisure time each week, lovely.

Except this has never worked anywhere as far as I know.  the thing is people kind of want to work (well most people anyway), for all sorts of reasons.  Work provides people with a purpose, and some meaning in their life.  It also just occupies their time!  Many people don’t know what to do with 4 days a week to spend how they like.  Maybe they don’t get on sowell with their wife/husband that they want to be around them 4 days a week.  They want the structure, the social interaction, and lets face it they want the money too.  If you can earn $x doing half a week’s work, then you can earn $2x working a full week.

And of course if you have leisure time, you probably want money to spend undertaking your leisure.  And more and more people’s idea of leisure is not free stuff.  they don’t want to spend it doing gardening or walking on the beach.  They want to be at the mall, buying the shiny new gadgets, or partaking in the many and varied paid for activities.

People don’t want to live a time-rich but money-poor existence.  They want the money so they can buy all the flash things.  This gives them prestige etc.

And so we come full circle to the situation we have now.  Which is that people who are highly skilled are in strong demand and paid a lot of money for the jobs they do.  And those without many skills are finding no one wants to employ them at all.  Their jobs can be done by robots or by people in another country for far less money and far less hassle.

Which leaves us with a section of the community that will be permanently unemployed.  And so in various ways we have to pay for them.  Here in NZ (and most developed countries) we pay for this via unemployment benefits, extra police, more jails etc.

The amount of crime in any country is related to the number of young men who are unemployed and disconnected from society.  Young men with time on their hands, no one to keep them in line, who are not owners of property etc. are going to commit crime.  And this is what we are seeing.

And yesterday I was intrigued to see John Key announcing that jails will be implementing a working lifestyle for their inmates.  This is supposedly to prepare them for work on the outside.  They will be used to getting up, going to work (albeit on jail grounds) and earning a paycheck, earning their place in society.  Now this sounds good but of course raises a number of questions such as “What will they be making or doing for work?” i.e. how will this affect the private sector?  and “Will there be a job for them when they come out?” i.e. with all the will in the world, can a lowly skilled convict find a job once they get out of jail?  Or will they end up back on the dole with time on their hands again?

I think this is a huge issue that will not go away, but only get worse over time.  It will be interesting to see how things work out.

Update: French jobs minister says France is bankrupt!

Gah WordPress Sucks

Just spent an hour and a half doing a big long post.

I clicked on the Save Draft Button and got a wierd looking screen that says “Are you sure you wan to do this? or Cancel?”  I hit the back button on my browser.  Lost it all.

The screen just said “Add New Post”.  Hitting forward didn’t work, there’s no autosave of my post anywhere.  It’s gone.

Which fucking sucks.  Who would design such shithole software?

The Sharemarket

Sometimes I look wistfully towards the sharemarket; at first glance there appears to be some advantages over the property market such as:

  • No tenant hassles etc.  Really not much to do with your shares once you’ve bought them.
  • No maintenance of properties, so no time and cash outlay on these things.
  • They all have a price!  So many properties for sale these days are marketed without prices.  Which is just hugely frustrating!  But all the shares are listed right there, with their price, earnings per share, dividend information and so on.
  • Shares in NZ went up around 25% last year.  That’s a huge gain.

But.  And there’s always a but.  Which ones do you buy?  Who knows and how do they know?

Do you go and see some sort of advisor?  Or do you do the hard yards yourself and pick your own stocks?  Looking into the management of the company, their products, the competition and so on.

And therein lies the rub.  I think to do well in the sharemarket you have to do your homework, which means it starts to approach managing properties.  you have to spend a lot of time choosing your shares, when to buy, how much to buy etc.  Then keep a very good eye on the industry they’re in, constantly deciding whether to hold longer or sell now etc. etc.

And share picking is not easy.  Just look at this:

Investments: Orlando is the cat’s whiskers of stock picking

Ginger moggy beats the professionals and a team of students in the Observer’s share portfolio challenge

Orlando the ginger cat

Orlando’s share-picking skills were purr-fect. Photograph: Jill Insley

The Observer‘s panel of stock-picking professionals has been undone in our 2012 investment challenge by a ginger feline called Orlando who spent time paw-ing over the FT.

The Observer portfolio challenge pitted professionals Justin Urquhart Stewart of wealth managers Seven Investment Management, Paul Kavanagh of stockbrokers Killick & Co, and Schroders fund manager Andy Brough against students from John Warner School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire – and Orlando.

