Sour grapes and misinformation

During the Waiheke Local Board sour grapeselection I had the pleasure of working with the Essentially Waiheke team to win the Waiheke Local Board election.  The Essentially Waiheke team (Paul, John, Beatle and Becs) plus Shirin.  Made a clean sweep in the local elections and removed 4 out of 5 of the previous board members.

My role in the whole thing was making the Essentially Waiheke website and managing the social media.  I found it a really good experience working with a team to win the campaign.  Most of the former board members have taken defeat gracefully to their credit.  However one former board member in particular appears to have some sour grapes and not just sour but bitter, twisted and sour grapes.

Ungraceful Former Local Board Member

One ungraceful former board member has setup a blog and Facebook page which continually opposes whatever the current local board does, even if it is good for the community and continually spread misinformation and what can only be called lies and rumours in an vain attempt to turn people against the current local board.  These were the same techniques that they used during the local board elections – it did not work then and it is not working now.

After the election I believed that this behaviour would stop, well at least ease back till 12 to 18 months out from the next election.  I was wrong, it really is a continuous barrage.  I have to say that all that they are achieving with this type of behaviour is a confirmation to the general public of Waiheke that voting them out of the local board was the best thing that they could of possible done.

I would like to say that my efforts went a long way to get the Essentially Waiheke campaign team to win but after analysing the whole situation I came to the conclusion that this former board was very unpopular and would not get voted back in because of the following.

  • Firstly they got voted in with a minority of votes because the votes were then split between some really good people.
  • They then disgraced themselves with the way that the Chair of the board was chosen and the side-lining of Denise Roche when she got a majority of votes.
  • I heard all sorts of stories which may or may not be true of funding cuts, issues with resource consents and general opposition from the council for anyone that opposed what the previous local board did in anyway shape or form.
  • They then appeared to make a lot of controversial decisions which went against what the public Waiheke wanted and appeared to have hidden agendas with very little transparency.
  • They disgraced themselves again with the way they side-lined Paul Walden after he won the Waiheke Local Board by election.
  • They then did not participate in public campaigning meetings.
  • They sent spam out as part of their local board campaign.

If I did not know better, I would of thought that they did not want to get elected back onto the local board.  So all I can conclude is that they got themselves voted out, all the Essentially Waiheke team had to do is put a half decent team together to oppose the previous board members  and it worked a charm – a clean sweep.  As a side note the current local board is not half decent but really a great bunch who want to work together for a better Waiheke.

This continuous barrage of misinformation and sour grapes does nothing but discredits the one sending it

This continuous barrage of misinformation and sour grapes does nothing but discredits the one sending it so I have not even bothered to comment or engage in it till now.  The only conclusion that I can come to is that the reason for this constant misinformation and opposition to whatever the local board does is because members of the ousted local board want to get voted back in, in the next local board election.

As a recap – they got voted in with a minority of the votes because of vote splitting, they then lost approximately 30% of their voting support base in the most recent election, they do nothing positive for Waiheke to date except oppose whatever the new local board does.  So they really are deluded when they believe that they will ever get voted back in.

What can you do to stop the spread of misinformation?

  • Block anyone spreading misinformation on Facebook
  • Never comment on misinformation, even if it is to correct as this helps spread it
  • Don’t visit any blogs spreading misinformation
  • Remove yourself from any Facebook groups / pages that spread misinformation
  • Then tell your friends to do the same

By allowing yourself to read this stuff and even commenting on it actually helps the spread of it.  All they want is an audience so if you remove yourself and encourage others to do the same you can help minimise the spread of this garbage.

Written By Dan Ballard,


Voting Returns

Here is the chart of daily voting returns for Waiheke.

Waiheke - Voting document returns

This shows that voting was fairly steady throughout the voting period.  No late surge.

Total votes (as of posting) were 3496 from 6356 (55%).



