Thursday, July 2, 2009

Would You Like A Future With That? The Burgerization of McZealand, Up To $16,000 A Head (updated)

Update: The Dom Post is carrying a story today saying "McDonald's restaurants will receive up to $16,000 a year of taxpayers' money every time it recruits a beneficiary under a partnership with Work and Income.That's potentially a $112 million bill for the tax payer.

New Zealand already has the world's greatest number of McDonalds restaurants per $GDP and the second highest number per capita (the first is the United States) add to that New Zealand's dismal record in obseity - third highest in the OECD - and many will ask does the country really need more fast food joints.

One time truck stop waitress Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett is citing the relationship with the fast-food giant as an example of the Government's commitment to getting beneficiaries into jobs but a long-term unemployed person could gain an employer a $16,000 subsidy over 12 months more than $300 a week.

Seems like an awful amount of money to be spending at a time when cut backs are being made in higher education courses.

On 20 May 2007 John Key promised:

"If I have the great honour of becoming Prime Minister of this country then I want to leave a legacy too.

My legacy will be a strong New Zealand economy with higher wages, lower taxes and greater competitiveness. My legacy will be a country that young New Zealanders want to stay and work in.That's what a National government will give you."

Contrast that with recent reports in the papers:

  • "Thousands of beneficiaries could soon be flipping burgers under a deal between Work and Income and McDonald's."
  • NZ Herald "Education Minister Anne Tolley says there is no more money to fund extra places in polytechnics during the recession. Between 6000 and 8000 students would be turned away because of the Government cap on places in the following year." (ed. but there's 7000 jobs going at Maccas)
  • Jobless people looking to upskill through polytechnics could be turned away if the Government does not lift the enrolment cap."
Back in May the Department of Work and Income struck up a deal with global fast food giant McDonalds to provide 6,000 new jobs in New Zealand over the next three years.

Any ideas other than McDonald's?
At the time MP Jacinda Arden asked the minister of youth affairs Paula Bennett this question across the floor of parliament:

"Will the Minister adopt any ideas other than those generated by McDonald’s, such as those ideas generated by the Youth Jobs Summit I hosted last week, including greater investment in skills and training, lifting the cap for tertiary education, and introducing a guaranteed employment or training scheme for the long-term unemployed under the age of 25 years, given that the Minister sees the power of working together to create creative solutions?"

I think her question must've gone unanswered.

That is until today, when our worst fears were confirmed with the news about 7,000 (ed. where did the extra 1,000 come from? ) McDonalds jobs are to be advertised and trained for by the Department of Work and Income over the next over 5 years (ed. huh? I thought it was 3 years )

Is this the best they could come up with and is a job with McDonalds a career for life which will give all Kiwis higher wages?

Is this THE initiative that will give "young New Zealanders a country that they'll want to stay and work in" or just a cynical attempt to hack a few digits off the unemployment figures?

Last year Chantelle Coup, age 18 and who now lives in Australia, was awarded $15,000 after being constructively dismissed from the McDonalds in Kaiapoi for joining the union 'Unite' in August 2007. Chantelle, who was 17 at the time, had her hours cut and she was bullied into resigning. Chantelle later said that she'd like to use the money to pay off her student debts.

At the time Unite's national director Mike Treen said in a statement that his union often had problems with McDonald's franchise operators, saying that they often took the decision of their employees to join the union as a personal affront.

The employer was also found to have been destructive in their dealings with Unite Union and to have used undue influence to get their employees to resign from the union.

The restaurant manager was described in the Employment Relations Authority report to have been in a "position of significant influence" over their work. The boss, Patrick Cornish, was described as a "father figure", and it was acknowledged that McDonalds Kaiapoi is "part of a large and powerful organisation."

The workers there were all young and none of them had guaranteed days or hours of work. This fact, coupled with pressure from the manager was found to have pushed a number of staff to resign from the union.

"That is one reason we want security of hours included in their new collective agreement with McDonald's."

