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Is New Zealand the “greatest nation on Earth”?

I’ve been feeling suspiciously positive of late. Notwithstanding grumbling about “transport priorities this” and “government policies that”, I am generally optimistic about New Zealand in general, and Auckland in particular.

More specifically, several of my recent posts on this blog have attempted to highlight (with varying degrees of success) the close links between the success of urban and rural parts of NZ. The parochial urban/rural divide is, I think, too simplistic: New Zealand would be much the worse without Auckland, and vice versa. Both need each other.

Indeed one of the reasons I love living in Auckland is that from there I can access so many beautiful and remote places with relative ease, as illustrated below (chocolate fish prize for anyone who guesses the location). In short I’m hoping we can start to get over the urban/rural divide and instead start appreciating the contribution that both make to NZ’s quality of life.

P1010942

The need for a more inclusive and less parochial perspective was recently highlighted to me by a blog post in the U.S. titled “The Greatest Nation on Earth Isn’t Us”. The blog post starts with the following extract from a T.V. show, where a university student earnestly asks a couple of pundits “why America is the greatest nation in the world.”

To which the subsequent response is (after some heated rhetoric and a few interesting statistics) “there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that America is the number one country in the world … America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” Here’s the full video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=16K6m3Ua2nw

The subsequent blog post then goes on to list several reasons why the author considers New Zealand, rather than the U.S., to be the greatest nation in the world, namely:

  1. Freedom – “The latest international index of 123 countries released by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank, and Germany’s Liberales Institut, ranked New Zealand number one for offering the highest level of freedom worldwide … The survey measured the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties – freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly – in each country surveyed, as well as indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women’s freedoms.”
  2. Business – “So, who did top the list for the Best Countries for Business? New Zealand. New Zealand can boast a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption.”
  3. Education – “That would be New Zealand again, first in the world on the basis of performance in three areas: access to education, quality of education and human capital … According to the QS World University Rankings, two of New Zealand’s universities – Auckland and Otago – rank in the top 200 of the 700 best universities in the world, and Auckland in the top 100 (83rd and 133rd respectively). That’s 25% compared to the United State’s 2.06%. All eight universities rank in the top 500, with Auckland University of Technology appearing on the list for the first time this year.”
  4. AucklandAuckland is ranked the third best city out of the top five for quality of living, after Vienna and Zurich, nothing in the United States making the list at all.

Reading the blog post and the subsequent comments did make me feel humble – the kind of feeling that you get when you realise how good something was only after looking at an old photo of the event. Or when you receive a lovely letter from a reader of this blog.

At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m not a raging patriot at all – in fact I always feel slightly uncomfortable when confronted with overly patriotic expressions. For this reason I much prefer the respectful but fun celebrations of national identified observed in countries like the Netherlands (Queens Day) and Norway to the pomp and puffery of more Anglo-Saxon countries.

But on the other hand I must say that I really like New Zealand. From the bustling diversity of Auckland, to the rolling green suburbs and blue waters of Dunedin, to the stunning seaside villages of Northland. I’m not sure whether all these places means NZ can lay claim to being the “greatest” – and frankly I don’t care – but it does mean, I think, NZ is a fairly “great” place to be right now. And that we should get on with working hard to make it even better.

At this point I started to see past my suspiciously positive feelings and start to wonder what I would change about New Zealand if I could? Well, “the first step in solving any problem is recognising there is [at least] one”. In that spirit I would just like to highlight a few areas where NZ might improve:

  • Child poverty – we should all be concerned about the cycle of child poverty that seems to becoming embedded in our society. I think some big and bold interventionist policies are clearly required.
  • Livability of our cities – as discussed at length in this blog, cities are not simply “big towns”; they are very complex beasts that demand targeted policies and investment and a focus on amenity.
  • Taxation - I think we need to shift our tax base from labour (income tax) to capital (CGT, land taxes etc). Reductions in company tax would also help, I think, because company tax is primarily a tax on employment/innovation.

Ultimately I think that our success, or otherwise, on these issues amongst others will be determined by reductions in our rates of emigration and/or increasing numbers of expatriates returning home. While some level of emigration is natural and indeed beneficial, the levels NZ currently supports suggests that too many people are being “pushed” rather than “pulled”.

All this should not stop us from reveling in being nominated as the “greatest nation on Earth”, if only by a relatively obscure blog. It’s just food for thought as you all get your feet back under the desk at work and start gearing up for a productive 2013. A kiwi form of thanksgiving if you like; bless.

