NZ National Goal Setting – An idea whose time has come.

www.blog.nzx.com

I don’t usually buy the newspapers, but found this link in the Weekend Herald. It’s quite a novel concept, although you can’t help but wonder why it hasn’t been suggested before now. Kind of transcends all the party political stuff, in favour of the country, and where we want to see ourselves in the future. I downloaded the document and it is a clear, well laid out summary of our economic history, and likely future if we carry on as we have been doing. 13 pages in large easy to read type.

If there’s an economic tsunami on the way, maybe its a fantastic opportunity to re-evaluate what we are doing and where we are going as a nation. So rather than wonder what we’re in for, I thoroughly recommend you check this out, and send it to all your email friends, and maybe a few offline ones too.

Happy voting next Saturday.

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NZ Parliamentary Elections 2008

Ok, I’m going to retract my original prediction. It all appears to be going very much National’s way, although there are still a little over 3 weeks before polling day, on November 8th I believe.

The reason I’ve done this about turn, and decided to go with the pundits in predicting a National win, is that there seems to be an appetite for a change of government out there. It’s not so much about National or Labour as it is “let’s have someone new”. So there you have it.  John Key’s boyhood prediction of becoming Prime Minister, may well be about to come true.

The one thing I do not trust him about (and remember, I am generally pro-National), is Nuclear Power. I think he’ll have the damn things under construction, very early in his term. It would be hard to forgive that.

I admire his work ethic and results-oriented style, and I also admire the fact that he appears to be well and truly holding his own against the vastly more experienced Clark. But if he takes New Zealand down the Nuclear Path (BTW, I am no greenie),  it will be the most blatant bit of money making at our country’s expense, ever seen in our history I believe. My six-year old is worried about nuclear power coming to this country. I hope the day doesn’t arrive, when I have to tell him its here.

Epiphany

Many years ago I went to an art exhibition in Auckland and beheld, for the first time, the difference between an art print and the sheer magnificence of the original work. It was the Reader’s Digest exhibition from memory (I’m talking the early 1980’s here), and the painting which stopped me in my tracks was Monet’s “Paysage Dans L’Ile Saint Martin”. I don’t recall how much the entry fee was, but the impact of that painting will stay with me forever. Until that time I had virtually zero appreciation of the value of art, or for that matter, the meaning of the word “priceless”.

So, when an invitation to the 2008 Institute of Registered Music Teachers Showcase Concert came my way, I hadn’t the slightest idea of what to expect. In effect the IRMT (BOP Branch) event was an opportunity for our local children to showcase their musical talents, but for me, it turned out to be a second epiphany which I can’t help but liken to the viewing of that huge, original, Monet canvas.

The entry fee this time was $6, and my neighbour who’d invited me along even shouted me. So for me the only investment was my time, yet the experience was priceless. And there’s that huge word again. What these children are able to do with piano and violin is beyond description.

I imagine a formal “review” of this type of event would include knowledgeable references to the types and styles of music played, but I am a very ordinary Kiwi, and my musical history is limited pretty much to what I heard on the radio when I was young. I don’t even listen to that much anymore.

So the Chopin’s and the Debussy’s and the Mendelssohn’s simply conspired together for a night of sheer bliss and inspiration.

Fingers delighting on keyboard

Bows dancing deftly on strings

Piano, violin, songbirds, cello and flute.

And that brings me back to the Monet.

No recording could ever speak to the heart of the listener, as the original performance can do. The instruments were given life by the players.

What also struck me was the countless hours of practice that must go into the apparent “talent” of these young musicians. Forgive the quote marks. There is no question that they are genuinely talented, but this talent is so clearly gained via sheer application and hard work. This was a new slant on the concept of talent for me. I used to think of it as a natural aptitude, but now I believe it can be acquired by anyone so motivated to be prepared to work towards it.

This performance literally altered my view of the world to such a profound extent, that I had the idea to somehow duplicate the idea of the “books in homes” program, to establish a “music in homes” version. ?? Or at least find out a means of sponsoring/encouraging both parents and children, to go out and see at least one live performance.

For all their youth, and they ranged in age from about 8 to 18, they opened places in my heart, that I had forgotten existed.

I don’t know what music lessons cost, but I do have an idea of their value now, and my 6yo is already booked in.

 

 

 

 

 

GST on Food

There is apparently a petition going ’round right now, asking the Government to remove the GST on food.

GST in our country stands for Goods and Services Tax, similar in concept I believe, to VAT in the U.K. In essence it is a tax on consumption and is currently rated at 12.5% across the board. There are very few things which are not subject to GST, like residential rentals and exports (zero rated, so not what you’d call exempt status) and some financial services I think.