Where I went wrong

It’s almost as much fun to pick apart one’s own predictions as it is to make them in the first place.  Here is where mine went wrong:

1.  I greatly overestimated the solidity of the A-Team bloc voters.  Based on previous election results I had estimated the size of the A-Team bloc at 1145, as against 1249 for Essentially Waiheke, and I gave both blocs an 80% solidity (meaning 20% of each flock would break ranks on at least one of their candidates).  Maybe my reading of the Essentially Waiheke group was close, but I was way off for the A-Team.  Their solidity was more like 60%; the other 40% broke ranks.  Sue McCann and Shirin Brown were the main beneficiaries of the A-Team weakness.

2.  Voter turnout was quite a bit higher than I had anticipated.  Essentially Waiheke benefited some from this as their bloc was clearly more motivated, but it was the independents — again, Shirin and Sue — who gained the most, as the non-aligned voters didn’t sit this one out.  Thus both were pushed well ahead of the A-Team.

3.  I underestimated the value of Essentially Waiheke’s indirect endorsement of Shirin.  I guessed it would be worth 75% of the EW bloc vote; in fact it was at least 85%.

4.  I gave Faye Storer good credit for name recognition, and took points away from Jo Holmes for strident use of social media, leaving Faye to look calm and above the fray.  As it turns out both of their performances were poor, with only 62 votes separating them.  Don McKenzie, who I thought would be the weakest of the three A-Team candidates, outpolled both of his partners.

5.  I overestimated Graham Hooper’s appeal to the A-Team bloc for their fourth and fifth votes.  I thought 60% of these would go his way; in reality it was more like 20%, and that landed him deep in last place.

6.  I thought Beatle Treadwell would outperform Paul Walden with the independent voters, due to Paul’s history of sometimes pugnacious advocacy.  In fact Paul’s behaviour on the board has been quite statesmanlike this past year, even in his role as a minority of one; and his appeal with the independents, far from weighing him down, has pushed him into first place.

7.  I saw John Meeuwsen as this year’s recipient of the “Nobilangelo Effect”, the tendency of voters to be attracted to an articulate new voice, and that Becs Ballard would be the weakest of the four official EW candidates.  But Becs ended up outpolling John by a hundred votes, and if there was a Nobilangelo this year, it was Shirin Brown who outshone them both.

The lessons of my errors, and of the Local Board election in general, are that Waiheke voters clearly want a stronger advocacy on the part of their local representatives, and that they want more input into the board’s decision-making.  The outgoing board has been effective in many areas, but those areas have been chosen by themselves rather than by consultation with the community; and the community has now pointed this out.  In a way, the election is a rejection of the supercity in which the A-Team candidates have made themselves such experts.  Faye Storer can take some fair credit for helping the entire city to define the treacherously vague relationships between the local boards and Auckland Council, its ponderous bureaucracy and the ill-named “Council-Controlled Organisations”.  The irony is that history may well remember Faye more kindly on the isthmus than on her own island, where a smoothly-running metropolitan juggernaut is exactly what we don’t want.

The challenge for the new board will be to balance the community’s expectations of activism with the practical imperative to get things done.  The mandarins of the supercity may well look upon our election results with suspicion and recalcitrance, perhaps even malevolence; yet as long as the fate of our fair island is yoked to Rodney Hide’s atrocity across the water, some degree of Faye-ness in our dealings with said atrocity is going to be necessary.  Otherwise all our advocacy will be nothing but empty posturing.

Unless, of course, we were to ditch the whole supercity idea and go our own way.  Hmmmm…

And the result is….

Its 3pm and the provisional count is in.

WALDEN, Paul 1989 1
TREADWELL, Beatle 1945 2
BROWN, Shirin Independent 1647 3
BALLARD, Becs 1557 4
MEEUWSEN, John 1456 5
MCCANN, Sue Independent 1254 6
MCKENZIE, Don Waiheke ‘A’ Team 1201 7
STORER, Faye Waiheke ‘A’ Team 1119 8
HOLMES, Jo Waiheke ‘A’ Team 1065 9
MELVILLE, Richard Independent 858
HOOPER, Graham Independent 340

Congratulations to the Essentially Waiheke team and Shirin – a clean sweep.  don’t let it go to your heads.