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90 comments to Is New Zealand the “greatest nation on Earth”?

  • I think the top photo is Tennyson Inlet, Marlborough Sounds.

  • Torbayite

    The problem of child poverty and liveability of cities can both be helped by requiring new developments to include cheaper housing.
    I have just been in UK and stayed with brother in law whose place is 6 bedrooms. However when the houses were built in a new development there was a range of housing six bedroom, 5,4,3 and 2 bedroom all in the same small ne suburb. This helps liveability, avoids, ghettos and provides more affordable housing.
    I was going to say it was Whangaroa, then I thought Tennyson inlet, which I think is right by checking Google maps. However I have been beaten to it!

  • JeffT

    I saw this blog post also, Stu, and felt sufficiently proud as to share this on fb.

    In terms of changes I would make to nz:

    A change to this attitude that “we’re just a small country” population-wise that may be true but quality not quantity also holds, a la Luxemburg (EU benefits aside). NZ needs to stand on it’s own too feet a bit more. A bit more pride in what we have. There are reasons that lot’s of people want to come here.

    A greater cultural heart to Auckland.

    Better quality inner-city residential property. Apartments that are not shoeboxes. Buildings that people can buy without concerns over whether it will be a leaky building.

    Professionalism, high-quality workmanship.

    A flourishing national rail network. This may be harder to achieve. These things are all demand driven off course but I’d love to be able to catch the train to Hamilton, Tauranga.

    I’m a bit of a flat tax man myself. I fear our governments would go too far with CGT and it would end up discouraging investment. Restricted to property investment, yes.

    • Stu Donovan

      Hi JeffT, I like all your changes.

      In terms of flat tax, I’m not too bothered – indeed I’ve never seen a proposed income tax system that has been completely flat. Most incorporate a tax free threshold (say up to 10k) and then tax at a flat rate thereafter.

      I’m not a big fan of CGT myself, mainly because of it’s distortionary impacts. My greatly preferred form of capital taxation would be a land tax, much like the rates that are levied by regional/local councils.

      It’s extraordinarily efficient to collect and has relatively no impact on behaviour. Only problem is hat that the people who own properties at the point it is implemented would be expected to suffer a windfall loss in their property values equivalent to the future NPV of the tax.

  • Matt

    Sorry to be the one pulling a downer on all of you back-slapping hippies, but comparing NZ to our West Isle neighbours:

    NZ public broadcasting is almost non existent (with rumours Radio NZ’s days are numbered too)
    There’s 7 or 8 government funded TV channels on here – http://www.freeview.com.au/channels/default.aspx?regionId=4
    And zero or 2 (depending on whether you count Maori TV and Te Reo) on here – http://www.freeviewnz.tv/#tv-channels

    The air is more polluted in NZ cities than Oz cities – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10754865

    And however much beer you drink nothing can make rugby look as great a game as Aussie Rules. http://www.afl.com.au/

    NZ has its good points like my grass doesn’t die off in summer, and the Conservation Estate is easily accessible and pretty bloody wonderful when you get out there, but really, have you seen the price of cheese in NZ?

    So with properly funded public broadcasting, clean air legislation, cheaper cheese, good ideas on public transport implemented, an end to urban sprawl, segregated cycle paths built everywhere, and another cheese price reduction and you might actually be able to crow about being number 1.

    And snakes, you should get snakes. They are way cool.

    • JeffT

      I must say I am a bit surprised we keep getting such high rankings. To add to my list of improvements, how about just rail to the north shore.

      Thanks for the snakes offer, Matt. We seem to be getting the odd spider immigrating from the West Isles.

    • RHarris

      Agree on the NZ content on air. Also hope TV One don’t dumb down the 7pm time slot although the 3 presenters are intelligent enough not too.

      Also like the diversity of nations here and how we seem to mix, rich, poor and different nationalities.

      • I agree also about the need for better public broadcasting. In fact New Zealand could do with a programme like Will McAvoy’s “News Night 2.0″ (from the blog this post linked to).

    • Stu Donovan

      This public broadcast is brought to you (without subsidy) by Auckland Transport Blog :).

      Air quality is not so good in many parts of NZ, especially as you head further south (and the need for home heating increases). AFL is not my cup of tea; I would prefer we focused on ice hocky and pole dancing – NZ has real potential there.