In any case, the momentum for this request has clearly come from hugely escalating household costs. Its not just the food – and we’re still reeling from the 50% or so increase in cheese and butter – but also the petrol, and the flow-on increases which come from rising fuel bills. 28% increase in the supermarket over the last year according to a Herald survey.  Sounds pretty spot on to me, so its hard to blame anyone for feeling the pinch and looking for some relief. But calling for the government to step in – what folly!

Other countries observe our system (the GST that is) with some envy, because they’ve made their own versions far too complicated to administer effectively. And no doubt, having once gone down that path, find it nigh impossible to extricate themselves. New Zealand learned from these mistakes, and implemented a clean, uncluttered version which is no doubt much less expensive to administer and to collect.

Again, I have to begrudgingly admire Helen Clark for her initial refusal to consider such a prospect. On the basis of the political “balls” she generally displays, one has reason to hope that she will in fact stand her ground on this issue.

I am, like any Kiwi housewife, well aware of the all out assault that recent conditions (add high mortgage interest rates to that previous list) represent on the average family’s budget. But for some reason, the very idea of “Government help” evokes mental images of the endless queues of people in Gorbachev’s Russia, waiting to buy food for who knows how long, outside empty shops. 

And in asking the Government to step in, what does that really say about us? Whatever happened to the resourceful, self-reliant and proud Kiwis? Surely these well-meaning people who are advancing this petition, can spend their energies more usefully and constructively than begging for help? For whatever reason, they don’t seem to realize that they are by implication, fostering the idea that we are all somehow “helpless” in the face of all these external influences. That’s the opposite of empowering people. Can we come up with ways to empower, rather than sowing the seeds of helplessness/hopelessness?

As for the GST, it aint broke, so please … dont fix it.

Are we missing something here …??

Just down the road from where I live, there is a large billboard in black and white, explaining that 621 drink drivers have been caught on our local roads, since 1 November last year. Since it is nearly the end of March, it spans roughly 150 days. Then, when we drove past today, a red and white banner has been affixed across the bottom proudly declaring that some 45,000 drivers had to be stopped and breathalysed to achieve this stunning result. Ummm pardon me?  Now lets see …. that makes it one in every 98 point something-or-other drivers pulled up for testing, who are offending against our drink driving laws, or if you want to be really scientific about it, a strike rate of about 1.3%.  I don’t know about you, but if my results were this bad, I don’t think I’d be crowing about it, would you?

For goodness sake, HOW MUCH IS THIS COSTING? Roughly 4 offenders a day in an area (hard to define the scope from their sign) of say 50,000 population? And dont forget, lumped into this period is the whole of the Christmas/summer break when the local population can rise to 120,000-plus not to mention the rise in alcohol consumption over the party/holiday season.

I wonder what their average is over the rest of the year? All that fancy technology at their fingertips and the best they can do is to restrict the freedom of the 98% who are our law-abiding drivers, to catch 2 actual offenders if they’re lucky?

NZ Election Prediction 2008

Okay, here goes. My foray into the political seerscape.

The polls a few weeks ago, (and I don’t keep up with them – just happened to hear this), show John Key well ahead of Helen Clark as preferred Prime Minister, and Labour generally lagging behind National overall. It all looks to be swinging National’s way.

Well, I’m going to go against the tide and predict a win for Helen Clark and the current Labour Government. This is coming from a National supporter you realize. I don’t mind declaring myself up front here. I am no unbiassed political commentator. Pretty much right wing, through and through.

My reasoning though, stems from two things, and one thing most of all. Helen Clark is the only master political strategist I can see on this horizon. And even if I don’t like her party or her socialist agenda, I do admire her. She’s got guts and stands her ground when it matters to her – the Waitangi celebrations are an example of this. A further example, and one of the few things I have ever supported this government over, is not sucking up to George Bush and joining America’s illegal war in Iraq like John Howard did.

At the end of the day, John Key is still a bit of a novice, and she is endowed with a political sixth sense that hasn’t been seen in this country I believe, since Rob Muldoon held the reins of power over an extended period of time, as she has. Winston Peters may be an exception in terms of reading the public mind, but National doesn’t have a leader or even a senior member from what I’ve seen so far, of her stature and sheer political instinct.

Hello world!

It was really Sir Ed’s death which inspired the launching of this blog.

Almost every Kiwi mourned his passing. I don’t ordinarily have trouble expressing myself in words, but this has stumped me for months  now (edited on Mon 14 April).

It was as if his death marked the death of our nations founding generations. The No.8 wire thing was a defining mark of our nation’s character, and Sir Edmund Hillary was somehow central to it all. We saw him as a giant of a man, and each and every one of us, whether we were aware of it or not, looked UP to him.

We seem to have lost not just Sir Edmund, but our old identity.  Who will give us a new one? Its dreadful to think, but I just can’t imagine that another man of his calibre will somehow be produced, in the New Zealand that I live in.