Mainly though I think that this is a  clear message from the ‘silent majority’ on the island that Fay and Jo did not spend their time on the board gaining the trust of the islanders.  All the talk of engagement proved to be meaningless.   The fact that both Sue McCann and Don McKenzie beat Fay and Jo is a pretty clear indictment of their behaviour over the last three years.

I’m looking forward now to some more proactive action from our local board.

Here is a chart comparing the votes from this year and 2010.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 4.50.04 PM

What this shows – apart from Denise’s massive support is that even in a low turnout year  Paul and Beatle got more votes this year than Faye did in 2010, Shirin also beat Jo’s previous vote.

On a limb

Alan Knight threw down the challenge some days ago:  Who will dare to predict the outcome of the current Waiheke Local Board election?  In the tradition of inrushing fools, here goes:

The first task is to estimate the size of the A-Team and Essentially Waiheke bloc voters, those whose ideological commitment drives them to vote for a party line.  To do that we need to look at the 2010 and 2012 election results.

In 2010, as many observers remarked, left-leaning votes outnumbered right-leaning ones but were scattered amongst so many Greenie contenders that only one of them got onto the Board.  In that election 3857 voters partipated, casting an average of 4.43 votes per person out of the 5 permitted.  Thus there were 17,104 votes cast.  If we add up the votes for Denise Roche, Andy Spence, Paul Waldon, Marijke Ransom, Dorte Wray, Colin Beardon, Ewen Sutherland, Charissa Snijders, and Millie Watkins, we arrive at 8722 votes or 51.1% of the total.  At 4.43 votes per person, that’s about 1969 Green-leaning voters.

On the other side, Faye Storer, Jo Holmes, Don McKenzie, Jim Hannan, Herb Romaniuk, and Graham Hooper took 7797 votes, or 45.6% of the total, representing about 1760 A-leaning voters.  I’m making some simplifying assumptions here, and ignoring some candidates entirely as ideological unknowns, but the political split that emerges looks suspiciously like the 53-to-47 split in 2011 over the Esplanade closure.

By 2012 the left side was united behind Paul Walden, who took 1154 of the 2791 votes cast, or 41.3%.  The other side is harder to measure, as not much was at stake for them; but if we take the two candidates who are now endorsed by Jerry Flay (Graham Hooper and Sue McCann), plus Herb Romaniuk, we come up with 1101 votes, or 39.4%.  Voter turnout was lower, but the totals still show a rather close ideological divide, with the left side still slightly larger than the right.

Projecting these numbers forward, let us assume that (1) voter turnout will be about midway between 2010 and 2012, or about 3249 voters; (2) the size of each side of the ideological divide will also be about midway between its 2010 size and its 2012 one; and (3) about 80% of each side will cast their votes in a bloc, for all of the candidates in one team or the other.  The other 20% will split their votes, either because they have reservations about one or more members of their preferred team, or because (like George Washington) they oppose party discipline in principle.  Add these to the voters who genuinely have no ideological preference, and we have a sizeable group of independent voters.

Following those three formulae we arrive at 1249 bloc voters for the Essentially Waiheke team, 1145 for the A-team, and 855 independent voters.

The trick, then, is to guess how the independent voters will behave.  Two important principles here are that name recognition means a lot, and that many independents are such because they dislike the stridency of the two blocs.

One complicating factor is that the A-team bloc voters will still have two votes to play with after they’ve ticked the three required boxes.  I’m picking that 35% of these votes will go to Sue McCann; 30% to Graham Hooper; 17% to Richard Melville; and the remaining 18% won’t bother.  On the EW side, there are four official candidates, with Shirin Brown “endorsed” as an unofficial fifth.  I’m picking that Shirin will get 75% of that fifth EW vote, with the rest divided between Ross Gillespie and Sue McCann.