      I’m not up to date on the price of cheese, but I do find things in Brisbane generally quite expensive – most things are the same or more in AUD, which equates to NZ price plus at least 30%. I’m fairly sure that incomes are not that much higher, or at least in my line of work (I’m a professional ice hockey by day and a pole dancer by night).

      In terms of snakes, I prefer the native NZ eel – very impressive, and you don’t die when it bites you.

    • Stu Donovan

      P.s. I’m a gypsy; Matt you’re the bicycle riding hippy.

  • torn

    NZ is no doubt the most gorgeous place in the world what with beaches, glaciers and everything in between.

    BUT i was mortified when i saw this sort of thing being allowed to go on…

    http://johnansell.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/te-rauparahas-tribe-honours-spirit-of-whale-by-hacking-off-jaw-with-saw/

    • Stu Donovan

      why are you mortified? The animal is dead. I’m not a vegetarian and (although I do consciously try to reduce the amount of meat that I eat. Nonetheless, once an animal is dead I am morally indifferent to what people do with it. By the way. that blog you linked to is CRAZY.

      Unlike this one,which is CRAZY CAT COOL.

  • RHarris

    Yes saw that article too and made an interesting point. Having lived in a few countries there are some great countries to live out there and NZ is up there. The Scandinavian countries are great too.

    I also see alot of things we could improve on; our low wages, housing affordability, pollution/ environment, lack of investment options on the stock market, etc, high food costs and technology investment bringing us closer to the world. On a personal biased note I’d like to see more South American immigrants to get a better football team!

    Other things in the positive, our police force, limited corruption and our attitude of liking to keep on top of our government and big corporate’s to do the ‘right thing’.

    Auckland is on the right path at the moment but we do need greater quality urbanization and yes, better transport and the CRL!

    • Stu Donovan

      Agree, especially with importing South Americans to improve our football team.

      • RHarris

        Also apart from possibly benefiting our football team to a World Cup final it bolsters our business connections and networks in a growing part of the world. Not many Spanish and Portuguese speakers here and would add an interesting mix to the country with Chile, Argentina some of our closest neighbours.

      • OraneKiwi

        Yes, let’s get more Marco Rojases! Don’t get too many Argentinians though – the expat Brits won’t like it ;)

        • Robert

          Argentinians would certainly boost the attractiveness mentioned below. Agree on the food too.

          Another thing not mentioned on the wishlist is warmer houses. 3rd world conditions in most homes in winter!

          • I may be biased but we need more Colombian women in this country. That would help with keeping warm in winter too.

            Seriously though, the west coast of Latin America is only as far away as Korea, Japan and China, or the west coast of the USA. It’s closer than India. They are growing economies and populations (well, except for Argentina) worth tapping in to as neighbours (the Pacific Ocean be damned).

          • Filde

            Columbian men are very tasty too, so I’ve been told as well.

    • P2P

      Spanish and Portuguese would not only improve the football, but also the food. Asians did already a good job. I also really like a good hangi, but there is still too much English heritage of just throwing everything in the deep fryer. Visit Bask country or Galicia to taste how fish is properly cooked. Also the GDP would jump up if meat would be processed into something as tasty as Jamón ibérico. And the best is you spend much less in the pub/restaurant as the food comes in form of tapas free with your beer.

      • Sarah

        Just came back from the South American markets in Ascension Wineries in Oratia that they have on every 3rd Sunday of the month and for sure a tasty addition to the Auckland food scene. More please!

  • Gian

    I love your kiwi optimisms and naivety.
    Makes everything possible. Having 2000+ years of history on your shoulders is an heavy burden but here you can look at things always with a new prospective.
    One thing to improve: energy consumption per capita.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita

    • Stu Donovan

      Agreed. Optimism and naivety are two things that I specialise in. Our energy consumption is not so great, although I like to think that much of our energy is “marooned” insofar as it would not be available to be consumed by others even if we did not consume it ourselves.

    • Benjamin ormsby

      I’m proud to have over 1000 years of history in New Zealand and the ability to have a new perspective. It is what makes many Māori so successful and helps Pākēhā be more successful here as well (though it’s taking a while for some to realise). I feel sorry for countries like England where people live in the past and can’t see that their society has changed.

      As for the comments about being mortified at an iwi making use of a natural resource, I think many Pākēhā do far more horrific things with our natural resources.

      • Hamish O

        Pakeha may well do ‘horific’ things with natural resources, but the Maori have equal opportunity to do those things too, so it is fair.