Unite also stepped up its campaign to end bullying at McDonalds restaurants and supported staff at four sites to stop work to protest a contract that allowed their employer to use their shift roster as a form of bullying and control. They cited cases where a McDonald’s manager demanded that a seventeen-year-old girl stay and finish her shift after her foot was run over whilst working at a drive through and many occasions where workers were pressured to work two or three eight hour shifts in a row with no breaks or being rostered off.

Patrick Cornish said he would appeal the decision and file a new case with the Employment Court. Chantelle would have to return from Australia where she now lives to attend the hearing. Mr Cornish did have a range of other options open to him including making an out of court settlement. No such case seems to have been heard at the Employment Court. but neither has there been any news about Chantelle receiving her compensation.

In October 2008 Unite organised a series of lunch and dinner strikes in Auckland and Hamilton at around the time that McDonalds Corporation announced a third quarter profit of $1.07 billion. The rolling strikes in some of NZ's poorest suburbs were used to put pressure on the company to match what competitor 'Restaurant Brands' (KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut) pays union members. Full time managers and crew at Restaurant Brands are paid $20.80 to $174.40 a week more than McDonald's workers. Mike Treen said:

"It's disgusting the world largest fast food corporation is gloating over its soaring profits while the majority of its crew are stuck on minimum wage and managers are paid less than $15 an hour. It is however a true reflection of the world economy with the rich getting richer and making sure the poor stay poor.

"There have now been more than 35 strikes at 24 different restaurants and we plan to escalate this campaign until our 1200 union members at McDonald's get secure hours and decent pay rises."

Wage rates for 16 and 17 year olds are 80% of the adult rate, i.e.$10 an hour but that rate is supposed to have been abolished at all the employers organized by Unite including McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, and the major movie theatre chains.

Is McDonalds really the best company to be pouring the future of New Zealand's youth into and will it do anything to address New Zealand's much lamented low wage economy or its expanding waist line.

I seriously doubt it.

For today's posts see: latest posts

Tourism NZ Chief Exec 'Steps Down'

It was a quiet, low key resignation that merited a few lines in today's Herald which simply stated
"Tourism New Zealand said chief executive George Hickton is stepping down after 10 years in the role.

Hickton is resigning to allow a replacement to settle in before the 2011 Rugby World Cup is hosted in New Zealand, the agency said."

A few words but they speak volumes - his resignation and the Rugby World Cup are the only things mentioned in the statement. No thanks at all for a guy who'd spent 10 years in a role that oversaw the tourism business expand exponentially in NZ and the most successful tourism campaign of all time - Saachi's '100% Pure NZ'.

In a recent video on YouTube he gave no indication at all that he had any intention of leaving Tourism NZ, or that he wouldn't be around to see it through to next year.

Remember the furore that Mathieu Bastareaud caused when he made the allegation of a street attack in Wellington? (he refused to make an official complaint to the police, who investigated it anyway) At the time Mr Hickton said the incident was a 'wake-up call for the country.'

Mr Hickton seemed to have taken M. Bastareaud's complaint in good faith, after all attacks on tourists in New Zealand are hardly unusual. His statement simply echoed those made in the past which followed attacks on tourists, such as those issued by a Tourism NZ 'spokeswoman', Tourism West Coast general manager Sonya Matthews and Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism marketing general manager Dean Gorddard in this press article: Another Tourist Attack In New Zealand - Attack sparks tourist warning

Apr 23, 2008

"With another tourist recovering from an seemingly unprovoked attack, tourism leaders are urging operators not to be afraid of warning people of the risks of travelling in New Zealand".

And of course there are the safety warnings that were issued to Asian and Dutch tourists.

Now that Mr Hickton has 'fallen on his sword' who within New Zealand will have the courage to voice their concerns next time a tourist is killed or injured and call for better information to be given to visitors?

See Also
"Lessons from the no-so-friendly isles"
"In general, it is not a bad place to live or visit and has many pluses - but it ain't the happy-friendly cove of wonderfulness that the PR mob would have you believe either. There are wrong times and places in this country and it can be downright dangerous. A wrong look here, a dodgy remark here, and you might be up the proverbial without a paddle........."

