"So I’ve called you boys into my office because I’m concerned about your choices. Joyce, McCully and Key;  here’s the thing to remember when wanting to be part of the club and play with the big boys.  A 6 million dollar sweetener does not make someone your friend. Especially when it’s from my purse! I know it’s exciting to be cutting fast and loose and ethics is for, well, kittens. I know you think we’re all a bunch of Nanas and that  you’re in the ‘real world.’ No! I don’t care that everyone is doing it. Local body politicians do it when they go fishing with wealthy developers. Developers do it when they hire ex MP’s . They say it’s not corruption – it’s simply ‘facilitating deals.’ Others call it buying process but that’s just semantics and I really do want to get through to you boys that when you leave the house you’re representing the whole whanau.


When you’re in the club and playing  big boys it’s easy to get confused and think that you’re important, so important  that the rules don’t  apply to you. 

But here’s the thing; there are always bigger fish than you and we are a little p*&s- fart nation floating in the middle of the Pacific and we can’t afford not to play by the rules if we don’t want to become the next banana Republic in a land with no bananas. 


If you pay 6 million dollars to a private businessman as a ‘facilitation fee’ because you’re afraid he’s going to make good on his threat to stand over you for 30 because you reneged on an even bigger deal that this family was unlikely to agree to…. then you clearly don’t understand what the problem is with the Trans Pacific Partnership deal. If it really were a partnership and about free trade then it might be worth looking at. The risk is that it is in fact a Trans Pacific Standover Deal, and it could effectively work in exactly the same way. Ask Equador how that worked out for them with the mining companies and their national parks. It is fine if you, McCully want to invest your personal money in a sheep farm in a desert. Go for it. Fill your boots! But if it’s whanau money it we need to know about it.  Somewhere it needs to be sanctioned that it is a priority –especially when you seem to have no regional development plan for places like Northland that doesn’t involve digging stuff up and shipping it out with little sign of jobs – and to be honest adding to climate change doesn’t look smart long term. Ask Texas if they’re still listening to climate change deniers right now. What happens to boys like you is you end up taking the rap for the really big fish in some grotty prison, in your case McCully in the middle East – and I don’t want you to take the rest of us down with you. It’s why, in this family we have values. It’s what we stand for. Don’t like it? Get a job with Fifa."

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Australian Politics - some Man’s Bitch

There are a few questions I’d like to ask Mr. Rudd that I know are unlikely to be asked by Aussie media. One is: ‘Is your wife a lesbian?’  The answer obviously has such far reaching consequences for the economy that it was ok to ask the then PM, Julia Gillard if her husband was gay. Such fun! 

I could ask him about policy but then that would radically change the nature of the last two years of vitriol and drivel that has substituted genuine public political discourse in Australian media.

The sexist assumption that raw courage and a ballsy insistence on shaking up the status quo – were not ‘womanly’ characteristics is laughable.

 Even here in local politics – women who reach positions of power often end up playing geisha to powerful men. Julia’s refusal to do this has cost her dearly.

A ring around of friends in Australia found; their families were better off after the carbon tax, the education and health sectors were better and they were genuinely happy with the job she’s done. But this was never about the policy. Rudd’s gutless undermining of government was forgotten as he simpered that he was simply answering the call of the wily and desperate and had come to – tahdah- save the party from oblivion in the next election. I guess he’s forgotten that he couldn’t do that last time round.

I hope Tony Abbot – PM in waiting and serial offender against public decency, kicks off his ‘Flick the Dick’ campaign. What fun! Or at least it was when he was organising placards with Bad Jelly flying through the skies that read ‘Ditch the Witch’ aimed at Julia. Similarly, Rudd would be amused if Abbot was seen on state television next to a sign that read; ‘Kev; Some Poor Woman’s Bastard.’ After all it was hilarious when he stood beside one reading ‘Julia; Some Man’s Bitch.’

Media coverage of Tony Abbot has been kind although he sounds increasingly like the mining industry’s bum boy each day – but then a mining magnate like Gina Reinhart would buy a media empire because she cares deeply about free and independent press. I know she didn’t do it for the cash flow. The Aussie media have allowed conversations over hair, backsides and clothing to overshadow any real discussion on policy or allow Ms. Gillard to shine in the areas she excelled; competent leadership, clever oratory and visionary policy. The level of misogyny she endured in her term as PM was, frankly, juvenile and repulsive.

They’ve exchanged a feisty red head for a dickhead and seem comfortable with that because at least he’s a bloke. And then there’s Abbot’s answer, when he was minister, to a woman who said ‘I just want my daughter to have the same opportunities as my son.’ “ (Yes but…)…. what if men are by physiology and temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?” The sentiments of a Taleban fundamentalist could hardly be described more succinctly.

Take a good look at yourselves Australia. You’ve made your bed and now you’re going to have to wake up with either Kev’s or Tony’s bed hair.

To the rest of Australian women; you had your chance now dust off your burkas and get back to where these men think you really belong.

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A Tale of Three Towns - Catamarca and Esquel and Puhipuhi

Last month far away in a village not unlike Whangarei,– something extraordinary happened. The Argentine town of Esquel celebrated 10 years of community solidarity, sustainability and true democracy. Thousands of people came out onto the streets to remember an unlikely victory for a town of only 30,000 people, against toxic mining that had threatened their town water supply.

To understand what is so remarkable about this is to know that Argentina was in economic meltdown and unemployment was three times as high as what Northland’s is today.