        I am mortified that it is specifically the Maori being allowed to make use of the whale. It should be left to the state as it should belong to all of us equally.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hamish O – your position is unsupported by English common law, under which Maori have established customary title to certain traditional resources. Beached whales clearly fall into this category and they should be free to do with it as they so choose; it is theirs.

          • qwerty

            you need to wake up Stu, your comments are naive and uneducated. I also have no doubt that you are completely unqualified to reference english common law and law of property in reference to maori and the TOW, other than what you have seen on the TV.

            my biggest concern with living in NZ is people like you (and there are lots) that think and believe that one group of people, who arrived to NZ in the same fashion that you bag the english for, have ownership of a whale, water, wind, air and the radio spectrum for that matter

            i have nothing against maori and their culture, i actually think it enriches NZ, but the politicisation and increase of their rights above everybody else will ruin my country.

            my comment about maori making use of natural resources, again, has been taken out of context and tuned around (as is becoming the norm on this blog). i have no problem with making use of a dead carcus and putting it to use. However i do have concern with maori having first dibs on it because they think they own it (and the NZ government agreeing with that), doing what they want with it, profiting from it and everybody else having to take second place to them making a quick buck.

          • Stu Donovan

            “Uneducated”? Hmmm … I have undergraduate degrees in arts (history major; philosophy minor) and engineering, as well as masters degrees in engineering and economics. So I’m not sure how much “education” you consider necessary before I am allowed access to a keyboard? Or maybe you’re interested in my grades: A+ in both engineering and economics and A in history. You’re getting a little petty don’t you think?

            “Unqualified”, perhaps – although is that not relatively subjective? Apart from studying history and philosophy, I have many friends/acquaintances who are lawyers/planners and my conversations with them on similar topics have provided me with some insight into some legal principles through which Maori access to certain resources is maintained.

            Do correct me if I am wrong – but do so in a respectful way and with details, preferably with links to credible resources and/or things I can read.

            “Bag the english.” No idea what you’re referring to.

            “comment … taken out of context”. Again, no idea what you are referring to.

            My suspicion is that you take yourself too seriously. Lose the bluster and we may be able to have a decent conversation.

        • Benjamin ormsby

          The first step towards constructive discussion of issues such as this, is to educate everyone on what is actually being debated. People learn very little of New Zealand’s constitutional context in school and through the mainstream media and therefore cannot understand properly issues such as who ‘owns’ a whale that has washed ashore. I think the first step is trying to understand the various points of view before people draw conclusions and then start defending a position that is misinformed.

  • Max

    I think Nr 1 in that list – the freedoms we have – is actually the most important, because it means that we have the ability to change things that are rotten in our country, without first having to fight to get the RIGHT to change things…

    • Stu Donovan

      FREEDOM! I agree – civil liberties are very important. I think we need to allow people the opportunity to make mistakes, while not condemning those that do run into trouble. Guess that makes me a bleeding heart liberal trapped within a fiscally conservative body …

  • I agree with the need to change taxation to encourage companies to shift focuses on being more productive with resources and encouraging more efficient lifestyles. Things like sugar and fast food could be taxed heavily as well as taxes on carbon, water usage,etc. Obviously the impact of these indirect could be bad on low income earners, so it would have to be offset by cutting personal tax.

  • Add to the list of problems for me would be racial inequality. I don’t think New Zealand should be satisfied that it has fulfilled its obligations until Maori are enjoying the same standard of living as Pakeha.

    • qwerty

      obligations to who?

      • Stu Donovan

        to ourselves. Ultimately it’s a moral question: Are you comfortable living in a country where race is a primary determinant of your quality of life? I’m not.

        • qwerty

          I agree with you Stu, but not sure if your interpretation is the same as Louis M’s with regards to obligations.

          all people and groups should be equal and have the same rights….

          • Stu Donovan

            yes true.

          • Greg N

            same rights…
            …and responsbilities

          • Benjamin ormsby

            ‘all people and groups should be equal and have the same rights….’

            Exactly. Just as Pākēhā, Māori have the right to have a contract they made honoured by the other party. That contract is the Treaty of Waitangi – which guarantees Māori full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties (taonga) which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession.

    • Sam B

      Utter tosh! Everybody here has the same opportunities, and if there’s any bias from the state, then it favours maori. It is every individual’s responsibility to make the most of those opportunities, and has absolutely nothing to do with race.