For today's posts see: latest posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crossing the Rubicon - NZ Raises Quarter Million GE Trees For United States

A Quarter Million NZ Raised GE Eucalyptus Trees Intended for Planting in U.S
Media Release 28 June 2009 Soil &Health Association of New Zealand

More than a quarter of a million genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees exported from New Zealand stand to shred New Zealand’s clean, green brand and risk large-scale health and environmental damage, according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.

ArborGen, the (GE) tree research and development giant, which is one third owned by New Zealand company Rubicon (formerly Fletcher Challenge Forestry), is trying to plant 260,000 GE cold tolerant eucalyptus trees in 29 so called “field trials” in 7 different US states. These trees will be able to flower and set seed, and while not permitted to be field trialled in New Zealand have been developed in and exported from New Zealand. They are derived from the hybrid of Eucalyptus grandis X Eucalyptus urophylla.

Submissions to the United States Department of Agriculture’s regulatory authority Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) close July 6.

ArborGen and Rubicon have a collaborative GE tree development contract with Crown Research Institute Scion, formerly known as Forest Research Institute. Rubicon has stated that it wants commercialisation of GE forests in New Zealand to have less regulatory impediments.

The development is part of a drive to commercialise a new source of hardwood trees for the US South pulp and paper industry, and the cold-tolerant variety also as a raw material for second-generation wood derived biofuels. Arborgen currently has US government funding for research and development of biofuels. However there is international concern with the use of wood for bio-fuel because of the destructive impacts on biodiversity and on rural and indigenous communities worldwide. GE eucalypts from New Zealand have also been exported to Brazil.

Such plantings would not be accepted by New Zealanders, but big New Zealand business combined with proven sloppy Scion scientists are prepared to take big risks globally,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Scion and Rubicon’s involvement with large-scale GE brings shame to New Zealand’s clean, green GE-free reputation.”

“The government must stop the export of genetically engineered plants, animals and products from New Zealand. A clean, green brand does not include products of genetic engineering or participation in planting of new global weeds.”

US environmentalists are also expressing serious concerns, as one parent line of the GE eucalypt hybrid being trialed is a known host for a fatal fungal pathogen CRYTOCOCCUS Gattii. This pathogen has been found in the US and can cause fatal fungal meningitis in people and animals that inhale its spores. It is believed that creating extensive habitats for the fungal pathogen is dangerous and foolhardy.

In California, eucalypts often out-compete native plant species and are now widespread throughout the coastal and southern parts of the state. Authorities spend millions annually to eradicate these invasive trees.

New Zealand’s Rubicon is keen for ArborGen’s GE cold tolerant eucalypts to be commercialised in a wide range of new regions, allowing them to flower and set seeds. The cold-tolerance is bred in to the GE eucalypts to allow greater geographic spread where they can outperform other species native to those regions.”

“The wilding pine scenario in New Zealand should alert anyone with concerns for biodiversity about the risks of Rubicon and ArborGen’s current US application,” said Mr Browning.

At last year’s UN Convention on Biological Diversity the New Zealand government voted against suspending GE tree plantings while more conclusive proof of environmental safety occurred.

“Scion has already shown serious negligence with its own GE pine field trial last year and then made misleading claims about the trial’s environmental outcomes. Those in charge of the GE pine tree field trial at Rotorua were continuously in breach of consent conditions and international obligations, for the trial’s duration.”

Research conducted by Columbia University (4) has found eucalyptus to be a great threat to ecosystems. The US Forest Service has also reported on the ability of eucalypts to suppress the growth of other plants and their increased fire risk. (5) Duke University scientists have created pollen models that show tree pollen travelling for over 1,000 kilometres from a forest in North Carolina northward into eastern Canada. (6)

“With the serious risks of genetic engineering, Rubicon, Scion and Arborgen are being reckless and damaging to New Zealand primary production, tourism and manufacturing’s best value trading brands - clean and green and 100% Pure. Just as Nuclear Free has resonance with New Zealanders and our international customers alike, so does GE Free, with New Zealand polls consistently showing almost 70% opposed to GE,” said Mr Browning.