So, on with the show.  And the winners are:

1. Faye Storer:  1658.  That’s all of the A-team bloc plus 60% of the independents.  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  Faye has by far the best name recognition of the pack, and her deep knowledge of the city bureaucracy and its inane processes impresses many.  No one else will come close to her appeal with the independents.  The irony is that now she will know what it’s like to be the top vote-getter, but not be chosen as board chair.

2.  Beatle Treadwell:  1591.  All of the EW bloc plus 40% of the independents will vote for her.  Again, name recognition as a carer in the community will be all-important.  Her quiet advocacy will go a long way with the independents.

3.  Paul Walden:  1506.  He’ll get all of the EW bloc and 30% of the independents.  Paul is an EW champion and his name recognition is high, but it won’t benefit him as much as it does Beatle because of the baggage he carries.  (For example, no golfers will vote for him no matter how Greenie their political leanings might otherwise be.)

4.  John Meeuwsen:  1463.  John will benefit from this year’s “Nobelangelo effect” — a fresh face articulating reasonable-sounding arguments, on whom people are willing to take a punt.  A quarter of the independents will vote for him, in addition to the EW bloc.

5.  Jo Holmes:  1444.  Name recognition is high, which will earn her 35% of the independents.  The score would have been better except for her willingness to play the heavy in the A-team’s good cop/bad cop game.  Independents don’t like stridency.  She will nonetheless be reelected.

6.  Becs Ballard:  1437.  The EW team figured she’d be this year’s Nikki Kaye, but I don’t think it will quite work.  Despite an energetic campaign her name recognition is low.  She’ll get less than a quarter of the independents and will just miss out.  In other words she’ll be this year’s Andy Spence.

7.  Don McKenzie:  1401.  Everyone likes Don, but see my earlier OneWaiheke article for the reasons why I think his electoral support will wane this year.  He will still gather 30% of the independents, but it won’t be enough.

8.  Shirin Brown:  1219.  It’s probably just the rumour-monger in me, but I’d love to get a straight answer as to why Shirin “decided she was happier running her own campaign” (in the words of the Essentially Waiheke website).  EW’s sideways endorsement of her will give her 75% of the bloc, and her well-run campaign will gather a third of the independents, but the numbers will fall well short.

9.  Sue McCann:  1140.  I’m picking that Sue will garner 70% of the A-team bloc, 10% of the EW bloc, and 25% of the independents.  I may be underestimating her name recognition and the appeal of her quiet, independent manner, so she might do better than this, but she will not come close to getting elected.

10.  Richard Melville:  828.  Richard has great appeal with the independents (fully half will vote for him), and may pick up 35% of the floating A-team votes; but most of the bloc voters will ignore him as just not nasty enough to be an effective politician.

11.  Graham Hooper:  773.  60% of the A-team’s floating vote will come his way, but only 10% of the independents will take him seriously.  Stridency will be a big problem here.  This will nonetheless be his best showing ever.

12.  Ross Gillespie:  316.  A serious tree-hugger, he’ll earn 15% of the EW floating vote, and a similar percentage of the independents.  But he’ll still place last.

So that’s it, folks.  I’m out on my limb.  Anyone care to saw it off?


Life in The Bubble

So here are our ballot papers. Hooray! Let’s open them, sort out the actual papers from the pamphlet that comes with them and begin. Are you the type that’s already made up your mind and have other things to get on with? Do you place five ticks with a flourish, thrust the paper back in the envelope and post it with dispatch?