      Back on topic – an overlooked factor in NZ’s favour is that it is, in my experience, the least racist place in the world. And yes, a comprehensive U turn in transport policy would put the tin hat on it. As long as we have politicians who appear to exist mentally in Britain’s Beeching era, then we can never be taken seriously in comparison to the rest of the world who are clearly heading in a the opposite direction.

      • Stu Donovan

        “It is every individual’s responsibility to make the most of those opportunities, and has absolutely nothing to do with race.”

        Can you please provide a reference for that statement? I.e. a link to robust research showing that one’s ethnicity is not a primary determinant of socio-economic outcomes in New Zealand?

      • Stu Donovan

        On second thoughts Sam B please don’t answer that question – the original whale comment was way off topic; I should have stepped in to stop it in its tracks at that point.

        • qwerty

          sorry Stu, you cant run a public blog (a fairly successful one) that is open to public comment and then expect to just terminate any further debate because it doesnt suit what you think. you were the one that posted an article asking a question.

          well, actually you can if you are one of the admins, but that would be pretty douchebag and nazi-ish…

          • Stu Donovan

            Your comment is bizarre.

            I said “please don’t answer that comment”. And I was not threatening to “terminate” anything, more indicating that I should have stepped in earlier to shephard the conversation back towards more fruitful pastures.

            The reason I would/should have done that is because this comment thread has for some time been very clearly heading down an ideological hill that seems better suited to other blogs, like Whale Oil. By all means, feel free to go there and talk about dead whales.

  • Filde

    Kim and Owen get me excited for NZ:

    http://kim.com/

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10860117

    Transport-wise, I think to get the best results the quickest we need to take some big bold steps such people paying for using roads.

    • Greg N

      You know Filde,
      We used to have exactly what Sir Glen is on about.
      Did we? Yes we did,
      Nah, never heard of that before.

      Ok – lets have a story shall we?

      Settle back reader and I’ll tell you a story, set once upon a time, not that long ago, but it was in a Galaxy Far Far Away…

      It features fortune tellers and sooth sayers, evil kings, magical wizardry the like even you in the 21st century have not yet seen, and alas, lots of very poor judgement.

      The tale is called “The Commission for the Future”…

      This roundtable was set up 40 years ago, it was a council of wise people, from many kingdoms, some from NZ, some from overseas.

      They were tasked with coming up with ways of doing all the things Sir Glen says we need to do to compete well with all the other richer, more handsomer kingdoms in the realm. We had tried to, but could not any longer sell these kingdoms our milk, butter, wool, and mutton as they had gone out of fashion and these other kingdoms had not yet developed a taste for baby milk powders made from finest milk, organic food grown in our clean (and still Nuclear free), green country, nor had they yet discovered Lamb Burgers (a true case of mutton dressed up as lamb..), but I digress…

      So the Commission sat and prognosticated in a knowing and wise way, and from time to time, like every good fortune teller did, it made wise remarks. These were often very cryptic, but the meaning always became clearer as time went on and then you realised just how truly wise and right they were. And you were always glad you had followed their advice.

      So in about 1978, the Commission said to the country amongst lots of other wise things:

      “That NZ should aim to have High-speed broadband provided by the government to every home in NZ and that this should be done by 2010 and no later”.

      They also advised that NZ take up its allocation of several Geo-Satellite spots allocated to it by the grand council of Communication Wizards called the ITU – but more on that later.

      This is of course all way before the now old-fangled Internet or TCP/IP protocol were a twinkle in Vint Cerf’s eye
      - but the Wise commission members knew of DARPANET and some had actually used it so they could see “the power of the network” as they put it.

      The only high speed broadband that existed then was Fibre optic cable which was very expensive and was oly just being used to link Kingdoms together. So lots and lots, and lots of milk, wool, mutton and butter would have to be traded to make it possible to afford it.

      But do you know what happened?

      Of course, the King at the time, pooh-poohed the idea (big time) of the the Government giving anything like free broadband to its citizens – there was no way in hell that there was EVER going to be a need for such frivolities.
      Besides the country only gave handouts to farmers to grow wool and mutton – neither of which we could give away let alone sell to anyone. So fibre to every home, any time, was out of the question.

      And this same King, is the one who also “gave away” all rights to those Geo-stationary satellite slots allocated for us by NZ) – on the basis that we’d never need these at all and were better used by the ITU for IntelSat and related purposes. And where did those slots go to?