Each team invested a notional £5,000 in five companies from the FTSE All-Share index at the start of the year. After every three months, they could exchange any stocks, replacing them with others from the index.

By the end of September the professionals had generated £497 of profit compared with £292 managed by Orlando. But an unexpected turnaround in the final quarter has resulted in the cat’s portfolio increasing by an average of 4.2% to end the year at £5,542.60, compared with the professionals’ £5,176.60.

So a cat can do better than the professionals.  This is somewhat worrying!  But this has been done time and time again, amateurs often beat the professionals.  And the reason probably is that the sharemarkets around the world are not really perfect efficient markets, they are driven by what people feel at particular times rather than what shares are logically worth.

A bunch of reef fish.  That’s what sharemarket investors are.  They move with the other fish and they’re either in or out of something based on fear or greed and not logic.  So you can have really good, sound companies having their share prices nailed when nothing has happened at all.  Or the reverse, companies taking off, their share price doubling, tripling, why? Because some of the reef fish have decided to move that way and the rest madly follow.

So then I think to myself, I’ll just stick to property!


It Doesn’t Always Work Out

We see a lot of property renovation activity on the telly, in the newspapers etc. these days.  And what strikes me about it is that you often never really hear if they have been successful financially in their development or not.

Often the development is for the people’s own use which is totally fine.  Or if they are intending to sell, a sale is never concluded by the end of the program and you never get the answer to “What happened?”. The best you might get is that they say they think the place is worth $x and so they ‘may’ have made a profit of $y which they are all happy about.

But of course saying a place is worth $x and actually selling it for $x can often be 2 very distinctly different things.   And so this story in the Sydney Morning Herald caught my eye:

Dream house an extravagant exercise in blowing profit

Toby Johnstone

Toby Johnstone

Domain columnist

21 Brownell Drive Byron Bay

Maximum loss … 21 Brownell Drive, Byron Bay. The budget blew out from $2.5 million to $4 million. Mr Iacopetta made more than 70 changes to the architect’s original plan.

A SYDNEY couple who appeared on Grand Designs Australia have lost millions on their dream home finished just last September in Byron Bay.

Developer Max Iacopetta’s plans to ”Max-imise” his Wategos block appear to have backfired with the recent $5.6 million sale of the four-bedroom, three-level home with lift and pool. He and his wife Mariella had spent a total of about $7.5 million. The land cost $3,325,000 in 2010 and the budget for the home blew out from $2.5 million to $4 million.

Rest of Article

In this case it definitely didn’t work out well and the owners lost around $2.1 million on this development.  Now they sound like they have a few bob, so this might not be the end of them, but still, that’s a lot of mula for anyone to lose.

It’s also a bit of a cautionary tale about making change after change after change. And arrogantly putting in over the top materials and so on.

And it also just shows that property developing isn’t some sort of no-brainer, some sort of easy way to make squillions of dollars with no downside.  It is in fact an extremely risky business with many a pitfall for the seasoned and unwary alike.

And so it’s interesting to see articles like this where the true situation is presented, and the reality of developing property is laid bare.

Partially Funny and Partially Sad

Look at at this article.  A group of Chinese tourists have been ripped off.  They were taken to events which they thought were paid events, but actually free to anyone to attend.  This is (from the article) what they attended:


The offer

*A grand Christmas buffet, cultural dinner and a great Kiwi barbecue

*Admission to a farm park with farm shows, shearing and milking

*Visit to a wildlife reserve with endangered native birds

*Geysers, mud pools and a soak in Rotorua hot mineral pool

What they got

*Auckland City Mission charity Christmas lunch

*Vegetarian dinner by an “Indian” spiritual group, for which they had to chant, sing and dance

*A sausage sizzle on a public barbecue pit

*Council-funded Ambury Farm Park and Western Springs

*Rotorua’s public Kuirau Park and a soak at its free foot bath

So this is kind of funny, because how could people be so stupid?  But it’s also sad because it’s symptomatic of the culture of corruption in Chinese society.  Who ripped them off?  A local Chinese person of course.

So when we invite lots of Chinese people to live in NZ, and open up to free trade with China, we get lots of good things, such as nice foods to eat, nice restaurants, the ability to have stuff manufactured in China cheaply, the ability to import stuff from China cheaply and so on.