Or are you the type that likes to take your time? Do you read the whole booklet first? Do you marvel at how weird some of the candidates in other constituencies look and wonder how their campaigns have gone? How are THEY getting on now their supporters and detractors have Facebook to play with? Once you have read all there is to read and put off the moment long enough, do you begin voting with slow and deliberate care? Do you let your pen linger for just a moment over the name of a hated candidate, teasing them for a moment with the possibility of a vote before moving to the preferred names and ticking them with a firmness that dents the paper? (Like the Russian chess grand master who employed the daunting tactic of setting down each piece on the board with a slight twisting motion, as if he was screwing it in place.)
Do you tick your ballot paper like that? Oh good. It’s not just me then……

But, if you’ve agreed to any of the above then you are one of the ones that TAKES AN INTEREST. Good for you! Because, while you are not alone, you are certainly not in the majority. Let’s not forget that out there, beyond ‘Waihetians Interested in Political Posturing’ and its strange and knobbly little offshoot, lies the real world. The world whose inhabitants take only a passing interest in politics and could barely name half of the candidates in the running, if that. People that skim over the election coverage in the Gulf News the way I skim over the sports coverage.
People that might well throw their ballot papers away unopened, or employ some random approach such as ticking the first five names, or ticking at random, or only ticking one. People that keep meaning to fill out the ballots properly but get distracted and only remember once the results are announced. People that let their kids use them for crayon scribbling. Maybe even people that cook and eat their ballot papers in strange and disturbing late night rituals?

How are THESE people getting on I wonder?

Which candidates have managed to catch their eye or said something that resonated enough to make them stand out? Because for the politically disengaged the criteria are somewhat vague.

‘Oh, I’ve heard of him/her.’ Is the standard one. If you’ve been involved with a local school, medical practice, fund raising, the arts scene or a high profile business then you have an advantage. You’ll have been pictured in the papers and have some profile.

But some candidates have no choice but to get out there early, ride the ferries and the buses, attend the events and generally get in people’s faces if their public recognition is low. Possibly the greatest example of this was the former board member Nobbleangelo Ceramalus. (2007-2010) ‘The Nob’ managed to be both ludicrous AND sinister at the same time, (which is no mean feat) and was also handicapped by an aloof and patronising manner. Yet he succeeded, by dint of making sure that there wasn’t a single island resident hadn’t been baled up and talked at at least once. His persistence was astounding, and it paid off. On to the last Community Board he went and the rest is history.

Just really embarrassing, awkward and confusing history.

So who is managing to impress the floaters this time? Is the EW Team’s work at the ferry terminals and market having an effect? Are the A Team getting traction outside Countdown? Personally, I’m having difficulty finding out since I only seem to know people who take an interest. Answers on a postcard please….

But, back here in The Bubble, we take notice of every nuance and detail. We obsess over every word uttered as well as speculate on the ones that aren’t. Now we have our online habits working properly it all becomes so immediate. The floaters wouldn’t get it and would be horrified to see how seriously we take it all. ‘Really?’ they’d think, ‘Getting that worked up over a local board election? Shouting and arguing and carrying on? Calling each other rude words? Why?’

Damned if I know. I’ll have to drink about it and get back to you.

Waiheke, through all thy trials…

by Ross Gillespie

Waiheke, through all thy trials I love thee still,
I said in the eighties, and have not forgot it;
I love to rise and venture forth at will;
I love the climate, but that is not it;
I love the pa site on the highest hill,
and glowworm dell when finally you spot it;
I love that ‘like for like’ is currency,
and that we meet and clamour for transparency.

I love the untossed wave and dashing women;
I love the conversations on the buses;
The eighteen hold golf course, so long a -comin’;
Roadside flowers and overhanging bushes;
I love the Privy-council help the loop road common;
I love the drought too, while the toilet flushes;
I love the ferry mix and rain before hole digging.
Which means that I love – almost each and everything.

I love a snapper fillet and a mug of beer;
The variety of weeds that make our gardens;
Our pre-worn clothes and comfy theatre;
Gluten-free bread — that is, before it hardens.
The dotterels and kids with their feet bare;
The shopping rounds where people share their burdens;
I love them all, but not invasive features,
Like parking parallel above un-apparelled beaches.