“New Zealand Corporates and Crown Research Institutes need to be more responsible and share the clean green vision.”

Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 with a motto of Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People, and is active in seeking genuinely sustainable solutions for New Zealand production and environment."

For today's posts see: latest posts

Mairehau School Goes Into Lock Down As Shots Fired

Mairehau High School went into lock down at around 11.30am today after reports of shots heard in the vicinity of a property on Hills Road, Christchurch. There were no reports of casualties and both the lock down and police cordon were lifted shortly after.
Update: According to NZCity two 19 year olds were later arrested for discharging a firearm near a dwelling.

View Larger Map
The incident may have caused alarm to many of the residents because the school is approximately 7 km from Wadhurst Place, the street where paraplegic man Shayne Richard Sime went on the rampage with a shotgun and rifle on Sunday night.

Sime, who held a firearms licence, was later shot dead by police after a 4 hour siege, during which over 100 rounds of ammunition were discharged and a member of the public and a police officer were injured.

Almost 2 months ago the town of Napier hit the world news headlines when gunman Jan Molenaar holed up in his house and killed a police officer and seriously injured 3 other people.

There are an estimated 230,000 licensed firearms owners in New Zealand, the number of weapons in circulation is unknown but is thought to exceed 1.1 million. For background see: Armed sieges and gun politics in New Zealand.

For today's posts see: latest posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Women's Pay Discrimination Rally Today

Although New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world in which women were allowed to vote it's lagging behind on pay parity between men and women.

NZ women earn an estimated 12-15% less an hour less than men, but the annual earnings gap may be worse because many women spend more time than men bringing up children and move in and out of the labour force more often.

A rally is being held in Wellington today to protest this and also the government's scrapping of the Pay and Equity Unit at the Department of Labour, causing the loss of 7 jobs (ed. how many of them were women?) For details see link: Lunchtime rally

The Department of Labour cut an additional 18 jobs of staff who worked with with employers, educators and local government throughout the country to meet regional workforce needs.

Meanwhile plans are still going ahead for Work and Income to help with the recruitment and training of 7000 staff for fast food giant McDonalds.

For today's posts see: latest posts

Spate of Attacks in Wellington

NZCity is reporting that people in Wellington are being advised to be aware of their personal safety after a spate of street attacks. See: Safety Advisory and Aggravated Robberies

The twin issues of street violence and New Zealand's image abroad were brought to the attention of the world's press recently following a street bashing allegation made by French rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud , which he later admitted was untrue.

The French team had previously dodged bottles thrown at them at the Carisbrook Stadium, Dunedin where they won 27-22 against the All Blacks. See: Bottles thrown

For today's posts see: latest posts

Monday, June 29, 2009

School Bus Crash Near Hokitika

A driver and 17 children were trapped in a homeward bound school bus for 30 minutes today after it struck a power pole on Blue Spur Road, outside of Hokitika at approximately 3.30pm today. Initial reports are that one person was taken to hospital.

School bus crashes are not uncommon in New Zealand, which is one of the few developed countries not to require the fitting of seat belts on school buses.

On 18 March 5 children were taken to hospital when a school bus collided with a bitumen truck on SH1 at Fairfield near Ashburton and in February 8 students and a teacher from Gisborne High School were taken to hospital after their school minibus was involved in a collision with another vehicle on the Napier to Wairoa road.

In October of last year a bus carrying 16 children from Kaponga Primary School rolled down a bank on Mangawhero Road, east of Eltham, Taranaki. An Auckland bus carrying 35 students also rolled whilst navigating a bend on the Coateville Riverhead highway and landed on its roof in a paddock. 15 children required medical treatment.

In 2006 The Candor Trust called on the Ministry of Transport for a review of school bus safety. Representatives of the Road Safety Charity said that the last one which occurred a couple of years before “perhaps did more harm than good”. They also said it was time to drug test drivers, especially given the "Education Ministry is fine about testing pupils."