      These went to, well, the Kingdom Of Tonga, (Tongas King actually) who them made a large fortune leasing them out to anyone who wanted to pay the highest price but unfortunately, that emperor didn’t invest the money well for a rainy day and made bad investments via dodgy US schemes and all the money was lost… So poor old Tonga, stayed poor, and half of them eventually moved to Auckland, to live alongside with those once rich, but now very poor Nauruan’s whose once vast fortune was lost in a similar fashion by their government. But these dear reader are another story.

      Oh, and the Satellite story had another twist – The King forbade anyone in the realm having up a dish to receive broadcast TV pictures that didn’t come from a NZ Satellite – unless you were the Government (or the Post Office, which in those was the same thing)
      - which of course we had none as we had given away the orbital slots for them.

      He made sure the local Sherrifs all knew of this proclamation and made the Auckland Sherrifs arrest some people to make an example of them and took away all the equipment.

      The Commission, after the poorly received Fibre to the Home recommendation, licked their wounds, said “We warned you” and then went on and looked at the effect of world wide nuclear war (or even just a limited tactical nuclear war), and in particular, what effect these would have on the Kingdoms in the South Pacific area including Australian and NZ and produced some quite real and frightening predictions.

      These pronouncements enraged the King, very much, who said furiously, that the commission were frightening the people and the horses and making a frightful fuss and were making our important trading Kingdoms in the US & UK very, very, nervous as they thought that we might have caught something and that it might be contagious…

      Fortunately, wiser heads than the Kings did prevail and eventually this lead to the Anti-Nuclear legislation being passed by the next Labour Government. Lead by a young, but a bit naive king, known to all as “King David” (Lange) who was advised by his caucus that he needed to change everything, while keeping it all the same for thew workers. But alas I digress…

      Shortly after the Nuclear war furore, well King Robert disbanded the Commissions members. Some went and lived in obscurity throughout NZ, some moved back to the Kingdoms they had came from. And all the commissions wizards, lamented that the things they had made the warnings about, all came true.

      Oh and the King? Well he was none other than Brownlee’s and Joyce’s, (without a doubt) childhood heroes – Sir Robert Muldoon.

      But there we must leave our brief sojourn the to Once Great, but could be Great Again, Land of the Long White Cloud.

      And the morals of the tales?

      Since Muldoons response to these two outrageous suggestions by the Commisson – of disbanding it
      - we haven’t had one really (Future or Commission).

      Ever since back then when the Government of the day was being told to get Fibre to the Home in place by 2010, they balked, and they’ve done so ever since, they’ve had over 35 years advance notice, and will deliver 9 years late!

      Just because someone has Sir (or Kim) in front of their name doesn’t mean that their ideas are any better or worse than anyone elses.
      It just means that they have a louder voice to make it seem that way. But, regardless you had better watch them carefully, because NZer’s as a people love to rally behind self-titled Kings more than they currently love Facebook and Twitter

      And lastly:
      Its fine and dandy to come along and set these long term solutions up – but like Superannuation and ACC and everything else you can think of, unless there is proper agreement amongst politicians to not meddle, they can and will over time, to the detriment of all.

      Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but doing the same stuff again and again and hoping for a better outcome won’t work.

      • Filde

        I would’ve liked to read your comment Greg but unless it is Tolkien talking about kingdoms I tend to switch off :(

        • Greg N

          Your call,
          But you should aim to read more widely – nothing like reading a bit of modern history every now and then.
          After all those who do don’t do so are usually doomed to repeat it sooner or later.

    • Matt

      Really, you buy Kim Dotcom’s brand of bullshit?

      • Greg N

        [Yoda voice on] His future, I can not see. Cloudy, it is. All of our future’s, very cloudy [Yoda voice off]

        Winston Peters (and yep, even Paul Homes, bless his fags and cotton socks), has from time to time said something of real value on serious topics.

        Kim Dot Com has without a doubt, said some right and royal bullshit, but he has added some value to some of the areas too.

        The problem is as always with these guys is separating the gold and the shit.

        Dot Com is a [convicted] criminal, but then so are Hollywoods, and the NZ Government and its spies, ethics.
        And the Police don’t look too flash either right now – no matter whose side of the story you believe.

        But two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right.

        But whether Dot Com is the second coming or some-elses number 2′s doesn’t matter, its whether enough others will rally around his flag.

        And if him or anyone else (Sir Glen whats his name) has constructive input, lets hear it.