But lately, I have felt a pang quixotic;
There’s news of our island sinking, in the Gulf Gazette;
a foreign mayor and a Board despotic,
Duress, Reform, Life chained to a City’s debt.
I cannot find, for my heart’s ease, the right narcotic,
But found a stub, so scribble, ‘lest we forget’:
Once we loved to protest, so freedom was our fate,
The election cometh — regroup it’s not too late.

The Candidate’s and the TPPA

Its election time, a time when you can expect to hear more often from your local MP ( or wannabe MPs) than usual. A good time then to find out what they think about various important policy issues. Of course its traditional that Candidates will say pretty much anything to get elected – so its important to record those answers for future reference.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the candidates meeting on the island last weekend. And from what I hear it was so busy that it would have been hard to get a word in anyway. So perhaps its best that I send my questions in by email and allow for a more thoughtful and considered answer. Of course I am hoping that I will have more success with my local candidates than Radio NZ had with the National Party.

Here is the question I sent them it is about the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), if this new free trade deal is new to you you can find out more at

The GATT and NAFTA trade deals were disastrous for workers in the countries involved, with job losses, environmental degradation, human exploitation and debt growth.  The only beneficiaries have been a few multinational companies.

The TPPA restricts our ability to set laws that govern the behaviour of corporations,  It allows their business interests to be set over our public interest. Their profits over our health and environment.

  • What is your party’s policy on such trade deals?
  • What is your personal opinion?
  • If elected will you commit making free trade negotiations transparent?
  • Will you count the costs and benefits for all citizens not just businesses?
  • And will you commit to a referendum on any treaty that affects our sovereignty and democracy?

Here is the reply from Labour’s Jacinda Ardern:

Dear Andrew

Thanks for sending through your questions that you were intending to ask at the candidates forum. It’s a shame that you were unable to make the meeting, but I’m more than happy to answer your queries regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

In terms of our party’s policy, the Labour Party supports moving forward with the TPPA, however, having said that, we do not support signing it at all costs.

An example of an issue that we are concerned may be put in jeopardy by the TPPA is the future of Pharmac. I believe that the negotiations thus far have the potential to jeopardise New Zealand’s ability to purchase pharmaceuticals at a good price and we are concerned that multinational pharmaceutical corporations may exert extraordinary pressure on the government to change Pharmac in its current form. Binding pharmaceutical prices is a move that would only be advantageous for multinational corporations, not for New Zealanders . For us, it’s about making sure that New Zealand doesn’t have its sovereignty negotiated away in a trade agreement.

We’re also committed to making any such negotiations transparent and accountable to all New Zealanders. In April of 2011, we supported a petition asking for a Foreign Affairs Select Committee hearing into the potential implications for New Zealand of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. The petition, which was signed by significant groups such as the Council of Trade Unions, Oxfam and the Public Health Association, amongst others, asked that the relevant Select Committee convened a hearing into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and sought to provide a greater openness and transparency around the negotiating process and content.

Ultimately, Labour is of the belief that Trade agreements must work for Kiwis and for kiwi interests. We support greater transparency around trade talks and, in government, we would ensure that the views of those who had real interests in the impact of such talks had their voices heard.

Hopefully this response has answered your queries. If you’re interested in learning more about Labour’s policy in regards to Trade, you can read more about it at

Kind regards,

Jacinda Ardern

Here is the reply from The Green’s Denise Roche, Mainly passing on a policy statement from Russel Norman:

Hi Andrew and Millie – this responds to your question about the TPPA I think. I guess I’d add that the Greens are the only party that has consistently challenged the government on this issue because we recognise that a secret agreement of this nature is a threat to our country’s sovereignty. Labour were suspiciously silent about it this term because they started the negotiations in their last term. I do hope you’ll be getting answers from both Nats and Labour on this issue.