With no less than 12 major incidents in 2006 (8.5 is average in the last decade) the Trust claimed a cloud lay over the Ministry of Education's ability to care for Kiwi kids. In one 2 day period in 2006 25 students were traumatised during their everyday journey to or from school.

Very little up-to-date data seems to exist on school bus crash injuries but Statistics New Zealand do have some historical information on fatal and injury incidents/crashes involving children travelling to school by mode of travel for the period 1992 to 2001.

During that time there were 85 school bus-related incidents or crashes resulting in 12 fatalities, 20 serious injuries and 80 minor injuries.

Also see link: School bus safety

For today's posts see: latest posts

Small Town NZ Life - Martinborough A Town Under Seige

Martinborough is a town in South Wairarapa, population 1300.

Growing frustration amongst the good residents of the town caused them to take it upon themselves to do something about a crime spree of burglaries.

In April they set up a night patrol after a tidal wave of 45 burglaries struck the town over 11 days.

However, local youths clashed with the vigilantes, which led to a shot being fired and police ordered the group off the streets. Since then break-ins have soared again and local residents are living in fear. This is a fairly typical story of one family's experiences of living in the town:

By Nathan Crombie of the Wairarapa Times

"Martinborough resident Winifred Bull, 63, said she fell victim to burglars along with four nearby neighbours in a single evening only 11 days after a self-appointed night patrol in the town disbanded in the wake of a brawl involving two members and a group of teenagers last month.
Mrs Bull said her husband David was in Wellington overnight a week ago Tuesday and she was home alone with her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby.
She said the couple shifted to Martinborough about 12 years ago to a "somewhat isolated" house on the edge of town and the animals were bought as guard dogs, the first after home invaders killed Reporoa woman *Beverly Bouma in 1998.

"The dogs heard something outside just before 11pm and started barking again after midnight when I was in bed reading."
Mrs Bull decided to ignore her dogs' reactions and found the next morning that burglars had taken the couples' gate off its hinges, smashed her car window and stolen her wallet from the vehicle.
"I don't feel safe. I knew about the huge number of burglaries earlier this year and thought the night patrol had solved the problem.
"But we were given a false sense of security. The burglars never went away," she said."
Firearms taken in latest break-in
A few days ago 66 year old Martinborough farm worker Dave Harris' home was burgled and a shotgun and high-powered rifle along with ammunition were taken as he and his family were asleep in the house.
When he reported the break-in to the sole police officer in the town he was told that there were three other burglaries in the town the same night. Police seem to be woefully ill-equipped to deal with the crime spree.

It's hardly any wonder the town felt it was under under siege but now the stakes have been raised and high powered weapons and ammunition have been taken. Fears are that the situation is set to get a lot worse and some people have said they're thinking of sleeping with a gun next to their bed.
Many are calling for the night patrol to be re-established, older people are saying its presence made them feel safer. Who is there to protect them now?
* Beverly Bouma was killed in an uprovoked and premeditated home invasion by four men in November 1998. See link The Reporoa Killing
see also 400 hundred burglaries in 8 weeksin Hawke's Bay

For today's posts see: latest posts

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kiwiburger Ads

Much is being made of the iconic 'Kiwi Burger's' return in New Zealand at the moment, so for our overseas readers here are some YouTube links to you can see what the fuss is all about.

1999 Kiwiburger Ad

2009 Kiwiburger Ad (ironically advertising a 'Big OE' prize)

For today's posts see: latest posts

Gen X and Y Advised To Leave New Zealand ASAP

TVNZ Breakfast show carried an interview recently with's Bernard Hickey in which he advised Generations X and Y to leave New Zealand because they are destined to live in two retirement islands and will have to visit their grandchildren overseas.

This article may be of interest to any migrants considering New Zealand as a 'good place to raise children'

Readers may also wish to look at some other blog posts "would you like a future with that? the burgerization of McZealand" and "McJobs government sentences kiwi kids to a dead end future" They touch-on cuts in polytechnic education and government's plans to recuit 7,000 new staff for international fast food giant McDonald's, neither of which will do much to improve the low wage economy or career prospects for young people.