        Its ignoring everyone on the basis that I know whats best thats got us here, we were are, right now.

        Read the tale above. Do you see real similarities with the Current Government and King Robs one?

        Gotta say all this “Do as I say, not do as I do” stuff is getting mighty tired this time around…

  • Greg N

    It would be nice if ALL our policitians – Local and Central Government – took a leaf from PM and First Lady of Uruguay’s humble approach ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234003/Jose-Mujica-Uruguayan-President-lives-ramshackle-farm-gives-90-earnings-away.html )

    – and maybe many of the countrie’s perceived downsides might be able to sorted out sooner than later.

    And recently this story about the Uruquay PM on summer holidays:
    http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/uruguay-president-jose-pepe-mujicas-frugal-vacation-viral/story?id=18239957

    When was the last time any major poltician such as Key was out on his own without any DPS members hanging around?

  • Steve Manukau

    Pepe is a legend. There is a BBC Mundo clip which is classic, showing his old school VW. His Rio speech was quite good too http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cQgONgTupo

    Re best countries, sorry but the Scando nations win hands down in terms of transport, broadcasting, wages, social services etc. The people are better looking there too – New Zealanders in general are pretty rough (looking and talking)! :)

    • Stu Donovan

      I like Scandinavia, and agree that they outperform NZ in so many areas. But I have lived in Sweden and spent several weeks in Norway and I’d rather live in NZ. Social services can only make up for a certain amount of cold weather!

      As for whether the people there are better looking, I’m not so sure – but my (Norwegian) girlfriend would probably like to think so :).

      • Svartmetall

        Having snow and four seasons is quite nice given heating in apartments and other such things tend to compensate for colder weather outside (go district heating)! The dark might get to one somewhat (it does me a little when the nights draw in for the shortest day), but when at my latitude it is getting lighter every week by around 26 minutes a week the day lengths fast change at least – I get to go to work in the light a bit more now

        There is a certain amount of joy to be had by the blossom of deciduous trees and the fall of their leaves, the joy of summer given it is more fleeting and the amazing feeling of a crisp winters day with snow all around you and a blue sky. Each to their own, but I prefer this climate to the NZ one having lived in both. =P

        • Stu Donovan

          Yes, I think my issues with the Scandinavian climate is more to do with the impact on one’s lifestyle, rather than it being a problem in normal day-to-day life, because as you note they are well set-up to deal with the cold.

          Personally, I just love cycle, hiking, swimming, walking etc and I think I would struggle to do that for many months of the Scandinavian year. So it’s the combination of NZ’s climate and geography that is incredibly well-suited to getting me out of the house and doing things that I like to do.

          But I am possibly rather biased.

      • Line Silseth

        As a full blood scandi troll studying and working in New Zealand, my life is pretty darn good, and I wouldn’t trade the Norwegian winter for the New Zealand summer. Brrr. Skiing is good, but beaches are better.

        However, it is with great humbleness and slight sadness that I say this because I recognise that I as well as Stuart am extremely privileged. We get to experience the richness of New Zealand from its best sides. We’ve never hit rock bottom, but I’m guessing that if we ever did, I as a Norwegian citizen would be far better equipped to move back up the social ladder.

        To me, inequality, social immobility and lack of social security are major problems which disqualify New Zealand from being a great country. I’m not saying that all things considered, it’s not the best country in the world. I’m simply saying that we can do much, much better. I love New Zealand, and it’s exciting to see it moving forward, but if I was unemployed, uneducated, old, sick, poor or pregnant, I wouldn’t hesitate to go home to Norway.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hi Line welcome to NZ and this blog. Just some words of advice: 1) Don’t be a troll (even a Norwegian one) and 2) Make sure you don’t get pregnant while living in NZ. Apart from that enjoy!

        • Stu Donovan

          P.s. While I whole-heartedly agree with the statement “inequality, social immobility and lack of social security are major problems which disqualify New Zealand from being a great country”, I want to add a small footnote. Namely, that the “social security” we speak of should seek to provide security while not placing undue constraints on people’s freedom (in a true socio-economic sense).

          I realise socio-economic security and freedom are not mutually exclusive – you can certainly have one with the other; indeed a strong case can be made that well-designed social security programmes will enhance, rather than detract from, people’s freedom. But social security can be delivered in many different ways, which in turn has different implications for people’s freedom of choice.

          But I know that you know that already :).

