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Insights 40: 25 October 2019
Dr Eric Crampton discusses on Stuff how the Zero Carbon Bill will shut the door on NZ opportunities
Roger Partridge comments in NBR that the Reserve Bank did not get the clean bill of health it thinks it did.
Report - In fairness to our schools: Better measures for better outcomes.

Greta is right
Matt Burgess | Research Fellow |
Two developments this week on the Government’s flagship Zero Carbon Bill. First, Parliament’s Environment Committee sent its report recommending changes back to the House, having waded through more than 10,000 public submissions.

Second, the Government announced it will rush the Bill through its second and third readings before the Prime Minister flies out to Chile on 14 November to attend APEC.

Put another way, the deadline for passing a Bill that will guide New Zealand emissions reduction for the next 30 years, probably the most expensive legislation in New Zealand’s history, has just been decided on international grandstanding.

By the same Government that only 18 months ago rushed its landmark oil and gas decision, also for good PR.

Which would almost be forgivable if the Zero Carbon Bill didn’t include unnecessary rules that will make it almost impossible for New Zealand to achieve its emissions targets.

But it does. And, as expected, this week's report from the Environment Committee fixes none of what is broken with this Bill.

New Zealanders will still be banned from partnering with or funding emissions schemes overseas, regardless of how many more tonnes of greenhouse gases that could take from the atmosphere.

“Emissions budgets must be met, as far as possible, through domestic emissions reductions and domestic removals,” says the Bill.

On these 16 words rests hundreds of billions of dollars of unnecessary costs, and the near certainty that New Zealand will not reduce its emissions to net zero, ever.

It is the quality of emissions schemes, not their location, that matters. The Zero Carbon Bill is about to reject this idea permanently in primary legislation.

Behind the offshore ban is the principle that reducing emissions doesn’t really count if you haven’t upended your economy and changed everyone’s lifestyle.

But, as analysis for the Zero Carbon Bill by the Ministry for the Environment makes clear, the Government can transform New Zealand’s economy, or it can maximise emissions reductions. It cannot do both.

By banning offshore schemes, the Government chose transformation over far greater cuts in emissions. And now it has the numbers to embed this environmental vandalism permanently in law.

Which is to say that Greta Thunberg is right. You are failing us. Climate change is an emissions problem. A Zero Carbon Bill should focus on what works, rather than what is local.

Will the Grinch steal Brexit?
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
As Karl Marx taught us, history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce.

With Brexit we are long past these two separate stages. Instead, we are witnessing a tragic farce.

At least it is a farce that could soon end. That is if Boris Johnson finally gets his will and Parliament agrees to a general election on 12 December.

Today (NZ time), the British Prime Minister told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg that if opposition MPs want more time to debate his new Withdrawal Agreement, they can have that time – but only after a December snap election.

Johnson knows perfectly well there is no such necessity. Under the Fixed Terms Act, Parliament has all the time in the world for this exercise. Or, to be precise, until 2022. Under that same Act, the Prime Minister can table dissolution motions all he likes, but it is Parliament that has to agree to them with a two-thirds majority.

Britain has been there before. It is not the first time that Johnson has tried to pave the way for an election only to be stopped by opposition MPs. Actually, by my count, it is at least the third time in the past month.

This time could be different, though. Labour has pushed Brexit past the original Halloween date. Remember, that was not supposed to happen under Johnson who claimed he “would rather die in a ditch”.

So, with this embarrassment delivered, the opposition might finally agree to go to the polls.

It would undoubtedly be the best way forward because the past year has demonstrated how this Parliament is stuck. Only an election could resolve this situation and finally deliver a united government with a mandate and a majority. Britain has not had that since the Brexit referendum.

Ironically, this prospect is also the main reason the opposition may block the election: the likely winner of a snap election is Boris Johnson, not Jeremy Corbyn.

Which leads us back to the tragic farce that British politics has become: a government that cannot govern, a Parliament that cannot find agreement, and an opposition that does not want an election.

It would be an early Christmas present for Britain if this stalemate could be broken by a December election. But there are many Brexit grinches around. They could steal Johnson’s snap election plans.

Saving our roads from misnomers
Roger Partridge | Chairman |
A Twitter-storm has raged over the last week about Auckland Council’s rules requiring community consultation before private developers can name new roads. Apparently, some Aucklanders believe that holding up housing projects while developers comply with council road-naming requirements is unacceptable red tape.
Granted, Auckland faces a housing crisis. But road-naming is a serious matter. You might think property developers have an incentive to choose sensible street names. But a cursory internet search reveals the risks. Some of the weirdest names in America include ‘Bad Route Road’, ‘Duh Drive’ and ‘Pillow Talk Court’. Anything goes in the wild west of unregulated street names.

It is worse still across the Atlantic. Horrific English road names abound. Take Oxford’s ‘Crotch Crescent’, Worcestershire’s ‘Minge Lane’ or Rowley Regis’s ‘Bell End’.

To protect unsuspecting Kiwis from the stress of a poorly named street, Auckland Council’s ‘Road Naming Guidelines’ bring a touch of due process. The guidelines require road names to ‘reflect themes relevant to the local area’, to recognise ‘ancestral linkages to land’, and to ensure names occur in a ‘consistent, transparent and impartial’ manner. (Heaven forbid an impartial street name!)

The guidelines also ensure community buy-in. They require developers to start the naming process by asking for ideas from local community groups and clubs, and by consulting with mana whenua. After consultation, a formal application (proposing a ‘preferred’ name, and at least two back-ups) may be submitted. Given the importance of the outcome to residents, local boards have discretion to reject any names proposed, to seek alternative names, or to make their own enquiries.

Developers cannot apply for a road name until after they have a Resource Consent and are prohibited from breaking ground before their chosen names have been approved.

Thankfully, we can take comfort that Auckland Council has such a comprehensive and inclusive process. It would be undemocratic if developers could choose their own street names. Especially impartial ones. Just imagine if royalists could choose regal names like Queen Street or King Edward Avenue.

In any case, provided each step goes smoothly, the process can be completed within a few months. Of course, if there are delays or hiccups, the naming-process can take upwards of a year.

But surely having families sleeping in cars is a small price to pay if it only saves one road from having a bad name.

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