In 2003 the massive open pit mine in Catamarca - the Alumbrera-in the North was still being hailed as the gold bullet which would save the economy (it took until this February for a massive uprising of illiterate small holding farmers there to rebel against contamination in the air and waterways). Esquel is also at the other end of the country from where decisions get made.

But Esquel proved problematic for the mining PR men mainly because unlike their countrymen to the north, the residents are the educated middle class escaping the capital to establish environmentally sustainable businesses around the natural resources there.

Instead of taking the Environmental Impact Report from the mining company at face value the residents hired scientists from the University of Patagonia and found that the original EIR was deeply flawed. They formed an apolitical ‘Neighbourhood Association’ to better inform the community of the true costs of the mine as well as looking at a hard business case for it.

Consultation with the company broke down over a lack of integrity in the discussions. Namely; the mine sued residents over a leaked tape of PR and mining execs discussing ‘hiring community leaders to sway opinion and persuade hard liners’ to accept the mine and it’s proximity to the waterways despite the environmental risks.

This upset more than a few and over 8000 people turned out to protest. The Mayor – sensing a tide change– called for a referendum to decide whether or not the mine would go ahead. 81% of the people of Esquel voted against the mine and eventually passed a local bill banning all toxic mining in the province.

Esquel’s solidarity inspired other small communities throughout Latin America but it also became a case study for mining companies to ensure that it didn’t happen again. There was too much lead time for the community to get informed – they were educated and organised. Esquel and her fishing, skiing and National parks are today a thriving centre of sustainable business based on the vision of the genuine community leaders from 10 years ago.

De Grey has exploration rights now in two areas – the sparsely populated, arid and impoverished province of Santa Cruz in Argentina, and rights to 6000 hectares 30kms north of Whangarei, in Puhipuhi.

There has been no clear public information on whether this area is in the catchment for the town water supply.

The Ngati Hau report on behalf of Fonterra states that the Waiariki Stream in Puhipuhi is already high in mercury ‘to a level that indicates that adverse effects of mercury on the biota living within the sediments could potentially occur frequently’.

Ironic that De Grey’s info pack on Puhipuhi has dairy cows on the cover.

There is no mention in Stephen Joyce’s Economic Activity Report on how toxic mining could affect the production of Northland’s real white gold; milk powder. Or that it regularly floods there.

Instead – local politicians and PR men tell those who ask to ‘trust us – we know what we’re doing’.

They told the residents of Catamarca and Esquel the same.

About De Greys:

Ngati Hau report on behalf of Fonterra:





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looking for leadership, in all the wrong places

The best steak I’ve ever had washed down with an out of my price range red, was in a pub in Wellington, offered by a very pleasant, very inebriated woman. She’d invited me over after I’d gone there to find my flatmates (to whom us girls had stupidly given our rent money in cash) to try tracking it down seeing as the landlord had been calling. I declined. She insisted. The flatmates were way past the signpost that reads ‘speaking to this person now will only end in homicide.’ So I accepted.

When I asked her why she was squandering money on such a lovely lunch to a random student who was obviously not dressed for the occasion she told me her story.

She’d cooked a perfectly good meal but her husband had come home blind drunk – he’d won big time on the horses. She was excited – they’d been struggling financially.

He told her to pack her bags. But not for a holiday. For good.

Then, for good measure (she took off her glasses which she’d been wearing the entire meal to show me) gave her the last black eye she was going to take.

She’d taken all of the money which lay scattered on the bed where he’d passed out and in a rucksack which was now, half open on the floor. She’d then been to the bank and cleared the joint account and now, she was officially on the run. “Where will you go?” “North. Maybe.” “What will you do?” “Who knows – I might get lucky and meet someone nice” she said surveying the insalubrious patrons in various forms of degeneration.

“Umm. Where did you meet your husband?” I asked trying not to sound rude. “In a pub.” “Like this one?” “Mmmm.”She wasn’t joining the dots.

Lately I’ve been feeling like that woman. Not in love, but in local politics.

It seems I’ve been looking for leadership, in all the wrong places – mainly in the established group of caudillos who have been holding the reins for a very long time.

I know there are lots of intelligent, well-adjusted and fiscally savvy people who understand the concepts of ‘public good’ and ‘conflict of interest’ living in Whangarei.

So where the bloody hell are you?

Like Bonnie Tyler, I’m holding on for a hero to fix everything that’s wrong in this lil ol’ town. (For the benefit of Gen Yers – check out the video clip and soberly consider that many of us lived through those hairstyles so you don’t have to.)

And it’s not this council’s fault.

Ostensibly ‘They’ are ‘Us’ – at least 49% of us voted in the last election and a majority of those, voted to return 62% of incumbents, up from only 38% in the previous two election rounds.

Is this a ringing endorsement or just an example of what that enthusiastic letter writer Paul Berks calls ‘rational apathy’ where the pay off for change is not worth the effort?

Certainly fewer of us are voting and in the seats where there is no challenger it’s impossible to even find the statistics of who or how many voted.

We have two such seats in Whangarei. It’s simply listed as ‘non-contested.’

Another stunning victory for democracy.

China has a similar system except officially it’s still called communism.

One way of looking at successful smooth government is when a ruling elite lets the silent majority know that governance is in good hands by ensuring that all seats are uncontested in the next local election.

Succession planning is then an easy matter of tapping your mate or cousin on the shoulder.


Sometimes it’s just easier to go back to what you know.

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