But we also get the bad things like, corruption, drug importation (China supplies most of our pre-cursor drugs to make P), lack of care for the environment, lack of awareness around human rights and so on.

So we just need to remember we’ve kind of grabbed a tiger by the tail…


They’ve Got Them by the Balls

This is one reason why I don’t support public transport.   If you rely on it, you can become a target for fee/cost increases.  And you can’t do anything about it:

Fury as rail minister says fares are not as high as people claim

Norman Baker tells commuters they are paying for ‘premium product’, but Bob Crow says passengers being bled dry by spivs

  • Rupert Neate
  • The Guardian,
Clapham Junction station

Soaring rail prices – UK train tickets are the most costly in Europe. A 24-mile commute into Paris is £924 a year, compared with £3,268 into London. Photograph: PA

Commuters have expressed fury after the railways minister said train fares – some of which have soared by almost 90% over the past decade – were “not nearly as expensive” as presented by the media.

Norman Baker said fares, which were raised by an average of 3.9% on Wednesday, were not that expensive if passengers took advantage of advance and off-peak tickets. His comments came as the government introduced the tenth consecutive year of inflation-busting price rises.

“Once you take the basket of fares, include early advance and off-peaks, we are not nearly as expensive as has been presented,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Some fares between London and Norwich have gone up by 9.2%, and campaigners point out that 10 successive years of above-inflation fare increases has led to an 87.5% rise in the cost of an annual season ticket from Sevenoaks, Kent, to London to £3,112 compared with £1,660 in 2003.

Rest of Story

This reminds me of electricity price rises here in NZ.  Or water price rises for that matter.  These are fundamental things we can’t do without.

And because of that, we’re being screwed.



Our Poor Bees!

This is an issue that gets very little attention. But it’s hugely important.  If we lose all the bees, we’re stuffed because we won’t be able to grow many kinds of vegetables, fruits and other foods.

Sue Kedgley: Government sits on its hands as honey bees die

The demise of our bees would be ruinous to our agricultural nation.
Beekeepers are experiencing unexplained losses. Photo / Supplied


Beekeepers are experiencing unexplained losses. Photo / Supplied

I’ve been contacted recently by several beekeepers who are worried about what is happening to our nation’s honey bees.

A Bay of Plenty beekeeper recently lost 230 of his beehives – or half of his operation. He’s been beekeeping since 1981, and has never had losses like this before.

He says other beekeepers have experienced similar losses. A Northland beekeeper recently lost 900 of his 1000 hives; another has lost 400 hives, and others last year lost half of their hives.

The Bay of Plenty keeper is wondering what is causing such huge losses.

Rest of Story




Illegal Dumping of Fish?

Stories like this really get my goat up.  I bet a commercial fisher has dumped these snapper:

Dead snapper cover Coromandel beaches



Last updated 05:00 04/01/2013
Dead snapper litter the Coromandel Peninsula from Port Jackson to Fantail Bay

Fairfax NZ
WASHED UP: Dead snapper litter the Coromandel Peninsula from Port Jackson to Fantail Bay.

Thousands of dead snapper have washed up on Coromandel beaches over the past few days, prompting warnings from fisheries officials not to eat them.

The dead fish started appearing along the peninsula’s western coast on New Year’s Eve.

It is not the first time this has happened at the small settlement. Thousands of dead snapper also washed ashore this time in 2011 at Little Bay and Waikawau Bay, causing residents to wonder at the time whether they were starving or poisoned, although that was deemed unlikely. The Ministry of Fisheries investigated that incident as well but it still remains unsolved.

Fisheries compliance manager Brendon Mikkelsen said the Ministry for Primary Industries was investigating the latest incident but could not confirm the number of dead fish found on the shore.

But local residents said the dead fish numbered in the “thousands”.

It was “unlikely” the fish died of natural causes and Mr Mikkelsen was calling for information from commercial and recreational fishers who were in the area in the days before the find.

Rotting fish now litter beaches from Port Jackson to Fantail Bay, on the western shore of the peninsula. The find was too much for some to pass up, with campers and residents out on New Year’s Eve collecting fish for the plate.

“There would have been close to 10km to 12km of coastline covered with fish from what I could see . . . and all of them snapper,” a Port Jackson local said. “It’s gutting to see them all like that.”

Rest of Story

And all we ever hear from the fishing industry is stuff like “NZ has the best managed fisheries in the world. The quota system is the best in the world” blah blah blah.