  • exaucklanderinsydney

    New Zealand – so great that its people are still moving to Australia in droves……….
    I can’t for the life of me figure out how NZ and Auckland rank so highly in these ranks. Don’t get me wrong I love New Zealand and Auckland and think they’re good and all, but to be #3 city in the world?!
    I’m probably one of the few kiwis that has moved to Australia and my income is roughly the same, or maybe even slightly less than it was back in NZ. I don’t think I’m worse off, but I certainly havent moved up in the economic stakes (unfortunately). Still with all that being said, I have no intention on moving back in a long time. There’s problems here for sure, but I love the weather, the Aussie positive can-do attitude, and just believe things here in general are better run so I’m deffinately not living here purely for economic reasons.

    • Stu Donovan

      Interesting. I find that NZ has a more can-do attitude in some respects, at least in the industry I work in (Sydney’s lack of integrated PT ticketing being a prime example of their relative intransigence). What they do have over here is more money, which in turn means that they simply can “do” more. I know plenty of people in NZ who would like more money to “do” lots of things.

      I do agree it is surprising how high Auckland ranks in those city indices. I mean it’s good and all, but it’s not that good – or at least not quite yet.

    • Stu Donovan

      P.s. NZ->Aus emigration rates are *predicted* to drop dramatically in the next few years as their relative economic performance diverges in NZ’s favour. Economic opportunities are definitely something NZ needs more of …

      • Bryce P

        And as the aust govt gets tougher on social spending for non citizens.

        • Exaucklanderinsydney

          I’ve never received a cent of Australian government social spending, and I would go as far as to day the kiwis over here that are on welfare should go back to NZ! They are a disgrace to us n give us a reputation as bludgers. I find Australians generally more positive in general. Sydney’s getting intergrated ticketing this year and even tho PT here has problems, it’s still miles ahead of Auckland.

      • MrV

        Might have something to do with a ratshit Labor government emptying the kitty in Australia with little to show for it. Now where has that happened before?

        • Stu Donovan

          Oh I don’t know, maybe in New Zealand where the National Government under Muldoon left the country so broken that we still have not fully recovered?

          Am I right? Do I win a prize?

          • MrV

            But you were for thos electrified trains weren’t you?

          • Stu Donovan

            I answered your question, so you should answer mine: Am I correct to suggest that the National Government under Muldoon was the most fiscally irresponsible government NZ has ever seen? On the balance of evidence you’d have to say “yes” wouldn’t you?

            As for your second questions on electrification, yes I do support that investment. Oooo goodie now it’s my turn again: Does electrification have a higher BCR than the Puhoi-2-Wellsford Highway using standard economic evaluation procedures? Yes or no?

          • MrV

            Yeah, it was a shocker, but on the plus side they actually built stuff. These days govts seem to be able to waste a ludicrous amount of money on basically consumption. ie. *poof* and its gone.
            Checked middle class weflare expenditure lately?
            For the record I don’t care too much about BCRs, by the time we spend all the money on multiple reports/consultants/pollies fisting each other etc to derive that BS, we could have afforded to build both.
            There is no reason why we can’t have excellent quality highway and rail systems.

          • NCD

            One thing these surveys don’t capture that well is some some sort of measure of the quality of relationships that are fostered. We recently returned to NZ after 15 years away. A couple of observations:

            Kiwis aren’t as friendly as we’d like to think we are. Example from the last 12 hours: I went for a bike ride here in Dili and in the hills it started to pour- poor local man invited me in for a coffee, sent his sons scurrying off in the rain to buy biscuits. Dili won’t be making it in the world rankings any time soon, but that’s priceless. Would it happen in NZ? Maybe- too often there’s stranger danger.

            Another thing: while many readers on this blog like the cultural diversity, there’s an awful lot of Kiwis who don’t particularly want to (or don’t know how to) interact with people of other cultures. Although in the 1990s our landlord in Howick told us he moved there because there were no Maoris, so maybe we’re coming of a low base, and things are improving.

            On the good side, we left an Auckland with no soul, and came back to a waking beauty.

  • BK.Sharma

    Business – “So, who did top the list for the Best Countries for Business? New Zealand. New Zealand can boast a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption.”
    ….. One point worth mentioning here on the subject is” Free Market”. I think NZ probably is the only country in the world where you can import Coco cola from Asia at a low low price and compete with the local licenced bottlers!

  • Great post. Images were nice. Thanks for sharing

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