Denise Roche
Auckland Central Electorate Green Party Candidate

Key must come clean about TPP before election

John Key needs to be absolutely clear with the New Zealand public before the election about what is being traded off in the interest of signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

The deadline for the end of negotiations by the end of next year was announced by President Obama at the APEC meeting in Honolulu this morning New Zealand time.

“John Key needs to release the position papers so that in the lead up to the election New Zealanders know what he is giving away in the name of a trade deal,” Dr Norman said.

“It is ridiculous the Governments we are negotiating with have been given these documents, but the people of New Zealand are being kept in the dark.

“It is worrying that Key is promising the sale of our state assets while at the same time giving big rights to foreign companies operating here in New Zealand.”

Dr Norman said the US proposals would open up Government decision making to litigation from United States attorneys in World Bank Courts behind closed doors.

“Signing an agreement in secret that would weaken New Zealand’s sovereignty is not in our long term interests,” said Dr Norman.

“This is no ordinary trade deal. It is less about getting market access for our products and more about giving new rights to foreign companies that will undermine good Kiwi initiatives like Pharmac.

“We will be seeking to ensure the transparency of these negotiations,” Dr Norman said.

And here is the reply from Nikki Kaye of the National Party …

”  “

Thats right – nothing, nada, not a sausage.  Too busy to reply, or doesn’t know the answer.  Just another example of say nothing, get elected and then you can do as you please because you have a mandate.  – more about that issue at:

However we can let this recent press release from the PM stand in for Nikki in this instance:

PM welcomes significant Pacific trade deal progress

Prime Minister John Key has welcomed today’s announcement of the broad outlines for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, and hailed it as an important step towards gaining greater access for New Zealand exporters.

The agreement was announced at a meeting of the nine countries in the TPP hosted by US President Barack Obama on the fringes of the APEC summit on Honolulu.

“This is a significant step in the TPP negotiation process,” says Mr Key.  “Having all nine countries, including New Zealand, agreeing on the broad outlines for an agreement is very important.

“We have always pushed for lower trade barriers.  It is good for our exporters, good for economic growth, and good for New Zealand.

“Today’s announcement signals that there is a strong political commitment from each country to conclude this free trade agreement.

“I look forward to the detailed negotiations to come making substantial progress towards the final goal of a high-quality, comprehensive trade agreement.”

So its clear that they are for it – at least in the general mom and apple pie sense.  Of course the issue lies in the details.

This is my position. There is nothing wrong with the basic principle that countries should be free to sell and exchange goods freely.  In fact trade has been an important basis of civilization and prosperity throughout history. Countries that trade extensively with each other rarely go to war against each other.
That said, what matters is the detail of any specific deal or agreement. It seems to me that when there is a great asymmetry in power and influence between parties to a contract that contract rarely turns out to be fair.  Imagine a school bully offering to buy a smaller child’s trainers for a dollar.  Imagine some protection heavies offering to sell a shopkeeper insurance against accidental fires.  Imagine the world superpower of the US offering to let us sell them our cheese in return for them selling us their GMO corn and soy.
The historical experiences of Mexico, Canada, Australia and many other countries show that ordinary people, farmers and workers end up worse off after such deals than before. We notice that such details have to be negotiated outside of the normal processes of our parliamentary democracy because those involved know that we would never accept them if the facts were laid out clearly.
Let’s be clear – the US might let us import a bit more cheese in the the country – but they will by no means reduce the subsidies on their own producers. So the big deal is that we get to play on a sloping pitch – in a world of rising oil prices.
Free trade agreements target not just barriers to entry and  tariffs (of which we have some of the lowest in the world) but the process of self determination itself.  Our ability to decide how we want to purchase drugs through Pharmac, Our ability to decide to ban cigarettes, Our ability to restrict foreign ownership of NZ corporations or assets. Our ability to decide the labeling of GMO products and so on.
If Messrs Key and English think that this deal is genuinely good for New Zealand, I look forward to it being published in its entirety and put to the vote of the people in a referendum.  If its that good a deal they should have no trouble getting my support.
It seems that Denise and Jacinda are aware of these issues and that’s a good thing. It also seems that it doesn’t really matter what Nikki thinks about the subject – as she will toe the party line come what may anyway.
If you disagree – feel free to comment below.
Addendum  24th Nov.  Nikki Kaye’s reply arrives.

