Sunday, April 26, 2009

Selling off the bases

Who would sell off their house and then rent it back from the new owner? Well maybe if you can't pay the mortgage, but what sensible person would liquidate an asset to take on a bill?

That is what the Government is proposing to do with our military bases. Announcing the first defence review since 1997, Minister Wayne Mapp and ACT's associate Minister Heather Roy said both parties support 'public-private partnerships'. PPP's are usually about getting the private sector to help build things, like the Orewa toll road. This is more like flicking off public assets to your mates.

It kind of reminds me of the Big Sell-Off of the 1980's and 90's. That, of course, is part of ACT's raison d'etre, but I didn't think Wayne Mapp was that kind of guy. He's too cuddly, like Mole from 'Wind in the Willows'. Still, while Wayne Mapp was not an MP when National took office in 1990, much of National's front bench were key players in the liquidation sale. Whether or not Mapp is an ideologue of the same ilk, he is certainly a compliant team member. His willingness to be appointed 'Political Correctness Eradicator' by Don Brash clearly demonstrated that.

Is it just a coincidence that the review panel includes the chair of the Business Roundtable? Rob McLeod is an strong advocate for more private sector involvement in those things usually provided by democratically accountable bodies, such as town planning, education, health and roading. The review of taxation that he led in 2001 notably called for special low tax rates for foreign firms and capping taxes for the super rich. It also let corporations off the hook for their environmental costs, by ignoring ecological taxation issues. His appointment is a pretty clear indication of what the Government wants out of the review.

Now maybe I'm just not economically savvy enough to understand why selling off capital assets is a good thing. I don't understood the wisdom of currency speculation and futures trading independent of the needs of actual production either. Bundling up sub prime mortgages and selling them as securities never made sense to me, even when they were making money rather than knocking holes in banks. I guess I'm unsophisticated.

Certainly too unsophisticated for the influx of Aucklanders into Hamilton last weekend. Like many of my friends I had to flee the city to escape the V8's. I realise that watching car racing is popular, I just can't figure out why.

Much more interesting to me are the attempts by Hamilton City Council to green the V8's. As an MP when Hamilton was first proposed to host the race, I met with then Mayor Redman to talk about how we could make the V8's less damaging. The council had been working on a number of ideas already and we were able to come up with some good proposals.

Last year, the council spent most of its efforts 'baselining' the event, to understand what the full environmental impacts were. It wasn't so much the races themselves as the travel of spectators, the rubbish, water runoff, energy uses etc. This year I look forward to seeing the council publicly report on what it did to actually reduce those impacts.

I'm a simple small businessman, but it seems pretty obvious to me – liquidating capital, whether built or environmental, is a recipe for failure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Deep ecology workshop

I spent the weekend at Solscape in Raglan, an awesome eco retreat run by two really lovely people, Phil and Bernadette. They were the hosts for a deep ecology workshop run by Daniel Nepia and Finn Mackesy. For those who have not heard of it, it is a process developed by Joanna Macy and John Seed to address the despair and burnout among environmental activists, but it has application to anyone who wishes to have an experiential emotional reconnection with the natural world and who seeks to reconnect with their inner wisdom and power. Hence it is also called "the work that reconnects'.

As a participant, I found it to be a very powerful series of processes that took participants out of their ego seperateness, deep into their inner world to experience and express their authentic emotional reaction to the state of the world we live in. The facilitators used various tools to empower people with their own wisdom and reconnect them with nature, culminating in a 'council of all beings'.

Daniel and Finn have been the only people running deep ecology workshops in the North Islnd for a number of years but now they are seeking to train new facilitors. That means that opportunities to participate will increase over the next few years. If you get a change, I totally recommend you go.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

House bus - exterior

Thought I'd post some photos of my house, because it's road legal (got a COF) and the roof line is about to change drastically.

Housebus interior

We bought it as a school bus, removed the seats, stripped it to the frame and rust proofed it. We removed and resealed the winows, insulated it, relined with ply and built it from scratch - of course all the walls are non square and have curves in them!