Our regular readers may also remember Luthien's post "New Zealand's ageing population and the great Kiwi brain drain". Since the 1970s New Zealand has experienced one of the sharpest drops in the OECD in the number of young people within the working population - the fourth largest fall behind Korea, Canada and The Netherlands.

Hickey's comments were published in his blog and in the NZ Herald:

"Generations X (30-45) and Y (15-30) need to wake up and see the massive inter-generational theft happening before their eyes. Baby-boomers need to be shocked into knowing they are being shortsighted and will end up living in two retirement islands and having to visit their grandchildren overseas. Bernard Hickey writes Gen X and Y a letter. They can imagine it is a long email or text message.

Dear Generations X and Y

Did you realize the baby boomers running the country have just decided to make you poorer for decades to come so they can retire early with all the assets and high incomes?

Did you realise your taxes are going to rise and you won't be able to afford your own home? Did you know the baby-boomers are refusing to save their own money now for their retirements so they can live off your hard work?

"you're wasting your time trying to build a family and life in New Zealand"

Did you know you will be slaving away paying high taxes in your 40s and 50s to pay for their pensions and health care? Did you know you're wasting your time trying to build a family and life in New Zealand? Did you realise you have huge student loans while they received free tertiary education?

Do you realise they voted themselves Working for Families so they could have children and afford to pay the high mortgage costs of their borrowing to buy property? Do you know this cannot be afforded in the next 20-30 years?

You didn't? Let me explain.

There were two big decisions in last month's budget that guaranteed this intergenerational transfer of wealth, but they are not the only factor.

Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister chose to abandon contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (the Cullen Fund) for the foreseeable future. Yet they also guaranteed their fellow baby-boomers (they were both born in 1961) they would keep their pensions at 66 per cent of the average wage and could still retire at the age of 65. John Key has even promised to resign if he breaks this promise.

"X and Y will never be able to afford to buy a house"

There is another unwritten rule that no baby-boomer politician will break and that will guarantee many in generations X and Y will never be able to afford to buy a house. John Key again ruled out this month that his government would ever introduce a capital gains or land tax. Any change to the massive tax break in favour of residential property investment would immediately reduce the wealth of baby boomers who were able to buy cheaply in the 1990s and early 2000s. They will never give this up voluntarily and they will continue to vote for politicians who support that view.

So the two budget decisions, the unwritten rule on capital gains/land taxes and the decade of slow growth forecast by Treasury will combine to cement in a massive transfer of wealth. There are other forces at work here. Our banks are congenitally conservative about lending. They will lend up to 100 per cent against the value of land and buildings, but are reluctant to lend to back the business ideas and entrepreneurial vigour of Generations X and Y.

The dream of baby boomers is to keep buying rental properties and renting them out to generations X and Y. They can even afford to make losses on them because they can claim the tax losses against their personal incomes and make their money back with capital gains. That baby boomer dream was looking wobbly earlier this year when prices fell 10 per cent from their peak. A smidgen of light appeared for Generations X and Y. But it seems those hopes are now dashed because the banks are back lending to the baby boomers, who are even more convinced now that property is their only hope because of the collapse of finance companies and the stock market.

"Steadily rising taxes over the next 30 years"

Now you can look forward to steadily rising taxes over the next 30 years, particularly from 2020 onwards, to pay for the increased costs of an expensive universal pay-as-you-go pension scheme and much higher universal 'free' health care costs. You will pay as they go into the retirement homes.

You could try to overturn the baby boomer bias in our political system by voting them out, but you'll fail because there are too many of them and you don't vote much.

Your only choice is to migrate as soon as the global economy starts recovering and the jobs become available again.

This will be the best revenge you can get. They will have to watch their grandchildren grow up by email and the occasional flying visit.

I'm not kidding. Leave ASAP."

For today's posts see: latest posts


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