Hi Andrew,


Thank you for your email, I realise these are late but here are my answers.

 What is your party’s policy on such trade deals?  What is your personal opinion?


Here is the link to National’s trade policy.


Below is an article that I wrote earlier this year regarding trade in the Asia-Pacific region which reflects my personal views.


Boosting trade in the Asia-Pacific region


Recently Prime Minister John Key was in the United States for a meeting with President Obama.  This is very significant as it has been many, many years since a NZ Prime Minister has met with a US President and it signals a strengthening of the relationship between our two counties.  One of the key issues they discussed was trade and the importance of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to our region.


The TPP, currently being negotiated, will mean the creation of a free trade agreement between New Zealand, Asia and the USA. It will be the first multi-lateral agreement between Asian countries and the US, and New Zealand businesses will be at its heart. There has been a high level of public interest in the TPP and consultation continues with regular updates on the progress of the negotiations provided on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website


International trade remains a cornerstone of the Government’s plan to grow our economy. In Auckland we benefit more than many parts of the country through greater trade access and freer trade with growing Asian economies. Over the past three years our Trade Minister Tim Groser has negotiated or signed trade deals which will bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our shores.


We know that to increase our exports, we need to be more integrated with, and connected to, the global economy. That’s why we are focused on breaking down barriers to trade.  The Prime Minister has also recently travelled to India to meet with the Indian Prime Minister with the aim of building stronger ties between our two countries. Auckland is a city with a huge Indian expat community, the benefits of strengthening of this relationship are not just economic but are important for the many Indian families that have chosen to make Auckland their home.


Trade between NZ and India is already worth more than $1 billion a year and we want to boost that further.  Auckland has a large community of small to medium businesses and they stand to benefit from free trade arrangements which make our economy more competitive for our exporters.


The opportunity to expand our cooperation on trade with the TPP and India will help our exporters to succeed and ensure that we can meet the demands of Asia’s growing middle class.  And if we can do this, I believe we’ll continue to see our economy grow and deliver the new, high paying jobs that Aucklanders need and want.



If elected will you commit making free trade negotiations transparent?


The practice of this government, as with our predecessors, has been to give the public and stakeholders full opportunities for input on the key policy issues. For instance, with regard to the TPP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) invited initial public submissions in 2008 and has, with other departments, undertaken more targeted consultations since then (a good example being last year’s extensive round of consultations on intellectual policy issues, which shaped the approach we have taken at the negotiating table). These consultations have deliberately included regular conversations with stakeholders who are critical of the negotiation.

In light of the high level of public interest in TPP, MFAT is also looking at options for making more information available, including producing information papers on key issues and a regular column by TPP negotiators. Officials will continue to undertake stakeholder consultation, and in the meantime regular updates on the progress of the negotiations will be provided on the MFAT’s website


As with any other trade agreement, the final TPP deal will go through the full Parliamentary treaty examination process before it is ratified by New Zealand.



Will you count the costs and benefits for all citizens not just businesses?


New Zealand’s record on the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements shows that it is possible to negotiate deals that maximize net benefit to New Zealand without making unacceptable policy compromises. This means we hold out for a result that offers clear net benefit and that minimizes the impacts on current domestic policy settings.


Cabinet must also approve a National Interest Analysis, which sets out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand in becoming or ceasing to be a party to a treaty or trade negotiation.



And will you commit to a referendum on any treaty that affects our sovereignty and democracy?


We do not have any current plans to commit to a referendum in this area.  The treaty and trade negotiation process does not affect our sovereignty and goes through a full democratic, legislative process before being ratified.

Best wishes,